Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Friday, December 23, 2011

Solstice gathering

Last night, there was a small gathering to celebrate the winter solstice. After a lot of good conversation and some amount of wine, I noticed that the weather forecast had been a little off: we were having a light drizzle.

Still, no bother: as the night progressed and as people left, C.N. and I lit a small yule fire (mostly chopped wood, and not a full yule log) in the fire circle and ruminated upon various points of life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coyotes yipping

... a LOT for some reason when I arrived back at the forest. Unfortunately, like all my coyote encounters, I didn't get a chance to pull out my camera to get a recording before they quieted down again. A part of me wonders what it was that worked them up so, but a larger part of me is telling me that I probably don't need to go wandering in the dark forest toward coyotes if I don't actually have to do so.

Foggy Morning

Gloomy would be a good description of this very misty morning. The crow-calls didn't really alleviate the feeling, either.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bird-watch list

The following birds were observed in Saginaw Forest on Saturday, December 17 from 1:00-2:15pm:
Thanks to J.S. for sharing this year's bird count for Saginaw Forest. (Birds ordered based on families, with square brackets indicating my personal assumption of species.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Birders and a new dusting of snow

I woke up (very) late today, and a dusting of snow had already settled on Saginaw Forest. I guess we're back in winter again?

In speaking with some people at the U, I know that there are going to be birders out in the forest today. I wonder what they'll find here, and whether the past days of warmer-than-average weather will mean a different assemblage (both here and in the area).

Thursday, December 15, 2011


The warm weather of the past 36 hours has been quickly turning back toward freezing, and although the rain had stopped several hours ago, things are still quite damp. This morning, too, much of the 1/2" of rain and melted snow had caused the vernal creek to go flowing again. By the time I had left home (indeed by the time I had woken up), all the snow had melted and the sheet of ice that had stared to form on Third Sister lake were gone. (Too, the ice on the frog pond was also gone.)

As I rode back this evening, the wind had picked up to gusts of 35 mph (55 kph), and I heard a couple of trees breaking and falling as I rode through the dark to the cabin. I'll have to check on the main road tomorrow morning to ensure that none of those downed trees are actually across the road. Although a part of me knew that the loud crack-crack-craaaaack sound was too far away to actually be of a danger to me, the fact that such a large tree was falling - and that I was surrounded by similarly large trees all subjected to the same winds - made me cycle just a little bit faster for the clearing in front of the cabin.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quiet(ish) Sunday

Today, I noticed that there were a lot of ducks on the pond. They weren't there yesterday, and I wonder if they are going to be there tomorrow. I wonder if it was because the now-quickly-cooling temperatures are causing a last group of ducks (and geese) to shift southward.

Ducks on the water

IMG_1442The south side of the lake is icing up, with the ice sheet slowly crawling outward over the open water, up to edge of the tree shade. Will there be a sheet of ice by next weekend? Well, if the nighttime temperatures actually keep dropping well below freezing, then I would say that it's likely!

I also found that - before the snows of Wednesday night - there was an ash tree that had fallen on the boardwalk. Ooops. Gotta go chop that up. But when I got to the boardwalk, I decided that - instead of trying to make it into firewood - I would merely chop it away, because I didn't want to risk ruining the boardwalk with a careless swipe of the chainsaw. After that, I decided to take the wheelbarrow (I had put the chainsaw in the wheelbarrow to preserve my arm - that thing gets heavy to tote) around to the other side of the lake, to chop up some fallen trees that I had been meaning to get to.

After taking out an old felled ash tree, I noticed that the chainsaw was getting significantly more blunt than earlier. Damnable ash: you are such a hardwood to cut! (Pun intended.) So I spent about an hour sharpening the saw and filing to the (hopefully) correct depth.

I really hope that I don't have to deal with too many more ash trees. They are slowly falling; most not across a pathway. However, it remains the most felled tree in the forest these past few months.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chopped up tree

Wood pile!Spent 2.5 hours chopping up the tree. The main bole of the tree is still spanning the creek, and I am worried about it. I'll likely have to chop it up so that it doesn't cause an eventual erosion hazard in the creek.

It was another ash. The past four fallen trees that I chopped up or cut out of pathways were all ash trees. Too: some ash trees have partially fallen, are lying against still standing trees.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Snow and tree downed

IMG_1407A large tree fell across the creek and the path; much larger than I can actually do safely on my own. I called for the big guns; we'll see how long it takes for them to get there.

Also... snow again. This time about 1-2 inches in the front lawn. I guess it really is winter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

No smoking in the forest

smoke-free campusSince January 2011, the University of Michigan instituted a No Smoking rule for all their properties, which includes Saginaw Forest.

We just got the sign just last week, and although there is only one that is placed at the gate, I would hope that the rule makes a good deal of sense, and that there needn't be any further additional warnings about having burning things in a forest.

The rule is quite easy to follow: no smoking in the forest.

For more information as to why this property is included (as well as other information about the initiative) in the University of Michigan's smoking ban, check out the U's smoke-free initiative Q&A page.

