Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Big Storm of Winter?

The predictions range from 4 to 15 inches of snow today, so who really knows what the cabin will see. This morning there was about three inches. The birds were flocking to the cabin feeder. A large, dead oak fell across boardwalk hitting an interpretive sign but another log sat off the ground just enough to keep the this downfall from crushing the deck. The early snow was heavy and the firs have bent and sagged. It is a pretty sight. One that Marguerite used to write some her best works. Come take a walk and get the feel!

Keep you posted when the skiing and snowshoeing can really begin. If you believe some forecasts, it could be tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flight Pattern

It is raining today and not the nicest day to be outside. Winter has taken a rest. When the cold and snow come back, consider this. Bundle up and walk into the Preserve until you reach the gazebo near Tank Creek. The cedars and fir provide nice cover for the birds and we have a birdfeeder there in a small opening. Then watch to steady stream of chickadees flying from every direction to reach the seed. In they come by ones and twos, grabbing a seed and heading back out. If you hit a feeding time, the traffic is non-stop and birds numerous. A few nuthatches and occasional finch will enter the mix. Expect some woodpeckers at the rotting trees in the area. It is a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

winter began overnight

A small amount of snow is on the preserve today. Animal tracks in the powder. A beautiful white in the pines, spruces and fir. A quiet in the air like only that found during the winter. We surely will have a thaw before the full winter force begins but today made known what time of year is near.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hunting and Hiking

A reminder to all that today begins Michigan firearm deer season which continues until the last day of the month. Gahagan Nature Preserve is closed to hunting making its trails a good alternative for hiking. While this lessens the danger, please take precautions for your safety.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Colors at Gahagan

Three wonderful colors of fall red, yellow and green shown by these maples.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Check the Conifers

Conifers make a fall change too - even if it is more subtle. Notice the cedars near Tank Creek as some of their leaves turn brown. The pines shed some of their needles to the forest floor.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Colors at Gahagan

This week the colors are at peak in the Preserve. Get out and take a look. The maples are vivid. The pines have shed some of their needles carpeting the forest in a thick bed of golden needles. We'll post samples all week as the blog returns.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our AuSable River - How healthy is it now?

Discerning the Health of the AuSable River. THURSDAY, AUGUST 19 7:00pm-8:30pm

The last several years, volunteers have organized under a Gahagan Nature Preserve initiative to monitor the health of the upper AuSable River Watershed. The group has collected aquatic bugs (Benthic Macro Invertebrates), using what we know about various species to learn what type of water quality we have and to provide a baseline for the future. Join Tom Dale, Gahgan's Environmental Educator and Project Leader for an enlightening presentation at Roscommon' s AuSable River Center, 211 N. Main Street.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Last Week for Photo Contest

Gahagan Preserve's photo contest period has been going on for two weeks now but there there is still this week left. Take a picture in the large pines, along Tank Creek, within the wetlands, by the springs or anywhere in the preserve and enter by August 23. winners get a prize, some recognition and a bit of pride. Judging is done by local professionals. Go to for details.

Need inspiration? Here is Karen Ehinger's winner from last year.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Wednesday of this week finds Geologist Ty Black coming to the cabin at 7 PM to tell us about karst formations in northeast Michigan. You'll find these sinkhole features interseting - bet you climb in the car soon after for the quick drive to the Presque Isle County area.

Bonus! Ty is the expert when it comes to area's karsts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nature Camp - Great this Year

Twenty-three youth enjoyed Marguerite Nature Preserve's Summer Nature Camp the last few days. Tom Dale and Karen Demers brought the natural world to life. The preserve became the classroom - the outdoors replaced our tech world for three days.

Above left, Tom discusses the relationship of local names to our local natural world. In this case, Kirtland College named for a scientist who was an important link in the discovery of Kirtland's Warbler. On the right he shows a life-sized model of the American Lion - an extinct animal that roamed our continent in the past. The model was based on fossil remains found in California.
Later, Tom highlighted the remaining wild cats in North America - the jaguarundi, margay, ocelot and jaguar which do not reside locally. The cougar, lynx and bobcat can be found in our Michigan.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Adventure of Geocaching for Kids

Our friends at the Headwaters Land Conservancy will come to the cabin Saturday, July 31 from 10 am to 12:30pm to start the kids into Geo-Caching. Children: 10-15 yrs.old/Parents Welcome.

