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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


Thursday, September 19, 2013

dewey tussock
photo by Sylvia Reiss
Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report  
September 15thish, 2013
Brought to you with the kindly support of the VLT and the MCHT
Have you seen any Monarchs lately?

 Highlights – Roadkill, Caterpillars...adults…and other Lepidoptera talk, Snakes, Fungus, Birdies featuring a Gnatcatcher, a Cuckoo and Raptors, a single Flower, slime push, august revisited, many more and other things forgotten….


if you see something, let us know
photo by John Drury

Business: Contact us – . ‘nuff said
Tiit trick - click on the pictures to enlarge.

We beg your pardon....This post was very close to being considered "done" when uploading photos and working on the lower half of the post (no kidding) was not allowed for some reason by the blog. The cursor automatically jumps to the top of the blog while editing. Long story short - read 'em weep, might not be so pretty (edited) down at the bottom, little clunkily written even. And photos were not able to upload, and spell check didn't work, but its time to post so here we go!!!!!!!........  

Hawks are flying by the island daily

Upcoming Events: Hawk watch – Lane’s Island – Saturday Sept. 28th, 10am – 2pm.

The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend ( is upon us (not right upon us, still over a week away) and we (the royal we) are lined up to offered a hawk watch to remember out on Lane’s Island. Saturday September 28th from 10am- 2pm over at Lane’s Island, come and go as you please. We’ll plant ourselves (way to plant, ann) at the picnic table by the graveyard and keep our eyes on the skies for the prize which are hawks, falcons, eagles, a harrier and an osprey.  


black-billed cuckoo
photo by Rick Morgan
Sightings - Raptors being seen these days – Bald Eagle, Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Merlin (several), Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawks.  Turkey Vultures around as well, they are just not raptors.

 Around the island - Cedar Waxwings are truly everywhere. So it is with Belted Kingfisher (BFK) and Great Blue Herons (GBH). I would not lie about such things…..Northern Flickers are coming thru in numbers…Shorebirds still abound, coming thru…More loons showing up daily…Rick Morgan sent in this photo of a Black-billed Cuckoo from East Boston way…Had a nice walk with Sylvia Reiss at Huber where we watched a Semi-palmated Sandpiper evade a Merlin in hot pursuit over and over again. Must have been 30 seconds of high-speed chases and followed by quick turns by the sandpiper to narrowly avoid death. Good fun….


Video: red-necked grebe pair close to shore at State Beach for the past few weeks. Here’s a video


young shag
photo by Jane Blair
Migration – Reach Road – lots of Hummingbirds …. Greens Island – early September – Blue-grey gnatcatcher, prairie warbler, blackpoll, red-eyed vireo, parula, yellow warbler, redstart (RST), magnolia warbler (MW), black throated green warbler (BTG), black and white warbler (B&W)…


Armbrust Hill – (9/9) – 6 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 5 BTG, RST, Yellowthroat, Red-eyed Vireo, Flickers, GBH, Black-bellied Plover, Semi-palmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Catbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Flicker, Blackpoll Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker,
plovers in the mist
Shorebirds – still coming thru in numbers – Seal Bay paddle with Rick Morgan (9/17) – Gid’s Ledges – 52 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 20 Black-bellied Plover, 12 Semi-palmated Plover, 7 Short-billed Dowitchers, 8 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs. Plus – 100+ Bonaparte’s Gulls, many Laughing Gulls, some Herring Gulls, handful of Ring-billed Gulls. Many Belted Kingfishers.

red-billed tropicbird, last seen august 25th or so
see ya next summer!
photo by John Drury


Roadkill – Lots of snake movement these days, which means lots of snake roadkill over the last month or so. Most days I might see 3 or 4 squished on the road (new ones added each day) and 1 or 2 alive on the road or in the woods. Notable bike ride – (9/14) 10 snakes today on the road – 1.5 were alive. 8 were dead, one (a green snake) was alive but I almost ran over, and one (a red-bellied) was in the process of dying after it got runned over moments before I peddled up to the scene. They were all fresh. Half were Green Snakes (5), 3 Red-bellieds, and 2 Ring-necked snakes. All the large snakes (non-ring-neckeds) were gone overnight.    


Let’s make a deal! – (9/15) And then last night (at this point “a few nights ago”) after sunset, we were rock hoppin’ and chuckin’ when Leif and I and Amy found this little greeny down by the salt water in creed cove. Seemed like an odd spot to find it. Anyway, it took to our warmth readily (we do have a way with dry, cold blooded animals) and is now in a tank at home. To be released soon so it can find a spot to overwinter. Or so that’s the deal we’ve worked out. It eats grasshoppers we found out.



