Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Morning

A cool, crisp, sunny morning greeted the Gahagan Preserve this year on Christmas - but not much snow. The cabin stood still and cold. The fresh dust of snow witnessed the stirring of its residents. The pond, frozen at on end, showed the entrance of spring water at the other. The tall pines overlooked it all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trumpeters at Marl Lake

Late this afternoon the low sun in the west lit two trumpeter swans floating just of the thin shelf of ice that has formed on Marl Lake. Wouldn't you know it - left the camera home. The lake sits on the south side of North Higgins Lake State Park near Roscommon. The swans were near the access site in the park just off the small stream that enters the lake at the start of the hiking trails. If the current weather keeps up, the shallow lake will freeze over any day. Where will the swans go? Do they plan to winter in the Cut River? Will they move temporarily to Higgins Lake? Will they just move on?

In recent years there seems to be more trumpeters in the AuSable River system during winter. Maybe we have a growing population.

The Marl Lake area is one of the great natural areas that is open for the public to enjoy in Roscommon County.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Season's First Snow

The preserve received its first snow overnight as just less than an inch covered the ground. The morning temperature rise will likely see it disappear by afternoon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Larix laricina - Tamarack

The tamarack larch have turned a beautiful golden color marking the last of fall's brilliant hues for this year. Found in low or swampy areas, they are abundant around Roscommon. CR 100 (Sunset Rd.) near the Post Office has many tamarack to the north side. They are looking spectacular now, especially in today's sun. The low area on Steele Road between Sunset and the North I-75 Business Loop is another good spot. The I-75 Business Loop east of exit 244 is a third location. There are few at the Gahagan Preserve as well.

Go see them soon. Tamaracks lose there needles during the winter and replace the entire bunch next spring.

Monday, October 31, 2011

AuSable Watershed Update

The river monitoring crew will be back in the lab November 10 identifying the remaining macro invertebrates collected during the September water quality data collection event. Come join us - experienced or willing to learn. RSVP to so we know we have enough chili. We start at 5PM but join us later if you need to. Go to the instructional building and look for the lab filled with "non-traditional students!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Green Trail Revised

The newly revised Green Trail is about complete and while there will be some additional work in the spring, it is usable now. We hope to add a boardwalk to the springs in the future using lumber cut from the giant pine removed by the cabin last summer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Heading Toward Winter

After a warm start to October and a beautiful leaf change (hope you made it into the Preserve for that, the cold winds and rain this week have made winter seem like it around the corner.

We are busy getting the cabin ready by shutting down the water system and turning off the heat. The last of the school field trips are ending for the year. Tonight, the water quality gang is at the lab in the instructional building at Kirtland Community College trying wrap-up the identification of bugs collected during the September data collection day. They start at 5pm. Come see what they do and see what lives in your streams.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Busy, successful week

After a Saturday gig meeting those of you attending Roscommon's AuSable River Festival, this past week featured hot but dry weather at Gahagan's annual summer day camp. Tom spent three mornings with 23 youngsters eager to learn about their natural world. On Thursday night, Melanie Brown returned from Alaska this year to discuss Alaskan Fisheries in front of a packed cabin crowd. Thanks Melanie and Tom.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Little Drier?

Today, youth from the Second Chance Academy helped distribute gravel on the low, wet area near the Brookside Subdivision. School field trips use this section to get to Gahagan Preserve. The heavy rains this spring made this section impassable much of the time. Today, it became a bit better.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Good Wildflower News

Gahagan Preserve has three areas dedicated to wildflower plantings. This is addition to the 60-acres of forest undergrowth with wildflowers that come naturally.

The three areas of plantings are at the Maplehurst parking lot , the butterfly garden installed in front of the cabin and the septic/drain field area behind the cabin. The later area was seeded two years ago by Tom Zeneberg using the wildflower seed packets offered by the Crawford-Roscommon Conservation District. This year the flowers have become well established.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wildflower Vandalism

Over the passed years Julie Borak has contributed much time and talent creating a wildflower garden at the Gahagan Nature Preserve. It has flourished recently and not without notice. This spring someone apparently decided that a number of the plants would look great in their yard. They left you with some wonderful shovel holes to look at.
The last few years we have put on special programs at Gahagan to educate the public about growing wildflower gardens. It is too bad some still choose to take the short cut. The young are often singled out for vandalism. In this case one would guess that it was somebody considered "mature."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Water High During 6th River Day

The volunteers were out today collect bugs from the AuSable during the sixth data collection day of the Upper AuSable River Watershed Water Quality Project. The rains of this spring made for high water making some of the collection spots pretty tricky. After meeting at the Kirtland College lab to organize, it was off to the river. Species identification will start at 4PM on Wednesday at the college lab.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spring Wildflower Time

This a good time for wildflower viewing out on the Gahagan pathways.

Shown are forget-me-nots behind the cabin.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

At Tawas Point

Gahagan Nature Preserve hosted a birding trip to Tawas Point on Monday. The point is famous for its annual spring bird migration. To the right front are our leaders Jack and Joanne Bouck. We saw a variety of warblers, a number of orioles, scarlet tanagers, and indigo buntings. Large flocks of blue jays and cedar wax wings were moving through the area. We counted a few shorebirds, brown thrashers, king birds and an osprey. The variety was outstanding.

If you want to learn about birds - you still have a chance. The Gahagan Preserve bird count is Thursday, May 26 from 8am until noon. Meet at the cabin at the start. No experience necessary. See for directions.

