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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


Friday, March 21, 2014

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
March 20th, 2014

With the support of MCHT and VLT

This one goes out to Bill and his family.


Highlights – Snow Fleas!, Slime Molds, Singing tweeters, shrike, robins, jays, deer, molting, Carolina wren, Green-winged teal, otter stuff, mink dreams and much, much more.

another reason to like crows.
smiley face with a bill rub thru the snow


Tiit trick - cheap trick (on tour this summer!) - click on photos to enlarge  

Side note and safety announcement – (3/19) - I have been on “mail key” probation for quite a few months now. Simply put, I am not responsible enough to be in charge of the mail key. 100% self-imposed & certainly 100% self induced, I lost it somewhere in the world. I figured it fell out of my pocket in my green car and would turn up eventually. When I have it I do fine getting the key to the post office, but I lose focus and track as the box opens.


coming and going  snow shoe hare
I love these kind of tracks
Anyway, I went to check on the only place at Huber where I have seen otter sign and with the melting snow I found my recently exposed mail key! So I am responsible!


Bottom line – there is a lot of ice on the trails at this posting. Take it slow if you head out. And it’s also a time to find stuff forgotten and buried under the snow. Coffee mugs are probably mine! Anyway….


there are loads of deer on island
photo by Niall Conlan

Sightings – PSA – Deer are seen often crossing in front of vehicles especially when vehicles are driving around the island. There’s a spraint load of deer out there – drive carefully! Thanks for the photos – Niall Conlan.
mink coming at ya
photo by Niall Conlan


Mink - Basin Falls – also from Niall Conlan – Niall spotted this chubby little tailless dude (Mink!) as it left the water and “went terra” instead of riding the falls. Note the white on the chin; mink seem to be on the rise these days “good winter to be a mink”. Fun shots.

where's yer tail, dude?
photo by Niall Conlan

Shrike at Lane’s continues….

Ali McCarthy reports a mink checking out the traditional otter spot from her window.

sally's wren. and yes, she already has oranges out
photo by Skin Hill sally

Skin Hill – Both Bob and Sally confirm that the Carolina Wren has spent  so much time at the feeders – daily sightings essentially – that sally refers to it as “her’s”, or “my wren” if you picture her saying it. Anyway, what a cool


green-winged teal
photo by skin hill sally
Green-winged Teal – Skin Hill sally nailed the Green-winged Teal (not literally) that’s overwintered in Carver’s Pond just behind the post office. Here are her action shots. Nice ones!
putting the green-wing in teal
photo by Sally Conway


And it’s spring – Warm days have these birds singing lately – Black-capped chickadees, Cardinals, Brown Creeper, Raven (is that really singing?), and Robins acting all up.



Woodpeckers in spring – one of the best parts of the lengthening of daylight associated with spring arriving is the hormones that are triggered in Woodpeckers and their resulting aggressive attitude to intruders. Downys and Hairies all over the island are setting up territories, and now woodpeckers that got along a week ago are essentially enemies today –and all for the breeding (typical). And raising young. Yeah, I guess it makes sense. Anyway, here’s a few moments from a male on male Downy WP skirmish I photographed at Huber the other day, but typical of the woodpecker scene all over the island.



2 different non-vocal communications here between the twotail-fanning and V-wing postures. Here’s what Stokes says about the V-wing in Bird Behavior II – the sequel.

“Wings are raised high above the back and tail is spread. Display may be for only a split second or held for several seconds. Bird may swing beneath a branch and do display upside down


we're looking at wolf-milk slime going on a year!
in a little while - 6 months at least!
-        VSR note - Upside down V-wing? Sounds epic and not at all like a “V”.  here’s more

“…given in conflicts with other birds, an extreme threat, often preceding direct attack”

Bad a**- The woodpecker scene is tense these days.


spores still coming off this scrambled egg slime?
Speaking of bad a**? Check out these slime molds that have “survived” the winter. Looking good at the Huber and the tip-toe….

The other thing with birds these days is the moulting – or molting.

It’s a big deal with birds, the bi-annual/annual replacement of feathers, for strength and flight, but also to let everyone know that you are feeling somewhat “randy” (spring) or not in the mood anymore (fall). Like getting caught in high school, there is no way to hide it.

funky loon

You can't miss a ripe Green Heron's legs. 

Loons and Guillemots are the most fun to watch from the ferry – long-tails soon enough too. Here’s a funky loon from Long Cove.


Otter scene – with the bitterly cold stretches even a behemoth like a full grown, 30 lb otter probably just slides across the icy snow conditions we had.  Little sign of the fresh and new, but some old trails hung on for over a week.

in the basin
bout a week old

crusty snow

tell little tales

of otters and their recent



“and all the chemicals in between” (Les Claypool)


this spraints for you
Had a great little walk with Ali and Johnny McCarthy over to “Elaine’s den” (I think that’s what we call it), we saw some scat and chatted about “all things otterly”. And while the aforementioned “crustiness conditionals” gave no hint of recent activity (or inactivity) it was a downright good time checking out the sign of otter use and access. Otter people are cool, and that’s not just an unbiased opinion, it’s a fact.

this is the Hobbit otter house

Went up to tip-toe and found this hobbit house otter den. Closer to the water than the den used last winter, it’s a safe quess that this is the home of the same otter from last year. Possibly this den was frozen over and the other is a back up. Seems like most otters have multiple accommodation options.   The otter sprainted by the hobbit den regularly, anyway cool to find – den # 14.


raccoon trail

Tracks – So it’s spring and we miss the snow already. Here are some mink, otter, raccoon, and snowshoe hare tracks and trails.
snowshoe hare pair
coming right at ya

mink bounding along old harbor pond

another mink, shorter bounds
working harder

no drag marks but quick bounds

the Calderwood otter is still active
there was plenty of mink sign on
Calderwood island

old tunnel
warm melting days bring out the snow fleas
snow flea close up. there are like a gagillion of them out there

raccoon latrines are not pretty places


Calderwood island great horned pellet
found under the grandma oak
I think I see an Ewok in this bundle of fur
Owls – Amy Palmer heard a Saw-whet Owl beeping its little heart out behind Todd’s Garage….(3/20) Lane’s Island – Long-eared Owl in the rain….


All big oaks are grandma oaks
I think because they look so huggable
sorry grandpa, its a grandma and
nana thing. nana oak.

old tails are plentiful in the thorofare
Calderwood Island – (3/18) – loads of Old-tail Ducks, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, surf Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Bald Eagle, Black Guillemot, Common Eider, Common Loon, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, Crows, Raven, Golden-crowned Kinglet,



 Ferry Ride – 3/12 – 15 Common Loon, 12 Bufflehead, 8 Red-breasted Mergs, 19 Surf Scoter, 22 Old-tails, 1 Bald Eagle….


And it’s time to post. Editing was an issue this issue as lack of ink cut an essential part of the process out completely. We mean well.


And Leif loves his legos,



And misses the snow as well – we had some fast sledding.


And we miss Willie already. Cheers everyone!

See ya around.