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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, October 2, 2013

go ahead, make my day
and yes, that is a merlin leg in its talons

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
October 2nd, 2013
VLT and MCHT support is essential in the production
of these reports
Thanks for reading, or looking at the pictures 
or whatever you do with these reports 
(I don't want to know)

Highlights – massive broad-winged hawk flight, Migration, Fungus, and 1 monarch! (10/2). something else.

Tiit trick - click on photos to enlarge.
spotted salamander getting tickled by moss
photo by Erin Creelman

Raptors featuring a spraintload of Broad-winged Hawks – Tip-toe Mtn. (9/17) John Drury did a hawkwatch up at Tip-toe and came back with the stunning total of reports a total of 551 raptors! Here’s the breakdown by species - 1 merlin, 3 kestrel, 1 coop, 4 red-tail, 43 sharpshin, & 500 broad winged hawks.
this luna moth caterpillar will never be a raptor
unless a merlin gets it later in life
You saw that right -500 Broad-winged Hawks! This is really the event of the season – a species that reportedly “doesn’t cross water” kettling in the 100s both to the north and south of Tip-toe, getting ready to cross over Western Penobscot Bay. Doesn’t get any better than that.


gagillions of Broad-winged Hawks circling almost out of
the atmosphere. not really.
photo by John Drury
So what the hell is kettling and why does spell check keep want it to be spelled “kittling”? “Kettling” is a verb in the bird word (just as “jizz” is a term for seabird flight patterns – true story!) that can refer to groups of raptors catching the same thermal. The kettling behavior is often seen during migration when multitudes of raptors are moving great distances and are looking to take advantage of any free ride they can get. Thermals and their lifts are as such considered “free rides”.


sharpies are often the most numerous raptors seen on
a hawkwatch.
photo by John Drury
To watch a raptor catch and ride a thermal means you hardly see a flap (if any at all!) and your head starts to spin as the bird goes in circles hundreds of feet in the air riding an invisible updraft. Once a raptor has gone high enough they will slowly descend and coast in their direction of movement. Moving miles with only the slightest feather adjustments. Hopefully to catch another thermal at the other end, now that’s the way to move.



Vultures are not raptors.
photo by John Drury
John reported that they were kettling so high in preparation for crossing the bay that they might not have recognized the bay as water – just look at the picture up there! They were riding the big thermals way the heck up into the sky before taking the slow decline, decent descent towards Monroe Island and Owls Head. May happen more often than observed (how can it not!) – who the heck is looking way up there? John is. Incredible sighting!


(9/17) Peter Drury, never one to be shown up, reports that he saw 4 Broad-wingeds over Greens that same day. Not to “stir the brotherly spraint” and all, but for those keeping score you will note that it John 500 to Captain Pete 4. Had to point that out.

4 Broad-wingeds is actually a high number for Greens, where I believe John has commented on how few Buteos (Broad-winged, Red-tails, Red-shouldered Hawks) he has seen EVER even seen on Greens (like 6 or something total). 4 seems like an epic day out there. So good on ya Pete! And thanks for the info!

Patience and Tom Chamberlin has the other report of kettling Broad-winged Hawks over Fox Rocks a few years back on a 29th of September.  Roughly 250 that day as well!


bald eagle
photo by Karen Oakes
Bald Eagle - Karen Oakes sent in these shots of a Bald Eagle she photographed this summer out on Greens. Look at those bands! This photo has been sent to the proper folks who might have a catalog with band information in it to id this bird. My guess it is a bird banded on Greens. We’ll keep you posted of any developments.

