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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


Friday, June 15, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 15th, 2012
We kindly thank VLT and MCHT
“The peculiar scent of a bee” – Henry David Thoreau after sniffing Labrador Tea

Black and white Warbler
photo by Karen Oakes
Highlights: Warblers, Tiger Swallowtails, Flowers, Crows eating young birds and other young birds not observed being eaten, wild, free range Spotted Salamander young and neotony discussion (you had to have seen this coming), osprey nest,  young birds including ducklings & nuthatchling(s) (awesome word!), fungus, boat ride with red knot,

Business: Get on the list!! receive a friendly reminder whenever the VSR is posted – usually early and mid month. Contact Kirk at and demand to be put on the list! It’s not exclusive and you don’t have to like us to get on it. Also a good place to send sightings, photos, and correspondence you might want to share. Helps with organization, not one of our strong points here at the VSR….

Common Yellowthroat
photo by Karen Oakes
Cliches, Clicks & chicks - my dad wants to remind you that if you click on any photos in the VSR, no matter what size they are, and they will magically fill up your screen. You then can navigate thru the VSR photos quite easily to navigate thru. He has also dreamed of being the focus of a paragraph with “chicks” in the title. Way to go stud!

Sightings – yardbirds – We’re going to start off the VSR with some wonderful songbird photos sent in by local photographer and nice person Karen Oakes.

Most of these beauties were photographed in Karen’s backyard (not a bad back yard!), with the common yellowthroat shot taken at lane’s.

black-throated green warbler
photo by Karen Oakes
We hope you enjoy the photos! To see more of Karen’s photos from around the island (and a whole lotta other stuff about Vinalhaven) check out the Vinalhaven Chamber of Commerce website -  ( ). Simply scroll down the “members” tab, click on “Fine Arts” (we are almost there) and then click on “Island View Photography” and then there you’ll be (as opposed to where you have been before and on the way). Thanks for sharing Karen!

American Redstart
photo by Karen Oakes
northern Parula
photo by Karen Oakes
Terry Goodhue shared a couple of good bird behavior stories with the VSR recently. Here’s where we are with them….

First off, on North Haven – directly lifted from an email sent my way –

“One Crow near Thoroughfare in an apple tree -nabs a Robin from the nest and takes it to the Post Office for eating. Much complaints from two Robins and three Grackles”.

White-throated Sparrow
photo by Karen Oakes
So a crow made off with a Robin youngster – right out of the nest! – And lands on the post office and feasts. All while being mobbed by Robins (assumed adults associated with the nest). (Like to see any of you crow fans stick up for them on this  one!). This behavior of nestling, fledging and egg taking is neither unexpected nor limited to crows. Many members of the Corvidae – Blue Jays (and other jays) and Ravens - will also participate in such activities. And it is with this behavior where one might make the comparison of the family Corvidae to a mafia family(in some regards). My apologizes up front to any mafia families that I offend. The bottom line-  Crows, Jays, and even Ravens are often the first to call out, draw attention to and start the all around mobbing of an owl or another large predator/being passing thru an area  While the crows are trying to drive the owl crazy, a side effect is that they are alerting nearby birds and mammals that trouble is close. For that kind of quality protection you are going to have to sacrifice a youngster every now and then. It may never happen, but you may be called upon for a favor….regardless, super cool sighting and really good timing on seeing that one Terry.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
photo by Karen Oakes

Terry also had a story about a Song Sparrow jumping on the back of a Garter Snake and pecking at its head. The sparrow undoubtedly had a nest in the neighborhood (or issues), and as snakes are known to eat bird eggs, the sparrow decided it was in its best interest to try and dissuade the snake from sticking around the area. An offer the snake couldn’t refuse – leave and I won’t poke your head in. Sounds like it was time for the snake to go…

yellow-rumped/myrtle's warbler
photo by Karen Oakes
Common Nighthawk over lane’s island, dusk, (6/10)…

 Eastern Kingbird - by Todd's Garage 3 walks in a row

With baby ducks Wood Ducks, Ocean View swamp (back in may), Black ducks on Old Harbor Pond, Eiders with young Seal Bay off of the Huber Preserve (6/14).

