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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


Monday, March 9, 2015

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
March 8th, 2015

Brought to you in part by the kindly support of VLT and MCHT


Highlights – Glaucous Gull, Northern Pintail, great horned owls, woodpeckers, otters, mink, snow, other things…




callin' the shots
photo by Pat Lundholm
Standard -Send in your sightings! - Contact us (the royal “us”) with all your nature sightings and photos – don’t be stingy or competitive – there is no room for competition in nature observation!


So share – it will make you a better person and an angel will get some wings - preferably buffalo wings!

Anyway – – is the place to send your photos and stories. We’ll be nice to you – I promise.

Thanks for your patience - to Par Lundholm, you sent in this rockin' shot of a dominant raccoon out on Greens Island. With the little melt that has happened, raccoon trails and tracks are being found after being absent for most of February. Apparently Pat and Lucy had to walk off the trail for this guy.

bagged a "K" in otter slides.... 

Tiit trick – click on the photos

...and and "I" with the tunnel opening
the "sweet, sweet dot on the top"
kind of looks like an anchor

Business – Upcoming events – VLT/MCHT Woodcock Walk – April 5th, 7pm at Lane’s Island. Come and watch North America’s coolest avian flight display (no offense Snipes and Nighthawks) as male American Woodcocks fly in buzzy circles hundreds of feet into the air only to zig-zag, free fall back to earth and announce their landing with an authoritative “PEENT!”. We’ll meet in the parking lot. This is a low to non-active outing so dress appropriately.



Editor’s Note: End of February- this is the time of the year – 2/3rd (plus) of the way thru “winter” – when I get a little sentimental. The snow will melt (at some point) and take all of its stories with it. Winter transition to spring is the only seasonal flow that’s tricky for me. Bittersweet. I miss the snow already, and treat every snowshoe like it will be my last for the season and one will eventually will be (the last snowshoe of the season).  So with a heavy heart we look at the bright side thru “woodcock, salamander, and warbler colored” goggles. But we never move on. Really – what compares to a good belly slide? Looking forward to next winter! 


And on that note…the Basin looked pretty great after the month of snow (Feb).. Tides, snow and ledges working together like I have not seen before on island, but apparently happens somewhat frequently on the mainland. Or something like that. I like to think that aliens made these, or Incas….enjoy!




Kid’s Stuff – Thanks to the “Perspectives” crew of Susan and Deb (not Debbie) for having me over for an afternoon of tracking fun in the woods around the school with 10 3rd and 4th graders. For a trail we (the royal "we") meandered thru the woods around the school with snowshoes for a few days before. It was super fun and the timing was right for lots of snowshoe hare, red squirrel, and local cat.

Perspectives is a cool program Susan Raven runs thru the ARC, which is no longer sells coffee (pomegranate tea is where it’s at – judgment) but still does some successful stuff.

Lincoln is in there

bunch of kids having fun in the snow
Also, thanks to the 5th Graders for having me over for a tracking walk the other day. Good times with some recently active snowshoe hares in the fresh snow.




there's a phat grebe, in the bathroom
Sightings - Horned Grebe - Quick story – Chase Wadleigh came knocking the other night with saying his dad found a small seabird in the road. By the time I got over the Horned Grebe was resting comfortably in the bath tub and several minnows had been tossed in the tub, which the grebe apparently gobbled up immediately. This was obviously a good place for the grebe to be, better than the road as grebes can't walk (nice one grebes!). The plan was then to release the bird back into the wild after a pleasant night in the tub. There has been a lot of horned grebes out here for sure this winter.

horned grebe
photo by John Drury

Here’s some shots of a horned grebe that John Drury got in the harbor area. Amy and I spotted a Horned Grebe in the southern end of the reach (2/28) from the ferry. Could be that same grebe. Thanks Chase!    


Horned Grebe on the water
photo by John Drury

And thanks john. More from john in a little bit…

horned grebe in the air
photo by John Drury

trail to nowhere

“Darned good window bird” – “window sightings” are a category of observation that takes special note in my mind. This is not birds killed by your window – or stunned or whatever. This is more when you see something cool from your window.


“Be it from bathroom, bedroom, bkitchen, basement or below!” window sightings are always special. How about a coyote on Vinalhaven from your window? It’s happened. 



Anyway – Adam and Heather White watched a Great Horned Owl from their windows recently. By the way, you know you live somewhere cool when you get owl window sighting. Adam and Heather have been hearing the local  Great Horneds for years, often in the distance, and this was their first sighting. And from the window no less. Now that is cool.

