Sunday, January 31, 2010

Animal Art

The underlying snow is so denslely packed this year.; a result of the thaw and rain followed by deep cold. Usually the mice and shrews tunnel through the snow, foraging for food while staying under cover to protect themselves from predators. Right now they only have a thin skiff of loose snow to travel through. Their trails make for some interesting designs created by their travels.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Matter of Interest

Gahagan Preserve has a house (we call it the cabin) and a big yard. It's like anyone else’s household. It takes money to run. (There is one exception: everyone gets to use it!)
Like any household, we need to manage a budget. Marguerite left some money to keep it operational and the volunteers who manage the preserve used conservative, interest accounts like CD’s to grow the assets and produce some revenue. Using these conservative instruments was fortunate during last year’s market collapse. The money was safe. We did not lose money like most individuals and institutions did during the downturn. Yet it sure has had an effect.
We now face a different dilemma. There is no interest out there any more! CD rates are either low or lower. Activities like our school education programs, community events and general operations relied partially on interest income from our endowment assets. Interest rates are not expected to rise for some time and we cannot afford to draw down the reserve in order to do the same level of effort. We have had to make some changes.
We spent much time last year analyzing our investment structure to look longer term. We are in the process of analyzing the school environmental education programs to reduce cost, if possible. We likely will delay improvements around the preserve and reduce operating times to save money. Lastly, we need to raise funds through a variety of means. (Sure, donations of time or money are welcome!)
It all is a matter of interest.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Now and Then

Here are two photos showing from Tank Creek near the Gazebo. The one on the left is from January 18 when we began a thaw period. The lack of snow and green up along the bank was beginning to show. The thaw continued until January 26 and the green area widened (no photo). The right photo was from the same location January 28, a day after winter roared back. Temperature was near zero and two inches of new snow helped re-form the ice around creek.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Returns!

Gahagan Preserve received a couple of inches of new snow overnight and the temperature hovered near zero this morning with high winds. "Pop!" sounded from the trees as the cold and the wind caused crackling of the wood. The banks of tiny Tank Creek closed back in with ice - far different from the greening that occurred during last weeks thaw (see January 18 post). The snow base is hard. It is easy to walk into the preserve now with just boots.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

AuSable Watershed Monitoring Meeting - Feb 4

Come join the gang in the geology lab at Kirtland Community College Thursday February 4, 2010 at 5 PM! We will eat, look at bugs through the microscope and plan for next spring's river collection day.

So what is it about? Gahagan Preserve spearheaded the effort to monitor water quality on Michigan's upper AuSable River. We do this by collecting macro-invertebrates, identifying them by species and quantity. Certain bugs can live in clean waters. Others do better in poor quality streams. The balance helps us to determine where the AuSable stands.

This is a volunteer program. Some great groups are involved. You can find their names at, website of the effort. You’ll find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with Phd’s, fly fishers and people who like the river. We’ll show you how to identify the bugs, how to find the bugs and what it all means. Send an e-mail to for more information.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Marguerite Gahagan

Marguerite Gahagan was a news writer in the early 50's when she headed to northern Michigan to start her own newspaper, The North Woods Call. After a couple of years, she settled in Roscommon, Michigan. From her cabin in the woods, Margureite lived with her forest friends and wrote about their lives. Every other week she publsihed Michigan's foremost paper about Michigan's conservation issues. She sold the paper to Glen Shepard in the late 60's. Shep still publishes what Marguerite started, carrying on that part of her legacy. Gahagan Preserve carries on the other part of her legacy.
Each month re-publishes one of Marguerites Pine Whisper columns. The column discribes what was happening outside to cabin fifty years ago.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday's Rain Gives the Preserve that Spring Feeling

Very little snow left as the thaw has continued and the rain has added the first significant moisture in more than a month. Might need a snow dance for the February 11 ski and snowshoe event. Then again, how can Roscommon go a month-and-a half without snow at this time of year. Get your RSVP's back to us by February 6. We want you there. Details at

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conservation Easements

Did you know that Gahagan Preserve has a conservation easement with Headwaters Land Conservancy? This means that we have agreed to development restrictions on the 60 acres we manage. Usually, conservation easements are with private landowners who wish to make sure their lands stay preserved after they are no longer owners. At Gahagan, we have done the same with the preserve's land.
Do you have a large tract of land that you wish to protect? Learn more at www.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beginning Crochet - January 31

Lori Silk will teach you how to get started in the crochet world on Sunday January 31 from 1PM to 4PM at the Gahagan Cabin. She'll have the place in stitches and when you need a break, the birds in the yard will entertain you from Marguerite's window.
Find the supply list at
Remember to visit the website to view all of Gahagan Preserve's programs and events.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tank Creek Filling Up

The recent thaw has added water into Tank Creek. Could spring be coming early this year?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Animal Tracks

A fresh skiff of snow made finding animal tracks today. The pileated woodpeckers were out in force in the sunshine. It is easy to traverse the preserve this winter. Snow levels are low and what is there is generally crusty and easy to walk on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Members - Get Ready for Ski & Snowshoe Event

On Thursday, February 11 from 6 PM - 9 PM Gahagan Preserve hosts its winter members event - a ski and snowshoe gig. We need to know how many pizzas to buy, so please RSVP. The trails will be lit by luminaries but bring a headlamp if you have one and your skis and snowshoes. If you don't have these snow devices, come eat and enjoy the company in the cabin. There will likely be some snowshoes to borrow.

