Saturday 22 April 2017. Through the Marathon to See Blue-Winged Teal

It was 45 degrees F under cloudy skies with an east-northeast wind this morning at 7:45 as I walked Shadow out of the garage. My goal was to bring a pair of binoculars to the sunken pond, (the purported historical buffalo-wallow) in Weaver Park, and and see whether any ducks were stopping there for spring migration, as they had in previous years.

An obstacle to this goal was the running of the Illinois Marathon, a big community event, the route of which pretty much circled inner Champaign-Urbana and blocked my path to anywhere away from the center of town.

Actually was excited to be close to the festivity of the event and waited for a while at the corner of Green and Cedar to watch crowds of medium-serious runners,

a couple of whom I recognized and cheered for, pass by.

After a little while of watching turned south away from the route and rode along Washington Street until the route joined Washington going east.

Rode on the sidewalk paralleling the runners until the route went south again at Kinch Street.

By this time there were enough gaps between groups of runners that I could slip across the street and proceed to Weaver Park. Here is a view from the other side.


Made it to Weaver Park, with its unimproved “trails,”


but nice row of windbreak (Osage orange?) trees.


Saw that there were, alas, the pervasive Canada geese (though not many) but also some duck-looking fowl. Whipped out the binoculars and was delighted to locate 5 or 6 pairs of blue-winged teal! Even got an iPhone shot where you might be able to detect some non-mallard ducks.


The binoculars also revealed a single striking black and white duck way across the pond that would dive completely under the water and resurface after a little while. Would call it a lesser scaup but was unable to get a photo.

After the stop at Weaver rode on to the east with the thought of crossing High Cross Road,


which is a great place to view the sky,


but my hands were cold (knew then that I should have worn these,

which I’d just finished knitting (without a pattern!) and felting), so turned back.

The way back was almost clear of runners; took the liberty of cheering and shouting encouragement to the ones at the very end. And headed home.


Sunday 17 April 2016. East Washington with a Stop at the “Buffalo-Wallow” Pond

It was 52 degrees F this morning at 6:35, sky clear, an east breeze barely blowing.

The air was fragrant with viburnum, late daffodils, and most recently that faint, not quite sweet but distinctive scent of the crab apples that were just beginning to bloom. All delivered at an optimal temperature.

Eastward I rode on Rhododendron down Washington to Street to check for waterfowl at the Weaver Park pond, reputed (according to a respected retired U of I botanist) once to have been a buffalo wallow.

It’s not easy to get to this possible buffalo-wallow, especially on a bike. One can either walk a good way on the grass or have a bit of a strenuous bike ride. For the sake of time I chose the latter.

Approached close enough to see coots cavorting on the water and also, saw a pair of ducks that didn’t quite look or sound like mallards that, with the help of the zoom of the “devoted” camera, determined that they were blue-winged teal. Graphically beautiful birds; something you don’t see every day in Urbana.

The pond was alive with sound! Especially amphibians; I believe most of the sound was of toads, though I wondered whether at least some were spring peepers. Also, there were bird sounds, like red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows, and some the source of which I had no idea. What a chorus! Could almost imagine them joining in parts of the Verdi Requiem.

Then rode on out E Washington till the road jogged south and I turned around.

It wasn’t a long-distance trip but still good to put on a few miles in the open, as yet bare farm fields.

Stopped at a wet spot near the intersection of Washington and High Cross, where a raccoon (I believe) had been not long ago.

In the home stretch got on a thought train in which I wrangled with the idea of justice, self-respect, unconditional love, and how to turn ideas about those things into practice.
What is injustice? What is bad luck? This not in a self-righteous or self-pitying way. Just wondering. What do I or anyone “deserve?” Wouldn’t forgiving 70×7 times sometimes encourage people to take advantage of one, which ultimately is not good for that person, either? What does it actually mean to forgive?

Another one I probably won’t resolve today.