Join instructors from HeadWaters Land Conservancy for an exciting morning of navigation and orienteering in the Gahagan Preserve. Compasses and GPS equipment will be provided, but if you have your own, please bring them. There are a number of well-hidden geocaches to be discovered! RSVP @ 989-731-0573 or

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Walking Around

Gahagan Preserve is a reflection of much of natural northern Michigan. A varied collection of plants and organization. As you drive to the parking lot through the Roscommon Industrial Park and the piles of decomposing leaves, it is hard to imagine the beauty that lie behind the cedar post fence at the entrance to Gahagan. The wildflower planting surround part of the parking help pursuade you to take a chance. Once inside, the visitor is greeted by tall pines. A walk towards Tank Creek adds in cedar, hemlock, cattails and fern. The woodpeckers work away and you have the opportunity of viewing an owl. Songbirds chirp in the background. Aspen and small pines inhabit the back portion. The creek gathers more water, slides passed a spring or two. Animals enjoy the quiet by the water and the liquid that they need. Take a trip one morning; one evening and enjoy. - A trail map is found at

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good Bug – Bad Bug

Something in your garden bugging you? Join Barb Bishoff, Master Gardener and member of the Kirtland Garden Club, for a discussion on Integrated Pest Management at the cabin Tuesday July 27 7:00pm. Identify the good and bad bugs that crawl or wiggle into your floral or veggie garden. Then learn how to encourage the good bugs to work for you!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bugs in Your Garden?

Join us Tuesday July 27, 7PM at the cabin as Barb Bishoff, master gardener, discusses garden bugs. She'll let you know which ones are harmful and which ones help. Help yourself and your garden. See www.GahaganNature.oorg for all the preserves special programs.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gahagan "Children's Nature Camp"

Once again Gahagan Nature Preserve presents an outdoor half-day camp for children 6-11. The three-day event is Tuesday, July 20 to Thursday July 22; 9:00am-noon, rain or shine! This year's program is called Tracks & Traces. Skeletons, Skulls, Teeth, Tracks, and Traces. These clues indicate where and how wild animals live. Curious? Join Naturalists/Educators Tom Dale and Karen Demers to make exciting discoveries at the Preserve!

Gahagan Members Free Non Members: $5 per day Registration forms available @ the CRAF Center. Mail to MGNP, P.O. Box 421, Roscommon 48653, or contact Tom Dale @ 989.275.3217 or

What a chance for the youngsters to get outside and have fun doing it!

And on the night of the final day - July 22 at 7 pm - adults and children are will want to be at the cabin for Cat Tails as Gahagan's naturalist, Tom Dale pulls interesting things out of his trunk (no not that kind of trunk, he's not an elephant) as he tells tales of the world's cats.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July's Pine Whispers

Check out what was happening around Marguerite's cabin on July 3, 1968. Visit her Pine Whispers article first published in her North Woods Call newspaper by going to Each month there is "new one from the past."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Upcoming in July at Gahagan

We have a number of events at the cabin in the coming month.

Children’s Gahagan Nature Camp- Tracks & Traces - TUE-THU 7/20-22 9:00am-noon Children: 6-11 yrs. old. Bring Bug spray! Skeletons, Skulls, Teeth, Tracks, and Traces. These clues indicate where and how wild animals live. Curious? Join Naturalists/Educators Tom Dale and Karen Demers to make exciting discoveries at the Preserve! Check for more details.

MGNP Family Night- Cat Tales THU 7/22 7:00pm-8:00pm Everyone Welcome, Especially Kids!This program is NOT about your ordinary Tabby cat! Join Naturalist/Educator Tom Dale for a program about America’s amazing cats, including some rare and endangered cats, as well as many extinct cats, including the biggest cat the world has ever known. Fossils, skulls, pelts, and a puppet show will be used to tell some unbelievable stories.

