T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Flocks of Large Migrating Birds in Minnesota

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Environment, Birding Updated: March 18, 2012 - 5:17 PM

Yesterday I hear the first Song Sparow, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Thrasher,Red-winged Blackbirds, a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos (probably from Iowa) and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeker of the spring. The Brown Thrasher and woodpeckers are normally here,through the winter, but I did not hear or see them this last winter. earlier in the week I saw about 8 pair of Mallards, only one pair of Canada Geese this year (so far) and one pair of Hooded Mergansers (dont' think they stayed around last year).  

Add that to our normal 4-6 Blue Jays, pair of Northern Cardinals, pair of Red-belliedWoodpeckers, pair of Downy Woodpecker (now Hairys) dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees,4-6 Gray squirrels, 2-4 Cotontail Rabbits, 1 Opossum, several White-tailed Deer,,family of 2-6 Coyotes (no Raccoons seen), and you have our normal year round fauna. My wife saw a pair of Bald Eagles and we saw a Red-tailed Hawk last week. So - we have a backyard bird conut of 12 so far this year.

Although we are right across from Inver Hills College, about 1/4 mile behind Inver Grove Library and 1/2 mile from Simley HIgh School, I have heard but not seen any House Finches, and have not seen a single European House Sparrow, which I consider very strange. I have not heard our Great-horned Owls this year either. But, we have heard coyote pups trying out their hight pitched howls behnd the house.  I'm hoping to see our Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebees, Wood Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron again this year, plus the pair of Common Yellowthroats that were here last year too.  .     

Migrating Birds

I’ve had a lot of questions about those large flocks of large birds many birders and nature lover are seeing, Here are some notes form my book Duck and Goose Addict’s Manual that may prove to be interesting.

People all over the state have been seeing flocks of unexpected geese this spring,probably due to the fact that it has been so dry, that there is very little water on the ground or in lakes rivers and ponds out west, that many waterfowl species that normally migrate through the Dakotas, have had to move east, therefore migrarting through our great state with its over 10,000 lakes, and many more ponds and marshes - or sloughs as waterfowlers are apt to call them.

The Canads Goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies we see all year long is the of the Giant Canada Goose (B. c. maxima) which is the resident goose of Minnesota. Basically speaking, if it was hatched in Minnesota, it is probably a Giant Canada. The Giant Canada subspecies was deemed extinct until 1947, when Harold C. Hanson, a biologist of the Illinois Natural History Survey, re-discovered them on Silver Lake n downtown Rochester, MN. They breed from central Manitoba to the western edge of the Central Plains, south to Kansas, they often winter in the same areas, some migrating up to 600 miles south in one day, but still wintering within the normal subspecies range. The parvipes (Lesser) subspecies may also be seen in Minnesota, It breeds in the Canadian forest from central Alaska to the northwestern edge of Hudson Bay, and winters in Washington and Oregon. The interior subspecies may be seen in Minnesota on migration. It breeds from Ungava Bay to Hudson Bay to northern Manitoba to southern Baffin Island and southwestern Greenland, wintering in the Eastern United States

The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) subspecies we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota, is the Richardsons’ Goose (B.C. hutchinsii) subspecies, which breeds from the Mckenzie Delta, NWT, east to western Baffin Island, south to Southhampon Island and the McConnell River, Hudson Bay and winters from New Mexico and Texas into the northern highlands of Mexico and coastal Texas to Louisiana south to Northern Vera Cruz, Mexico.

The subspecies of the Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota is the Lesser Snow goose (Chen Caerulescens cerulescens ).

The White-fronted Goose (Anwer albifrons) (known as speckle bellies to hunters) we are most likely to see here in Minnesota on migration, is the large, pale, gambelli, which breeds from northern Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters in Mexico and Texas.

We also see two species of san, our resident Trumpeter Swans, which bred in the Midwest and central Canada, and many f which winter on the Mississippi river in Monticello, Minnesota. Trumkpeters Swans were basically exterminated from Minnesota until the U of M and other organizations began to re-introduce them through transplants and the hatching of eggs form the Yellowstone ecosystem and Alaska. Tundra Swans migrate through the state in the spring and fall, with many as 20,000 stopping off on migration in the fall, before continuing on east to the wintering ground on the central east Atlantic coast. Many of them breeding Alaska and north central Canada And southwestern Hudson’s Bay. One way to distinguish them n flight is if there are more than ten birds in a flock, they are probably Tundra Swans, because Trumpeter swans often fly in pair and family relate flocks, not in huge migratory flocks of several dozen to hundreds of birds.

In addition we may see families and flocks of Sandhill Cranes. The subspecies we are most likely to see are the resident Greater Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis tabida) of which there may be 65,000 – 75,000 and the Canadian Sandhill Crane (G.c.rowani), with an estimated populatin of 450,000. We may also see the extremely rare white Whooping Crane (Grus americana) , which is now being transplanted and also recently naturally breeding in central Wisconsin. Last year two young Whooping Cranes were seen nar Dennison, Minnesota few miles east of Highway 52 south of the Twin Cities.

We may also see white American Pelicans (Pelicanus erythrorhynos), and their relative the Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalocrocorqx auritus).Cormorants nest all over the state, and often nest in old dead, large trees over water. Large populations of Pelicans may be seen on northwestern Minnesota in the summer. But, they often breed on western and Canadian waters.

You can get copies od all of my books by logging on to the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com and clicking on theTrinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog link - under the Hunting Websites section of the Web Site Directory.

II dont; expect the waterfowl migration to last much longer, so get out there and enjoy it while you can..

God bless, and please stop smoking, if not for you - for your loved ones.  

T.R.

Oh- I'm 63 on the 19th. Getting old - er, or is that err!

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