Sunday 12 April (Day 12, 30 Days of Biking) 2015. Delight and Discomfort Beyond the Barrier

The phone weather ap said it was 39 degrees F at 6:15 this morning, though it felt warmer. The sky with its half (the left half, that is, waning) moon was clear in places and filled with swaths of thin-ish clouds in others. The wind blew, mostly gently, from the north and east. “Light and variable,” perhaps.

Took Rhododendron, the road bike, for this trip; wanted to keep gradually extending the distance of these rides as daylight becomes more plentiful, and it’s nice just to check the odometer, with which Rhododendron is equipped. Also, if there’s any wind, it’s easier to ride in the forward stance. Just have to do shoulder work later.

Headed east on Washington again today, determined to go farther beyond the barrier at High Cross Road.

Smelled skunk in two different places on the way. Spring.

Just east of High Cross Road the sun rose and the road beckoned
through the gap in the barricade,

through which I passed.

A short way down the road was a flooded corner of a field in which there were 8-10 ducks, not mallards but was not sure what. The iphone could not capture a recognizable image, but did have my little just-a-camera with a bit of workable zoom. Got two shots, the second as they took off, revealing blue patches in the wings: blue-winged teal (Anas discors)!
Here is a rough sketch:

Was glad these migrants were availing themselves of central Illinois hospitality, which let me behold them.

Cut north on Cottonwood Road, over I-74 and along Trelease Woods.
Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) were at the peak of their bloom and widespread on the forest floor and slightly to the outside of the fence.

Noticed how the white flowers were tinged with pink just before they were fully formed and open.

Then rode on to Oaks Road, back west to High Cross and then south. Stopped along Brownfield Woods, where again were lots of Dutchman’s breeches.

Also, there was some tooth wort (Dentaria laciniata).

Farther down High Cross and over the I-74 bridge, cut through a subdivision and noticed more ducks (and only a pair of Canada geese) in the central pond. Figured they were teals and maybe also some mallards; here is an iphone photo of the pond.

Honestly, those are ducks in the water.

Got some zoomed photos on the little just-a-camera. (At home zoomed up the photos more and realized that there were three different species: blue-winged teal, lesser scaup (Aythya affinis),

and northern shoveler (Anas clypeata).

Way cool!

On the way back on Main Street, a smallish (so not a red-tail), rather stocky (so not a Cooper’s) grey-mottled hawk (I thought), flew about two feet directly in front of me, across my path. Maybe it was a screech owl. Love those close encounters.

But back home had a less pleasant close encounter as a result of this otherwise lovely 12-mile ride: discovered a tick, one of the small ones, on my leg. Wow. Good shots aside, maybe it would have been wiser not to kneel right in the vegetation.

When one gets carried away by the intoxicating beauty of nature, remembering skunks and ticks can lend a note of sobriety.

Wednesday 30 April 2014. The 30th-Day Ride to Weaver

It was about 3:30 pm when I got on Rhododendron for the last ride for 30 Days of Biking 2014. It felt colder than the phone weather ap’s 48 degrees F, maybe because of the north-northwest wind. Was glad I wore the glove-mittens.
Had wanted to make a slightly more spectacular ending to 30 Days of Biking but settled on a revisiting of Weaver Park.

Once again loved riding on the bike lanes on Main Street. Wonder how long it will be before I don’t think of them as “new.”

Stopped for a shot of the little grove of oak trees across from the Dart plant. 20140430-232348.jpg
Weaver Park looked empty in the wind as I walked Rhododendron through what I thought was a shortcut to the purported buffalo-wallow pond.

Next time will stick to the path even if the distance is a little longer.

Took a while of gazing out in the pond to see the ducks, at least a pair of mallards and also a pair or two of non-mallards (blue-winged teal, as I was later able to identify!). Also something swirled in the water close to shore but was not able to identify it.

On the way back took a photo of one of the bordering trees

and was surprised by a vulture flying low from out of its branches, then out near the pond and around a couple of times.

Felt refreshed with this visit to “wild” Weaver, a perfectly good finish for this year’s edition of 30 Days of Biking.

On the way home got a photo of a spring bulb garden I’d often admired.

And tomorrow will be the start of the National Bike Challenge!