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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, October 30, 2011

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – October 30th, 2011
Thanks to the kind folks at the mcht and the vlt
"Somethings up with those ravens".

Highlights:  Bluebirds, "grebes, and  loons, and ducks that go". Pipits, Purple Sandpiper, tidepooling, crossbills and siskins, and a saw-weet, saw-whet owl session....

City Point Bluebird
photo by Ken Reiss
Video warning – there are 4 videos in this blog – i think they were all filmed on windy days. Thus the sound on the playback is very windy and scratchy, so it may be a good idea to turn your SOUND DOWN before hitting play. Or you can opt to "live on the edge" so to speak and turn up, or as the kid's say "pump up" the volume as loud as it goes. Those are your choices, you have been warned.

photo by Ken Reiss
Sightings - Surprisingly numerous around the island  -Bluebirds - (10/29) - its been about a week or so since the first flocks of Eastern Bluebirds were heard singing over and around the island. Sylvia and Ken Reiss over at City Point have been seeing them since at least the 26th, and got these great shots of them. They continue to see them up there, around the reach road neighborhood (Patience Chamberlin saw a flock of 20 Bluebirds! just next door (10/26)), in town and many other spots around the island. Bluebirds certainly pass thru yearly and a handful are observed on the island each year, but this is way more than i have seen in the last seven years combined.

Parking area place, outside my home – (10/25) white-winged crossbill (several), eastern bluebirds (10/26) 7 eastern bluebirds, large flock of waxwings...(10/29) 10-15 pine siskin, several bluebirds, saw-whet owl (see below)

this is where we go tidepooling

this is there when we go tidepooling

daisy brittle star
Tidepooling – great low tides resulted in 2 great afternoons of tidepooling ...(10/25) Lane’s island – a day by myself in the tidepools – can’t remember the last solo session i've had in the pools. There was a serious low tide around 4pm (-1.1) so there was some great exploring to do.  3 daisy brittlestars, 3 blood stars, isopods, and lots of lobsters, in many more spots than previous falls.

i c u isopod!
And the tidepool creature feature - what appears to be a "Sharp-tailed Isopod" (Idotea phosphora) - no relation to the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. These roley-poleys of the sea come in "a great varieties of colors and patterns" depending on what their habitat happens to be in the area. The isopods grow to be about a half an inch long, and are found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence (where the blue whales roam free) to cape cod. Anyway, there you have it, theres a picture of one right over that-a-way<<<<<<<.

gunnel "eels" are always a hit
(10/26) lane's - with 6th graders - good to be back with some fun characters i haven't hung out with for a while. the lobster scene was the focus and accounted for much fun. we also found urchins, scaleworms, a sculpin, a big red crab.

Gillie had a good laugh
about this little lobster

Other Laney Days(10/22) – Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Belted Kingfisher, Chickadees, Song Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Gannets, Black Duck, Cmmon Loon, Black Guillemot,  grey catbird – and plenty of good looking Bayberry berries. As for yellow-rumpeds this winter – “i think its gunna be a great year, lewis”……(10/25) – loads of butterbutts, merlin, single Red-necked Grebe, Gannets,  common Loon….(10/29) 5 Purple Sandpipers

State Beach – (10/25) We love state beach, and we love loons so we (the royal we) were stoked this day. Loon basics – in the winter vinalhaven and the surrounding waters are full of 2 kinds of loons – common and red-throated (with the slight chance of a Pacific Loon – only mentioned here to limit confusion). Anyway, the vast majority of loons seen are Commons. If the loon you find is big with a big bill, dark on the back and back of head and is the state bird of Minnesota then it’s a common loon. Like the one in this video right below. The loon in this particular scene was not very happy with the Eider duck that floats into screen the last few seconds and had just finished chasing him around.

And then there are red-throated loons.  If your loon is sleeker (looking), light grey on back, with a smaller bill and a smaller body (compared to a Common Loon), often seen leaning its head back (giving the bird the impression that its bill is curved slightly up) with no red on the throat! Then you have a Red-throated Loon. Here a quicky video of one of these from State Beach - same day as the common loon above!.

state beach some more - (10/26) - 6 Red-necked Grebe, 4 Common Loon, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, several Savannah Sparrow inlcuding an "Ipswich" Sparrow race, Nelson's sharp-tailed and white-crowned Sparrow as well (observed by Patience Chamberlin) (10/29) - good high tide and first day of hunting so i had the whole scene to myself. 2 black-bellied plover, 2 american pipits, 8 Red-necked Grebes, several common loons, eiders, guillemots. Pipits are known for their "tail bobbing" and pigeon like walk. Here's a video of one on some sea weed yesterday. 

