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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


Saturday, June 22, 2013

can someone please tell me
why this isn't the state flower
instead of the pine cone?

Welcome to the VSR "Leftovers" – June 22, 2013

Brought to you by the endless efforts of MCHT, VLT, & KTG

bridges can be lined with bunchberry
at the huber preserve


….And so we find ourselves in Santa Cruz, CA (old stomping grounds) with a bunch of photos and some time to fill. Here’s a photo gallery of early June, with a lot left out for sure. There is never enough time to process. Such it is with learning.


And yes, leif saw his first bobcats (4), elephant seals, steller sea lions , steelhead trout & western fence lizards on this trip (so far). But the best has been time together. Hope you all get to hug your kid and partner daily.

Enough mushy stuff! Here’s some photos, with short and shallow commentary. Just the way we like it….

magnolia warbler taking cover
photo by john drury
tiit trick - don't forget you can click on any photo to make it bigger. bigger is better, right?

and now from the camera of john drury.... greens island and on the water....

summer tanager munching
on oak leaves
photo by john drury

summer tanager - photo by john drury

red-eyed vireo by john drury

canada warblers are always a treat to see
photo by john drury
chestnut sideds happen... by john drury


ruddy turnstones at state beach
by karen oakes
and now from the camera of karen oakes.....

ruddy's looking good - by karen oakes

black-bellied plover
by karen oakes

red-eyed vireo thru a frosty window - by karen oakes

Owls - and speaking of "leftovers" - both Angie Olson and Angie Bunker (2 of my three favorite "angie's" on the island) have reported hearing Great Horned Owls by their homes over the last few months. "Hoots your daddy" is the nickname for the group of owls, as they are likely the same owls as Angie's share a common woods behind their respective places.

hairy woodpecker dad feeding young
dad took off

and baby bird day in the basin.....

and mom took over the feeding
check out that nictitating membrane
over the youngster's eye

as far as folks have said, this may be the first Canada
Goose family on the island. note that there are 4 adults.
these guys weren't annoying at all

while weedwackin' the trails - trying to cutback some sweet tick habitat - i was tormented by three family groups of birds.

this young raven did not shut up the entire day

actually, only the raven family was noisy, and i'm not talking about susan, jud and the crew!

even when fed i could hear him screaming

the otter(s) followed this little
creek, matted some grass
and then dropped a spraint or two
it's hard to even notice flowers when otter spraint is abound!

and we end with a classic otter latrine in the basin as well.

and a couple of leify - winds are good for kite flying,

and uncle erik was kind enough to make him a monacle and fake moustache thing

and one scoping out some seals from pigeon point.

hope your days have been full of the scope views of your dreams...and don't forget

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Winter moth action update – June 15th, 2013

“Bring it on!”-ed by the kind folks of MCHT and VLT

“Feels good to win sometimes” – Adam White

and here's a video of Charlene Donahue
whacking some trees. 

considering the seriousness of the "situation",
charlene is a pleasure to be with "in the field"
Check your head! – Before you get too far ahead of your “bad” self make sure you have par-oozed the “semi-required reading” listed below – for no other reason than to have more of an understanding of what is meant by the Winter moth “Situation” that we have on Vinalhaven. Or if you are so busy jugglin’ all those things that make life complex and have somehow spaced on the “situation” then please refresh your memory with the previous non-VSR “Winter Moth Action Updates” that were posted on this blog. There, I said it. This is a blog, but it’s a blog from the people, for the people….damn, it’s still a blog…..








Feels good to get that out of the way…..


here's what winter moth caterpillars
looked like before they went
into the ground and pupated
And now for something completely different……So normally we start off with a little biology update on the winter moth (they are in the ground in pupas that look like little specks of dirt) and THEN head into the depressing news of defoliage, doom and dimwittness. Well, there’ll be none of that this time – because… (and get this)…..we have been told that we are getting the parasitic flies next year! Hooray!!!! Strike up the band! Call off the superheroes! We win! We Win!!!!...


….But hey, hold on and wait a second – we ain’t got spraint for flies yet! (or for brains!). –So take a deep breath and….like seriously - what? I mean, come on - we’ve been told this before (have we?) and a year is a long time away? And yes, all this is true and “it is what it is”, but this is certainly the best potential (somewhat confirmed) news we’ve had about our Winter Moth situation. So what do we know happened? Well, I’m glad you asked…


What we do know has happened is this - funds (the royal “funds”) on the federal level – like US Forestry Service levels – that were earmarked for one use for this fiscal year (please forgive me for ever using the word “fiscal” in the VSR) have now been moved around so Joe Elkington


(of the Joe Elkington lab fame from the winter moth update – may 2013 - )


can/has/did hire a crew in British Columbia (uh, Canadians…..) to catch pregnant flies and watch them mate (undoubtedly a union job) and then all kinds of people get their grubby paws on them as they are passed/smuggled internationally (is there a black market for flies?) and finally are reared at Joe’s awesome lab Mass.. Then next June they (the flies) are released to kill winter moth (kill, kill!!!!, KILLLL!!!!!!!!!!!). Biocontrol is so much fun!


