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,

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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,

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which is a great place to view the sky,

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

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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.

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Sunday 19 March 2017. The Sunken Pond to the West

It was 31 degrees F under clear skies at 8:38 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron, its rear tire restored (i.e., in inner tube replaced), out of the garage to head a little way south and west, at last!

Unfortunately my shoulder was not especially pleased by the riding position on Rhododendron, the road bike. But was able to use what I’ve learned in yoga about rolling the inner upper arms out, pressing the bottom of the shoulder-blades into the back, bringing the sternum forward, and releasing the trapezius toward the waist to lessen the strain. The difficult part is maintaining the actions. No end of practice.

Destination this morning was the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect. Wondered if there would be ducks there as I’d seen in the past.

Stopped first at the rabbit-statue bridge in Meadowbrook Park for the customary photo of the confluence of McCullough and Davis creeks.

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Noticed buds on the nearby arching red blackberry brambles.

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Also heard hammering woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds posted in high places calling with the first three notes of the theme of the original Star Trek TV series.

Did not go any farther into the park but made the “Texas-exit” back to Race Street and took a view of the forestry plantation

img_6142 in which still stood trees, past-observed cutting and clearing notwithstanding.

Rode out of town and as always, the first opening of the land to farm fields was exhilarating.

Rode west on Curtis and stopped on the bridge over the Embarass River to look down at animal tracks,

img_6144 then continued on to Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond, which lies slightly south of Curtis Road.

The sunken pond, without its trim of prairie flowers, looked smaller than I remembered it.

It was occupied by the pervasive Canada geese, not a lot of them, but they were spread out around the pond and seemed to have serious designs on the place.

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The only other waterfowl evident was a mallard drake.

It’s hard to imagine a time when the population of Canada geese was in decline. I think it’s nice to have them around, but they do seem to view a pond similarly to how European explorers once viewed the Americas: “empty space,” and tend to take over to the exclusion of other inhabitants.

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Rode into an east wind on the way back, and felt achy thigh muscles, but the joints seemed ok. Good tired!

Thursday 2 April 2015. In and Around Crystal Lake Park

It was a balmy 73 degrees F at about 2 pm, the sky mostly cloudy, with several big, dark clouds, and a noticeable wind blowing from the north and sometimes the west.

First stop on the way to Crystal Lake and the hill was the river walk at Race Street.

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The most interesting part of it seemed to be what looked like the footprints of a large bird in the mud (lower right).

Notice the skateboarder in the background. It was one way to enjoy the structure, which was hard for me to like. I appreciate the thought and effort that went into making the Boneyard Creek approachable, but it feels to me not quite finished. E.g., the black and white sculpture suggests fish stuck in mud, and the presumably crayfish-relief on the walls looked to me slightly more like spiny lobsters.

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So easy to be a critic. Maybe the structure will grow on me.

Stopped at the Crystal Lake Labyrinth and walked it both to the middle and out again.

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Really tried to relax into the task, noticing that to get closer to the destination one sometimes has to temporarily move farther away. Thought and thought about children turning into adults, kids growing up. It was so fast!

Didn’t think of intestines until close to the end, and when I did, remembered I needed to return a call from the GE nurse, which I sat down and did, as soon as I finished the labyrinth walk.

Next rode down the Busey Woods hill. Can’t really stop at the good part– uncertainty principle, and not especially safe. It was exhilarating, as usual, and did get a shot a little farther down.

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Noticed the geese in Crystal Lake, in pairs and doing something kind of comical: dunking their heads in the water repeatedly, alternating and together. Also one rose up and spread its wings as some goose-neighbors landed nearby.

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I understand that this spring the Urbana Park District is going to coat the goose eggs with oil to attempt to control the swelling population in the most humane way possible. I wish them luck; it’s not a pretty task.

Noticed how many people were out and about in the afternoon as as opposed to when I’m usually riding: early in the morning. Trying to feel more generous about sharing the landscape.

Sunday 6 July 2014. White Prairie Clover

At 5:38 this morning it was 64 degrees F and cloudy, last night’s heavy rain still in evidence. Well, it doesn’t look like there will be a drought this summer; maybe there will be too much rain. Optimal conditions (which of course are not nearly the same for all organisms) are a narrow window.

Decided on a quick trip northward, at least to check the progress of the construction on the Boneyard Creek at Race Street and see what was blooming in front of the Lincoln Bindery.

