Friday 1 June 2018. To Work with a Stop at Meadowbrook, and Back

It was 67 degrees F and partly cloudy at 5:43 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway on the way to my job assignment in Savoy.

Thought about how fast the mid-to-late spring garden flowers (like peonies, irises, and poppies) had come and gone. Now the summer flowers were beginning.

Wanted to stop on the way at Meadowbrook Park to check on the the spiderwort and Penstemon before the hot weather finished them off, and also wanted to get back to my poor neglected blog, even if time constraints prevented long, leisurely rides or descriptions thereof.

After reaching Windsor Road turned east to view the nearest corner of the prairie.

Indeed, there were spiderwort

and Penstemon.

These latter looked like most of their buds had opened in unison.

Rode west on Windsor Road and stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration to check the progress of the lead plants. Their incipient inflorescences were well into development.

Then had another enjoyable 3-hour day at my job and made my way (stopping on the way back at FM Avionics for fine coffee, fine granola, and a fine lavender-glazed donut) and then back home.

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Wednesday 23 May 2018. Early Spiderwort and Earliest Penstemon at Meadowbrook

This morning at 5:20 it was 58 degrees F under mostly clear skies as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway, destination: Meadowbrook Park. Wore my feather-light cycling jacket, that, with a bit of positive attitude based on the conviction that it would soon get warmer, kept me comfortable enough.

Was delighted to be rolling south on Race Street before sunrise, in the quiet, calm, pristine morning, all the more because the opportunity to do so has become rarer that in the past. Marveled at how pleasant it was to be riding in comfortable temperatures with good light.

Stopped a little way down Race Street at the stand of spruce trees to check for mushrooms, but there was no sign of them. This utter (visual at least, they certainly are there in some form, underground) absence is part of their mystique, part of the wonder of when, suddenly and abundantly, they do appear.

Crossed Windsor Road at my now-favorite, very responsive, traffic signal.

Rode straight to the rabbit-statue bridge, over which I coasted at high speed and had to (chose to, anyway) apply the brakes at the turn.

On the other side of the bridge saw a low blanket of fog resting over the landscape.

Then turned back to get a view of Douglas and McCullough creeks, with the sun coming up behind them.

Then back over the bridge and down the path where there were more good views of the sun rising over the misty prairie.

Looked in the wet area a little way down the path for blue flag iris, in early bud last week. There they were, well into their bloom,

a few close to the path, and the large patch farther away.

Noticed that the area had been “managed” to allow reasonably easy passage from the path. Still, the ground was wet and was glad I’d worn closed shoes and Smart Wool socks.

Thought as I proceeded along that there still were no spiderwort to speak of, but just then, there they were.

And to the left of this one was a Penstemon in bud.

It was the opening of the grand procession of the prairie bloom, and what a privilege it was to be there to witness it!

Rode on past lots of spiderwort, some receding golden Alexanders, and plenty though less dramatic blackberry blooms

on the way toward the prairie viewing station. Stopped for a moment to listen to the song sparrows and to the red-winged blackbirds, which today seemed to say, “talk with me!”

Just about every patch of spiderwort beckoned to have its picture taken, but I resisted many of them.

Was going to look over the prairie from the viewing station but saw what looked like an occupied sleeping bag and opted to pass today. Didn’t really sense danger about it, but you never know, and anyway didn’t want to disturb the person. Did stay close enough to get a photo of the lead plant,

which seem to be spreading.

Watched one of the many red-winged blackbirds

a little while before moving on.

Had thought about riding on at least to Yankee Ridge, but still wanted to time to swim and was very satisfied with what this short ride had revealed. So headed back homeward along Windsor Road. At almost the farthest corner of the park saw Penstemon starting to bloom!

And now to follow their progress.

Wednesday 16 May 2018. The Last Shooting Stars and First Spiderwort at Meadowbrook

It was 57 degrees F under mostly clear skies this morning at 5:35 when I brought out Rhododendron for a ride to Meadowbrook Park.

