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.

Posts about Birding

Identifying Geese, Conservation Issues, Turkey Hunting

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 16, 2012 - 5:53 AM

Thoughts in General

Identifying Geese

As I and several others were watching the waterfowl at Lake Byllesby last weekend several people asked how to tell if approaching geese where dark colored blue phase snow geese or white-fronted geese (speckle bellies to some hunters). As a long time hunter I explained that you will rarely see an entire flock of dark bellied geese (over 10 in number) that are snow geese, because there will almost always be some white colored geese with them. Interestingly, the blue phase of the snow goose is predominant, and generally speaking, there are more blue phase geese from east to west within the lesser snow goose’s range. Another way to distinguish between species of geese is that Canada Geese have a low-pitched honk, or a two syllable "her–onk as a "social contact" call, Cackling geese use a higher pitch. Snow geese and Ross’s goose often sound like cow… cow; with Ross’s geese having a highter pitch. White-fronted geese generally string three individual notes together, in a cow cow cow… cow cow cow.


With spring arriving, and these warm temperatures,, and the arrival of migrant birds and the appearance of wildflowers, comes the urge to get outside and enjoy nature, even if it only to take a walk. I know that conservation is not a hot topic among outdoor lovers, nonetheless the average person, but it should be. All you have to do if you are an outdoor lover is look around, almost anywhere, even the backcountry to see the impact of humane on the environment. There are roads where there didn’t used o be any - and developments along with them – which means the habitat was disturbed, if not destroyed.

It doesn’t take much of a disturbance to impact an ecosystem. A path or road can change the course of water runoff. Which may lead o erosion, and soil, along with possibly insecticides and herbicides, draining into watersheds where it never used to. The resultant pollution can affect the flora and fauna of an entire ecosystem, from the bottom up. From algae to microorganisms, which in turn can affect invertebrates and plant life that is eaten by larger animals, on up the food chain to birds and small animals, and eventually to raptors and predators; even humans.

I’ll get into more conservation issues as time goes on – in the hope that some people actually read about it, and do something about it, and care. You can help by asking your friends to check in here from time to time, to discuss conservation issues - because we really need to.

Pet Peeve

On an off note, trails and roads often lead to more human travel, which leads to more disturbance and erosion, and trash. It seems some people cannot go anywhere without leaving their unwanted trash behind them, I know that there really is not an outdoor lover who likes to see trash or any kind, from cigarette butts to food wrappers and styrofoam. So – every time you take a walk or even a car ride, why not take along a couple of easily transportable plastic bags, and pick up any trash you see along the way.

What can we do? First of all. Join an active conservation organization, that is involved in ecosystem preservation and wildlife and wild flora conservation, When it comes to walking or hiking try to stay on existing trails and roads as much as possible, so there is not more disturbance of the topsoil, which may be the only thing that keeps runoff from occurring. And remember – if you can pack it in, you can pack it out. Please do not leave trash behind you.

Turkey Behavior & Turkey Hunting

With turkey season fast approaching, I have a few pointers for turkey hunters. Toms will be gobbling now, so you can start early morning scouting to locate calling birds. Look or listen for them at known roosting sites and feeding / strutting areas. Usually I would warn against scouting too far in advance of the hunting season, because turkeys often migrate between winter and spring home ranges – due to forage availability and the need to find cover enough to protect them from cold and strong winds. So, when there is snow on the ground, in March, and you hunt in April, you may find the birds in one area in March, and a completely different are in April. But, that probably will not be true this year, because the snow has been gone for several weeks, and the birds may already be on their spring breeding ranges.

