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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


Saturday, June 21, 2014

nice clouds these days
Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report

June 20th, 2014

 thanks to VLT and MCHT for their continued support

"when life cancels your ferry, go find some slime” – ancient Estonian proverb.

Highlights – Young Redstarts (Upstarts), slime mold, robins, flowers, other things. Jaeger



Tiit Trick – click on photos to enlarge. Go ahead, enlarge the slime! Miss you Dad every day, but even moreso on special days.
Reported- A pair of Moose have been reportedly observed in the Company Point area. The report was relayed to the VSR in a “third-party telephone game” fashion and is considered “unconfirmed” at this point. Requests for direct “two party telephone game” conversations have not been fulfilled – although messages have been left. For everyone’s safety we have taken the liberty to change the three names involved to “Honest” “Chris-toff” and “Zanzabar”.


Anyway, “Honest” reports that he/she/it’s friends “Chris-toff” and “Zanzabar” saw two Moose swimming (they are very good swimmers) by Company Point (somewhere on vinalhaven). Huge antlers were observed and apparently one even got out of the water and walked around a bit (not sure if the other one treaded water until things were deemed safe). “Chris-toff” and “Zanzabar” are reportedly to be familiar with Moose according to “Honest”.


Anyway, it’s hard to imagine what folks would mistake for a moose, especially males with racks (nice rack!). It’s also just as hard to imagine that there are two big ol’ moose on the island and that they made it to Company Point (somewhere on island) with no one else seeing them.


And with that I ask – has anyone else seen Moose around recently? We all know of the famous Moose cow that made her way to Vinalhaven and Greens maybe 10 years ago now or so. And we all know of the fake one along highway 1 going south – Warren maybe? Anyway – if you’ve heard of any moose or seen one or dreamed that you rode one on Vinalhaven recently we would love to hear from you! Thanks!


Reported – Fairy Houses popping up in the Basin. No fairies seen, but the habitat appears to be perfect. The moss will grow back and the kids getting outside and excited is priceless. Thanks to Heather White, Amy Palmer, VLT , the school and the kids! Photos were taken by random people who get credit in their own heads. awesome, artistic shots!


Sightings At the Friend – the Fisherman’s Friend is a fine establishment that reliably supplies desired beverages, munchies, and many stories that end with a good laugh. And it’s got wildlife as well!- (6/16) Angie was kind to point out this Small-Eyed Sphinx moth (Paonias myops) perched above the entrance. Never seen one before – never heard of one before. Apparently common, cherry and serviceberry are the likely hosts. Loved the orange spots, hard to tell where the fore wing ends and the hind wing begins. Thanks for pointing it out Angie!


youngster redstart
photo by Sally
Songbirds – Skin hill Sally was the first to mention young male Redstarts singing in her yard recently. She sent in these great shots of a classic first spring male Redstart – looking more female-like (don’t worry, it’s only a phase) except for the orange in the wingpits and the black spots scattered on the chest. Since Sally’s sending in these photos I have noticed lots of young male Redstarts tootin’ their vocal chords around and John has mentioned seeing/hearing many on Greens. Waves of young redstarts, who apparently are often successful even though they look like the ladies – apparently many female redstarts go thru “phases” and are attracted to their own “team”. Not sure where I am going with this line of thought, probably good to end here….
photo by Sally


Also of note – many Hermit Thrush fledglings are out and about in the woods – hike gently…RE-start -Heard singing once again in the woods – Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, and Golden-crowned Kinglet – getting ready for round 2?  



head trauma?
photo by John Drury
On the water - Red-billed tropicbird – So we (all of us) figure this is only sightings blog in North America that yearly reports Red-billed Tropicbird sightings for 2-2.5 months straight. In my book that’s at least “outta sight” (Or some other old phrase that hasn’t aged well, and honestly didn’t sound all that cool when it was first muttered as the fog first got thick – and we mean thick.)


puffins are cute, small and they can fly
photo by John Drury
Anyway, John Drury (596- 1841) has the only boat tours in North America where there is a realy chance of seeing a Tropicbird and he keeps on seeing it and he keeps on sending great tropicbird photos in which keeps everybody happy. So here’s another and something has happened to his head. If you have an educated or an uneducated guess about what might have happened to his head please send them in to us. I’m in the mood to laugh.