Cavity nesting videos from the Basin- Red-breasted Nuthatch ready to leave the nest

Hairy woodpecker adult male bringing in food to youngsters not big enough yet to poke out of the cavity opening (TH style).

And speaking of butterflies….Lots of folks are talking butterflies these days, on the tip of everyone’s tongue (kinda)- keep the tip. A few weeks back it was the “orange” ones flying around in big numbers, and then this week it’s been about the “Swallowtails” that seem to be everywhere.

So these days it’s the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails that seem to be everywhere. (6/14) saw about 15 individuals on a walk to the basin yesterday. Big, yellow, and striped – Tiger Swallowtails are easy on the eyes – here’s a little bit from Glassberg in “Butterflies thru Binoculars” –
“The tiger swallowtails and the lilies are each wonderful by themselves. Together, they induce a state of bliss”.  
The secret is out, butterfly-heads do it for the bliss. And there’s lots of it these days around the island.

Question Mark open

The orange butterflies around are mostly Question Marks, Red Admirals, and American Ladies. Here are a few photos of Question Marks and Red Admirals – open and closed! Enjoy.

Question Mark closed

Red admiral open

red admiral closed

leif and lady slipper
a few of my favorite things
And speaking of flowers….things are blooming around the island, that is for sure! Woods, meadows and roadsides too! Pink Lady Slippers are a favorite – of Leif’s as well! – And twin flower, Bunchberry, Star flower, Clintonia, and Lupine are numerous.

golden heather
Basin Flowers -  way up high in the Pitch Pine section (over 100ft) of the Williams trails (off Wharf Quarry Road) conditions are just right for a couple of flowers not found in too many places around the island.

One is Golden Heather – Hudsonia ericoides – whose yellow blooms can be seen these days right along the trail. Only found in three counties in Maine (take that Waldo!),  the golden heather is considered endangered in Connecticut, threatened in New Hampshire, and a species of special concern in Rhode Island (VSR note - we are concerned for all species in Rhode Island). The plant apparently prefers dunes, Pine Barrens, and rocks. There are a lot of rocks up there in the basin these days. Anyway, there are a handful of these yellow beauties along the trail – check ‘em out!

fuzzy undercarriage
Labrador Tea panicle

The other is Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) with their lovely panicles of white flowers. A turning over of a leaf exposes a “densely hairy underside” (no comment necessary) telltale mark of the Labrador tea. A tear of a leaf (and a sniff) fills the nostrils with that lemony Pledge smell of my youth that says “Clean” in New Jersey. Thoreau described the leaf odor as “between turpentine and strawberries” and like “the peculiar scent of a bee”. Linnaeus stated that “the leaves mixed with corn kept the mice away”. The twigs and decoctions of the leaves were used as insect repellents, both on the skin and in stored clothing. Many more historical uses, but all in small doses – Labrador Tea contains Acetylandromedol – a toxic substance that can cause headaches, vertigo and “symptoms of intoxification”. Lot going on with that plant, check it out…

And speaking of the basin….osprey nest update, Williams trail -  so signs are up guiding hikers away from the basin osprey nest and we ask that folks respect the nesters and follow the detour on the trail. One bonus though is with binoculars, or better yet a scope , there is now a clear shot into the nest from the Pitch Pine view spot along the trail.  Enjoy the trail – and the osprey nest!

basin osprey nest
And speaking of Neotony….no surprise really, with all the Spotted Salamander eggs reported from the vernal pools (thanks vern!) that Leif and I are catching way more young, gilled and aquatic spotted salamanders in what remains of the pools and ponds. They are getting bigger and bigger (they do grow up so fast) and soon will head out into the woods to bury themselves below a log. So is life.

pretty cute when they are gilled
But. Spotted Salamanders are members of the mole salamander family – Ambystomatidae. Here’s what Conant and Collins (Peterson guide to reptiles and amphibians) have to say about this family –