Personally I would start scouting now, and locate as many flocks as I can – so I have more than one tom or groups of tom to hunt when it comes time to hunt. If you have enough time, scout several days in a row, because if you are able to watch the birds, you may be able to discern their semi-regular daily patterns. Generally you will find that they have several preferred roosting and early morning feeding / strutting sites. And you might find the when they use a particular roosting sites, they generally have one or two feeding areas they go to within a a half hour of sunrise, where the toms will often show up after the hens,

Toms generally begin gobbling on the roost, to try and locate any hens in the area, and generally fly down after the hens, and gobble infrequently as they go to the hens or a feeding /strutting area. Once they are in sight of the hens, toms often stop gobbling and begin strutting and use a spit (a loud exhale of air form the air sacks in their chest) and boom (it is not drumming per se) as they let out air from their air sacks, creating a boom like a prairie chicken, which they are related too. If and when the hens leave the first feeding area, the toms may follow if the hens leave in mass, (often early in the season). If the hens leave individually to go off to nest, (later in the breeding season, often after mid April) the toms may stay at the feeding area and gobble for up to a half hour, before leaving to go to another feeding area, gobbling infrequently as they go. Once they are at the second feeding area, they will often gobble frequently at first, hoping a few hens show up, and gobble less frequently as time goes on. They generally stop after 20-30 minutes, and go to yet another feeding area, or begin to feed or groom themselves, or head of into the woods. You should locate as many of these morning feeding areas as you can, so you hve a chance to hunt all morning long, if you are not successful early.


If you areinterested inh a birding / nature tour of any kind, or outdoor photography trip, in MN,SD.ND Wi or CO, contact TRMichels@yahoo.com.  

Enjoy God's Great Outdoors

God bless,

T.R. Michels



2012 Early March Goodhue Cty Birding

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 15, 2012 - 11:23 AM

On Thursday I saw a Cooper's Hawk about 1/2 mile west of the east end of Cliff Road, where it ends against the T-road near St. Patrick's Cemetery in Inver Grove Heights. At Black Dog Lake in Burnsville, MN I saw an Eagle  flying off the former Osprey nest on the Power line tower in the lake, plus 2 swans, presumably Trumpeters - probably descendants of the MN Zoo flock (which are evident by pink,/scarlet tags on the wing). I did not see an eagle in the nest - which is within 30 yards of Black Dog Road and the west sluice gate, where a pair had nested 2 years ago.

At the town of Randolph, in the  Industrial Park at about 3PM on Sunday, we saw 3 pair of Redhead and 1 drake Canvasback, plus a Loggerhead Shrike (in the pond near the church) and an American Kestrel. At Lake Byllesby we saw in excess of 1500 Lesser Snow geese, including several hundred blue phase. There were over 1000 Canada geese, and several hundred White-fronted Geese were arriving. There were approximately 1000 Mallards in 3 different flocks on the ice. Near the Snow geese were several ducks in the water, including at least 1 drake Pintail, 1 drake Bufflehead, 1 drake Redhead, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, several Common Mergansers, and hundreds of Lesser Scaup/Ring-necked Ducks, plus Mallards. Suipposedly there were Ross' geese and Cackling geese there, but too far out to verify. Several Bald Eagles were seen, and 1 Red-tailed Hawk.


Bell's Vireo & Other Birding Locations

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 17, 2011 - 7:35 PM

While taking a short walk through the Fens Unit of the MN Valley NWR, on Cliff Road in Burnsville, just east of I-35W,I saw or heard Yellow Warbler, Common Yelowthroat, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Goldfinch, Catbird, rd-tailed Hawk and right where the line of shrubs and trees starts after you pass the first power line stanchion, I heard the Bell's Vireo. As Linda Whyte mentioned on the Birding LIst, it is about where the Yellow-breasted Chat was seen and heard a few years ago. Earlier in the year I noticed the white orchids on the south side of the trail, about 100 paces past the end of the trees after the first powerline stanchion.

I certainly hope this area is not inundated with birders who cannot stay on the taril, but who feel they have to walk off the trail in order to see the bird. This tramnples a lot of delicate vegetation.Please stay on the trails.

If you wait long enough, the bird will show itself.

This holds true for birds and and animlas on all State and National "Wildlife Areas", please stay on the trails so you do not damge the fragile habitat. it is the rule, and do not take your dog off the leash, or leave it home. Please do not leave behind any trash, and pick up any trash you see.

