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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, July 20, 2012

old harbor
Welcome to the VSR- July 20th 2012
With the kind support of VLT and MCHT
  “Botanists of an earlier generation,
 convinced that nature had made a bad mistake,
deplored this strange little perennial
for its “degenerate morals”.”

Highlights: terns, yellow-billed cuckoo,
nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, Merlin nest,
wood duck babies, fungus, slime mold, butterflies,

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….
can you see the merlins in the fog?
Time for a time out! –(aka Give it a rest) – VSR will be in recess until mid-august. Much deserved?  I doubt it. But we’re taking a break - You can send in your sightings and photos (and please do) but they will not be processed until august. We are going talk fungus (and probably slime molds too) with some Estonians and we all know how that can go. So let’s go!

Upcoming events: lots of stuff being offered by the VLT walks and talks these days. Check out the VLT website - for outings to farms and tide pools, quarry talks and Wednesday bird walks.

And don’t forget about Javier Penalosa’s Tidepool session next Wednesday for the VLT. “Penalosa is a wealth of knowledge” – anonymous.  Wednesday July 25th, 9am at the Skoog Park.

The next Wednesday morning birdwalk will be on Thursday August 2nd. 8am at the skoog. We’ve been seeing a lot of cool things, and will continue to do so. That’s the plan.

Anne Godfrey checking out Merlins in the mist
Sightings - Elderbirds the elderbird trips have proved a success, so we will keep doing them. 2 dates set for august – both Thursdays! – the 9th and the 23rd…here’s what we’ve seen ….(7/10) folly pond -wood duck (with young), black duck, belted kingfisher- state beach - Merlin nest, common tern dwarf rattlesnake plantain, shy maiden…(7/17) Basin - 5 short-billed dowitchers, nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, great blue heron…folly pond – osprey, bald eagle, wood duck,  

Wednesday AM Bird walks – (7/11) lane’s – grey catbird, American robin, common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, goldfinch, song sparrow, osprey nest, alder flycatcher,state beach – 5 short-billed dowticher, Merlin nest and young, Bald Eagle, common tern, eider…(7/18) Lane’s Island – cedar waxwing, yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, black-throated green warbler, grey catbird, bald eagle, osprey nest...State Beach - Bald Eagle, Northern Parula, Osprey nest, Common Tern, Song Sparrow,  

Sound like…word around is that folks have been going back on their own to state beach to see/hear the merlins in action and that’s wonderful.  The stories and excitement are fantastic. Good to hear about so many people’s adventures on our island.
Ferry Rides and within paddlin’ distance – Many have noted the intense feeding going on along the western shores of Leadbetter Island thru the narrows. Hundreds of Terns – seemingly all identified as Commons – have been feasting along the shore – in clear view of the ferry, enough to invoke this commentary by Captain Pete -“there were hundreds of them”. The site from the ferry is unlike any one has ever seen.

Literally,  gagillions of terns are stacked up near the narrows, diving and feasting, and to a certain extent bringing home fish for the family - Keith drury mentioned"its over a Tern a minute" passing over Greens Island during much of the day. Apparently greens island is directly in the line of travel of Common Terns bringing food back to their offspring on Seal. John and Keith have been surveying the flyovers and they have been seeing a lot. Patience Chamberlin on the Reach mentioned the terns are "literally are swarming over Green's in the evening, going in both directions." sounds like an epic sight!
these are not terns
There's no other explanation than they are feasting where the food is.

For those who are wondering - leadbetter island is roughly 13 miles from Seal - which seems like a long distance to go for food to feed your hatchlings, but parenthood really knowns no limits or minimums or something. anyway, since common terns chicks live in the nest 26 days after hatching you have to figure 26 days of 26 miles of flight (1 trip) would lead to 676 miles of travel. and that's if they only go once - two trips a day is roughly 1352 miles. Anyway, this is a species that goes over 22,000 miles (or about 1 gagillion-million kilometers) in a year during migration - whats an extra 600 - 1352 miles in a season?
with Terns traveling this far, does it say anything about the success rate of tern breeding on seal?
12 spot
And hey - Might some of the Terns be from Metinic island - roughly 15 miles from leadbetter island?
where the entire population of 1400 terns abandoned the island in June (should be noted that researchers have put up speakers and are playing tern calls in hopes to lure them back to the island. latest data reports that 3 individuals have returned which is roughly .221 of a percent of the population. yeah to playing tapes!).  here's the Portland press herald version of the tern reality..
anyway, if you find yourself on the ferry and want to see terns, pay some attention.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Patience Chamberlin heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo two evenings in a row, with the vocalizations coming from the wetlands at the head of Creeds Cove. Would be very cool if they are breeding there. or anywhere really.

