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


Saturday, September 20, 2014

we love these mudflats by state beach

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report
September 20th, 2014
Thanks to MCHT and VLT for years of support
“Maybe enough is *******uff and
they won't take you walking on their dens anymore”- classic BAJ

Highlights – Warblers featuring Cape May and Orange –crowned (hello California!), shorebirds, hawks, Monarchs, Dragonflies, Otter stuff, Red-throated Loon, Surf Scoter, Green Winged Teal


Upcoming Event“Off island” – we are taking our fungus show “Fungus Thru Binoculars” on the road (or at least on the ferry) – all the way to Camden! The kind folks at Coastal Mountains Land Trust (CMLT) are having us over first for a mushroom slide show at their office Friday October 3rd (7:00 – 8:30pm). The next morning, Saturday October 4th, we’ll head to CMLT’s Fernald’s Neck Preserve (sticking out in beautiful Lake Megunticook!) for a mushroom walk and some fungal tracking (9am- Noon). If you are on the mainland that weekend and can come to one or both please do! (that goes for mainlanders who might be reading this too!)  For more info/directions go to the Coastal Mountains Land Trust website - – and click on the events tab. Should be a blast, really looking forward to it!  


we took the 5th and 6th graders tidepooling
they were really good at it
Business – contact us if you dare –

Tiit trick – click on photos to make them big. If you want them to look big.

Asa comment – Amy shared a recent photo of super cute, eyes wide open Asa Casey Jones. Looking forward to meeting the little man! Congrats all around to the parents!


monarch - photo by Colleen Conlan
Monarch update – Colleen Conlan sent in these great shots of a Monarch in “her” Joe-pye Weed, apparently she is/was up to 3 monarchs this year…(9/7) had an 8 monarch day (yippee!) and have followed with 2 more bringing my yearly total to 26 (I think). Getting so high (the number of monarchs that is) it’s hard to count..

monarch in flight
photo by Colleen Conlan

jaeger - photo by John Drury
SightingsWarblers and other birds -While few warblers have been seen at Armbrust Hill and Lane’s (what’s up with that?) John Drury has had his hands full of them (not literally) out on Greens Island! Here are a couple of reports he’s sent over –


From Greens Island – (9/6) Palm, Cape May, Prairie, Black and White, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Red eyed and Philadelphia Vireos

pomarine jaeger - photo by John Drury

(9/13) Sharp-shinned Hawk, Kestrel, Scarlet Tanager, Warblers - Cape May, Chestnut-sided, Bay breasted, Yellow, Wilsons, Yellowthroat, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Northern Parula, Black and White. Also Blue-headed, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos, alder flycatcher, goldfinch, waxwing, hummer, olive-sided Flycatcher, whippoorwill singing in the morning

great cormorants waiting to get eaten by bald eagles
photo by John Drury
Also from John - merlins, red tail, Owls daily roosting near my house

And john on the water - great “jaegering” (great verb!) in the bay late Aug….tropicbird on seal last seen Aug  30… lots of young terns and of porpoise out there (late august).


Thanks John – great report, glad to hear your yard is rockin’….


least sandpiper - "on the wood and weed"
31 Reach Road – (9/6) -  Philadelphia Vireo, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black and White, Black-throated Green and Parula Warblers….(9/20) Nashville’s Warbler (seen more in my yard than at Armbrust!)

Solitary Sandpiper at Mack's Pond
Perry creek – (9/19) did hook up with a nice mixed species flock on the Orchard Cove loopRedstart, Black and White, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned (!)Warblers, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-eyed Vireo, and lots of Swainson Thrushes – it was an ode to California with the Swainson Thrushes and the Orange-crowned Warbler, which was the first I’ve seen on Vinalhaven (VVNM!).


