Sunday 23 April 2017. Brownfield Woods with Woodland Phlox, and Sighting the Fox

It was 38 degrees F under clear skies at 6:05 am, the sun about to come up. Rolled Shadow out of the garage to head east and north, per the wind direction. Have learned my lesson that even a reportedly small wind velocity can make a difference when it’s blowing straight at you. Also, had been wanting to visit Brownfield Woods (to the east and north) to see the bloom of the Dutchman’s britches but never managed that. Now it was time for woodland Phlox and didn’t want to
miss that, too.

Headed out Main Street, past the little grove of burr oaks.

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Noticed a good-sized reddish, furry creature lounging under the oak trees that didn’t seem especially perturbed by my presence. It seemed to be the Sunday morning fox right around where I’d seen it on several Sundays in the past, as if waiting for my visit. Marveled at the “bushiness” of what appeared to be its tail. The only feature I wasn’t sure about was its face, which could have been a cat’s. A very large cat’s. After I took several pictures and so had been staring at it for a while, it got up and ambled back away from the street and toward a line of trees and the sound of a multi-breed chorus of barking dogs.

Rode on Main Street until it ended at University Avenue, crossed University and rode through the Beringer subdivision. Checked the ponds but saw no ducks.

Crossing the I-74 bridge was very glad to be wearing the felted mittens I’d just finished making

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Saw not one but two dead possums along the road that paved the bridge. No pics of that for the blog. Remembered the possum remains I used to observe (described in older posts) at the north side of the bridge that had taken years to decompose and be grown over. Didn’t plan to follow these the same way but made a note to look next time I come this way.

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Was happy to reach Olympian Drive and turn back.

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It was kind of disappointing to look back and notice how I’ve been taking fewer and shorter rides than I used to. But no use not enjoying where I was then! And where I am now, reflecting on it.

On the way back –tailwind!–stopped for shots of woodland Phlox.

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This seemed to be a good year for them,

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and today appeared to be the peak of the bloom.

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Oh, lovely stars of blue! Was especially glad to have caught this bloom because of having missed the Dutchman’s breeches.

Butterweed, which bursts yellow in seemingly random patches of sometimes great abundance in farm fields and near streams

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provided a striking yellow contrast.

Saw the fox (was convinced for a while that it was a cat but the ears decided the ID) again on the way back.

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Sunday 23 October 2016. High Cross Road, Mid-Autumn

It was 8:30 am, late by VĂ©lo du Jour standards, but it was a beautiful fall morning au velo, and I headed in the direction of north High Cross Road to see the colors, wearing a wide smile.

Found myself flying along east Main Street with ease, stopping first at the grove of oaks across from the Dart plant. Though of the fox I used to see there Sunday mornings but didn’t expect to see it: who knows what might have happened to it since then, and it was later in the morning than when I used to look.

By then it caught my eye, closer than it was last time. Had no great hope of getting a photo but went for the iPhone just in case.

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It’s the tiny dog-like head and neck at the base (left side) of the large burr oak tree.

It always makes me think (though I know it’s ridiculous) that it was waiting for me to show up.

Then it ran off into the field to the west across the train tracks.

Got a fall-color photo of the planted parkway maples

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and rode up Main with, seemingly, effortless effort, through the Berringer subdivision, and over I-74. Stopped to peek at the possum-bone site (where I’d been observing what happened to a road kill over the past four years or so)

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which was so full of trash, like it was a designated dumping station, alas. Saw a couple of bones there, but I think more probably recent chicken than old possum.

Trees near the Saline Branch were just starting to turn color.

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Passed the edge of Brownfield Woods where there were a few late asters,

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surrounded by stinging nettle and poison ivy. Hoped I hadn’t already stepped in it.

Rode on northward noticed a delightful tiny hint of a hill sloping away, a lovely slight departure from total flatness, near Ford Harris Road.

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Oh, the subtlety of the central Illinois landscape!

Turned east on Ford Harris and stopped at the Yearsly (so it was labeled) Cemetery.

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Seemed like a nice location to contemplate mortality. Did not spend enough time to look exhaustively but did find a few thought-provoking markers.

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Getting back on the road noticed recently emerged asparagus plants. Didn’t know they showed up so fresh in the fall. Global warming, perhaps.

Planned to ride east to Cottonwood Road and south to Oaks or Airport and back to High Cross, but just after the turn saw a large brown dog in front of the upcoming farm house. The dog didn’t look especially aggressive, but I wasn’t up for the possibility of any form of problematic interaction. So without hesitation turned around to head back.

On the way back had a chance to photograph spilled corn kernels on the road

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that were not interesting enough to make me stop on the way out. But I do like to catch the harvest, the yearly “results” of this sprawling land of central Illinois, in the middle of its process, when I can.

Passed, as I have many times without comment, the sign for the U of I Aeronomy (the study of the upper atmosphere, as I again googled to find out) station.

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On the way back faced a bit of a head wind–no wonder it was so easy on the way out. Not bad, though. Was grateful for the lack of rain and for the mild temperature.

Close in to town was a cornfield all ready to harvest. Reminded me of a crowd of starving men.

