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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


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!