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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!