"why are the trees hanging upside down?"- leif
thats the log where the eagle took a bath in the last blog

its always a good idea to check
the lower branches of snags
in Folly Pond for Wood Ducks

Folly Pond/The Basin - (10/23) - 8 wood ducks, 2 Black Ducks in the pond. A warm day, had Black-capped Chickadee, Juncos, and White-throated Sparrows singing.There were many Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Downy woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a single Blackpoll Warbler. "Somethings up with those ravens". Common Raven being very vocal - something is going on with those guys.

saw-whet owls can be tricky to find because of their size,
and habit of perching close to where branches are thick.
not really the best conditions for photography either.

Saw-whet owl – when I stepped outside this morning (10/29) I heard something I’ve haven’t heard in a long time – pissed off Chickadees (POC). I know, it’s hard to imagine their “chick-a-dee” call sounding upset, but that’s exactly what graced my ears today. "Harsh" sounding (judgement), fast, and repeated over and over and over, the calls were coming from at least 6 POCs that were bouncing around the branches in the hemlock out front. I poked my head thru the hemlock needles to get a better view and feel for the situation and sure enough this duder (saw-whet) was sitting on a branch maybe 5 feet from me. it was getting an earful from the POCs, but from me it was love at first sight.

i think she knew i was there at this point
not cropped
We (the fam) all got good looks and the owl was tolerant with us, and for the most part didn't seem to give a hoot about us. Even with an almost 3 year old pointing it out to his mom rather loudly. We then called Hillary Bunker so she could see her owl. Earlier in the month Hillary told me (in front of the bank) that she “really wanted to see an owl” - one of my favorite "in front of the bank" conversations. Anyway, Hillary was determined enough to spend 3 hours (over two nights) with the “owl catchers” at Huber and helping them check nets and hoping to see owls (those happened to be three hours with no owls). Needless to say she drove over and was there in minutes. So congrats to Hillary on seeing “her owl”. She’ll be back, she’s hooked on owls. The owl stayed until at least 5pm, and other than the first session when everyone got to see it, the owl snoozed the day away jsut out front.

ferry rides - (10/25) - Partience Chamberlin saw her first "Ferry Jaeger" on a ride from rockland to vinalhaven. Parasitic Jaeger most likely.... (10/26) - ferry boat Bob mentions a multitude of harbor porpoise observed that morning....(10/27) - Breezy, chilly morning, load with ducks though - 200+ Surf Scoters flying thru, 6 Red-breassted Mergs, 3 old-tailed ducks, as well as 100+ Double Crested Cormorants, and a Red-throated Loon. Many common loon, eider and guillemot on all trips. 

i'm sure there are other things, but time is up. Finally thoughts....

kids like bridges


hiking is fun with friends, and your chainsaw!

please send sightings to

see you out there!

Friday, October 21, 2011

this way

 Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report
October 20th, 2011

VLT & MCHT & U = "perfect togedder"
weak shout out to governer kean from the 80s

“this makes up for not finding a salamander last week” – Mitchell, 5th grade
Highlights – yellow-billed cuckoo barrage, owls – featuring saw-whet migration, wood ducks and waterfowl, fungus, pond scooping, other things


Business : it’s almost gun season friends - in a couple of weekends "kids day" will be a full-on, living reality! Gun season is a time to respect hunters by not going into areas where hunting is obviously going on (vehicle parked as to block or be an obstacle in front of a trailhead or to parked in a fashion that’s clearly asking to be noticed). Orange is also a good fashion statement to make - that statement -"i want to live" . Leif calls his orange hat his "halloween hat". but whatever you want to call your orange to make it more fun to wear doesn't really matter, just put some on. cuz it it also happens to be a great time to be in the woods, so just be aware if you head out when the woods are a blazin. Anyway.