Happy to report that things seem to be happening on the Boneyard at Race Street.

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And was pleasantly surprised by a group of mallard ducks coming around the bend to the west side of Race.

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They looked like they might have been a group of siblings, just recently fledged.

Rode though the dark woods on Coler to the little prairie-let in front of the Lincoln Bindery, where the purple prairie clover was doing well, as I’d observed at several other local sites. There was quite a bit of the white species as well, though it was well into the course of its bloom.

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Compass plant was starting to bloom here, though there were few (compared to previous years) flower stalks.

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The Baptisia were bearing large green pods.

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Decided to head back and get in a longer yoga practice, so rounded the corner between Busey Woods and the cemetery and flew down that lovely hill, paying attention to the headstones on the hill to my left. Thought it would be a good image for my last thoughts: giddy flight, underdround the peaceful remains of those who’d already gone, and the soft green woods.

Saw a large group of Crystal Lake Canada geese on the usual corner, between the park and Jimmy John’s. Got a quick shot of them before heading into the rest of the day.

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Friday 31 May 2013. Labyrinth and Busey Woods/Cemetary Hill in Late May

Didn’t make it out this morning until 5:45.  The temperature was about 70 degrees F, and it had just finished raining–the sky was still mostly cloudy.  So there was no dramatic sunrise.

Rain 31 May 13

Did a fast loop of Crystal Lake Park and Busey Woods.

Stopped to photograph the swaying lower trunk of the sycamore I like at the entrance to Crystal Lake Park.

Crystal Lake Entrance w:Swaying Sycamore

Photographed the Labyrinth but didn’t stop to walk it, partly because two people were sitting on a nearby picnic table and partly

CL Labyrinth, W side 31 May 13

because I really had to get going.

Loved the canopy over Coler Avenue next to the west edge of Busey Woods.  Peeked at the prairie garden at Lincoln Bindery: saw a few spiderwort.

Got a photo where the road curves at the top of the hill and divides the cemetery and Busey Woods.  My mind played the sentence, “This is not a good place to stop!!” loudly.

Around the Corner and Down the Hill

Speeding down the hill was the expected and always enjoyed little rush.  It was Rhododendron‘s first trip down the hill, and, yes, it was fast!  Made me think of what I’ve been reading about proper bike fit:  “When the fit is exact, the bike disappears.”  Rhododendron came closer to disappearing than I remember dear Discovery, or even Blue, doing.

Got a distant shot of the Crystal Lake outdoor pool in progress.  Well, there are slides.  Hope very much that it’s open before the end of

Crystal Lake Pool in Progress 31 May 13

the summer!

The geese are doing well, from the looks of things, at Crystal Lake itself.  An adult goose led the way, honking protectively for this group

Goose Families 31 May 13

including pretty small (yes, cute!) goslings.

And home again.

Sunday 31 March 2013. Life Stirs!

It was 45 degrees F at 6:20 on this cloudy Easter Sunday morning, and even before I opened the front door, could hear the insistent, almost frantic, robin solo leading the dawn chorus.

A lot has happened since last week’s light snow–like another foot of it, and then most of it melted.  Also, the dawn chorus–what a

Snow Remains 31 March 13

wonderful epithet for the mass bird-song of early morning!–has made its debut for the year.  In winter one hears bird-song I (recall cardinals, especially) but they are more isolated, maybe just a reminder that a lot of birds don’t leave for the winter.  But now the air is filled with the urgent voices of spring–birds on a mission.  And it’s hard not to be stirred by it.

The second (for me) round of 30 Days of Biking, the event that started me on this blogging adventure, approaches (tomorrow!).  Can hardly believe it was enough to tell about my daily ride in a 150-character “tweet” with no links, not even photos!  So am going to make a serious effort to be more terse and concise in these posts.  Hard once you start putting up lots of pictures and getting wordy.  Let’s see how it goes…

Had two goals for this morning: Meadowbrook Park and the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration.  At the first site checked the alders: along with last year’s flower remnants were lots of tender, dangling, new catkins.  When, exactly, did they appear?

Alder Flowers against Early Morning Sky

Got another shot of the chewed alders.  Noticed the water level in McCullough Creek seemed low for a foot of snow recently melting into

Chewed Alders, Closeup 31 March 13

it.

Along the PR Hickman wildflower walk was a crowd of people gathered for an Easter Sunday worship service, which made for a very different atmosphere in this usually quiet, “lonely” place.