“Larval Summer” 2013! – You’ve seen them roadside, in back yards, and even on the backpack you foolishly brought outside – Caterpillars are around and man are there a lot of them. Hope you are not one of the handful of people in the world who fear caterpillars because it is totally Larval Summer!


Editor’s note – there is no official word for someone with fear of caterpillars – a “larvalphobia” if you will. But if you do a “something” search on fear of caterpillars you can find a slew of conversations between people with this affliction. Here’s one from a guy who fears more than just caterpillars, and is trying to comfort and connect with another larvalphobe….


woolly bear - classic


“You’re not alone, I too have the same phobia ever since I was about 5 or around that age. I also have a phobia of butterflies, do you also have this fear? If I see either of them I always want to run away from them as fast as I possibly can! I also fear that when I die I'll come back as one!!!”


Fear of adult butterflies – now that must suck. I wonder if he is afraid of butterfly eggs and pupae too. Is he truly metamorphophobic? Lepidopterially speaking of course.

yellow, yellow bear - classic

And of course, the caterpillars we are finding insects in the second stage of their lives. Yes, that wonderful process known as “metamorphosis” is happening all around us, and these guys were recently eggs, and many (not all) will soon be pupae (cocoon) for the winter. Then adults next spring. Sounds lovely doesn’t it.


sphinx moth caterpillar
photo by Linnell Mather
The larval stage is an eating stage (no interest in reproduction at all), and in some cases is when the insect is “easiest on the eyes”. The photos included here are all from the Lepidoptera family of insects – Moths and Butterflies (otherwise known as “day moths”) and some will turn into coolly patterned moths that are technically brown. We make no judgments here.

“Love the Lepid larva (except winter moth)! ” t-shirts should be sold at the Paper Store! 


So something has clicked – wet June?, hot summer? Where the hell are the warbler young eating these? Here’s a little “Larval Hall of Fame” from the recent wave of “larval summer 2013”. Thanks to all who have sent in photos.


which way to zumba?
photo by Erin Creelman
Erin Creelman sent in these wonderful shots of what turns out to be a “Filament Bearer” (Nematocampa resitaria). Larvae feed on “many hardwoods and soft woods”, which is then followed by a list of just about every tree and shrub, even something called “New Jersey Tea” which is an opening for at least a dozen different jokes, feel free to insert one here.


cool looking caterpillar - Filament bearer
photo by Erin Creelman

Adults are tannish, veiny moths that are “immediately recognizable by  pale –tipped, eversible tentacles that extend from dorsum of A2 and A3”. In other words this dude’s got some white danglage off his early abdomen. Check out this link for pictures of the adult and other forms of the larvae.


so many larva are on the road
that asphalt is native habitat

and there’s more – Tussock moth caterpillars are up to their regular. Now Tussock Moths and their caterpillars are quite a diverse group, and many species of Tussock Moth caterpillars can be found on island. Here are a few.


Editor’s note - In the most recent VSR we mentioned that Leif is a big fan of the Hickory Tussock Moths caterpillars, and he still to this day remains a fan. In that post I included these pictures of Leif watching a White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar make a cocoon around itself. For some reason I did not mention the species of caterpillar in the caption and some thought that we misidentified the caterpillar in the picture for a Hickory Tussock since it was mentioned in the paragraph right next to the photo. This was not our intent. We apologize for any confusion concerning the caterpillar species, we did not mean to imply that that was a Hickory Tussock Moth individual. So it goes.

leify loves these - hickory tussock moth caterpillar

And here is a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar…

The banded Tussock Moth caterpillars have been fun to watch. This one pulled itself up about 6 feet into a lilac tree/shrub in the yard.

banded tussock not hanging by a thread

banded tussock
hangin' by a thread


banded pulling itself up
unidentified tussock.

An unidentified Tussock Moth caterpillar. We can only identify the species identified in the field guides. Caterpillar identification is fun.


this is where all the caterpillars are heading

And so Leif and Amy have had a go of it too with Caterpillars at the school garden. Palmer brought home an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar that was brown with the fake eyeballs and stuff. Caterpillars go thru several phases (called “instars”) where their “old” skin and (sometimes) a significant number of organs are discarded. Everything discarded I then re-grown somewhat larger so the caterpillar can grow in size. Somewhat reminiscent of a lobster shedding its exoskeleton. Anyway, in one of the field guides we read that the last instar stage of a Tiger Swallowtail’s time as a caterpillar is bright green. We were stoked! How could we not be. We were expecting maybe even a few more instar stages before it would “go all pupae” (go into a cocoon) on us. Well, we checked the jar in a few days and all we found was this pupae!


