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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, July 15, 2013

raven photo by John Drury
Alrighty Vinalhaven…let’s do this thing…..
the VSR, July 15th, 2013
MCHT and VLT get a tip of the hat, but…
Hats are all the way off to our boy Lincecum – the Freak! – on his 148 pitch no-hitter!

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” – Leif. He was thinking about building a Viking ship.


Highlights – insects, shorebirds, slime molds, fungus, butterflies, eggcorn


here are bunch of people looking at birdies
Upcoming eventsAdvanced bird walk this Thursday July 18th , 7am at skoog– for our intents and purposes “advanced” just means getting up a little earlier. In theory an earlier start means well, we’ll see. Should be fun, will be fun. It always is – VLT/MCHT joint venture.


Regular bird walk – July 25th, 8am – skoog – regular.


MCHT Basin Mushroom Walk – Sunday July 21st at 1pm! Meet at skoog! – “Get down with your bad fungal self” and we’ll take in a leisurely stroll along some of the Basin trails and see what we can find, fungally speaking that is. Slime molds too!


Speaking of mushrooms here’s a video of chantrelles cooking in their own juices  

No moisture added


Two quick reminders – please send in sightings, photos, questions and emails to And the “Tiit trick” with the photos – click on them and they’ll fill your screen with joy and bliss. Sound good? OK!!!!!

Polyphemus Moth
Photo by Erin Creelman

HighlightsInsects we trustErin Creelman, (of recent turtle photo fame) continues to capture shots of wildlife in her neck of the woods, and now is sending in moth photos. “It is a polyphemus playground up here in our neck of the woods!” (7/9), now how often do you get to read that in any neck of the woods!


Nice antennae
photo by Erin Creelman
And how “Polyphemus” it is/was – Erin nailed it! Polyphemus Moths (Antheraea polyphemus) are members of the Giant Silk Moth family (Saturniidae – our favorite family of moths) and are huge – up to a 6 inch wingspan! (not bad).


Anyway, Erin points out that with all the talk about winter moth these days it’s good to point out moth diversity – not all moths suck as much as winter moth! Some are huge and others are beautiful even to non-moths….


ain't no tomato in my hornworm!
photo by Erin Creelman
…like this other one that Erin sent in photos of a freshly hatched– a tomato hornworm moth, aka Five-spotted Hawkmoth aka (Manduca quinquemaculatus). Beyond having one of the coolest species names while having one of the lamest common names (tomato hornworm?), this beauty is a member of the “Large Sphinx Moth” family – Sphingidae and apparently loves to feast on crops – especially potato, tobacco and tomato (anything that ends in “o”). So it’s really no surprise that the Creelmans, famous for their tomatoes and other crops (tobacco?) were the ones to find! The yellow/orange spots along the abdomen are distinctive.
get those wings dry and pumped
photo by Erin Creelman
More insects…..Had a nice bi-fecta of flying insects (7/13) – by the kiddie pool in the yard a Hummingbird Moth was taking some “liquid love “ (nectar) from the flowers (you know, those reproductive part of plants) of some non-native plant (you know, those things that hold up flowers and are from away). Always a treat to see Hummingbird Moths and I think it’s safe to say they are probably my favorite insect, which is saying something since there are a lot of cool insects out there. 
dragonfly style


and then I went up to Armbrust Hill to get some dragonfly pictures (insert nerd/loser joke/comment here) and crossed paths (literally) with this young Praying mantid (for some reason most references I’ve found call them “mantid” rather than mantis! Whatever it’s called I can honestly say that this little bugger was tiny!


this dude was really tiny
I’ve seen a handful of mantids out here on the island, and others have sent in photos, but for some reason this little one helped me realize that I didn’t know squat about their being or life cycle (or lifestyle) other than the fact that the lady sometimes eats the dude after mating. Here’s some more info on them – much of it lifted from the internet so you know it has to be true!


Insect relations are still disputed, but currently (or what I most easily found) is that Mantids are all in the order Mantodea, and are included in the superorder (I love my orders to be super) Dictyoptera along with cockroaches and termites. Nice company.


It is believed that back in Cretaceous Period Mantids evolved from some sort of “predatory cockroach”. That’s right folks, not only did mantids roam with Dinosaurs, but there were predatory cockroaches roaming too. (Maybe there still are predatory cockroaches today, I don’t know squat about cockroaches). Anyway…. and so for at least 65 million years Mantids have been eating their mates, right? Sure. Good for over 2400 species of mantids on earth today, many in the tropics.