It was wonderful to be heading out so early to Meadowbrook. Lately I’ve been biking to my work assignment in Savoy, and that has been lovey, but haven’t felt like there has been enough time to linger over the landscape or stop for photos.

So was happy to be heading south on Race Street for the purpose of observing.

Stopped to see a planting of peonies just starting to bloom.

I love the varieties that this gardener chose.

Made another stop at the grove of spruce trees where Amanita muscaria mushrooms have burgeoned in the past several years.

They’ve seemed to occur mostly in the fall, but I’ve also seen them here in the spring. No mushrooms were visible today, however.

Noticed that the growth tips of the spruces were in a variety of stages of development; wondered whether that meant anything about the health of the trees.

At Meadowbrook was about to take my customary counter-clockwise loop around the park but saw a man having an interaction with a large dog and decided not to distract them, reversing the direction of my trip.

There were plenty of golden Alexanders and some wild geraniums blooming, but so far the prairie was mostly green.

Rode along McCullough Creek and heard high-pitched frog-song, eerie and beautiful.

stopped to listen a while.

Saw ducks below the Vine St. bridge

and deer crossing the path into the prairie,

Saw a mourning dove and tree swallow on the prairie viewing station.

Checked out the progress of the nearby lead plants,the leaves of which were beginning to emerge and take shape. Turned onto the unpaved path to check on the shooting stars. It took some searching to find these last blooms. Their seeds looked to be well along in development. Walked along the path a little way searching for the pink shooting stars, on the way seeing tree swallows interacting then spotting my first of this spring’s spiderwort. Caught a view of a well-defined shoot of compass plantand finally found a couple lingering pink shooting stars.

On the way back saw a shrub with goldfinches–the yellow birds of happiness!

It was a joy to be among them under the sky, among the tree swallows, the deer and frogs and red-winged blackbirds. The joy was noticeably therapeutic; could feel the weight of various difficulties lift a bit. Was again amazed by and grateful for the medicine!

Then looped back toward the rabbit-statue bridge. where the walnuts seemed to be doing fine, but lots of other trees, for whatever reason were not. Alas. Rode to the end of Meadowbrook through the grove of haws and crabs.

And then back homeward and off to the pool for a swim.

Wednesday 9 May 2018. A Decent Ride, with Shooting Stars

At 5:40 this morning, the temperature about 58 degrees F, the skies mostly cloudy and a moderate wind from the south-southeast, I headed toward Meadowbrook Park, hoping to find shooting stars (flowers, that is).

A swim would have been nice, too, but didn’t want to miss seeing the first showy flowers (if you don’t count the golden Alexanders), the shooting stars.

Stopped on the way to check for mushrooms under the stand of spruce trees,

but there were none.

At Meadowbrook saw the sunrise over the confluence of McCullough and Douglas creeks.

Then a little down the path saw the sunrise through the young walnut leaves

A little way down saw at least two of what I’m pretty sure were eastern kingbirds . But got no photos.

Walked Rhododendron on the unpaved prairie path and saw golden Alexanders and blackberries breaking bud.

And then, in the place I’ve seen them for ten years, at least, there they were in all their glory: shooting stars!

They beg to be photographed!

Walked down the path a little way and looked to the right (north). Almost missed the pink shooting stars; they were rather low to the ground.

Saw one plant and at first and thought that was all there were. But then more seemed to materialize.

Trump or no, a world with shooting stars can’t be all bad.

Retuned to the paved path and stopped to get a view from the prairie overlook.

It’s getting green, but so far no floral display.

But already the tree swallows had returned to the nearby bird house,

a comforting recurrence.

Checked the lead plants near the overlook ,

the buds of their compound leaves were just starting to swell and reveal their structure.

Then rode on through Meadowbrook, east on Windsor and south on Philo. Saw an indigo bunting to the west side of the road, but was not fast enough for a photo.

The ride toward Old Church Road was effort-full: uphill and into the south wind!

But at Old Church turned west,

and the ride got easier.

Stopped at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

and was glad to see the bike rack, though couldn’t imagine being far enough from you bike there to worry about locking it.

Then a dark shape swooped in front of me:

It was a turkey vulture, riding the wind.