“The larvae of some kinds grow to large size, retain their gills, remain permanently aquatic, and breed without developing all the adult characteristics. Such specimens technically are said to be neotonic; the Mexican Indians have given us the name “axolotl” for them”

whats your favorite shade of green?
And a big thanks to the “Mexican Indians” for that catchy name for them! Anyway, Conant and Collins go on to describe situations where conditions around a breeding pool of mole salamanders could become so dry and inhospitable to salamanders that neotony (the  Retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species) is inspired. Pretty cool to turn on the survival adaptations and go juvenile. Dreaming of Neotony is probably a better title.

somewhereon the coast with granite
Fluke ride - (6/8) to frenchboro and back counting Great Cormorant nests. Not sure how many we counted (totals later) but we did hook up with 4 Red Knots – see crappy cropped photo. Red Knots are long distance migrators that time their migration with Horseshoe Crab egg laying down Jersey way. A single Willet as well.
red knots

It was a beautiful day...find out more about fluke trips at the Vinalhaven chamber of commerce website - address above - and click on recreational activities - boat rides. Tropicbird being seen for the 7th year in a row!

final videos....wolf's milk slime spore dispersal...

leif and i "peenting" to a woodcock from the car....

early amanitas and waxy caps are up. rain has been good. hope you are too.

see you out there

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 2nd, 2012
Brought to you in part by the good folks over at VLT & MCHT

Highlights – Bat(s), Cecropia Moths, Warblers including Mourning and Canada, Canada Geese, Slime Mold, Seals, Dying (and then dead) Gannet, kid stuff, butterflies, snake (finally!), Coyote stuff..

psa - go to huber and check out the lady slippers.

he likes osprey and lists
Get on the list!! receive a friendly reminder when the VSR is posted. Contact Kirk at and demand to be put on the list! It’s not exclusive and you don’t have to like us to be get on it. Also a good place to send sightings, photos, and correspondence. Helps with organization, not one of our strong points here at the VSR….

Cliches & Clicks - my dad wants folks to know that if you click on any photos in the VSR, no matter what size they are, and they will magically fill up your screen and are easy to navigate thru. all with a simple click! Thanks dad, i hadn't realized such technology exists.

Business – Trail closure in the Basin – Williams/wharf quarry road section – Temporary. Signs will go up soon, but just to give folks a heads up., the Osprey pair that has used a nest on an island in the middle of the Basin (so nice, so isolated) the last several years has abandoned the island and taken up residence in one of the closest trees to “otter point”. Otter point is a popular swimming spot located north of the old lobster pound dam and in clear view of the O’neill house. Otter point is achieved by taking a short off-shoot, not  necessarily maintained trail and is a popular swimming spot. To limit our impact on this nesting pair and their potential offspring we are asking that folks don’t go to the point until further notice. We will continue to monitor the nest and get word out when either their young fledge or if the nest fails – naturally please. Thanks for being nice! and thanks to Danny Ames for the tip!

this is a totally cool photo
photo by Colleen Conlan
Sightings – Brown Bat. Colleen Conlan has hooked us all up with another get photo from her yard. Same bush that had a Garter Snake sunning in last year, this time around it’s a beautiful Vesper Bat just hanging upside down.

This photo is very cool for so many reasons.

First off, it’s a bat. Sure you can see ‘em flying around every so often, but when if ever do you get to take pictures of one in good light in your yard.

Secondly – this guy doesn’t appear to have the “white nose syndrome” , (or “WNS”) that is effecting many colonies of bats in north east North America. The “white nose” on bats was first found in 2006, is caused by a fungus and can be clearly seen on infected individuals as a white circle around the nose and nostrils of said bat. (Not to be confused with the “white nose syndrome” from the 70s (and specifically studio 54) that resulted in people dancing for hours to some of the worst music of all time. And some of my favorite music). Anyway, it is a good thing that we don’t see white on the nose in this photo, that would signify death to it and others he/she infects/is infected with The fungus affects overwintering bat species, inducing behavior that jeopardizes hibernation. – like waking up and flying around when its still cold and they should be sleeping. About a year ago , the Bangor daily news had this article on the potential effects of the syndrome in Maine as the first cases in the state were being reported.

