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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