What’s around in numbers – loads of  Flickers, Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (seen like a gagillion hummers over the last few weeks – We heart hummers!), Loons, Goldfinch and (of course) Waxwings!
lots of Bonaparte's Gulls in the thorofare


ruddy turnstones from the thorofare
ListsState Beach – (9/3) Greater Yellowlegs, 6 Lesser Yellowlegs, 8 Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 6 Least Sandpiper, 6 Semi-palmated Plover, 6 Black-bellied Plover, 2 Turkey Vultures, 2 Loons, and lots of Black Guillemots….(9/5) 3 Red-necked Grebe, Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon…Mack’s Pond (9/2) – Solitary Sandpiper….(9/10) – Green-winged Teal….Pleasant River –(9/9) Marbled Godwit (again!)…(9/11) 30 Lesser Yellowlegs, 6 Greater Yellowlegs, 27 Black-bellied Plovers, 2 Dowticher sp, 2 Least Sandpipers, 7 Semi-palmated Plover..(9/15) 20 Black-bellied Plover, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 11 Semi-palmated Plover, 15 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Dowitcher sp. …. Lane’s – (9/12) Swamp Sparrow, Gannets…paddle to Calderwood – 40 + Bonaparte’s gulls, 2 Ruddy Turnstones, Surf Scoter, lots of Black Guillemots and Common Eider….Ferry - Gannets


Folly Pond – (9/17) Wood ducks, Black Ducks, Mallard Ducks, Great Blue Heron….and Meadowhawks – a few VSRs back we mentioned how tricky it is to ID meadowhawk dragonflies (those cute little red buggers!) to species. But it’s not hard to see what they are up to and on this day it was laying eggs! This egg laying frenzy (post orgy consequences) was distinctly different than other dragonfly mating schemes we have watched this summer.
First off the males (bright red) held onto the females (the ones laying eggs) as they are laying eggs – as to not allow another male to come in and grab hold and mate with “his” female (well, he is holding onto her). But with everyone laying eggs in mass – there were dozens along the shore I was standing by – there was no sign of competition, no chasing, no lone males barging in to plant their own seed in the female’s eggs. Just a bunch (a whole bunch) of paired up meadowhawks, slapping their abdomens (female’s that is) into the mud. Yes mud! They were laying eggs in the mud! I feel like I learned a lot that day, mostly about how peaceful communal egg laying in mud can be. Not a lesson that I will act on personally, but still kind of cool.

 Here's a video with just a sample of the meadowhawk egg laying action

Ghost SpiderLinnell Mather sent in this photo of a female Goldenrod Crab Spider that she found in her kitchen. Here’s what we found out about them –


goldenrod crab spider - photo by Linnell Mather
“Although this species bites, its primary means of defense is camouflage. Individuals are capable of changing color over several days to blend in with their surroundings. Like all crab spiders (family Thomisidae). Goldenrod crab spiders do not rely on silk  to capture prey. Instead they rest on or under flowers and ambush visiting bees and flies, overpowering prey with their powerful legs. By delivering a bite that injects fast-acting venom, these crab spiders are capable of capturing insects much larger than themselves”. – Evans – NWF guide to insects and spiders.


the otter foot
Very cool! Thanks for sending in!


Otters and tweeters - White Islands – (9/18) – Spotted Sandpipers, Sharpies, Kingfishers, Loons, Guillemots, Great and non-great Cormorants. Otter, mink, deer, raccoon and red squirrel sign.


this was some stinky spratint
The real story – for me - no trip to the whites is complete without a visit to the Otter den on Bald/Spectacle Island. I’ve seen maps call it both names, but really – the otters don’t care. From here on out I will refer to the island as “BS”. Right in the heart of the old, overgrown quarry, this is an easy den to find otter sign around - spraint is “like” all around the perimeter of the island. But it also is one of the hardest dens to actually get to even when you are on the island already (why are we going to dens again?). The trees growing over the den have impressively thick limbs that are layered in a total “pain in the arse” kind of way for walking over (no chance for “around”), not to mention (but I will anyway) that you (me) are walking on sketchily arranged shrapnel and leftovers from the old quarrying days. Multiple ankles could break with every step (most likely no more than 2 ankles, but you never know). Just about every year I still manage to traverse the scene to get a feel for the otter activity out there – why? It’s what we do, we can’t help ourselves.
here's some of that white goo we love to find
comes from anal glands - smelled like it too


Anyway, from “surveying the spraint” and the hefty amounts of it on BS over the last 8 years we (it’s really just me!) have concluded that a female otter lives out there, and that she is “active” (wink,wink) and often has some little otterettes (not a real word) on island with her. Little otter spraints are so cute!


