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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, 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!