Another field guide, which I had just happened to misplace (which happens all the time), which I then found later, mentioned that the caterpillar turns brown right before “going all pupae and spraint”. It was time, it was destiny, and it was brown.


black swallowtail
Leify also spotted this Black Swallowtail caterpillar in the school garden. Here’s the word from the caterpillar book – “the distinctively patterned caterpillars are familiar to all who have spent appreciable time in their gardens” Wagner – Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Says it all really – Leif was in the garden, now it’s a caterpillar sample in a jar.


and now some caterpillar videos....

Butterfly – Adults – On September 13th I was getting prepared to make this announcement two days later - “It’s September 15th and I have not seen a Monarch adult this year!”. And then September 14th happened and I crossed paths with one out at State Beach. I a few shots of him feasting on some “sweet nectar of the rod – goldenrod flavor”.  There was a moment or two of “yeah! First monarch!” excitement (even a fist pump) followed almost immediately by the downer anti-excitement thought - “last one?”.


red admirals are not monarchs

Haven’t seen one since. I have asked several folk if they have seen any Monarchs this summer and the answer has been “no” each time. Vinalhaven is not the only spot in Maine noticing a sharp drop in Monarchs, here’s an article in the Bangor Daily News by. Doesn’t make any bold statements. . And so we repeat the question -Have you seen any monarchs lately?


mourning cloak

One species of Butterfly that is not missing is the Mourning Cloak. Adult migration was first noted around (9/5) there has been a nice, steady stream of adults (10+ a day) heading south-westerly. These are the adults that will overwinter wherever they are heading to overwinter. Here’s what Cech and/or Tudor had to say about them –


mourning cloak closed

“adults tolerate winter cold by means of “antifreeze” chemicals (glycerols) in their blood. Before emerging in mid-winter, they use isometric shivering to raise their body temperature (to 15 degrees or more above ambient)(Doulgas 1989).”- Butterflies of the East Coast – Cech and Tudor

 Also mentioned here is that the mourning cloak is a “wide-ranging holarctic” species  that shows little variation. In England, where they are a rare immigrant they are known as “Camberwell Beauty”. “some migration” is noted.

So the Mourning Cloak generates heat by shivering? Does that make them warm-blooded? There is something warm and soothing about a Mourning Cloak.


American Pelecinid Wasp female
lots around lately

And so there have been daily sightings of Pelecinid Wasps (Pelecinnus polyturator). The female are easily recognized by the long slender abdomen. Females use their abdomen to probe thru the soil searching for May Beetle grubs. The wasp wil lay one egg on every May Beetle it finds (and possibly other scarab beetles), out of which the wasp larva hatches and burrows into the beetle grub, devouring it from the inside. Had to mention this. We have May Beetles!!!!!!!
found these three shoreline springtails
in this mussel shell, while i was
hiding from naked hikers.
Strictly Fungal – the woods have been diverse on the fungal front, not so many Amanitas, 10 seen on an average walk these days. But still 5 or 6 Amanita species present so the diversity is still there, just not the numbers per se. Here’s a list from a walk (9/11) along Wharf Quarry Road to the Basin and back. Typical walk these days I’d say –



spiny puffball. how cool looking is that?
Brown Jelly, Imposter Turkey Tail, False Turkey Tail, real Turkey tail, Chrome-footed Bolete, Velvet-footed Pax, Coral Mushroom, Yellow patches, Gem-studded Puffball, Mossy Maple Polypore, Fuzzy Foot, Orange Jelly, Red-belted Conk, Tinder Conk, Marasmius sp., Spindle-shaped Coral, Crowded Parchment, Violet-toothed Polypore, Tawny Grisette, Blusher, Bay Bolete, Rosy Russula, Luminescent Panellus, Grisette, Carbon Balls, Citron amanita, Fading Scarlet Waxycaps, Chanterelles, Saffron Cort, White Cheese Polypore,


together again
witches butter and orange jelly


Good Jellies – There is always jelly to be found in the woods. Usually it is of the Orange sort or a Tree Ear. The other day at Huber we had a trifecta Orange Jelly, Tree Ear and Witches Butter. VSR devotees and scorekeepers may recall Fox Rocks being the only other place I have found Witches Butter. In truthiness they are not all that similar, with Witches Butter being pretty dang yeller. All that being fine, the really clincher is what tree you are finding your jelly on. Witches Butter on hardwoods, Orange Jelly on conifers. Like the 10 gazillion spruce we have on the island. This witches butter was on a red maple.