Eagle leg bands
photo by Karen Oakes

privacy please

(9/28) Lane’s - And so we had our hawkwatch out at Lane’s on a beautiful day. Lots of nice folks, thanks to those that braved the sun to stand there staring at the sky. Surprisingly low activity on the raptor front – 4 Sharpies, 1 merlin, 3 bald eagles, but the merlin put on a nice show catching dragonflies and perching a few times.  Flickers and yellow-rumpeds galore, savannah sparrow and a few Great Blue Herons. Great day to be outside whatever you were up to.


peregrine falcon
Reach Road - Should have had the hawkwatch on Reach Road – Sharpies reported several days in the neighborhood recently by myself and Patience Chamberlin. Peregrine feast on the road. (10/1) So I was heading out on my bike yesterday when I came across this young Peregrine Falcon sitting just up the road from my house. It was surrounded by feathers and had apparently been there a long time as it had eaten much of a Merlin Falcon.


The Peregrine was young – that could be told from the streaky chest and buff wash. The thin moustache stripe and lightly colored forehead was of a “Tundra” Peregrine Falcon, a subspecies of Peregrines that nests way up in the arctic but is commonly seen in the lower 48 in the “off season”.


there are two species of falcons in this
photo. one is represented by a foot and
some bloody insides.
The other is a Peregrine

Its behavior made me wonder if I was the first person it had ever seen as he (I’m going with he masculine "he" here as it seemed “kinda small”, or at least “not so large”) had no fear of me at all. Maybe he was just really hungry. He kind of looks skinny in the photos, except that it just ate a whole merlin. I figured I was the first bald guy drinking coffee on a bike who happened to have a camera at the go in the crate right behind his seat. Seemed like a safe bet. We hung out maybe 10 feet from each other for several minutes

And think of it – a Merlin is pretty high up the food chain for a bird known as the “duck hawk”? And if this Peregrine ate a local merlin that fed on local dragonflies that fed on local mosquitoes that fed on local me, Amy, Leif and everyone else on reach road, then we (the Reach Road “we”) are honored to “give” to the cause. We did our part for this guy! “you're welcome”.


female Common Yellowthroat
photo by Karen Oakes
Migration - Every Yellow-rumped Warbler in the world is on the island no matter what anyone says. . If you see a bird it’s probably a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Unless it’s not. Flickers, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Ravens (lots of Ravens these days), and tons of Chickadees (like more than we have “regularly”)…. Greens - White- crowed Sparrow (Willie and Elaine)…. Philadelphia Vireo and Prairie Warbler (9/15) Tip-toe Mtn. spotted by John Drury…. Karen Oakes took this Palm Warbler photo in her backyard I believe. Other Warblers - Many Parula, Black-throated Green, Common Yellowthroat, Redstart, Blackpoll, Black and Whites. Other songbirds – Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Hermit Thrushes, Robins, few Cedar Waxwings and Goldfinches, White-throated, Savannah and Song Sparrows, lots of Phoebes….

palm warbler
photo by Karen Oakes


wilson's snipe
photo by Rick Morgan
Shorebirds – (9/28) Old Harbor PondRick Morgan took a paddle thru ol’ OHP and came home with photos of a Wilson’s Snipe. Probably more famous for not existing rather than for existing (they do exist) Snipes are not a frequent sight out here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a one on Vinalhaven. Rick got some nice shots. Good work and thanks for sharing.


Took a paddle with Rick thru Seal Bay (9/17) where we saw no raptors at all I believe. Visited Gid “the rowing guy”’s ledges and got some pictures. Tally for the shorebird ledges off Huber (largely) and all of Seal Bay – 52 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 12 Semi-palmated Plover, 4 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, 7 Short-billed Dowitcher, 17 Black-bellied Plover. Great to be out there…..also that day – 100+ Bonaparte’s Gulls, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Shags, Belted Kingfisher.

there's one in every crowd
of Semi-palmated Sandpiper

Black-bellied Plovers bravely face the wind

Sea Lavender is camoflauge for sandpipers and dowitchers
but they always seemed to be watching

bonaparte's gulls were most numerous that day
the white on the leading edge of the wings is nice
and one of them is ducking

Bonaparte's are one of the "cuter" gulls


Lots of yellowlegs photos turned up this round.

