The Natural Fall Transition

By Abby Pointer, MNA Intern

As our summer slowly shifts into Michigan’s favorite season, the humidity will disappear into a brisk breeze and leaves will turn happy orange and red. You might partake in festive, nature oriented activities such as apple picking, birding, or fall color walks. Our reason for doing this is to enjoy some time with friends and family, but have you thought about the reason why nature acts as it does in the fall?

Migrating-Birds-Swans-Bill-and-Sharon-Draker-Rolfnp-comSince Autumn is a transitional season, often the plants and animals we see are in a transition period as they prepare for a long winter. For instance, birds are migrating back from their summer homes to somewhere less chilly for the winter. To many avid birders’ delights, we are lucky in Michigan to be able to see rare species such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes migrating. If you visit Whitefish Point, it is an excellent place to spot the migrating loons and, if you look towards the skies, you might also spot the soaring wingspans of sharp shinned hawks, bald eagles, and ospreys.

While the birds fly south, mammals take advantage of fall fruiting trees and plants. Species such as squirrels, chipmunks, and even bears might be more active as they prepare themselves for winter by gathering food and preparing nests or dens. Many types of berries and nuts ripen for consumption in the fall, and as the temperature cools, fungi also begin to sprout. The production of berries, nuts, and seeds this time of year cleverly coincides with the time that birds are stopping to snack during migration and when small mammals bury nuts for sparser months. These fruits and nuts are the structures that enable the dispersal of seeds, so these animals in transition are essential in the process of creating new plant life for some tree and shrub species such as red chokeberry, blackhaw viburnum, and common ninebark. Acorns from oak trees and hickory nuts serve the same purpose and are spread by small mammals in a process sometimes known as “scatter hoarding”.

lefglen nsWhile animals collect the nuts from trees for winter hibernation, the trees themselves have a very charismatic process that prepares them for their own kind of hibernation. During the winter months, deciduous trees go into a period of dormancy where they survive off the energy they stored during the sunny summer months, and they drop their leaves that contain chloroplasts (structures that turn light from the sun into plant food) to conserve energy. Leaves of trees can sense a shortening period of daylight, and eventually stop producing the chemical chlorophyll that make leaves green, and then we can see bright colored pigments such as orange and red that were previously masked by green all summer. We see the best fall colors when there is a wet growing season followed by a cool, frostless fall. Visit an MNA sanctuary to see this trees in action. Enjoy the colors!

Advertisements

Fall Into Fun With MNA

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

The fall season is alive and vibrant, and you should be, too! Though it brings with it shorter days and cooler weather, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the colorful outdoors and connect with nature. Join in on a guided fall color hike this coming Saturday, October 14 at Phillips Family Memorial, known for being just 1 of 3 MNA sanctuaries that protect a coastal plain marsh!

For the more leisurely hiker, birding enthusiast, individual or family just wanting to enjoy the offerings of nature at her most colorful, MNA owns a number of sanctuaries suited to a variety of interests. Check out a few of our most scenic fall favorites:

Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary

Lookout, Grat. Lk. - Charlie Eshbach

Near the town of Central, Gratiot Lake will make sure you are in shape if you want the best view. The new trail rises nearly 400 feet to an overlook of Gratiot Lake a quarter mile to the south.

A gushing waterfall can be found on Eister Creek by following the creek towards the lake. Please be careful, the journey can be steep and slippery.

Lefglen Nature Sanctuary

Marianne Glosenger - Lefglen (2)Lefglen has a variety of plant communities, including wooded uplands, oak barrens, cattail marsh, and prairie fen. More than 50 species of birds nest here, and Lefglen’s beautiful Lake Nirvana is completely surrounded by wetlands where sandhill cranes have been known to nest. Migratory birds such as blue-winged teal and Great egrets also stop over on their journeys.

Barvick’s Sand Dunes Nature SanctuaryBarvick's

A scenic trail loops through Barvick’s Sand Dunes, a sanctuary which consists of a 40 acre dune and forest complex containing a coastal plain marsh and hardwood conifer swamp. Rogers Creek crosses through the northeast corner of the sanctuary. The 40 acres are bounded by CR 376 (44th Ave) to the north and Becht Road (80th St) to the east.

Wade Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Wade memorialLocated three miles east of Saugatuck on the eastern end of Silver Lake, the Wade Memorial contains a lovely beech-maple forest as well as numerous dogwood and hemlock trees on a high bluff overlooking the lake. It is a fine example of a beech-maple forest with hemlocks that have grown back after a wildfire that occurred in the early 1900’s.

