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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


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Welcome to the Winter Moth Action Update

April 17th, 2013

“Spray it, just don’t say it” – which means spray it.


A kindly reminder that we are not alone out here….


Well, where were we…..ahhh, yes…..when last reported Winter Moth (pesky bustards) were filling the skies with bodies and pheromones, laying eggs everywhere and getting caught in bands. So now what?


If you live in town (or on the outskirts, the rougher neighborhoods) and did not band your trees in the fall your hardwoods are likely covered in winter moth eggs. Sorry dudes and duders, there’s no candy-coating it (or is it sugar coating?). Soon enough (like in the next few weeks) your (the royal “your”) winter moths (they ain’t mine!) will hatch from said eggs – spraintloads of caterpillars all at one time!- and begin devouring leaf buds and emerging leaves in a feeding frenzy that may leave your tree looking like its winter – no leaves!  Hopefully your tree has enough stamina to pump out another set of leaves. We all wish we had that kind of stamina. Anyway!


Well, if you are someone who didn’t get your bands up in time (happens to the best of us) and you had moths all around your yard and neighborhood, then your next opportunity for action is at hand. In other words – it’s time to spray! (“late april” has been a landmark to base activity around.)


What’s the deal with spraying? Here’s something we lifted from a winter moth management article/hand out thing… here’s the link to the full article….


Given that many winter moth eggs are exposed on the bark, the potential to manage them with a horticultural oil spray exists. Typically, dormant oil sprays are applied in the very late winter or very early spring depending on temperatures and host plant phenology. Oil sprays can be applied in the fall but it is of no use for winter moth given that the eggs do not appear until very late fall and into the early winter. When applying oil sprays, it is prudent to have temperatures above 45° F and to avoid applying oil when temperatures may dip below freezing for 24-48 hours after application. Temperatures below this threshold greatly increase the risk of causing injury to the plant (phytotoxicity). Certain weather conditions, such as when it is cool and cloudy, can also delay drying time and enhance the potential for injury. Oils work by suffocation and can be effective on the eggs. Oils must cover the target organism at the time of application or no insecticidal effects will result. Eggs that are protectively hidden within crevices and under lichen will not be covered by the spray nor killed. “


Huh, there are a lot of specifics here to think about, mostly temperature and weather stuff, but also about Horticulture Oil.  And even though the oils won’t get every egg, let’s remember that every caterpillar counts, one less means more leaves.


So how do we go about getting that oil slathered all over the trees? Call Carla (of course!). Carla Harris, of Peaceful Harbor Farm Fame, is not giving “peace” a chance when it comes to Winter Moth. “Bring ‘em on!” Carla was rumored to have said recently and we have to say – that’s the aggressive spirit. Carla has spraying equipment and has been tending trees on the island for other “pesky bustards” for years and she understands the intricacies of the timing of applications and is ready to help your yard out! Give Carla a call – 863 – 4837 – to set up spraying of your trees and other questions you might have.


Stay vigilant, and we’ll certainly have more updates as things progress.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – April 12th, 2013
Brought to you by the kindness of MCHT and VLT



these purple things are flowers
Highlights – Mourning Cloak butterfly!, Skunk Cabbage, Captain Pete’s report, a great Great Cormorant story, fungus, Merlins!, woodcocks, owls, songbirds-a-singing and a-migrating, ducks-a-staging, eagles-a-eaglin’, new arrivals – eastern phoebe and eastern bluebird


Upcoming events – Basin Clean-up! Tomorrow, Saturday april 13th at 10am. We’ll gather at skoog and then head over to bag it, and tag it, and then eventually (Sunday) get it to Kenny and the kind folk up at the transfer station. Anyway, bring some gloves and let’s get trashy!

Tiit trick - click on the photos to make them jumbo

Sightings – Saw my (the royal “my”) first butterfly of the season, a Mourning Cloak (4/8) on Reach Road. Pretty sure that’s the earliest I have seen one on Vinalhaven, but that doesn’t mean much.

young cormorant
photo by John Drury
On the water….. Great Cormorants – (4/8) John Drury teamed up with Avian Haven and released a young, rehabilitated Great Cormorant back into the wild! (you remember Avian Haven -the birdyhuggers in Freedom. They are the people to call if you have an injured bird question (the bird is injured, not the question) – or at (207) 382-6761- for more info). Anyway, the details of the story are sketchy; we may never know the whole story! I’m not sure how many of us could handle the details! Here we go anyway - so someone, (a human), somewhere on the coast (the coast being wherever Great Cormorants might be seen) of Maine, possibly Boothbay Harbor found a young great cormorant and brought it to Avian Haven or reported it to Avian Haven (AH) and they went and got it. (AH offers free pick-ups form home or in the field! “free” may not apply to all pick-ups and to certain areas).


