Sunday 21 May 2017. Spiderwort and Penstemon at Meadowbrook and the Curtis and Prospect Sunken Pond

It was 54 degrees F at about 6:15 am under cloudy skies, which seemed certain to produce rain, though the weather ap said no, as I rolled Shadow out of the garage. Wanted to see the spiderwort at Meadowbrook and whether the Penstemon (beardtongue) were yet in bloom.

Contemplated this portion of time that I devote to biking and how it might be used for other things that need attention in my life. At the beginning of a ride sometimes recently, I’ve been feeling impatient and uncomfortable, especially if it’s rainy and cold, and I think ahead to sitting in the coffee shop writing or knitting. But decided the physical exercise alone is worth pushing through zones of reduced joy and so resolved to protect this ritual.

Rode on Race Street near the grove of spruces that shelter the Amanita mushrooms (when they appear) and planned to check for fruiting bodies (mushrooms), but stopped because there was a fox nearby. The fox ran off before I could aim my iPhone camera at it, but then it appeared again and I recorded a glimpse.


Had yet another pleasant passage across Windsor Road and headed to the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek, but first stopped for the view of shadows under these precisely shaped haw trees.


Davis and McCullough creeks were full and fast-moving.


Over the bridge and around the corner, right away were spiderwort, so many more in bloom since last week.


And the first Penstemon were showing, with lots of little buds for coming days.


Was surprised and delighted to see the blue flag irises!


It seemed to be a good year for them; in addition to the main large patch, iris flowers could be see in at least three directions a little way from it.
As a bonus, the area had been “managed” to allow a decent view without having to walk in water through willow shoots and other vegetation. Was really glad for that bit of close view and glad to have been able to content myself with a shot at this distance, though it was tempting to get closer to the “mother” patch.

Filled me with that joy I do this for, it even summoned the not eternally profound but entirely appropriate lyrics from the band Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”, “Listen children, all is not lost, oh no!” Which I really can stand to hear lately.

Soon the clouds were starting to break up and make sky-sculptures.


And the spiderwort! Something about spiderwort makes one (me, at least) want to take endless photographs of their simple, graceful blueness against the tender green of May foliage.

I indulged a small portion of that urge.



It was the same, perhaps on a smaller scale, with the Penstemon.


Rode around and back through the small loop and back to Race and on to Curtis Road where the clouds were large and shapely and the sky felt huge!


Rode to the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect, which featured more spiderwort but also purple Baptisia


On the way back were weedy but handsome Erygeron


and attenuated but peaceful looking


The many gorgeous flowers, decent mileage, and lovely sky made for a very enjoyable trip!


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.

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.


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


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.


Was happy to reach Olympian Drive and turn back.


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.


This seemed to be a good year for them,


and today appeared to be the peak of the bloom.

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

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.


Sunday 31 January 3016. Winter Sunrise at Weaver Park

The morning [6:45] was warm [45 degrees F].  Shiny streets, sky mostly clear, I set out to ride.

A piece of the dawn Normally is all we see. Seldom the whole thing.   

The chime tolls seven. I look up to see the clouds. The sun is rising!

Rode north to Weaver. Saw the fox I’d seen before. Always there Sundays!

Then saw the sun disc! Hadn’t seen it in a while.  Welcomed its coming. 

Urbana morning, The air sweet, the streets quiet. I treasure the peace. 


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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 8 May 2014. Deer in the Sunrise

Departure time was 5:17 this morning; the temperature was 66 degrees F, the sky partly cloudy.

It would be a no-camera ride!

Outside my front door could hear toads singing!

After lots of recent afternoon rides really appreciated the stillness of the early morning.

The spring was advancing: the later-emerging little oak leaf clusters with their catkins hanging below them were dangling all limp and brand-new from the oaks along Race Street.

Hit a bump on the Race Street bike lane and my basket went, literally, flying off the handlebars. Was glad I managed to avoid hitting it as it came down; picked it up and kept going.

The sunrise was subtly colorful, with layers of mauve, turquoise, and peach near the horizon.

Smelled skunk in Meadowbrook Park on the path along Race Street near the rabbit-statue bridge, but not after the post-crossing turn east.

Deer were all over the park, in just about all the different spots (at least five) I remember having seen them. Some were small but larger than fawns, it seemed. None I saw sported antlers.

Must be nice for them to have the young shoots of prairie plants coming up after the long winter. Wondered whether their grazing changes the make-up of the plants that will bloom.

The prairie vegetation seemed slow in emerging. No spiderwort yet.

Wound through the trees along the “short loop,” where there were more deer.

Noticed more Jacob’s ladder on the P R Hickman wildflower walk.

On the way home caught a very clear view of a red fox, sitting quite close to the bike lane, close to where I’d seen a fox before.

It looked at me as if wanting to ask a question. Wondered how close one could safely get to a fox, but continued on to the day’s next event.

Saturday 25 May 2013. Animals and Flowers

The temperature was 46 degrees F at 5-ish this morning.  The sky was cloudy; the sun appeared as light spots in the clouds but did not see a sun-disc.

On my way to Meadowbrook Park saw a canine-looking creature running in front of me on Race Street, giving an occasional small bark: it was a good-sized red fox.

Barking Town Fox

Wondered why for a long time it kept running ahead of me instead of just taking cover.  Could it have been rabid or been unwell for some other reason?

Actually, I can’t remember which way I took around and through Meadowbrook, but I know I walked a little way on the “soft path” to look at where the shooting stars were.  Could not find a sign of them.   There still were plenty of golden Alexanders and also saw some wild quinine (Parthineum integrifolium).

Wild Quinine and Golden Alexanders

Checked out the beaver-chewed alders and McCullough Creek at that location.  The water was low and covered with tree-products.  Not

Chewed Alders and Creek w:Plant Scum

lovely but still natural.

Checked out the place where the large beaver dam used to be.  When it was in place, the dam was so large that the Park District installed a pipe under the dam to let some of the water flow downstream into McCullough Creek.  Now the pipe was exposed and the dam broken down.

Where the Large Beaver Dam Used to Be

Saw a deer close up that didn’t seem bothered by my proximity.   Wonder if they are just more mellow this time of year, what with so much growing (food and shelter).

Deer among Trees
No zoom. The deer actually is quite close

At the Windsor/Vine bridge  saw the drakes’ club swimming in a line upstream.

Drakes Retreating

As far as I can remember, think I went around for another loop to see whether any blue flag irises (Iris virginica shrevei) I remembered in the very wet area on the

mid-south edge of the big loop had yet opened.  They had not, but there were several blue-tipped buds showing.

Iris Buds 25 May 13

Nearby were williows with cottonwood seeds clinging to the willow catkins, making a strangely hybrid-looking inflorescence.

Willows Catching Cottonwood Seeds

Between the Freyfogel overlook and the Vine Street entrance to the park were lots of opening (though mostly not quite open) spiderwort and budding  Penstemon (beardtongue).

Opening Spiderwort and Budding Beardtongue

Love how Penstemon flowers are set on the stem like old-fashioned loudspeakers.

Shortly thereafter it would be time to catch the train to Chicago for the next day’s “Bike the Drive.”