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Wonder how much longer crops will grow this close to downtown Urbana. Change keeps happening. Autumn is our yearly reminder of that.

Thursday 12 May 2016. On the Way to and from the Edge of Trelease and of Brownfield Woods and in Between

At about 6 this morning it was 62 degrees F and mostly cloudy.

Set off on Rhododendron for east Washington Street. Noticed that the tree leaves, increasingly of “business green” were closing into a canopy over stretches of Washington.

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Thought I would go at east as far east as Cottonwood Road, and then decide how far north to go.

Noticed where Washington Street opened into the countryside that along the south side of the road, on the edge of the field (the one that’s for sale) full of butterweed there was what looked like wheat (winter wheat, apparently, already in seed) growing alongside the road.

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Then, not far along in a flooded corner of the field, saw three or four shorebirds wading.

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I think they were two different species: pretty sure one was a killdeer, and the other some kind of sandpiper I’d seen before. But they were too far away to ID with any certainty.

Turned north on Cottonwood, that very quiet country road. Proceeded north over the I-74 bridge, where a fair amount of traffic passed beneath me. Rode to Trelease woods, and noticed quite a few woodland Phlox plants with several flowers each.

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Made me think that last week there would have been an incredible mass of blue woodland Phlox flowers here.

A little way down was a lovely mass of delicate pink wild geranium flowers.

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Rode north on Cottonwood to Oaks Road, at the southwest corner of which intersection was a puddle and the sound of frogs.

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At first when I stopped, the sound paused, but after I stood quietly for a while, it resumed, and actually got quite loud. Oddly, I could not actually see a single frog, close as I was. Their cammo was doing its job.

At High Cross Road turned south, stopping on the edge of Brownfield Woods,

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where there were more woodland Phlox.

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Also in bloom was Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum),

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the flowers of which are not especially eye-catching (just my opinion) from a distance but lovely when viewed up close.

On the way back felt some wind resistance and actually felt more tired than usual at this point on the trip. It wasn’t largely distracting from the enjoyment, but did wonder about my plans for increasing mileage through the summer. No doubt the coming (?) warmer temperatures will help.

Was glad to get back and glad for having gone out.

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,

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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),

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and northern shoveler (Anas clypeata).

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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.

Sunday 5 April 2015. 30 DB Day 5 To Brownfield Woods

This morning at 6:30 it was 34 degrees F, the sky mostly clear on this Easter Sunday, coincidently the fifth day of 30 Days of Biking.

While getting Discovery II out of the garage heard white-throated sparrows seemingly trying out all the variations of their song, as if not especially committed to a particular version. Once it did seem like one hit the notes of the theme of the New World Symphony Largo. They don’t always, but it’s so lovely when they do.

Took off this chilly morning perhaps a little over-dressed in the long down coat and double mittens. The temperature was on the edge of requiring such preparation, and I remembered recently erring on the other side. It turned out to be only slightly to the warm side of comfortable.

Headed east as the sun, which was looking quite large this morning, was rising.
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In the field still covered with corn stubble on Main Street saw a smallish dog-like creature: a fox, which stared back at me as I studied it, then retreated, stopped, and stared again.
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Felt like a gift to share this brief awareness with a fellow yet so “other” being.

Kept on to the east but didn’t stop at Weaver Park, which would have to wait for another trip.

Did, however, stop at the northeast side of the High Cross Road bridge over interstate 74, a place where I’d been observing what happens to the remains of a medium-small animal, a possum, in this case, since May 2012. At first it seemed like the bones were completely overgrown and obscured, but then did recognize a jawbone with teeth.
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Looks like it can take a long time for bones to go back to the earth.

Crossed the Saline Branch and rode by Brownfield Woods, enjoying the pronounced calming effect of being on a bike moving past trees.
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Stopped to get a shot of a cluster of bloodroot flowers, the beginning of the annual progression of blooms on the edge of Brownfield Woods.

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On the way back down Main Street saw a red-tailed hawk fly quite close to the ground and then perch for a time in a nearby tree before flying off again. The little pause to observe was another brief, sweet moment of sharpness amid the blur of an ordinary day, the main reason I keep up and love this blog.

Thursday 14 August 2014. Almost to Thomasboro

Pulled Rhododendron out of the garage at 6:15 this morning, and it was plenty clear and light. The phone ap reported a temperature of 63 degrees F, but it felt warmer to me. Was glad to be comfortable in my bright chartreuse cycling shirt (maillot vert-jaune) with the pocket on the back just the right size for an iPhone.

Wanted to ride to Homer Lake while school was still out and maybe the cardinal flowers were in bloom. But was not sure whether the Washington Street crossing of Rte. 130 (the most direct route) was open, and opted to head north and try once again to ride all the way to Thomasboro.

Was in the mood to ride; knees, hips, shoulder all felt good, and did not feel the urge to pull out the camera very much. Did, however, get the familiar reference shot of sun and the courthouse tower.

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Passed Weaver Park without stopping, no strong colors enticed me away from the road.

Cut through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, and stopped at the north side if the I-74 bridge to see if any possum bones (the ones whose progress I’ve been observing for a couple years now) were visible. Didn’t expect to see anything through the sweet clover, but there was a limb bone of some kind, and next to it a jaw. The process is still observable .

