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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


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome to the  vinalhaven sightings report – December 31st, 2011
thanks to vlt and mcht for supporting the VSR
"i heard the coyote left"

Highlights – Red-bellied Woodpecker, purple sandpipers, mink den dissection, common murre still in the basin (and then gone?), trail camera wrap-up, fungus photo gallery
Business – No videos.

we were gone for a stretch during the holiday times, so there may be more photos than notes in this one. Who cares? Hope you had a nice time over these festive times.

I did miss the first snow that stuck over the hoidays, so tracking will have to wait. at this point last year i had followed 3 trails the coyote had laid. every year is different, we live in the now, but appreciate what a treat last winter was snow wise. i may be on my own on that one.

Sightings - Thoroughfare - (12/20) Terry Goodhue reports about a dozen or so Purple Sandpipers flying down the thoroughfare on this windy morning. Purples are observed yearly on the Loafs ledges (observed from Brown’s Head Light) and by the sparkplug and Little Thoroughfare, but this is the first report of a thoroughfare crossing sighting (in my experience).

red-bellied woodpecker - note the red
splash on the belly
photo taken last week in florida

Red-bellied Woodpecker!- (12/29) - Jim Clayter reports a red-bellied woodpecker at his feeder over near Pumpkin Ridge. Readers will note that ewvery few winters Red-bellieds are reported around the island, somewhat out of their "range" - which has been moving northward steadily over the last 20 plus years (or since the begining of time). This is the first report of a red-bellied in 3 years or so! Watch your feeders, feeder watchers! Red-bellieds may be coming to a feeding station near you!

Saw-whet in the mink house.  Or not a good place for a Saw-whet to find itself. Carla and Pete over at Peaceful Harbor Farms were taking apart a mink den that was in built in their shed (I believe) when they uncovered a dead Saw-whet Owl inside. Super cool find, and fun to think about how a mink might just get a Saw-whet Owl? (already dead?). 

Alan Lazaro - mentioned that he had a close encounter with the Great Horned Owl out in back of his house. Flew right by and the owl was startled enough to flap audibly. Cool sighting
Ferry Rides – (12/17) Rockland Christmas Bird Count  – Each year gazillions of birdwatchers and birders alike pick a day between mid- December and early january, to head out and count all the birds they can. The area(s) they cover are well defined (15 mile radius of a selected spot) and are located completely within the Western Hemisphere. These organized outings are referred to as Christmas Bird Counts, or CBCs, and have been going on for a long time. And as with many forms of nature observation, the CBC had a less than completely sensitive beginning . From the Wikipedia …

“Up through the 19th century, many North Americans participated in the tradition of Christmas "side hunts", in which they competed at how many birds they could kill, regardless of whether they had any use for the carcasses and of whether the birds were beneficial, beautiful, or rare. At the end of that century the U.S. ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the recently formed National Audubon Society, proposed counting birds on Christmas instead of killing them.”

And then the "north americans" put down their guns (thank you Frank Chapman), picked up some glass (binos)and started counting birds.  25 people counted in 27 places (completely within the western hemisphere) in 1900 (were there only 25 people in the side hunt?) and the volunteer love fest began.   its been going on and growing on ever since - In the winter of 2000–2001, there were 52,471 people in 1,823 places in 17 countries (all completely within the western hemisphere). It’s the longest (and largest) volunteer powered bird survey known to mankind (or at least Kirky-kind).

sunrise up the reach
 I was able to participate in the Rockland/Thomaston CBC as the last leg of the ferry route cuts thru a section of the survey area that is hard to see from the mainland. I caught the 7am on this Saturday morning and the lighting was wonderful.  Here’s the count from port to port for the ride…

20 Old-tailed Ducks, 23 Surf Scoters,  25 Black guillemots, 21 Common Loons, 4 Red-throated Loons, 16 Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Bufflehead, 1 Common Goldeneye, 1 White-winged Scoter, 1 Black Scoter, 2 Black Duck, 2 Great Cormorants, 11 Razorbill, 79 Bonaparte’s  Gulls, 18 Black-legged Kittiwake,  3 Red-necked Grebe, and 20 Common Eider – 2 Harbor Porpoise and many Harbor Seal to boot.

Highlights of the trip were the 3 Red-throated Loons in Rockland Harbor, and seeing all of the scoter species (3!) before getting out of Hurricane Sound.

Lane’s Island– (12/18) Windy and cold. So it goes. 15 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 2 Flickers, 8 Great Cormorants, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 7 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Common Loon, 2 Razorbill, Black-legged Kittiwake,  4 Black Guillemot.

One thing that can be pointed out about Lane’s these days is/are the high productivity of Bayberry fruits. This is a good sign for hardcore Yellow-rumped Myrtle Butterbutt Warbler fans, known as “Butterbuttheads”. You see, Buttbutts are the only warbler that can digest the wax of these berries (and other berries as well).. What that means for me, you and all the dog walkers out there is that Butterbutts can, and will (sometimes) stay on Lane’s for the winter. Only during big Bayberry berry years, and it looks like this might be one of those winters! Now let’s see those “I’m a Butterbutthead and i vote” t-shirts and cheer on these hardy warblers as they weather out a winter on lane's!

this picture is not upside down

Basin (12/20) – all sightings in the basin include a splattering of Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, White-throated Sparrows, and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Lots of White-winged Crossbills to be seen as well and Otter sign (poop and stuff) too. (12/20 & 22) Common Murre still hanging in the Basin. (not seen 12/31). Sometimes known as “Sand Cove” but a more accurate name would be “Hot Corner”, the cove below Steep Mtn (neither steep nor a mtn.) has been harboring a Common Murre for a few weeks. Seems like it likes to hang out by one of the white and black lobster buoys there. I haven’t checked for a week now, but will get out there soon to see if it remains. We welcome it as a great winter visitor.

Mill River - (12/20) - Many White-winged Crossbills, Belted Kingfisher, and classic matted vegetation Otter sign.

Check out this photo> Used for rubbings, sliding and marking, the flattened area of Cattails lets you know otter have been around. And apparently love this zone.

(12/31) trail camera rewview. (or that this is a bonus, "it's about time").  I was hoping for otter shots (and got a few) when i put up the MCHT trail camera before we went south for the holiday. I didn't complain when the coyote ended up being in the first photo taken. I put the camera in a place where i haven't tracked the coyote before, but wasn't too surprising as the entire island is its territory. This shot was taken on the 26th, along the shores of the basin (of course). Hopefully more to come about the coyote as tracking season begins. this was more of a new year bonus.

Here's a crappy otter shot i got as well. I feel like i've finally been accepted in the woods out here as the otter also took a dump in front of the tree where i put the camera. I'd like to point out that the otter shot is at 1am. and it was 21 degrees. dumping and running at 1 in the morning. sounds like new years time to me.

With the warm fall a Fungal photo gallery is truly called for. enjoy.

Here's to a peaceful new year.

you all are the best.
thanks for reading.