Brought to you by

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


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

this one was not a juniper
Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report
Brought to you with the support of VLT and MCHT May 16th, 2011
“you can’t burn the neck!” or something like that…

Highlights – Burning Calderwood Island, Coyote footprint!, Tidepooling featuring Nudibranchs featuring Red-gilled nudibranchs laying eggs in spiraling egg cases, Orioles on oranges, Hummingbirds, Warblers, Pond Scooping. Boblink

Ongoing activities – Tuesday morning bird walks. Let’s be honest, the Tuesday weather hasn’t been dry at all - thanks to the hardcores for coming. Even in the midst this morning - Black-throated Blue, Black and White, Nashville's, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, Eastern Towhee, Grey Catbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Ovenbird. Next week - the 24th is the last one! 

some would say "half burned"
others might say "half un-burned".
Several videos were allowed to be uploaded for whatever reason. apologized up front
Burn Stuff – Calderwood Island (5/13). They said Friday the 13th is the day of choice when thinking about torching an island and they were right.  With that in mind MCHT and the Maine Forest Service got together for a prescribed burn of old growth juniper in the meadows on MCHT’s Calderwood Island - just east of Stimpson Island and the Sparkplug/goose rocks lighthouse in the thoroughfare.  

Some may have noticed smoke, some might have called Mark to see what the deal was. This is what was going on.

Not too long ago Calderwood was a classic, grassy picnic haven with unlimited views in all directions for folks. Over the last few years the meadows and trails have become a juniper hell where satan could be found scratching your legs with his pitchfork. Needless to say, much blood has been let on the Calderwood trail system. Anyway, the plan is for grass to now re-establish itself in the meadows now that space has been opened. 

And so the call was made to exercise the demon (with a prescribed burn), and the forest service was more than happy to help. MCHT’s steward and lead pyro Amanda Devine gets a big tip o’ the hat for making this dream come true. Wouldn’t have even ever been close to happening without her leading the team, so kudos and congratulations on a job well done.

my job was to keep the fire burning.
i did this by not spraying water at the flames

For the forest service it was an excuse for a burn and a training session for recent recruits and for MCHT it was a chance to remove an unfavorable, dominant species and possibly a rehearsal for other MCHT properties down the line.

The bottom line is that it turned out to be one of the coolest days of work I’ve ever had. The juniper caught like wildfire (literally) and it was easy to look like you were working hard.

ain't nothing like that orange
Feeders - Skin Hill – With the word being spread that orioles were on the loose on the island, a pair of neighboring feeder scenes put out oranges and were pleasantly supplanted with the Icterid friends.

This shot is of a Baltimore Oriole taken by Bob Desandro, but first spotted by Sofia!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also seen at feeders around town.
Red-winged Blackbird females have been hanging around at feeders in town and out on Dyer’s Island.

Crappy Video -  On lane’s island, taking video of a Greater Yellowlegs swimming, when a Muskrat swam across the little cesspool along the driveway in.
(unfortunately the blog will not let me put videos on at this time) i will try again later
Thus I got this video of poor quality, but clearly a muskrat in action.

School Stuff

6th graders are doing some cool surveys of critters found in local habitats. So tidepooling at lane’s  (5/6) with Hannah, Hannah Jo and Trevor (the carcass photographer) became a focused census of whatever critters we found,  even the lame ones!  

Here’s a paragraph that became a poem:

Lane’s tidepool trips
with middle schoolers never disappoint,
and the fact that this was a school trip
was even more
the disappoint not neither nor
and didn’t effect the affect
on the disappointment level status.

the next generation of eolid nudibrnachs
aren't they cute?

Anyway. We last visited this zone during spring break (3 weeks ago), and the changes since then were obvious. The snail fish were gone (as far as we could find) but Nudibranches (sea slugs) were in and were laying eggs!

With the magic of the “internet” and the use of updated and upgraded field guides we found pictures matching the slugs in question with 2 species of nudibranchs - the Red-fingered Aeolis (Flabellina  verocossa) and Coryphella pellucida, the “Pellucid aeolid”.

The name "Pellucid Aeolid" can be loosely translated as “an easily understood aeolid slug”, but probably is a reference to some translucent features of the critter. We are always open to identification  by people who know about these things.

anyway, both species are very similar -

"The color in ... aeolids  is very often a result of the color of their food, which accumulates in the ducts of their digestive gland. The Red-gilled Nudibranch is the most common found of these species that are easily confused with each other."
                                                  -     seashore life, j.duane sept

And yes, both species are “Aeolid” sea slugs or nudibranches (“those who walk with naked gills” I made this quote up). Nudibranchs  or sea slugs (subclass Opisthobranchia) are gastropods (class) along with snails and limpets. Eolids slugs  are a group that can be generalized as nudibranchs that…

that's alot of eggs.

