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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


Thursday, January 10, 2013

sunsets go on forever these days

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report 
 January 10th, 2013

With the support of VLT & MCHT

Highlights: Common Redpolls, Sharpies, Cooper’s and Cardinals, Kingfisher, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Crossbills, Iceland Gull,Snow tracking – including way too many river otter sign photos! or just the right amount 

put this in your spam pipe
and smoke it!

Business:  Happy new year, how ‘bout some spam? – many folk were kind enough let me know that my “baldfulmar” email account sent them some advertisement about a weightless supplement or something. A few were p****d that I was calling them fat (you are what you think you are), while others realized it was a mild case of the spams and were 95% sure I wasn’t calling them anything. Either way, I apologize for this royal spammation of which I had no control over I guess. Please accept my sincere spammology. 

snowshoeing in the basin
is fun

Upcoming Events – MCHT Basin Snowshoe – Sunday January 20th, 1 pm. Meet at Skoog Park. We’ll be snowshoeing thru the preserve, taking in the sights, tracking some animals, scoping some ducks, and having an all around good ol’ time. The outing will be somewhat strenuous and over uneven terrain.  If no snow, then we just walk normally around the woods talking about whatever we find.

this vernal pool will be loaded with
salamander eggs in 4 months!
Contact us!  We here at VSR headquarters welcome and appreciate any photos, reports, and new email addresses (to add to our email list) that you all have to share. And while we welcome all correspondence from all sorts of views and perspectives, we do appreciate stuff being sent to our new email – – if you can remember to do so. And a big thanks to those who’ve sent in photos and sightings to share for this report! That’s why we do the VSR!

click on this to see the ice
chunks larger. or something.

Tiit trick! - most of the images in this report are small, because we went crazy with the amount of pictures. to view these in larger than life scale just click on the photo, or photos of your choice and in theory they should get bigger. no joke to be added here.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
photo by Hillary Bunker

Sightings (12/31) Hillary Bunker took this photo of a Sharp-shinned Hawk sitting not-so-stealthfully in her yard. Apparently the sharpie was keeping an eye out for local Mourning Doves, ready to pounce and strike if the opportunity developed.  John Drury saw a Sharp-shinned hawk in flight by the school, possibly on the same day, possibly the same bird. Is the world is full of possibilities? Possibly.

this is the basin

Terry Goodhue reports observing a Cooper’s Hawk perched on the Rockland Ferry Terminal terminal, possibly hunting Rock Pigeons (formerly known as Rock Doves). Most people would have no problem if the Cooper’s Hawk ate all the pigeons in Rockland. No one would have a problem if it gave up on birds and just ate all the red squirrels on Vinalhaven. It’s true! The question was part of a town survey I conducted with myself.

redpoll invasion
photo by Sally
Skin Hill Sally’s Yard. – As active as ever, Sally reports some nice flocks of winter visitors Common Redpolls. When asked how many, sally responded with “A s**t ton”, which we all means a lot, because a ton of s**t is like 2000 pounds (roughly a gagillion kiloliters for the 2 fans of the metric system who read these reports) , and since a redpoll weighs around .46 oz (roughly  an 100th of the weight of my beard at this moment- metric system only), and since there are 16 oz. in a pound – right? – that equals about 64000 redpolls (roughly).  That’s a lot of sunflower seeds.

one of many cardinals in
sally's yard
photo by Sally

A “s**t-ton” is, or course, similar to of a “s**t-load”, which has been defined as “way, way more of species present than one would expect”. If you think about it and lower all your expectations to nothing, then there’d be a “S**tload” of everything to you. Not a bad way to go around in life.    

Sally also had a nice day with 7 Northern Cardinals (I hope that number is right), which is a relative “s**tload” as Sally usually expects to see 1 or 2, or none at all in her yard. Good work Sally and keep the photos coming! We wish she would send a s**tload.

nice look at redpolls
photo by jim clayter
Back to the Redpolls - this just in - Jim Clayter, over in the pumpkin ridge area of the world, reports a hefty invasion of redpolls at his feeders just a few days back (1/6). here's a snap shot he got of the scene.

and a 30 second video of the little buggers going crazy with the feasting. 

jim mentioned that he's had redpolls at his feeders a few times in the winter of 2011 - none in the winter of 2012 - and then just recently. before that he hadn't seen them since 1986! nice note taking jim! 

this sunrise took forever
from the 7am ferry out of rockland

Ferry Rides – Terry Goodhue spotted an Iceland Gull and a Red-throated Loon from the ferry last week….(1/2) our return from southern worlds, the 7am ferry from Rockland. 10 Razorbill, 3 Great Cormorants, 20 Kittiwake, 100+ Ring-billed Gull, Common Loon, Oldtails, etc….not to be picky, but the lighting on the 7am from Rockland is not conducive to great scanning (we are used to the 7am out of Vinalhaven). And the big ferry vibrates a lot. Normally I am a fan of things that vibrate, but when trying to hold binos steady in one hand and a coffee mug in the other, it just gets tricky. Can somebody do something about this for me? Thanks for your efforts.

