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.

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Celebrate Earth Day with MNA

April 22, 2015 marks Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. To celebrate, MNA will be hosting special hikes! Join us for a guided nature hike or other activity to explore the best Michigan has to offer!

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dick Glosenger.

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Dick Glosenger.

Join us for one of these special Earth Day hikes:

Monday, April 20: Earthweek Hike at Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary (Muskegon County) 

In partnership with the Muskegon Area Earthweek group, MNA will host two hikes at Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary in Muskegon County. The hikes will begin at both 2:30 pm and 5 pm. All are welcome! For more information or to sing up, contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org

Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day Hike at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)

Come celebrate Earth Day at the spring wildflower mecca of Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary! This event begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be a combination wildflower hike and stewardship opportunity. As we hike, we will pull invasive garlic mustard along the trail to help maintain the sanctuary. Contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org for details or to sign up.

Let Earth Day inspire you to make a difference in your community. Join MNA for one of these volunteer days that happen to fall right around Earth Day:

Saturday, April 18: Coldwater River Plant Preserve (Kent County) 

Help sanctuary steward Patricia Pennell keep this beautiful floodplain forest and the amazing wildflowers in good health by pitching in to control garlic mustard. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. For details, contact John Bagley at jbagley@michigannature.org.

Friday, April 24: Frances Broehl Memorial No. 1 (Lenawee County)

Enjoy the beautiful woods, Wolf Creek, and spring wildflowers as you help pull invasive garlic mustard. This event begins at 10 a.m. For details, contact Rachel Maranto at rmaranto@michigannature.org

If you can’t make it to any of these events, keep an eye on MNA’s calendar of events for additional volunteer opportunities and nature hikes. Happy Earth Day! 

Northern Goshawk spotted at Lefglen Nature Sanctuary

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Northern Goshawk

Photo by Norbert Kenntner Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

On January 15, MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer Matt Schultz led a group of 18 people on a hike at Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County. While on the hike, the group spotted a juvenile northern goshawk, a bird typically found in northern North America and Eurasia.

None of the hikers were able to get a picture, but Schultz said in an email that several experienced birdwatchers were convinced it was a northern goshawk. They identified the bird by its white eye stripe, accipiter shape, large size, and its long, banded tail.

Though northern goshawks live farther north, finding them in Michigan isn’t entirely unusual. Northern goshawks will fly to the Great Plains and Midwest in the winter if prey levels fall in their native forests. They are an irruptive species—a species that irregularly migrates to another area for reasons including availability of food, suitability of climate and amount of predatory activity. Unlike traditional migrations, irruptive migrations may occur one year, then not again for many years.

MNA has other hikes and winter activities planned this season to help you keep winter restlessness at bay. Be sure to check out one of our upcoming events in your area, and maybe you’ll get lucky and see another neat species like the northern goshawk!

Keep checking MNA’s events calendar for an updated list of our winter events!

A Hike Through Estivant Pines

By Nancy Leonard

Hikers amongst the towering trees

Hikers amongst the towering trees. Photo by Nancy Leonard

On July 21st, steward Hannah Rooks led an enthusiastic group of 28 hikers through the 508-acre Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary that protects one of the last remaining stands of old growth forest in Michigan.  As the daughter of well-known naturalist Jim Rooks, (the nearby James Dorion Rooks Memorial Sanctuary is named in memory of him), Hannah brought the added dimension of sanctuary history to this gathering.  Along the trail, she shared some of the stories that her dad told her as she tagged along on outings.  One recollection of a moment in the history of the sanctuary was particularly poignant and the group reacted accordingly.  Hannah pointed out the very spot where her father had stood, with legal papers in hand, to block the encroaching lumbering operations that would have taken these grand old trees.

Lunch Break

The group stops for a lunch break on the Memorial Grove loop. Photo by Nancy Leonard

We listened for birds, compared bilberries to huckleberries that grow side by side, and admired blooming orchids. On the Cathedral Grove loop, Hannah pointed out a prehistoric mining pit, dug some 4,000 years ago by indigenous people searching for copper. She led us down a side trail to an old mid-19th century mining camp where we viewed a few remaining relics. We continued on to the  Bertha Daubendiek Memorial Grove Trail and stopped to pay homage to Bertha in the Memorial Grove.  A little further on, picnic lunches were shared as we rested on smooth rock outcroppings, a favorite stopping point on the Memorial Grove loop.

Along the trail, we had passed trees growing here for centuries…..towering white pines, red oaks, maples, birches, and hemlocks.  No matter how often one visits this sanctuary, the old-growth giants never fail to inspire the fortunate visitor.

If you’d like to experience the majestic pines for yourself, MNA’s 60th Anniversary Odyssey Tour visits Estivant Pines on Saturday, September 29 at 1 p.m. All are welcome to participate in a tour of the sanctuary and anniversary celebration. Visit the MNA website for details or to RSVP.

Winter Field Trip Reveals Greater-Than-Expected Animal Life in Shelby Township

By Yang Zhang

More than two dozen nature lovers took to the snowy trails Jan. 29, exploring the Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary in Shelby Township.

The field trip, organized by the Michigan Nature Association and Hiking Michigan, introduced participants to the beauty of nature at one of the only natural areas in an otherwise developed area.

The 45-acre land was purchased by MNA in 1977. Martha Wolfe, co-steward at the sanctuary, said the land provides habitat for wildlife including many endangered species.

“It’s like a little jewel in the middle of the suburbs here,” she said.

Wolfe has worked as a steward at the sanctuary for approximately six years. She frequently visits the woods and has spotted deer, wild turkeys and other animals.

Rob Golda, director of Hiking Michigan, a club that leads free hikes and outdoor activities, led the field trip along snow-covered winding trails and taught people how to identify animal tracks.

“We want to show people places to return to in the summer,” he said.

Golda noted that many participants came from the area but never knew there was such a natural place nearby.

Along the trails, Golda helped hikers identify different animal tracks, including deer and squirrels. Participants were thrilled when they found the tracks from a flock of turkeys numbering more than 20.

“It’s the fun of hiking in winter,” Golda said, referring to the tracks.

MNA has marked trails and built fences in the sanctuary to make it more accessible to the public. Volunteers help pick up trash and remove invasive species, such as glossy buckthorn.

“This place is beautiful and so close to home for me,” said field trip participant Kathy Larson. She lives two miles away from the sanctuary but had never visited it. She will definitely visit the natural area again in the summer, she said.

Katherine Hollins, MNA’s regional stewardship organizer, planned the event and was happy that so many people attended. It was a great opportunity to let people learn about MNA and the special natural areas the organization protects.

Many of the participants showed an interest in MNA, and said they intend to become members and volunteers.

If you would like to become a member, or get more information about the MNA Mission, please visit our website at http://www.michigannature.org.

Also, MNA is currently seeking volunteers for two events at the Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary; one Feb. 8 to manage invasive species and the other March 26 to promote natural awareness at a youth event. If you are interested in volunteering at the Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary, contact Regional Stewardship Coordinator Katherine Hollins at 517-525-2627 or khollins@michigannature.org.

If you are interested in other events around the state of Michigan, please visit our event calendar.