And why were these magic “funds” moved, shuffled, re-dealt, even “re-smelt” some might say? “Whoever re-dealt it, re-smelt it!” old Estonian saying…..There were certainly, and undoubtedly, many factors that led to this money shuffling or “laundering” (that isn’t the right word, is it?). But apparently at least one letter, hand written by a concerned Vinalhaven citizen made it up the ranks at the USFS, up to the upper ups (I haven’t totally figured out the Forest Service pyramid scheme peaking order) where it was “well received”.


Rumor has it that many more were mailed, read and received, but even one getting thru is truly awesome! No word on whether the letter that made it said “We need those damn flies” in it, but I’d like to think that it must have. “Nothing beats a hard copy in the hand”. Now that says something.



And so, at least in part, it makes me exceptionally stimulated to announce that letter writing works! Wholey spraint! For all the letters I have written or had kids write over the years there has always been that nagging reality in the back of my mind (who let you in!?!) saying – letters don’t amount to jack-spraint. I have never experienced it working first hand. And in case this it worked at part least in! (said the drunken yoda). 


Whatsmore and even more surprising, it has even been reported that a copy of the latest “Winter Moth Action Update” post (May 2013) on this “blog”  (there – I said it again) was forwarded to the feds – where it was reportedly “well received”. (Suckers!). It was mentioned to me that the letter and the post were so “well received” (not surprising how seldom we hear that phrase) that they certainly helped our cause! Really? The non-VSR? And so the ludicrousness of the whole “situation” continues….


And while we are on a roll with the letter writing, word is that more would be a good thing.  The shifting of funds is being described as a band-aid, an awesome band-aid with a picture of a parasitic fly laying an egg in a winter moth caterpillar on the non-sticky side. But still a band-aid. They get gross after a while.


But the funds that were shifted have to be accounted for (doesn’t sound like the government at all does it?), and thusly it’s important that while we’ve got their (the royal “their”) attention we keep their attention. And so we need letters written to people that can hear us – mainly Chellie (like I’m on a first name basis with her), Angus (king not young), and our old favorite Patti Ramani. Some of these things might be worth mentioning in the letterVinalhaven, Winter moth and that you support funding for labs for bio control (such as Joe Elkington’s). You can also include your shoe size and favorite color (unless its Teal, then you are not allowed to write a letter – no thanks tealheads!). Here are those addresses again! Time to get ‘em, while we’ve got ‘em! Or something like that….    


Chellie pingree –

Portland Office –

2 Portland Fish Pier,

Suite 304, Portland, ME 04101

Phone (207) 774-5019

Toll Free 1-888-862-6500 Fax (207) 871-0720


Patti Hirami

Acting Director, Forest Health Protection

U.S. Forest Service/Washington Office

1621 N. Kent St Rm 711

Arlington, VA 22209-2137

Desk: 703.605.5340

Cell: 202.384.7315


The “Honorable” Angus King
United States Senate
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1905

(you may want to leave out the quotation marks around honorable. You may not want to..)

and here's something - you can even write if you don't live on vinalhaven! Or are from somewhere else than Maine (i can name two other states). Chellie might not know you as well as she knows me if you are from another district - but getting letters from other places would be good as well - let "them" know we in New England are serious about addressing this subject! Come on lazy bones in Camden, Warren and MDI! You probably have winter moth anyway - nip it in the budd! 


And so now letter writing clubs will undoubtedly and spontaneously “happen” around the island. It may be hard for us (the royal “us”) to think of a lamer sounding kind of club (homework club?) hats off to anyone and everyone who sends in a letter.


Here’s a question - Why not send an email? Saves trees right (when compared to sending a letter) and the US Forest Service should appreciate that. (If you really believe that then you don’t know the US Forest Service very well, or have never been to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.) One simply reason is that an email is a form letter even if it’s in your own words.  There is no personality, no person behind them no matter what font and background color you use. Emails are lame for these kinds of purposes, with the only thing lamer being an on-line petition. Sorry folks – this is the official VSR take on this, which means it is fact for “VSR nation” – do as we say, obey obey! By the way, having your group or club name end in “nation” is kinda lame too. Man, where are we going with this?


