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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, April 29, 2012

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – April 29th, 2012
Big thanks to VLT and MCHT

Highlights – Baby Woodcock photos!, Eagle stories, palm(er) warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Rufous-sided Towhees of the eastern United States, Merlins, brown creeper, butterflies! Salamander eggs, otter scat,  Blue-headed Vireo, fiddleheads pokin. and much, much more! 

apologies to things left off..get 'em next time, for the guppy.

Folks are sending in sightings and the world is a better place. -Here’s how you can contact us with all your Vinalhaven sightings/photos/questions/videos (10 second max please) and comments The cracker-jack and crispy VSR team checks this email at least 4 times a month and welcome every and all sightings and almost all questions and some if not most comments. Don't be shy, share.
Business - if things look a little weird - text being squished between photos or the similar - that is not our fault here at the VSR. or maybe it is. we are non tech savvy, but what we, here see when we save and publish doesn't always hold true to reality (what the?). anyway, not our fault.....

Upcoming events- Armbrust Hill Bird Walks, May 2012 - Spring is here, there’s a lot to see, and  what better way to welcome the month of may than to start ‘er off with a nice birdwalk - Tuesday May 1st , “Rabbit, Rabbit” and the such– begins our Tuesday morning bird walks (VLT/MCHT) up at Armbrust Hill. 7-9am. (The next Tuesday morning birdwalk will be on Thursday, may 10th, 7-9am.) We’ve seen a lot of great stuff on these walks over the last three years (didn’t see much last year in the rain though) and we look forward to some more great walks this year. We’ll meet at the parking area behind the medical center. Please walk/carpool/crawl/ ride a bike as much as you can to help cut down on parking space pressure (psp). See you there or some other place unless I see you first….

VLT Warbler Walk, Saturday May 12th 8-10am – Local favorite John Drury will be leading this outing to experience as many warblers (and great cormorants) as the group can find. Meet at skoog park to carpool. Should be a fun morning!

proud mama
photo by Bob Candage
SightingsFavorite picture of the year (at this moment) – Bob Candage shared these photos of Woodcock babies with Skip and Carol Thompson who reluctantly (not at all really, they sent them unprovoked) shared them with me. Robert’s Harbor – (4/19). Super cute and small, fresh from the nest…….

Here’s what Donald & Lillian “widely recognized as America’s foremost authorities on birds and nature (recognized by whom?)” Stokes has to say about this stage of Woodcock development “Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior III” 1989, page 61…

Nestling phase - “The young hatch over a period of about 24 hours and stay in the nest, brooded by the female, as their feathers dry. Soon after that they leave the nest and move about with the female.”

Fledgling Phase – “After a day or two, the young can feed in the same manner as the adults by probing the soil with their bills. Before that they live off the stored food reserves with which they were born. The female and  young usually remain in damp areas where they can easily probe the soil for earthworms (non-native) and look for insects.” about three weeks they can fly short distances….
…after about 4 weeks they young can fly well and are about the size of adults….”

photo by Bob Candage
Let’s do some math….1 day in the nest and 3 weeks incubation puts these guys as being “laid as eggs” at the latest March 28th (that would be assuming they are a day old in the picture).

So these youngsters are young. And fresh and cute and we thank Bob and Skip and Carol (not necessarily in that order!) for sharing these.

Trapped Towhee
photo by Jim Clayter
Pumpkin Ridge feeding station – (4/24) Jim Clayter had a pair of Eastern Towhees at his feeding station, hopefully they will remain, (4/25) Jim also had a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak his feeder. Jim got these sweet photos of his recent visitors!