Good Bug – Bad Bug TUE 7/27 7:00pm-8:30pm Adults. Join Barb Bishoff, Master Gardener and member of the Kirtland Garden Club, for a discussion on Integrated Pest Management. Learn to identify the good and bad bugs that crawl or wiggle into your floral or veggie garden. Then learn how to encourage the good bugs to work for you!

The Adventure of Geocaching for Kids SAT 7/31 10:00am-12:30pm Children: 10-15 yrs.old/Parents Welcome. Join instructors from HeadWaters Land Conservancy for an exciting morning of navigation and orienteering in the Gahagan Preserve. Compasses and GPS equipment will be provided, but if you have your own, please bring them. There are a number of well-hidden geocaches to be discovered! RSVP @ 989-731-0573 or

Note: Alaskan Fisheries has been rescheduled to August 5

Sunday, June 20, 2010

AuSable River Water Quality Monitoring Update

We still have a little work to do identifying bugs collected on the river earlier this month. Join the crew Tuesday evening June 22nd at 5:00 pm in the biology lab at Kirtland Community College. Dinner and microscopes provided!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recycle It

Join us June 22 at 7 PM at the cabin when Barb Stauffer, Recycle Coordinator from the Crawford-Roscommon Conservation District enlightens all of us about how to rid our homes of unwanted stuff responsibly. How to find Gahagan Preserve? Look for the Roscommon-Higgins Township recycle center then drive just a bit past. That should make it easy to find or remember what the topic is.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wildflowers at Gahagan

From time-to-time we post photos of the flowering plants at the preserve. Currently, the parking lot wildflower plants that were started a few years ago by Julie Borak are flourishing (see below). Stop by and take a look.

The Glidden Butterfly garden at the cabin has many blooms. This planting is a couple years old is filling out nicely. (see left)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day on the River

The blog has discussed Gahagan's involvement in monitoring the water quality of the upper AuSable River watershed. The project started four years ago and we are in our third year of sampling. Volunteers spent yesterday afternoon at six points in the watershed collecting macro-invertebrates (bugs) in the river and its branches. The species and quantity can tell us how clean our waters are. Tomorrow at 5PM in the Kirtland Community College biology lab, we will start looking under the microscopes at the samples, identify them and analyze the results. You can join us there.

The photos show the scene at the East Branch sample site at the south end of Hartwick Pines State Park. The collection is done primarily by net or by picking up logs or rocks and picking off the invertebrates. In the top photo, collectors Karen Demers and Jeff Millgren are in the stream while in the background Millie Millgren and Tracy Bosworth are on the river bank sorting collected bugs. The second photo shows collectors pulling insects off a log and into the sample tub. Back at the bank, insects are sorted and placed in alcohol filled jars ready to go to the lab for final identification.

For more information on the project, the cooperating organizations and to view past data results go to, then click the AuSable Monitoring link to go to the project's website.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Pine Whispers

Check out what was happening around Marguerite's cabin on June 27, 1964. Visit her Pine Whispers article first published in her North Woods Call newspaper by going to Each month there is "new one from the past."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chicks and Owls

The six chickadee nestlings using the Gahagan birdhouse with a camera feed to the cabin's TV are growing fast and look ready to fly. The parents are busy flying in food to the hungry mouths then waiting for their young to bend over so they can remove the chicks excrement and fly it out of the nest. It is interesting to watch if not pleasurable to think about!

A large owl is hanging around the walkway between the pond and the gazebo. Take a peek around or sit and listen. we saw it around 11am this morning.