A Baltimore oriole (l) and Scarlet tanager (r) spotted during the Tawas Point trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wet. Wet. Wet

Heavy rains the past week have re-flooded the wetland areas along Tank Creek. The dock at the pond sits a few inches below the top of the pond. The Brookside Sub entrance area is flooded and will take a few days to recede.
The wildflowers seem about two weeks behind last year. The marsh marigolds like this wet and are out in the creek area. You will find some violets in bloom. The butterfly garden at the cabin has not much action yet but Julie's parking lot garden is looking great.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pathway Snow is Back!!!!

What a difference a few days can make. An iris blooming one day and a junco digging through the snow for some food the next. Can't wait for April. Oh it is April!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Clean Up Day April 27

Come join the Gahagan Preserve membership during the preserve clean-up, Wednesday, April 27 at 9am. We will clean the cabin in and out, getting it ready for the school field trips that start the following week. Bring some gloves but mostly bring yourself. We will have lunch on the site.

Pathaway snow is gone!

Stubborn winter. This morning's rain finally cleared our pathways of the remaining snow and ice.

First Frogs

Tonight the first chorus of frogs filled the air at the preserve. This is almost a month later than last spring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Visitors

Today's warm weather got the natives excited. Around 7:30 this evening the birds started a chorus. Tom turkeys became very active. Near the boardwalks, the Tom's were calling. Here is a short movie of one high in a tree. It was getting towards dark and unfortunately the limited light was behind creating a silhouette.

Trails nearly snow-free

The wheelchair friendly trail has lost most of its snow and ice but it will still be a day or two before all disappears. There are some slick spots, so hikers beware. The thawed areas of the trail have been cleaned of debris but it is not passable by wheelchairs yet because of ice. Maybe tomorrow's 70 degree temps and rain forecast will finish the job.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Winter's Last Gasp? Again?

Last week the Preserve received around a foot of snow. It can just as the pathways were about thawed out. Today we are getting our fourth straight day of sun. It rises high enough now to melt snow despite the zero temps of the nights and the below freezing temps of the day.

The sun's radiant energy has warmed the garage enough that the last heavy snow is starting to sag, like a glacier coming down a mountain. The result is a sinister-looking, teeth-like formation of icicles.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Marguerite's New Book

Marguerite Gahagan started, owned, published and wrote the North Woods Call from 1953 through the late 60's. She then sold the Call to Glen Sheppard who died this month. He published it for more than 40 years. There will be one last edition, a memorial of sorts. The only one not written under the direct eye of Marguerite or Glen.
Several years ago, Glen gave the Gahagan Nature Preserve permission to republish Marguerite's Pine Whisper columns from her time at the paper's helm. We haven't acrtually counted them but there are about 22 per year for about 15 years. Gahagan volunteers had begun to compose a book of her life and writings when we heard the bad news about Glen. We hope to bring back Marguerite's view of the natural world to you sometime this summer. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, we post a sample of her work each month at our website,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gahagan Under Snow

The trails through the preserve have a thick coating of snow now. Winter came late but with new snow over night and snow and cold weather the past couple weeks, it looks like you would expect in late January.
The sun is out today and the pines are covered with snow, dazzling in the bright light. This is the best time ot travel the Green Trail. You need snowshoes. The trail snakes through lowlands to the spring in the northeast coner of the preserve. Skis won't make it through because of the need to step over small, fallen trees. Int eh summer it is too wet to traverse easily. Give it a try! the trail was tracked in a few days ago making it the easiest time to find it. It changes frequently as we do not saw the downed trees in this area very often and never when the snow is not there.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Deep Cold

Winters have become milder in recent years. Below zero temperatures were common in Roscommon twenty years ago but seem more extraordinary in recent memory. Last night bucked our mordern trend. The cabin's skin felt a chilly -30 this morning. It has been a number of years since we have dropped so low. It is the kind of day where quiet prevails except the occasional laugh of a pileated; or the crack and groans of the trees as the cold tries to change thier shape. The sun is up now - guess that is the bright side!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marguerite and Glen Sheppard

Last week Glen Sheppard died. Glen was the publisher of the North Woods Call, the conservation newspaper that Marguerite founded in 1953. Glen continued her legacy of digging up the scoop about environmental matters in Michigan. It is a natural time to reflect on their contributions to our state.
During their time at the Call, they were the thorn that helped keep natural resource management in Michigan on nature's side. The Call never had millions of readers but it did get read by important people. The leaders of the Department of Natural Resources, political aides to our law makers and dedicated conservationists all read it. Other news organizations used it to find otherwise uncovered news. All of this had a way of keeping governors, bureaucrats, polluters and developers a little more under the control of Mother Nature.
Marguerite began the newspaper at Douglas Lake near Lewiston more than sixty years ago. She was a newspaper veteran from Detroit who dared to do something different. After a few years, she moved to Roscommon to be closer to her printer and the then Department of Conservation's northern lower headquarters. She wrote from her cabin nestled in the woods by Tank Creek. Today it is the Marguerite Gahagan Nature Preserve.
In 1969, Marguerite sold the Call to Glen Sheppard. Glen moved the operations to his home near Charlevoix but continued to hound those who would mismanage the state's natural resources. He understood history well. He knew that many are interested in using the world for their profit and that nature does not have a way to fight back without our help. Glen continued to publish the Call until his death. We are not sure of the Call's future. We can be sure that the paper, which really means Marguerite and Glen, has been the best of environmental impacts. Not many in this world can say that!