“…have appendages called cerata on their backs, which act as gills…The cerata increase the surface area of the skin, through which the nudibranch breathes. Eolids use their jaws to cut chunks of tissue from hydroids and anemones, but do not get stung in the process. The stinging cells of the prey pass intact through the nudibranch’s digestive system to the tips of cerata. Nudibranchs use the stinging cells to defend themselves.” 

- The Seaside Naturalist, Deborah A. Coulumbe 

The story with the eolid nudibranchs (there were two) was the “undulating coils” of eggs that they were laying. VVNM for me after 7 years of spring tidepooling. Timing and luck were on our side this day and we checked out these two slugs and their prodigy.  

How many eggs were in these coils? How long before they hatch? How come we’d never found them before there? These were pools and rocks I had checked out many times over the years, never seen 'em before. Or had them register before. We found a few coils in the deeper pool, but this rock was the real score in the shallows.

White Atlantic Cadlina
A second nudibranch group was represented by this White Atlantic Cadlina (Cadlina laevis). An inch is about as big as these guys get, feasting off of "slime sponges" which "are abundant on rocky New England shores.". Still, "the White Atlantic Cadlina is found only locally, in widely separated populations".

                                             - Audubon Guide to Seashore Creatures

We also found 3 Rock Gunnels, Sea Cucumber, Sea Urchins, Scaleworms, Crabs, Amphipods, lots of dog winkles with eggs, and had an incredible session with these small fish with big green eyes. check 'em out in this video. Hannah jo spotted them, and after we nabbed a few they seemed to just rise from the depths - there were tons of these green-eyed fishies!

--Due to technical difficulties, the green eye fishy video will be included in a future report-- 

Armbrust Hill – (5/12) Pond scoop group – maybe you heard us as we made our way to the frog pond by the medical center. Anyway, a comparative study of ponds led us to armbrust hill and the catching was fairly different than the quarries we had visited recently.

Cole spotted the spring peeper (which we caught and released), and Tyson caught yet another newt (I have watched 6 adult newts being caught on vinalhaven – all by Tyson). There were plenty of Spotted Salamander egg cases (56 or so) to round out our amphibian totals at 3. Lots of big Dragonfly nymphs, and no tadpoles caught (1 scene – no evidence that it really was a tadpole). Back swimmer and water boatman also found. No clams.

Isle Au Haut Mtn. – (5/11)VLT sponsored a field trip for the 9th and 10th grade science classes up the Mtn. to help monitor reforestation plots. The students split into 4 groups and the plot work went so quickly that we had time for some vernal pool searching and whatever else we could find.
Coyote track

Shane, eggs and a wet Francis
The eggs were plentiful in areas, and some of the students were rather wet at the end of the outing.

Finding a fresh coyote track along an isolated puddle was a bonus for the day!

Sometime as recent as last week the island’s wild canine scene is still doing. probably got a quick drink at the puddle. or a long drink. or no drink.

Broad-winged Hawk, Bald Eagle, and Turkey Vulture seen as well.

Short one – Pleasant River fields  - (5/12) – 3 Turkey Vultures  catching thermals and 1 female Kestrel sitting on the barn as we took a dreamy drive by. Is all that bird scat on the Barn roof from Kestrels, or this Kestrel?

Cooper's Hawk in the ballground
Migration - The woods are filling up with songs of warblers, kinglets, creepers, chickadees and nuhatches and thrushes. The migrating songbirds also attract predators, like this Cooper's Hawk that held up for a bit in the shrubs along the ballground (5/5). The blood around the bill tell you he's been macking on someone, and the light streaks along  the breast distinguish it as a juvenile. Cooper's are closely related to Sharp-shinned Hawks, which are seen on more of a consistent basis out here on the island.  i believe this is the 4th Cooper's Hawk i have seen in the last 7 years out here.

Warbler Walk – (5/14) Elizabeth Swain and I had a nice stroll out on Lane’s. there was a little fog that morning, but the night had been clear so there was bound to have been migration movement the night before. Here’s what we came across:

bobolinks on  lane's
Scope view: Myrtle’s, Yellow, Nashville’s  Warbler. 6 Bobolink. 60 Purple Sandpipers

Bino – female Northern Harrier, American Goldfinch, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Black and White, Blue-headed Vireo, American Redstart. Savannah and Song Sparrow.