Norton’s Point - (2/26) – I saw a great horned that agitated a few crows. I learned it’s really hard to sneak up on owls
in snowshoes.

the deer have been spending a lot of time at the shore.
who can blame them?
And so, this is the time for great horneds, conditions being what they are. Great horneds should be on eggs now, much like the bald eagle riding out snowstorms in the nest somewhere – you’ve seen the pictures – Colorado maybe? Unfortunately the nest found last spring in the Long Cove area has fallen down. Great Horneds don’t make their own nests, nor do they add to any nest they take over – crow, ravens, osprey, and ostrich. With no up keep, these are bound to fall apart sooner than later. Nests fall. It happens…


glaucous gull on ice
Carver’s Harbor – this Glaucous Gull was spotted towering within a group of herring gulls on the ice behind the store.  I think this was the first time I have seen one perched, or standing or whatever – first one not in flight! in other words and in flight - a big white gull, no black at the wingtips, larger than an Iceland gull. fun to see one relaxing


As Don Reimer always says … “With its light yellow eye (juvs have dark eyes), this guy looks like a second-winter glaucous. The huge size, flat crown and long sloping forehead (not to mention his under-sized primordial eye) and heavy dark-tipped bill all look good for glaucous.”

glacous gull, relaxin'

As Frank Zappa said “Thanks Don”.  Glaucous Gulls are seen yearly in Maine, and John often reports them from trips to seal in the "non-tropicbird" seasons. A "white-winged" gull, the Glaucous  is famous for not having black at the wing-tips. 


pintail on ice
Also seen on this frigid day – North Pintail. Which also was relaxing.


pintail on ice, relaxin'

Black ducks on ice-
Good winter to be a Mink - as mentioned in previous VSRs, the mink sign is numerous to more than numerous this winter, and recently I even got some rare otter cam photos of a local mink.

mink crossing - deep bounds
snowshoeing at mack's pond in the deep snow, it was me and a mink crossing.  with the mink working hard, bounding tough.
this is a triple bounce,
without the pounce

this one has the dip in it

this dip in the snow had the creek that feeds mack's pond underneath it.

one mink comes in from the right

but it was more than a dip - two mink made their way thru the dip.

the snowshoeing is great right now

riddle :why do mink hang out together?
answer: because spring is in the air...
I'm not a big fan of riddles. or the riddler.

please step away from the camera

just a mention - having the camera focused on otter latrines is a fun excuse for a snowshoe from home. and when the camera says 365 photos there is a level of anticipation on the way home, that maybe there are otter photos by the dozen captured on that memory card held within.

only to get 365 photos of this deer sniffing the camera, sniffin me!. ugh.


otter tunnels, spraint, slides and prints
hefty activity, den underneath
photo by John Drury

otters- den on greens! john drury has been tracking otters out on greens for many years now, and has wondered and now has confirmed an otter den out on "ma's point" across from the harbor opening and Norton's point.

the downhill slide
photo by John Drury

the uphill bound
photo by John Drury

While checking in on marking areas and land crossing John found signs of tunneling thru the snow  and we all know what that means....under the ice or into the ground (or both!).

 John also found slides and sign in reliable otter spots around Greens. 

That is one of our favorite things about tracking otters...they're habitual.   

otter stuff
Around the same time John was finding dens out on Greens, a single otter was being tracked on Norton's Point - once again directly across the way. With an historic latrine showing sign of use Feb 26th - 28th. Spraint, slides and prints presumedly from a single otter were found, but the otter did not trigger the cam. 

Oscar seems a little grouchy,
and a little too aware of the camera
The otter cam did get this one photo of the big otter (2/28), presumedly a male and not-so-presumedly not impressed with having his picture taken. this was a one second shot and then he turned and ran. do I smell that much? be honest.....or does the camera make a sound? I think we know the answer.

Anyway - I am calling him Oscar.  he is the first otter I have ever named

also . old harbor pond the return snowshoe from Mack's Pond (and the mink) turned up otter activity - slides, tunnels and possibly scent marking on trees. Looked to be made by the two otters that we have been tracking for much of the winter.

I saw no sign of spraint or much venturing, beyond the letters written and a loop to connect a network below the snow. Undoubtedly the tunnels led to under the ice where the fish wait so patiently.

could be a den, but maybe not. their other options around the pond might just be frozen at this point.

this was the first sign I have seen at this particular point, and was very lucky to find while bushwhacking back to the pond after wandering. And I picked up the letters "K" and "i"! what a day!  

and with the days there has been sledding, skiing, legos and friends.

photo by susan raven

see you out there!