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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, March 11, 2012

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – Monday march 12th 2012
Thanks to MCHT & VLT for their continuing support - hope folks are supporting them
“Stop sending my wife pictures of animal s**t (scat)”

its like the same picture as always
but in black and white
Highlights – woodcocks!, owls and pellets, Exclusive : gull wormin’ videos, crossbills, ducks, tracking, snow, ferry rides, kayak rides, Bald Eagle, Songbirds singing. & FOTM

is this what you see when you look in the mirror?
then you might not want to look in the mirror
Bored with standing in front of the mirror, yacking away about all the things you see while only having yourself as an audience? –well then send a report of your sightings (and photos and videos (nature stuff only please)), to The cracker-jack and crispy VSR editing team will add it to the next VSR and soon you'll be a nature legend. It’s also a good place to send comments, opinions, questions, issues and addresses of people who’d be alright with getting an email every few weeks or so when a new report is up.  Don’t bogart that nature sighting!

woodcock - stock photo
Sightings – Woodcocks – (3/4) Thena Webster gets the woodcock award (congratulations!) for the first (reported) woodcock sighting of the year! Earlier than “normal” years, the mild winter we’ve had certainly sets the stage for early arrivals of many species. Thena spotted her woodcock – and it is her’s, the bird is her award – displaying over the pleasant river fields.  Thena noted that last year she spotted a woodcock on the 9th of march, which was also an early sighting for the season. Apparently she puts herself in the right spots for woodcock watching, or has some cosmic connection to the worm eaters – or maybe a combination of the two….(3/7) a very nice gentleman approached me with a “you’ve probably seen the woodcocks by now” at the science fair. He’d seen a woodcock at Lane’s island that morning crossing the driveway in. he appeared somewhat stoked when I said I hadn’t seen one yet….(3/9) Lane’s Island – while searching for owl pellets I flushed up a woodcock that was minding its own business, hunkered down under some spruce. I found a pellet very close to where it flushed, so it kind of serves it right – shoulda known better. Which brings up the question – why don’t owls eat more woodcock?... (3/10) Pequot woods  -- while striking out on Great Horneds once again - (its March 11th and I haven't heard a great horned yet? This injustice will not stand!) 3 male woodcocks could be seen/heard displaying from where i was hunkered...(3/11) an evening walk to the basin turned up 10 Woodcock displaying! they are everywhere! Spring is here! 
leify dug finding the skull and bones
And speaking of owls….(3/6) Thena Webster (2012 Woodcock Award recipient) reports  hearing a Saw-whet Owl beeping away along Norton’s Point Road…(3/5) after another zero owl evening at the dead flicker house I had a Great Horned Owl fly over the road ahead of my car, just a little before getting to east main street. It was one of the famous “Pequot Great Horneds” that Angie Olson reports hearing from her yard…(3/7) Lane’s Island -  after a nice afternoon of kite flying Leify wanted to check the trees by the parking area for captured kites (there was one there over a year ago or so) when we found this Long-eared Owl pellet. Needless to say, leify and I were stoked on this find, and we bagged them up and he took them to science fair to show that hot middle school science teacher…(3/9) Lane’s – a return trip for a more intense search for pellets turned up 5 LEO pellets total, all pretty recently puked. This was not an exhaustive search, which we’ll do at the end of the month.

leadbetter snow
didn't notice the otter slide in the middle until i got home

first snow – (3/1) or what seemed like the first snow of the winter came on during the day and didn’t end until the wee hours. Maybe 6-8 inches in our yard, certainly more than enough to make people complain (doesn’t take much), perfect for night sledding. Poor timing had me on the 7am instead of tracking in the woods- give the animals time to move I told myself. Didn’t realize the tracking would be this productive on this ride.

Ferry Rides – (3/3) 7am. Tracking – Lairey’s Island – trails along the shore - deer, mink, and otter including slides. Leadbetter Island - Otter slide. Birds – 3 Bald Eagle, 7 Surf Scoter, 60+ Old tails, 5 Red-necked Grebe, Black Guillemot, 6 Bufflehead, 30 Common Loon. 15 Harbor Seals.
mink bound
otter slides on lairey's

Many a Guillemot was observed in mid molt, fading to black. 5 red-necked grebes is my highest total from a single ferry ride, these were close to the Rockland breakwater. Otter slides were a bonus, tracking from the ferry is always fun. The sliding spot on Lairey’s is one of historical importance (or at least it otter be) as Capt. Pete pointed out the otter slides in the snow there years ago.