The handsome buck  above was photographed on lane’s island, a safe haven for the deer. There are plenty of other characters to deal with it on lane’s. anyway – take note!

send in your sightings/photos whatever to! thanks to all that sent in links to the slime mold story in the new york times - lets just get it out there so everyone's on the same page slime wise. its worth it, trust me.


molly and carmen
with their tadpoles

pink is in
when pond scooping
 Kid stuff – 5th grade Outdoor Explorer pond scoop (10/12) - a bald naturalist once said, an afternoon pond scooping is an afternoon well spent. For the second week in a row our efforts at the “second pond” were bountifully awarded, with tadpoles, a larvae red-spotted  newt- (complete with gills and all – VNM for me - ), and a water scorpion, backed with plenty of midges.The big catch of the day played out like this... 

mitchell and his "bug"
photo sponsered by Island Sail.
You're welcome Karen
giant water bug - killer in the mix

when  mitchell called out “I caught a huge beetle”  we all chuckled in the way chucklers do – yes, we had all caught large aquatic beetles in our day, some larger than others. Just how big was a “huge beetle” to mitchell? Indeed, we were about to find out.

water scorpians are super cool
And it was big – by far the biggest insect I’ve seen in north America (not saying much). Giant Water Bugs – aka Toe Biters - are killers and thats what Mitchell pulled in from the quarries by the school. My friend Nif from back in my Georgia days told a famous tale with the scream of a 4th grader bitten on the toe as the main character. I’ve seen 'em on several occasions over the years, but none this big. It was super cool.

young newt, still with external gills

We went to transport our water bug  and newt and water scorpion to the fresh water tank in the school,  but before we even got to the soccer field the newt was seized and deceased by the water bug. By the time we made it back to the school all that was in sight was the red-orange tail. And just like that I killed the only red-spotted newt larvae I’d ever found. Ah, whatever.

mantis on roof -
photo by Lois day

And speaking of killers – take alook at the Preying Mantis (or European Mantis) Lois up on the neck snapped a photo of on her roof as solar panels were being situated on shingles nearby (9/24).  The way I heard it was – and you really should hear it from Lois- she hadn’t seen one in years and made the crew stop what they were up to and marvel for a moment or more at this striking lady killer, or killer lady to be more precise.

cool shot, nice find and thanks for sharing. …on the same note 5th grader Leila bickford also mentioned she saw a mantis in her yard on York road.
great blue in indian creek-
photo by stacey cramp

off huber

Who’s around - – loads of Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are around the island these days. To see if there are any near wherever you are follow these steps. Go to your favorite apple tree, pick two apples. Eat one. Look for rows/lines of shallow holes in the tree’s trunk. Look for holes that are freshly drilled (like the ones in the picture to the right). if found, then sapsuckers have been doing their thing wherever you are quite recently. Heck i scared two sapsuckers in my yard this morning when putting up laundry- one on an apple ttree and one in the lilac out my back door. See if you got any in your neighborhood....

look for flashes of yellow
at the rump of
the yellow-rump warbler
...Yellow-billed Cuckoos are being report from various spots around the island – Terry Goodhue spotted one at the school on North Haven (2nd year in a row), Lucy McCarthy saw one on Greens, and Pam Johnson found one over by Sand Cove….  17 Wood Ducks at Folly Pond (10/13)…(10/19) Folly pond -10 Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfisher… other waterfowl - Hooded mergansers are back in the pleasant river - 10 the other day. Also seen in vinal cove just below the  road....Red-breasted Mergansers in the Basin (10/22)...50+ Surf Scoters were seen off Calderwood Island (10/6), usually a few Scoters to be seen from the ferry...Terry Goodhue spotted a group of Brandt Geese going thru the thoroughfare recently, first time we've heard of that.......lots of loons, herons (checck out that photo sent in by Stacey Cramp), kingfishers, robins, & waxwings.... if you consider yourself a birdwatcher, or better yet a “birder” and have not seen a yellow-rumped warbler on vinalhaven recently then (a) you are not on vinalhaven, (b) you don't go outside & (c) you might want to reconsider what you consider your birdwatching status is because they are everywhere. In the basin on (10/2) i guessed i saw roughly 300 warblers and all the ones i identified were yellow-rumpeds...By lane's bridge - Dinah had a close watch on a Bald Eagle just off her deck. Sounds like she got a great look!...Raptor migration - still seeing daily sharpies and seemingly more peregrines than i've noticed in years past. whatever that is worth. 

