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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


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – August 14th, 2012
Thanks for the continuing support of VLT & MCHT & you
“Head scratching is so essential to birds that even one-legged individuals will attempt it”
-Birder’s Handbook - should be in (and out) of everyone's bookshelf
Hummingbird hovering
photo by Sally

Highlights mammals. Insects, baby birds including young boreal chickadee, shorebirds, terns, a kittiwake and a jaeger, butterflies (day moths), Skeleton Shrimp, and a bunch more

Big Thanks to everyone who’s led (or helped out on) a walk & talk this year, 20+ folk have brung their passion and expertise to the people in VLT’s highly successful program. And while we’re at it -

Charlene Donahue talks tough
about winter moths

a special Big thanks to Charlene Donahue and Morten Moesswilde on the super informative walk and talks they gave last week on the local winter moth scene and forest health.    

Sea Lavender...sublet, purple

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….

PSA - there are several videos within this VSR. they were taken thru a spotting scope, held by someone who drinks a lot of coffee. shaky at best. you might want to turn down your sound, i can't verify loudness at all
this bird walk was more of a fog walk
Bird walks  -  Tomorrow, Wednesday the 15th. 8am at the skoog. then Wednesday august 29th

Elder bird walk - Friday 8am at skoog.

Cancellation -the bird walk on the 22nd has been cancelled. & the elder bird on the 23rd has been rescheduled to Thursday august 30th. i have to be off island the week of the 20th, sorry for the inconvenience.  my sincere apologizes.

we highly advocate folks going birdwatching, or whatever you call you observant state and go by themselves. especially Wednesday the 22nd. you always see way more by yourself.
Sightings  MAMMALS - Winter Harbor – Molly Cashin – mentioned that she was out for a row when she came across 3 or 4 sleek critters close to the edge of the mudflats (lower tide). They were wet and black/brown with white patches on their chins. She may have mentioned hunched backs. Anyway, Molly was thankful that her dog never saw them, because they didn’t seem to pay her any mind while she paddled by. What Molly saw was out most numerous carnivores on the island – Mink. Their small size and sneaky habits often make them tricky to see, even though they are everywhere on the island and can be active at any time. I watched a mink run over the beaver dam today (8/13) at Folly Pond while taking Wood Duck videos (see below).

And while we’re talking mammals – Harbor Porpoise moved into the Reach and the Red Sea last week, most probably tapping into the grub scene down Leadbetter. Jim and Merry Boone noted seeing many near the basin falls (on the outside of the falls) and a few Reach observers noted several passing thru the Reach.

bats in the barn
photo by erin creelman

Wharf Quarry Road - Erin Creelman – Bats- in the barn…(8/6) – a hornets’ nest was joined with some local bats at the top of her goat barn. “they seemed rather worked up”,

bats by erin creelman

Creelman noted, “they were making a racket and one actually flew out and landed in a nearby tree”.  Have not heard back as to how often this bat scene occurs, but it seems like this was a special sighting for the goat barn at least (GB-VNM!).  we do love bats.

monarch in the garden
photo by Sally

awesome hummingbird moth
photo by sally

Insects and wanna be insects – from Up on the hill Sally’s garden. Good ol’ butterfly bush is treating Sally well these days. Check out these Hummingbird (honorary insect) photo above and Monarch photos. What a year for Monarchs, huh? Fantastic….and then (8/13) a wanna-be bird showed up – a Hummingbird Moth, AKA Clear wing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). one of the all time favorites of the VSR crew (from Maine to California), this guy truly is a "day moth" and loaded with so much  convergent evolution sign (with hummingbirds) it makes your head spin. hard to get a good photo of (from experience) but sally really nailed both hover nectar sippin' sessions - the hummingbird and the moth!
Fawn Sphinx caterpillar
a little too chunky for me
photo by Pat Lundholm
And for those wondering about the larval scene on Pat Lundholm's deck, well, here is your update. After almost stepping on this little bugger, Pat commented that they were “pretty creepy and also fast” .  She dreamed of Luna Moths or something (maybe) equally fantastic. When I told her it was most likely a Fawn Sphinx (Sphinx kalmiaeLooks like an unexciting critter”. So it goes with moths….and so Pat snapped this sweet shot of the larval stage – the “exciting” stage of this critters being, “looks-wise” for sure. But if we can mature beyond the “appearance-driven” world of larval insects and think about how they don’t mate until they are adults, we may find that the final stage of their cycle is indeed the part is the exciting stage.

