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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


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings report

January 15th, 2015


This one “cleaned up nice”


Highlights varied thrush, Carolina wren, yellow-bellied sapsucker, gadwall, rough-legged hawk, northern goshawk, barrow’s goldeneye, belted kingfisher, deer whisperer


raccoon or big foot
Upcoming event – this Saturday! – January 17thMCHT Basin snowshoe/tracking/winter walk. 10am at Skoog Park (VLT office parking area) for carpooling. About 3 hours long (or so). Bring a snack, snowshoes not required.


Contact us! – Send us your sightings and your photos –


Tiit trick – click on photos to enlarge to jumbo size!



can you see how varied this thrush is?
photo by Jim Clayter
SightingsJim Clayter sees a lot out his back door (and side windows). His pumpkin ridge feeder sightings are legendary (at least with the VSR staff!), his heron observations over the years have been impressive, and we all saw his gross eagle shots from November. Well, it’s only January 15th and Jim’s has already sent in some photos of a Varied Thrush - an early nomination for the “Bird Of The Year”, or “BOoTY” award.


varied thrush
photo by Jim Clayter
If you look for a range map for the Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) in your “birds of eastern north America” book you won’t find one. No map, no mention. When you see the range map for the Varied Thrush in the “National Geographic Birds of North America” it looks like a huge obstacle out west (the Rocky Mountains, maybe?) keeps Varied Thrushes nicely contained along the Pacific coast and coastal ranges (now if only the Rockies could keep the hippies contained!). It’s like the Ixoreus naevius (and let’s face it - with a Latin name like that you know it’s gotta be from the west coast) has trouble breathing at higher elevations or something and has to turn back.
the varied thrush may have taken
the ferry to Vinalhaven


There is a mention in the description – “very rare in winter as far east as New England and south to Virginia”. 


Anyway, Jim got these wonderful shots of a “very rare” male Varied Thrush in his yard (1/11). Blown in with the recent winds? It was pretty darned cold last week and breezy enough to push a varied thrush down from the great north nothingness (and it’s true, there is nothing north of us – it’s like we are at the north pole). Whatever the case – it’s cool.


When sharing the news and photos with “tweeter folk” (bird people) on the mainland the response was 100% excitement (alright, I just told one person about it – but they were psyched!). The bird was seen for two mornings (1/11-12), and because Jim keeps such meticulous notes on his feeders/yard he was able to confirm that he had never observed one in his yard before.


This is the only mention I have heard of a Varied Thrush on island - other than the famous (infamous?) Norm Famous night migration survey report (infamous report?) where Norm listened for migrating birds at the turbine spot (pre-turbines that is) and reported hearing a Varied Thrush’s calling as it flew over in the dark. Never did see the actual report… 


Jim sent in photos of 2 other “newbie” (VNMs!) bird species that he took in his yard - not a bad start for 2015!

Carolina Wren
photo by Jim Clayter

This handsome Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludivicianus) has been visiting Jim’s woodpile for over a week now – first reported 1/5, and is still appearing. The Carolina Wren is the state bird of South Carolina and one of our favorite “tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle” bird singers. Over the past couple years – or maybe just a little more than one – they have been spotted on both  Armbrust and Skin Hills, near the Town Hall, and even over at  good ol’ 31 Reach Road on Vinalhaven.


The range map I am looking at shows them breeding north thru Massachusetts, (but we’ve already discussed range map dynamics with the Varied Thrush). Here’s what the National Geo says – “Non-migratory (love that), but after mild winters resident populations expand north of mapped range (they admit their maps can’t represent the ebbs and flows of Carolina Wrens!). After harsh winters, range limits retract”. Simple expand and retract….

yellow-bellied sapsucker
photo by Jim Clayter

Another recent visitor to Jim’s feeders has been this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. First reported on the 7th, the Sapsucker came back again on the 8th as well. This youngster has less red on the throat than the one in Sally’s sapsucker photos from the last VSR, so maybe we had a rush (of at least 2) Sapsuckers in this early winter.


Jim also reports Common Redpolls at his feeders (1/13). Thanks for sharing Jim!


gadwall, baby!
Gadwall duck – well, after all that a Gadwall duck might not seem so huge, and that’s because it really isn’t. They breed as close to us as “not too far west” of the Canada/Maine border and are regularly seen in southern Maine.  They are “expected to be seen” if not common (even) along the Atlantic coast in winter. And yet, this Gadwall was only the second I have seen on Vinalhaven, and John Drury reports this being the second time he has seen a Gadwall and we both saw the same one in winter 2006 (or 2007?).

Anyway – good to see another one!


Carver’s Pond – Hooded Merganser (John Drury reported)


Basin – (1/12) Barrow’s Goldeneye (male)


Sheep Island – (1/14) Rough-legged Hawk


Tip-toe Mountain – (1/13) Belted Kingfisher, murder of crows
mink with a slight tail drag


Old Harbor Pond – (1/11) Pine Grosbeak


State Beach - (1/14) Song Sparrow, Red-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Oldtails, Eiders, Crows, Ravens, Common Loons


31 Reach Road – Brown Creeper, Goldfinch,


Woods – Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped chickadees, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers

sunrise is best for tracking

Tracking – early returns on the last snow imply that it’s a good year for mink and snowshoe hare. Like their tracks are everywhere. Limited otter tracking. It’s not fair how their trails will go under the ice at times. More to come!

this mink seemed to wake up slow
and stretch before bounding away from
the den

otter den opening lined with ice

even found a new otter latrine this week

we have appreciated the mink trails
this last week

And the deer whisperer….special “hat’s off” goes out to Adam White who took a little time before school the other day to help release a deer that had been caught in a soccer net…on the soccer field. The name of the deer is being withheld for security reasons – but Adam was quick to use his “ninja and sheep herding skills” to keep the exhausted deer at ease while release the deer from it knotty predicament. Is sinking/break away soccer netting the answer to avoid any more senseless deer snaggings? Are the nets up for winter soccer league? Anyway – good work Adam – local nature hero.  

and lets not forget our local snow hero, having some good times in the snow!

there was way more speed than could be captured here

see you out there!