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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, May 13, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – May13th, 2012
big thanks to VLT and MCHT for their continued support
happy mothers day! - love you mom and mommy-in-law!

Highlights – Red-billed Tropicbird, garden bird, vernal Pool craziness, Feeder Birds! – including Indigo Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Sea Ducks, warblers and other arrivals, dead birds including a feeder bird...and some other stuff- tidepooling with kids and butterflies that just didn't make it in - this report is long enough already!

"these are for mommy"
Dreaded business….as some of you know, baldfulmar was hacked or spammed late last week, sending hundreds of emails promising bucket loads of money to people without them (the people) ever having to get out of bed or something like that. Many of you caught on that it truly wasn’t from me, i would at least make you get out of bed before giving you money (sounds a little funny to me). Anyway, these things happen, hopefully nothing came of it on your computer. passwords have been changed in the hopes that the spamming has ended.

Happy Business - Tuesday morning bird walks continue this week and the next, rain or shine (mostly likely rain if this theme continues), Armbrust Hill 7am-9am. Last week i sat in the red-house playground thing (out of the rain) and saw a few warblers and other songbirds. Shelter from the storm.

VLT walk and talk - this Saturday - May 19th - Native American names of common plants and critters walk with VLT steward Kerry Hardy. The trip will take place at North Perry Creek. 9:30am meeting Skoog Park for carpooling. Should be a good one.

indigo bunting vnm
photo by sally
rose-breasted grosbeak
photo by sally from the store

Feeder Birds – (5/3) up on the (but not over the) Hill Sally has had an incredible spring at her feeders, with some of the most beautiful birds paying visits. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is beautiful, but the Indigo Bunting is beautiful and a new one for Sally (VNM!) nice ones… i

cooper's on a dove
epic photo by sally
f you think of Skin Hill as an ecosystem, the multiple feeder stations appear to provide plenty of sunflower seeds and thistle - enough to form the base of a food chain. And when you have a food chain, you’re going to have predators. Sally caught some (like a ton) of snapshots of this juvy Cooper's Hawk

Sally obviously is having a good time with her camera, and we thank her for sending in and sharing these super cool photos…..forgotten from last time – John Drury reported another Indigo Bunting from east main street at the end of April.

photo by Jim clayier
Pumpkin Ridge - Jim Clayter had an unusual visitor (unusual for Vinalhaven) - a male Bobolink that was chirping away and interacting with a local song sparrow. Cool photo and thanks for sharing!

arrivals around the island- bob delsandro (bob on the hill) reported (5/10) - 3 Baltimore orioles and 2 ruby-throated hummingbirds!..loads of Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warblers, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Black and White Warblers, Nashville Warblers and a few individual Black-throated Blue Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and Redstart. Blue-headed Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Sapsuckers, Tree Swallows, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Flickers, blah, blah, blah.....there are tons of birdies showing up these days.

here's a quick video of a northern parula singing it's legendary song - "ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, shoot!"

 here's a quick video of chickadees excavating a cavity. the one on the outside was waiting patiently while the one inside the cavity was working hard and comes out with a bill full of sawdust to remove. making it cozy...

here's some robin babies from lane's and an active belted kingfisher burrow - ground nesters kick butt!
red-billed tropicbird
photo by john drury

on the water - Seal Island - (5/12) our (the royal "our") very own Red-billed Tropicbird is back and looking good reports John Drury. "a little blurry", but that might have been the camera (got to be the camera).....John also reports plenty of Razorbill and Puffin, as well as a starting trickle of returning Terns. Now's the time to book your Seal Island tour with the outfit to almost guarantee tropicbird sightings. (almost = doesn't). give john a call at 596- 1841 to set up a seal island tour to remember from "the fluke".

merlin on the move
photo by john drury

Merlin update - haven't heard the across the road/extremely local Merlin pair for a bit, so figure they are done. (5/13) saw a Merlin flutter flight displaying by the dogtown entrance to the basin trails.Apparently one out on Greens is still active as well. nice shot john!

garden doves
photo by Sheri romer-day
Mourning doves are great - beautiful when you get a close look - Sheri romer-day sent in this one from her garden! survival instincts are not necessarily what doves are known for.

these are loons
at least the ones in front
Sea ducks – Lane’s Island (4/29) – ½ hour sea watch – 138 Black Scoter, 56 Surf Scoter, 3 White-winged Scoter, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, 25 Purple Sandpiper, 3 Common Loon, 1 Great Cormorant……wish I had more than a half an hour, the migrating sea ducks scene was just getting going scoters may have passed by lane’s that morning. Love migration….

218 surf scoters counted that day
Thoroughfare(5/3) paddle to Calderwood island – 218 Surf Scoter, 125 Oldtail, 20 Common Loon, 18 Black Guillemot, 28 Harbor Seal….Stimpson island pass by – Merlin displaying, Yellow-rumped Warbler…What a staging area the thoroughfare is!  The Surf Scoters were in loose groups sprinkled along the way, but the Oldtails were ragin’ in one noisy, active raft – 125 members worth . All fully moulted, with that beautiful white feathered impostor bald spot on top for the males! And the loons were mostly in one bin (15 worth) as well.
4 of 125 or so oldtails

