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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, July 4, 2014

VSR....coming at ya!

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report

July 2nd, 2014


MCHT and VLT supported


the prettiest flowers these days...poison ivy
Highlights – House Wren, Baby Birds and good parenting, trip on the Skua, dragonflies, butterflies and other things….


VSR Infrastructure features – feel free to contact


Tiit Trick – click on photos to enlarge.   


saddleback light
Upcoming Events – Bird walk – Thurs. July 10th, 8am Skoog Park to carpool – Thursday morning summer bird walks start up again.  VLT Wildflower walk with Beth Guilford– July 12th 9:30am Skoog Park to carpool. Walk around, look at flowers, talk about pollination and learn!


Business - Money grab - And thanks to all that check out this blog. If you are “regular reader”, or an “occasional glancer” you may recognize and appreciate the efforts it takes to keep this going. A good way to show your “VSR appreciation” is to become members of both VLT and MCHT.  Without both organizations this blog wouldn’t be and never would even ever have been to begin with! (great sentence - judgment). Mention “VSR appreciation” when becoming a member and receive an official “VSR” #2 pencil, along with an official “VSR fist-bump” and “right on” next time you see any VSR staff member.

common yellowthroat

Finally, some answers – Last VSR we posted a photo of a Water Hyacinth which appears to be well out its “regular” range and asked for answers! And we got a response! MCHT’s Amanda “Andy” Devine is “pretty sure water hyacinth is a cultivated escapee (ornamental ponds) and is quite invasive in much of the US”. And Amanda sure knows her invasives. Thanks Amanda! Now, can anyone explain what an ornamental pond is?

jim clayter sent in this photo of a snapper
he took it in 2007, and then saw another one
recently almost to the day
photo by Jim Clayter

These things happen - Final word on the moose (until there are more words)

Well and yeah right…..apparently folks are backtracking (or re-tracking) on the original report of 2 moose seen swimming around Company Point reported in the last VSR. Well, they (remember “Chris-toff” and “Zanzabar”?) are not back tracking about seeing the moose – (they still swear they saw ‘em) – but instead they have backtracked on the “big antlers” and (essentially) the big nose thing. Starting to sound a lot like deer – of which moose certainly are (deer that is and the biggest!). Apparently the “antler addition” occurred during a “non-vocal” portion of the telephone story chain where “honest” used the international symbol for “big antlers” – open hands over head in antler formation, with eyes wide and bulging as if to relay a message of the impressiveness and largeness of the appendages -“dem dare antlers were huge”!!!

this is a snapper I saw basking at Folly Pond

Anyway, even with our recent “sunny disposition” stretch we are going to have to call “hoax” on this report (eat it Christ-off and Zanzabar!). (In order to cover our bases we’ll call it a hoax until someone else sees the moose, then it will officially not be a hoax). We apologize for posting this, even as a “rumor” and not a confirmed sighting, and trust us - it wouldn’t have made it this far without the “big antlers” lie. If nothing else comes of this, it was fun to come up with names for the participants, all of whom I now call “liars”. Actually, “liars” isn’t right, for they truly seem to believe they saw moose. So let’s call them “wrong” instead, at least until someone else sees the moose, then they’ll be called “redeemed”. Enough time has been wasted on these shenanigans! Moving on…

nice molting going on with the
 SightingsGreens IslandJohn Drury reports a House Wren and lots of Redstarts.


Baby Birds and Good (judgment) Parenting – Baby Ravens, Baby Eagles, Baby Woodpeckers, Baby Yellowthroats (GP), Baby Eiders, Baby Great Cormorants, Baby Terns (GP), Baby Hermit Thrushes…look for photos of baby birds throughout

hairy baby

All these babies, and as of the last few days a whole bunch more singing – birds getting ready for round 2? Sounds like it…? Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Song Sparrow have all turned it on again. Also heard singing around the island… Warblers: Magnolia, Black and White, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Ovenbird, Redstart, Parula, Common Yellowthroat. Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos as well.
got her hands full


On the water – From the Skua – Red-billed Tropicbird, Ivory Black-backed Gull, Puffins, Arctic and Common Terns. The Ivory Black-backed Gull has been spotted on several islands over the last few weeks – Seal, Brimstone and Roberts. John and Jamus Drury both report seeing the bird “around”.
no summer sightings report is complete without
a red-billed tropicbird
photo by John Drury


