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.


Saturday 10 June 2017. Worn Flowers at Meadowbrook

It was 66 degrees and mostly sunny at 6:09, on this morning of my father’s 90th birthday, as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and headed south on Race Street.

Stopped for a cabbage rose shot


And checked the Amanita mushrooms, which seemed to be very much on the decline.


Rode directly to Meadowbrook Park and stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for the customary shot.

Farther down, in the willowy wet iris territory, Penstemon held forth, but with more brown than white flowers.

Near The Freyfogle overlook went to check the lead plant, which had been munched and damaged by (not unnatractive) beetles.

But the beetles seemed to have eaten their fill and mostly gone, though who knows what was going on with their actual eating-machines, the larvae? This year, at least, it seemed there would be flowers.

Rode to the end of the path at Windsor Road and west on the sidewalk along the park.

There was a lot of green; the spiderwort were past the peak of their bloom. Yet there were some remaining fresh blue daily flowers,

every bit as lovely as the first ones.

Along with the wizened spiderwort were soon to bloom rosinweed


and green blackberry fruit.


The early prairie flowers are finishing as summer, with its own anticipated bloom, draws near!

Saturday 25 June 2016. Last Week Revisited: Update on Queen-of-the-Prairie

This morning at 10:20 (later, again) it was 84 degrees F after Yoga in the Park,

img_7586in which I participated, and introduced myself to the instructor. I volunteered to teach and she said there still might be some open Saturday’s yet this summer. Another new experience!

Knew the queen-of-the-prairie, which was in bud last week, must be farther along in its bloom, so made my way back to the middle of the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie to witness its preset state.

On the way from the Vine Street (playground) entrance saw compass plant stalks rising


With great restraint bypassed the Freyfogel viewing deck and the leadplant and rode directly to the “soft” path into the prairie. There saw false sunflowers and thick clusters of green, beginning-to-ripen blackberries.


Saw thimbleweed,


and some remaining Penstemon


Noticed cream gentian foliage, with growth tips nipped off. Some creature (let’s say deer) must find them tasty.


There were purple coneflowers


and yellow coneflowers


and blooming butterfly milkweed.


The white wild indigo already were starting to produce seed pods.


Mountain mint, with its delicate bunches of white flowers and thin, short leaves, gave its fresh minty fragrance


And then there was the queen (of the prairie),

in her resplendent pink plume, still, after a week, with fewer than half of its buds open. Looked like it would be a long, luxurious bloom!

At the end of the prairie path, crossed the little wooden bridge over babbling McCullough Creek.


On the bank, again this week, saw ebony jewelwing damselflies.


Was glad to have participated in Yoga in the Park and to have checked in with the ever-changing prairie!

Tuesday 28 July 2015.  Yankee Ridge and Meadowbrook  

It was 73 degrees at 6:15 am, and my schedule allowed for a mid-week morning ride!  

Missed the moment of sunrise but did catch a nice morning sky. 

Headed south on Race street on Rhododendron just to ride, with a planned stop on the way back at Meadowbrook Park. 

Rode to Old Church Road and glimpsed the Barnhart Prairie Restoration from the west (uphill) side.  Saw a nice cluster of blooming prairie dock with compass plant nearby. 

Wondered why they seemed to be more abundant here than at Meadowbrook. 

Got a shot from the “summit” of Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, the view of the contours below somewhat obscured by the covering of tall corn. 

Turned north at Philo Road, even though a sign said “Road closed ahead.” Figured a bike could navigate the construction zone. 

Actually felt a little sheepish defying the instructions because a few workers had started on the day’s job, and it seemed a little rude to cross their stated boundaries. But the street was minimally disturbed and soon I was past the “forbidden” zone.  


Next time I’ll go another way. 

Turned into the northeast entrance of Meadwbrook Park and headed for the Freyfogel overlook.  The way was bedecked with prairie bloom, and the scarlet of almost-ripe blackberries!


Baptisia and rattlesnake master still added white accents.  

Stopped at the Freyfogel overlook and succeed in spotting the royal catchfly, but did not go out for a closeup.  


From inside the overlook got a view of a resting tree swallow. 


Near the overlook was happy to find purple prairie clover with (pink) Monarda and (purple) showy tick trefoil. 

Saw plenty of healthy, happy-looking yellow cone flowers.  

  (Yellow) rosinweed flowers asserted their radial design against the cloud-textured and blue sky

with tall Coreopsis in the background. 

Once again, it was good get out and be a witness to the height of summer. 

Saturday 11 July 2015. Back to the Heart of the Prairie

Got out on Rhododendron this morning a little after 6: yesterday’s early departure was not repeated, alas. 

The temperature was 61 degrees F and the sky held plenty of clouds, but the sun made its presence known by the appearance of more color in the landscape than there had been for some days, I think. 

Actually wanted to put on some miles, but my first priority was to check for royal catchfly in the middle of the prairie, on the soft (yes, it is, this year!) path. 

Was lovely to speed toward and over McCullough (with Davis still emptying copiously into it) Creek on the rabbit-statue bridge,  but did apply the brakes before the turn and came back for the photo.  