degenerate morals
Flowers our favorites are the heath epiparasites –the ones that not only want to be fungus  (all plants do) – but have gone to the extreme of giving up the whole photosynthesis shtick (it’s truly overrated). Ericaceae (Heath Family) is a wonderful group of fungus dependant beauties that give us Blueberries, Bearberries, Pyrola and Shy Maidens. But our favorites are the Monotropa – Indian Pipes (M. uniflora) and Pinesap (M. hypopithys). These are the hot ones.
peaceful pipe

And supply one of my favorite paragraphs in a field guide that I have read – once again tapping into John “who the hell is john Eastman” Eastman’s “forest and thicket” book , page 114

pinesap is sexy
Botanists of an earlier generation, convinced that nature had made a bad mistake, deplored this strange little perennial for its “degenerate morals”. How dare a seed plant give up being green and become a parasite! Today, botanists call Indian Pipe an epiparasite for it feeds indirectly from the roots of green plants. Its source of nourishment is subsurface mycorrhizal fungi, which interconnect with the roots of nearby plants and derive nourishment from them (VSR editor note- yes that is 2 “nourishment’s in one sentence).  The fungi act as a middleman that processes food delivery to Indian Pipe from its green neighbors”.

around the huber parking lot

Eastman, god bless him, makes it all sound so peaceful. “Fungi act as the middleman”? but exactly what’s in it for the fungus? I bet the relationship is a little bit testier than that. Anyway –  still a great paragraph, degenerate morals! Love it. These beauties, along with their epiparasitic cousins Pinesap are popping up in the woods as I type. These photos are from the granite island trail, with the pinesap close the high point of the Quarry Loop Trail.
Another Heath ready to be observed is the Rounded Shinleaf (Pyrola americana) right in the Huber parking lot! Go take a look – you can’t miss them unless you don’t go check ‘em out.

the blusher
Fungus – been a bit dry, and hot. fungus came and went, we look forward to some rain. But still the fungus fight thru it all – amanitas appearing to be the big winners so far this season... Huber Preserve – (7/17) 5 amanita stroll – Blusher, Yellow Patches,  Tawny Grissette, Grissette, - dye-maker's polypore

Tawny Grisette
leify loves his amanitas
actually he loves all mushrooms

2:30 in the afternoon
 tapioca slime - blurry and with leify's finger smudge 
Slime molds are decent these days – it feels like even just a day of rain would swing things around on the slime mold scenethings are ready to burst! But still 15+ slime mold patches a hike seems to be the norm, with Tapioca Slime being the best off as far as numbers are concerned.  

same tapioca slime 3 hours later
5:30 pm

And in a cool twist of events, I got to hike the Granite Island trail twice the other day (7/14) and photographed the same Tapioca Slime patch as it was growing. The first shot is slightly out of focus, but shows the tapioca slime with a few moss strands showing, and a blurry spot where leify decided to see how gooey it was … 3 hours later and the moss strands are engulfed, the slime has increased dramatically in size, and leify’s blurry finger patch is gone. Cool slime moment to see the change of only a few hours.

24 slimes observed on Huber (7/17) – 19 Tapioca Slime, 2 chocolate tube slime, and 3 scrambled egg. Here’s a video of the chocolate tube spore dispersal, with a little help from me…
sorry no video - it refused to upload and we are sending this thing out now!

on beth's thumb
photo by beth gilford
lepidoptera - Moths - Beth Gilford sent in these shots of a Rosy Maple Moth, aka Primrose moth, that she took by her house...Beth states....

