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

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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.

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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,

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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.

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The park was quiet!

Puddles reflected the sky.

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The burr oak trees still had tiny leaves.

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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.

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

It now was the time of the golden Alexanders

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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

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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.

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Glad at this point I wore mittens!

Then home.

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Friday 14 April 2017. Glorious Meadowbrook Spring: Shooting Stars, Bluebells, Jacob’s Ladder

It was 51 degrees F at 6:15 this morning with the sun about to rise. Had planned to swim but when the guards were late and the pool not yet open just opted for a bike ride to Meadowbrook Park to see if the prairie was starting to awaken.

(It was!)

But first saw the neighborhood’s madly-flowering trees,

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Like this crab apple.

At the Vine Street entrance of Meadowbrook Park saw serviceberry (what’s the story behind that name?) with cottonwood catkins dangling above.

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Crossed the Vine street bridge over McCullough Creek and saw frogs and fish stirring under the surface of the water.

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Then rode on the path that paralleled the creek and in the recently managed area south of the organic garden plots was surprised to see Jacob’s ladder (thought fewer than in previous years) still there and almost in peak bloom.

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Was drawn in by the more common but lovely ephemeral Virginia bluebells on the “forest” floor.

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Toward the west end of the organic garden plots saw a full, beautifuly blooming (crab?) apple.

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Turned south along Race Street toward the sunrise over McCullough Creek at the customary viewing spot,

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as well as the early light shining on the nearby rabbit-statue

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Rode down to the entrance to the “soft” path and saw shoots of rattlesnake master, edged with dew drops, emerging through the thatch of last year’s prairie growth.

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A little farther on got close to a deer.

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Actually there were two deer, the other not visible here.

The area around the path to the inner prairie had been burned, and it was easy to see from a good distance the patch of shooting stars near where the path split into three.

Welcome, welcome shooting stars!!

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They looked well, maybe thanks to the burn.

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But farther down the path where I used to see pink shooting stars there were none, alas.

The little compass plant shoots were, however, making the their way up from the ground

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Then rode homeward, admiring the line of blooming crab apples across Windsor Road.

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Was glad for today’s change of plan.

Friday 13 May 2016. Lots of Friendly Deer but No Iris and No Shooting Star

This morning I made it out the door by 5:30 am, before the reported time of sunrise! It was a good start for witnessing the season of light! (Now to continue the “trend!”)

Did stop for lupines

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And for the white irises that had bloomed the previous fall.

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Approached Meadowbrook this morning from Vine Street and stopped at the Windsor/Vine bridge, which was full of foliage, especially of alders.

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Rode on the path close to the creek. Near the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk saw a small group of deer that did not seem bothered by my approach.

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In fact, one came closer to me when I stopped.

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It’s hard not to gently talk to them when they’re so “friendly”. But soon was on my way toward the rabbit-statue bridge to see what today’s manifestation of this part of McCullough Creek would be.

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Farther on the path got a sunrise shot

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and saw another group of curious deer.

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A little way down, looked among the willow shoots to see whether there were any blue flag iris in bloom. Actually had prepared for the iris foray by wearing protective shoes, knowing that the ground between the path and the patch where they grew would be wet.

Walked on into the wet, soft ground to the iris place but saw no sign of flowers! It was disappointing, but at least got accurate data.

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Then walked with the bike on the soft path into the middle of the prairie to see about the shooting stars.

On the way in saw what looked to me like popcorn scattered over the ground,

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which on closer examination revealed to be blackberry blossoms.

At the shooting star site there were a few leaves visible but not a single flower or flower stalk. Shooting stars certainly aren’t the kind of plants to leave their seeds lingering about in view much after the flowers finish. Wondered if the deer had eaten them. Their season is so brief. (Also, it’s still pretty dark at at 6 am in April, the month when they start to bloom, so I have fewer opportunities to follow their progress.)

The deer were some consolation, but did feel a sobering (a very useful word that implies objectivity and detachment) sense of the inexorable transience of nature.

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.

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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.

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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,

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

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And continued along the wet (soft!) path.

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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“.)

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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!

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They came in shades from almost white

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to almost purple

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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.

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

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

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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.

Friday 22 April 2016. The Opening Bloom of the Meadowbrook Shooting Stars

Rode out to Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II at around 5:30 pm. The sky was mostly clear and the temperature was 57 or so.

Destination was the center of the Spomer Prairie to greet the shooting star blooms, which after the several days since last visit surely would be at least starting to open.

Actually went with slightly less enthusiasm than otherwise because I’d brought back two ticks from a walk around the park with a friend and our dogs the day before. Just needed to be careful and observant…

On the way, my attention got snagged by a couple of blooming crab apple trees.

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Not native, at least not this cultivar, but who can resist such a gorgeous profusion of early bloom?

Made the customary stop at the rabbit statue bridge,

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rode on and then across the little bridge over Davis Creek, and walked the bike through the no-bike zone into the prairie. On the way to the shooting stars met up with a couple of very unconcerned deer.

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Then, where the path split in two places,

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there were the glorious little stalks rising from amid the small clusters of top-rounded upright leaves.

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Each stalk bore several flowers: each flower a circle of five white petals that streamed upward, away from a downward-facing red-dotted, yellow point of compressed flower-reproductive parts.

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They were emblems of grace.

Welcome, first prairie flowers of the season!

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Friday 15 April 2016. Crayfish Chimneys and Shooting Stars

At 12:30 pm it was 73 perfect degrees under a clear sky.

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to check on the shooting stars, for which I had to cross the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and walk Rhododendron into the Spomer Prairie.

First stopped at the “seep” (water trickling out of the ground, by some means) near the bridge.

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Noticed a lot of crayfish chimneys, little works of invertebrate architecture, near the stream.

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Then walked Rhododendronon on the “soft” path into the prairie, where I looked and looked al around for shooting star leaves but found them only in the two little patches where I’d found them each of the past several years.

They still barely showed early-stage flower buds. I love to be there for the very beginning of the bloom!

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Was dismayed to see this bottle in the middle of the prairie.

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Thought someone who would select this cleverly packaged beverage might also have the mindfulness to dispose of it properly, but the deed was done and I was pretty sure the person who left it wasn’t coming back for it, so I picked it up and packed it in the front bike bag to recycle.

On the way out of Meadowbrook caught a view of a not especially thickly blooming weeping cherry and a budding redbud against the blue sky.

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This ride was brief and less focused than a morning ride but it, like all bike rides (especially in the spring) easily yielded gems.