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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