Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.

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Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!

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They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”

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And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.

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So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.

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The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.

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Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.

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Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

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Saturday 9 September 2017. The Late-Summer Prairie, Featuring a Magnificent Cream Gentian Display

It was 62 degrees F at 7:30 this morning as I smoothly made my way on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Destination was the wet area a little east of the rabbit-statue bridge to look for late blooms.

McCullough Creek was dry under the bridge (one couldn’t help thinking of the precipitation recently deposited by Harvey and Irma) and no red petals of cardinal flowers were visible. May have been able to locate the last ones by getting into the creek bed but moved on.

Noticed it was goldenrod time.

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Thistles provided complementary accent.

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On top of the yellows of goldenrod was the yellow of tickseed

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and of sneezeweed

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Remembered abundant turtleheads from last year but today saw only a few sparsely blooming plants.

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Mountain mint was especially fragrant here though the plants are common all around the park. What releases the smell?

img_3483Sneezeweed was delightfully abundant here, and set off nicely by what I’ve decided is tall boneset.

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The vervain had senesced beautifully.

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Got a better shot than previously of a goldenrod I haven’t been able to identify precisely.

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Still haven’t figured it out. Is it actually a goldenrod?

Over the small arched bridge was still blue sage, in that rare, heavenly light-blue color.

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Nearby, viewed the roll of the beautiful late summer prairie spread.

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And then located, just a few at first, unlike yellow flowers they don’t jump out at you, cream gentians in front of the Marker statue.

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Then found some pink-blue ones, probably hybrids (or soapwort gentians?) rather than bottle gentians.

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Looked and looked and finally found the tiniest hints of bottle gentian (maybe) buds.

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Walked on into the goldenrod-lined soft path,

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which, in spite of the lovely masses of goldenrod, struck me with a feeling of loss: the high-perched golden faces of the compass plants had lost their extroverted rays and become somber seed-heads.

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The sadness took me by surprise.

Moved on trying to admit and absorb this while hoping for consolation from the cream gentian bloom.

Indeed, there it was.

In profusion.

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And many flowers were open, indicating that bees had visited them.

It was hard to stop photographing them!

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Eventually moved on and noticed stiff goldenrod, which was not as abundant as in some previous years, but was able to get a decent closeup.

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Near the end (beginning) of the path, abundant (yellow!) wingstem decorated the little wooden bridge over another dry stretch of McCullough Creek.

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Before leaving Meadowbrook got a view of light through the young trees and undergrowth next to the pavilion.

No longer felt desolation but more a sense of the maturity of the year. Which now, reflecting in November, seems especially sweet.

Saturday 22 July 2017. Vervain and a Few Other Summer Blooms

It was 75 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:15 as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

The cardinal flowers in front of my house were beginning to bloom, so wanted to check whether they were blooming at Meadowbrook.

Rolled toward, over and past the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek and around the corner just to the wet area where cardinal flowers have been (though not every year) in the past, parked the bike on its factory kickstand, and walked away from the path and into the willowy wet area. But saw no cardinal flowers.

Saw plenty of newly blooming spikes of vervain,

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and wild senna surrounded by mountain mint, with a bumblebee working the flowers.

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This year have seen wild senna in more places in Meadowbrook than I recall from previous years.

Swamp milkweed, with its two-toned, dark and light-pink blooms, was abundant.

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Liatris (blazing star) was beginning to add its purple plumes to the summer bouquet.

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Saw some especially fresh, robust spikes of American Germander (if that’s what it was) pinker than others I’ve seen (along High Cross Road).

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A late flower spike of Baptisia, with little pods developing in the lower positions, rose toward the dark sky.

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Clouds gathered over the path, which may be why I cut the ride short. [Some time has elapsed between when I was there and this report. Sorry!]

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Always-photogenic compass plant set off the cloudy sky.

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This has been a reasonably good bloom year for them.

On the way back peeked over the rabbit-statue bridge looking for cardinal flowers, but could not quite see any red.

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Tomorrow I would return and investigate further.

Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.

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McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie

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and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.

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Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

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There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,

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yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

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Culver’s root.

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Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,

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large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

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stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

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alone and in groups,

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was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

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purple coneflower.

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Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,

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close-up,

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and in combination with other flowers.

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On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.

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Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie

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and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Was glad to be there for the presentation!

Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

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Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

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The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

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yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

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and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

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all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

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and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

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A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

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Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

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and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

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Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

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then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

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Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

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Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

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the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

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It was another satisfying 20 miles!

Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

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Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

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Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

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On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

Sunday 9 October 2016. Meadowbrook Bottle Gentians!

It was 47 degrees F at 6 am today, but did not check the temperature at 7-ish when I rolled down the driveway on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Did notice that the sky was clear.

Eagerly awaited this trip, as important and enjoyable events had prevented a number of usual morning bike rides. Was ready to meet the gentians!

On the way stopped at the site of the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which definitely were approaching the end of this round of their fruiting.

Couldn’t help being a little sad at how the meta-fungus on them detracted from their characteristic beauty.

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Yet they still had a kind of understated beauty that also was part of the wondrous workings of nature and tried to turn the lens of my perceptions and responses in that direction.

At Meadowbrook the goldenrod were well toward the completion of their bloom, and other plants were mostly shades of pale yellow and brown,

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including brown stars of compass plant seed heads

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Saw a few late blooms of yellow coneflower

img_1519 a coda for their season.

Saw a pretty good abundance of (dark) white wild indigo pods, including one with an insect (or two?) of the order Hemiptera (as near as I can tell) resting on one of them.

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Rode along without stopping at the Freyfogle observation deck because someone was up there luxuriating with the Sunday newspaper. Looked like they were enjoying the space.

Proceeded to the Marker statue, and with just a little searching found the blue jewels of flowers.

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Noticed that the flower stems branched from a cropped middle stalk, which seemed to be more the rule than the exception. Appears that the deer (I assume) search them out. It’s perhaps a wonder they manage to bloom at all.

A lot of plants looked worse for whatever else was trying to appropriate their biomass,

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or whatever kept them from thriving more, but there were plenty that were healthy enough and lovely,

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especially with the light as it was and the dew as if diamond-encrusting the gentian.

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Then wanted to see whether there were any bottle gentian flowers in the middle of the prairie, via the “soft” path.

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On the way in were still-blooming goldenrod

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bush clover

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more indigo pods,

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one of which was open, revealing the seeds within.

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Did not see any bottle gentian flowers, but did see bitten-off stalks,

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which I was not sure weren’t those of cream rather than bottle gentians. And maybe if I’d looked longer I’d have found some flowers. But moved on to the next possible site.

First reached, paused for a photo, then crossed McCullough Creek,

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and proceeded to the “upland cardinal flower site,” where there were cardinal flowers gone to seed

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red-leafed vervain gone to seed,

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the source of mountain mint fragrance,

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the last of the turtlehead, one with a bee.

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At first could not locate the bottle gentians I’d seen here before, but then saw it, one lonely flower (like the one that managed to bloom in my backyard after planting this spring!), next to some contrasting sneezweed.

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Felt glad to see even that one and was getting back on Rhododendron to go home when, right next to the path, saw a generous bloom of bottle gentians.

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Mother lode!

There were plants with blooms stacked along the stalk

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and dense clusters of them,

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some flowers pristine and smooth and others already faded.

It was reassuring to see gentians in the old location and joy to find them in a new place!