New wildflowers keep popping. The Glidden wildflower garden in front of the cabin is full of bumblebees and butterflies buzzing through this maturing patch. In another year, the plot should be thick with the plantings of a couple of years ago.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wildflowers on Display

The Joan Glidden butterfly garden at the cabin is beginning to bloom. Aquilegia anadensis, red columbine, have flowered. Lilies of the Valley and violets are a couple others showing flowers.
Trientalis borealis (star flower) is frequent along the asphalt path between the cabin and the gazebo. It is a short plant with a white flower consisting of seven pointed petals in, you guessed it, a star pattern. You might also note that horsetails, a plant that looks like a miniature pine tree, are starting to grow through the asphalt especially near the gazebo. Oh well, you can't fool Mother Nature.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Join Us at Along the AuSable

Gahagan is more than a nature preserve. Twice a year we organize volunteers to wade into the AuSuble River to collect samples of macro inverebrates (mostly aquatic bugs) to measure the quality of the water. We do this at 6 different points in the upper AuSable splitting in teams of 4 or 5 people. Collection points include
  • the Mainstream upstream from Stephan Bridge
  • the South Branch upstream of Watter's Edge near Steckert Bridge
  • the East Branch on the south edge of Hartwick Pines State Park
  • the North Branch near dam 4
  • the Big Creek of the North Branch upstream of North Down River Road
  • the Big Creek near Luzerne upstream of Randall Road

It is a fun day. It takes no experience as you will be paired with a knowledgeable collector. You learn about the river environment. The next collection day is June 5 meeting at Noon at the Kirtland Community College Biology Lab. We will go over a few instructions there, have lunch (provided) and head to the stream. We should be done by 5 pm. We have the equipment but if you prefer your own waders, bring them. We hope to extend our collection reach in the future but we need more caring volunteers to do so. Please join us!.

For more information, go to and click on AuSable Monitoring link. It will give you details about the project, the collection day and contact points for more information.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chicks in the Nest

Earlier we reported that Gahagan has a chickadee nest in the birdhouse near the cabin that is equipped with a camera. The eggs have hatched and the 6 (we think) young chickadees are hungry. Through the grainy photo taken from the TV, you can make out a parent chickadee and to the right are a few of the hungry mouths opened wide for their treat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MSU Extension Forester, Russell Kidd walked an eager group of learners though the methods of tree identification today at the Gahagan Preserve. Then he took them out on the trails to literally walk them through groves of trees for some practical experience. What a great job he did. Thanks for all that participated.

For future Gahagan learning programs go to

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walk Through the Trees

Come visit Gahagan Preserve on Saturday morning and join Russell Kidd, MSU Extenstion Forester as he expains which trees are what. Here is your chance to learn tree identification and ask those questions about forest pests. Russell will lead a walk through Gahagan's forest following a teaching session in the cabin. 10AM- Noon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kirtland Warbler Fest

As part of the Kirtland Warbler Wildlife Festival, Tom Dale - our environmental educator - took about 20 participants on a hike through Gahagan Nature Preserve yesterday. Wandering through the Gahagan paths he pointed out the features that he uses to teach hundereds of school childeren each year about our wonderful natural world. Join us today at the Kirtland Community College campus where the main festival day gets in full swing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

At the Rosco Business Expo

We had a number of people stop by the Gahagan booth at the expo last night. Thanks for coming and thank you to those who joined or renewed their memberships. Here Tom Dale visits with severeal of his former students - part of the twice yearly school field trips to the Gahagan Preserve's environmental education prorams for area schools. See for more on this and our other out-reach programs.

Remember the guided hike with Tom at the cabin on Friday at 5PM. Also, join us Saturday at the Kirtland Warbler Wildlife Festival at Kirtland Community College.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Join Us This Week

Gahagn Nature Preserve will have an information. booth at two community events this week.

On Wednesday, visit us at the Roscommon Business Expo outside on the lawn of the CRAF Center from 3 to 7.

On Saturday, we will have a booth at the Kirtland Warbler Wildlife Festival from 10AM until 3PM. go to for festival information.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sunday at Gahagan

A goshawk sat high in one of Gahagan's stately pines yesterday. Good chance it has a nest. This large predator bird likes the tall, mature forest and deftly maneuvers through the understory chasing down grouse, other birds and small mammals. If you venture near its nest, beware! They defend their territory fiercely - attacking a human is not uncommon.