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The air, light, and surface of the road were perfect for riding, and I enjoyed it.

Along Brownfield Woods were pale jewelweed, Joe Pye weed, brown-eyed Susans, as well as lots and lots of giant ragweed. Found an American bellflower, which seemed to be getting toward the end of its bloom; there were not many examples.

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Next to this bellflower plant was a wingstem in bud with a curious dark insect with bright orange antennae and legs perched near its top.

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Not something you see every day. Need to look it up.

Which I later did, and it turned out to be a Mydas fly, Mydas tibialis. Was happy to be able to figure out what it was; brought back memories of my days as a biologist at the INHS.

Stopped for a shot of ironweed on the roadside.

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It’s a common species but so much nicer to look at than common ragweed!

Riding between the corn and bean fields, most of which were tidily mowed on their edges, alas, noticed also several tidy farm houses, one with a little prairie garden in front of it. Made me think of the word “prosperous” and the relationship between prosperity and order. It made me feel safe, like the dogs here might feel less threatened by cyclists. But made me think also there could be perhaps too much order, or too simple of an order, at least from the standpoint of nature. There is order in a prairie community, as of which one becomes painfully aware when it is disturbed by mowing or plowing, the imposition of a different kind of order: the story of humans in the natural world.

The even expanses of healthy crops under the mostly clear sky did make me think of the ocean, with gentle frozen waves.

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At about the ten-mile mark of the ride was starting to feel fatigue and the suggestion of complaint from my knees. But was confident of a second wind and rode on. The way seemed to be heading uphill for some time now, it would be downhill on the way back.

But decided, after following the eastward jog of 1600 E to 2500 N, or Flatville Road, which was the same latitude, as it were, of Thomasboro, it was ok to turn back. It was the closest I’ve come to it so far. I think it was the thought of crossing US 45 that kept me from wanting to keep going into town.

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Maybe another time.

On the way back was taken in by the different colored morning glories (somehow they were not so alluring on the way out) that decorated the outer corn and bean plants. They were blue

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shades of pink,

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and purple

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Not native plants by any stretch of the imagination, but I fell for them.

Noticed adult corn root worm beetles in some of the flowers.

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But they didn’t seem to have done much damage.

A little way down saw a large German shepherd in front of one of the tidy house, running, it seemed, in my direction. What to do? Fight? Flight? Freeze? With no hesitation chose flight, not looking to see whether there was a fence or human to call it off, figuring it would find me less of a threat if I ignored it a f just went on by. It didn’t come after me, and I didn’t look back. Realized I’m not used to riding all-out, whew! But caught my breath and was able to enjoy the way back.

Saw royal catchfly (!) in front of the house across from the end of Weaver Park.

20140814-105718.jpg Noticed a car pulling out of the driveway; the driver smiled and proudly pointed out the royal catchfly I was photographing. I smiled and replied, “Yes!”

Was pleased with this morning’s lovely 23 miles!

Saturday 19 July 2014. Back to High Cross Road, at Last!

At 5:45 this morning, it was 55 degrees F and mostly clear.

Was excited to at last be heading east and north to High Cross Road, especially to check on what was blooming on the edge of Brownfield Woods.

Was greeted as I crossed the intersection of Main and Vine by a full, red sun disc, just free of the horizon. Was happy to see it.

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Once again enjoyed the bike lane on Main.

At Weaver Park noticed a low layer of fog creeping out toward Main Street from the park. Was tempted to check out foggy Weaver

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but knew I’d never make it to Brownfield if I did.

Avoided the construction at University and High Cross by cutting through the Beringer subdivision. Much better than going through that intersection! Think it will be my new default for this route.

Stopped at the possum bones site (by the northeast corner of the I-74 bridge), but it was completely grown over with sweet clover, etc., and not one bone nor part thereof was visible. So that’s how a living, moving creature goes back to the earth.

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Saw fog out in the country as I rode out High Cross, lovely layers lying over the dew-covered and terribly vigorous soybeans, though somehow the iPhone camera eliminated some of the mist.

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High Cross Road, recently refinished, was smooth and ever so pleasant on which to ride, especially in contrast to all the still-hazardous winter-potholed streets in town.

At Brownfield Woods looked for Joe Pye weed, which I’d noticed in someone’s yard earlier along Main Street. It was there blooming vigorously,

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along with jewelweed

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and the lovely blue American bellflower, with its vigorous, fresh early blooms.

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Past Brownfield a little ways saw spikes of little pale pinkish flowers I didn’t recognize

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Looked them up later to discover they were American Germander
(Teucrium canadense)
. Thought the juxtaposition of these three geographic references rather curious. Was not able (from the first page of results) to tell the significance of “Germander” apart from the name of a plant. Did kind of like the mystery of it.

Turned back at Olympian Drive.

Really enjoyed that smooth road, flanked by its woods an giant corn and beans.

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Thought of the word “freedom” as the road slid by and I felt patient and comfortable, if not exactly euphoric. Thoughtc of how glad I was to be riding there and then in such comfort and beauty, because the opportunity is never guaranteed.