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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


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
 August 13th, 2013
Part 2 or 2, or something like that.
This is the “shut up and post the VSR some more” edition


Highlights: Butterflies, Fungus, Caterpillars including the “CTBNL” or caterpillar to be named later (Armyworms), Trip to Seal, Shorebirds and Birdwalks…

editor's note - there may have been some trickiness with uploading some of the photos (especially some butterfly shots) and thusly some photos may be out of focus a bit. they are not blurry at all on my computer, and I will continue efforts to upload and get the appropriately crisp photos into the post. apologizes beforehand....

Before we go any further, please watch and listen to the message of the mumbling fungus – brown cup – caught on video. Good to have the volume turned up to hear the action - you will first hear my virgin lungs replicating wind. Then you will hear a “poof” (the magazine for magicians) sound as the spores are forcibly released by the fungus.


Brown Cup is the only species of Fungus I have heard (other than in my dreams). The smoke is the spores, spores are microscopic, and my forcible exhale invoked forcible discharge (not the first time) of a large magnitude for the spore cloud to be visible. Q: What’s the difference between this and putting out a decoy Tropicbird? A: on most levels there is no difference. Both invoked discharge of materials utilized for replacement purposes (reproduction dude). This was not a riddle. More fungus later….

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Upcoming events:

Check and for a walk near you!


Fungus Walk – “Puttin’ the fun(k) back in fungus”.

This Sunday, August 18th at 1pm, meet at skoog.


Generally I keep myself pretty happy. Anyway, I recently realized that I am at my happiest when looking at mushrooms. We had a really good fungus walk a few weeks back in the Basin, so for this one we may go to Huber. Actually Leif and I have discussed it and we’d like to take folk to see Jelly Babies, one of our favorite fungus, so we’ll be going to Carrying Place. The fungus has called the shots for sure! Lots of fungus in this post..


this was not a rainy morning
and those were huge binoculars
Birdwalks – gunna be totally honest with you (for once) and say that the VLT/MCHT Thursday morning birdwalks been really good fun this year. Next outing this Thorsday!  August 15th, 7am – it’s an “early” one.  Shore and seabirds as of late, never know what might show up….


Sightingsbirdwalks So far the Thursday morning weather for August has not been particularly “favorable” in the biblical sense. Thick fog & torrential downpours have been the overriding weather patterns and while that may have kept some observers at home it has seemed like the birdies have been ““lovin’ the inclimate weather”. Or rather they have been dealing with it in ways that allow us to see them closer. Whatever…


let sleeping dowitchers lie
(8/1) Thick Fog – Folly Pond Bald Eagle, Wood Ducks, Great Blue HeronState Beach – 6 Long-billed Dowitcher, 3 Short-billed Dowitcher, lots Semi-palmated Plovers, 5 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Tern, Song Sparrow, Common Eider


(8/8) a few steps ahead of the rain each destination – Lane’s IslandCedar Waxwing, Common Eider, Osprey, Catbird, American Goldfinch, rain….State Beachmany Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Semi-palmated Plover, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Common Tern, Common Loon, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.


Couple highlights – when the Long-billed Dowitchers (LBDs) came screechin’ thru the fog and by the group (8/1) it was the first time I’d heard LBDs on Vinalhaven. Most likely had seen LBDs out here before, but without hearing them vocalize they are tricky to identify…other highlight was the entire bird walk in the rain on the 8th. Folks were troopers with the wetness and were not disappointed by what we saw. Here’s a rundown of the outing - Made it out to Lane’s and quickly scoped three birds before the rain arrived, bolted to State Beach (losing a few wet watchers along the way) where we found the shorebirds waiting, a loon and a tern, then rain again. After having all others take off in the downpour Gid’s car was in agreence  that it would be  “worth a look” at the other state beach section (I don’t know the real names of these places). In the pouring rain Gid, Marty, Rick and I were dazzled by the longest view of a Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow any of us had ever had before. It sang for us a bunch as well. Felt like it was “Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow day” – that afternoon in the Basin marsh 2 males were singing at each other, and then a third popped out of the marsh right next to me. Inclimate weather has been key to Nelson views this summer. Basin that afternoon (8/8)  - Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Loon, Common Tern (with young on ledges – begging), lots of seals.


And the birdy stuff sure hasn’t been limited to birdwalks – more from State Beach (the days I remembered to got things down) -  (8/3) 5 Black-bellied Plover, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs…(8/11) Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers….(8/12) 15 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 16 Least Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Semi-palmated Plover….

City Point merlin fledgling chasing/begging one of the adult     


everyone loves wood nymphs
(southern "pegala" type)
Butterflies – “Day-moths”– quick little intro gallery, but the Butterflies of late July, Early – august have been rockin’. Thistles along Poor Farm Road were especially attractive to the “Day Moths” – in fact other than one monarch caterpillar on Milkweed, the Thistle was the main attraction. Here’s what a taste of what was found –


3 Fritillaries (Genus Speyeria) – Great Spangled (S. cybele), Aphrodite (S. aphrodite), & Atlantis (S. atlantis). – Fritillaries are fun, often pretty big, they have lots of orange and thusly are pretty in the “easy on the eyes” sort of way. Whatsmore, in many ways Fritillaries encompass our favorite aspects of Butterfly watching.