The marsh marigolds are in full bloom along Tank Creek and the adjoining wetlands. Take a stroll on the Gahagan boardwalks. There is a large patch of them nearby.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May's Pine Whisper

Available today and through the rest of May is the next installment of Marguerite Gahagan's Pine Whispers. These are reprints of her North Woods Call columns from the 1960's. Join us as we remember what was happening outside the cabin in May fifty years ago. To view our May selection go to and click on Pine Whispers in the top menu. We'll add a new one on June 1.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School Education Classes Ready to Roll!

Each spring and fall, school classes from a 4-county area travel to Gahagan Preserve for outdoor nature classes put on by the our educator, Tom Dale. Beginning next week, the sounds of the children will be added to those of the wildlife as Tom has them dipping nets into the pond, searching for critters and be part of nature.

Monday, April 26, 2010

May is for the Birds at Gahagan!

Gahagan's May programs will feature the birds.

Tuesday, May 4 join us for the Sky Dance of the Woodcock. we meet at the cabin at 8 PM and wander to a nearby field hoping to find the Wookcock during its spring mating ritual. RSVP at

Tom Dale, our environmental educator, hosts a walking tour of the Gahagan Preserve Friday, May 14 as part of the Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Festival. Walk starts at 5PM at the cabin. Its about more than birds but the festival gets its name from one.

On Tuesday, May 18, rise early and meet our expert birders, Joanne and Jack Bouck at Tawas Point State Park near Tawas City on the Lake Huron coast. Be there by 9AM. The point is a noted flyway for migratory birds and birders flock there as well at this time of year. A Michigan State Park vehicle permit is requied for entry.

MSU Extension Forest Educator Russell Kidd will take a you on a tree identification walk through Gahagan's majestic pines and cedars on Saturday, May 22 from 10AM to noon. Well we have a lot of other varieties as well. Let Russell clue you in on who is whom and answer your questions about trees. Okay, this isn't about birds but they do live in, feed off and enjoy them too!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thanks to the Clean-up Crew!

Yesterday was our annul clean-up of the grounds and buildings at the Gahagan Preserve. Bob Tupper, Rich Silverman and Sue Mires rafed around the cabin. Sue along with Brian Hutchins mopped the cabin floors. Bobbie Werle cleaned chairs and rid the cabin of the dust. The windows are see-through again thanks to Tracy Bozworth. Mark Bozworth tidied the garage. Jeremy Jones , Mark and Brian set the donation pipe in the ground. Boardwalk repairs were made by Jeremy, Rich, Mark and Brian. Julie Borak did a host of things.
On previous days, Lori Silk raked and readied the butterfly garden and Jack Bouck cleared the debris from the asphalt trail and boardwalks.
Thanks to everyone that chipped in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Clean-up at the Cabin, Saturday

Please join us when we do the spring cleaning at the Gahagan cabin Saturday, April 24 at 9AM. we will probably go until 1 or 2 PM. Bring some gloves, a rake and a smile. We'll have it spruced up for the upcomming school environmental classes, the trails will be wheelable for wheelchairs, the cabin will be dust free and the place will look loved.

Please pitch in and help.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shade Gardening. Thursday

Many of us in the Roscommon area have lots of shade from the tall pines, oak and maples that are abundant around here. Do you want a successful garden in that shade? Come to the cabin Thursday, April 22 at 7 pm. Eleanor Washburn, master gardener and Kirtland Garden Club member will discuss plants that will thrive in the shade.

For more information on this and other Gahagan events visit our website.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's That Bird? Tuesday

Jack and Joanne Bouck, Gahagan's birding couple will teach you how to identify mystery birds at the first of this year's Gahagan public events. Determine who's who on the branch , ground or in flight - it will make birding more satisfying. see you at the cabin Tuesday April 20 at 7 pm.

