Sunday 7 May 2017. No Fox

It was 41 degrees F under clear skies at 7:30 this morning as I finally got Shadow on the road. Headed north and east to see whether the fox would be in its customary place across Main Street from the Dart plastic-lid factory.

It was not.

So went on to see what was happening at the edge of Weaver Park.

Blooming were golden Alexanders.


Recognized shoots of common milkweed, wild bergamot (Monarda), I’m pretty sure,


as well as prairie dock, compass plant, cup plant, to name a few.


Rode only to the edge of Weaver and turned back.

Across the street on the way back were pink evening primrose in a garden generously planted in native plants


The field next to the Dart parking lot bloomed in butterweed.


Wondered whether there would be corn or soybeans (if anything) planted there this year.


Saturday 6 May 2017. Wet Meadowbrook, After the Shooting Star Bloom

It was 45 degrees F and mostly cloudy, not raining but with fresh puddles in the street


at 6:30 am when I headed out in Shadow in the direction of Meadowbrook Park. It was a little past dawn, but the sky still spoke of the sunrise.


Stopped on the way at the Amanita mushroom site, where there only were remnants of last year’s appearance. Getting back on my bike, puzzling in my mind about how one might make sure nursing home residents get their showers on schedule, my foot slipped on the pedal and the bike went down, taking me with it, something pinching my left middle finger hard. I think I saw the bike over my head for a bit(!?!). Was shaken and embarrassed but not seriously hurt, and very grateful it hadn’t happened in traffic!

Proceeded then, carefully, to Meadowbrook Park.

The “wonky Christmas tree” was full of pale green growth shoots,


somewhat obscuring its resemblance to a four-limbed creature.

At the rabbit-statue bridge, the water in McCullough and Davis creeks ran high and fast.


The park was quiet!

Puddles reflected the sky.


The burr oak trees still had tiny leaves.


The sky was sculptural and dramatic.

Walked in on the soft path, which was was quite wet and true to the name, to see whether the recent cool weather had prolonged the shooting star bloom enough to be able to still see any of it.

Alas, no, it was done. Only the slightest evidence of their presence remained.

Could not help feeling sad for the brevity of their graceful presence.

It now was the time of the golden Alexanders

which are nice enough but to me are humble place holders between the shooting stars and the more spectacular coming spiderwort and beardtongue. Not proud of my prejudice, but there it is.

The sky had some lovely cloud shapes




Saw a group of 3-4 deer ahead of me and then one in the path that took a while to decide to move. I waited for it to do so, thinking it unwise to try to approach it head on.

Rode on and over the Windsor/Vine bridge, beneath which a mallard drake swam with speed and determination, as if it were late for an appointment.


Glad at this point I wore mittens!

Then home.

Sunday 15 May 2016. Cold Morning in May

It was 39 degrees F (yes, according to the phone ap!) and partly cloudy this morning at about 6:30 am as Rhododendron and I headed toward South First Street. Had been expecting the cold and accordingly put on layers against it.

Felt completely comfortable in the weather as early on made a stop for a lupine “family portrait “

The pale yellow spikes apparently were beginning to outnumber the deep pink ones.
And didn’t go far before a huge, creamy pale pink puff of a peony blossom beckoned.

Wondered whether the cold had an effect on it.

On the way south and west stopped at the Florida and Orchard prairie planting, where the only native blooms I could see still were golden Alexanders, but with foliage of many coming attractions emerging densely,

most notably the stacks of broad, vertically-folded, pale alternating leaf-pairs of the common milkweed.

Rode south on Lincoln Avenue toward Windsor road and stopped for look at cows under a nice cloud.

Made me think of my sister the vet and her family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin, where yesterday they had snow (!?!). Was glad this reminder of her life was so close and accessible to me.

Rode west on Windsor and saw a great blue heron wading in the “pond” to the east end of the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration. Of course it took off before I could get a shot with the iPhone, though did manage to snag a poor though documentary photo with the dedicated camera.

Because this morning was so atypical with the unseasonable cold, the phrase, “one (unusual!) morning in May” occurred to me, and then, of course, the James Taylor recording of a traditional song by that name. What a great duet he and Linda Rhonstadt did on that one.

Noticed here the first spiderwort of the season in bloom! Did not, however, tromp through the vegetation to get a close shot. Soon enough there will be flowers close enough to the path to observe easily.

Checked the area in front of the sign for evidence of lead plant, which seemed to turn up nothing until I noticed small shoots emerging from fairly high up on some dead-looking woody branches.

It was a satisfying discovery, something I hadn’t known before: exactly how the plant makes its return from winter dormancy.

Then doubled back slightly to ride south on First Street.

The little corn plants in the fields to one or both sides of the road seemed unharmed by the cold. Got a photo of a field with curved rows.

