Use of the Forest

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One-plus year of photos

Since 1/1/2011 through to 3/18/2012 I have been taking a photo (or two) every day from the front of the cabin.

I had put together a version last May, in which I organized things in a more systematic way (and included photos from before 2011), but this one took each photo, put them through Windows Movie Maker (without centering them all to a common point) and then running it through the "stabilize" function in YouTube, and adding a music track that YouTube suggested might work. Admittedly, it is quite jerky (compared to the previous version), but it still (hopefully) shows the many faces of Saginaw Forest through a year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring dawning

Various photos of our early spring:
Blossoming maples around the campfire circle

Damnable garlic mustard popping up

Invasives are already leafing out

A wonderful sunset

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring frog survey done

Frog man, Prof. K. Berven, finished up the spring frog survey last night. This is - not unexpectedly, considering how much warmer this year has been - not surprising, though. However, compared to previous years, the spring 2012 survey seems (at least to me) to have started earlier (I first saw him on March 11, 2012) and lasted for a shorter time than in previous years (which have mentions of his surveys starting between March 13 and March 30 and lasting a few weeks).

Already the sounds of frogs at night has diminished from a deafening cacophony to merely a loud chorus. It seems that this is another price to pay for an inclemently warm March.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The winter that never came, and what it might mean

Well, I pointed out back in January that the winter - at least the version one could expect in Ann Arbor, MI - wasn't actually here. Then, through February, we waited for winter to come, and - other than a couple of dips in the temperature and some snow that lasted a couple of days - we continued to remain stubbornly above freezing on most days.

Now, in March, the trees are trying to catch up with the temperatures that closer to what is typical of late June than anything close to what we would expect in March, let alone April (we could reasonably expect 82F/28C temperatures in May, but they are historically rare). In short, the temperatures we are experiencing in Ann Arbor are presently CONSISTENTLY SHATTERING all historical measurements (all the days from March 14 through March 21, 2012 have broken the previous high-temperature record, and the current forecast expects that March 22 and 23 are also going to be record-breakers, which - if true - means that there will be nine full days of record-shattering temperatures).

"But it's not TOO hot," and, "I LOVE this kind of weather," I hear some people say. Well, true: temperatures of 70-80F are quite comfortable, and it's no surprise that we'd love the temperatures that we (likely) evolved to thrive in. Such high temperatures, do, however, bring drawbacks.

The insects are also loving it - I've been having mosquitoes in Saginaw Forest for the past two weeks, and the moths and mayflies are starting to emerge. The frogs, too, are quite happy, singing up a storm in the evenings, but their choruses are already starting to die down. I wonder how long the summer temperatures will hold this year: will we remain (relatively consistently) above 70F from now to late September? Will we again get up past 100F in July? Will we again have a rain-stressed year? (I also wonder if the weather will suddenly remember that it's only mid-March and dip back into the "average" temperature range of lows in the low-30s and highs in the mid-40s.) For Saginaw Forest, such changes could spell - if continued over years - a major shift in the types of trees that continue to thrive in the hotter and drier weather. If - instead of spring snowmelt (which we didn't really get this year) and long, soaking summer rains - we have little snowpack and get only sharp and harsh spring and summer downpours, the little creek on the property will likely erode away the banks ever faster, the water table will likely drop, since there is little opportunity for saturation to occur, and - again - the trees will change. After several decades of a warmer and drier climate (one which is characterized by shorter and wetter rain storms), the forest will likely come to look increasingly like northern Georgia than southern Michigan... something that does give me pause.

I know that this lack of a winter doesn't necessarily mean that climate change is upon us. The winter continues to be a bitterly cold one in Europe, after all. However, if this year is anything to use to predict some likely occurrences in a warmer climatic future, then I hope that people are paying attention. What starts as "nice temperatures" turns into "bad weather" as the high level of heat energy in the atmosphere brings about earlier and more intense storms than what our experience has led us to expect. In the Ann Arbor region, this meant a tornado touching down in Dexter, combined with intense rain (over 1" of rain in 1 hour at Ann Arbor airport) and hail, which caused flooding in Ann Arbor (as both storm and sanitary sewers became flooded beyond capacity), massive erosion along rivers (as they "endeavored" to accommodate the massively increased flows of water), and felled trees (thus knocking out electricity for thousands as well as destroying more property).

Looking more regionally, we have seen the start of one of the earliest tornado seasons on record. According to
In the U.S., tornado season tends to move northward from late winter to mid-summer. In Southern states, tornado season is typically from March to May. In the Southern Plains, it lasts from May to early June. On the Gulf Coast, tornadoes occur most often during the spring. And in the Northern Plains, Northern states and upper Midwest, peak season is in June or July.
As of March 20st, the number of tornadoes in the US reached 285, which is almost tied for the most tornadoes on record by NOAA. (As a contrast, in a year that is at the 50th percentile, we wouldn't reach 285 tornadoes until roughly the end of April.) When looked at through the light of all the record temperatures, it's not too surprising that so many tornadoes are happening, but it's also very little consolation that warmer temperatures means better times.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Storm washouts

The berm that acts as a pathway between the south and north sides of the property and runs along the western property line has washed away (again).

