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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, April 3, 2015

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report

April 3rd, 2015

No foolin’ – thanks for the support of MCHT and VLT


 Highlights – snow fleas, estrus, dead saw-whets, woodcocks and postponement of a woodcock walk, wormin' gulls, mushrooms,

In memoriam- Before we get into it, we all know the island community has lost some important members in the last few weeks. Our hearts and thoughts go out to family and friends of those who have passed.

 I have to say I am at a loss about Carol Petillo. Such a wonderful person and friend. A passionate animal lover who was the “president of the coyote fan club” from back in the coyote years. It’s always a shame to lose a Carol, a Linda, or a Ruth, but this one feels just feels worse. Thanks for everything Carol.  Miss you.


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Tiit trick – click on the photos to enlarge.


Upcoming Events - Woodcock Walk postponed! Of course there are woodcocks out there, but we are still postponing, or “putting off” the woodcock walk till next Friday – April 10th at 7pm, Lane’s Island parking lot. The main display area on lane’s where we watch hopeful males “peent” is still under a lot of snow, and trail conditions are “not too groovy”, or maybe a “little too groovy” for bringing a group just yet. Conditions will most assuredly be better for observation and trudging on the 10th . I mean who’s ever heard of snow in April anyway?


That said, I am still going to go this Saturday (the 4th), even though the official walk is not till next Friday (the 10th). Anyone who still wants to go this Saturday (4/4) is welcome to join – 7pm either in the parking lot or at the beginning of the driveway. The walk is postponed but the woodcocks don’t know that.


some not too old Turkey Tail at Huber.
Basin Clean-upSunday, April 12th at 9am. Bring some work gloves, we’ll have some bags! Let’s fill ‘em up (the bags that is)! Meet at skoog park to carpool.


Sightings – kind of a quickie VSR – was originally just going to mention the woodcock walk postponement. But while we’re here we’ve got some sightings to process. Here we go…


when the sun looks like this its soon time
to get to your woodcock spots.
Woodcocks -  (as mentioned above) – (3/31) Reach Road Hill, 2 woodcocks “peenting” their little hearts out….(4/1) Lane’s – maybe it’s because we postponed the woodcock walk, but this evening was the best I have seen on lane’s in a long time. The snow made for limited habitat for the woodcocks to “peent” which resulted in male woodcocks being stacked upon each other (and not in the good way). They must have just rolled in, and as the numbers increased and the scene escalated my high count of males peenting and displaying at one time was 7 (personal woodcock record).  There were several other woodcocks flying low through the zone (females? Or “loser”/”not winner yet” males?). There was a ton of “kekkkkkkkk”ing – the woodcock aggressive encounter vocalization – on the ground, a couple of mid air battles, and about a dozen “lower than tree line” fly-bys and aggressive defenses of territories. All while the “good” ones (“good” being territories that have been used consistently over the years) are still under snow! This was the spraint, the best woodcock crepuscular scene I have ever seen. In my life. ….(4/2) got off the boat and over to Lane’s with Amy and Leif to see the little peenters and get some scope views of Venus and that phat Moon. We were not disappointed on any count, 7 males peenting and displaying, a couple close fly-bys on a chilly night.  


Woodcocks also reported from Greens Island reported by John Drury.

 wormin' gulls at Indian Creek! check out the video -

squirrel spring cleaning
Shags – personal first of the season double crested cormorants (group of 5) east over Louds Quarry. Spring is here, so are the shags. 4 more this morning (4/3) by the Ferry Terminal.


Turkey Vulture – while waiting for the boat to Calderwood, a Turkey Vulture crossed the thorofare from North Haven to Vinalhaven. Spring is here.
and a snack break


Walk to school – Ball field – (3/30) 4 Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles.

out with the old moss

with snow fleas

This week’s magic word is Subnivean


Definition thanks to Merriam-websters - situated or occurring under the snow <subnivean burrows and runways


so it is official – the yard, and most other yards on island – were under snow for the entire months of Feb and March. As things gradually melt what a world of activity is being exposed!


A vole world of tunnels, dens and chewed up areas. So much activity the mink (pl) must have been shakin’ their heads in confusion when hunting! (that was anthropomorphic and not based on any knowledge of mink actually shaking their heads in confusion. so we apologize).


I wonder if the fresh air feels good to them. I mean, the voles go to the bathroom in the subnivean snow too. Probably didn’t need to mention that.


Owls don’t have much of a chance of catching voles when the snow is so deep, so that was one pressure that was reduced. On the other hand, once again, and ad nausea - it was a fantastic winter for island mink, and tunnels and burrows may or may not have made for easy pickin’s  for the predator. If they could find the tunnels. Which they are probably good at. Anyway.
subnivial "y"


Lots of chases, living and some dying surely went on in these tunnels. Fun to see those secrets from the last few months.


Saw-whets on Lane’s – or another one bites the dust. Saw-whets are coming thru and something is eating them on Lane’s! (3/31) The remains of a second “macked” saw-whet owl were found in the meadowy area by the graveyard (spooky, no?). Two weeks after the first saw-whet remains were found, this one being ripped apart/eaten in the meadow makes me think Short-eared Owl, but I always think short-eared owls in that meadow. I have now seen 2 dead saw-whets and 1 live saw-whet on Lane’s. Ever. In my life.


Saw-whet – Josh Clayter also reports finding a dead saw-whet owl on island.


Been seeing a lot of Raccoons lately – or at least a few.

Also saw this horse the other day while walking to the ferry (4/2).
Calderwood sheep


Singers – or Funky Tweeters – Cardinals – like crazy in town – Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow.


Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are quite loud these days. Ravens and crows as well (songbirds, but not tweeters – judgment!).  


 Juncos and White-throated Sparrows have shown up in some numbers.


Went to Calderwood to saw and check on the sheep. The three are doing great and were spotted mackin’ on grass that wwas inspired by the burn a few years back! Carol would have liked this.


And that might be it.


With the thaw Leif, Zo and I gathered bones from last year’s deer, and jumbo crab exoskeletons from the basin marsh.


leif and the deer the coyote trails led to
with gandma in the wings -upstate new york

Leif skiing and maybe some dead deer action.



Good times – and happy April everybody!