Brought to you by

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, 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.