There are also some other areas where the trail has been somewhat eroded:

... and the roadway is becoming (again) gully-city:

And all that erosion has stained the water,

...and it's still coming out of the creek looking like milk-tea.

On the plus side, the lake seems to be draining nicely, dropping about 10 inches over the past 14 hours. (That's a loss of roughly 0.6 acre-feet/hour.*)

Buuut... it's getting very humid out there, what with all the sun and lack of much cloud cover. Who knows: it might dry out relatively quickly and the frogs might have infiltrated into the standing pools in sufficient numbers to eat up lots of the mosquito larvae. (See? I can be optimistic.)

*Assuming Third Sister Lake is 10 acres.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

HEAVY rain leads to erosion

Well, THAT was interesting! A massive storm cell passed over Saginaw Forest at about 6:00 pm today,

March 15th storm

dumping a boatload of rain on the property and inundating the little creek...

...and causing erosion on the paths. It even raised the lake level about a foot!

Right now, the water is not far below the level of the footbridge...

...and is maybe a finger's breadth below the level of the dock.

SHEEESH! that was a lot of rain.

I'll be making rounds tomorrow morning to check whether there was more damage on the property, but right now all the land down near the lake is very squidgy. (Heh, my spell-checker apparently recognizes "squidgy" as a word.)

And the spring's just beginning...

On a positive note, the willows are starting to blossom - their feathery buds are just peeking through... so that's nice. The frogs are happy (although Prof. Berven's student assistants aren't too happy) in all that new standing water. And, happily, the cabin suffered no discernible problems.

Let's hope that the frogs eat up all the mosquito larvae...

Daffodils poking up

IMG_2524The daffodils are starting to poke through the soil. This year, they might well be played out before Easter...

Saginaw Forest research

I'm updating the list from August 19, 2010, since I came across another reference, this one to a soil survey conducted in 1964. It's interesting how Google searches are picking up more and more references to studies that have taken place out here. In this case, I think that the Google search turned up the book due to the collaboration that the University of Michigan has with Google - part of the Google Books scanning initiative that's been going on for several years now.

(Remember, too, that there have been several studies on Third Sister Lake.)

In chronological order
note: this list is not necessarily exhaustive
compiled by S. Lacy (March 2012)
  • Arnold, JD (1935) “A comparative study of certain species of Marasmius and Collybia in culture” Mycologia 27(4): 388-417
  • Smith, AH (1935) “Studies in the genus Mycenia. I.” American Journal of Botany 22(10): 858-877
  • Blair, WF (1937) “The Burrows and food of the prairie pocket mouse” Journal of Mammalogy, 18(2): 188-191
  • Yeager, LE (1937) “Cone-piling by Michigan red squirrels” Journal of Mammalogy, 18(2), 191-194
  • Hann, HW (1939) “The relation of castration to migration in birds” Bird-Banding 10(3): 122-124
  • Misch, MS (1960) “Heat Regulation in the Northern Blue Jay, Cyanocitta Cristata Bromia Oberholser” Physiological Zoology 33(4): 252-259
  • Ladrach, WE (1964) A Soil Survey of Saginaw Forest, M.For. thesis, University of Michigan, 116pp.
  • Kistler, S, AG Stephenson and WS Benninghoff (1979) “Description of understory development in a tree plantation with a new method of data structuring” Vegetatio 40(3): 185-191
  • Barnes, BV and BC Dancik (1985) "Characteristics and origin of a new birch species, Betula murrayana, from southeastern Michigan" Canadian Journal of Botany 63(2): 223-226
  • Howard, RD and AG Kluge (1985) “Proximate mechanisms of sexual selection in wood frogs” Evolution 39(2): 260-277
  • Olson, CE, Jr and Z Zhu (1985) “Forest species identification with high spectral resolution data” JPL Proceedings of the Airborne Imaging Spectrometer Data Analysis Workshop. Pages 152-157 (SEE N86-11618 02-43); United States
  • Cornell, TJ, KA Berven, and GJ Gamboa (1989) “Kin recognition by tadpoles and froglets of the wood frog Rana sylvatica” Oecologia 78: 312-316
  • Riha, VF and KA Berven (1991) “An analysis of latitudinal variation in the larval development of the wood frog (Rana sylvatica)” Copeia 1991(1): 209-221
  • Berven, KA and RS Boltz (2001) “Interactive effects of leech (Desserobdella picta) infection on wood frog (Rana sylvatica) tadpole fitness traits” Copeia 2001(4): 907-91
  • Kahan, A (2008) Nitrogen and Carbon Biogeochemistry in Soil and Vegetation Along an Indirect Urban-Rural Gradient in Southeastern Michigan. M.S. thesis, University of Michigan.
  • Berven, KA (2009) “Density dependence in the terrestrial stage of wood frogs: Evidence from a 21-year population study” Copeia 2009(2): 328-338

