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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, June 21, 2011

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 22nd, 2011
Brought to you by the VLT and the MCHT. And that’s very nice of them.
“This ain’t no dump!” – Black Vulture

Highlights : Stalked Jelly, Tidepooling, Wolf’s Milk Slime, Fungus!, Butterflies, Snakes, Vultures not including Condors, Flowers, Coyote sign, Carrion Beetle orgy, Boreal chickadees, Word from the Fluke,and much, much more…

Catchin' dew (and maybe a little rain)

Little bit o’ business – There is going to be a short break in the spewing out of the reports as the family and I will be heading off island for a couple of weeks. Not that all kinds of crazy things won’t be going on here, I’m just not going to write about any of it while in California visiting Leif’s cousin, Julius. We’ll return with another report mid-july. If you have a problem with that then you have a problem. Tough toenails!
 With this is mind we waited until the last day (before we headout) to post this report, which is why it’s officially Jumbo sized! Enjoy!

Sightings – The 6th grade science project of surveying different habitats (working with the “Vital Signs” program with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute - has turned up some pretty cool stuff and taken the kids on some cool outings. Here are a couple of findings.

Horned Stalked Jelly
Crabs and lobster were the main attractions when the Collette Ivy took out a group of 6th graders a few weeks back. While on board the extremely cute teacher Amy Palmer noticed a “blob” on the deck and thinking it was some sort of organ or egg case she plopped it into the “take” bucket for the tank back in the classroom.  A few days went by (and Amy hadn’t seen the blobby thing) when she noticed something attached to the big ol’ piece of kelp in the tank. It was a Horned Stalked Jelly (sorry, I can’t even write the word “Jellyf*sh”. It ain’t no fish, not even a phish) or Lucernaria quadricornis. Yes, I know – what the hell is that?

Well, I wasn’t able to dig up too much information on these dudes, but here’s what I got from the Audubon Guide to Seashore Creatures (recommended book). They are in the Jelly class (Class Scyphozoa) of the Phylum Cnidaria. They are described as a “four-sided cone with each of its eight arms ending in pompoms of 100 knobbed tentacles. … Reproductive organs along length of arms….closely match the color of seaweeds on which they sit.” They are found from Greenland to Cape Cod, found on large, brown kelp, near and below the low-tide line. That’s what we got.

Well. Whatever theie deal is, they look cool and that’s really what’s important. I now know what I’ll be looking for on every piece of kelp we find in the tidepools from now on. Cool find palmer!

Red-fingered Aeolis

Hannah looking close
Tidepoolin at lane’s. – (5/19) Cool day, with a cool group (look at Hannah getting into looking for stuff). 3 nudibranch day! Mostly because Hannah Ames was so good at searching.

jordan with his lobster

Gilly and her razor clam
(6/6) The 3, 4, 5 team was nice enough to invite me along for a tidepooling session. It was a beautiful morning, full of Lobsters and crabs. And even a live razor clam and polyceate worms were found. Hats off to the team for setting up such an exploration and a big thanks for letting me come along and being part of the experience.

Dog winkle and eggs
Fledgers – A fine club made of bird’s who’ve literally inspired the empty nest syndrome/blissfulness by leaving their nest empty by simply leaving. The Hairy Woodpecker nests that I had video of are now empty, baby Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Patience Chamberlin had a family of Brown Creepers (including several young) circling her on the Old Harbor Pond trail. Terry Goodhue just sent in word he found a Flicker nest in a Aspen along the Poor Farm Road
where the youngsters are big and ready to go! Baby bird time is the most wonderful time of the year. Especially for predators.

red-billed tropicbird - photo by john drury
Word from the “Fluke” – Life on the high seas is treating Captain John well these days, and his reports are proof of that. It’s common knowledge that his boat trips to Seal Island and Matinicus Rock are truly the best pelagic experience you’re going to find on the Maine coast. Recent sightings include “a wicked beautiful black” Parasitic Jaeger, Harlequin Ducks (Little Roberts), Manx Shearwater (Matinicus Rock), & Minke Whale. If you want to see the Red-billed Tropicbird, its consistently seen on Fluke trips as John knows the Tropicbird’s schedule of appearances. Puffins, Razorbills, Great Cormorants and more. Give him a call and get on board – 596- 1841. see john's photos at

Toad's reading lamp
Flowers – If you haven’t made it to Huber, then put down your computer and go. You don’t even have to leave the parking lot to see 30+ Lady Slippers. A walk down the trail includes views of Bunchberry, Twin Flower, and Shy Maiden/Toad’s Reading Lamp. In the Basin, the Williams trail takes hikers high into the Pitch Pine where you can find blooming Labrador Tea and Golden Heather.  It’s a good time to be a flower child in the woods.