tree ear

Two other jellies also found, Jelly Tooth and a brown jelly named …… . Jelly Tooth is one of those old friends   
jelly tooth is an old favorite


and now it' sdown the line with a Birch Lenzites or Gilled Bracket - "Lenzites betulina" -
aka - Multi-color Gilled  Polypore. Blast from the past, eh Big Al"

nice "gills"
time to re-orient
the log this maze polypore was growing out of
got turned over. with re-growth its old "gills" on top
new "gills" on the bottom 

porpoise in the priviledge
photo by Ben Cashin
Molly and Cristina pointing to the
photo by Ben Cashin
Blast from the past - things often fall thru the cracks here at the VSR HQ. Every so often we remember what we forgot and very seldom do we then remember to add such things in the next post. Here's a few we should have had previously  

Sorry, there would be more here, but the blog is acting funny - it's never the editor, its always the blog. this is long enough anyway. so we'll have another blast from the past another day.
leify rock hoppin'. good place to look for him these days

Monday, September 2, 2013

what up? humpback style
photo by John Drury

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings Report 
September 1st, 2013

Underwritten with the gracious support
of VLT and MCHT

“The sound of fungus doesn’t do it for me”



Highlights – hummingbird fledgling, whippoor-will, ocean sunfish, Whales and the off-shore excursion of the Skua, Jaegers and Bonaparte’s, finchy eye goo, fungus especially Amanita featuring Grisette discussion, phantom crane fly, wood ducks, plus a Big announcement



bottom half from the inside - 50 cent
Welcome newbies and is the place to send sightings, photos and other things pertaining to natural events in and around the Vinalhaven region. Writing something up about your sighting is encouraged - "in your own words"

If you would like to receive an email whenever a new VSR is posted then send in your email address and we’ll do an extensive background check and if you are extremely lucky you will be put on the list right away. More likely it will be eventually.

Thanks to all those who sent in this round!


nice fluke
photo by John Drury
Tiit trick – click on any photo and magically it (the photo) will fill up your screen. Pretty cool.

Give it a try - click on the photo to the leftand have this sweet tail of a whale fill your computer with life and your soul with joy. That's how big they get - "joyful soul" big. 

not just winking at you
photo by Sally
PSA – Hold the phone – this next section makes us ask uncomfortable questions. Do you know what avian conjunctivitis looks like? Birdy pink-eye. Well, you will now after looking at these Goldfinch shots Skin Hill Sally sent in.


Lovingly referred to as House Finch Eye Disease, this particular conjunctivitis is “caused by a unique strain of the bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum, which is a common pathogen in domestic turkeys and chickens  - damn chickens!


i think i like them better with their eyes closed
photo by sally
Contaminated finch eye balls (I’ve always wanted to start a paragraph that way) get all swollen and puffy and eventually close up. This makes a contaminated finch essentially blind which makes finding seeds by sight a rather tricky undertaking. Starvation or being swiftly picked off by a local cat (you know – the one “that would never take a bird”) follows, often resulting in death.


Anyway, several members of the Finch family (Finchydae) have been document suffering from this here particular conjunctivitis. Here’s a link to a blog post (warning – it is from Canada) called “Goldfinches can get eye disease too!”  -


And now for some sound advice! - “If a sick bird comes to your feeder, minimize the risk of infecting other birds by cleaning your feeder area thoroughly. If you see several sick birds, take down all your feeders for at least a week to give the birds a chance to disperse. Remember that prevention is the key to avoiding the spread of disease. Regularly clean your feeders even when there are no signs of disease.”