Also at Seal – Razorbill and Puffin apparently – all the terns (well, the ones that matter).

these razorbills were not seen from the ferry
or at least this picture was not from the ferry
seal island
photo by John Drury

From the Ferry – Razorbills are regular, and on the 10:30 the other day I totally biffed getting pictures of a Parasitic Jaeger way up the bay. And when I say biffed I mean I wasn’t ready and I had no memory card (at all). It was a beauty though…
ivory black-backed gull
photo by John Drury


Ivory Black-backed Gull - Roberts – The Great Black-backed Gull is the biggest gull in the world, which also makes it a big bully. But even bullies can be albinos (or is it even albinos can be bullies) or leucistics can be bullies. Whatever. Here’s a shot John sent in from Robert’s Island beach (6/12). Anyway albino vs. leucisism – or is it leucistic vs. albino? – as told by someone….


Leucistic and Albino Birds

leucistic gulls can't hide from garter snakes
not that they have to
photo by Linnell Mather
Albinism is another genetic condition that can turn a bird’s plumage pale, but there are distinct differences between albino and leucistic birds. Leucism affects only the bird’s feathers, and typically only those with melanin pigment – usually dark feathers. A leucistic bird with different colors may show some colors brightly, especially red, orange or yellow, while feathers that should be brown or black are instead pale or white. Some leucistic birds, however, can lose all the pigment in their feathers and may appear pure white.

Albinism, on the other hand, affects all the pigments, and albino birds show no color whatsoever in their feathers. Furthermore, an albino mutation also affects the bird’s other pigments in the skin and eyes, and albino birds show pale pink or reddish eyes, legs, feet and a pale bill, while leucistic birds often have normally colored eyes, legs, feet and bills.

Cleared up? And here’s the problem with leucistics…


Problems With Bird Leucism

this has nothing to do with birds
coolest scat - raccoon? most likely
all ant and termite (?) exoskeletons
While leucism can be unusual and exciting for a birder to see, birds with the condition face special challenges in the wild. Lighter plumage may rob the birds of protective camouflage and make them more vulnerable to predators such as hawks and feral cats. Because plumage colors play an important role in courtship rituals, birds with leucism may be unable to find strong, healthy mates. Melanin is also an important structural component of feathers, and birds with extensive leucism have weaker feathers that will wear out more swiftly, making flight more difficult and eliminating some of the bird’s insulation against harsh weather. White feathers also reflect heat more efficiently, which can be fatal for birds that rely on sunbathing and solar radiation for heat in northern climates.

Because so many birders rely on plumage colors and patterns for bird identification, seeing an unusual bird with lighter colors or white patches can initially be confusing. By understanding what leucism is and how it can affect birds, birders can better appreciate the great variety of avian life they see.

This last paragraph is just silly. Actually, most of this is silly.

Anyway, whatever the case may be in this instant, this “ivory black-backed gull” is out there. Look for it.
golden heather

more golden heather - look on the Williams Basin trail
up in the pitch pine

Flowers /plants– Yeah, we’ve got ‘em around, and I’m not talking just about the state flower – pine cone! Check out these bad boys from around the island…low to the ground…

purple pitcher plant flower and pitchers

Huber lady slipper count totaled at 103 (for me)
102 pink and this one white dude

single delight, toad's reading lamp

there are plenty of single delights to go around these days


no flower, but sundews are cool anytime!
even lamb's kill is getting into the flowering act these days

water hyacinth - photo by Sylvia reiss

Here's a question - Sylvia Reiss found this Water Hyacinth out at City Point. Their range map does not show them anywhere near Vinalhaven, much less Maine or New England. Do people plant these? or see them on a regular basis? I haven't noticed them in the woods at all, and as a rule don't look in people's yard - it's not tempting anyway. Thoughts/knowledge on this?

…a little bit higher now…..trees in bloom – Mountain Ash and Mountain maple flowering in the canopy. Mountain Ash photos do not do it justice, probably neither does this video...but here we go anyway - a dancing Mountain Ash...

Aphrodite Fritilary enjoying Mountain Maple nectar!

mighty aphrodite

Butterflies – and with Mountain Maple showing some flowerage I will have to admit that I wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for the Aphrodite Fritillary that was “suckin’ nectar” from deep within…
American copper
can't remember why, but these are my
favorite butterflies. probably a good
reason though

…and American Coppers were plentiful on Calderwood Island….Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are everywhere at this point.