Been down with the sickness largely since coming back from Florida, on the upswing now and for the last few days, but still had some nice observation sessions at some of our favorite spots.

For most wood excursions Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Hairy or Downy (or both!) Woodpeckers were seen or heard (or both!).

Basin (1/4) – 6 Surf Scoter, 4 Oldtails, 25 Bufflehead, 7 Common Goldeneye, 3 Common Loon, 1 Barrow’s Goldeneye, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, 6 Black Duck

state beach is sexy in the winter

State Beach (1/4) -8 Red-necked Grebe, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Common Loon, 2 White-winged Scoter, 7 Black Guillemot, 3 Common Goldeneye

this ice looks nothing like
a belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher – we got at least one! seen as recently as (1/9) in Creeds Cove, this little blue dude with an attitude has been spotted at the Millrace and in Sands Cove. Love it when they spend the winter. To be honest, love it when they don’t as well. We just love winter.

And why do we love the winter? You guessed it, winter is... 

this otter dragged its tail
thru mush

Otter Time, or now that we've got that out of the way – winter is a great time to find out about otters. Here’s what we’ve been finding. In a photo gallery typesetting with some scattered commentary. enjoy.

Old Harbor Pond Otters – a family affair - (1/5 &1/7) - here's where the otters come out of the sand cove...

here's where the otters have made a highway in the snow, with belly slides and all, heading to old harbor pond....

here's where they slide over a rock wall by the side of the road....

here's where they came out from under a spruce.

here's where they were bounding along a frozen "creek". count the tracks in each group. there should be sixteen unless an otter is missing a foot. 

the tracks should be in groups of 4. 16 divided by 4 is 4. 4 otters made their way to old harbor pond the night before...

look closely...
you are getting sleepy

here's where they slid on their bellies once they got onto the pond. there are three paths here - 1 close and two in the middle. 2 otters went down the middle path, thus its widthiness. 2+1+1 = 4. 4 otters....

home sweet home

here's where they entered their den. this is the 7th den we've found out here, and it was active last year as well. we loving refer to it as den #7.

here's where they pooped outside their den. kind of like putting up a flag to let folk know you are home. or like pooping in your yard to let folk know you are home...

(1/9) - still in old harbor pond - here's where the 4 otters travelled down old harbor pond on the snow/ice....there are 3 belly slides here. not sure where the 4th one went...

here's a path where the otters came and went.....

home sweet home

and here's the den that the path above led to. this was the 4th den we found, which we refer to as den #4.

greens island - (1/7) greens island otter tracking. also seen - horned grebe, great cormorant, white-winged crossbill, oldtails. 

the otter scene this day was following a single otter up and around at a few scent marking spots, but also at a cross island (skinny part) trail that included a slide that went at least 30 on the down hill. unfortunately this slide was a few days old and hard to capture with the camera. so it goes.

here's an otter scat, loaded with fish scales, but also includes some small orangey-red dots. row, eggs, plastic pieces? all valid guesses, and even after we ate a few we couldn't tell what they were. needed some ketchup. or something.

here's the best slide picture i got of the day - and this  wasn't even the big one. the slide starts at the top of the photo, right by the rock on the top left/middle. after one bend it all about "come to pappa" - i wish i was there to catch it. not really.

oyster mushrooms with snow

and there is more, as there always is, but this is enough. had some trouble with uploading photos last night, so we end this here VSR here. hope you enjoyed! and hope you get out to see some tracks. the snow is getting a little dirty, but you never know when the next one is coming! i hope soon!

here's a few of leify on the road over the holidays. birdwatching with amy at merritt island. apparently that's what sun roofs were made for!

this museum had a live otter
and a mushroom display
it was like a dream
and getting super excited over a fungus display at a museum in north carolina. that's my boy!

happy new years everyone. hope its going good for ya!

see ya!