dressin' sharp and acting cool
photo by John Drury
Anyway, the cormorant was the Avian Haven for a limited amount of time (not infinity), possibly around two weeks or so, before John was recruited to release the bird near the Little Roberts breeding colony Word is that the cormorant swam off, but not without looking back one last time. Cool that John got such a hands-on experience with a bird he looks out for. . No confirmation about what exactly the cormorant was “rehabbing”, but rumors have been rumored around.


hot action and standing around can look similar
in a Great Cormorant colony - photo by John Drury
And word from the colony is that birds were looking sharp, displaying is heavy and love is in the air (all true except the “love” part). If you haven’t seen the Great Cormorants early in the courtship/nesting process,  then it’s ‘bout time you go! You don't want to miss the hot action (relatively) of a seabird breedung colony.

John says the Fluke will be in the water and ready to take folks out by May 1st, so reserve your spot to see the Greats now! 863-4962. Reservations also being accepted for your summer puffin and tropicbird (hopefully for a 9th summer!) pleasure cruise, nothing beats a trip out to Seal Island with John.
3 of the 40 or so Harlequins
photo by John Drury


Also seen that trip – 40 Harlequin Ducks


And a word from Captain Pete – we (or is it the royal “me”) are all jealous of the ferry crews that dreamily spend their days rolling in the surf watching for wildlife.  Captain Pete is full of stories (among other things) about his time on the water, and we appreciate his sharing his observations from the ferry… …like this story…


this is the state bird of Minnesota
” the Herring Gulls (were) in groups of 15 - 20 (and they) appeared to be eating the green hairy slime in the inter-tidal. Several bunches a couple of days. When we got close (off Lawreys Island) it sure looked like they were tipping their heads to "graze".


Crazy! Green hairy slime is not the same as Black Hairy Tongue (one of our favorite tongue diseases). Cool observation. Here’s what else Pete has been observing…

Harbor Seals - 50 more or less on ledges at Lawreys, all on the same ledge some of the time...Racoon at the tideline on Larries Island mid-afternoon (3/27)…3/28 Turkey Vulture over Rockland Harbor mid morning, One flock of Canada Geese flying NE 24 birds…Not as many Razor Bills. Only a handful all week….3/31 Two Great Blue Herons flying NE across the middle of the bay….The Black Backs have been on Green I. in the grass in pairs but not many. One morning there were two Canada's also on Green I.

Very cool and thanks for sharing Captain Pete! We look forward to hearing more about what’s being observed from the ferry's “3rd floor”.

And here's a video of the loon hunting via snorkeling....not from the ferry....


Merlins galore! – Last year was a bomber year for Merlins around the island. Many more pairs were observed displaying and more successful fledglings were spotted than in years prior (which means little to nothing – no scientific analysis going on here). Anyway, this week Patience Chamberlin observed that the “City Point” Merlin pair are back and displaying, Amy Palmer saw one of the “School yard” Merlins perched in a spruce across the playing field, and Leif and I spent much of (4/11) in the yard playing, but also listening and watching the “Reach Road” merlin pair call and display much of the day away. Good to have them back.

Greens Island - John reports American Kestrel, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


hey ladies
photo by Karen Oakes
Brown-headed Cowbird actionKaren Oakes is back at it (bird photography wise) in her yard (or this time from within her house!) with some photos of a male Brown-headed Cowbird displaying while sitting on a bird house just outside her window. With her two coon cats inside taking notice. Originally interpreted as the bird displaying towards the cats, Karen’s research on the subject points to the likelihood of the Cowbird displaying at his reflection. They aren’t stupid enough to take on a cat, even this early in the breeding season.
if you ask me the cowbird is asking for it,
don't mess with Thunder (the cat)
photo by Karen Oakes


The thought of a cowbird taking on cats begs us to ask the question - If both the cowbird and the cat were put in a box and the box was shaken sufficiently to invoke chaos, who would you cheer for? Certainly any betting money should be placed on the cat; the outcome is not in question here. Cats killing birds is not a good thing (can we at least agree to that?), but what if the birds were disliked by many birdwatcher’s and biophiles in general.