Food is good, don't get me wrong. "I';m fine with a peanut butter jelly", or a bowl full of pasta.  
indian pipes
photo by banner moffat
and i digress...

...And in the spirit of sharing beautiful Vinalhaven photos – Banner Moffat down Crockett Cove way , a recently acquired friend of the VSR, has sent in some wonderful photos and a link to some of his photos from Vinalhaven over the years. Well worth checking out, there are so many capturable moments all over the island, and Banner has definitely nailed a a bunch.

We look forward to posting more of Banner’s photos down the line. Here's that link

basin ledges

On the water – crossing the Penobscot – (8/10) – Patience Chamberlin picked out a juvy Black-legged Kittiwake flying in the fog. Distinctive markings “M” markings across the back identified it as a youngster. Lots of Terns and Storm petrels still seen from the ferry.

From the fluke – John reports a Pomarine Jaeger (8/4) “nice twisty tail” was a key characteristic observed here. Also, (8/4) Red-billed tropic bird still being seen around Seal Island.

took long enough.....
the coyote finally shits in Huber

Huber - (8/10) - Coyote scat, not all that too fresh, but hadn't been seen before by me. Snowshoe hare bones were clearly visible in the scat of our Coyote1/4 mile down the Huber trail, the first sign of our Coyote at the Huber found by me. There have been many sightings within a mile or so radius of the preserve parking lot. so this isn't a total surprise.
Wharf Quarry Road – (5/7) – along Wharf Quarry Road, the stretch between the MCHT trail parking and the end of the loop trail, 2 different family groups of Boreal Chickadees were seen. 7 Boreal Chickadees total (highest Maine day count) with 2 parents and 2 begging juveniles, and then another 3 together further down.
Boreal Chickadees are “the forgotten chickadees that we seldom talk about”. This fact makes  them even cooler.  Everyone loves Black-capped Chickadees - they come to feeders, they say there name, they’re the state bird, and they are everywhere. Boreal Chickadees are sought after along the coast, but if you go further north you’ll eventually run into lots of them.  They are yearly on the island, some years even coming to feeders Greens island 2008 (?). Boreal Chickadees are known historically to be in the area, this was the recommended area for seeing them. I have seen Boreal Chickadees feeding young along Tip-toe Mtn. road by the Whitmore Pond, and they have been found to breed in the basin, near otter pond. 

other baby birds around the island lately - lots of golden-crowned kinglet, raven, crow, yellow throat, song sparrows & cedar waxwing young noted around the island. 
somebody call me lesser?

Shorebirds – State beach is picking up. (8/2) Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. (8/11) – 1 Black-bellied Plover, 12 Semi-palmated Plover, 12 Least Sandpiper, 1 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 6 Lesser Yellowlegs. (8/13) – 1 Black-bellied Plover, 2 Semi-palmated Plover, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 10 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Least Sandpipers, 1 Short-billed Dowitcher, 1 Semi-palmated Sandpiper… by kayak …Seal Bay (8/8) - 25 Semi-palmated Plover, 10 Black-bellied Plovers, juvenile Black Guillemot…by bike (8/13) Pleasant River – 33 Semi-palmated Plover, 15 Black-bellied Plover, 6 Short-billed Dowitcher, 4 Least Sandpiper, 6 Lesser Yellowlegs

Shorebirds are nice because they often share a lot with their behaviors. Simple, mind-boggling migration lengths and routes would be enough, but then they let you video them performing other behaviors. There’s a lot to learn at state beach….