Greater Yellowlegs
photo by Karen Oakes

dwarf wood stork
photo by Kerry Hardy

king of the mountain - greater yellowlegs

shaggy manes
photo by Stevie Mesko
Fungus – Shaggy Manes! – the report is that Stevie Mesko found these (and had at this spot a few years back!) and identified them and Linnell Mather took the picture. Regardless of who did what, no one is talking about location of the fungus! And for good reason – Shaggy Manes are one of our (the royal “our”) favorites, and many have been consumed in previous Palmer-Gentalen household locations in California and Alaska. I have seen 1 patch on Vinalhaven – the famous “Lawson Quarry Road sign patch” of 2008 (remember that one BAJ!). Hasn’t come back up since. Anyway, “Shags and eggs” was a culinary connection I had in common with Janna Mendenhall out at Pigeon Point. Not sure why anyone would care about that. Special species that you have to find early, as they are an “inky cap” who’s tall, shaggy caps liquefies (or “deliquesces”) into black, inky goo full of spores. Very cool!


black earth tongue

Here’s a list for you fungus liters. Typical walk these days – (9/25) Walk thru the Basin, round Otter pond and Mack’s Pond – Jelly Tooth, Orange Jelly, Red-belted Conk, Irregular Earth Tongue,  White Coral, Red-yellow Gilled Polypore, Eastern Rag Amanita, Golden Waxy Cap, Dye Makers Polypore, Destroying Angel, Citron Amanita, Chicken Suillus, Lackluster Laccaria, Yellow Patches, Red Milky, Scarlet Waxy Caps, Chocolate Milky, Cleft-footed Amanita, Graceful Bolete, Blusher, King Bolete, Rosy Russula, Cinnabar Cort, Deadly Cort, Salmon Unicorn Entoloma, Green Stain, Green Headed Jelly Babies, Birch Polypore, Tinder Conk, Artists Conk, Mossy Maple Polypore, Black-reddish Russula, Scaley Stalked Pholiota, Cinnabar red polypore, Chaga, Black Earth Tongue, False Chanterelle, Honey Mushroom (first of the season for me!). Let’s talk about Honeys for a bit



we're here, we're honey, and there's going to be tons more
"what a killer" neil young
Fungus of the month - Honey mushrooms – October is Honey Mushroom month out here on Vinalhaven, and as the last days of September trickled by the first honeys were starting to pop up.  Latin names don’t really work with Honey Mushrooms because it is recognized as a “species complex” recently recognized as at least a dozen species that are not easily nor reliably told apart. “Armillaria” is the genus and has been historically followed by “mellea complex” in reference to how many species are involved here.

Honeys have a cool veil around their
stalky stipe to protect their gills

Honey Mushrooms disperse by spores (that’s what the mushroom is for, duh!) but are also great spread over large areas by cloning. In fact, one cluster of genetically identical Honey Mushroom Fungus (the stuff that’s in the ground) spread for thousands of acres and is recognized as the largest organism. Now that’s cool – could all of the Honey Mushrooms on Vinalhaven actually be only a handful of individual fungi? Trippy…..

Part of why a Honey Mushroom fungus (the stuff that’s in the ground and roots) is the multiple ways it gets food to grow. Most Honey Mushrooms are decomposers, going root to root and thru the ground. But apparently when Honey Mushroom fungus gets plentiful enough in an area it can become an aggressive parasitic killer of trees! Here’s a little from Paul Stamets on Honey Mushrooms - Mycelium Running, pages 43-45

Honey stalks are "pithy"
Pithy is one of my favorite words
to say on a hike

“Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyae, A. gallica, & A. mellea) will attack a tree, causing devastating root rot and hollow brown core rot.”


“I have seen thousands of acres of forests in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado that were killed by Armillaria fungi.


And from Gary Lincoff, in the “complete mushroom hunter” - “the honey mushroom is also known as one of the most aggressive, invasive, destructive mushrooms we have, attacking trees, shrubs, and even gardens, causing a deadly root rot, and moving from plant to plant.”


sorry, i just love these Tawny Grisettes
they are not honeys
Wholly spraint, how did I not know this!?! The fungus is actually adaptable enough to change over from parasite to decomposer once the victim plant is dead.