There are passages like this in the article:

we saw no bats that everning
“Some hypothesize that a drastically reduced bat population will have far-reaching implications. Bats are voracious consumers of insects and a recent study published in Science magazine estimates that bats provide a pest-control service that saves the U.S. agricultural industry more than $3 billion a year.”

“WNS is not harmful to humans but federal officials said they believe it can be spread from place to place by humans who climb in caves. The federal government in 2009 advised cavers to curtail their activities and pay particular attention to decontamination procedures in order to quell the spread of the disease, according to a DIF&W press release.”

i like slugs
Sounds like it’s not only sad for the bats but for us as well, and not just bat lovers. Nice that we can partially blame this on Spelunkers, I’ve been looking to pin something on them for a while.  Happy times for insects though. At this point though we’re glad to see that Colleen’s bat doesn’t have “WNS” so our “pest-control services” won’t be effected.  

and 3rdly,  it got me looking in a part of the
Mammals field guide that I hardly, if ever go to use.  i love field guides but I have certainly never used a field guide to identify a bat before, and I’, still not sure on this one. But still, the ears look big and with that it looks to be the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalisth addition Fiona Reid!.  This is probably a match with what is called a Northern Long-eared Myotis in the BDN article linked above.

Huge thanks to Colleen for sharing and Niall for spotting. Great shot!

what you can do to help - stop spelunking!

skin hill blossom and waxwing
photo by sally
Cedar waxwings –

they are here,

 they are beautiful,

  Out of nowhere,

   Deal with it


skin hill waxwings enjoying blossom treats from japan
Sofia story – (5/19) from bob: “…bearing of fruit on our apple trees comes not only a beautiful display of blossoms but, the even more beautiful display of Cedar Waxy's! Yes, they returned yesterday for a brief evening feeding. Spotted no less by Sofia from the dinner table. "Hey look, there's a baby (everything is a baby compared to her now) chickadee in the tree and some other ones right there." (We had a harder time getting her to finish diner after that). Bob reports that the waxwings remain on skin hill in good numbers. Beautiful neighborhood bird…

And with that ….. The Cedar waxwings have returned! . In 2010, they were a staple on each Tuesday morning bird walk in April and May, this year we (the royal “we”) didn’t slap any glass on them until the last walk (May 22nd).
Anyway, either way, or always – waxwings are a “plump” splash added to our already spectacular array of summer colors. Stock photo from Lane’s used for reference…the 3 year olds are checking them out – are you? (Thanks bob)

Cecropia Moths – (5/29) My favorite phone calls in the morning are about moths, especially if it’s about a Giant Silk Moth , or even better – a pair (at least) of Cecropia Moths mating in a garden. Bill Alcorn gave us a call about a pair of Cecropia moths joined butt to butt not too far from his outdoor furnace. Several others had been notified before me (“I have no problem with that” – Michael Bluth), and with time and weather constraints Leify and I made our way over between rain sessions and checked out the super cool sight.

get a room...

Apparently the female (larger and on top! You go girl!) broke thru her cozy, winter time cocoon the day before (5/28) to the delight of Bill. When he went back out the next morning he was impressed that she had found a mate so quickly.
“Pheromones must've been flying
  as her wings they were a drying
  and this first one out of all the horny little males
  was quick to heed her smells”. 

(5/29) Windy and tricky to get photos even partially in focus, we bagged a few of the cute and happy couple (totally “anthropomorphosizing” – real word?)) making sure not to block another guy, not after the spring peeper incident in the last VSR. Mitch once told me “we guys have to stick together” – Mitch wasn’t really being all that cool at the time. 

The female was still clutching to her cocoon when she found her dude. here's what Arthur Evans has to say about Giant Silk Moth cocoons - "Giant Silk Moths spend the bulk of their lives as pupae inside a silk cocoon. the cocoon protects this vulnerable  stage of life form from predators, parasites, and inclement weather. Therefore, the caterpillars devote a considerable amount of time and energy toward locating a suitable site and constructing a cocoon."

