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.

What 's Been Happening

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Birding Updated: May 14, 2012 - 4:11 PM


TRMichels@yahoo.com. .

God bless and enjoy Gods great outdoors,



Well, as Ricky said to Lucy on the old Lucy Ball show- "You’ve got some splainin’ to do Lucy."
I haven’t been around much for a number of reasons. The least of which was my wife’s diagnosis of lung cancer in July of last year. I’m happy to say that with a lot of faith in Yahweh-God, lots of prayers, and her positive bordering on ornery attitude (I am not going to die!), and great doctors, chemotherapy and radiation, followed by complete removal of her left lung, my wife is on her way to a full if slightly limited recovery. But, we almost lost her 2 time sin the4 hospital and once at home.

While my wife was in the hospital, my youngest daughter was recovering from bariatiric surgery. While she has lost over 100 pounds in a year, she has had numerous complication with her liver, a hiatal hernia, low blood sugar with her diabetes, etc. She was actually in the hospital while my wife was in the hospital.

While all that was going on I was suffering from a massive skin infection (MRSA), during which I lost enough blood that my blood count and hemoglobin count were low, and I experienced exhaustion for about three months. There were several days a week when I could not force myself to get out of bed. But, IU; on the mend. Enough to that I’ve been going some photography at the MN Zoo, and some birding.

This year in our backyard we have had only one notable newcomer, a Great-crested Flycatcher, which probably was only stopping by for a rest, because I have not heard it lately. I have not seen the American Redstart that I saw onetime near our bird feeder last year, nor have I seen the Common Yellowthroat, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker or Baltimore Oriel, but I have heard them. I have not seen or heard a Purple Finch or a European House Sparrow either, although we are within 20 yards of a residential district, where I am sure they can be found. This puzzles me for the third straight year..

We had a flock of White-throated Sparrows and a White-Crowned Sparrow along with the Dark-eyed Juncos this winter. Our normal resident birds include Red-tailed Hawk, Common Crow, American Cardinal, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Mallard, Giant Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron. Because we are not more than a mile form the Mississippi river we often see Turkey Vulture, Double–crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles and Tundra Swans. We saw about four species of Diver ducks during spring migration last year, but none this year, and our Wood Ducks are not present either. So, we hve had 24 species this year, do wn form about 33 last year.

Last year I did not get out in time to see the Whooping Cranes, which were seen not more than 5 miles from our old house in SE MN last year- so I was determined not to miss seeing the Ibis that was seen on 180 Street, not more than 6 or 7 miles south of where we now live, just of Highway 52. So, upon seeing mention on the Birding on the Net site on the Internet, I jumped in the cat and drove out there. And sure enough I saw, not close, but close enough that I got some blurry photos for identification. And from what I saw on the computer, it appeared to be a White-faced Ibis. I alos saw a pair of Greater YellowLegs, Kildeer, two drake Northern Shovelers, a pair of Lessser Scaup (bluebills for you hunters) and a Red-tailed Hawk.

Anyhow, I hope to pot a bit more frequently as I recover from my exhaustion, and walking to build my strength back up. But, now I’ve got a case of cellulitis in my feet, with a lot of swelling, rash and pain. Add that to the neuropathy of the feet I got as a result of being on methodone for pain (which did not work) that resulted in edema/swellig of the feet, and I feel like my feet are on fire, which makes it difficult to walk. But, being in pain with sciatica since I was 19, 44 years ago, and with at least 10 pinched nerves in my neck and back and chronic atypical facial pain in my face, l just have to learn to live with it, and push on. If you are looking for a natural history tour for any of our rarer Midwest bird species, or a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, with my good friend Dr. Mike Brooks as our resident guide, please contact me at Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures,


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.  


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

Identifying Geese, Conservation Issues, Turkey Hunting

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Environment, Recreation, Birding 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



Family Update and Nature Tours

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 15, 2012 - 11:43 AM

Sorry I he not been around, I've been dealing with exhustion, plus my daughters continued complications in the aftermath of her bariatric surgery, But, she has lost 100 pounds in a year. Also dealng with my wife Diane's surgery to remove her left lung due to cancer. She has been  home  for about a month, and is doing great.

I suspect this early warm weather, may result in an early spring. BIrds do not migrate as a result of photoperiod / date, but rather due to warm weather / lack of snow deph. So - we may see many migrants show up early this year. plus early breeding (such as turkeys for you hunters). Unfortunatley for insect and invertbrate eaters, if there is later cold weater or snow, it may result in a shortage of forage, and death due to starvation and hypothermia as a result of starvtion. We saw this in bluebirds a few years ago. 

I suspect spring wildflowers may appear early too. So, gert out and enjoy God's great outdoors.    

Thanks for all of your prayers,

God bless,


PS: We plan on doing a lot of birding and nature tours the rest of the spring and summer. If you are interested in a birding. wildlife, wildlowering or photography tour in MN, WI, ND, SD or CO -  e-mail TRMichels@yahoo.com

First up will be Cedar Bridgd, and severallocalparks and known birding area. for waterfowl nd wading / shore birds. Then Crex Meadows for Tr Swans, Osprey, warblers, B Eagles, waterfowl, shorebirds, otter,fisher, wolf, deer.

Then a trip to the SD's Black Hill's and Custer State Park, And then CO's Rocky Mtn Park..   

2012 Early March Goodhue Cty Birding

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Birding 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.



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