Mantids go thru 3 states – egg, nymph, and then adult - during their life, a process lovingly referred to as incomplete metamorphosis. Nymphs (like the one I found) look pretty much like adults, but they can’t fly (thusly why I was able to chase this one in the video below) and can’t reproduce (one less thing to worry about for a nymph). This little dude will shed/molt its exoskeleton up to 10 times before it achieves adulthood and then can start eating mates, or be eaten by them.


Since our little man of the house (Leif) is going thru a huge Ancient Egyptian/mummy faze I had to look up if there was anything about them mentioned in ancient texts. Sure enough…..


During the excavations at Deir el Medine B. Bruyère [5] discovered a small, somewhat anthropomorphous coffin made of clay which contained the remains of a praying mantis wrapped in linen.”


12 spotted skimmer - hint: only count the black spots
That’s right – a mantis mummy! That’s so cool, and truly the spraint! Ancient Egypt must have been so cool (they were making mantid mummies for crying out loud!), and all of us at the VSR wish Egypt a smooth settling these days, for everyone’s sake. I’m sure they feel better.


“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” -  Any reference to Mantids in ancient China? (just pretend you were wondering that) so while we are at it…


beavers are active at folly pond
beavers are not mantids
“One of the earliest mantis references is in the ancient Chinese dictionary Erya, which gives its attributes in poetry (representing courage and fearlessness), as well as a brief description. A later text, the Jingshi Zhenglei Daguan Bencao 經史證類大觀本草 (, Epic , history , collection , kinds 大觀, overall impression , basic , algraculture Annotated and Arranged by Types, Based upon the Classics and Historical Works") from 1108, is impressively correct on the construction of the egg packages, the development cycle, the anatomy and even the function of the antennae.”


“Two martial arts that had been separately developed in China have movements and fighting strategies based on those of the Mantis. As one of these arts was developed in northern China, and the other in southern parts of the country, the arts are nowadays referred to (both in English and Chinese) as 'Northern Praying Mantis' and 'Southern Praying Mantis'. Both arts are very popular in China, and have also been imported to the West in recent decades.” - Wikipedia


So that’s all cool, but what are they called in Estonia? “palvetades Mantis” and yes, Mantis is capitalized for some unknown reason (to us, the royal “us”).

chalk-fronted skimmer

And while we’re at it and pardon me for getting all literary and spraint but I often find myself writing/typing the name “Preying”, rather than “Praying”, Mantis. Now, the whole “Praying” (standard, excepted way of spelling) part of the mantis comes (obviously) from the way Mantis (or is it Mantii?) looks as if it is praying as it sits waiting to strike in ambush (praying for food?) or looks to mimic blades of grass (maybe praying not to be seen). The little nymph in the photo appears to be doing this, but failing miserably as I could see it . Word has it that they mimic ants as well, but we didn’t see that. Anyway, this simple slip in spelling that I make constantly (or as often as I have to type “praying mantis”) is probably due to the fact that the appearance of them “praying” is not so much on my conscience as much as their “preying” on other critters (hefty appetites or so we hear), or their mate (how many times do we have to mention this?). This simple mix up with no intentions of being witty, whiffy, punny, or funny is called an “eggcorn” by some. I had never heard of an “eggcorn” before, but the term comes in reference of someone writing “eggcorn” instead of “acorn”.  “Eggcorn”, what a concept. Is there a term for everything? It’s like a pun but not supposed to be funny, not that puns are funny. Anyway, we like the term “eggcorn”. That’s what this whole thing is about.


tropicbird and pal
photo by John Drury
Wow, that was exhausting….what next – On the water… John Drury has sent in another set of great shots as well. The tropicbird looks to be continue being seen (what?) on a regular basis out on seal. From the photos and reports of Puffins, Razorbills,  Manx Shearwater and Tropicbirds sounds like the trips have been going great. Don’t forget to get out on the water with john this summer –


wren and fir
photo by John Drury
Also and from up Tip-toe way is the raven (seen above) and a great shot of a Winter Wren. Winter wrens are some of the loudest songbirds in our woods, some of the earliest singers and yet it seems like years can go by without a view of one.

least sandpiper

Bird walk – we had a nice morning with our first bird walk of the summer last Thursday (7/11). Lane’s Island – goldfinch, common yellowthroat, alder flycatcher, catbird, song sparrow….folly pond – wood duck and bald eagle….state beach – willet, least sandpiper, lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitcher, common tern, nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow, common eider with young, osprey, double-crested cormorant, common loon,….
the story here is several fold. It was a great bird walk – shorebirds so close you could lick the tundra off them, nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow aerial display and then in the scope, eider babies, and other things – lots of songs in the woods. But the highlight was Army seeing birds for the first time on one of the bird walks. He has been on several bird walks over the course of a few years and had never mentioned not seeing birds before! Good on ya Army! Way to keep with it!