(6/30) – We went for a ride on the Skua (book your trip on the Skua with Captain John – 596-1841) and a rockin’ good time. Puffins, Razorbills, Common Murre, Black Guillemots, Great Cormorants, Eiders, Terns, Spotted Sandpipers and much more. Thanks for the ride John and Mary!

many shearwater
photo by John Dreury



nice terns
photo by John Drury

(6/20) John reports Razorbill with chick in the bay

couple of baby great corms.
they are tastier after a few
more weeks

phat puffin

saddleback and seals

june 30th seemed a little late for this kind of
action. late may is what we are used to

ain't nothing common about seeing this Murre

mouth full for the youngsters

One for the mimics! – yeah, so I got fooled the other day at lane’s – got all excited for a Monarch, especially after last year’s fiasco of a fall migration. Well, the dupe was on – it was a Viceroy. I was the “victim” of the classic example of mimicry – where a “harmless” species looks like, or mimics, a poisonous one. In this case, Monarch butterflies are the poisonous ones – as caterpillars they eat Milkweed (the monarch caterpillar says “Milkweed I’d like to feast”) and apparently milkweed makes them take funky – like burny, firey kind of action.


Here’s what Cech and Tudor have to say about Viceroys in the big “Butterflies of the East Coast


Sly magician that it is, the Viceroy engages in many deceptions. Its eggs mimic hostplant leaf galls, its caterpillars resemble bird droppings, its overwintering chamber (hibernaculum) looks like a dead leaf, and adults closely mimic toxic Danaids (Monarchs and Queens). Birds trained to avoid Monarchs also avoid Viceroys


even from below Viceroys look like

But is this a classic example of mimicry? And is there a “classic” mimicry to begin with? Let’s continue with Cech and Tudor ….


But more recent studies have found that Florida Viceroys are nearly as unpalatable as Monarchs, and more so than Queens. This would indicate they are Mullerian rather than Batesian mimics” –


What? Here’s the scoop…


Batesian mimicry – “when a nontoxic species adopts the appearance of a toxic one, thereby gaining vicarious protection from predators” – classic mimicry

this hermit thrush was feeding its fledgling

Mullerian mimicry – “two species – both toxic – copy each other’s appearance, thus providing additional protection for both.” – alternative mimicry?


seems to be the most numerous of butterflies these days
and still this is the best shot I could get of a Tiger Swallowtail
And so……what? Just because the Florida viceroys are toxic means we have to rethink the lesson that’s been taught to kinds from way back? (Does this mean even the Wild Kratts are wrong?).  Either way it still falls into that magical realm of mimicry – where we celebrate the species which lack individualism and copy others. Which also made us think – everyone gets all teary-eyed about Monarch numbers dropping and the prospect/prediction of extinction – but what about those species that mimic Monarchs? They will be just as screwed when/if Monarchs disappear! That’ll teach ‘em to be copy cats.  


female Chalk-fronted Corporal
Dragonflies- yeah, so we all agree that dragonflies are cool. (Never met a dragonfly hater). As adults they fly fast, fly backwards, have big eyes and eat mosquitoes (which dragonflies also eat when nymphs, but that’s a whole ‘nuther series of jokes). Sometimes they land on the end of your fishing pole. And they eat mosquitoes. And we love ‘em, the adults we are talking about. No one loves dragonfly eggs – well Newts do (even Gingrich) but that’s a whole ‘nuther state of “incomplete metamorphosis”. For another time. For now, let’s focus on adults.


male Chalk-fronted Corporal and White Corporal
taking a break from chasing the ladies...
To generalize (like completely) dragonfly nymphs leave the water (ponds, creeks, rivers), crack open their exoskeletons and pull themselves out as adults. After a bit of time to stretch and dry (we’ve all been there) the adults will fly to woods or fields to feed for two, maybe three weeks. At when you watch them hunt over fields, meadows, and in the woods you can almost hear the sound of mosquitoes popping in their little mouths. Have we mentioned that they eat mosquitoes yet?


male Common Whitetail
what Donald Stokes is talking about
After a few weeks (or whatever time frame) of feasting the adults move on mating (food before sex in the dragonfly’s case) and that’s when things get a little interesting, a little violent, and a little fleeting (is there any other way to fleet?). Males patrol shorelines and open water of ponds in hopes that a female will show up (classic male move). From here we’ll let Donald Stokes (from “Guide to Observing Insects Lives”) talk about what White-tailed Dragonflies do next….