Not that writing a letter magically solves your “absence of a personality” problem. But with letters you get handwriting style (not always a good thing), you get cross outs, you get sentences not necessarily following a straight line. They come from humans who make a little extra effort for a good cause. Wait, did I say extra effort? What extra effort? – getting out a pen that works and a piece of paper? Going to the post office? If the trees in town are not worth that “extra effort” then you probably shouldn’t write a letter about the winter moth situation. And you probably should be allowed to have trees.  


The letter that made it to the upper reaches of the US Forest Service was physically handed from Patti’s office up, and actually probably by a handful of US Postal Workers on its route – way more germs on that letter than any email. The fact is that “nothing beats a hard copy in the hand, one that can be passed around”, and that’s a fact cuz I heard someone say it within the forest service whom I still trust at this point.


And with this point beaten way too hard into the ground, we here at the VSR are offering to re-reimburse the cost of a stamp (what is it these days – 20 cents or “forever” or something) to anyone who sends a letter to one of the above addresses. Just send in a picture of yourself mailing a letter. The address on the envelope you are mailing must be clearly visible in the photo or you are not eligible for getting your stamp (no stamps for bills!). And you must be smiling in the photo! If you meet all necessary standards for mailing a letter, even ones that I make up in the future I will give you a stamp. Now get out there and mail!


Pep talk –And so let’s kick some serious winter moth ass! The time is now, the 3 moose of the winter moth apocalypse are saddled up and looking to give out free rides to the promised land – a land with no winter moth at all! Or at least in small enough numbers that they are annoying anymore. Every letter counts! Even the ones with misspellings! Get on that moose and write your  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jessica Day and Magnolia Warbler friend
photo by Ken Day

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 1st, 2013
Brought to with the help of the VLT and the MCHT.
“Did you see the whale in the Reach today?” – Chad King

Pup smooch

Highlights – Whale from shore, Slime mold and mushrooms (we could stop right here), Songbirds including Yellow-throated Vireo & Summer Tanager, Owls, Insects, Turtles, on the waterfront – including “our” Tropicbird, other things….


Lady Slipper's abound
145+ abound at Huber

PSA – Parasites and PredatorsMosquitoes, Black Flies and Ticks (both deer and dog flavors) have been found on me or on people I know recently. Lots of Black Flies & Mosquitoes, 2 ticks.
Good things to be aware of….be prepared…don’t let them win!


Big thanks – Sightings, conversations and concerned emails are being received over at and that’s a good thing, helps with organization and any help with organization is good for me. So thanks again, enough emails are going there that I am actually checking it more often. Not saying much…

Northern Apple Sphinx
looks like a skull on its back
don't forget the Tiit trick - click on any photo and they get bigger. almost too big.

Sightings… and this is one of those VSRs where we ask….exactly should we begin?....Whales trump…..(5/30) Dyer’s Island - Chad King was working on a house (details sketchily provided to protect the innocent) when someone’s sister told him to look out not too far into Hurricane Sound – there was a whale! Not only did they see the whales back a few times, apparently they saw and heard it spout! Too bad they didn’t smell it – snargged! Anyway, seeing a spout makes the whale not a Minke, so most likely it was a Humpback or Fin, and we’ll go with Fin as that is Chad’s kid’s name. We hope the next one that pops out for them (Chad and Sarah) is named Orca. Now that would be cool. Cool sighting!  


magnolia warbler not on
a hat
Songbirds and migration… “I had to move, really  had to move…”.. Little back ground – the majority of songbirds migrate at night, by the stars (have we talked about this before?)…..this was shown a long time ago by a silly/unnecessary experiment that included a planetarium, an ink pad, an indigo bunting and probably a bunch of beer…one spring the bunting was put on the inkpad (forced!), the planetarium was turned on (off planetariums are lame and weird), and it was shown that the bunting hopped a lot to the north star and the north direction. It was spring. To mess with the bunting the sky was reversed within the planetarium and the bunting hopped the opposite direction, towards the North Star and the north direction. Which were really south. The world was a better because of this knowledge….