molt - awkward times for guillemots
8:45am ferry to Rockland (3/10) – Murder of crows, Bald Eagle, 4 Razorbill, 60+ Black Guillemot, 40+ Old-tails, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 20+ Common Loon, 5 Surf Scoter, 1 Harbor Seal.
Better views of molting loons and guillemots, including at least 5 Guillemots that had fully gone to black – “the randy ones get there first” old Estonian saying.
Singing songbirds – White-winged crossbills, Pine siskin, Black-capped chickadee, lots of Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Pumpkin ridge - (3/9) Jim Clayter reports seeing a single pine siskin at his feeder. siskin going after sunflower seeds. go figure. 
kinda a sunrise at perry creek
Zeros mean so much – Perry Creek (3/3) – headed up for sunrise, owls, and coyote tracks. Came close to seeing the sunset I guess. Great tracking, lots of Pine Siskin and White-winged Crossbills singing, Bald Eagle, murder of crows (30+), raven calling, Fungus- tree ears growing on bringing,
Add caption? - make me!

we love seal bay
Kayak ride – seal bay/winter harbor – (3/7) – breezy and cold. 100+ Old-tailed ducks, 50+ Bufflehead, 4 Surf Scoter, murder of crows (20), White-winged Crossbill, Hairy Woodpecker,  Raccoon, 10 Harbor seal,
old tails were in big numbers
 that day in ol' seal bay

Zeros mean so much - the kayak trip was set up to scout for otters, check out the penobscot eagle nest scene, and figure out work needs for the spring. There's plenty of work to be done, and everything else basically came up with zeros.
if you look really closely at this picture
you'll see there are no eagles in the nest

and there's nothing wrong with that, zeros that is. Gives you appreciation of non-zero days.  I'd been waiting all winter for a snowy, high tide morning to look for otter activity in the snow. I did find a dozen tracks with a belly slide on David island at the very end of the day. seemed like a lot of work for a dozen tracks, at least it was frigid and windy!

this happens when you have no watch
and too much fun

i did learn that the wild raccoons of Seal Bay don't recognize you as human if you hold a camera in front of your face. the moment the camera came down, my human-like mug sent this dude a runnin'.

this raccoon was sniffing out live mussels.

Wormin’ gulls – Each march Herring Gulls around the island take to the low tide shallow mudflats to feast on worms. They gather in numbers, and can be seen actively diving head first into the water. It’s not known to us (the royal us) whether the worms are breeding or just emerging from winter digs, but whatever they are doing the gulls know to hit the shallows at this time of the year. And now, for the first time ever on the VSR, we have obtained exclusive videos of gulls in action. She what you think… here's a video of the overall scene...

and here's a close-up of the action

Basin – (3/8) – Walk with Dylan and pippin, beings with eyes and noses built for observing. Lots of squirrels (thank you pippin), White-winged Crossbills singing up a storm, Black-capped chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Brown Creepers singing. Otter scat and trails observed and Otter den #3 showed little sign of activity. 2 coyote scats seen – both historical, 1 in a new location

Good walk, went all over. Dylan found feather remains of a yellow White-winged Crossbill by the platform. With the high number of singing crossbills around this winter, it’s no surprise that Goshawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks have been seen around the island – as reported in the last VSR. Cones feed the crossbills, crossbills feed the accipiters. Thank you cones!

entrance to otter den #3

FOTM - Along the walk fungus was discussed (how could it not be) and chaga found-  and since I found an attractive specimen photographed on Penobscot island a few days before (attractive for a Chaga) it only makes sense that Chaga be the Fungus of the Month – March 2012! So here we go…

Chaga, (Inonotus obliquus), aka Clinker Polypore, aka “that gross black stuff on birches” is a classic sight wherever birches can be found.
Even a mother chaga finds its off spring
disturbing on the eyes (fact, not judgement)

Here's what the Audubon guide says

"This species is called the Clinker because the canker resembles something that has been burned and fused together"

Chaga has some sweet medicinal properties that have been recognized for a while. Here's what mid-coast fungal man Greg Marley has to say about that..

"Chaga has been used primarily in Russia and other Baltic countries for at least three hunded years as a general tonic and a treatment fo cancers, including breast, pulmonary, skin, rectal, and stomach, as well as for other gastric ailments. It has also been used to address liver or heart disease and worms."

(...and still the Estonian fungus book doesn't have Chaga in it.) Marley continues...

kite flying
"In 1955, following some years of research and testing, Chaga was approved for the treatment of cancers by the treatment of cancers by the Medical Academy of Science in Moscow. After noticing that the residents of Kamchatka, an area in nohteastern Russia, showed no incidence if stomach cancer, cientists made an effort to determine the cause. They concluded that the egular consumption of Chaga tea from an early age was the contributing factor" - Mushrooms for Health.

 Anyway, this "chaga" fellow goes unnoticed, underappreciated, and under the radar as well. give it a tip of the hat next time you notice one. or just walk by it and smirk at that nasty looking dude. either way, show it some attention. or not.

making friends...

and then there was leify....

hand shakin'
and trying photography out

good times to all, hope everyone is doing well.  we'll see you out there.....

making new friends and shakin' hands