I do wonder if spraint is good fertilizer
Anyway, this year the amount of spraint was significant even for BS. And what’s more it was super fresh and really stunk! Like really bad, and strong like never before (in my limited spraintly olfactory history). When I got close to the den and caught that whiff – man what a whiff! – I thought to myself “this is when people get attacked by otters”.


And it does happen – a simple “something” search of “River Otters attack humans” gave us a recent one from August this year “Otter attacks boy, grandmother in Washington state river” -


or from last year –“Teens savagely attacked by wild river otter describe it as a scene out of 'Jaws'

check out that girl’s leg full of chew marks!
this is raccoon scat - full of snail operculums


Also found this quote -  They have been known to attack humans, and females with young are unpredictable.”   


Anyway, this is the second time this year where I felt like I had put myself in a spot where I had significantly increased the likeliness of my being attacked by an otter. The other time was back in May when I was standing on the “hobbit” den upstream from Mack’s Pond (Bilbo the otter lives there). Whatever, I had to keep going and I had walked all over this den many times (at least 4) before so what the h*ll, right!

I was on top of the tallest rock pile when I heard the otter
the den is under the trees to the left
there are many trees over the den that you can't see

Well, I went all over the den and everything was fine and then I climbed away from the den onto a pile of big ol’ boulders left long ago by the quarry-dudes. I got to the top of the pile and immediately heard a big splash directly below me. (Didn’t even realize there was water under there!). Needless to say it scared the spraint out of me and I dashed/hopped from rock to rock, breaking zero ankles along the way, to a “safer” zone maybe 20 feet away. While I was hopping I heard a couple of hisses from rock pile and finally a growl. The growl was cool, kind of a mix between the noise Perry the Platypus makes on Phineas and Ferb and the groan Tina makes on Bob’s Burgers (two awesome shows by the way). So I was “that close” to an otter and had to go back (because I don’t believe I will be killed by an otter and I am a fool). So I got out the camera and headed back to the pile thinking I might get a photo or two before the otter could get to me. Let’s face it a photo of a pissed otter would be awesome (right?). When I was about 5 feet away from the pile I heard the growl again, and but I had to growl back (I couldn’t help myself)! Well, that shut the otter up and got me thinking “what the …. are you doing?”.  I somewhat booked it out of there, and while scramblin’ over another pile of rocks heard another big splash underneath – two otters!  Needless to say I felt that I had had enough impact on these guys so I scrambled my way out past the stinky spraint and continued on my survey.

here's how the chicken wire gets on bridges
he's good for about two bridges
then its time to roll

Now, I have stood on many otter dens out here – these aren’t beaver lodges or anything that will collapse – they are usually under tree roots or piles of rocks or both. Many of you have probably stood on otter dens as well, and maybe didn’t know it. Many times in the winter I have stood on them when I knew for a fact that the otters were inside snoozing. I have never had problems or felt like I was impacting them, even though that is hard to judge impact when they are asleep underground. The problem here was that the otters were not in their den, but relaxing under rocks (don’t we all) outside their den. And even though this was certainly more impact than I wish to ever have on otters – I do love them you know– I have to believe that I am the only one who ever takes the route I take out there on BS island, and the 4 minutes I was impacting those otters is minimal in the grand scope of things. The only thing I feel (somewhat) bad about was making the otters jump into what was probably pretty nasty water. But from the smell coming from (and around) the den I don’t think they mind the stench at all.  It was an experience I will never forget. And I didn’t get to see them at all! I’ll let you all know if/when I get attacked, kind of a dream (not a goal) right now! Anyway…good times.
early September was good for swimming
and yes, he has shorts on
alrighty - see you out there!

"let's build!" - common call heard in our house