Stamets talks about how the Honeys have an arsenal at their disposal – chemical warfare to kill other fungus in their way - “..seceret the antifungal antibiotic sparassol, or orsellinic acid… is produced by Armillaria species”


Now – we do not have 1000s of acres of trees dead because of Honey Mushrooms nor are any likely to be parasitic out here (not sure why). But for those who might own land in the Pacific Northwest there are strategies to deal with “problem honeys”. More from stamets –

"never get tired of seeing Turkey Tails"

“as mycoforesters, we benefit from understanding how mushroom species compete and cooperate, giving us new tools for ecological management”.


“cauliflower mushrooms also secrete other antifungal agents that all them to parasitize Armillaria mushrooms”. Cauliflower mushrooms outcompete Honey Mushrooms, even in petri dishes, and is not a “problem” species in Stamets eyes.


Cool to think about fungal strategies and that there are “mycoforesters” out there. Also cool that Honey Mushrooms glow in the dark (right conditions) but also make the wood they are decomposing glow in what’s known as “Foxfire”. Cool glowy green, just in time for Halloween!


Pholiotas are very easy on the eyes

And as if I didn’t just explain all this – this in from “wiki”

-Honey fungus, or Armillaria or оpenky (Ukrainian: опеньки), is a genus of parasitic fungi that live on trees and woody shrubs. It includes about 10 species formerly lumped together as A. mellea. Armillarias are long lived and form some of the largest living organisms in the world. The largest single organism (of the species Armillaria solidipes) covers more than 3.4 square miles (8.8 km2) and is thousands of years old.[1] Some species of Armillaria are bioluminescent and may be responsible for the phenomena known as foxfire and perhaps will o' the wisp.

As a forest pathogen, Armillaria can be very destructive. It is responsible for the "white rot" root disease (see below) of forests and is distinguished from Tricholoma (mycorrhizal) by this parasitic nature. Its high destructiveness comes from the fact that, unlike most parasites, it doesn't need to moderate its growth in order to avoid killing its host, since it will continue to thrive on the dead material.

In the Canadian Prairies (particularly Manitoba), the term "honey fungus" is unknown to many; due to the large presence of Ukrainian Canadians in this area, the fungus is often referred to as pidpenky (Ukrainian: підпеньки), from the Ukrainian term, "beneath the stump".


there is nothing lackluster about seeing these

The bottom line is you can eat them, they are complex, and they are everywhere. Here’s the last word(s) on Honeys once again from Gary Lincoff, The Complete Mushroom Hunter –

“Not only is it the largest, but it also seems to be one of the most widely distributed mushrooms on the planet…spread itself across the land masses..since the last ice age in the northern climes…(to) lands at the southern tip of the Southern Hemisphere. With some justification Earth could be called the Honey Mushroom Planet”.

Isn’t the land at “the southern tip of the southern hemisphere” Antarctica? I bet there ain’t no honeys there…yet!

Anyway, keep your eyes open for more of this very cool species on a root near you!

So a timely stop off and return to Fox Rocks (9/26). – A quick check of a Big-tooth Aspen where I’d seen a Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) a few years back. I’d checked a few times since, roughly at the same time of year, and turned up empty. Today I realized I may have not looked up high enough! Some people like to eat them - apparently they are a wonderful imposter crabmeat. I find them too beautiful to remove. I know where we can get some crab around here.

this is a very important log in folly pond.
Eagles and Wood Ducks use it!
Folly pond is a beautiful place, especially in the fall (top 4 season to visit Folly). Here's a little photo gallery from Folly.....

sometimes the reflection is clearer
than the action.

Best place to see wood ducks on the island, i don't care what anyone says!

Wood duck drakes are in!
and not a Tad too late!

this is that other picture upside down

using the boat rope

And a little leif action - on island

with a toad downeast
and with Anubis up the bridge/tower thing

and off! enjoy the days!