Don’t you ever wash that thing?” – FZ…. So hey – here’s a novel idea- clean your feeders! Not just the ones on Skin Hill either. Sally has confided in me that she cleans her feeders on a regular basis and is still impressed with how dirty they get! So if you got feeders – clean ‘em! Or build a robot to clean them, or hire the gig out – it’s good for the economy!


photo by Terry goodhue
SightingsHummingbird fledglingTerry Goodhue caught this magical moment on film (or disk or chip or whatever) of a resting juvenile Ruby-throated Hummer on some big ol’ flower/non-native plant. Awesome find and great to have a camera handy in the moment. Thanks for sharing Terry!



lesser purple fringed orchid
so very striking
photo by Beth Guilford
Whippoorwill – the lovely Amy Palmer went for a stroll the other evening (8/27) and came home with stories of a whip-poor-will calling across from Todd’s garage. The sound of the Whip-poor-will is seldom heard on Vinalhaven, and in August I would assume it’s even seldomer. Some folk talk of not hearing a Whip-poor-will out here for years, and I for one can honestly say I have not had the pleasure of hearing one calling on Vinalhaven proper or improper. Either way, theirs’ is a song that is “easy on the ears”. Here’s a link to a youtube recording/action video of their song -      ……  Nighthawks soon!!!!!!!!!


what up? ocean sunfish style
photo by John Drury


Many folk are mentioning Ocean Sunfish these days, as these oddballs from off shore have been spotted up into the bay.  I think the picture says it all. Nice one Johnny!



tres amigos - looks like a little one at the end
photo by John Drury
Off shore” (8/6) sounds like the title to a great white shark horror movie or a movie about drunken college friends on a “boat trip gone awry”, but in reality it’s a place way further out into the Gulf of Maine than Seal Island, or so I am told. John Drury and the Skua took a bunch of folks into the “off shore” and here’s the report we received….

touch of grey - on this Red Phalarope
photo by John Drury

“I saw these whales Aug 6 off shore, also red phalerope and 2 pomarine jaygar”. Later word came in of a Sei Whale sighting on the trip….

and enough Humpbacks to walk across their backs to get to the other side….of the humpbacks.  

two flavors of phalaropes
photo by john Drury
John figures he’s got 4.5 Humpback Whale fluke shots that day, and I believe that’s enough for John to start his own catalog and whale naming program. I bet alot would be named after soccer players


photo by John Drury
Or he could send in these shots to “Allied Whale” a whale research group out of the College of the Atlantic over there in Bar Harbor. These “Allied Whalers” as they are known are one of the keepers of the master catalog of identified Humpback Whale flukes in the North-west Atlantic Ocean. Or at least in the Gulf of Maine. We’ve all heard it before – the pattern on the undercarriage of a humpback’s tail (fluke/big flat thing that pushes them through the water) is specific to each individual, kinda like fingerprints on people (even though I swear I’ve met at least two people who had the same finger prints as me! No foolin’!). Anyway, Allied Whale and other whalers have been keeping track of sightings of identified whales and some of the ones first identified (labeled with a name not of  their choice) back in the 70s are still kickin’ around. Check out more at


palmer-eened jaeger
photo by john Drury
Anyway, these folks would possibly locate some history on humpbacks that “money shot” is photographed.   


Sounds like an awesome day! Thanks for sharing.


love is in the air at the lumber yard
photo by Bob Delsandro
Insects we trust – Get a Room!!!! - Bob Delsandro sent in this photo of a little Great Spangled Fritillary friction action in the lumber yard – ***this “get a room” sponsored by the Tidewater Inn – “for when you need a room!”****

white admirals are abound
….Butterflies in general seem to have calmed down over the last few weeks....

tussock moth going thru the metamorphosis
tons of caterpillars these days…Leif loves the Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar…. Time constraints have limited the resource known as “time” to research on species and habits of caterpillars. But we are still diggin’ all the caterpillars except the invasive and gross ones. We hope for more next round, “time”’ that is.
leif really enjoyed watching the tusscok moth make
it's coccoon




unidentified crawling bug
photo by Niall Conlan
Niall Conlan got a couple of shots of a glowing caterpillar while working with Jim and the fantastic crew of Conlan Plumbing and Heating. Very interesting and thanks for sharing these and the Osprey photo above. Here’s the report from Niall –


photo by Niall Conlan
 in his own words....“My dad’s actually the one that noticed it. We were working under a house with an open layout crawlspace. He said it was just kinda crawling in the dirt and he noticed it glowing and thought it was a lightning bug. It looked like it had some kind of legs on it but wasn’t moving very much at all, I would have guessed it was dead if it wasn’t glowing. The glow was pretty intense at first and steady, then within a few minutes it faded and then went out. It was mostly white with a little bit of pink on its back and almost seems a bit translucent even.”


the hermit beetle was huge
Scarab Beetle – keeping with the Egyptian theme, Leify was “attacked” by an out of control Hermit Beetle (Osmoderma eremicola) on Poor Farm Road. Hermit Beetles are members of the family Scarabaeidae, or Scarab Beetles. Scarab beetles are featured in hieroglyphics and are represented in many amulets and figures associated with Egyptian mummies. I type all this as newly acquired knowledge for me within the last three months as Egypt and mummies are the current passion of Leif.  So it only goes to figure that he had the Hermit Beetle fly crazily at him and land next to him on a rock where he was pointing out a boundary pin to my mom, Carol, Nannie. Anyway, I’ve never seen a Hermit Beetle before. It was cool.