female Red-breasted Grosbeak
photo by Jim Clayter
More songbirds on the go….word has it that Drew Noyles saw a Palme(er) Warbler along a road on this very island!...(4/28) Old Harbor Pond – Blue-headed  Vireo, Yellow warbler singing (not with each other). Black-capped Chickadee excavating cavity! ... seems like if the incredible westerly winds ever stop   more songbirds will be seen. More will be showing up regardless….(4/25) Terry Goodhue reports a spotting a Veery on his porch this morning. Veeries (Verrys?) are a wonderful thrush not commonly seen out here (first I’ve heard on vinalhaven proper) with my favorite thrush song. Good spot! …..Here’s a video of a Yellow-rumped warbler singing and stretching out on lane’s (4/29) in between wind gusts

Raptors – Broad-winged Hawk – Poor Farm Road – Dylan Jackson and Adam White report watching a Broad-winged Hawk catch a rodent in one of the Stone Farm fields …(4/26)Broad-winged(4/29) Lane’s – pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks chasing each other over the field and thru the parking lot towards Armbrust Hill…

“Must be a good year for Merlins” – Merlins continue to fill the skies with flutter-flights and chatter as they perform their courtship displaying around the school, Reach Road, Old Harbor Pond and Pete Gasperini’s house. 4 sets of Merlins within a mile of town, now that’s pretty cool….possibly/probably more merlins around the island that have not yet been reported!

Owls- Great Horned Owls – Angie Bunker reports waking up to the soothing hoots of a pair of Great Horned Owls several mornings in a row. Nice way to start the day! -….(4/20) on a midnight (or so) stroll to return a library book (“there ain’t no late fee at midnight, baby” popular Estonian pop song circa 2004) I heard a pair of Great Horneds behind Pumpkin Ridge hooting it up for more than 20 minutes and realized they were call/responding with the Greens Island pair so it was a 4 Great Horned hooting walk, now that’s a midnight stroll….Saw-whet Owl – reported from the Stone Farm area
downy woodpeckers are all over the island.
so are  hairy woodpeckers and flickers
Let’s get this out of the way – these are the birds that can safely be implied with, most if not all of the sightings (and/or trips to the woods) in this report - Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pine Siskin, Yellow-rumped Myrtle Butterbutt Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, Downy Woodpecker, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Hermit Thrush –

mack's pond wood duck
Wood Ducks – Folly Pond – Terry Goodhue reports seeing Wood Ducks by the beaver dam on a few drive-bys over the last week….Mack’s Pond – (4/18) 5 Wood Ducks were seen along with 3 Black Ducks.

we love seal bay
Huber preserve ––Seal Bay  in April is legendary as a Surf Scoter and Eider staging area  (4/18) 62 Surf Scoter, 52 Eider, 21 Bufflehead, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, Old-tailed duck, 6 Harbor Seal…(4/19) Osprey at nest!....(4/25) 97 Surf Scoter!, 3 Bufflehead, loads of eider...
this pool could use some
Salamander Eggs at the Huber– (4/18-25) – As mentioned (ad nauseum) in recent VSRs, Spotted Salamander egg masses have been laid early (is there a better way?), in seemingly not-so-many masses in pools visited over the years and the vernal pools have been pretty low with water. The recent rains, especially that Monday downpour, have changed the dynamics increased water levels in the pools (at least for now). In a surprise twist to the whole egg drama I found about a dozen sets of eggs (4/18) in an area where historically I had never found more than 5. Some of which were being preyed upon by a Caddisly larvae, or at least the caddisfly was trying to weasel its way in. Here’s the best video I got of the caddisfly trying to get in some dirty eggs (eggs covered with dirt) – please turn down the volume on this video before watching – in my excitement to video this I started the video before I did my exhale associated with squatting (squatters know what I’m talking about) which is not the most comfortable position to be videotaping from. Anyway that’s me breathing at the beginning.. I won’t forget again and that’s the caddisfly with leaf bits and needles on its back…

the embryos in this photo are still curled up
“Caddissfly larvae – the insects who build those impressive houses around themselves – also feed on the eggs and embryos” – Thomas Tyning – guide to amphibians and reptiles page 127
Thanks for confirming Tommy!
It’s the Double dutch – “ohhla-ohhla” so a revisit to a pool up on Armbrust Hill (4/28) turned up 15 spotted salamander egg masses, where just two weeks ago there were none. The eggs were fresh, probably laid after Monday’s rain, and the salamander embryos are still curled up into little balls. The eggs we stole from Huber 3 weeks ago are fully uncurled and look to be ready to start twitchin’ any day now (damn twitchers). This will inspire revisits to other previously visited pools to see if there might be two differently aged sets of eggs in one pool! Can you think of anything crazier?  