Saw-whet owls – Huber Preserve – Some folks may have heard but the Saw-whet Owl banders from Biodiversity Research Institute ( were out for the another visit – this time staying 2 weeks – and it was a good thing they did since the night time weather hasn’t necessarily been good for migrating for the majority of the last two weeks. They might have gotten 7 nights of mist netting in, but they those nights proved to be good ones – over 50 saw-whet owls were caught and banded on their 2 week stint. this included a 26 saw-whet owl night (10/6), thats right 26 different saw-whet owls caught right by the huber parking lot over an 8 hour period. insane. other nights included a 9 owl night (10/18), and an 8 owl night (date not known). Becky and Kate have now headed downeast for some owl catching and we wish them the best of luck, and nets filled with owls.

Good sized rains and waves  got the creeks flowing and the shoreline smashing.
lane's looking at greens

Good conditions for observing as well. Sea watches from lane's and greens  over the weekend observed impressive numbers of migrating Norther Gannets - with sunday being particularly busy with numbers of gannets passing per hour tallied to be roughly a 100 per hour for much of the day. Lots of hunting going on with the gannets, but a consitent flow going west into the wind that helped provide some of these waves!also seen on the sea watch from greens - parasitic jaeger close to shore, possible kittiwake off shore....Ferry ride - first boat - on the 18th was highlight by lots of a feeding activity with Gannets. One scan to the north counted 47 gannets circling and fishing creating great splashes and attraccting many gulls as well. 
Videos – rainy day check.  This video is just above old harbor pond last Saturday after a big rain.

The harbor seal video is from the basin, capturing a moment when they (the seals) spooked themselves off the ledges along the western shore. My mumbled "there you have it" is made out of disappointment in the seals. The kayakers that inspired this exodus were well over a 100 yards away and being very respectful. Maybe that’s what freaked them out, respectful/aware kayakers. Anyway, see if you can tell when they jump into the water....

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs preening  next to each other in the “cess pool”* on lane’s last year I believe (* - I am the only one who calls it this). I’ve talked about putting this on the blog for a while, now it’s not just talk. nice comparison on the bill.

Fungus video – Lactarius – a Milky mushroom on Penobscot Island that bleed clear. Lactarius get there name from the fact that (often white) liquid oozes from cuts when their gills are torn.  There’s at least one that bleeds orange. This one bled clear, and it stayed clear. The tricky part is to hold the fungus and the camera in the same hand. Probably could’ve put it on the ground. Anyway, hear’s a lactating fungus – Lactarius is the genus, Russulacae is the family. Enjoy!

false chanterelles -
if you mistake these for real chanterelles then
you really shouldn't be picking chantrelles at all

jelly tooth

Back to photos

Fungus and a slime mold photo gallery 

with such a great Amanita fall
it was no surprise
to find amanita mold

there are several, tis the season as they say –and a nice season it has been. Not nearly the flurry of False Chanterelles this year compared to last (you could walk across the island on the backs of False Chanterelles last year, but still more than years prior I’d say.

With the spetember breaking Amanita records left and right it figures that we would find some Amanita Mold (not a slime mold) attacking in the woods. The mold specifically attacks members of the Genus Amanita, arresting their development and apparently living off the undeveloped mushroom. Fungus attacking fungus. clearly thats where its at

maze polypores are amazing

wolf's milk slime goes from pink...
 brown very quickly
sometimes overnight

his phone calling on the other hand
seemed to dominate the air waves

 his texting was quiet,
but somehow
still a little wierd

And while I’m sure he’s got a nice personality or scary halloween story…..this guy in these pictures provided me with a scare out on lanes recently. the main fear was inspired by his loud talking on the beach. i thought there were two people below and then realized he was having a one sided conversation, about things that weren't on the beach. it took a few minutes to see that he was on a phone. (all i wanted was to look for hawks.) his texting wasn’t so loud, but his hovering in the same spot- looking down the entire time- felt a little odd. it was quiet and kinda funny, and i figure he's texting about what an inspirational place lane's is, how is life has been changed forever by the beauty of the morning. yeah, i bet this is more of a common sight where everyone gets cell coverage. anyway, it was scary. 

shadow of liberty and good buddies on a big rock..
 and on a different note....
have fun out there.....

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – October 7, 2011
Many thanks to VLT and MCHT for their support
“How many times have I heard that before” – Al Jones

Highlights –Buff-breasted Sandpiper and very little on shorebirds, Blue-grey gnatcher, Caspian Tern, Loons certainly are back ,fungus, Raptors including Bald Eagle taking a bath, other things. Mostly pictures.
state beach appearing foggy

Pardon our appearance, we are currently morphing the vsr format.

