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."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gahagan Tree Week

This week, the blog will feature some of Gahagan's trees. There is quite a variety. In the Tank Creek area, cedar is abundant. On the "orange" trail north of the cabin, tall, mature red and white pine jut skyward. We will concentrate on the conifers now - the ones that have their leaves on now!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gahagan Calendar

You can view the entie 2010 calendar of Gahagan Nature Preserve happenings at Click the "Calendar" menu and an Adobe Acrobat file appears with each month laid out like your kitchen calendar. Hover on an event then click and you are directed to a more detailed page to find out more about that item. Everything you need to know at a glance. When events are added, changed or cancelled - the calendar changes as well. You are always up-to-date. Each page of the file prints correctly on standard paper - just tell your printer which pages you want to print!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Downey Woodpecker

A common woodpecker in northern Michigan, suet is an easy way to attract a visit from the Downey. The red patch is common on the back of a male's head.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Spring Melt Continues

What snow? If you are tuning in from the southern part of Michigan - or maybe the East Coast, you might think that the snow is deep and the winter is still raging to the north. Not here! We have had little snow in Roscommon for over two months. The National Weather Service reported that the amount of preciptation measured at its Gaylord Office was the lowest on record. Roscommon probably had less. Surprisingly, Cross Country Skiing has still been good thanks to a December rain that froze hard and has made a stable base. The warm weather of the last couple days is coloring the ground with shades of brown quickly.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

AuSable River Water Quality

Readers of the blog know that Gahagan Preserve led the effort to begin regular water quality monitoring of the upper AuSable River basin. We define this as the watershed above the Mio Dam Pond. We sought the grants, gathered the partners and now organize two days each year in which data is collected at six points in the river and its branches. We have collected data for two years now and plan to do it twice every year.
What have we found? So far, the water quality scores have been excellent. Maybe that was to be expected.
Then why do we still do it? Because it establishes a clear baseline for the future. We, or future generations, will be able to see when and if the water quality degrades. Then we can muster action to identify the problem, then stop and reverse the trend. Without the baseline, it is hard too argue with the problem source or even know there is one.
If you think that the AuSable is pristine and will always be that way, click the link and read an article in today's Detroit News. It discusses a toxic industrial site northeast of Mio. This is downstream from our watch area but it could just as easily been farther upstream. Either way it is threatens a great river. A plume of heavy metals has reached a feeder creek just upstream of the AuSable River; pristine no longer.
You can help. On June 5 volunteers will get in the stream to collect "bugs" from our sample spots. We will have a training session at Kirtland Community College (KCC) prior to the effort and then hit the stream. It will take half of a day. We provide what you need and a meal. You will learn, meet some amazing people and have fun. More details can be found at the project's website
In the days after the collection, we meet in a KCC's lab to identify the bugs. Another great learning experience! Believe me - I was an amateur when we started and I am a fair amateur already!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tank Creek

Tank Creek begins at the Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve. The gravel moraine to the west of Gahagan is part of the peninsular divide, separating the river systems flowing to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. On the west side of the hill, the ground water flows to Higgins Lake and the Cut River, then through Houghton Lake and the Muskegon River to Lake Michigan. On the Gahagan side of the hill, the ground water surfaces as springs in and around the preserve and from these Tank Creek is formed. This small rivulet begins the surface water journey to The South Branch of the AuSable River, on to the AuSable Mainstream and around 120 mile later flushes into Lake Huron near Oscoda. Take a half-minute to enjoy the creek in this video. It is only a couple feet wide even as the spring melt has begun. Listen as the birds sing and the woodpeckers rap faintly in the background. Note: this is video is 30 seconds long and plays best on higher speed connections.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Feeding Chickadee

Watch the quick movie of the chickadee using the pickle jar feeder at Gahagan. The feeder was made by Jack and Joanne Bouck, avid birders.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March "Pine Whispers"

Available today and through the rest of March 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 March fifty years ago. To view our March selection go to and click on Pine Whispers in the top menu. We'll add a new one on April 1.