Silver Lake abuts the southwestern portion of the sanctuary and a canoe or kayak can be launched here for a pleasant trip amidst beds of pickerel weed and other aquatic plants.

Twin Waterfalls Nature Sanctuary

Twin Waterfalls - Olson Falls 2 - Mike ZajczenkoAptly named, as a half-mile of trails lead visitors to the beautiful Memorial Falls and Olson Falls. The vertical walls of both waterfall canyons are part of the Munising Formation, which consists of ancient buff, rose-colored sandstone about 550 million years old. Each season offers something unique at Twin Waterfalls!

Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

KernanThe rocky shallow harbor at Kernan Memorial Sanctuary discourages any nearshore boat activity, making this secluded area excellent for bird watching. Several species of gulls and ducks call the sanctuary home. November and early March are the best time to see migratory birds, while spotting shore birds such as black-bellied plovers and sanderlings is best in September and October.

Members of the public are always welcome to visit and volunteer, no matter their experience level. Check the MNA events calendar for additional upcoming workdays and events. For more information on MNA sanctuaries, upcoming activities, or other ways to get involved, contact the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

Fall 2017 Michigan Nature Magazine

Fall means back to school, and that new reality brings a seasonal change to the daily migration routes for many Michigan families.

Fall is an especially great time of year to connect kids to nature and the incredible changes that unfold. As students – and their parents – adjust their new clocks and adapt to a new school year, here at MNA we are working with teachers to enrich their student’s classroom learning by using MNA nature sanctuaries as living laboratories. Our schools-to-sanctuaries initiative is creating exciting new partnerships across the state, like the one described by Addison High School teacher Aaron Wesche in this issue’s Q&A (p.33).

Cooler temperatures and decreasing daylight are signals for migratory birds and insects that it is time to leave their northern breeding grounds for warmer winter climes. Some make extraordinary difficult journeys to do so. One of the most astonishing dramas in nature is the annual Monarch butterfly migration from the northern U.S. to a tiny strip of forest in Mexico. Take yourself to a Great Lakes beach or an MNA nature sanctuary with open fields this time of year and wait and watch. You’ll very likely see one of these stunning and fragile beauties flit by as they make their miraculous journey to Mexico.

Sadly, those who have spent a lifetime watching the Monarch migration for the sheer joy of it will tell you they don’t see as many butterflies anymore. Scientists who study the Monarch have confirmed this. In this issue, noted Michigan author Bill Rapai tells the story of how the Monarch migration is now in serious danger of disappearing (p. 18).

The good news is that we can play a role in helping this extraordinary migration (while also helping other declining pollinators). We know that many of our nature sanctuaries provide necessary places for fuel and rest for Monarchs on their journey, but we also know much more needs to be done.

With your continued support MNA will be working to create more Monarch-friendly habitat within our statewide network of sanctuaries; help inspire the next generation to care about Michigan’s natural wonders like the Monarch butterfly through our education programs; and coordinate our work on Monarch conservation with the work of like-minded groups in Michigan, across the Midwest, and Mexico.

Ten MNA sanctuaries to visit this fall

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

As the season changes, so do the leaves. Well, at least in Michigan! Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons to experience in Michigan as fall colors surround beautiful landscapes. MNA’s nature sanctuaries are home to a variety of habitats offering breathtaking colors perfect for a fall hike. We had a hard time narrowing the list down, but here are a few sanctuaries to check out if you’d like to experience Michigan this fall.

For a complete list of upcoming guided fall hikes, download the Fall 2014 edition of Discover Michigan Nature or check out the online calendar of events. Click here to access a map of MNA’s nature sanctuaries in Michigan.

Ten MNA Nature Sanctuaries to Visit this Fall:

1. Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County

Autumn hardwoods

Photo by Mark Carlson.

This 245-acre sanctuary offers guests the chance to explore the wonders of the woods. This sanctuary contains hardwood swamp and second hardwood growth. Visitors are welcome to explore on a 2-mile loop trail, but be sure to pack proper footwear as the sanctuary can be wet and swampy (as the name implies).

2. Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary in Newaygo County

DSC02175

Photo by Matt Schultz.

 

This 210-acre sanctuary is made up of oak and pine barrens. Despite having no trails, the terrain makes it easy for visitors to explore. In this sanctuary, the fall is prime time for the blooming of sunflowers, goldenrod and asters.

3. Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary in Macomb County

IMG_2654

Photo by Jeff Ganley.

 

Visitors can take a hike on a mile-long loop through this sanctuary. The 44-acre sanctuary is home to an array of different plant species including tulip trees and round-leaved orchids and parts both mature and mesic forest.

4. Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County

Photo by Marianne Glosenger

This 510-acre sanctuary offers two loop trails, each about a mile long, that intersect offering a 2.5-mile challenge for visitors’ hiking pleasure. The giant white pines have an awe-inspiring height of up to 125 feet, which surround guests with beautiful color as they make their way through the trails. There are also many bird species to watch out for at Estivant Pines.

5. Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary  in Presque Isle County

Photo by Katherine Hollins

Photo by Katherine Hollins

Mystery Valley is home to one of the largest karst “collapse valleys” in the Great Lakes region. On the 1-mile Earthcrack Trail, visitors can explore the incredible earth cracks and valley formed by the erosion of limestone beneath the earth’s surface. The half-mile Valley Trail passes fossils of marine life embedded in the rock. In addition to the sanctuary’s interesting geology, the slightly acidic soil supports a northern-mesic forest, dominated by sugar maple, beech and hemlock trees. In the fall, the trees change and beautifully highlight the landscape.

6. Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Cass County

Autumn in the woods

Photo by Sherri Laier.

This sanctuary offers a 1.5-mile loop as well as boardwalks over naturally wet areas and some benches to take a rest. Even if visitors are just sitting for a moment, they still have a great opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the nature around them in this “crown jewel” nature sanctuary. The sanctuary is a mixture of floodpain, southern mesic forest and hardwood swamp, a home for several different bird and reptile species. The Dowagiac River also flows through this sanctuary.

7. Columbia Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County

IMG_2568

Photo by Jeff Ganley.

A beautiful array of colors can be seen in this 40-acre sanctuary consisting of southern hardwood swamp, emergent marsh and southern hardwood forest. It is in this sanctuary where over 150 plant species can be found. Some notable plants are Michigan holly, several types of bedstraws and sedges.

8. Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve in Alger County

Photo by Mike Zajczenko

Twin Waterfalls boasts great beauty in its falls themselves, as well as unique plants. Some plants found in this sanctuary are twisted stalk and American milletgrass. The milletgrass is known for being 5 feet in height and a foot-long panicle. The Munising Formation is also an interesting sight — a large sandstone wall made of a variety of colors.

9. Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Van Buren County

IMG_0614

Photo by Nancy Goodrich.

This sanctuary is unique because of its coastal marsh habitat. Along with coastal marsh, it is also composed of southern mesic forest. Some trees to look out for are hardwoods, red maple, pin oak and black cherry.

 10. Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Genesee County

Photo via MNA archives.

Photo via MNA archives.

This nature sanctuary is an interweb of pine groves and hardwood forests. Visitors can choose between several different trails to discover the variety of trees in the sanctuary. Some trees to look out for are oak, elm and ash.

 

We want to explore Michigan with you! Download the Fall 2014 edition of Discover Michigan Nature or check out the online calendar of events and join us in the field!

Don’t miss a chance for a Wildflower Walkabout this fall

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Summer has come and gone in what seems to be the blink of an eye — yet it’s not too late to enjoy an educational and aesthetically pleasing Wildflower Walkabout at an MNA nature sanctuary.

Upcoming dates:

  • Saturday, September 6 – 1 p.m. Saginaw Wetlands, Huron County
  • Saturday, September 6 – 11 a.m. Keweenaw Shores No. 1, Keweenaw County
  • Saturday, September 20 – 10 a.m. Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary, Lenawee County (rescheduled from August)
  • Saturday, October 4 – 1:30 p.m. Phillips Family Memorial, Van Buren County

Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary is a lakeplain prairie habitat. Historically, Michigan had nearly 160,000 acres of this type of ecosystem, yet today only 511 acres remain. Saginaw Wetlands preserves 155 acres of this rare habitat.

This sanctuary boasts an array of plant species within the lake plain oak opening, wet prairie and wet mesic prairie habitat, among others. The lake plain prairie is of critical concern due to land degradation. This habitat contains grasses as well as a beautiful variety of wildflowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Flowers found at Keweenaw Shores. Photo by Charlie Eshbach.