New thermostat

IMG_1402Today, a very personable guy from Plant Operations (Tom) came out to fix the furnace. The thermostat was faulty, because the alcohol in its bulb had evaporated. Unfortunately, Tom couldn't find an exact replacement for it, and so he replaced it with an industrial grade one that actually has a temperature setting.

This is a nice addition to the furnace, since the previous temperature nob was quite ... annoying: I never knew what a 1/2 setting was supposed to mean.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updates more "from the records"

Updated the records from Nov 2006 through April 2007.

'Electronic' fishing is rapidly becoming surest way to find fish

Waaay back 1977, the Lakeland Ledger (Lakeland, FL) printed up a story about the new-fangled technology of using electronic gizmos to find fish. In this case, sonar units:
Sonar units are essential to locating most of the concentration points for fish... if you intend to do it in less than a lifetime!
What does this have to do with Saginaw Forest, though? Well, the article closes with a citation of a study that looked at dispersal of bluegill released in Third Sister Lake:
This inclination [of bluegill] not to wander [that was proposed by an Indiana study] was confirmed in another study on Third Sister Lake in Michigan. Of 27 bluegills marked, released, and later caught 12 had not moved at all and 15 had traveled less than 125 feet from their point of capture. Bluegills are just homebodies, it seems.
I can't speak to the methodology of the study (such as how did they track the fish, how did they account for bathymetry, what was their time interval between release and recapture, was Third Sister Lake effectively cut off hydrologically (when the lake level is low, almost no water flows west through the wetlands and into the adjacent property's pond), etc), but it's interesting to note that people had been doing fish behavior observational studies on Third Sister Lake. Perhaps more can be done in the future.

More snow

IMG_1387It appears that we are settling into winter. (Finally.) Snow is on the ground, and it's still below freezing (if only just) at 10 am. The roadway will soon have to be plowed, since (even with solar heating in sections) it will remain too cold to retain enough heat to melt whatever falls on top of it. Currently, this is the only reason why the main road remains uncovered: it was just warm enough to melt the snow as it fell.

Currently waiting for a response from Plant Operations to determine when they'll be coming out to the forest to repair the thermostat in the heater.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Updating past log entries

The caretaker log entries from October 2006 have been included on the blog.

Parking at Saginaw Forest (the short version)

There is no public parking at the facility.

Go to Westview Way and park on the street.

There are no exceptions to the rule. Those who have a gate key or are part of an official event are considered to be on official business and may park at the designated parking place(s) at the cabin.

If researchers (or instructors) can park their vehicle(s) in such a way so as to permit other vehicles to pass, then they don't have to park their vehicle(s) at the cabin.

Even if you are doing research in the facility, you still cannot park at the gate. (NO PARKING means NO PARKING.)

If you would like to report a person who is parking illegally, please call the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety at (734) 763-1131.

Thank you. 

Minor groundskeeping Monday

The forecast for this week seemed to show that today would be the last day -- in the near future - that would be above freezing, and with all the snow melted (and a light drizzle), I decided to take the opportunity to do some small amount of groundskeeping.

I raked the leaves along the trail that that heads north along the creek. LOTS of leaves were piling up, making dirt over the gravel. This causes a slippery path, and also obscures the width of the path itself. I raked up to where the path turns almost due east; up to where there's a small pipe that goes under the path. I raked out all the leaves from the drainage area "uphill" of the pipe. (I had excavated that opening last spring when all the rain and snowmelt started to run down the pathway, eroding it.) Keeping that pipe open is an important part of maintaining that section of trail. (Too, raking away the leaves will diminish the amount of soil accumulation on that section of path.)

I cut away a tree that had fallen into the creek just upstream of the last remaining weir. Had the tree merely straddled the creek, I wouldn't have bothered, but it was lying in the creek bed, forcing a localized scour, which -- when the inevitable snowmelt and rains were to come -- could cause the start of some bad erosion on that section. I also pulled away a lot of the accumulated leaf litter downstream of the weir's spashpool. They had been crammed into the crevasses between the small boulders and driftwood that had been pushed downstream by past floodings. My hand also found a nail (ouch) in among it all. Hopefully, the amount that I removed will facilitate the water flow so that it won't all be concentrated at one small point. Still, because my hand found the nail, I had to cut the work short. (I hope that tetanus shot was a good one!)

S.Jones also came out to pick up some brick pavers in his truck. He also took a look at the soil buildup on the north side of the cabin. He agreed with my concern that leaving the soil accumulation alone would not be a good long-term strategy, and commented that it would be a small project to have a team come out, remove some small trees, regrade the slope, and install a collector drain to move the water that is in the ground away from the cabin. What's more, his plan seems to minimize the amount of construction (and maintenance of that construction) that would be needed. Which I think would be a good thing for future caretakers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finishing up the boardwalk

Speaking with some of the project contractors, it presently looks like there will be an addition of a rail along the section of boardwalk that goes over open water. This will conform with ADA regulations. Hopefully, it will also tie in aesthetically.

Also, it looks like gravel will not be put down until the spring - unless there is a major snow-melt and dry-out (while staying above freezing) before then. Therefore, I'll likely have to make up some signage along the lines of, "Pathway unfinished; proceed at your own risk." Or something.