Fungus – wish we had mroe time to delve into, here's a little taster, so to speak...

Chanterelles and Amanitas are doing well……

Amanita muscaria
You can hide, but you can't run


no comment, destroying angel

Boletes looking good….


....with pink pores even!



and even staining blue!


Slime molds are doing their thing.


yes, that is a springtail on this tapioca slime


meeting of the minds

And leify is handling the hot days well. Weller than his dad for sure. 

and a video of rockin' out with uncle big al jones. 

see you out there!!!!  

Friday, July 5, 2013

next one

gull sticking it to the man
photo by John Drury

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
July 5thish, 2013

Brought to you  by the usual letters,
the ones up above, and mostly U

Have you seen any large snapping turtles on the island?” – Bill Alcorn at the bank


Highlights – Insects!!!! Featuring Luna Moth, Slugs and Turtles, slime molds and fungus, tropicbirds and tasty ducklings, annoying raven babies continue being annoying,

this tree is covered in poison ivy (PI)
The Seceret of PI
is that is comes in shapes and sizes 

Contact – and while we are at it please send “all things VSR” to the official VSR email address – . comments, questions, concerns, karate chops!, pork chops…that’s a good place for this kind of sightings stuff. Thanks again.


Tiit trick – click on the photos to have them fill your screen! See what you think close up…


coral slimes have been particularly
easy on the eyes as of late 

Slime mold update – don’t want to get ahead of things and get everyone all worked up but at this point it’s (it being weather) has been largely “with this rain, I the (like in a wedding ceremony) wet” ….. in other words we are on a pace for a summer of slime molds! Slime mold photos are sprinkled throughout the post, several 10 slime mold days. Hope for more rain!…


Sightings –

they look so innocent

(Editor’s disclaimer – if when classifying yourself you find that you would classify yourself as “a typical follower of the island institute” then this message is for you. You may find the next segment of the VSR “inappropriate”. There is an old Estonian that states “If the island institute doesn’t think you can handle phallic fungus photos, then sexy slug shots are certain to make you spraint”. And when Estonians say “handle” I believe it’s in more of a spiritual sense rather than a physical one.

i'm not sure what that is,
but i know it is gross
photo by Linnell Mather

Anyway, and at the very least - I am happy to say I am not the photographer on this one!  Out of the loop! You have been warned, and it hurts like darn to do so….)


Leopard Slugs - … and so the VSR starts with a series of sensual mollusks photos (Ha! As oppose to “non-sensual” mollusks photos– as if! …).


Slug sex, slug porn – some call it beautiful, some call it dirty. Disgusting even. I think we all agree that it’s kind of gross.  How can we not?

they make gross cat toys
photo by Linnell Mather

In town! (6/27) Longtime VSR reader, confidant, and respected member of the “VSR Nation!” - Linnell Mather, has sent in some lovely photos of copulating slugs - straight from the doorsteps of her “pad”. Slug sex from Mather’s yard? Yes, and it should be mentioned that this is not the first time Linnell has sent in photos of slugs “doing it” on her doorsteps. There is a history there….and in the neighborhood….it’s that kind of neighborhood


(Another freakin’ disclaimer - Over the years leopard slug sex photos have been sent in to the VSR like maybe 3 times. If you are someone who sent in slug sex pictures before you may have noticed that your pictures were not used. No offense was ever intended if your photos weren’t used in the past, and that goes for photos not including slug sex. Timing and clarity issues seem to be factors in those decisions. And so with that in mind Linnell’s shots are here to represent this beautifully American pastimeLeopard Slug Porn, or LSP - and I think we can agree that she has captured the moment, and in the crispest of forms. Enough, back to the LSP on VSR….)



action shot
photo by Linnell Mather
And it should be noted that these are no ordinary slugs – they are Leopard Slugs and horny ones at that.  Leopard Slug sex (LSS) is a hot topic, so hot that when we “googled” slug sex we found this blog entrée from one Cassandra Willyard. Who’s Cassandra Willyard? I don’t know, but I do know this…..we’re glad to meet her.


Cassandra Willyard has written a post/ blog entrée (not a food really) for something called “Last Word on Nothing” that has this sentence in her first paragraph - “if you read my last post you already had the rare opportunity to see what a slug penis looks like”. Come one, that’s “the spraint” to have that in a post. A big thumbs up from VSR and the “VSR Nation!”    