Got more pics of the pussy willows, a week further along in their bloom.

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Looks like some of the flowers are crawling up the stem.

Then headed west on Windsor Road.  Loved the feeling of vastness of the empty fields on either side, which I could enjoy more without the discomfort of the recent cold temperatures.

The City of Champaign Prairie Restoration looked kind of trashy with last year’s vegetation now so beaten down and weathered away, exposing scattered human paper products, etc.  But there were also points of interest: along with a good-sized animal burrow, at least one duck and a solitary(?!) goose were a group of five coots that got close enough to photo sans zoom.  Closer to Windsor was what

Coots and Duck at CCPR
Coots, honestly.

looked like a muskrat lodge.  Seems like the effort to look is always rewarded with something to see.

Probably Muskrat Lodge

Now that the spring is in motion, I don’t mind leaving winter behind.

Scilla Emerging
Back in the neighborhood

Sunday 17 March 2013. Tracking at Weaver Park in Late Winter.

On this solidly cloudy, 32 degree F morning, decided to have a dedicated ride on Blue to Weaver Park.

The form of the sun was completely obscured by clouds, and it didn’t get light out until nearly 7 AM

No Sun to See

on this first Sunday after the “spring forward” to Daylight Savings Time.  It was not a morning for sky color.  That and watering eyes kept me from taking in more of the sights along Main Street, though did get a shot of a clump of oaks of which I’m fond across from the Dart (formerly Solo) plant.

Oaks Across from Dart

Did pine for Meadowbrook Park and wonder what was happening there, but once at Weaver, there was of course plenty to see.

Rode Blue, which is a mountain bike, after all, a ways along the mowed, not paved, trail, but it was kind of hard going after a while and

Bumpy, Muddy Trail with Houses Visible, Weaver Park

got off and walked.  After walking a little way in, the sunken pond was revealed, and it was full of geese.  Even this pond, this hidden former buffalo-wallow (or so I’ve been told), was infested with (wild) geese, who made an impressive rushing sound as they took off to

Geese Heading away from Weaver Pond

  escape my gaze–trapped in this pit, they could not take the chance that I wasn’t a predator.  I did have mixed feelings about seeing them there; would have preferred ducks.  It reminded me of being in the middle of a subdivision.  Such prejudice!  They still are majestic and graceful even if ubiquitous and numerous, but they are so ubiquitous and so numerous!  Like people, I guess.

Also, there were a few red-winged blackbirds perched around the pond and vocalizing.  Mostly the vegetation was from last year, but some green shoots could be seen poking up at the edges of the pond.

Pond with Green Shoots

Saw some of the remains of last summer’s growth of prairie plants: Monarda, I think, yellow coneflower, bush clover, cup plant.

Last Year's Monarda, Weaver Park

Bush Clover Remains, Weaver Park

Saw tracks on the path, dog-like, though the toes seemed more pointed. It wasn’t very easy for me to read the tracks, even in the bare

Paw Track Resembling One from a Hoof

mud. Made me think of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings being able to tell Hobbit tracks and all these things about what they did on a path that seemed covered with moss or rocks, or anyway nothing as form-preserving as mud.  Then saw two scats on the trail containing remains

Furry Coyote Scat
Seems to have been here for a while.

of obviously wild food: fur, plant material. These were almost certainly left by coyotes.  Also saw what might have been raccoon tracks

Coyote Scat with Plant Material?

(and shoe treads: other humans had preceded me).

Coyote, Human, Raccoon (?) Prints
Probably at least some of these are dog prints.

I’ve seen coyote scat at  Meadowbrook Park, also, but Weaver Park is, in a way, wilder than Meadowbrook, if only for having many fewer, shoe prints notwithstanding, human visitors.  Yet, there are a fairly large number of small, closely spaced houses right next to Weaver Park, lacking the spacious grounds around the bordering homes, for example, that separate Meadowbrook from its human neighbors.  Only a line of Osage orange (I think) trees come between human habitation and Weaver Park on the east side.  I wonder what these inhabitants might think of their close coyote neighbors.

As I exited Weaver Park and headed west on to Main Street, saw a vulture flying low overhead and toward the northeast.  Looking back over the park saw three more of them. No pictures, unfortunately; wasn’t fast enough for the close one, and the farther ones would have been too small to distinguish.

Hands and feet were getting cold on the way home. The price of winter photography.