Was feeling calm and mostly neutral, ready for a little fatigue. The ride was pleasant enough, smooth and sometimes rather quiet, and only after a while did I begin to suspect a coming push-back from the north wind. Indeed, the grass along the road did seem to be bending in the direction in which I was traveling, and perhaps also slightly toward the road as well. Hoped the westward component would lessen the strength of the headwind on the way back.

Stopped at the lovely prairie planting a little farther down: it featured blue indigo (Baptisia australis)

(note the tidy lawn and non-native evergreens in the background), white blackberry blooms,

and then, spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)!

Rode as far as County Road 900

and turned around.

Yes, the wind blew from the north as I headed in that direction. It was more effort than the way out, but not so much as to make the ride unpleasant. Thought as I rode of people, deceased and alive, who used to be in my life but are no longer. My memory of and gratitude for them was so vivid this morning.

Stopped at the Starbuck’s on South Neil for a spinach wrap and coffee and to rest.

Then cut through the street just to the west of Neil (it does go through) to St. Mary’s Road, the neat, narrow road where sports and animal science (and veterinary medicine) meet.

I like sports well enough (though I seem to have been attracted to people who don’t), and in a sense owe my existence to it, as my parents met because they both were on basketball teams. But it does make me sad to see the historic round barns behind a golf course.

At least the barns and the vet school are not likely to be displaced.

Took that lovely, precious central Illinois hill of St. Mary’s Road down to Lincoln Avenue and homeward.

Stopped to photo one of so many gorgeously blooming neighborhood Rhododendrons

and headed home.

Monday 9 May 2016. Post-Cherry Blossom Japan House Garden

Took a quick pre-swim ride to the Japan House garden this morning at 6:30, when it was cloudy and the streets were wet, though it was not raining at the time. The temperature was 53 degrees F, I think.

Stopped at the lupine,

which had two lovely dark pink spikes and quite a few small, pale spikes still in bud.
Also was taken by another corner of that garden,

that had a path between the just-starting-to-bloom Rhododendron bush and a mass of pink columbine.

On the way to Japan garden stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard.

The golden Alexanders were leading the bloom; otherwise the prairie-let was still green.

The path leading to Japan House was lined with leafy, flowerless cherry trees.

A little farther down were still blooming helebores,

crazy-alive (unlike the snowdrops and crocuses before which they had emerged) with new-looking blooms among the February flowers that were well past pollination but still offering their uplifting floral shapes.

Close to the house were tree peonies just past the height of their bloom but still with soft, rain-beaded white petals.


Got a shot of the landscaping between the house and the pond, lush and soft-looking.

Also framed a scene that included a stone structure.

Not sure what it’s called.
And then looped around the pond and headed on toward the rest of the day.

Friday 6 May 2016. Sunrise on Green Meadowbrook

It was 45 degrees F at 5:45 this morning, the sky clear, at least on the horizon.
Rode south to Meadowbrook Park, not especially focused, then saw a group of large deer on the mown grass among the ornamental trees

There was some mist on the ground that reflected the sun.

As always, the view of McCullough and Davis creeks from the rabbit-statue bridge was an attraction

but it seemed especially lush and brilliant in today’s slightly foggy dawn.

The air was so fresh and so fragrant! Couldn’t put my finger on the source, but it was lightly sweet and delicious.

And the sunrise from down the path was quite photogenic.

Farther down a little way was the spot where I knew there were irises about to bloom, but didn’t want to wade among the possibly tick-infested willows to get close enough for a good photo. Settled for this iPhone-zoom shot.

Thought I could pick out buds. Must devise a strategy to get close to them!

Crossing the little arch bridge over Davis Creek got another nice view of the sunrise

Noticed quite a few tree swallows, flying with their pointed, glossy wings and sitting defiantly on on various perches (Glendy, did you notice the correct spelling?) along the path, like this pair on the sign at the entrance to the soft path through the prairie.


Down and around to the Freyfogel Overlook, there was a tree swallow tenaciously stationed on a corner of the structure.

Not wanting to disturb it, I bypassed the ramp and stairs and climbed to the platform to get a shot of the blue and clouds and line of trees in shades of light and medium green–past the yellow-green and densely-flowered stage.

It seemed like a transition I’d never caught before at quite this stage.

Was glad see the brave swallow unmoved as I left, glad my proximity hadn’t forced it away from its post.

Saw lots of golden Alexanders blooming in the prairie near Windsor Road.

Have to remind myself that they are native and early-blooming because they don’t pull at my attention the way other flowers do.

Away from Meadowbrook and back in the neighborhood noticed that the many-soft-greens-in-the-morning-light phenomenon was all around!

Sweet middle of spring! And I got to see it!