"For 3 days I have seen these moths hiding out in a primrose flower for the day. Sometimes, 2 or even 3 in the same one. As the day progresses the flower wilts and they stay put completely covered by the flower."

head first
photo by beth gilford
Rosy Maple Moths are reported every year on the island, but are never seen in numbers.

Butterflies – the incredible butterfly season continues with the arrival of Monarchs! Plenty of them around – and from reports it sounds like plenty of them are mating (2 at a time usually!) – joining the Red Admirals (who are starting to show their faded colors after a month or so of adulthood), Question Marks (still plenty around), American Ladies.

and other things. its time to send this out.

hope everyone has a nice end of july. and beyond

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
July 6th, 2012
Big thanks to MCHT and VLT

Highlights – Tropicbird, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Baby Birds,, including Merlin young, Slime Mold!, Fungus!, Flowers, rain

Delays Happen! - we have been experiencing computer difficulties which have led to tartiness in the posting of the VSR.
delays will most likely will happen again.

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….

Trail closure in the Basin – Williams/wharf quarry road section – Temporary. Signs are up – please follow them, the local Osprey pair have 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. Update – (7/3) Checked nest and there was no activity seen, have left signs up and will return next week – if still no activity then the trail will be re-opened. Thanks for your understanding.

and a hats off and thanks to Fred Gralenski for noting Neoteny was misspelled in the last VSR. there are often a few dozen spelling/grammatical errors in each VSR, (its the Quaker in me - nobody's perfect) - and i truly appreciate it when they are mentioned, as i often don't pay attention to spelling and would like to have words spelled correctly. or at least most of them. 

ditchy sundews
photo by Javier Penelosa
Public Service announcement – from the mouth of the Penelosa….”Nice population of insectivorous sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) in a roadside ditch (Calderwood Neck Rd, near the Boy Scout Point Rd). Usually we have to venture into a wetland to see these, so the roadside population is a treat. Actually our roadside wetlands are pretty rich and worth a look: several species of peatmoss, sedges, rushes, twin flower, etc.”

Take it from Javier and "get down in a ditch with your bad self", so to speak and look at the peat moss. Do it. its better than looking at where you are going..

Upcoming Events:  Summer Wednesday bird walks – Wednesday July 11th and 18th – 8am-11am, meet at skoog park. Led by Kirk Gentalen. We’ll be going to wherever the birds are. note- the Wednesday bird walks will be on Wednesdays. not mondays, those would be monday morning bird walks. i'm not aware of any structured bird walks being offered on mondays with me leading. anyway, see you Wednesday!

Elderbirds- if you are someone (or know someone) who wants to join in the birdwatching fun but might be looking for some level ground (as if birdwatching wasn’t slow enough) then have them get in touch with me at or 2228. We've got a lively bunch interested in going, with plenty of room for more. this months walks will be Tuesdays July 10th and July 17th. please contact me for more information...

red- billed tropicbird
photo by john drury
Sightings - On the water -Word from the FlukeSeal IslandRed-billed Tropicbird sightings last week - 3 for 4, 3 for 3, or 4 for 3 on trips, either way a sweet week of tropicbird sightings. This is the 8th year for the Tropicbird in the Gulf of Maine, the 7th summer associated with Matinicus Rock and Seal Island. Who knows how many more years it can sustain this, get a glimpse of the Tropicbird while you can! Call John to set up a ride to Seal Island – 596 – 1841. It’s well worth it!

 Also seen on trips – Manx Shearwaters, Gannets, and Puffins, Razorbill, Terns, Parasitic Jaegers, and more. "I have seen other totally unbelievable things but i can't remember what  "- direct quote from the Captain.

lesser black-backed gull
photo by John drury
Plus - Hot Gulls, or just when you thought Gulls couldn’t get any sexier. Thanks to Fluke Captain John Drury for sending in these photos of some recent Gull visitors. Lesser Black-backed Gull (6/26) – birding ferryman Skip Small pointed out this Lesser Black-backed gull to John as he was getting on the ferry – conversation might have gone like this – “Hey, look at that lesser black-backed gull over there” – or something along those lines.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls are considered rare in the state of Maine fall-spring, and as far as Pierson (squared) & Vickery goes are not found in the state June-august. Looking at the photo, this is clearly identified as a Lesser BBGreater Black-backed Gulls. Anyway, kudos to Skip for spotting  and identifying the LBB and relaying its presence to john who got this wonderful picture of it. This is only  the second Lesser BB Gull reported to the VSR over the years – first in 4 years. Rare bird indeed.  