Blackpoll Warbler - long distance warbler champion
photo by Sally
And so we have it….birds migrate by the stars…but what about all that hopping?....during the experiment it was observed that the birds hopped mostly towards the north direction even when the planetarium was not on (“off”)  and dusk was simulated (I may be combining experiments, but I don’t care)…. Apparently birds know when it’s time to leave (hormones will do that, length of daylight influences too!), but they have to wait for good weather or conditions to happen so they can “leave”, or “migrate”– like the planetarium being turned on (not “off”) or stars coming out. They get all excited and hop and face the direction they want to go. This anticipatory excitement is referred to as “migratory restlessness” – they can’t help themselves and can’t hide their excitement. In a way it’s cool that this was discovered/first observed and related in a place called Germany because now we have this cool word called “Zugenruhle” – which means migratory restlessness but sounds way cooler and may not be spelled right here. I like to pronounce it “zoo-gen-RULE!!!!!!!” with a loud emphasis on the rule that makes the word kind of annoying to hear, but exciting to say. Use a German accent and receive 5 extra bonus points! We’ve all experienced “Zugenruhle”, some of us more often and more recently than others…but I digress…


"are you sure we are heading north?"
magnolia warbler checking the map
photo by Ken Day
And so we have birdies in spring getting all “hormoned up” (don’t we all) and wanting to migrate at night. Well, what happens if you are a bird in Cape Cod or – heaven forbid – New Jersey! – and you take off on a clear night and fly – I don’t know – 100s of miles in a night (maybe?) – and when morning comes you can’t find a place to land, to take a rest, to get a bite to eat because all you see is fog! Maybe you hear terns and gulls on some random island, but maybe there aren’t many terns in the area yet. You flutter & flitter and search, exhausted you find nothing but ocean. And then you hear an engine! A lobster boat engine! You and your other lost buddies are stoked (official term of a songbird that finds a boat), and when you find this boat you plant yourself on the railing, the bow – hell how about someone’s hat? (see awsome photo above). 


Common Yellowthroat female
catching a ride
photo by Ken Day
Well, the scenario described above is exactly (somewhat) what happened the week of May 20th. Meg Day was kind enough to share some photos her husband Ken took on his lobster boat. Apparently there were a few days in a row where the birds keep zippin’ around the boat – thanks for the pictures Meg! John Drury had similar experiences that week on his new boat “The Skua” – Magnolia Warblers riding the bow and a Northern Parula landing on his shoulder, apparently looking for bugs that might have drifted out of his hair.


3 star star flower
And while action on the water was super cool, action on the island was hot as well. (or cool as well?). Many of the lost and wandering birdies found their way to Vinalhaven proper. As Patience Chamberlin put it – crappy weather sure makes good birding as long as they are not all drowned or frozen”. I prefer my warblers to be room temperature, but Patience had an “epic” few days out here – here’s her report….

 May 24 Yellow-throated Vireo --1 near Todd's garage with warbler flock RB Grosbeak hanging around the boat lot all weekend…

black-bellied plovers are not
songbirds, but have been
coming thru in numbers
May 26 – walk between Reach Road and Basin – 14 Warbler species - Common yellowthroat, Black-throated green, N. Parula, Magnolias, Am. Redstarts, Black and Whites, Yellow-rumps, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, Nashville, Yellow, Wilson's, Blackburnian, and a Bay-breasted 1 gorgeous male - best looks ever - opposite Shore acres drive. Plus Least and Alder Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireos and a Blue-headed Vireo……Awesome and thanks for sharing. Of special note – the Yellow-throated Vireo is the first document/mentioned for Vinalhaven. And Bay-breasteds are seldom seen, and to get an incredible view is….incredible! Congrats to Patience on some sweet sightings…..


wet yellow warbler
photo by Sally
Greens Island – John Drury was kind enough to send in this update on songbird sightings from over there….piles of red eye vireo (frozen or drowned?), and for warblers…redstart (lots),
magnolia (lots),chestnut-sided (lots),black and green, black-throated blue, black and white, black poll, blackburnian, yellow, yellowthroat, canada, yellow-rumped, overnbird and Nashville’s
plus female scarlet tanager, 2 male indigo bunting and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. John also recently showed me a hot picture of a female Summer Tanager, which I believe is also from Greens. Thanks for sharing and
seeing double grosbeaks
photo by Sally


Skin Hill Sally – well, to continue with the theme of the last gagillion VSRs – Sally is hooked! Hooked on birds! And all in her yard! Not only did Sally send in this sweet shot of a Blackpoll Warbler, but her yard has been hopping with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Yellow & Chestnut-sided Warblers, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireos and, of course, Baltimore Oriole. Thanks so much again to Sally for sharing these sightings and photos. Her photos are sprinkled about….