For more information on this and other Gahagan events visit our website.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Piping Plover

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is an endangered species that nests along sand and gravel beaches. You might see them skittering along the beach where the waves wash to shore. They find food along this wash zone; usually insects or small crustaceans. Their population is estimated as less than ten thousand. A sparrow-sized bird, there are several Great Lakes beach locations in Michigan where they can easily be seen. Platte Bay and river mouth in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a good choice. So is Wilderness State Park west of Mackinaw City. Nesting areas, found in the gravel and small stones near the shoreline, are protected and often fenced off during the summer nesting period. Next time you visit one of these areas watch for the small bird running along the beach! This one was photographed with a partner last Saturday along Platte Bay.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cat Tales

Our educator Tom Dale has been touring area schools this spring presenting his program Cat Tales. It is Gahagan's annual in school environmental education project titled the visiting naturalist partnered with Kirtland Community College and the Kirtland Warbler Wildlife Festival. Here is part of what he offered to the school children. You can see the program this summer as well at Gahagan's Family Night, July 22, 7 PM.
Imagine a cat that is big enough to swallow your head in one bite! Such a cat once roamed NorthAmerica. Fossils found in Florida, Alaska and most especially California’s Rancho La Brea Tar Pits document Panthera leo atrox, the American lion. The replica skull pictured here is in our traveling collection and we like to save it for last. After demonstratingbobcat, lynx and cougar skulls, as well as a “saber” of the famous saber toothed cat, the American lion skull always produces excited sounds from the audience, and still more excitement is heard when a child’s head is completely “consumed” inside those dreadful jaws!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wildflowers Coming Up

Julie Borak has done a nice job planting wildflowers at the parking lot entrance. That plus the butterfly garden will bring some color to the cabin. It will be a few weeks before there is a big variety of blooms. Here is how the butterfly garden looks this week - greening up - but nothing just yet. Keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Accessible Trail

The wheelchair accessible loop at Gahagan meaders below tall pines, through wetlands and out to Tank Creek. There are several interpretive signs along the way.
From yesterday: vulture

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's That Bird?

Join Gahagan memebers Joanne and Jack Bouck at the cabin Tuesday April 20 7 PM for their presentation about bird identification. They will help you to determine bird species using 5 particular bird features. That's only one week away - plan on it!
So what bird is this seen passing over the Gahagan gazebo on Monday? Answer tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Snow in the Air

Colder - more like winter - temeperatures have returned. I little of snow gathered on the ground this morning at the cabin. The warmth of the ground had all but a trace melted by noon. Is it the last struggle shown by winter this year? Looks like a warm up is only a short time away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Of Rain and Winter

The last few days have brought the first real moisture to Gahagan Preserve is some time. The pond was so low and had the look of August, not April. The heavy recent rains has it rising although it is still not up to normal. Tank Creek is again flowing at a spring clip.

Today, the snow was falling but it did not stick. There were sounds of grouse drumming, pileated woodpeckers rapping the trees and chickadees ordering "cheese-burgers." There are signs of greening, but the immense tree cover of the preserve has held back the green compared to nearby open fields.

Remember, there is always more information at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gidden Garden

The butterfly garden in front of Marguerite's cabin is starting to grow the first leaves. Watch it as the season progresses. The plants will rise and thicken. The flowers will atrrack the butterflies and hummingbirds. Come sit on a bench and watch the action. It is a memorial gift dedicated to Jane Gidden.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Water Striders

The water striders are plentiful on the Gahagan pond right now. From the family Gerridae, these sleek insects glide on top of the water using water's surface tension to counteract gravity. They don't live in the trees! Find three of them in the photo's reflected canopy at the pond yesterday.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Maples Getting Ready

Buds are appearing a so early this year. The maples, lilacs and some aspen are leading the way. Here is the state of the buds on a Roscommon maple tree yesterday.

Early Spring Continues - or is it summer?

The fire danger continues - be careful!

The maples are starting to bud.

The spring peepers are calling, Visit the pond and wetlands around Gahagan to hear their voices.

Two sand hill cranes whistled by yesterday winging their way to the north.