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Preternatrurally warm winter: Comparison of years

This winter was weirdly warm. As a piece of evidence showing how different it has been this year, consider the following:

March 14, 2012

March 13, 2011

March 12, 2010

April 6, 2009

Warm days bring ... mosquitoes

Well, that was fast: the mosquitoes are out in force already. Perhaps the fishes, frogs, birds and bats haven't really cottoned on to the veritable insectoid banquet that they have molting and flying before them, but hopefully they will soon.

It's not too fun to do the rounds in jeans and a long-sleeve shirt (too hot) nor in shorts and a t-shirt (too buggy).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring peepers

I'm sitting in the porch, listening to the spring peepers. Prof. Berven has been coming out each day this week, and will likely continue coming out for the next little while.

Although it's a little bit chilly, it's really nice to sit and listen to these first spring frogs as they chirp to each other on into the night.

Work Day on April 1, 2012 (no joke!)

Spring is coming early this year. Already, there are daffodils pushing up around the forest, and soon the buds will blossom on the trees, and the invasive species will also be getting their growth on.

Sunday, April 1st, 2012 will be a volunteer work day from noon to 4pm at the Saginaw Forest research facility (3900 West Liberty Road).

We will be focusing primarily on honeysuckle removal. Furthermore, thanks to the unusually warm weather, the garlic mustard is coming in strong and will likely be more than ready to pull come April 1, and so we will also be pulling as much garlic mustard as possible.

n.b.: If you happen to like the taste of garlic mustard (and you can find garlic mustard recipes online), feel free to take away as much of it as you wish!

Other activities include raking the trails of leaf litter and picking up trash from along Liberty Road.

Due to a limited number of tools out at Saginaw Forest, I am asking volunteers to bring their own gloves and pruning saws and/or loppers.

On Sunday, April 1st, 2012, the main gate will be open from 11:30am, and volunteers can park along the driveway near the cabin. (Please don't park at the cabin, since there is limited turn-around space.)

If the weather turns out to be inclement (i.e., rainy or - heaven forfend - snowy and blustery), then this event will be cancelled. (Check this page for updates.)

There will be snacks and drinks on hand, as well as some hamburgers and hot dogs for later (anyone handy with a charcoal grill?).

If you can't come out this time, don't worry: there will be more volunteer activities in the upcoming months. (Buckthorn needs cutting throughout the forest, and if the garlic mustard isn't up on April 1, they'll be up by May.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Frog man back

I think that it's the earliest that Prof. S. Berven has come out to Saginaw Forest to set up his yearly spring frog survey on the frog pond. However, due to the non-winter we had this year, I saw him and two of his students slogging through the muck round the frog pond, resetting the low fence and setting the buckets.

This long-term frog survey is one more reason why dogs must be kept on leash.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The last snow of the season?

Snow. Once again snow. Perhaps, though, with the weird and warm winter, this will be the last...

Landscape Architecture students in the forest

Several MLA students came out to the forest this morning to look at the area (mostly around the cabin) for the reason of doing some design options for potentially future build options.

They had several questions about the property, and they will likely be coming out to the forest in the future - singly or in groups. It's exciting to see the property being used for hands-on teaching purposes again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Windy day and night

Gusty winds have been blowing much of today and are expected to continue tonight. I wonder how many trees I'll find downed after tonight...

Chopped up more trees

Seems like the wind storm of last Friday knocked down more than the power poles. I spend this morning cutting up five felled trees. Yeesh, these dead ash are ANNOYING!

On the plus side, the wind wasn't too bad, and the weather not too (I can't believe I'm writing this) hot. (It really has been one odd "winter" in the forest.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Power outage

IMG_2502Returning back to Saginaw Forest after a week in Arizona, I found no electricity. Turns out that the winds from (most likely) Friday felled a tree, which then pulled down the power line.

This morning, DTE came out to fix the problem, but I think that it might be a little bit too much for them to handle in one day, since they didn't yet have any poles on site. I guess that I'll have clean out the fridge and buy new food soon. Ah, well... it needed cleaning out anyway.

UPDATE: DTE was able to replace both poles and restore power by about 5:30pm.

Ice gone from lake

I don't know if this is the earliest time when Third Sister Lake, but there is no more ice on the lake. Not even a thin layer of it.

True, it never really set up at all this "winter", but it's amazing at how quickly it went away.