the albino one is sitting down
photo by john drury

…And as a bonus John spotted this albino Great Black-backed Gull on Little Brimstone last week. It’s been around and continues to be spotted nestling in with other Black-backeds.  

young cardinal
photo by sally
Baby Birds – it’s that time of the year, when all the little ones are released and the cries/demands of baby birds can be heard thru the woods and back yards. Makes you appreciate when there were solid afternoon naps. Fledglings (those who have left the nest recently) can move around pretty fast while being super skittish. Here’s a few fledglings spotted around the last few weeks – Robin, Grackle, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy and Downy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper, White-throated and Song Sparrow, mourning doves

good parenting (judgement)
photo by sally
Sally from up on the hill had a family of Northern Cardinals  – 3 fledglings!- visiting her feeders recently (6/18-25th at least). Sally noted “the Daddy seems to check things out first for a few then the little one shows up”. Sally got some nice shots of the youngster and the dad - in the process feeding his progeny. we also lamented in the store about photos that got away, with the camera snapping moments before or after the male cardinal fed the offspring. got some nice shots sally! No recent word  of their status, most likely on their own by now.

Eider ducklings! - lane's, state beach, all around the island. here's an action video of some diving...

young merlin ventures out of nest
A story of timing and being there…Bill Chilles (VSR favorite) mentioned  to me in the parking lot about seeing a nest or something like it out State Beach way. He gave me some pretty good directions but still I couldn’t find whatever nest Bill was talking about. I did stick around for a while though because a Merlin falcon was yelling for extended stretches of time from trees nearby.

shy maiden

anyway, to make a long story short (too late!) i ended up finding an impossible Merlin nest with 3 young in it, and checked with Bill and this was not what he had seen.  On subsequent visits found some Shy Maidens (80+ in one patch) and some Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain. So even though i never did see whatever bill saw, I can't thank him enough for putting me in the right place to for discovery, i certainly wouldn't have been there without him. Here's a video with 2 heads showing and the third youngster moving around to the right.

Around the island - Lane's - Common Nighthawk and tons of Fireflies seen around the preserve....Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow heard from the Basin Bridge and in the Ballground in town .... Broad-winged Hawks - Poor Farm, Carrying Place, Pleasant River, Zion farm road -...

leif proudly holding Tapioca Slime
moments after i told him it probably
wouldn't come up in one piece.
and where to start about the slime mold scene. with the recent rains and dark days the slime molds  have responded in numbers unheard of since the "summer of slime mold 2009" when the rains never relented and the trails were lines with slime. i even busted out the ol' clicker and had a 38 slime walk the other day. so here's to more rain! 

and here's to here's a montage of beauty that can only be described as....."mold"

chocolate tube slime forest - the basin

coral slime sanctuary - the basin

wolf's milk slime  - the basin

and of course - scrambled egg slime- basin

i really liked that part of the goo slid off the log.

wonder what kind of sound it made when it landed

and here's leify again starring in a slime mold video...
yes, its gooey.

bailey enjoys the ring-necked snake
big thanks to Nana
for spending time with us 
snakes - leify and i have had our run ins with snakes over the past few weeks.  we had a ring-necked snake and a smooth green snake for a few weeks. we brought to daycare and even had Nana hold with the boy.

tough guy

this little garter snake was super feisty, but not until i put him down. calm in the hand, didn't even musk me, but lunged at us a few times after words.

dead man's fingers
and fungus - with the rains the first amanitas, boletes, and chantrelles are popping up. but as far as i'm saying there are no chantrelles in the woods. but my favorite fungus of the season so far has been the Dead Man's Fingers growing on a stump where i park by bike at home. only the second time i've seen it on the island - VSR devotees will remember Linnell Mather had some in her yard a few years back. anyway, they are cool and fun to see.

anyway, that's enough.

see you out there.....