Get out this weekend and watch and listen as the new year begins.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Its Forest Fire Season

For the upper Midwest, spring is forest fire season. This year it has come early and fast. Normally around the Roscommon area you would expect very high and extreme fire weather to arrive in the first few weeks of May. Today the forecast calls for temps in the 80's, no rain and high winds ... and this follows days of dry, sunny warm weather. The woods are ripe for a large, devastating fire - a month ahead of time. This is peculiar, although not unprecedented. It might be a foreshadowing of what is to come as the earth continues to follow a warming trend that is changing our weather patterns and melting our glaciers and ice packs.
Why does the spring bring this concern in Michigan? Unlike arid areas, we usually have adequate moisture during a year's period in this State. In the spring, the vegetation hasn't greened, making it dry. When there has been enough warmth for the trees and plants to leaf out - usually late May - the fire danger generally passes for a while. Plants "pump" water from the ground when this green-up occurs and that not only makes them harder to burn but if they do burn, it is less intense. Of course, that is why you want to use dry wood in the fireplace. Green-up also increases the relative humidity of the air; the more moisture in the air, the less intense a fire.
Weather-wise, the upper Great Lakes usually get some beautiful clear-sky days in spring. We have had quite a few this year. These high pressure systems have little humidity, often have high winds and can sit over us for several days. They dry out the vegetation even more. This is what we have been experiencing the last few weeks. We have experienced it earlier than normal.
The most unusual aspect of this spring has been that whole state lost its snow and dried out at the same time. Usually spring weather begins in the lower portion of the State and creeps northward over a several week period. How does that affect the fire danger? The Department of Natural Resources and Environment, which is responsible for forest fire control, has only so much staff and equipment. They shift these resources with the fire season. Normally, only one or two parts of the State are a trouble spot at a time. Not this year! We could have major fires start in the south of Michigan or the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula today. The fire fighters are stretched and cannot be pre-placed at the most likely region for a fire start – everywhere it might be likely. Also, there are not enough of them to be at several major events at the same time.
In Michigan, almost every forest fire is started by man. Mostly it is from burning leaves or debris. Sometimes it is sparks from equipment such as chain saws or ORV's. Be careful today. It takes little time for a fire in today's weather to consume your house, reach your neighbors or burn thousands of acres of forest land.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April's "Pine Whispers"

Available today and through the rest of April is the next installment of Marguerite Gahagan's Pine Whispers. These are reprints of her North Woods Call columns from the 1960's. Join us as we remember what was happening outside the cabin in April fifty years ago. To view our April selection go to and click on Pine Whispers in the top menu. We'll add a new one on May 1.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funky Weather

For those of you from out of town who check in here to see what it is like around Roscommon today - it is summer. The highs have made it into the low 70's. The snow is long gone. The last remaining ice on Higgins Lake should be about gone. It looked pretty punky yesterday and besides today's balmy temperatures, the winds have been around 25 mph. I can't believe that the ice I saw yesterday could hold together today. Tomorrow the wind continues and the temperature is suppose to climb into or near the 80's.

The past winter and now the spring have been unusal. Much of northern Michigan never saw much in the way of lake effect snow. The winds were rarely from the northwest and usually had a southernly component. The places that saw lake effect often were not the places that usually get it. Further, there was almost no system snow. The storms all past south of here once we reached the Christmas period. In fact, we have had virtually no moisture of any kind since Christmas and things are bone dry. Fire danger is reaching into the very high to extreme range and burning has been banned.

All this leads to one other thing - the sun. You could guess that if it hasn't snowed and hasn't rained that it might be sunny. We have had far more sunny days than normal. It is not quite Arizona but it sure doesn't seem like Michigan!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nature Bingo Tonight

The cabin will be open for a little nature bingo tonight. 7PM

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

A few Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) have been flying around Gahagan Preserve this week. The one on the left was photographed on Wednesday, sunning itself in the parking area. Mourning Cloaks winter over as adults and are ready to fly when things start to warm up.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Crocus