On the bird walks we’ve been talking a lot about birds “preening” their feathers and have mentioned (ad nausea) about Preen Glands and the purpose of the oil found within. So sure enough on a solo trip to State Beach, a Semi-palmated Plover took a quick splash bath in the ocean and then rubs its preen gland with its head (5 seconds into this video.)

Here’s what the birder’s handbook has to say about this…

Getting that oil on the head is essential. “most birds have a “preen gland” on the rump at the base of the upper tail feathers. The bill is used to work oil squeezed from this gland into the feathers, and head scratching may be an attempt to distribute preen oil over the head, where the bill obviously cannot do the job. The oil apparently has several functions: to help keep the feathers flexible and waterproof and to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria.”

Now the Semi-palmated rubs  its head along its body and wings (in the video to our right) trying to spread the oil and strengthen it feathers

And now for the head scratcher. Notice how the plover lowers its wing and goes directly over it to scratch the head and spread the oil in this video.

“Head-scratching thoughts” from the Birders Handbook - “Since a preening bird cannot reach its head with its beak, scratching helps to spread preen oil there,.... It could be removing ectoparasites and their eggs, something that is done with the bill on other parts of the body.”

“Within a species, the pattern of scratching is constant”  so we know that Semi-palmated Plovers are “overwing scratchers”

Shorebirds hunting – while just about any shorebird species might find itself on a floating patch of rockweed, Lesser Yellowlegs (8/11 – State Beach)seem to be the most frequent shorebird finding a floating feast in those weeds. Check this video out….

Greater Yellowlegs (8/13 – State Beach– this dude is in hot pursuit of fish, which he spent the better part of twenty minutes chasing all over the draining flats by the causeway. all the ripples ahead of him are frantic fish scootin' for their lives…

Semi-palmated Sandpiper (8/11 – state beach) – this guy is looking to pick morsels off the top of the  water, and seems a little thrown off by the fish scooting away from the water’s edge. Looks like he jumps over a fish in a moment of surprise at 3 seconds or so….

Fungus – and while its been way too hot for everybody, lets not forget to sympathizes with "the fun- guy and the fungophiles". It's with the "F & F" where happiness levels and spore dispersal rates are dismally low due to the dryness in the woods. "Burst of precipitation have no effect. damn it even the cursed fog can't stop it" from my unfinished (as of last week) musical "My Tears  Internal, Water My Fungus Internal".  

turkey tail

anyway, we're hoping with the rains more recent that the fungus will respond. Yellow patches are around, fresh Turkey Tail in the tree out by the road, and Bitter Bolete stalks were found at the Huber.  

with fresh slime trails no less

Slime molds - scrambled egg slime turned it up a little after the august 1st, several patches noted in the basin and Huber. tapioca slime remnants and more re-cents found as well.

chocolate tube slime
photo by banner moffat

more banner moffat shots and a video of chocolate tube slime spore dispersal.

Some other videos: dragonfly laying eggs at armbrust hill. she is slapping her abdomen on the water of the cess poo, to dislodge fertilized eggsl. male watches (supervises/protects) along side her, unattached.

and in keeping with the preen theme from earlier- several Wood Duck (Folly Pond (8/13)) preening along the northern shore of Folly Pond. Young Bald Eagle also seen, Mink runs across the Beaver Dam in front of observer. not in video.

Skeleton Shrimp - alright. we've all been there. waiting for the ferry, waiting for a friend, on a float (or near one) with plenty of time to burnl. fouling communities on floats can be rich, especially if kelp is present for habitat. check this out from our float, going from hydroid to hydroid (right to left) in the video.

we're calling this one a Long-horn Skeleton Shrimp (Aeginella longicprnis) Class \Crustacea mostly because they are pink and found in this area.

and then there is leify - freshly back from learning about knights and castles. international journey. blocks have come in handy...

and back to catching frogs...

this was a two species day for leif, with green frog and spring peeper (in the yard) and singing consistently since, its the time for the wrapping up of summer warmth. good times, 2 species of frogs speak for it.

we'll see you out there....