 Around the southwest corner of the park, could see the increasing bloom of the yellow coneflowers under the nicely textured post-dawn sky.  

 Noticed a lot of blackberries, red and not quite red, the really ripe ones probably eaten immediately. 


Liked the view of the sky edged by walnut leaves. 

Then walked Discovery II to the soft (and wet) path into the prairie in search of royal catchfly, which I saw in a lovely flower box outside of the Common Ground Food Coop last week.  

Back at the prairie, saw dots of red in the landscape, but they turned out to be not royal catchfly but almost-ripe blackberries. 


Noticed incidentally the foliage of cream gentians, which are among my (many) favorite prairie flowers. Anticipating the bloom!

Was starting to wonder whether there would be any royal catchfly at Meadowbrook this year, when this lone red star asserted itself!


So I guess they don’t do best with lots of rain; remembered how abundant they were during the drought years. But there was no missing this one!

Wondered whether the queen-of-the-prairie still was in bloom at all. It was, at almost the end of the path, with a sun dog behind it! 

  It was another fleeting, eternal  moment of beauty, something I could imagine recalling on my deathbed. 

Got a shot of a post-bloom stalk. Even now it was lovely. I like to think about aging like this!


Caught a late spiderwort bloom, the edges just beginning to curl in, still graceful and lovely but not at all long for this world.

And crossed the little wooden bridge over babbling McCullough Creek to head back. 

Then after stopping to chat with a couple of walkers and crossing Windsor Road I heard a sound from the front tire, which turned out to be flat 😦 alas, alas!!  Did have and employ the wonder-mini-pump, but the the tire did not retain the vigorously pumped air. Really don’t understand this, its third flat this summer! Maybe a new wheel would help. 

Noticed an interesting fungal composition inside a tree hollow while walking home. 


Would have preferred to cycle the whole way, but walking also is good. It was a lovely trip, flat tire notwithstanding. 

Sunday 1 July 2012. Lots of Blackberries and Compass Plants

After yesterday’s urban ride it was good to be heading toward Meadowbrook Park again; felt more like I was outdoors.

It was warmer today and more humid than yesterday but not uncomfortable, especially moving on a bike.  The sky was cloudy but there was color in the eastern sky: pink, orange, purple.  Headed directly for the Windsor/Vine bridge, but the abundant blackberries at the northwest corner of the park lured me to stop and photograph them and the rosinweed and Monarda against

Morning prairie bouquet with blackberries, rosinweed, and Monarda

the sunrise.  The blackberries were starting to go from red to black, and probably the birds already were enjoying them.  At the bridge, bullfrogs were singing, in longer phrases and seemingly with more conviction than previously. They seemed to be having conversations. At one point, it sounded like two frogs started at once but then stopped abruptly, as if not wanting to further interrupt the other.

The railing on the bridge was wet with condensation. I rested my arms on the cool, wet railing and looked downstream, waiting to sight a beaver. Thought I could hear beaver-munching and see that moving pattern on the surface of the water that heralds its appearance. But for what seemed like a long time, could not see a beaver. Was starting to feel impatient. The water was moving like crazy, but it wasn’t getting closer. Then a smallish shape zipped across from left to right; thought it was a duckling, but then saw the beaver. Was the first shape a young beaver?!?  The large beaver swam around and did a couple shallow surface dives but didn’t make its usual trip to the bridge. Then it went out of view.

On the upstream side of the bridge, got a quick glimpse of ducks, and then they hid again.

Proceeded around the park in a clockwise loop, opposite of my usual path. The compass plants were endlessly compelling-felt like I could have photographed them all day. Found more prairie clover-it’s more common than I thought, and so photogenic.

Heard the male red-winged blackbird that says “Mom” in the usual place, got a portrait of him atop the wonderful compass plants.

Was pleased to spot the royal catchfly and was proud of myself for resisting the urge to go out and get closeups of it. Was happy

Female red-winged blackbird “watching” the royal catchfly. Note another plant to the left.

to see after looking at the photos that there was at least one other plant I hadn’t noticed before.

After the clockwise loop, took a ride west in the open space of Windsor Road and stopped to make a very simple sketch just to show it wasn’t completely flat.  Like last week, saw the group (it’s weird to use the term “murder,” even if it is correct) of crows, and of pigeons, in almost exactly the same places as last Sunday.  Rode to First Street and over to Oak Street to check out where I

Quick sketch of Windsor Road at Lincoln looking west–it’s not totally straight and flat!

remember seeing prairie plants; there were some purple coneflowers and butterfly weed but didn’t see any particularly prairie-looking areas.

Praying mantis to the east

Visited the “new” (new since I worked there, about nineteen years ago) site of the Illinois Natural History/Geological surveys  in

Praying mantises to the west

the research park.   Took a close look at the statues of praying mantises on the east and west walls.  They reminded me of another building with a giant praying mantis on it: the City Museum of St. Louis.  Actually, the inside of the INHS also has a lot of beautiful displays and photographs, also a museum, along with its other functions.

Headed back home on a mostly very quiet Florida Avenue.