And then headed home.

Sunday 22 April 2018. Day 22, 30 Days of Biking. Riding West Under the Sunrise, and Back

It was 40-something degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at about 5:45 am as I took off on Rhododendron toward Savoy to work. Was so happy to have a little push to get me going and out of the house to witness the sunrise, which I used to do a lot but haven’t for a while recently, due to flux in my schedule. Oh, the balance between the excitement of novelty and the comfort of routine!

Turned back toward Urbana as I headed west on Windsor Road and got a photo of the pink sky.

I arrived at work a little early and then looked at the check-in clock to discover I hadn’t been scheduled for this morning. Oh, well. It was a lovely ride!

Stopped at the Starbuck’s on South Neil Street, on the side of which parking lot were planted little trees richly festooned with bagworm cocoons that swayed in the easterly breeze.

Then rode north on the road behind Starbuck’s that ended with a fence for cars but was just wide enough to let a bike pass and reach St. Mary’s Road without having to ride on Neil Street.

Noticed lots of horses near the historic barn on the south side of St Mary’s Toad just east of Fourth Street, including this one,

who gave a big smile. At least it kind of looked like a smile. Stopped before heading home at the Japan House garden, where the willows were becoming yellow-green and the cherry trees were not quite yet in bloom.

Leaving the garden, stopped for a hellebore photo.

Stopped again on Florida Avenue between the U of I President’s House and the prairie planting to catch a weeping cherry in early bloom.

How wonderful to witness the reluctant, drawn out spring au vélo in the early morning!

Sunday 8 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking Day 8. Trelease Woods, Weaver Park, and the KRT

It was a degree F warmer (23 as opposed to 22 this morning) than yesterday, under mostly clear skies and again with some wind from the north as I rode east on Washington Street toward Cottonwood Road.

Am so glad that 30 Days of Biking is getting me motivated to ride more (for various reasons my mileage had been dwindling), especially since the weather has not been a great invitation itself.

Stopped at Weaver Park, crossing the non-trail

to get to the alleged buffalo-wallow pond.

At the pond were the mandatory red-winged blackbirds and, alas, Canada geese, though only a few. They didn’t seem quite awake.

But also, a quick look revealed a mallard duck, a coot,

(more, I noticed, farther out) and a grebe,

which looked like it had just found something to eat, or perhaps some nesting material.

Saw no teals, as I have in previous years, and it was too cold for amphibian song, but was not disappointed.

Came back to Washington Street and kept going in the direction of the still-low but bright sun until Cottonwood Road and turned north, where the wind greeted me and introduced a bit of rigor to the ride.

Crossed the Kickapoo Rail to Trail (KRT) bike trail (which runs from Urbana to St. Joseph, paralleling the highway) US 150, I-74

and the Saline Branch,

going as far as Trelease Woods,

where several deer galloped within the fence. Did not see them jump to get in; maybe there was easier access on the other side. Then turned back, rode to the beloved KRT trail and headed west. Saw to the south a pond I hadn’t been aware of until friend asked if I’d seen it. Did not see waterfowl there but made a mental note to return and check again, Might have loved to ride all the way to St. Joe, but suspected my extremities would get cold and reduce the enjoyment of the ride, which is one reason I’ll welcome warmer weather when it gets here!And apparently made it the rest of the way home.

Saturday 7 April 2018. Signs of Spring at Meadowbrook

It was a bracing 22 degrees F with a north wind (not a problem on the way out) under sheer, thin clouds at 7:30 this morning as I headed on Shadow to Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge and looked back toward Windsor Road to see hints of green.

Red-winged blackbirds claimed their territories, which definitely said “spring.”

From the Freyfogle overlook, not much green could be seen.

Then rode by the woods along McCullough Creek,

noticing the dead trees.

Headed north on Race Street toward Home.

There was a tremendous number of squirrels under the oaks along Race Street; here are two (they tend to disperse when a camera is trained on them.)

It’s getting to have been a while since this trip, but the odds are good that my fingers were cold and was glad to be back to warm them.