This morning at 6:20 there was fog all around and already 73 degrees F. Finally the summer seems to have arrived, as if brought by the returning U of I students. Since my arrival in Urbana as an undergraduate 40 years ago (almost to the day!), I think I can count on one hand the number of times it has been cool during the third week of August, no matter what else was happening during the rest of the summer.
The fog was another deterent to heading out in the country on Rhododendron, the road bike: safety in the limited visibility was a concern; also knew that Meadowbrook Park would be full of gorgeous fog-enhanced images, not to mention the red cardinal flowers and royal catchfly.
One crazy image that caught my attention early in the trip, next to “my” apple tree, was a fresh, full iris flower.
Was it really unusual or are there late-summer-blooming irises I don’t know about?
And had to take a picture of bunches the apples, some quite red, on the tree.
The fog was not too dense to ride through comfortably, but it made just about any scene into a lovely, mysterious image, for example, the view of Davis and McCullough creeks upstream from the rabbit-statue bridge, with a tiny dab of red from the cardinal flowers.
Today was the day to go down and get really close to the cardinal flowers, though a lot of vegetation stood between me and them.
Carefully bushwhacked all the way into the damp but not running bottom of Davis Creek, and the trouble to get there was rewarded: cardinal flowers, up close!
Got a shot with surrounding vegetation, especially goldenrod for contrast.
Looking back toward the bridge, could see a large dew-defined spiderweb in the foreground. Also there were visible spiderwebs on the bridge; could have spent the whole time shooting nothing but spiderwebs! So didn’t include but a few in this post.
Up above the wingstem and elderberries and walnut trees
heard a good variety of bird song (really need to get some good, small binoculars) and a kind of low-pitched knocking sound–a large woodpecker? Remembered that such a sound once turned out to come from a beaver, but this was definitely coming from quite a ways up in the tree. Perhaps just a squirrel.
Down a little way along the path was a web occupied by a garden spider.
Out in the prairie, little beads of dew clung to every surface.
Loved especially the way they lined up along the grass stems.
Saw some delicate spikes of pink Gaura, a lovely counterpoint to all the yellows of late summer.
Was amazed again by the abundance of cream gentians in a spot where I hadn’t noticed them in previous years, among the partridge peas. Made me wonder how they disperse and how long the plants live. Noticed yet another example of the tip of the plant having been nipped off.
At the head of the soft path to the middle of the prairie was a compass plant in bloom, fresh and lovely but much shorter than what I saw in previous years. So it wasn’t the drought that limited its growth; last year they were already less abundant than the year before. On the other hand, it might be that this year’s bloom was determined by last year’s moisture levels. We’ll see what happens next year.
Farther along, a stalk of Indian grass, its flower-top coated with tiny dew drops, leaned out into the path. It and the big bluestem, which seemed to have about concluded their bloom (already!), brushed their little water droplets against my arms as I passed, like a greeting.
Saw a very tightly woven spiderweb with a tiny spider in the middle.
Got a shot of bush clover among the gentians with fog in the background, looking very handsome in its shades of white and reddish-brown.
the slim, leaning, bending bush clover stalks also looked nice near the purple of the ironweed.
Noticed some freshly-blooming spikes of Baptisia (which starts to bloom fairly early among the prairie flowers), a little amazing among the late summer grasses.
Found some remaining royal catchfly, fewer in number but still boldly visible in flaming scarlet, set off by the white of the cream gentians.
Then turned back the way I’d come, passing the thicket with tall trees with undergrowth beneath them. At the top of the trees were quite a number of robin-sized birds, some of which I think were robins but at least one other (it had a grey or brown back, a grey head, and distinctively white breast feathers) that was not. Besides this magical world of fog and its condensation on spiderwebs and plants where I could happily have stayed much longer was one of birds I’d barely touched and about which, without binoculars, I could only wonder.
Heading home was glad not to have missed what I did see and content enough to let go of what I didn’t.