Or something like that… anyway, here’s the link….

the white things are the penii
they have not yet formed
the "penis knot".
photo by Linnell Mather


and for those who don’t click on links – here’s a little sample of ms. Willyard’s wordsmith work. And a little interpretation on what Linnell has going on in her yard.


Leopard slug courtship begins with a single slug laying down a trail of scented slime. Another slug picks up the scent and begins to follow, nibbling and nipping. Then the slugs begin to climb, one leading the other up a tree or wall. When they reach an overhang, the slugs align their bodies tail to mouth to form a circle. I’ll let Adams take over for a bit. “The circle now grows more contracted, the slugs overlapping and showing evident excitement, the mantles flapping before and behind,” he writes. “Then, suddenly, the slugs intertwine fiercely, and launch themselves into space, heads downwards, but suspended by a thick strand of mucus.” That’s right. Leopard slugs mate while hanging on a thread made of mucus. It just doesn’t get kinkier than that, folks.”


Wow. What a paragraph!


But the best part is that it gets better. Many of us have known the truth about but never outed slugs as hermaphrodites (I am so psyched to be writing this in the VSR)

is that a penal mushroom
or are you just happy to see me
photo by Linnell Mather

“Once the slugs are dangling midair, their penises emerge from a genital pore near their heads. Slugs are hermaphrodites, so they both have one. “The organ, cylindrical at first, quickly assumes a club-shape,” Adams writes. “But presently a frilled edge appears along one side.” Banana slugs, you may remember, insert their penises into one another. Leopard slugs, on the other hand, wrap their penises tightly together so that the ends touch. The upper part of this penis knot expands to form “a mushroom or umbrella.” – beautiful….



And that Cassandra willyard starts her ending with “For scientists who study slugs, called malacologists, this elaborate mating behavior is old hat. But I’ve never seen it (or heard of it) before. So I think it’s pretty much the coolest thing ever.” And includes a toss out to “chewing each other penises off” that Cassandra This is learly the kind of blog we at the VSR support.  And so


We gladly recommend checking out cassandra’s website as a freelance science writer at  she has a wonderful article about a bacterium that connected to stomach cancer and ulcers that may be do good things as well.  

shy maidens are in bloom

Disclaimer area over!!!!! It is safe to come back to the VSR and bring your innocent/denial eyes!


Here’s something we all agree on - raven babies are consistent! – they are what you are hearing over the buzzing of mosquitoes around your ear. Yes, the basin, state beach, Huber, Calderwood neck…damn near everywhere. Soon they grow up. Or something. Either way it will be nice not to hear them all the time…..I do love ravens though.

Singing Parula, BTG, Ovenbird, Yellows, Redstart, Yellowthroat, Butter butts and Magnolias.


Greens – “in that cove with the lobster pound” Great Horned Owls have been present over the last few weeks. Adults with young? Maybe so, but in either case Great Horneds are a totem bird for Greens.

photo by John Drury

On the water – And John Drury has sent in some photos that remind us that it doesn’t matter what boat he’s driving (or if he’s driving at all) – the islands are teaming with sea life and John can take you to find it!


The red-billed tropicbird is back – holey moley – for a ninth year in the Gulf of Maine! John got these great shots recently from “the Skua”, John’s boat.
on the water
photo by John Drury
Call soon for your spot on a ride out to Seal Island, Matinicus Rock  or even out to Brimstone – 596-1841 (I hope that’s the right number).


old tail take a look at my life
i'm a lot like you were
photo by John Drury
There is always plenty to see on a boat ride, and you never know what you might find – John reports that Minke Whales are regular over the last few weeks.
lingering Old-tailed Ducks (formerly known as “Oldsquaw” but the Island Institute thought you might be offended by this name and got it changed.). Look at this beauty! Breeding plumage no less! We hardly see this in the spring before they go. As well as Puffins, Terns, and Wilson’s Phalarope on seal!?! Very cool….


a feast
photo by John Drury
And some eagle action. Always a treat to see a Bald Eagle take something even remotely alive, and here john got a shot of an Eagle taking an Eider chick which is now not even remotely alive. Some people theorize that eiders have so many young specifically to feed eagles. Those people are silly. Eiders feed all kinds of animals with their babies. Not just eagles!


sweet luna
photo by Emily Carroll
Insects…..We always like a flurry – Linnell Mather is a landscaping genius, or is at least smart enough to hire some pretty aware crews. Over the years Praying Mantis, Snakes, and other cool shots have been sent in from the manipulated landscapes and ecosystems that Linnell and the Island Cultivations crew work on (for more info contact: ).