And speaking of mummies….Leif and the Squirrel….The neighbors had a couple of trees taken down and within a few hours we had this baby squirrel running in our yard.


I think the record of my distaste for squirrels speaks for itself (for the record – “I have a distaste for squirrels”), but moreso for “potential pet reasons” we (the royal we) opted not to point out this little dude to Leif.

 “It will be over quick for the orphaned squirrel!!! Ha, Ha, Ha!” barked the sinister naturalist. There was no way that critter was surviving the night!


Well, about 24 hours later Leif, our 4.74 year old, spotted this very hungry, very desperate baby squirrel hanging in one of his climbing trees, “hanging on by a thread”.


Things escalated quickly – went from “maybe we shouldn’t touch it” to “it jumped into my hand!!!!” to “please can we keep him!!!!!” way too fast. The baby rodent never tried to nurse Leif’s hand, but almost immediately slid into position, ready to suckle if an appropriate nipple dropped (as opposed to those inappropriate nipples) in front of it.


What could we do? – get the dropper, give it some milk, make it a bed in a crate and the next morning it was dead. Saw that coming a mile away.



Squirrel mummy - Leif didn’t miss a beat though – “Let’s get some salt! Let’s get a hook and pull its brains out! let’s wrap it up!”... needless to say the squirrel is covered in salt and drying as we have started phase 1 of "squirrel mummy making". We’ll keep you posted as things develop in this classic story….


osprey nest
photo by Niall Conlan


Raptors – Lots of Harriers/Marsh Hawks being seen around, Greens Island, Bald Island, State BeachBroad-winged Hawks – So many Broad-wingeds that Blue Jays are mimicking them - Reach Road, State Beach, Lawson Quarry, and others….Merlin fly by at state beachBald Eagles & Osprey are everywhere…Cooper’s Hawk along the Reach


we be seeing more and more loons
Round the island – lots of Flickers and tons of Cedar Waxwings…Turkey Vultures seen around…Belted Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons numerous…The best year for Spotted Sandpipers that I can remember….Folly Pond – (8/31) 15 Wood Ducks near the dam, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Black Duck, Belted Kingfisher….Basin – (8/29) -  Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Black-bellied Plover, Great Blue Heron, Raven, Bald Eagle, Osprey, MerlinState Beach – “consistent regulars” - Least Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Osprey,


nothing "least" about this least sandpiper

Birdwalks – we ended with a bang – (8/29) 3 Red-necked Grebe showing up early at State Beach. Great looks at Bald Eagles, Osprey, Cedar Waxwing, Semi-palmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Merlin bombing thru the scene hunting shorebirds … (8/22) Willet on the beach. And all the “consistent regulars” mentioned above for both days. Great groups, and great looks.


we love state beach, or whatever this place is called

the blusher is a beauty
of an amanita
Fungus….”I’m an Amanita man”….how I wish that was a palindrome, but its close enough. Only the “t” is not repeated….

So I have used the old clicker to click off Amanitas along a couple of trails and on some islands, where Amanitas account for over 50% of all mushrooms seen. Overall findings - high numbers of Blushers, Yellow patches, Grisettes, Rhopalopus, and smaller numbers of (but still regular) Tawny Grisette, Fly-Agaric, Cleft-footed, Citron, Destroying Angels, and booted & Cecliae Amanitas… Here are some click tallies - Huber (8/24)23 Amanitas along trail….(8/23) walk to Greasy Monkey via Otter Pond – 83 Amanitas!....(8/26) Basin platform trail– 25 Amanitas…. Paddle to the White Islands (8/27) many Ceciliae Grisettes (A. ceciliae), tons even.

thw whites were loaded
with Amanitas
Sheer Numbers of Amanitas - Even with the (until recently) dry conditions Amanitas have been pushing thru the dry duff. From their sheer numbers in the woods you get the feeling that Amanitas play a significant role in the forest ecology out here. The walk by Otter Pond had 83 clicked - a fine mix of 10 or so species of the same genus Amanita – without getting off the trail! Can you imagine 83 “Dendroica”s on a walk? “Dendroica” being everyone’s favorite genus of north American warbler (if it still is a genus anymore. I’ve heard rumors). 83 warblers makes for a great walk and so does 83 Amanitas - if just by sheer numbers alone!


