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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


Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – October 22, 2012
VLT, MCHT, & U are our favorite letters! Plus Q
“It is said to be responsible for the phases of the moon” –
Adrian Morgan writing about Soma, a deity and drink made from Amanita muscaria
spiny puffball


Highlights – Red-bellied woodpecker, migration including Cormorants, seabirds including Brandt Geese, sparrows, Fungus! Including FOTM and a 3rd Chanterelle run!, slime mold, other things. Owl pellets…finches, including White-winged Crossbills…

Lowlight - there are several videos in this VSR, some better quality than others. please don't hurt yourself! turn your volume low!

javier modeling the color orange

PSA - and speaking of getting hurt - Hunting season is ripe! We are fully in bow season, looking forward to shifting gears this saturday - which is kids day with the ol' guns. And then we have november (and the last three days of october) where hunting will be the norm out in the woods. So wear that orange! Here's Javier sporting the orange and looking way too close at an algae covered Cattail.


Folly Pond is pretty

Business – We got some great feedback on all the wonderful photos and posted sightings in last report (and in previous ones) – so thanks again everyone for sharing. If you’ve got something to share, then share! Photos, a list, a particular view, we’ll take it!- send your thing to . It’s just that easy. It’s not checked often, but often enough.

 Don't forget the "Tiit-trick" - clicking on any photo stimulates said photo into growing! Technology engourges them with enough life and light to fill up your computer screen! In other words- click on the photos and they get bigger. Dad figured this one out.

nice red-belly from this angle
 but watch out for that siskin!
photo by sally

Sightings -  Red-bellied Woodpecker. Skin Hill- You can’t be sure how to answer an email from Skin Hill Sally titled – “Guess whose back!”. She has seen and documented so many cool things in her back yard – the list is hard to choose from! On this occasion though the correct answer was a rugged male Red-bellied Woodpecker! VSR devotees will recall that last spring a male Red-bellied Woodpecker excavated a cavity in a tree up on Skin Hill and was seen at a few feeder stations before being run off by Starlings (bastards). Anyway, great to see one of the “rarer” woodpeckers on the island swinging by one of  our favorite feeder stations!

when siskins attack
photo by sally

And while we are at it – here’s that Hairy Woodpecker photo that I wrote about in the last VSR and failed (miserably) to post up the photo. Better late and all’s well, or so it goes!

the missing hairy woodpecker photo
by Sally


Migration – roadsides are lined with Sparrows – largely Dark-eyed Juncos, Song and Savannah Sparrows. Northern Flickers and American Robins are more than numerous along roadsides and in yards as well. Keep your eyes open for the flee flight these guys do when you venture “north” along North Haven Road or up to Calderwood Neck. Swamp sparrows being reported around the island, Sapsuckers seem to have passed. This morning I heard my third pair of White-winged Crossbills in the last 4 days. – Polly Cove, Huber, and State Beach. First I’ve heard for a few months at least…goldfinch and pine siskins reported around the island as well…Lane’s island is infested with Yellow-rumped warblers, Patience Chamberlin reported a Palm Warbler on reach road…


Hooded Mergansers are pretty
and in Carver's Pond
photo by Karen Oakes
Ducks, sea birds – Hooded Mergansers are showing up in numbers in Carver’s Pond – 20+ (10/22) first handful seen a few days back – also in Pleasant River…BuffleheadCarver’s Pond and Polly CoveSurf Scoters – 40+ Polly CoveRed-breasted Merganser (10/21) State Beach, Carver’s Pond…Red-necked Grebe – (6) State Beach (10/21)…lots of common loons


i like reflections

Note about Grebes - Grebes eat fish, that's pretty much their thing. They also eat feathers, their own feathers mostly - except for the proud parents who give their youngin's some of their own to eat. Why eat feathers? other than the obvious answer (Why not?), the thought is that since Grebes eat fish, and since they don't regurgitate pellets of bones or anything, feathers eaten are "used" to coat the bones - take the edge of if you will - while they pass thru the digestive system. Its such an important behavior that young grebes who don't even have feathers of their own yet have been founds to have feathers in their stomach. Good parenting comes in so many forms! 

So here's a video i took of a Red-necked Grebe over at State Beach (best grebe spot on the island). Looks like basic feather maintenance/preening, except at the 3 second mark the Grebe pecks at the water for something that fell its back. Now, it could've just been a basic parasite - tick or mite or whatever - but i like to think it was a small downy feather that he/she/it jsut couldn't let get away. 
anyway, enjoy!   

Shags- Double-crested Cormorants may be the least popular native bird in North America , but regardless of how many lobsters and fish they have kept out of traps and nets (and in their bellies) you have to (you don’t have to do anything) tip your hat to them as far as mass migration goes. I have included 2 videos I took from State Beach yesterday (10/19) as Shags from up north got “the hell out of dodge” , flewing the coop so to speak for a warmer, more southern  winter (wimps!). The first two videos are of a single line that went past Saddleback Light, about 50 seconds of crossing, where hundreds of Shags headed out I only got 35 seconds of video.


The second video is of a Shag group that came really close to state beach, I could only let the group pass by and hope to capture some of the massiveness in their numbers as they cruised thru the zone. My guess is that I saw maybe 2000 shags in a half hour that day. If I had more of an attention span I probably could have passed 10,000. Another day.