Welcome – A good friend of the VSR has made his way to Maine, and we at the VSR are super excited to send out a big ol’ welcome to Mike Windsor coming to Falmouth. More importantly is the big ol' howdy to his family, Jess, Levi, and the family member yet to be named (publically at least)! Good folks, good to have you int he neighborhood!

Sightings – we start with a video of a bald eagle taking a bath by the dam in Folly Pond. I was on North Haven Road with my little Sony Cybershot and no scopage

Lots of Sapsuckers, Yellow-rumpeds, Kingfishers and Herons…..

there is one bird on the beach.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper – here’s a not-so-good picture of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at state beach. Patience Chamberlin spotted this one, relayed a quick message to me at the store (“it’s the only bird on the beach!”) after which is headed out with my 15 minutes of time and little photo equipment. Total VNM, and those don’t happen much birdwise anymore, and also a VVNM as this, from all known records, is the first documented record for Vinalhaven. Chances are that many have come thru over the years unnoticed, and hats off to Patience for noticing this one. And thanks for sharing!...other shorebirds..Janet Ghores spotted a Whimbrel on Lane’s Island…and state beach continues to be the place to find shorebirds.

buff breasted sandpiper

oh, to be a caspian tern

Caspian Tern – (9/7) John Drury photographed a pair of Caspian Terns hunting around Roberts Island. Caspian Terns do not breed locally, in fact the closest breeding zones along the Atlantic south of Vinalhaven are in Virginia (probably somewhat dated info). Of course they do breed in New Foundland and Labrador to the north and along some of the great lakes to the wayt west of us. Just a lovely example of disjointed breeding ranges. Anyway, nice shots and nice shots.

nice legs.- photos by John Drury

Greens – John has also jerry-rigged, or Johnny –rigged, a blind under a stump close to a washed up seal. He got some nice eagle an raven shots, including one of this eagle which has leg bands.  John also saw a Blue-grey gnatcatcher and Pine Warbler on greens

great cormorants are great

loons looking good

Kayak ride – around leadbetter and up the red sea – (9/19)- The paddle started with a juvenile Peregrine screaming down Creeds Cove, and was highlighted by the plentiful amount of Common Loons who are back, (still) dressed to kill, and are filling the air with song. I had a close escort by a curious Harbor Seal and got a few shots of both Double-crested Shags and a Great Cormorant taking off. I saw other things on this trip as well.

Word is that the Black Vulture has returned to the dump after what seemd like weeks of no-sightings. Hanging out by the burn pile is the latest word.

Kid stuff – School’s on, which means that Outdoor Explorers can be found crawling thru the woods. October is a big month so far three outings are a go! Thanks for the support VLT! –

 looking for critters
 Middle school tidepooling on Lane’s - (9/24) great session, last minute and the kids called home for boots! The hardcores found many lobsters (more than other years), urchins, sea stars, and even a few sea cucumbers. but really, its the search that is the thrill.

beautiful day to explore

Salamander hunting with 5th graders- (10/5) a smashing success! about a dozen red-backeds were found on a chilly afternoon. the searching was fun and getting to know this group of kids looks to be even funner 

 tiny red-backed salamander

carmen getting a closer look
at a red-backed salamander

Pond scooping with 3rd graders-  (10/6) another fun outing, this time with Meagan Davidson and hey third graders. We caught 2 tadpoles, many dragonfly nymphs, damselflies, caddisflies, backswimmers, and even 1 water boatman. Once again, for a cold day the cold-blooded animals were just active enough to be hanging around.

Leif and Bailey getting into tidepoolin'

leif liked putting critters in the bucket

Tidepoolin - the day after (9/25).  - For this round we brought out a handful of naturals - Leify and his buddy Bailey, palmer, and Pat, of course. Tidepoolin just ain't the same without Pat. Anyway, we found bunches of lobsters and crabs, scaleworms and a hermit crab. A blood star and a small northern sea star. A few highlights were the explorers all humming at the hermit crab, trying to entice it to get active. and A sea  cucumber releasing water, classic move, always good for laughs.  Good to be the pools with some really fun explorers. 

pat with the squirting sea pickle

bailey going for it
           see you out there...