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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


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – November 1st, 2012
With the support of the Vinalhaven Land Trust and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Hats off to “Avian Haven” for all the good work they do


the blood tooth only bleeds
on full moons.
this is not true.
photo by john drury
Highlights – Fungus and finches (featuring Evening Grosbeak), raptors and raccoons, woodpeckers and woolly bears, otters and owls, two horned things, and post-storm Ipswich sparrow, snow buntings and black-bellied plover.


Viewer Warning: Video viewers who find slightly gross things disturbing may find the first two raccoon videos disturbing. Video viewers who find slightly gross things entertaining may be entertained by the first two raccoon videos.  Watch at your own discretion. I’ve probably built this up too much.


Contact info change – please send VSR related correspondence to our new email - Thank you Fair point, for all the sightings and however else you happened to help make the VSR better over the last few years.

Tiit trick - click on any photo to make them larger. some might say "too large!" 

saw-whet owl
photo by amy palmer
Sightings – Saw-whet owls – the lovely Amy Palmer (favoritism I am guilty of) took these shots of an adult Saw-whet Owl right outside the Emergency Services building in beautiful downtown Vinalhaven. Last word (we heard) was that the owl was shipped to Avian Haven over there in Freedom. This wasn’t the only recent call AH got from Vinalhaven, Hayley from the Friend (a nice place for drinks and snacks and stuff) shipped another owl (most likely another Saw-whet) who most likely had been hit by a car by the ballfield just a week before.  Both Owls got to ride the ferry topside with the captain, with word being that they were allowed to steer the boat only out in the middle of the bay away from any ledges (owls are crappy drivers). The Avian Haven people met the owls at the ferry and took them to their rehabilitation center to be checked out and (hopefully) reinvigorated. Avian Haven’s number is 382-6761, (and their website is and is the place to call if you find injured birds. You can also call me if you want to be told to call them. If you do find a Saw-whet Owl make sure you also call Hillary Bunker, she digs owls and would love to get some good shots of one.
the owl is in the shade
photo by amy palmer


VSR devotees will recall reports from the past few falls of Saw-whet Owl banders setting up  nets over at the Huber and catching 26 different owls in one night! So we know they come thru in numbers, and some might say the ones landing in town were looking for the banders (they are/were nice folk for sure).  I guess they picked the wrong year to skip. Anyway, it most definitely is owl migration time of the year, so keep your eyes open when you are driving around looking for Winter Moths. 


hello evening grosbeaks!
photo by sally
Finches – We had a nice run of finches as of late – seen around the island - American Goldfinch, White-winged Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Purple Finches and even Evening Grosbeak!.... at the feeders – Leave it to Skin Hill Sally and her feeders (let’s be honest - it’s all about who puts the seed out) to be the one to attract and document Evening Grosbeaks on Vinalhaven! Just Look at these beauties! These are the first (and only) Evening Grosbeaks that I’ve heard of in my limited time out here on the island. (Word from Kristen Lindquist (friend of the VSR) is that Evening Grosbeaks are being reported on the mainland as well). What does that mean?  For starters - Sally gets high fives for a week, so if you see Sally at the store (and you know you will) give her a high five or two. She deserves it! (maybe I should have checked with sally on this one, but nah, she’s into high fives).

breakfast with siskins. chaos.
photo by sylvia reiss
The Birder’s Handbook (best book ever) mentions that Evening Grosbeaks will “feed on dirt and gravel for minerals and salts”, so if you run out of sunflower seeds and money maybe put some dirt in your yard. The book also mentions they are a “frequent highway casualty when seeking road salts.” Bummer. More stuff – “Very tame. Highly irruptive. Wings longest relative to body size of all N.A. finches”.  Now that is a cool stat, if you are into wing/body size ratio. I feel sorry for anyone who is into that …. SiskinsSylvia Reiss recently had breakfast with a load of Pine Siskins having breakfast at her feeders! She got this nice shot that captures the overwhelming scene as Siskins take over the feeder scene… Jim Clayter also reports Pine Siskins and Purple Finch at his feeders…  Finches around the island – there were a few days there were White-winged Crossbills were pretty much the only thing I could hear in the woods (will they ever shut up!), as they certainly became the most numerous songbird on the island, along with Pine Siskin. Red Crossbill over at Spectacle Island as well…Pine Grosbeak along Poor Farm road


old harbor bald eagle
photo by jim clayter
red-breasted nuthatch
photo by jim conlan
Around the islandJim Conlan sent in this photo of a Red-breasted Nuthatch that became an honorary Conlan for an afternoon – lucky bird! Red-breasted Nuthatches are in good numbers around the island …Common Grackles have shown up in numbers….Red-bellied Woodpecker (10/27) across from the Library…Turkey Vulture fly over at 31 Reach Road….Bald Eagles in the basin, town, all over the island and old harbor pond - see jim clayter photo


amanita with a view
Paddle thru Red Sea and Whites - (10/24)33 Common Loons, 20 Black Guillemot, 17 Surf Scoter, 1 Horned Grebe, 1 Great Cormorant, many eider and double crested cormorants. 1 Ring-billed gull, harbor porpoiseFly OversAmerican Goldfinch, American Crow, Common Raven, White-winged Crossbill, Northern Goshawk and Northern Harrier. Yellow-rumped warblers on Spectacle...On islands- Black-capped Chickadee, White-throated Sparrow, Hairy Woodpecker, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Juncos, Winter Wren, Song sparrow, Flicker, Pine Siskins, Yellow-rumped Warbler...

