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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


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report

November 2nd, 2014

Thanks to MCHT and VLT for their support over the years



Highlights – Sparrows (including Lapland Longspur), Pipits (including Pipits), Ducks (including Oldtails & Hooded Merganser), Salamanders, Mushrooms, Pine Siskins, White-winged Crossbill, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Carolina Wren, other stuff…


Stuff Contact Stuff – send your sightings, photos and email addresses (to get on the exclusive reminder list) to – simple as that.

 Tiit stuff - click on the photos to enlarge

no kids in the quarry this day
Hunting Stuff – it’s November, which of course means ‘tis the season for hunting with firearms (including guns). It doesn’t mean you have to stay out of the woods but be smart about when you go if you do – and wear your orange! Don’t blend!


Kid Stuff – Thanks to Susan Raven and the “Perspectives” afterschool program for having me over for some good ol’ salamander hunting. Bald guy expectations were low, which I have to say is a good way to go thru life (low expectations that is), going so “late” in the season (10/21 & 23) but the results were undeniable! Good salamanders, great kids and lots of fun! Thanks to MCHT too!


Sightings! - Songbirds – Sparrows – So we had “nor-easter” like (they call them “nor’easter”s) weather-like patterns last week and it messed with ferry schedule and just about everything else. It also brought with it was a ton of sparrows – lining the roads, fields, and marshes.
Here’s some videos giving a taste of the sparrow action….first a song sparrow doing the seed dance - to the beat of the hit single “Turn up the duff” …

 and here's a savannah sparrow in the thick of it - goldenrod style

nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow - out in the open
State Beach – (8/25) – Song, Savannah, Swamp, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed, White-crowned, White-throated Sparrows, Lapland Longspur, Dark-eyed Junco. Toss in an Ipswich Sparrow and you have 8 species and an extra subspecies to boot – 9 flavors of sparrows! Most numerous were the Song, Savannah, White-throated and Juncos.
savannah of state beach
We always love seeing Swamp (personal favorite sparrow - PFS) and Nelson’s S-tailed, but the highlight was the Lapland Longspur – only the second I have seen on Vinalhaven.
typical Junco scene these days..
Here’s a quick video of the longspur…



Lapland longspur - poor and tasty
 And here’s what Audubon (Johnny J. Audubon, that is) had to say about his first encounter with them in Kentucky (“Getting’ lucky in Kentucky!) in the good ol’ month of Feb 1819 –


“I saw immense flocks scattered over the open grounds on the elevated grassy banks of the Ohio. Having my gun with me, as usual, I procured more than 60 in a few minutes…Although in rather poor condition, we found them excellent eating”.

these slugs do not taste like

So apparently they are easy to shoot and quite tasty. I neither shot nor ate them, but will think about it for next time. Maybe I’ll try and bait them….


5 more Longspur were seen on Seal Island (10/28) by John Drury. Pipits, Iceland Gull, Red-necked Grebe and 3 Peregrines were also seen on that trip.
Also from John - Long-eared Owl on Greens, and a Great Horned Owl that ate a Peregrine. More on that next VSR....



Pine Siskins!!!! - And in come the siskins….recent storms have also brought in a wave of finches including White-winged Crossbill (small group, state beach 10/24), American Goldfinch (feeder and lane’s 10/30) and Purple Finch (feeder 10/30). On my return from Greens the other day (10/29) I was greeted by 25 or so Pine Siskins in the yard and it’s been pretty much siskins ever since. State Beach, Lane’s, The Basin, Reach Road – its Siskins everywhere and lots of them.  Easily the #1 song bird (by numbers) in my world (perspective) over the last few days. Hadn’t seen many since the “summer of Big Al” – 2008 – when we saw lots of siskins, but even more Crossbills.  Tame and coming to feeders, keep your eyes out for siskins and maybe redpolls!


Other ones…..Mill River – Snow Bunting (10/29)…31 Reach Road – 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Wren (singing)…  walking to school –(10/28) – Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the ball field…(10/31) Basin - Swainson’s Thrush …School (10/27) – Turkey Vulture..


There are also a lot of these birds these days….Canada Geese, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers (lane’s island)….

Ducks – welcome back! – Old tail Ducks (formerly known as “Old squaw” but too many young squaws complained about being left out of the name) were first reported by John Drury (10/21) in the Reach. Oldtails turned up on ferry rides (10/23 & 24), and just today (10/31) were seen and heard in Seal Bay off the Huber Preserve. “Bundles of oldtails” will soon be observable from the ferry and many other places around the island. A bundle of oldtails is called a “bag”, or “BOO”. I just made that up!


Hooded Mergansers – (10/25) 10 in pleasant river (seen each day since), lots in Carver’s Pond, and a random one has been seen twice in Round Pond


Bufflehead – (10/27) 2 seen in the Basin, (10/31) 20 in Indian Creek, 77 in Seal Bay, and 15 in Old Harbor Pond. Bufflehead suddenly en masse, in Maine.


Red-breasted Mergansers – (10/31) 8 in the Basin, Lane’s this morning.


As for the ferry – lots of loons, Laughing, Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, Herring and Black-backed Gulls – 5 gulls days are cool! Looking forward to some Kittiwakes! Many Gannets as well.

gannets are being seen
from the ferry these days

Lane’s (11/1) – 4 Greater Yellowlegs, Great Blue Heron, Black Duck, White-winged, Black and Surf Scoters (scoter Trifecta, baby!), Loons, Gannets, Eiders (UTW), Yellow-rumped Warblers (UTW), White-winged Crossbill, Chickadee, Great Cormorants, Double-crested Corms, Red-breasted Merganser, Pine Siskin.
stack of wolf's milk slime


Slime Molds – Wolf’s Milk Slime (PFSATM – personal favorite slime at the moment) - is making a nice late season run here’s a few shots. Lookin’ good WMS!
fresh milk


Herps – peepers still peeping, red-bellied snake at armbrust hill, garter snake in the yard.


going thru the changes
puffball - gem-studded style

Fungus – “Better late than never” for the rains as they say, and even though mushrooms were a little slim this fall, we’ve seen a nice late rush with the rains. Here’s a few of what we’ve been seeing.

irregular earthtongues

and an old friend in Jelly Tooth. three different states of being for the jelly tooth

I like this VTP, with the little mushrooms
growing on top. or are they slimes?


gilled polypore - just starting out

Delicous milky>>>>>

<<<<lackluster laccaria
maze polypores are amazing

 how about this shaggy mane and it's progression as it deliquesces - liquefies into an inky mess of spores and goo.

current state, as of this posting
raccoon scat comes in many
shapes and flavors
Tracking – Summer and Fall (and even spring) are what we like to call “non-winter seasons”. These NWS are often (but not always) known for their lack of snow. Snow tracking is our favorite, but with no snow (until tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we deal more with Scat Trackin’ or Spraint watchin’! The dens, the trails and the poop are all still out there to be found. Here’s some recent “scatterific” raccoon, mink and otter presents…..
funk it up fishbone!
otter spraint - scales and bones

this mink had been eating
baby lobster



more baby lobster scat
eagle pellet for good measure
feathers and no bones about it!
and of course there was Halloween - I had forgot had much fun trick or treating is!
stay safe and wear orange! see you out there!

leif as hiccup from how to train your dragon