taunting Levi
photo by Karen Oakes

You see, cowbirds are not from the area historically (north east north America), instead they are native to the prairies (central north America) and historically spent their days following Bison – good ol’ American Buffalo – eating bugs those big fuzzy dudes scared up. With this vagabond lifestyle (bison (and thus bison groupies) were always on the move) cowbirds opted to lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and let other species raise their youngsters (it was the right thing to do at the time) since they had never had enough time in one place for nesting! Anyway, to make a long story short – too late! - cowbirds are here now and coninue to lay their eggs in all kind of songbird nests much to the chagrin of the other young in the nest – which often die or are dominated (not in a good way) by the over domineering (huge) cowbird chick. Cowbirds are considered a main suspect as to why songbird populations have decreased over the years, putting them on par with (or even more so) Starlings, Shags and Squirrels (own pesonal beef with them) as far as how despised they are.

And so we return to the hypothetical – who would you cheer on? I think the answer is the cat. That should make cat people (people who like cats, not the movie) happy.  

there is an otter slide somewhere
in this photo

Other songbirds stuff around the islandKaren Oakes reports a Savannah Sparrow in her yard, first we’ve heard of this year…Carolina Wren still visiting feeders on Skin Hill as well as Northern CardinalsEastern Bluebird spotted out Robert’s Harbor Road way….Lots of Song Sparrow and Grackles around the island…White-breasted Nuthatch spotted out on lane’s (4/11)…Yellow-rumped Warblers plentiful at Lane’s Beach…Eastern Phoebe (4/11) at the head of the Sands…Kinglets and Winter Wrens started singing this week, adding to the songs of Creepers, Chickadees, and Juncos for a little forest chorus…Red crossbills heard on Reach Road (4/9)…

around the island - woodcocks are everywhere, great horned owls - heard from greens island, and heard and pursued by angie olsen and hillary bunker.

Seal Bay crystal clear. kinda
Ducks-a-stagingSeal Bay (as viewed from Huber Preserve) (4/3) 142 Surf Scoters…(4/8) 115 Surf Scoter, 25 Bufflehead, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Common Goldeneye… the cool thing here is that a month ago we had a “winter sea duck walk” at Huber and saw 0 Surf Scoter. These days Seal Bay is brimming with the energy of 100+ Surf Scoters actively chasing and establishing some sort of pecking order or pair bonding. While other duck species seem to have couples figured out, Surf Scoters in Seal Bay look like they are just confirming crushes (ducky love), with breeding season pairing commitments still being worked out. Regardless, we love seeing Surf Scoter – “Poor-man’s puffins” was a description of Surf Scoters in Haines, Alaska. (this is all true (to the best of our knowledge) except for the “ducky love” thing)....this just in - Captain Pete saw a bunch of Surf Scoters (130-150 - not sure what he was counting by) flying to the north east. It's time for the overwintering waterfowl to move it on out. Calm winter waters are getting more active as i type - which is very slow, so probably doesn't mean much.

Captain pete also reports an osprey in rockland. 
this pair of Hooded Mergansers
was on Old Harbor Pond
photo by Jim Clayter

Ducks - Jim Clayter sent in this photo of a pair of Hooded Mergansers that visited his end of Old Harbor Pond. First time Jim has seen them on the pond - good eye and way to have that camera handy... 

tasty treat? skunky

Skunk cabbage – latest in the 6 or 7 part series. We lost track of where we are in the series, so here we are with this… skunk cabbage can melt snow….can be eaten (deer browse?)….and are just starting to shoot up their impressively large honking leaves. We’ve only just begun with the skunk cabbage – and we’ve certainly said that before….

no snow can stop
the cabage

here comes the food

hairy black jelly cups
staple of spring
Fungus – a couple of newbies popping up with warmer/moister weather, couple of spring classics

orange mock oyster on a spruce
fist i've seen on a conifer

don't forget to turn things over

this handsome array...
turned out to be
stalked polypores

Salamanders – spotted salamander drives this year have been tricky, largely due to timing of evening rains – do they really have to start at 9 or later? Anyway, we did get out a few times recently, and saw a bunch of the spotted buddies crossing Round the island Road. Egg masses should start turning up in vernal pools in a couple of weeks….Leif and I found this Red-backed Salamander in the yard over on Reach Road (4/11). A little early for Red-backeds (or so it seems but that really shouldn’t matter much), but we didn’t care.  

Spring peepers are peepin' away all over the island!