many, many old tails

this blue grosbeak either went bald
or gotten eaten

Calderwood Island – (5/3) always a good time on Calderwood. Singers at this point – Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Northern Flicker, Boreal Chickadee…also found – feather pile from a Blue Grosbeak, 5 owl pellets including this one with a keeled sternum (from a songbird) sticking out of it, deer antler (leif loved it), otter scat at historic spots, mink and raccoon scat everywhere (almost literally), a lovely layer of Violets covering (almost literally) the ground in the burn area from last year!...
keeled sternum of a songbird
in a pellet
these deer couldn't handle the truth
the truth being that i was on the island
the highlight for me here was the pile of feathers from the assuredly eaten Blue Grosbeak that was right along the trail (stimpson island Merlin anyone? Big assumption, but it’s good to be known for something). I have not seen a Blue Grosbeak in Maine, so finding feathers with blue tips mixed with small black feathers with orange tips was something to see. I don’t keep a list, but I’m pretty sure it counts that I saw this…and of course any owl pellet is a good owl pellet. Sounded like crows (love ‘em more and more every day) were mobbing something on nearby Babbage Island, very well could’ve been the owl who yuked this wonderful pellets up. Fun to see bird remains in a pellet, funny to say that as a bird watcher. Gotta route for the owls. No brainer….ah yes, and let me not forget the 3 white-tailed deer that apparently were scared enough by my presence that they bolted and swam to Babbage Island. I would’ve thought that the island was big enough for the 4 of us, but what do I know…..

this motherload had quite a load- look at all those eggs!
just a sample of the entire pool
Vernal Pools revisited – well, it’s all about timing I guess….from worst to first…so we’ve been mentioning this year’s vernal pool scene for a while (ad nausea), low number of eggs, low water…and then there was April 23rd, when we got somewhere between 2 inches or a foot of rain (what’s the difference really), and salamanders that had been waiting for weeks to migrate finally got their chance to move and then to mate in suddenly deep vernal pools. The results in the vernal pools have been stunning – the mother lode, which had 5 sets of eggs on (4/13) suddenly had 104 sets of eggs (5/1)! I’ll type that slower – ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR masses of SPOTTED SALAMANDER eggs!  Been keeping tabs on this pool for 5 years – highest previous total – 45! What more
"Kenny's demise" - tough with the glare,
but there are tons of salamander eggs here
….at the Huber (5/2) – “Tyler’s undoing” vernal pool which had 22 masses in 2008 was found to be loaded with 46 masses! “Kenny’s demise” vernal pool which had 23 masses in 2008 was found to have 70+ masses! Record breaking to say the least – (5/2/12) will go down as the biggest salamander egg mass day (for me personally) (BSEMD (FMP)) – to this point – when you add the 150 spotted salamander egg masses at Huber (several smaller pools were also visited) along with the 200+ masses found at the 2 quarries south of the school and the 50 or so at the granite island preserve that afternoon! 

these eggs came from the same submerged branch
the ones of the right are about 3 weeks older.
The highlight here other than spending time with the group was when Cody …. From 6th grade pulled up a tree top that had a few egg masses attached to it that were laid month before as well many that were laid a week before. 400 egg mass in one day, with minimal attempt …Could there have been a fine combination of events that came together for the spring of the reproductive salamander (not to be confused with the summer of slime 2009 – another epic season)? A mild winter (think about it - just how many salamanders could have really died this winter?), a late migration (weather dependency can be an inconvenience at times), and epic timing with a spring storm equals horny salamanders! Look at some of these masses – they ran out of sticks and had to stay laying them all over the ground. Whatever the case, having multiple aged eggs in the same vernal pool, attached to the same
amber holds up a set of eggs

Kid stuff – have been able to go out 3 times with the middle schoolers helping out with the Vital Signs program (, which we helped out with last year (thank you VLT for sponsoring my time with the chittlins'). Anyway,  the wonderfully epic session at the quarries with 200 salamander egg masses also had many caddisfly, drangonfly and damselfy mentioned above

we headed over to the Armbrust hill for a comparative scoopin' session. Backswimmers and many drangonfly nymphs were a highlight, but i thought the spotted salamander egg masses on the lily pad stalks looked the coolest

freshly hatched baby spotted salamander
check out those gills!

we brought back some of the eggs from the quarries to (the cute) Amy Palmer's classroom where the eggs hatched within a week! 26 youngsters were seen swimming, other dead ones were seen floating in the classroom tank.

"I'll get the stick"
and with all this in mind, Leify and I went back to our favorite vernal ditch by the turbines, where we'd found 5 sets of eggs in mid April....(4/30) - 15 new sets of eggs! (you gotta be kiddin' me!).

Leify was way into it- busted out the stick to pull the eggs closer (THERE WILL BE IMPACT!) in a surprisingly (but not so surprisingly) gentle way. He was stoked on his eggs.

dude, you're about to be blocked

while checking out the eggs i noticed a spring peeper cruising across the ditchy pool, and of course i had to nab it. Leif's been wanting to hold a peeper since March! Anyway, it was surprisingly easy to catch and that's because it wasn't one, but two united as one in an effort to keep the species going.  didn't realize this until i looked in my hand at them.

they "hung on" for a while, but needless to say i blocked this male pretty readily. made me wonder just how often i block males of other species - probably more than i realize. so it goes.

hopefully (at least) he was satisfied, it was hard to tell from my angle but we thru him in the cold water (cold shower) so he could chill.

She was huge compared to him, and wide and laden with eggs. very cool to see. 

And leify was stoked, and dug hanging out with the little one, the male one, "the baby one" as he called it.

the final shot is not upside down - the photographer was! Leify was hanging upside on a picnic table bench when he said "look how cool the dandelions look this way" . and they did look cool. and here's the picture.

hope to see you out there!