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The Vinalhaven Sightings Report is organized and edited by Kirk Gentalen on behalf of Vinalhaven Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Out and about on Vinalhaven, MCHT steward Kirk Gentalen reports on what he and others have seen in their travels. Contributions of stories and photos are welcome, and can be sent to


Sunday, April 3, 2011


Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report - April 3rd, 2011

Brought to you by the kind folks at VLT and MCHT

Highlights: Turkey Vulture, Merlin, Great Blue Heron, Ducks & Exoducks, Seal Bay, Eagle on nests, Woodcocks everywhere, Killdeer, Operculum poop, clouds

Upcoming Events: Basin Marsh Clean-up - April 9th, 10am to Noon. You bring some gloves and we'll bring some bags and we'll all team up to make the Basin a little more nicer. Meet at Skoog to carpool. We've already gotten one truck offer, we won't say who's truck, but at this point i'd just like to point out what a pleasant place the Tidewater Inn is to stay at when you are visiting or have family visiting or just want to stay in a hotel/motel. Anyway, if we could get another truck that might be cool, but also might be unneccessarryy. Whatever, come and clean up some garbage, and feel better about yourself. VLT event!

Will we get this good of a look on April 16th?
Close to Full Moon/Woodcock walk: Saturday April 16th, 6:30 - 9pm. Meet at Skoog park/VLT office to carpool. The plan this year is to head up to the Tip-toe area of Crockett Cove for sunset (7:22pm ), followed by wonderful views of the moon, and wrapping up with one of the most consistently and clearly viewed male Woodcock on Vinalhaven. Our plan is to watch his fantastic aerial display and hope to get scope views when he is on the ground. If his plan pans out he'll be doing a little cloacal kissing on the side. This is a VLT sponsored event.
Sightings:  Quick ones - Killdeer (2) - calling & flying way up high over my house (4/3).

Great Blue Heron - (3/31) flying over Sand Cove towards Carvers Pond. 

Turkey Vulture - (3/30) flying over Carver's Pond

Merlin (3/31) - Heard on Greens Isl.

you lookin at me?
 Longer Ones -  American Woodcock - I'm adding this for no other reason than i finally got some good woodcock photos in my backyard this afternoon (4/3). While talking with my mom i noticed a fluffy ball in a puddle under some shrubs. It was moving and so did i to get some close ups of this beauty. check out those feathers! Check out those eyes? This bird is certainly full of *PEENT*.

With that said, many people are talking about their neighborhood woodcocks. Whatsmore,  i have the pleasure to report that Lane's Island is loaded with woodcock once again! Readers with good memories and not a lot to think about will remember the absence of woodcock last year, possibly attributed to a Great Horned Owl moving into the neighborhood. whatever the reason its great to have them back at lane's, 6 males displaying (3/30) all heard and seen from the graveyard picnic tables (cuz where else are you going to have a picnic on lane's?). Anyway, find yourself outside on a nice night and stay out past the sunset, and almost to the end of the "afterburn" sunset and perk your ears up for the "peent"s in your neighborhood. Neighborhood has been mentioned 3 times in this paragraph - make that 4.
Why do we love seal bay?

Seal Bay - A kayak trip (3/30) turned out to be most fortuitous as far as wildlife went. Ducks were numerous : 100+ Oldtails, 100+ Buffleheads, 40 Surf Scoter, infinity plus 1 Common Eiders, 50 + Common Goldeneye - all seen from the kayak.

Penobscot Island eagle nest. Adult sitting tight on eggs? Hatchlings?
The Bald Eagle nest on Penobscot Island was occupied by a low, hunkering adult who was keeping either eggs, or more likely a hatchling or two warm. As you can see in the picture above the nest is an impressive collection of sticks high up in a nook on a Eastern White Pine. We will be monitoring that nest's success/progress (who are we to judge) throughout the spring.

trying to get their attention.
While the bald eagle was sitting tight, just on the other side of Big Smith Island, Harbor Seals were getting a little ancy or frisky or competitive or just plain old loud. The location was a favorite seal ledge where several seals were waiting for the tide to go and were jockeying for position on the ledges. In the photos you will see a rather large Harbor Seal (pregnant female anyone?) dominating the scene highest up on the rocks. There was a much smaller seal (non-pregnant female or young male anyone?) who seemed to take exception to the big ol' seal being on top.

intense circling

There were many leaps like the one pictured above that resulted in some big splashes. every now and then the seal in the water would circle around the ledge, splashing and swimming just at the surface leaving white water in its wake. This went on for about 15 mintues before the big one bolted from the top ledge after the agitator and the likes of them were never identified again

thats my paddle, my kayak, my arm, my camera,
and my head and beard shadows.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, with water clear enough you could see my beard shadow on the bottom!and in conclusion let me remind you that only people who don't care about your happiness tell you not to kayak in the winter. Fact.
2 Basin Watches - (3/31) 4 Barrow's Goldeneye, 7 Common Goldeneye, 12 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Oldtails, 1 Surf Scoter, 2 Black Duck, 2 Bufflehead, 2 Bald Eagles, 15 Harbor Seal, 3 Common Loon, 66 Herring Gull

(4/3) 3 Common Loon, 7 Common Goldeneye, 2 Barrow's Goldeneye, 9 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Oldtails, 4 Black Duck, 7 Common Eider, 213 Herring Gull, 7 Harbor Seal, 2 Black Guillemot.

The story in the Basin is the same one that will be told around the island over the next few weeks. Duck exodus. Paired up and ready to kiss a little closer to breeding zones, the duck numbers are starting to get low. Except for Seal Bay, possibly a staging ground for species as they make their way north. Anyway, its been fun to have them around - thank a merganser while you have the chance!

 Raccoon poop takes on many forms. From crab exoskeletons, to mussel shell bits & apple chunks, you can always find out way more about raccoons than you'd ever want to know just by checking out what comes out.  Take for instance the operculum poop i found on Big Smith Island in Seal Bay. The raccoon's behind that is behind this impressive poop has done his part to put a dent in the local non-native perriwinkle snail population. Folks who have played nicely with snails will recognize the operculum as that handy trap door to the snails use to avoid predators, minimalize imjury when chucked or while rolling, and to keep in moisture until the next high tide. Folks who haven't played nicely know the operculum as that fun thing to rip off a snail. so it goes.      Anyway, this raccoon had a particular fine feast of snails as the operculum poop proves!
Editor note - we never, ever touch raccoon poop. i know you are tempted to, but stick to mink and otter poop for touching. use a stick with raccoon feces, there might be some parasites in there that would love to tap into your brain for a bit. just a warning.

state beach clouds
and so i have to apologize for the arrangement of these last few pictures. sometimes the blog and i are on the same team, and sometimes teammates don't agree on where pictures should be placed. so it goes,                


last ice - from the basin

And there you have it. short and sweet. recent snow - well - no coyote trail did i find to follow. but thats alright. we've moved on now. salamander week? oh yeah!

leify waving to an airplane with mom