The Keweenaw Shores No. 1 Nature Sanctuary also boasts a beautiful array of flora during the fall season. The sanctuary is located in the Upper Peninsula and consists of an interesting geology, conifer swamp and boreal forest. Among wildflowers, another interesting plant to be found in this sanctuary are the colorful lichens which attach themselves to rocks and trees. Lichens are indicators of good air quality. This sanctuary boasts a beautiful array of colors in the fall season.

Virginia meadow beauty. Photo by Joshua Mayer.

Virginia meadow beauty. Photo by Joshua Mayer.

The Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Van Buren County is also unique as it is one of three sanctuaries to contain a coastal plain marsh community. This rarity allows for 40 different disjunct plant species to grow there. Some plants that grow in coastal plain marsh communities are bald-rush, seedbox and tall beak-rush.

Due to schedule changes, the Wildflower Walkabout hike at Goose Creek Grasslands was moved to September. This is a great opportunity to see the unusual plants that make their home in the sanctuary’s prairie fen!

Don’t miss a chance to experience the beauty of Michigan’s nature! Mark your calendar for the next Wildflower Walkabout.

Call the MNA office at (866) 223-2231 or visit the MNA website for more information. We hope to see you at a hike soon!

Why do leaves change in the fall?

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

There is nothing quite like the colors one can see in Michigan in the fall. Reds, oranges, yellows and browns cover the trees and make for a beautiful sight, whether you’re on a hike or just driving by. Many people are delighted by fall and the wonderful colors, but don’t fully understand why the leaves change in the first place.

Many of the colors seen in fall are always present in leaves, just hidden by an abundance of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green and is regulated by light. When there is plenty of light, like in the summer months, the green overshadows the other colors of the leaf.

When the days start to get shorter and there is less light, less chlorophyll is produced. The chlorophyll starts to decompose, and without new chlorophyll being produced, the green color of the leaf starts to fade.

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

At the same time that this is happening, high levels of sugar concentrations in the leaves lead to increased production of anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments. Anthocyanins cause leaves to appear red, and carotenoids cause leaves to appear yellow. A leaf that has a combination of the two will appear orange. If a plant has neither of these pigments, it may appear brown because of other plant chemicals, such as tannins.

All of this might seem a bit heavy, but it will come in handy on any of MNA’s upcoming fall events! There are hikes, volunteer days and exploration days all throughout the months of October and November that anyone can attend to see the beautiful fall colors in action.

Some of these upcoming events include a field trip to Newaygo Prairie on October 19, an exploration of Braastad Nature Sanctuary on October 23 and an exploration of Fox River Nature Sanctuary on October 30. To learn more, visit the MNA website or call (866) 223-2231.

Upcoming Fall Tour through Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary

The prairie. Photo courtesy of Chuck Vannette

The prairie. Photo by Chuck Vannette

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Visitors are invited to explore the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary and observe the beautiful fall colors in full swing on Saturday, October 19. Steward Chuck Vannette will be leading a fall tour through the prairie, starting at 2 p.m. This will be a day filled with scenic views and the serenity of the open prairie at Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located in Newaygo County and sits at the intersection of S. Poplar Ave. and E. 56th Street.

Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary protects one of the most endangered habitats in the state. Its sandy soils and raised hillsides prevented farmers from converting the prairie into farmland during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the Michigan Nature Association purchased the prairie in 1969, it has worked on preserving this 110-acre spread, which is composed of prairie vegetation, dry prairie habitat and oak pine barren. Guests will get to experience what remains of the dry-sand prairie that once covered 19,000 acres in Michigan.

The sanctuary contains no trails, giving visitors the unique opportunity to navigate and explore the open landscape of the area and get up-close looks at the sanctuary’s abundant prairie species that survive in the habitat. More than 100 plant species, including porcupine’s grass, Fall Witch grass, prickly-pear cactus, and rock spikemoss contribute to the beauty of Newaygo Prairie.

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Goldenrod in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is no one best time to visit Newaygo Prairie because its vast plant variety provides blooming vegetation throughout the year. During this fall tour on October 19, guests will witness the beautiful colors of sunflowers, goldenrods and asters blooming in the sanctuary. Several bird species, such as bluebirds and prairie warblers, also reside in the sanctuary, relying on the open prairie to gather food and build their nests. Other birds live near the wooded areas of the sanctuary, finding a comfortable home in the shade. Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary provides great opportunities for visitors throughout the year.

Take advantage of the chance to see this beautiful prairie exhibiting all of its fall colors on the fall tour on October 19. For more information about this field trip, see MNA’s online events calendar or contact Matt Schultz at mschultz@michigannature.org.