Back to the otters – so where were we? The group of 5 in Carver’s appears (once again appears) to have broken up as all trail camera photos in the area have been showing one otter at a time…(4/8) Tip-toe area. So I went back up thataway to see if the Heller Field woodcock had returned for another year of showing off, only to find that he’s either done (you know what I mean),  or had decided to  stay in Jersey – has everyone seen Roger’s shirt “I’d rather be in jersey” at the friend? Insane. Anyway….
this is a rolling site. torn up, sprainted apon,
scented for sure. from the tip-toe region
check out that trail
right to the den!


So I got up there a little early – plenty of time to check in on the otter trails, sign and den found about a month or so back. And man has this little otter been active. Take a look!

here's the trail from the den
to the rolling site

Heavily used trails, rolling sites and a slide into the ocean , all clearly observable without the aid of snow (granted wouldn’t have found it without snow to begin with!). A main den? Or just use over time?

i watched the otter go down this slide
not from this close

Whatever the case, the otter scene here has been wonderful and then to make matters even better I got to watch the (big) little weasel slide down the slide as I stood on a neighboring beach! 1st otter I’ve seen out here in 4 years! ‘bout freakin’ time. Anyway, the otter scene continues…

Quick update on leif - favorite songs these days are Wipeout (phish version), It's Tricky, Sure Shot, Shake Your Rump, and Feliz Navidad (El Vez version). especially wipeout. we have listened to this song a 100 times this week. No spraint. here's a video.... complete with robot dancing, zombie drumming and pausing along with wipeout.

but hey - we'll see you out there.....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – april 1st – (fooled ya!)- april 2nd, 2013
Big thanks to MCHT and VLT for their continued support of the VSR
And you for at least looking at the pictures.
“it was great to see those ducks” - leif



Highlights – common grackles, owls including long-eared and short-eared!, woodcocks, peepers, spotted salamanders, otter stuff (standard), year of the horned grebe continues, fungus…


can you guess what this is? saddest track
that's where my travel mug fell over,
spilling coffee and melting snow.
saddest track
Upcoming events – Woodcock walk april 6th – Saturday 6:30 at skoog. “Be a doog, meet at skoog”. Or something like that. There will be no big moon that evening, the moon will be the same size as it always is. And we’ll soak in a just a sliver of it. if you know what I mean.



my favorite mushroom
Basin clean-up – April 13th, 10am – skoog once again. Here’s a quick way to make yourself feel good. Come pick up trash in the basin! “it’s like so spiritual there” - anonymous. If all factors are in line looks like we’ll be tackling (not literally) the trash on the both sides of the basin this year. Canoers are invited (as long as you bring your canoe) and to help shuttle bags of trash across to the Basin Bridge area where (in theory) a truck or two will be there for the loading. We should probably check the tides. And we won’t forget the West side. Wesside. That was silly. 


what is this? its not a cyclops shroud
its snowshoe tracks filling with snow
fleas, 5 minutes after the track was made 
What’s been seen (sightings) – alright, here we go. Around the island …. Burke Lynch was the first to mention Crackles to me. Now they are everywhere…
Lots of woodpecker drumming and aggressive behavior. Ravens acting up. Cardinals, Brown Creeper, Chickadees, Juncos, Song Sparrow singing.  

Amy palmer spotted a Turkey Vulture flying over town (3/30).

round pond hooded mergansers
photo by erin creelman
Ducks – Hooded MergansersErin Creelman sent in this photo of a pair of Hooded Mergansers on Round Pond. First time she has seen them there. Another pair has been frequenting Old Harbor Pond bridge…Common Godleneyes have been courting and filling the airwaves with their cacklin’… Buffleheads are everywhere, oldtails are still making their call. ( you know the call - it’s like the most impersonated call people perform for me)…Surf Scoters are staging in Seal Bay – 60 seen from Huber (3/29) all west of Burnt Island...(3/30) 2 male Mallards visited the back door at 31 Reach Road. They were fed bread and hung out for 10 minutes or so. A mentioned highlight of the day from Leif.

head first herring gull
photo by Kerry Hardy
In the “fun to watch wildlife phenonmena” folder we find “Gulls wormin’” somewhere near the top. Kerry Hardy was kind enough to send in this photo he took last year at Indian Creek. Head first and often, when the worms “gather for some lovin’” the gulls “gather for some eatin’”. So to speak. Check out the shallow coves at lower tides.

my favorite pine

Perry Creek (3/25) – sat below my favorite pine.