Heard – Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat 

The Bobolinks and Harrier were a special treat, as was the orange on the young male Blackburnian's chest.

and a special belated wish to mother's and those mother-like folks out there for mother's day.

we spent some time at tanglewood in lincolnville, one of our favorite spots. There were steam rollers to be sat on, sticks to be chucked off bridges, and eggs to be checked out! 
Word is lots of puffins at seal! thanks steve and jason for the updates!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – may 5th , 2011
happy birthday taya and aubrey!
Brought to you by vlt and mcht – thanks for the support!
"The slug is going for it!"

Highlights – Wood Duck Drama, Warblers, Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Butterflies, Vultures, Woodpeckers, Fungus (postponed due to time restrictions), Raptors, Deer Mystery, Pond scooping, Grey Catbird…. this report also includes a lot of pictures.

cinna-bun stage of a cinnamon fern
Upcoming events:  

Starting next Tuesday!!!!!
Tuesday morning birdwalks in May at Armbrust hill – 3rd year running. The last 2 years have been pretty productive, as Armbrust Hill’s  location on the southern end of Vinalhaven and mixed woods, can be a magnet for migrating songbirds. Tuesdays – May 10th, 17th, and 24th from 7am-9am. We’ll meet behind the medical center, please walk, carpool, ride your bike or skateboard (its still not a crime) to take whatever pressure off the limited parking there. See ya there and we’ll check out the original Tweeters. These are MCHT & VLT co-sponsored outings.

VLT’s Warbler Walk – Saturday May 15th, 8am-11am. The return of the son of a popular outing, location will be determined that day or the day before depending on where the warblers are. We’ll meet over at Skoog to carpool. Not too early, not too exclusive. All levels of interest in birds are welcome.

Cole scoopin'. well, standing in between scoops.
Other things – I want to thank the Freeport Feathered Folk Festival organizers for letting me join in the fun last weekend and giving me the opportunity to take folks on a bird walk where absolutely 1 bird was pointed out (Hermit Thrush – state bird of …..?), after which the conversation degraded quickly to Oklahoma State Bird trivia. Several other avian species were close to being pointed out, the coolest probably being a Black-and-white Warbler, but focus on the fungus was maintained with dignity. It was “Fungus over Freeportand the participants were well behaved overall. At one point we set the scope up on a Birch Polypore and told stories of the ice man Otzi (umlaut over the “z” I believe) as  folks took turns scoping the fungus! Now that's a bird walk! 

Dry jelly

Commentary - It’s dryorange jellies have dried up and now look like orange bat wings. vernal pools are full of algae and no place to raise larvae. Maybe dry isn’t the right word. Vernal pools are lower, or lack water completely. it's raining as i type though. the salamanders could use a little refresher right about now...

2 Longer ones -
Mack’s Pond, Old Harbor Area. Jessica Farrelly sent in these pictures that were “taken by Trevor Farrelly with direction from Tim and Joe.” Nice shots team!

the scene

Lots to be seen here. The intact ribs tell you the coyote was not involved in this dissection.

Possibly wounded and wandering  from last winter’s hunt? A victim of the persistent deep snow this winter? Scattered fur from wind, scavengers?


My favorite though is the recently split open and melt intestines, possibly stomach contents as well. This guy had some stuff in the system, might be hollow foods like ferns (no offense ferns) like rock fern (it could happen) that apparently can fill a stomach up, but give little to no nutritionals to said deer. Anyway, endless possibilities!

These pictures are awesome. So much information in so few shots. And they were apparently taken in succession, super efficient with the memory stick. Thanks Jessica!

Ocean view drive swamp – or the swamp. Cynthia Dyer shared the story of two pairs of wood ducks she watched battle over a Wood Duck box in the swamp - from her back window no less! Apparently one female waits on the roof of the box until the other female comes out and then tussles begin - is that the right word? She has also mentioned that the males have been getting into it a little bit as well behavior she hadn't seen before after years of watching the Wood Ducks thrive out her back door. Time for another box? or time for these ducks to realize there are "o'natural" cavities is trees around the neighborhood that should suffice? what is the red squirrel factor here? We'll keep you posted as developments develop.(5/4) Folly Pond - Male wood duck

Quick ones –

Terry Goodhue saw 3 Palm Warblers early on.

not a very good picture of a mourning cloak

Butterflies - (5/1) saw my first butterfly of the season, a well-seasoned American Lady. no photos were taken, but this one appeared to have had  a rougher winter than most as sizable chunk of its hind and fore wing's trailing edges were missing.

Notable: this is the first year in forever where a Mourning Cloak wasn't the first flittering lepid that i saw.