Butterflies that overwinter as adults have been in numbers throughout the woods and neighborhoods. Spending the winter in cavities and under bark, adult butterflies seem to have done well with the mild winter. Loads of Red Admirals, Mourning Cloaks, with a few Question Mark, American Ladies as well. Spring Azures (little blue jobbies) are also starting to be seen. Certainly more butterflies to come! Here’s a red admiral video…

huber mourning cloak - open
This Mourning Cloak butterfly has been defending a turf at the Huber preserve for over a week (assuming it’s the same butterfly – might be a big assumption) and had incredibly serious and fun battles to watch as it chased off any other mourning cloak that flew by.  

huber mourning cloak - closes

Eagle Stories – thanks to Jim Clayter for sending in this eagle photo from Old Harbor Pond – (4/13).  Both of the following stories are 3rd generation oral history……

A friend of mine was walking across his land from shop to trap pile yesterday
when a 13 inch flounder fell from the sky, "almost hitting me on the head", he said.
Apparently an eagle threatened an osprey enough to have it drop his catch.
It's in my fridge now.” –Jim Clayter

Apparently an eagle nailed a common loon (who cares, they are common) at the end of Crockett River road. The eagle could not lift the bird out of the water and started to swim to shore with its meal. On the shore the eagle found that distraught witnesses (who had apparently grown fond of the loon over the winter) of the attack were waiting to pry said loon loose with a lynch mob mentality (embellishment?). Not sure how the story ends (or if I care to know) but it does raise the question of when will eagles learn that they are only allowed to catch salmon in Alaska and that they should leave cute little bird babies and local favorites alone. Or just stick to dead eiders. Come on baldies!

about as good as a creeper photo as
i've ever gotten.
In respect to Creepers…..Brown Creeper – (Certhia americana)Brown Creepers are cool. One of the coolest species around. I have never anyone who didn’t like creepers (to be honest – I haven’t met many folks with an opinion on Creepers). Creepers cling to the trees like clingy things, camouflaged to the "T".

Creepers have been singing in the woods out here for weeks and have only gotten a passing mention in these reports – red squirrels have gotten more press than these beauties... Many of these singers will be passing thru or how it seems. At Huber the other day I was able to catch a few shots of a male creeper as he worked his way up a spruce…

that's a creepy back

Creepers are the only North American member of the family Certhiidae, – one of 7 or 8 species (depending of “tree-creepers” found throughout Europe and Asia with “the greatest diversity (of creepers) occurs in the Himalayas” – sibley guide to bird behavior.

royal fern is one of our
favorite Osmundas
Anyway, they've been singing for weeks and haven't gotten the respect they deserve here at the VSR. I watched a Creeper at huber the other day collecting nesting materials (old man's beard lichen) . They make a hammocky like nest between a tree trunk and peeling bark, and they are doing this all over the island as we speak. hey are the only songbirds (in north america) to molt their tailfeathers like woodpeckers - keeping the strong central tail feathers while the rest of the tail feathers are exchanged.
Native, invasive, and cute when their little
fertile cinnamon fern

fiddlehead pokin' - soon the fern fields will be green and lush, they are just gettin' goin' at the moment... here's a few we've liked recently....

Violets -

...with so many flowers on the way, nice to have trails lined with violets these days.

some are colored violet. some are white....

it rained one day

and some are super heroes. and some are wooly bears...

and then we stopped writing.

hope everyone is doing well.