Several Bobolinks can be viewed south of Lakeville, by taking I- 35W to 260th Street, taking the first leffr onto Irving Street, and following it south to the second curve, where you will see grasssy areas to your left and right. The birds often sit on the barbed wire fence on the west side fo the road. Soras and Grasshoppee Sparrow  may be heard in the marshes, and Wild Turkey, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawks, Common Yellowthroat, Bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks may be seen or heard. About 3/4of a mile south you will find a Nature Area, where several species of birds can be seen.

If you get off I-35W at 210th Street, and take an immediate left, it will take you to Ritter Farm Park , where numerous birds species, including nesting Bald Eagles on the first lake, can be seen on the park's groomed trails, such as Scarlet Tanager, Cerulean Warbler and Towhee.

Early June Birding Report

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 16, 2011 - 1:14 PM

The following information has been provided courtesy of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union.

The following is a list of recent, significant sightings:

A Whimbrel continues to be seen at the Park Point ball fields in Duluth, and was seen as recently as June 14.

As many as 40 Red-Throated Loons were spotted just off Stoney Point on Lake Superior in St. Louis County on the 12th.

On June 14, Bruce Baer found a Henslow's Sparrow in Dakota County, roughly one-half mile east of Biscayne Avenue along 190th Street.

Information in this statewide birding report is provided by the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union (MOU), Minnesota's oldest and largest bird club.

June 11, 2001 Birding Report

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: June 11, 2011 - 1:35 PM

From the Birding Report:

On June 6, Chris Wood spotted a Mississippi Kite over Lake Girard Park in the city of Bloomington in Hennepin County. Paul Egeland saw a White-Eyed Vireo here earlier in the day.

On the 7th, a Whimbrel was on the Park Point ball fields in the city of Duluth in St. Louis County. On the following day, as many as eight Red-Throated Loons were on Lake Superior just off the main beach.

On June 9, three Plegadis Ibis were seen by Betsy Beneke as they flew over I-94 at Mile Marker 76, south of Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County.

On the 9th, Shawn Conrad found a few Yellow Rails in Aitkin County at the McGregor marsh. The birds were calling on the west side of State Highway 65 just over one-tenth of a mile south of State Highway 210.

A Northern Mockingbird was at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Lake County on the 5th. It was seen in a field opposite the visitor center.

Note: My cousin’s husband Lee Reznick, is the manager of that state park, and lives on the property. Stop in, introduce yourself, tell him you heard from me, and tell him what you saw there. I’m trying to get him interested in birds. TR


My friend Linda Whyte posted this on the Minnesota Birding List web page – after we "walked into each other" at the Fens Unit of the MN Valley National Wildlife Preserve off of Cliff Road in Burnsville.

Return of cool weather made the Cliff Fen to Black Dog Trail a good place for exercise. Rob finally got his FOY Sandhill Cranes with a leisurely fly-over by four of them, heading west to east. The expected summer residents were present, but it was especially gratifying to hear and briefly see the returned Bell's Vireos. There were at least 2, possibly 3 of them, not in the prior location by the first power stanchion pair, but further east along the trail, next to the 2nd power stanchion, about where the Chat hung out one summer. (TR Michels, it was good to see you again.) Linda

Good to see you too Linda, we had a great talk about the Whooping Cranes and Research Bears. TR

Note: I’ve heard Sandhill Cranes while I was walking about a mile east on the trail that follows the Minnesota River from the State Park boat landing under the Cedar Avenue Bridge. My wife and I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a young one land in the marshes just east of that bridge last year. We were parked along Black Dog Road across from the model boat "boating" pond. I suspect there is a nesting pair in the area. TR

Bobolinks and Dickcissels are being seen on prairies now. Bobolinks seem to prefer mostly grassy areas, while Dickscissels seem to prefer areas with a good amount of tall weeds to "Tee Up" on (sing from).

Remember, take a family member or friend on a nature tour - and enjoy our Great Outdoors.


If you are interested in a local guide for birding, or nature tours, send an e-mail to me at TRMichels@yahoo.com. I’m just looking for excuses to go – and try out my Canon new camera. 


May God bless all of you,




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