Rusty Tossock Moth eggs

Butterflies are "Day moths" - so here are some moth eggs - most likely from a Rusty Tossock Moth - eggs laid on the cocoon the female just left! good luck guys -

Fresh Fungus – or mushrooms rather….always great to see this year’s crop of fungal dispersal mechanisms (mushrooms) begin to pop up with the warm days (too warm!). Here’s some of what we’ve been noticing around…

chrome-footed bolete
….Mycorrhizals -question – does Shauna ever say - you make “my-core-rise al”! or something like that. (Lame, but it took me all day to come up with this.) Anyway, we love reconnecting with the local fungus, and the Mycorrhizal ones are some of our favorites. Hot this week was my first Bolete of the Year (BOY) – Chrome-footed Bolete (Tylopilus chromapes) and Amanita (AOY) – the Tawny Grissette – (Amanita fulva), and Lactarius (LOY) – (Lactarius grieus).


lactarius grieus - so subtle

tawny grisette - everyone's favorite amanita

lactarius grieus - "up gill" shot - pre tear

post tear - milkin'

dye-makers polypore is yellow

Decomposers – Polypores..we love ‘em and it’s always our pleasure – Huber is legendary for its Polypores- here’s a few recent fungal sprouters - Dye-maker’s Polypore, Red-belted Conk, and Varnish Shelf. But wait - Shiny cinnamon Polypores are out as well - but they are Mycorrhizal! The only genus of Polypores that are Mychorrhizal! so cool
a little varnish shelf for ya!



roger is peeling a little, but a new pore layer has
opened up inside

these ironclad beetles apparently
find red-belted conks stimulating

so word is that these dudes - fairy stool or
shiny cinnamon polypores are mycorrhizal!
so cool...

Oyster Mushrooms - they seem to prefer big-tooth aspen, which we don't really that many of on island. So we don't see Oysters every year, but this june has been nice - Adam White found this patch I had walked right by. Blind. They are beautiful

oysters are nice to see from above
but turn 'em over for some fungal bliss

"dog vomit" slime is not a VSR approved name for this
scrambled egg slime is preferred

And of course – the slime is up! Scrambled Egg, Coral, Wolf’s Milk and Chocolate Tube slimes have all been spotted recently – get in the slime!

wolf's milk slime looks great at all phases


Quick/long Slime Mold Story - (6/17) - I killed a vole today…..had his neck broken in a trap set behind the kitchen garbage can. Doesn’t happen as often as, I don’t know, one might guess maybe. There are tons of voles on island and their placement on the food chain (pretty damn low) is reflected in their numbers. And while I do appreciate all the predators they feed, once they come into the house a line has been crossed and, well, there you have it.

fresh patch of Chocolate Tube Slime

And so I nailed this guy in (personal) record time – from trap to snap in less than 5 minutes – the process from sight to trap to snap was less than 7 minutes. So fresh I saw the leg twitch. Am I proud? Not particularly.

here's what this patch looked like at first
check out the photos below for the changes throughout the day

Anyway, so when I transferred the freshly bagged trap and carcass to the “special isolation transfer station (garbage can)” I happened to notice a stump with some fresh slime – so fresh. And we all know nothing beats fresh slime.


over time this guy seemed to be making a run for it

It was a little while (entire minutes even!) before I realized I was not checking out a super young patch of Tapioca Slime (how foolish of me!), but was seeing the freshest emergence of Chocolate Tube Slime I had ever seen ---- in my life! like Super fresh.


life is better on the side of a stump
So even though I had to stay by the phone and email to figure out plans and work and stuff I managed to check in on the slime every ½ hour or so. And it was awesome! And I would never have seen this if the 7am ferry had been cancelled! See, “when life cancels your ferry ride, go find some slime” – ancient Estonian proverb.

anyway - enjoy the changes over the course of the day!


the patch is now completely on the side of the stump
going brown, going tubular

slugs helped to disperse the spores - 24 hours later

going to spore

....a little taller now...

here's another patch over 24 hours or so....

starts out simple....

....a little browner..
....a little browner....

....a little chocolater.....

...even more...

and then the inevitable happens. a 5 year old who loves to disperse spores saw that the changes had come to a halt for the most part.....

...and patience had run its course. it was time to get some spores flyin'

And finally….the robins – when we left off it was day 4 out of the eggs for the youngsters. Here’s a run down
day 6


Day 6 – the female (“mom” if you will) seemed to be getting used to our poking noses into the tree (a few anthropomorphisms there) and didn’t even bail…


Day 7


Day 8


                                                    Day 9


                                 Day 10


                                         Day 11


Day 12 –
day 13 - right on schedule
that's me on the right
and see - leif has more than 1 shirt!
here's how we peaked in....

and leify got his first bass - on his first cast of the day! good times - nice temps, nice breeze and lots of nice mosquitoes in the woods! we'll see you out there!