Thursday 28 April 2016. Pink Shooting Stars

It was 66 degrees F under party cloudy skies at 11:55 this late morning of day 28 of 30 Days of Biking. Headed to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron to check out the shooting stars.

My very favorite biking is first thing in the morning, but am glad to have needed to get used to things like traffic and harsher light.

Rode to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for a shot of the high water.

The more turbid water from Davis Creek was visible as it entered McCullough Creek.

Turned back then and stopped for a look at a pink flowering dogwood, the trunk and branches of which were covered with a shaggy grow of lichen.

Walked the bike toward the Spomer Prairie, then wondered whether any Jacob’s ladder flowers had survived this stage of the ecological restoration now in progress at the Hickman Wildflower Walk and detoured to check.

There were a couple of them,

img_5910 delicate and lovely.

Stopped then at the little wooden bridge over babbling McCullough Creek and got a photo of a crayfish chimney in the foreground.

And continued along the wet (soft!) path.

A short way in noticed it was doing to be a big year for another early-blooming native prairie plant, golden Alexanders (which incidentally go by the delightful Latin name of Zizia aurea“.)

But for my biased mind, this visit was all about the shooting stars, which were almost in view.

First saw the patch of pink ones!


They came in shades from almost white

to almost purple

and mostly they seemed reasonably healthy.
A little way down and in the other side of the path was the cluster of white-flowered shooting stars.

which were not as numerous as I’d expected. Then noticed several severed-edged flower stalks,

img_5930 as if the flowers were being eaten. Made me realize that the plants we get to see are what remains after the herbivory.

On the way back discovered yet another patch of pink shooting stars,

protected, I think, by blackberry brambles.

On the way back out of the prairie, heard short buzzing sounds, like insects of some kind. Did see and hear one bumble bee, but it didn’t seem like flying bees were responsible for all the sounds. Maybe they’re under the thatch, out of sight, emerging into the oncoming growing season…. Led by the shooting stars.

Saturday 30 May 2015. A Little Rain on Prairie Flowers

This morning at 5:45 it was 68 degrees F and raining lightly.

Didn’t want to range too far out in case the weather got worse, so donned my new raincoat and headed on Discovery II to the prairie planting on Florida Avenue and Orchard Street, which was full of flowers. The inventory follows.

Most abundant were the foxglove Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis), but also there were spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) and surprisingly already many false sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides).

And couldn’t resist the close up.

Found a statuesque prairie cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta),

a large wild quinine (Parthenium integrtifolium)

and new purple coneflowers, (Echinacea pallida) (could not tell for sure that they weren’t E. purpuria; guessed they were pallida because they’re out so early) with budding butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) behind them.

Though I was prepared for the rain, the rain was not especially uncomfortable, and the flowers were truly lovely, could not get away from a note of generalized sadness. What is it about this kind of weather that nudges the emotions toward the sad side? At the same time, it was not altogether unpleasant; there was in it a component of something like contentment, perhaps “appropriate” sadness. Suggests that it’s not sadness by itself that makes us miserable.

Headed on to Lincoln Avenue and turned south, tempted to stop at the Idea Garden, but went on. Saw from the street the beautiful collection of hostas under the bald cypresses near Japan House but passed them also.
Just wanted to ride long enough to be able to start writing (lots of blogging on which to catch up!) at 7.

There was time to ride to Windsor and Neil to check the lead plants at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project.

On the way saw lots of unmistakeable wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

a non-native that looks a lot like golden Alexanders but tends to grow larger.

At the CCPRP noticed a great blue heron in the creek at fairly close range. But the dedicated camera wad buried within the rain gear, and by the time I dug it out the heron was gone.

Noticed then a little specificity in my rainy-day mood: finding a particular flaw in myself, a place where the difficulty, now clearly seen, is not not the fault of another person. Ouch. Yet that, too, is a kind of relief.

There was plenty of beautiful blue spiderwort (so hardy, so lovely!) and white Penstemon (the perfect spiderwort counterpart!) at the CCPRP. The lead plants (Amorpha canescens) were there in tight bud, no further along than the ones at Meadowbrook.

Noticed behind them,on the other side of the creek, a patch of yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus)

Had forgotten, I guess, that yellow iris is exotic and not native, even potentially invasive, alas. But they were attractive yellow flowers.

On the way to Neil Street a bright yellow (with black wing accents) goldfinch (Spinus tristus) caught my eye.

He sat there placidly for a long time while I took lots of photos of him. To paraphrase Winnie-the-Pooh, nobody can be uncheered with a late-spring male gold finch sitting near you. Joy attained!

The goldfinch and the exertion of zooming north on Neil Street shifted the mood to solidly up. Felt engaged with the world around me and grateful again
to be part of it, grateful for the light and the growing season.