A few years back, Gahagan board member Julie Borak put much effort in planting a wildflower berm between Southline Road and the parking lot. This week the first of this year's flowers emerged - much earlier than usual. Soon the rest of the garden will come to life.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Clean-up at Gahagan

Remember the date - April 24 at 9 AM is a month away and we need your help to spruce up the cabin and ready the preserve for this spring's school field trips! Check for details.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gahagan Spring Sounds

The birds know it is spring. Take a few minutes and walk into the preserve early in the morning. Pick a time when the community surrounding Gahagan is quiet. Sunday is great because there is no noise competition from the industrial park or the nearby schools, but most windless morning will work. Find a bench, close your eyes and listen. See how many different bird sounds you can hear.
Can't make it? Play the movie and listen to a sample. Sorry, it isn't like being there!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday's Freeze

The cold , clear night added a skim of ice to the pond at Gahagan. The winter's ice has almost thawed but it got a momentary reprieve with the return of a freezing night.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vernal Equinox - First Day of Spring

After two weeks of Spring-like weather, the temps dipped this morning but calendar now says it is Spring. Around noon the earth's equator faces directly to the sun. The time between sunrise and sunset becomes 12 hours in both the north and south hemispheres. The north is now halfway towards summer while the south hemisphere heads towards winter.
By the way, the ground hog's shadow predicted 6 more weeks of winter this year. That would have been about right if he went by the calendar! As far as the weather goes, he was easily two weeks too long!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Septic Field

Last November, we replaced the septic system for the Gahagan cabin. The original was past its prime, no longer environmentally responsible and our increase in public programs meant that its use was on the rise.
Septic fields are not the most interesting topic, but they part of rural life. They are expensive. These "un-sexy" items are part of the reason that we need Gahagan supporters. Supporters help pay these bills and keep the Preserve functioning. Thank you supporters.
We hope to plant wildflowers on the drain field this spring. You can help by donating for the seed at or let us know if you want to help get the field ready and plant (

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Becoming Green

The snow is gone and the plants that stayed green but hidden under snow have appeared. The greening has arrived. Notice the daily re-emergence of growth along Tank Creek.
By the way - first butterfly sighting at the preserve yesterday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Sign of Spring

The pond ice is quickly disappearing. Take a hike and witness this year's Spring rebirth.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring is Here

The blog has spent a bit of time this winter pointing out the early signs of spring. For those of you who live away from Roscommon in the winter, this year would have surprised you! For those of you who have been here this winter, you are already scratching your head! We are a week away from the official start of spring but the snow is gone, grass is beginning green and the lack of remaining snowpack bodes for a dry season. Last week, some of us were skiing in the morning and bicycling in the afternoon. This week, the skis were put away. Walking and biking are back. The temps are hitting around 60.
The trails at Gahagan are snow-free. The wheelchair-friendly trail is ready to roll. Take a look!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dead or Alive?

What kind of tree is this? It is a dead tree! Or is it? Gahagan Preserve is filled with trees both alive and dead. For the most part, we let nature manage our forest. Once a tree like this one dies, you can be assured that many living things live in and on it. It is still organic matter - important to insects and birds as well as life larger and smaller. So is it really still living? Yes - in a way!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

White Pine

Like the red pine discussed yesterday, many of the white pine at Gahagan Preserve are mature and tall. These trees were prized by the lumber barons of the late 19th and early 20th century. Fully developed white pine contain enough lumber to build several houses. Their needles are grouped in fascicles of five.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Red Pine

There are some very large Red Pine in the Gahagan Preserve. Follow the "orange trail" north of the cabin to visit some of the largest. Red Pine are often refered to as Norway Pine but they are not from Norway so go figure. The bark exhibits a reddish tone. If it is not too tall to reach the needles, you can tell the tree by its needle grouping - they are long needles in fascicles of two.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Fir is plentiful at Gahagan Nature Preserve. They look like christmas trees and often they are used for this purpose. You can tell them from the spruce, another holiday tree-type, pretty easily. Touch the needles. If they don't poke you, its likely to be a fir. Remember this by the mnemonic "fir friendly."