Golden Heather

Dye-makers Polypore
Laccarias - lookin' good
Fungus and slime molds - this week's fungal scene was higlighted with the first Bolete and the first Amanita I've found this season. The Bolete was of the red-mouthed variety, which of course also makes it the first poisonous fungus of the season as well! Yipee! The amanita was Amanita ceciliae, which is an edible amanita. I also found this sweet little patch of Laccarias along the huber trail, as well as this young Dye-makers Polypore, which i imagine will be jumbo sized by the time we get back. A little taste of things to come.
Varnish Shelf

Wolf's Milk Slime

Wolf's milk slime appears to be doing alright with the wet spring we've had. Check any of the bridges in the woods - they seem to be slime attractants - it's like a dream come true!

Why I love my back yard, and side yard, and front yard…..snakes and butterflies
Cozy Garter neighbors
local green

Snakes first- I remember watching my brother try to catch garter snakes that lived in a rock wall out back of the house I grew up in Jersey. I distinctively remember thinking he was insane for doing so. And while my opinion of my brother remains (lovingly) the same, I am so thankful that leify is getting to spend quality time touching with some extremely local snakes. There are at least 5 garter snakes and 2 green snakes living under 2 sets of granite steps on the south side of our place. We go “snaking” on sunny afternoons as the reptilian friends warm up on the on the hot granite or in nearby juniper, and all leify wants to do is touch them. The other day he touched four different snakes! Scared the bejeezuz out of them! Its seems like now they see him coming and bolt, but he’s getting quicker with that pointer finger!

We were hoping the glassy, blue-eyed garter in the picture would leave a shredded skin for us on the step but no such luck!

Question Mark
In the yard as well - Butterflies – Let’s face it, we’re reaping the benefits of years of gardening that the Ewens dedicated to the landscaping around here. And while garden flowers have never “done it” for me (no offense Rhododendrons) I’ve never been opposed to checking out what pollinators are attracted to such inbred blooms.

Take the run of Question Mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis) that showed up on the Lilacs a few weeks back. Question marks are members of that wonderful genus known as Anglewings (see photo for explanation of “anglewing”). The underwing is also where they get their common name – if you look closely you will see the two part, silver “question mark” marking. Others in the genus have only a solid mark, and are known as “commas”. And yes, I have learned all my grammar from butterflies. Here’s a fun loving quote on Anglewings

can you see the question mark?

“adult anglewings do not usually nectar on flowers. Instead they can often be seen taking sap from trees, congregating on rotting fruit, or even deriving sustenance from animal scat or carrion” – Butterflies thru binoculars

Tiger on Rhodo.
Well, one day I saw 7 adult Question Marks (at least) on the lilacs out back! I would say that in my experience a “good question mark day” would be finding 2 or 3 individuals, I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen 7 in a single week before!

And then they were gone! Herb Wilson (Maine butterfly dude, and if you know him please refer to him as such) let me in on his take on the scene. These were adults that probably overwintered in Maine, but were doing the yearly migration as they infiltrate the north as these “individuals are largely responsible for repopulating the north” each year. Anyway, it was nicea nice scene for 3 or 4 days.

and then the tiger swallowtails moved in and the neighborhood will never be the same.

Sexy?  Maybe. Foxy? Definately

Vultures – Greens Island(6/9)ish a pair of Turkey Vultures were seen over the island. Wasn’t too long ago that you really didn’t see Turkey Vultures on Vinalhaven so much. Over the last few summers Starboard Rock and Fox Rocks have become somewhat consistent, meaning if you sat on either place long enough there’s a fair chance of seeing one or more.  

More on the Black Vulture – lots of info has been gathered/shared/mentioned since the quickee email and photos I sent out a few Saturdays ago about the Black Vulture that’s been hanging at the dump. First off, the Vulture is still here and was last seen yesterday in a snag just past the dump and just before the shooting range. Easily seen from the road. And while its been here for a bit and shows no interest in leaving, its choice of trees by the shooting range and its approachability may not be the best decisions. In other words, take a looky sooner than later. I’m not predicting anything, just might be a good idea.

day trip to north haven
 There were also several colorful comments and a few chats that had nothing to do with the Vulture, which is always fun and appreciated. “Ugly Thing” was one of my favorite comments sent in, but I think I’m going to refer to the Black Vulture as “Foxy”, as it has seemingly made a home on the Fox Islands. And who can blame ‘em?

Back to the vulture though. Good friend of the VSR, Terry Sprague of North Haven sent in a few photos of a Black Vulture (our black vulture!) taken a few weeks back, well probably close to a month now. That’s Terry’s compost pile that the Vulture is sitting on. My first thought was that vultures are attracted to smelly things and well kept compost piles aren’t supposed to smell – so I was going to pick on Terry until I read this -
“Black Vultures are more gregarious and aggressive than turkey vultures and subsist on larger carcasses….they are reported to fish, to attack live prey, especially newborn pigs and other livestock and even skunks, and to eat oil palm fruit. They apparently locate prey not by smell but by watching other scavengers and by frequenting abundant food sources, such as dumps and slaughterhouses.”
-          Clark/Wheeler, “Hawks”. Peterson Field Guides. 1987

Especially newborn pigs? People please, this deserves more of a warning than the coyote in the Basin (more on the Coyote below). If you are someone with newborn pigs, please do not bring them to the transfer station under any circumstances until this situation is resolved.