female Common Whitetail
after mating she hovers over the water....
“When a female approaches an area, generally a dominant male will approach her and grasp her thorax with his legs while hovering. Then with the tip of his abdomen, he grips her behind the head. She then bends her abdomen around until it touches the second abdominal segment of the male, where his penis is, and sperm is transferred. This is all done in the air and takes only ten seconds or less. The male then releases the female and she starts to lay eggs rapidly by dipping the tip of her abdomen (only the tip) into the water and washing the eggs off as they are pushed out. …. Egg-laying may last for over two minutes, and during this time the male usually hovers over the female and protects her from the advances of other males that might want to mate with her”.

... and slaps her abdomen (only the tip) into the
water to lay eggs. Newts then will often appear to
eat the eggs soon after

Couple things – first off – thanks Donald for that clean version of the action.  What Donald doesn’t mention is that the “approach” of the males is fast and furious and that several males will converge on a female – and it’s the closest male that grabs the female out of the air. “protects her from the advances of other males that might want to mate with her” is a funny sentence – all the males want to mate with her, and said “advances” are fast and furious as well. You see, the eggs she is laying are fertilized (basically) as they are leaving her abdomen. If another male grabs hold of her they can scoop out the sperm of the previous male with some specialized functions of their penis. It’s “out with the old and in with the new” as they say. The penis giveth and taketh. It all seems kind of frenetic and frantic, and females can mate and lay eggs with several males within minutes, but it works for dragonflies and let’s face it, the females show up to mate – kinda asking for it, certainly expecting it. I’m not even going to guess what “washing the eggs off as they are pushed out” means.
Whiteface dragonflies in "wheel formation"
female below, being held by her head.
she bends her abdomen to touch his 2nd appendage


The catch with dragonfly mating scheme (for me at least) is that the males produce sperm at the tip of their abdomen. Yes, the same tip (only the tip) that they grab the female by the back of her head with is where the sperm is produced. So before mating male dragonflies have to get their sperm out of their abdomen tip (only the tip) and place it on their 2nd abdomen segment where the penis is. This got us wondering about what the sperm “packet” is like – gooey or globby, does it dangle, does it affect their flight at all? I mean, these guys are flying around with sperm smeared on their bellies, which also happens to be where their penis is. Gotta be more to this.

still laying

And so I found myself doing a something search on “male dragonfly reproductive fluid textures” (how would you put it? So to speak) and I came across this link to a place called “”.


this is a damselfly laying eggs in vegetation
she cuts into grass with the tip of her abdomen
(only the tip)
I was hoping to “lift some explanation”- or “LSE” (sightings report blog lingo) – for the VSR. Something that I might be able to poke fun at (like the stokes quote mentioned above), but when I clicked on the website the first thing I noticed was the picture referencing the “dragonfly “wheel” formation” was not of dragonflies mating. Instead it was a pair of damselflies, which are closely related to dragonflies but clearly aren’t dragonflies. The wording was immediately anthropomorphic with antidotes about love and foreplay and the kind of stuff that really has no place in insect mating at all. An elder type naturalist in Wisconsin (Bob something or other) told me once that “there is no love there (with insect mating), they are just f….”. He wasn’t the most dedicated of naturalists that I have met, but I certainly take his word over “”.    
we may never know the exact species
in this photo..but we'll be alright


But of course there are gagillion species of dragonflies and each does the mating thing a little differently – some take several minutes or more to mate, some land on bushes – but the meaty stuff is just about the same.

and we love dragonflies for what is not known or impossible to tell in the field. these whiteface dragonflies to the left are either
Red-waisted or Crimson-ringed , but its impossible to tell. Some males dragonflies can't tell their own species and will grab at any female that looks close. Fortunately each species can only grasp it's "own kind", and that's how they tell each other apart - "if I can grab you, we're mating..." . love that stuff


And so there you are, we end with a silly/stupid story about me looking up dragonfly bodily fluids on the web. Can’t say enough about dragonflies though, sit yourself down by the armbrust hill pond and watch the madness. Everything about dragonfly mating is out in the open, ready to be observed.
here's the final good parenting shot
sea legs got him sleepy, he woke up for at least one puffin though!