Brant Geese – also at state beachBrant geese are a cooler (judgment), smaller version Goose than the similar Canada Geese (don’t tell Canada Geese that though). They are a species more tied to salt water and salt water algae than other Geese. Brandts can be seen each fall and spring on islands nearby, like Brimstone and Otter, but tend to stay a little away from Vinalhaven proper. They can also be seen from Lane’s Island, with a scope, during migration in March, where 100s can be seen flying by – usually a bit off. here's a crappy video of the pair of Brandts by Greer Island


Anyway, this was the first time I’ve seen Brandt in the waters around Vinalhaven. Brings me back to Dungeness Spit out on the Olympic peninsula where I saw a Brandt for the first time. The national wildlife refuge there was designated in order to protect a food source for the subspecies of Brandt that can be found there.


Owls – Saw-whets – well, the owl banders didn’t make it out this year, but that certainly hasn’t kept the Saw-whets from coming thru our zone. Someone – I believe it was Tim Oxton – had a Saw-whet land on his lobster boat out in the gulf, Hayley found an injured owl by the ballfield (species not confirmed) that was taken to friendship or freedom or some other happy sounding place, and I have been finding saw-whet pellets on the old harbor trail in the Basin preserve.


No owl sighting for me, but 3 pellets went to 6 in a matter of days  and a single scat spot increased to “latrine” levels. Keep your eyes open at night for these little buggers as they pass over our island paradise.  


nothing regular about
this Irregular Earthtongue
Fungus – Even for a chilly morning after a rain we had a nice turnout for the Fungus Watch a week or so ago where we found a bunch of fungus – nice to have so many eyes looking. Things certainly have warmed up since – even the wind has been downright comfy most days. Anyway, we’re happy to report that the fall run of mushrooms continuing, with the northern end of the island showing a bit more diversity than what I’d been seeing “down here”. The recent warmth throws that out the window or at least the door.

honey mushrooms are breathtaking
in all phases of development


Honey Mushrooms – Armillaria mellea – the run has been extended (apparently), with patches on the north end of the island still pumping ‘em out. A diverse group, these are tasty while also glowing in the dark (not always, right conditions).


Round three – Chanterelles – so the first run was kinda weak, the early September bloom was nice, and now this warm wet spell has turned up a nice round three from my favorite patch. It was a handful, for sure. Other patches checked were blank – but still worth checking your stuff! Leify quote – “I love chanterelles!”
these Chantrelles were
"Quite the handful in the woods"


Species Exclusive - Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria – there’s a nice run out on Lane’s Island these days, on the right, just before you make the left into the preserve, in a yard by some canoes.  Anyway, there’s a good 7 or so, reminds me of many front yards we saw down east a few weeks back. Here are a few shots from the group – over two or three days at this point.  


one day
Amanita muscaria is every weekend ethnomycologist’s dream. Polypores have had known “medicinal and other uses” for forever, but haven't had the cultural impact in the same way A. muscaria has. I mean, you name it – its universal – from Shamanism, Siberia and Soma, to Berserkers & killing flies, even Storm’s weird story, and  that takes place in the woods, the Fly agaric is certainly the most recognizable fungus on the planet! You know , the Alice in Wonderland mushroom. Except the ones around here are yellow-orange((A muscaria var. formosa) Whatever the hell a “var.” (variation) is in a scientific name). But they are just as hot as the red ones. Anyway, to  put things in perspective here are some random quotes about A. muscaria from by Adrian Morgan, from the incredible work “Toads and Toadstools – the natural history, folklore, and cultural oddities of a strange association”. epic


Norway, 1814 – “ The Varmland regiment was advancing, when an officer noticed that some of the men were raving or foaming at the mouth. This was investigated and it transpired that they had eaten fly agaric in order to be in fighting form” – Berserker legacy
and then the next day


“”Indra (you know - Indra) is mentioned as loving to drink an intoxicant and hallucinogen known as soma. Soma appears as a deity, and in 1968 R. Gordon Wasson (kick ass ethnomycologist) published a persuasive hypothesis, arguing that in its original form, soma was the fly agaric.” -


“The Rig Veda describes soma as being a plant with neither leaves, flower, nor fruit….The deity soma was said to have “a hundred knobs”…it is said to be responsible for the phases of the moon. As the gods drank soma to prolong their lives, the moon waxed and waned. Soma was ritually consumed in various ways, called “soma-sacrifice””

one day
 “..Catherine the Great, the nymphomaniac Empress of the Russias, consumed such a drink prior to her debauches”


“in 1601 the French naturalist Clusius of Arras (Charles Lecluse) asserted it was only one of 6 types of mushrooms used to kill insects in his seminal work Rariorum Plantarum Historia. “


then the next day
when the orange spots appeared
All above quotes from "insane" chapter five entitled  - The Fly Agaric in Europe and Asia

In other words - dude, this has been recognized as a cool fungus for a long, long time. And there’s way more in the book. Our local version is on display out on Lane’s. And probably other places under pine, I see it less out here than on the mainland. Worth a glance for sure. Congratulations Amanita muscaria – you are the FOTM or Fungus of the month for October 2012.


very graceful

graceful boletes were also seen as of late as well as tons of others.
Along with the late run of fungus has been a nice bloom of Wolf’s Milk Slime – The pink bursts quickly went brown, in other words I found way more brown than pink. Anyway. Don’t forget our mantra – “Don’t forget the slime mold”.


And where would we be without Leify and his Horse Mushrooms out on Lane’s. Several folk have asked about them as this is one of two patches I know of on the island, and the one seen most often by people, especially people with dogs as they are in the trail on Lane’s. Anyway, we left a couple for others, and are glad to report that longtime VSR reader and supporter Suzanne was spotted carrying her treasure back to her kitchen. Happy feasting! It is local food week!

and the beach fleas that tickle when they hope onto your hands....and then pop when you step on them.

and the world's best sand box and nice sunsests

huntley beach, job site

rock on everyone!