Great Spangled Fritllary
One thing we (the royal we) love about butterfly watching is the use of shadows in locating and following adult butterflies. You see, sometimes it’s hard to follow adult Butterflies as they flit around in the air. Their shadows however are often way more easier (like way more) to follow.  Love that about butterflies – shadow watching – in my experience no other nature observation based activity calls for as much shadow watching as Butterflies. Data here limited to “my experiences”.

We also love any sort of “watching” and “identifying” where I.D. marks are to be found on the “lower (ventral) hind wing” or are some small, esoteric black dot at the “base of the top (dorsal) of the forewing”! I mean, how cool is that – to identify something by the pattern on the “ventral hind wing”! I’ve checked out many a “ventral hind wing” and can honestly say that not all “ventral hind wings” are made equal. So it’s super cool. Anyway….So here’s the dirt on the Frits…


Great Spangled Fritillary
Can i see you postmedian band?

Great Spangled – the biggest of the three, somewhat dark at the base of the upper wings – with females being darker. They lack the “esoteric black dot” towards the base of the forewing, dorsal side up, which might be hard to see anyway cuz they are so dark. Ventrally speaking it’s the “wide, cream-colored postmedian band” on the hind wing that we look for. Take a look at this shot – the wide cream-colored band is lined with large white circles….



Aphrodite Fritillary creamy postmedian band
on the ventral hind wing is rather skinny 
… now for something a little smaller – the Aphrodite Fritillary. It also has a cream-colored postmedian band (“postmedian band” is a good band name) but it’s not so wide, and the white dots are actually surrounded by reddish coloration. The band is not wide! Look for that on the next orange butterfly that zips by you in your yard.

Aphrodite Fritillary dorsal view - black dots and all

Furthermore on the dorsal side of things there Aphrodite’s have that mysteriously esoteric (can anyone tell that I really don’t know the meaning of that word?) black-dot towards the base of the forewing. Look for it, it’s there….

Atlantis Fritillary - nice black trailing edge

…and then the Atlantis Fritillary, the easiest one of the bunch – smaller, lots more black (none more black?) on the dorsally (up-side), especially noticeable along the trailing edge of the hind wings. Bottom-line - Love the frits!


i think this pearl crescent photo
should look crispier

And let us not forget the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), which are even smaller members of the Nymphalidae (Brushfooted Butterflies) along with the Frits mentioned above. This little dude can be seen in many of the grassy fields (as opposed to the ungrassy fields) around the island.


Wood Nymph (northern dark "nephle" type)
And while we are thinking about Nymphs (Family Nymphalidae) let’s not forget the mack daddy day moth – Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala). Also known as “Goggle eye” (what they are referred at our house!). These dudes are everywhere, and some of them aren’t even dudes! Most notable flight I have experienced out here.


And being where we are (Maine) we are lucky enough with the Wood Nymphs (never met a wood nymph I didn’t like) to have both (2) “basic color types” in our vicinity – diversity in action.  Wood nymphs are almost as diverse humans on Vinalhaven.


orange sulphur have been in maine since the 40s
And speaking of ventral views (always been a sucker for ventrals) here’s an Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) from the Pieridae – the Whites and Sulphurs family. The thang to look for here is the “satellite” spot next to “well defined, red-rimmed, silvery central spot on the hind wing”. Confused? Look at the picture – it’s the little dot next to the big dot. Now we are all in a better place! You are looking at the Ventral Hind Wing! Do you feel uncomfortable?


Anyway, just a taster on the butterflies. White admirals, American lady, American Copper and others are about and photoless, with more to come as the season chugs along….certainly


And while we are on “bugs” – how about this stage of being – Caterpillars!

we all love Monarch caterpillars, and here’s one looking good on the milkweed along poor farm road.


f'n armyworm = farmyworm!
And now for the “Caterpillar to be mentioned” or CTBM,  which turned out to be a “biggy”.  Well, not a biggy as in “big” physically, but rather a biggy in how it can effect an area. And here we are talking about Armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta or Pseudaletia unipuncta) so cool to have optional scientific names! For the general scoop on Armyworm check out the University of Maine fact sheet

The farmyworms are marching to the right

But what we had here (have here) in the Eldercare yard was a burst of these little dudes. And when I say “burst” I mean loads of them. Gagillions of caterpillars, marching across yards, eating the grass.


They are native, and are a threat to crops (and yards) but apparently don’t have a lasting effect as about 20 years ago there was an Armyworm “outbreak” in the same yards and the grass grew back fine.