Next to a (Great Horned Owl) pellet


Made up of snowshoe hare pieces and a piece of a jaw


A (Great Horned) owl feather was under the tree in the snow.



And I found a buck that appeared to have been killed by a widow-maker. I took the skull, but blew it on documenting the sizable branch that pinned the skull down. I was too busy trying to move a huge branch that had landed on the backbone of the deer, could be before or after it died. Or both. All I wanted was the skull (I get the head!) for my little man who digs skulls. It on the yard boat if you want to see it.


Also seen that visit – brown creeper.


what is this?
that's the tracks an otter leaves when
it's sprainting. good one. 
Lane’s Island – (3/25) same night, we went for the woodcocks, but stayed for the owl. A short-eared Owl (our bird) hunted over the field and wetlands. Watched it for a good long while, caught two voles. (3/26) went back the next night and saw the short-eared again, plus a long-eared in the parking lot as I left. Woodcock and peeper as well. Closed out the eared owls in less than an hour. Good times…(3/28) – no short-eared, good looks at woodcock.


Back to the real story…otters….


The camera was up for our trip south and got photos of the “gang of 5” as they visited an important site along the shores of carver’s pond. Sniffing at an old den, and then all 10 eyes staring at the lens, the 17th of march was a night to remember.



When the camera was retrieved (3/21) there was snow and otter tracks associated there within of about 1 otter, maybe two. The camera took no photos of the otter activity in the snow (damn you camera!), but once again the activity was clearly not from the entire gang.


And so the camera went up, (again!) and this time the camera did snap some action of a single otter coming thru the zone, sniffin’ and maybe scenting.


The more interesting thing captured though, was this mink coming out of the den! 2 more kirky visits to the site and piles of mink scat were noted to be accumulating outside the den opening! No mink scat was found a month ago when this den was first identified!

Can/will a mink usurp an otter den? Has the gang broken up (for real this time? No reunion tour planned?) and now there is on one (presumedly/possibly female) otter roaming the pond? With less otters is this particular den (#11)not required for the solo otter as she has plenty of other dens to use? Can a den be used in the winter for an otter family and then in the spring for mink as it’s family den (mink are breeding these days, and making plans for a late spring birth session!)? the answer to all these questions is simple. maybe. We’ll just keep chuggin’ away and see what turns up next.


And speaking of slides, Jamus and I were on long cove and followed a ~ 500 ft otter belly slide that was the last part of a trail connecting mill cove to long cove. The slide was the final stretch plunging the otter into the cool waters of long cove.


this is a jump

These cross island trails are so fun to see. Take a look at a map of vinalhaven (and north haven too!), look at the shortest stretches between east and west side coves and you can bet otter have crossed. A clear reminder than slides (human ones) placed in the woods along these routes would probably get used. A frequent route? Used by only one otter always? So far the cross island routes I’ve seen have all been solo otters, possibly indicating that its males. These tracks were big, that was a big otter.
here's the same jump from above


Donna at the store saw an otter in a  quarry by her house. Ask her about it when visiting the store.

Speaking of dogs – here’s my latest bite (photo below). (I am the one in the beard.) Can you guess the weight difference between me and the rascal that did this?


sweet tat, right?

A mention of coyote….possible tracks and trail sighting on Calderwood Neck. With the coyote last being seen on Calderwood Neck and with no sightings or sign in other historic areas, not too surprising if the local yote spent the winter on the neck. Lots of space, lots of deer, and it probably wasn’t the best winter for deer (see photo above). But a good winter for an easy dinner or two. A repeat visit turned up no sign of the coyote. But that doesn’t mean much.


come prepared on woodcock walks
Salamander Drive! Cutting edge of conditions. (4/1) after a previous drive left us empty handed on the salamander, deer, and alien front (but full of a sleeping four-year still holding his flashlight stick pointed out the window), conditions last night seemed close. 40 degrees or more and wet. Lovely conditions for an amphibian. Late jump – 9:30pm, 40 degrees. Round the island road back and 4th turned up 6 Spotted Salamanders, each moving slow and feeling cold to the wet touch. More undoubtedly were moving earlier when things were warmer. Salamanders and there is still a patch of snow in the yard.

more to come on the salamanders, Peepers heard on the drive too.  


And that’s where we are. Heard great horneds early the other night too. Oh yeah, and lots of horned grebe.


and eat lots of snow
That’ll do. Thanks for reading or skipping to the bottom. You made it!


See you out there!