Destroying angels would be cool
even if they didn't kill you

Diversity is a big part. I know what 5 of you are thinking - seeing 83 trees or plants of the same genus is easy out here. But find 83 plants of a genus with 10 species (minimum) represented and it gets trickier. Alright, so Goldenrod is close, and mosses don’t count (why the hell would they?), but you see my point here. Do I have a point? Amanita diversity and numbers are rich in the woods these days.


Tawny Grisette.
Look at that striation!
Look at that sack or "bag"!
Which leads me to my Big announcement - I have recently accepted that the Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva) is my favorite mushroom. The tawny and its close relatives “the Grisettes” (also my favorite 60s girl band) stand for a lot of the things I love about mushrooms. Thusly this makes me an Amanita man.

 There are over 600 known species of the fungus genus “Amanita” and many more to be recognized (for sure). A good place to start an appreciation of the Tawny Grisette (A. fulva) is to recognize this impressive Amanita diversity and the diversity within the group known as “Grisettes”, a closely related group in the genus Amanita. This group includes 3 “Grisette“ species regularly seen on Vinalhaven – the Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva), the Grisette (A. vaginata), and Cecliae Amanita (A. cecliae)-   but also includes the Constricted Grisette (A. constricta) out west among others. Easily grouped - these are the brown/grey Amanitas with striate edges. And while we can group them together, we quickly learn that there is much more to learn about Grisettes (more to learn about mushrooms is one of the things I love about mushrooms) .Here’s what David Arora says of the “species complex” that is Amanita vaginata
Two Cecliae Grisettes
Same species, different looks
nice striation...


the combination of deeply striate gray to gray-brown cap, white gills, absence of a ring, and a membranous sack or “bag”  at the base of the stem typifies a group of Amanitas collectively called A. vaginata…. Several color forms of A vaginata have been described, some of which are now considered distinct species. One is A. fulva”


Many species of mushrooms, both the poisonous and the tasty, are actually more than one species. These groups or “species complexes” are groups of essentially  identical species (for our purposes) that can’t be told apart in the field and maybe even not so easily in a lab, but overall all taste the same or have the same poisons (except for Chicken of the Woods on eucalyptus – don’t eat that one) and have similar niches in the ecosystem and the such. For the vast majority of humans these complexes might as well be considered a single species, and that’s cool. In reality their diversity represents adaptation, speciation and evolution over time that continues to occur,(and most likely will for the entire holiday weekend!). “Species complexes” remind us about how little we know, how much more there is to learn, and how old my mushroom book is.  


coral mushrooms are not amanitas,
nor are they Mychorrizal.
but they are fun to look at
And so the Tawny Grisette is a somewhat recently recognized species and the whole concept of speciation in fungus is mindboggling as spores are everywhere and species are worldwide. What factors stimulate fungus speciation? How long have Amanitas been around anyway? 

The symbiotic relationship (Mychorrizal) the Amanitas have with our trees is an ancient one - relationships alone that demand respect for the Amanitas. Overly simplified - the fungus gives a tree nitrogen and phosphorus (among other stuff) and the tree gives the fungus sugar – everyone wins! Amanitas have this relationship with many kinds of trees – and one would think that different species of trees could influence speciation. What about the soil? Maybe different Amanita species excel at absorbing and transferring nutrients and thusly connect with certain species of trees? Enough questions! I’ll see if I can dig up some answers…..


several folks mentioned this dye-maker's polypore at Huber.
Nice decomposer - folk dye wool and dogs with this particular
species (or complex maybe).
We tried dying my beard a few days back but i think it only got greyer.
And another thing! - In Estonia the Tawny Grisette is known as “Kollakaspruun karbseseen” (with an umlaut over the 2nd “a”) in Estonia, and the GrisetteRongata karbseseen”. The Estonian mushroom guide lists both species as “potentially or likely poisonous”. The Barron “mushrooms of northeast north America” has A. fulva and A. vaginata listed as “Edible, but avoid”. These statements end up not being true at all.