Kenny was kind enough to point out the vulture on the rocks
I do believe the couch was placed for vulture watchers
Readers will remember that Jamus drury and I photographed a Black Vulture circling high over Isle Au Haut Mtn. in early May and it has to be assumed that this is the same bird. Seeing it again has inspired minds to wonder about it’s whereabouts over the last month or so. Terry’s pictures from North Haven fill in the blanks or one blank a little, but to get the real dirt I went to Kenny Martin to see what he’s noted about the vulture.

Back where you belong - kind of.

The “black headed one” has been frequenting the dump most days pretty much since it was seen from Isle Au Haut Mountain. He seemed a little surprised about the North Haven sighting, I think he has ownership on the bird. Kenny also told me about the day he had to get a gaff hook out to get the Vulture unstuck from the big green trash bin. Ask Kenny about the vulture when you head up there next time.
Leify with binos


“Black Vultures are common and were formerly abundant residents in the Southeast. They are uncommon to rare elsewhere, occurring north to New Jersey, Pennsylvania..” Clark – Hawks, 1987
…and a bunch of other places that aren’t New Jersey (VSR editor’s implied in the quote).

In other words 20 years ago these Vultures hadn’t even crossed the Delaware on a regular basis or taken the path train under the Hudson to 14th street (and then the quick walk to Washington square park of course), much less cross Penobscot bay. This is a special sighting and some folks have made their way up to the dump to see it. some folks have even come from the mainland!
we like the views from huber

Warning: Within this next section there is what some would refer to as a “swear” word.  The word is “shit” (there, I just used it). It’s not used as a “swear”, (such as “I hate this shit!”) but more as a descriptive. It’s the only word I can come up with that clearly describes when a domestic dog drops their load on the trail and that domestic dog’s owner can’t be troubled to flick it into the woods or off the field on Lane’s. It’s “poop” if flicked off the trail, “scat” if out of a wild animal’s butt. What i am talking about below is totally shit. It’s not very often that I find shit on the trails, maybe a handful (not literally, but some piles can be impressive) of times a year, so I wouldn’t say it’s a big deal or anything – there is no negative energy intended  towards dog folks or your doggies. It just is what it is, and its shit. There you have it. So if you have a problem reading the word shit, then please skip over reading this next section – but don’t skip the videos, because that shit is cool.

And if you are a dog owner who can’t find a stick in the woods to flick the shit off the trail, I’d be more than happy to share some of my sticks with you. I’m pretty good at finding sticks in the woods. Anyway, it’s also some of my favorite habitat on the island. Take a look -  

 “Just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better”
Basin, Dogtown trail  (6/18) “This is the shit!”  

American Carrion Beetles (Necrophilia americana) have a cool scientific name, but Coprophilia americana – “american shit lovers” – would be more applicable from my experience with them over the years on Vinalhaven.

“Both adults and the black larvae feed on decaying flesh, adults are sometimes also attracted to fungi and rotting fruit”.
 – Evans, NWF Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America 
I find carrion beetles every year on Vinalhaven and always on Vinalhaven dog shit. Never seen any on decaying flesh, or on a fungi or on the rotting fruit I leave in the yard. Always on the shit, and while I’ve been seeing them for years I have never seen a shit scene like this before – take a look:

Shocking shit orgy. At least 7 different “couples” can be seen “hooking up” Carrion Beetle-style while knee deep in it. At the bottom of the screen a lone, horny male with his “willie dillie-dillie” hanging out back runs in circles hoping to hop on a mate.

Here’s what it looks like when Carrion Beetles “hooking up” is taken up a level. Watch the pair that’s just below the middle as the male extends his special purpose and they connect. And a lone individual cruises and stirs up another beetle out of the duff and leaf litter .its cool.

grassy scat - classic coyote

old, crispy and full of fur

Coyote sign - Other than the fact that the coyote is scatting out grass (they'll do that) he/she seems to be doing well. this month i found 2 scats and a few tracks around muddy puddles. these have been around the basin... 

Safety first when weedwackin'
And so the leif man has been active with his "weed wacker" on the shrubs in the neighborhood as well as mowing the lawn to help Raymond - "Raymond will be so happy".

nice to meet you
Frog catchin' has been a focus at times - it can take a while with Leify shaking hands with everyone we catch. "Nice to meet you" is consistently heard while we are scooping.

Dock time is good with snail searches while on the bellies.

 Oh yeah - Boreal Chickadees on calderwood island, as well as Eastern Towhee among others.

See you in July!, but not if i see me first.