(5/2) Fox Rocks - 2nd butterfly of the year is Mourning Cloak. Allowed me to take this crappy picture. currently i am not physically capable of getting a good Mourning Cloak picture, lord only knows I've had my opportunities

Male Myrtle’s and adult male Yellow Warbler in shrub in yard.
Bike Rides - (4/24)- around the island – Many Myrtle Warbler’s, American Robin, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Merlin, Great Blue Heron, Red-breasted Mergansers (heavy displaying), Golden-croened Kinglets, Chickadees, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper

(5/1) 3 Palm Warblers, 1 Black-throated Green Warbler, many myrtles, female Kestrel hunting from the wires at pleasant river fields. 1 Northern Parula,  

Home – (4/27)

Lane’s – (4/27) – Yellow warbler (female), 6 Savannah Sparrows, Swamp Sparrow, Myrtle’s Warbler…(4/28) female Northern Parula
(4/28) Basin - Patience Chamberlin saw a Baltimore Oriole, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets,  
Carrying Place(4/28) – My 40th Birthday! And 2 Orchard Orioles, both an adult male and female, popped up from below a berm, coming up to eye level pretty close. That was the first adult male I’ve seen in Maine – vnmm.
male myrtle's - fox rocks parking
also known as "butter-butts"

Skin Hill – 3 Grey Catbirds seen lurking in the shrubs.

Scarlet Tanagers reported at Robert's Cemetery and somewhere else recently.

female myrtle's - fox rocks parking
also known as "butter-pits"

(5/2) Fox Rocks parking lot – (1)Black-throated Green & many Myrtle warblers were flycatching over the cess/vernal/kiddie pool. Actually made for good digiscoping – full framed scanning myrlte’s. All genders!  6 Turkey Vulture and 1 Red-tailed Hawk also seen.

(5/3) Isle Au Haut Mtn. - with Jamus Drury, while scouting out for a high school field trip next week we saw three birds total (he may have seen more, i saw three)- a Sharpie, a Broad-winged and a Black Vulture.

Most of you will remember that a few winters back a Black Vulture was seen over Greens Island by Willie Drury. That bird was spotted a day or so after a Black Vulture left the turkey farm in Warren after spending much of the previous winter there. Black Vultures are not commonly seen in Maine but i think are seen on at least a yearly basis these days (i think). Field Guides as recently the 5th edition of Natty Geo's birds of North America have Black Vultures breeding as far north as Rhode Island, Peterson's Guide to Hawks published in 1987 shows Black Vultures breeding as far north as Pennsylvania. Anyway, both books note the range expansion to the Northeast of Black Vultures. Welcome to the neighborhood

It's flight pattern tipped us off - rapid and stiff - compared to a Turkey Vulture's flight., The dark secondaries and white base to its primaries finalized it. note short tail. First one I've seen in Maine VNMM. and all we had to do was to lug ourselves up the 180 or so feet to the peak and let the birdies come to us!
Chase found all the clams

Longer One(5/3) Quarries behind the school“The Mt. Fritata ponds”- Had the pleasure of assisting three 6th graders on their middle school science project on insects – I’m hoping to impress the teacher. Anyway, day one of our comparative pond scoops set a fast pace as the very first scoop by Chase Wadleigh pulled up a Predacious Diving Beetle – albeit a dead one (from the smell this one had been dead for a bit). 40+ Green Frog tadpoles, 2 Red-backed Newt adults, 80+ Spotted Salamander egg cases, 30+ Mayfly nymphs (plus many in flight that attracted numerous Herring Gull above!).Phantom Midge and about 20 tiny freshwater clams….. These guys are pros!

predacious diving beetle - remained dead thru out.
three waiting to pounce, two not sure of the scene.
one yawning
Salamanders visit daycare....if screams of pure bliss leave you sad, and if being sad is really what makes you happy, then you wouldn't have wanted to miss it when 4 Spotted Salamanders paid a visit to the Island Village Day Care. everyone had a zoo animal plate with water on it so they could keep their hands wet while touching the salamanders. the plates were not tall enough to entrap the salamanders though and with every move and escape attempt shrieks of joy were to be heard.
Salamander takes one for the team.
 My favorite thing is that they were so patient and followed any and all directions great, but they could barely control themselves when they could finally touch one. The flow of the scene was a continual loop between brave and screaming.

three fingers from three directions experienced salamanders like never before. and gave the salamander an experience its never had as well. there will be impact, there will be impact.

This is the crue that Leif runs with, and Lydia in pigtails came running up to greet me the next day asking - What did you bring today Kirk?.

And leify is all about exploring and flying kites and making funny faces when we touch slugs. there will be impact.

and that my friends, is a slug going for it. and a slug on a thumb.