angel wings. every time it rains
an angel gets its wings
angel's wings
Fungus on islands – Amanita muscaria, Dye-maker’s polypore, Coral Mushroom, Orange Jelly, Decorated Mop, Jelly Tooth, Yellow Fairy Cups, Conifer Violet-toothed Polypore, Angel's Wings, Rufus Milky, Cinnamon Cort, Saffron Cort, Emetic Russula, False Chantrelle, Marasmius, Chocloate Milky, Lackluster Laccaria, Red-yellow Gilled Polypore, Sulphur Tuft, Varnish Shelf....wolf's milk slime too!

there are no raccoons in this picture
at least none that i can find
Gross raccoon videos. Alright, so I scared up a pair of Bald Eagles and a Raven that were feasting on this washed up doe white-tailed deer. And while the birdies may have flown, the raccoon who was also feasting did not. probably because he was "half in the deer" so to speak. check out the stretching of the deer skin as the raccoon goes head first.....

here's another angle...


So the raccoon was oblivious to my presence for quite some time, but surprisingly (or not surprisingly) when it finally pulled its head out of the deer, it immediately caught my scent. Now I know that we all smell differently (and that i am setting myself up for jokes), but I would have thought, hoped that maybe it would take a minute or two for my smell to dominate over the rotting carcass he was just sticking his whole head into, but i guess its a statement about human smell. Whatsmore, the raccoon may have caught my whiff, but apparently couldn't make my shape out as i stood out in the open wearing a bright orange coat. Here's a video of the raccoon sniffin' the air and coming closer to me. If i hadn't moved I'm pretty sure this raccoon would have tapped my foot (hopefully the only tapping). anyway......

whasup dude?
quote by Doug McMullin
Otters on our mind - Old Harbor Pond - i put the trail camera at a grassy otter rolling site along the shores of Old Harbor Pond for a little over a week. 6 mammal species were photographed - White-tailed Deer, Raccoon, Local Cat, Red Squirrel, Mink and River Otter - no Homo sapiens.  Rolling sited are very import for otters. Read on...


mink are cute
this raccoon appeared to add
to the latrine
"Rolling sites (also called haul outs, landings, and scrapes) where they roll and tumble on the ground in snow, vegetation, washed-up seaweed, sand and grass. Rolling both cleans and dries the fur, fluffing it up and renewing its insulation. Any river otter that swims in the ocean also requires access to fresh water with which to rinse its fur in addition to regular grooming. Otter that are unable to roll ans sufficiently dry their fur after swimming (e.g., captives with unsuitable ground for rolling) catch pneumonia and die". - "Behavior of North American Mammals" - Elbroch and Rinehart 


there are 4 otters in this picture
The group of  otters (at least 4) paid two visits over a 4 day period. The first visit was around 8pm (10/22), and the second was 2:40am (10/26). The otters rolled, swam, and slid for about three minutes straight on both visits, with a varying number of individual otters viewable in each picture.  (I used to have 4 pictures of Otter, i now have hundreds). With the proximity to Carver's Pond, it's likely that these four are the same otters Ali McCarthy has been photographing.  Ali hasn't seen them for a few weeks now, which would make sense if they are acting more nocturnal these days.

this guy couldn't fight the urge to "rub the camera"
And speaking of smelling me - maybe the camera might make a click that otters can hear (doubt it), or maybe the red flash somehow caught the otters attention, but three times during those two visits the otters took interest and note of the camera. More likely it was my smell. (scent i think would be a better word) But its all the same really. Putting a camera covered in my stench at ground level, 7 feet from a rolling and marking spot (the rolling spot was also an active latrine) probably meant i was making more of a statement with my scent they i realized (DUH!).

this is what otter fur smushed up
against a camera lens looks like.
in case you were wondering
So anyway, they stared at the camera, approached it, and then one just went all out and rubbed up against it, smearing otter fur schmeg into a smudge on the lens! Look at the smeary deer shot a half hour later! In a way I am in!, finally marked by an otter. this may be a turning point in my life or something. or something. at the very least i am going to move the camera to a tree a little further back.

smeary deery

Ipswich Sparrow, straight Sable Island
this just in....(10/31) State Beach - checking out the "after burn" of the storm, 6 snow buntings, 2 ipswich sparrow and 3 black-bellied plover took some refuge in the grasses and by the rocks.

more post storm action in the next VSR....

and this just in as well.

Leify digs his fungus...

and a big thanks to pat paquet for having rakes handy...

and a postcard from the dark side where after months of thor and skull pirates, darth was settled on as a costume to wear. year-round undoubtedly.....

thanks for reading