Here’s what David Arora says in Mushroom Demystified about the Grisette’s edibility -  

poisonous pigskin puffballs are not true puffballs
but rather are earthballs with dark spore mass in the middle
why anyone would eat one of these is beyond me

“ Edible when cooked, and fairly good…prized in France…one of the safest Amanitas for the table” and our woods are loaded with them!


But don’t get Arora started on fear of eating Amanitas. Check out this rant from Mushrooms Demystified, page 264.


““I for one do not subscribe to the wholesale philosophy (as expounded by many mushroom mentors) that Amanitas should not be eaten under any circumstances. In my humble fungal opinion it is just as easy to carelessly overlook the volva and mistake a deadly Amanita for an edible mushroom of another genus as to mistake a deadly Amanita for the corcorra (A. calyptrate) or Grisette (A. vaginata). True, it is sheer stupidity to risk your life for the sake of a single meal, however delectable it may be. But the key word here is risk – and in the case of a few species such as A. calyptrate, A. caesarea, and A. vaginata, I don’t consider it a risk for discriminating amateurs to eat them, provided they become thoroughly familiar with the characteristics and those of their lethal counterparts.


Simplistic slogans or catchwords such as “Do not eat-a the Amanita” often accomplish the precise opposite of what they intend. Rather than encouraging people to use their eyes and nose and the gray mass between their ears, to approach each and every mushroom with discrimination, intelligence, and respect, such adages reinforce people’s desire for expediency by fostering an unhealthy, mindless reliance on shortcuts and glib generalizations. Those who need simple rules should learn to play dominoes or Scrabble rather than eat wild mushrooms”


boletes in the genus Leccinnum are referred to as
Scaber Stalks. They are yummy

Relax Arora! That must  have felt good to write.…And so the Grisettes break the “Amanita barrier” by being edible. We love those species that break traditions, and this is a bold one to make. I have eaten Amanitas out west – Corcorras – and even with 100% certainty of their identification I still had in the back of my mind – “Holey spraint! I am eating an Amanita”. I’m sure eating a Grisette would be a similar thrill.

...but sometimes you have to ask if they
are worth getting poison ivy for. 

Anyway, there are many other reasons to love the Grisettes, but enough has been written here.


Hats off! Happy Labor Day! And just think of all those mushrooms getting ready to “pop” with this rain! Lots more to report on the fungal front - including a couple patches of Gypsy Mushrooms - Rozites caperata -  The patches were at Fish Hook and in the Basin.
this is a very handsome Gypsy Mushroom

Gypsys are members of the Cortinariaceae, or Cort family. The Cortinariacae is one of the 4 fleshy fungal families (mushrooms that look like mushrooms) that makes up the majority of mushrooms you find growing out of the ground in our woods. The other four once again are - Boletaceae, Amanitaceae, and Russulaceae. Learn to recognize those 4 families and you are well on your way to being familiar with most of the fleshy fungus (the mushrooms that look like mushrooms) of Vinalhaven. Have I said this before? Does it really matter anyway?

Anyway, finding Gyspy mushrooms takes me back to Haines Alaska. I believe these were the 3rd and 4th patches i have found on Vinalhaven, have seen down east as well. It's been a few years for sure.

band of gypsys
Here's what Arora says about the Gypsy - from Mushrooms Demystified once again....

"Edible, and in my humble fungal opinion, the best of the Cortinariaceae. It is especially good with rice after a long, hard day of backpacking." He is full of humble fungal opinions today isn't he. Nice visual with the rice and backpacking though....

Bankera violascens looked cool
from above, taking over the
reindeer lichen a bit. i looked for recipes on line and I probably could have found some, but I was more dazzled by all the references to a Gypsy Mushroom extract that is recommended for dealing with cole sores and herpes. Like one of the top recommendations - at least in the publications I went to. Medicinal uses for mushrooms, got dig anything that helps ease the pain.

saw another new one for me - in the Basin in the pitch pines  - Bankera violascens as far as my field guide is concerned. A toothed fungus, the Bankera (as I am calling it) has neither gills not pores, but instead lots of spear like "teeth" covering its undercarriage.

from below it was all teeth

This guy was close to the patch of Orange rough-cap Tooth that was another "new" toothed species for me this summer. Both are along the loop trail above the platform in the Basin.

the red mummy.




 i think this is long enough. hope you have enjoyed.

mummies, buddhas, and just recently easter island moai heads. its good to be 4.74 years old.