Even so, a few of the group that gathered took it onto themselves to have a “little victory” dance on the mass of caterpillars. Hopefully they took their shoes off before entering their houses!


puffins are cute

Boat ride – went out on the Skua (7/30) to Seal. Saw some islands, had a good time. Here’s what we saw – Manx Shearwater, Great Cormorant, Double-crested shags, Tropicbird, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common and Arctic Tern, Gannets, Whimbrel, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, and lots of others. Here are some photos from the day…

razorbills are kind of cute


Guillemots are squeaky


the tropicbird has become a "Seal Islander"

many whimbrels flew by

this gannet is crispier on my computer
puffin butts are cute whether crispy or not


Coltircia perennis - Fairy Stool
a stalked polypore

 Strictly fungal

Alrighty, way too often the VSR mantra is “we don’t have time to go into fungus”. How can that ever be you ask? When the VSR is done, it’s done….and it’s often done before recent fungus has been added. So now is time to give fungus its rightful props. Or at least a little part of the props. Time is running out again on the fungus section. This is not my best work.


it's undercarriage is porus
purple-red bolete - Chalciporus rubinellus
When you are checking out fungus - where to start?
How about with seeing what’s the mushroom’s undercarriage like? Sounds personal and it is, because when you are looking at a mushroom you are looking at a fungus’ reproductive “unit”. The “units” are there to release spores, whether it’s a forced release like the Brown Cup video above, puffed out like a puffball or gravity fed and the spores are dropped with the  hope that some wind will take it (the spore) to a “happy place” where it can grow. The units are there to pump the spores out (so to speak).


Velvet-footed Pax - Paxillus atromentosus
young specimen, a nice gilled mushroom
There are no two ways about it – when it comes to mushrooms it’s all about replacing yourself (reproduction), or more specifically “themselves” I guess. And so with reproduction in mind it’s bloomin’, flowerin’, burstin’, thrustin’, mushhumpin’ time! And these tasty parts (ever eat a chanterelle?) let us know a little about what’s going on in the soil, whats going on in the decaying stump, what’s parasitizing that spruce, and what’s helping our forests grow. Mushrooms tell a great story.


And so when we think about mushrooms in our woods (the fleshy ones coming out of the ground for the most part) we start by checking out their undercarriage(s). We are looking to see if there are pores or gills or what. If it’s got pores its likely a Bolete – Boleteacae. They feel like a sponge. Here are some recent boletes…..

 Bay Bolete - Boletus badius - this one stains blue!

Cobwebby pattern on the stalk tells you
this is Tylopilus felleus - the bitter bolete!

Dorsal view of the Red-purple Bolete
seen ventrally above!


Amanita rubescens - the Blusher
ain't she a beaut?

If your mushroom has gills, well, then it’s likely something different (unless it’s a Gilled Bolete – but there is no reason to introduce this confusion at this point).

There are many kinds of gilled mushrooms, and just thinking of the gilled mushrooms in general can be overwhelming. Until we realize that most of the fleshy gilled fungus we come across in our woods are from 3 families - Amanitas, Russulas (including lactarius), and Corts.


As far as the guides i own are concerned
this is an Amanita rhopalopus
Anyway, your gilled mushrooms may be an Amanita – ones with bulbous bases of stalks, sprinkled with fine remains of an “egg shell” case that mades them look like puffballs (not really) when they first emerge from the ground. Leif will be the first to tell you not to eat Amanitas. But we have loads of Amanita in the woods these days, so many that today it hit me - “Amanitas keep our woods growin’”! Along with a few others. Here’s a few recent amanitas
"Destroying Angel is well-named as of the
prettiest and deadliest mushrooms
Amanita virosa


Amanita porphyria - or "Booted amanita"
look at the "boot" at the base of this guy

i do not understand why everyone is not in love with
Tawny Grissettes - Amanita fulva

or this one - the classic Grissette - Amanita vaginata

pulling away the moss from around
A. fulva revels the egg sack at the base
of its stalk.

its hard to see, but the bulbous base of
this guy has a cut in it -
making it a Cleft-foot Amanita - Amanita Brunnescens

If you are to tear at the gills of your mushroom and liquid comes out – be it white, clear or orange – then you’ve got yourself a Milky Mushroom – Lactaris genus, in the Russulacae family. Check out this action video of clear milk milkin’.


or maybe there are no gills at all and its teeth – like this “Orange Rough-cap Tooth” (Hydnellum aurantiacum)  which is a new friend for me. Look at the difference two weeks can makes with this fungus.

orange rough-cap tooth


a few weeks later

Which reminds me – a little advice - To get to know fungus, I have found it helpful to walk the same trail a bunch in a short period of time. The fungus change size, shape and feel over time, & daily walks give you daily information on their status.
few days later

fresh amanita


Anyway, once you start seeing fungus you’ll find plenty that don’t fall into the above groups, but diversity is a big part of the fun of fungus. Look at these jelly babies from Carrying Place. We love ‘em.

jelly babies are a family favorite


And let’s not forget chanterelles. Stacey Cramp was kind enough to send in some shots of a recent find, and there’s one of Leif with a patch he found at Fox Rocks. Leif requested that “we let them live”. They are probably still out there.
chanterelles photo by Stacey Cramp
let's let them live



But hey – enough is enough and this post is longer than long.

Always good to have Nana and family 'round