Find out more at and email your RSVP to

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thaw Brings Signs of Spring

The January thaw has come and because of this year's lack of snow, areas along Tank Creek have looked a little like early spring. The warm - if you can all it that - waters of the Tank Creek's beginnings and the melt of some of the snow have combine to reveal an ever so slight bit of green. This is what it looks like near the Gahagan Gazebo. Take a quick hike. It is not often that you can walk to the gazebo in January without feeling like you need snowshoes. The chickadees at the gazebo feeder will welcome you with their cheese-burger, cheese-burger call just like it were spring.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Morning Frost

For those who were out in the AuSable Valley this morning, what a treat. The sun shone full and yesterday's moist air froze to the tree tops last night. The glint of early light sparkled off the frost trees. Add the hint of haze and the scene rested somewhere between magical and surreal.

The view up from near the Gahgan gazebo is seen on the right.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Boardwalk and Deck

Just before snowfall, Matt and Nathan Compo completed their Tank Creek deck and boardwalk project. It fulfilled a requirement towards reaching Eagle Scout. The snowmelt of the last few days is making it easy again for walkers without snowshoes to reach this new addition. The deer have used the area to bed and the chickadees have been frequenting the feed at the nearby gazebo.

See to get a new trail map locating the deck.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gahagan 2010 School Programs Gear Up!

Gahagan's Education Director Tom Dale has sent out the flyers regarding this year's Visiting Naturalist Program: Cat Tails. Teachers can schedule a date between February 15 and April 15 to have Tom come to your class. Co-sponsored by the Kirtland Community College, Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Festival and Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve, go to the Envir Ed section of for more information.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snowshoeing the Preserve

Parts of the Preserve are wetlands for sure. Unless you have wings, visiting them in the winter is the best time. Don your snowshoes and head out on the Green Trail.

A new trail map that shows the Green Trail is available at Print it and go!

Remember members, February 11 is snowshoe night at Gahagan with a section of trails lit by candle and pizza at the cabin. See website for details.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Marguerite's Window to Her World

Peering from her window into the 1950's landscape, Marguerite would write Pine Whisper columns for her newspaper, The Northwoods Call. The natural world and conservation issues were always on her mind. Using her manual Underwood typerwriter, Marguerite hammered out hard news columns on Michigan's environment. She was a woman making a difference. And consider that this work predated Rachael Carson's Silent Spring.

To read a sample of her Pine Whispers column, go to

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Grouse and the Spring

This morning was a great one for snowshoeing at the Preserve. Ice crystals were pretty by Tank Creek. Three grouse were bathing in the sun at the tops of tall trees near the south intersection of the Green and Orange trails. Hadn't a clue that they were up there until one of them flew. After a delay, the other two flew. I think I heard one say, "dang that Art, the snowshoer had no idea we were here, then he has to take off and so now we have to take off. I'm finding a tree away from him next time."

The springs in the northeast corner of the Preserve are shown here. Winter is the best time to visit them. Usually too wet during the warm weather.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bunco Coming to the Cabin

On Saturday from 7 PM to 9 PM, the Preserve will host its first cabin fever night. It is a way to relieve the bordom that long nights and little sunshine can bring. Join us at the cabin to play Bunco. Bring a flashlight to find your way in. You can learn the game there. Bring your own partner or find one there. We'll have refreshments.

Relax in the cozy cabin, by the fire, a little vacation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Birds at My Window

Jack and Joanne Bouck have made a life-long habit of birding. They also have made a lot of birdfeeders from large-sized pickle jars. Maybe they used pickled baloney jars. There is one hanging from the eve of the cabin above the butterfly garden. The jar lid has a hole cut in for the birds to fly inside. There they grab a sunflower seed or two and fly out. It is fascinating to watch.

The hole is large enough for the small birds like chickadees. They fly in one at a time, perch on the handy stick and take a look into the cabin window. Never do they seem frightened and so you get a chance to say hello. Then they sneak into the hole, grab a seed, turnaround and fly out to a tree branch.

I suppose they could get piggy and just stay in there and eat. One would guess that if a grosbeak was small enough to go inside, that is what it would do. The chickadees always seem polite though. Rarely is there a skirmish. They take their turn, grab a snack and return when the air traffic clears.

-Brian Hutchins

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ice Crystals at Tank Creek

This past weekend saw minus temps at Gahagan Preserve. At the narrow beginnings of Tank Creek, a micro-climate of moisture created beautiful ice crystals. The early morning light made them sparkle. The majority of crystals were the size of a dime or nickel and each looked like it were a snowflake seen through a microscope.

This photo was taken from the new deck and boardwalk; an addition to the handicapped trail system. A new trail map found at the Preserve's website ( will show the way. The snowbase is hard enough so it it reasonable to walk there without snowshoes as of today. Today's warmup all the way into the teens has eroded the formations already. Try looking for the crystals the next morning that we hit below zero.

For more adventure, put on some snowshoes and head out on the green trail to the springs. You'll find more interesting formations out there.
-Brian Hutchins