Anyway, we received about 5 shots of the same luna moth from the island cultivation crew (on/around 6/28). Emilly Carroll apparently found the beauty on Reach Road, and the entire crew were able to check it out. The Luna Moth is a VSR officially labeled “Cool Species” to see, and we are very thankful that the crew clued into its presence. Rock on and thanks for sharing! And that one has no mouth! Adults aren’t here to eat!


bee in action
photo by Sally

And speaking of bees Skin Hill Sally sent in this wonderful photo of a Red-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus termarius) on a flower of some kind in her yard. Insects sure aren’t birds, or slime molds even but we’ll take shots of ‘em whenever possible, because we love’em. Except for Winter Moth. We hate them….
cedar waxwing
photo by Sally

and as a bonus Sally also sent in this Cedar Waxwing shot. Waxwings are no strangers to the island at this time and they clearly are birds. Thanks for sending in the beautiful shots Sally!


And while we’re at it…… Small Ironclad Beetles (Phellopsis oscordata - Family Zopheridae, not to be confused with Ironclad Beetles - which are darklings and apparently don't live around here) – have found the big ol’ Red-belted Conk (RBC) at Huber! You know that fungus – the one that rages just past they hodge-podge of bridging. Well, 5 on these Ironclad beetles were witnessed to be munching on “Vinalhaven’s Most Photographed Fungus”! We have been watching this fungus for 9 years now, and have been preparing for its eventual decaying – is this or could this be the beginning (or middle part) of the end? Or nothing.
there are 5 beetles munching on the bottom of this fungus

this RBC has a moist undercarriage

And while Ironclad beetles were observed on several RBCs along the trail, no beetles seen on RBCs that had water droplets along their undercarriage. This may or may not signify anything, something, or nothing but when it comes down to it it’s just an observation. Probably doesn’t amount to much.  

can't you hear me munching

ironclad style

And there was hot Ironclad action as well. In what could only be referred to as “Ironclad style” food wasn’t the only thing on these Beetles’ minds!


little sucker sneaking a suck
And a little parasitism action going on as well.  Here’s a shot of an Ironclad Beetle getting some juices sucked out of its side by what appears to be a member of the family Pentatmidae – Shield and Stink Bugs – possibly Rough Stink Bug (Brovhymena quadripustulata) or a Soldier Beetle of somesort- (Podisus species).  Anyway, cool to see energy going from tree to fungus to beetle to stink bug?  

here i am getting preyed apon



beautifully striated edge
Amanita ceciliae
And in just about any other VSR post snapping turtles would have been mentioned front and center.  For this post we have slug sex - it’s that kind of a week.  Anyway, there is something going on with those turtles, and that’s safe to say. Snapping turtle chatter around town is on the rise!  Over the last 4 years (how long have we been “doing” these VSRs? Standard answer to any “timely” question: Too long!)  snapping turtles have been mentioned to me a couple of times maybe and now we’ve gotten 3 reports in the last week and a half. I have been so inspired that I even got to make my first 3 legged dog joke/snapping turtle joke. It was admittedly not that funny or well put, and the response was hard to judge but luke-warm might be an accurate description. Lukewarm has been judges as an appropriate response to such nonsense. Kind of like how I was “poo-poo’d” years ago when I jokingly mentioned snappers nippin’ at toes at Folly Pond. I think Kristen at the bank thought it was somewhat funny. Anwyay…. So here’s what I’m talking about (you are talking about something?)


scrambled egg slime
slug train on A ceciliae
“Goat Soap” Brita (hey, we’ve all been called worse) left an awesome message about a female (we’ll assume a female) laying eggs (yes, it was a female) in her yard….David Wiley reported seeing a turtle that kinda, sounded “Snapper-like” in a mud flat near somewhere (we admittedly are poor at forming a picture in our mind of anything described to us. We are a product, and that is certainly the royal we. We are also poor with landmarks on the island too, usually making up our own for convenience sake, so names of spots mean little)….and then there was Bill Alcorn talking about the “local poole’s hill road snappers” at the bank. What’s up is egg laying times apparently. If you find them early enough you can fry with chantrelles. Which have been yummy already.
dwarf rattlesnake plantain.
almost in bloom.
indian pipes are coming up


Snappers may not be pretty, and that’s more than a “may not”. But we love ‘em anyway. They’re turtles!


yellow patches

Fungus – We are here and here we are! A little early still but some of the classics are up - several species of boletes - including the king, amanitas - yellow patches, Blusher, and A. ceciliae, plus chanterelles and Fragile Russula to name a few. others too. and more to come!

coral slime to so cool to touch

And leif loves the slime mold.