indigo bunting
photo by Sally
Around the island….(5/27) Martha Reed reported an Eastern Bluebird from somewhere on the island. An Eastern Bluebird spent the same day in our yard on Reach Road as well…Armbrust Hill (5/23) a dozen species of warblers, (5/27) 10 species of warblers, Philly and Red-eyed VireoFox Rocks – (5/27) Turkey Vulture, Oven Bird, Lady Slippers, Predacious Diving Beetles, Lots of tadpoles, Hairy Woodpecker nest….


why did the turtles cross the road
photo by Erin Creelman
Turtles – Its spring and that means its turtle time – keep your eyes peeled when passing Round Pond and Folly Pond – eyes on the road I mean. But if you pull over take a close look at the rocks and logs in the water for sunning. Erin and Gil Creelman sent in a series of photos they took of a Painted Turtle sunning itself on the side of North Haven Road just past Round Pond (I told you to keep your eyes on the road!).

Anyway, they took the liberty to snap a few shots of its underside (we don’t advocate that, but appreciate it!) which let us and now the world know that they had found a male! Long front claws and a thick tail where the cloaca is located “relatively close to the tip” are the giveaways that this is a male. To my knowledge these are the first turtle cloaca photos (or any other cloaca) received at the VSR and we have to say – it’s about time!

so i was crossing the road, minding my own business
photo by Erin Creelman
For those who aren’t familiar, cloacas are “where the action” (reproductively speaking of course) is for turtles, salamanders, snakes, birds, & undoubtedly spraintloads of other critters. When copulation occurs, and both cloacaled (I made up this word) partners  actually touch cloacas its known as the “cloacal kiss”.

His cloaca is the circle thing
just below the pink on his tail
Anyway, check out this dudes cloaca!...Marthena Webster and Anna Poe (Anna Poe!) also spotted a Painted Turtle crossing North Haven Road and reported it was a female, most likely looking for a place to lay her eggs they thought. No cloacal photos were sent in to confirm this. I’m thinking of a new photos contest……


On the waterCaptain Pete’s turn….Ferry Rides (5/21- 5/27)

look for mums and pups outside the narrows
Cold rainy fog until Monday the 27th….Lots of Laughing Gulls…Frequently saw terns, often standing on navigation buoys…Flocks of Cormorants feeding in the Reach….A large flock of White Winged Scoters, 50 or so birds…Many mother pup pairs of seals on the ledges at Lawreys Narrows…One adult Gannet on the 25thvery cool and thanks so much Capt. Pete! Interesting note on the Cormorants feeding in the Reach. To go along with the whale spotted in Hurricane Sound, many remember last summer (and many don’t remember last summer) and the summer-long feeding frenzy of Terns and the huge bait balls around Leadbetters and the Red Sea….well, maybe we are up for another frenzy. Or not. We’ll have to see….


3rd year eagle, changing into a 4th year.
not really a pretty transitions
From the Fluke, excuse me, The Skua! – and so Captain John has a new boat and has been making runs to Seal and Matinicus Rock and as noted above has had warblers land on his boat already.  Loads of Razorbill, Puffin, and Terns to be seen and the Tropicbird is back. Other mentionables – Leach’s Storm petrel in the fog, Albino Black-backed Gull, and Dunlin at Seal. Don’t forget to sign up for a boat ride with John to see the birds and whatever else you can find this summer – 596- 1841. “It’s like riding on a different boat”, mostly cuz it is.
building a nest
not looking my way



hot action in the Great Cormorant colony
panting, preening and that dude facing
up is looking for the action

Counting Cormorants – (6/1) – I got to ride along on the Skua and headed to Jericho Bay to count Great Cormorant nests and the total was 45. That’s it – 45 for the Gulf Of Maine & the USofA. Readers will remember that just a few years back the number was in the 80s. Apparently in the 90s the number was over 200. So it goes, or so it seems to go. Too bad they aren’t cute, then maybe folks would help ‘em out. Anyway, so it goes.



razorbills are cool looking
puffins are cute
The ride was a smooth one (even I got to drive!) and we saw lots of Harbor Seals with young, and a surprising number of Razorbill and even a few Puffins, which are a cute species and thusly get a lot of attention and funds even though there are tons of them in the Gulf of Maine and were never re-introduced to the Gulf of Maine cuz they were never extirpated in the Gulf of Maine (can anyone guess who I’ve been hanging out with?). Be that as it may, we saw some cool stuff. Here’s a few photos….
split gills are special


Fungus – I am getting tired and it’s getting late. Fungus photos shoot!
there were others....but it's late...


here's the first slime mold of the season!
chocolate tube slime - early stages

And some leify time...

ninja moves are better
by vernal pools

that's me on the right
we'll see you out there....

peace out and hang loose