Anyway, the open wing shot shows the moth’s fuzzy antennae.  So many antennae were probably tingling the night before, all over the island and beyond. The mating shot shows the leftover cocoon that the female erupted from hours before mating. They grow up so fast.
wolf's milk slime
first of the year.

here's from wikipedia- "...The Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is North America's largest native moth. It is a member of the Saturniidae family, or giant silk moths. Females with a wingspan of 160 mm or more have been documented. "

and "...Pests of the moths have become a huge problem. Parasitoids such as some species of wasps and flies lay their eggs in or on the young caterpillars. The eggs then hatch into larvae, which consume the insides of the caterpillars. The parasitoid releases chemicals which take control of the regulatory mechanisms of the caterpillar. Once the parasitoid has grown enough, it induces the caterpillar to pupate. Once the caterpillars pupate, the larvae themselves pupate, killing the cecropia pupa. Squirrels have also been known to consume the pupae of cecropia moths, decreasing the population greatly. Pruning of trees and leaving outdoor lights on at night can also be detrimental to the cecropia moths."

anyway, they are big,  and they were hanging and mating around. rumor has it that the adults don't have mouth parts, they are adults for one purpose only. and bill was nice enough to call and let me check out the

this guy was exhausted in  every way.
Bird deaths - A Northern Gannet washed up onto shore by the Lane's Island bridge about 10 days ago. word got out fast, as this beautiful bird is seldom seen so closely and in such detail.  

late in the day and by the time i got there it was well on its way, content with lying her head on her back. she was found dead the next morning.

picked clean
photo by john drury
Merlins and Great Horned Owls - Angie Bunker heard her neighboring Great Horneds  again after a few weeks absence...Merlins displaying over city point, Squid Row, and towards Greens...What happens when Owls meet merlins. Bird Death #2! 

red-throated loon, looking mottled
photo by john drury

red-throated loon and black-crowned night heron taken from the fluke by John drury

black-crowned night herons
are very cool.
photo by john drury

Warblers – (Personally) I’ve been off island a bit over the last couple of weeks, but still have been able to bag some good warbler days. 12 and 13 species in an hour or so of observation were not uncommon around the 20th and sounds like last Saturday found many warblers socked in on the island. who's around-  lots of Ovenbird, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Black and White, Parula, Magnolia, Yellow, Yellow-throat, Redstart, Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian at all the right places. Blackpoll and Nashville’s, and  2 Canada warblers were seen on Reach and Norton’s point  road (5/26) by Patience Chamberlin. Canada Warblers also reported from Green's Island - john drury.

a bonus in my yard/cross the street was a Mourning Warbler that sang out in the open for two mornings. here;s what it  sounded like as it burst out its tune.

and here's another take on it....

 and a photo...

we see these guys regularly, but seemingly even less that Bay-breasteds. always a pleasure to see, and a big thanks to this guy for being as convenient as it could be.

batter up
Local snake - "anticipation of the return of the rise of the stair snakes" was thick this year. and not surprising. we finally saw our first (5/23), with glassy eyes, looking maybe to shed soon. or would my eyes look glassy if i was in a hole for 5 months? have seen this one many times, but not any others.

warm granite feels good on the tummy. 
anyway, this big mother was a welcome sight, we look forward to more snakes soon.

pond scooping with strangers is fun

water scorpions are cool pond critters
Kid stuff  - the Vital Signs program (and  the VLT!) that the 6th grade science students are taking part  has gotten me out with the 6th graders for pond scooping and tidepooling. the days have been great and for pond scooping we welcomed the Friends School of Falmouth and lots was to be caught - highlights being adult red-spotted newts, and this water scorpion.

also had another tidepool monitoring day. Good fun on a foggy morning. several lobster high up with claw regeneration, pregnant crab, and cool snails.

had a room
not so tough

young seals are being seen around
the island and from the ferry.
the flamingos in the basin were
reportedly not dehydrated

and then there are baby seal pups and flamingos in the basin.

several  pairs of canada geese have been observed in the basin, old harbor pond, seal bay and calderwood island. no young have been reported...coyote has been heard from the basin, fresh tracks in puddles along trail.

and kayaking and fishing with leify and amy.