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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, May 22, 2015

you can come around, but don't you talk to me

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – May 21st, 2015

Brought to you by the kind efforts of VLT and MCHT

turtle head pokin'
Highlights – red-billed tropicbird, songbird migration ragin’-  scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, white-crowned sparrow, Long-eared Owl pellets, brown thrasher, “towhee spring” continues, plant stuff with penalosa, fetchin’ turtles with persons,

first roadkill baby turtle this year.... what kind you ask?
answer down below

 lots of herps in this's a roadkill

Upcoming event – “rich with warblers” - John Drury will be leading the VLT warbler walk on Saturday May 30th, 8-9:30am. Gather at skoog park to carpool. Lots of warblers and lesser (judgment and joke) songbirds been coming thru these days and John knows how to find them. See you there! 


Kid stuff – thanks again to the “perspectives” afterschool program for letting me tag along for a couple of visits last week to  everyone’s favorite place (even if it isn’t) – Lane’s Island. The crab searches were fun albeit not so impressive in what we caught– I do worry about local green crabs populations – and it was fun to be the kids again.  Thanks to Susan and Deb for setting these outings up, and to the ARC, PIE and MCHT for supporting such programs. It was super fun. photos by Susan Raven



Sightings – around the island – State Beach – local legend Bill Chilles reported a Snowy Egret in the state beach area earlier in the month and on a bike ride the next day I saw the snowy egret in the area. we believed bill from the beginning...

Brown thrasher on the way to school one day..


Skin hill migration hotspotSally Conway’s yard has been keeping Sally busy with some of the more striking songbirds visiting her feeding station, bird bath, and trees. Take and look and thanks for sharing Sally! Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Bobolink, Baltimore oriole.


Sally also reports an Indigo Bunting at her feeders, adding another great one to the list!

photos by sally conway

fox rocks magnolia
photo gallery by Sally Conway

thanks sally!

Warblers- Fox Rocks – (5/16) Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black and White, Black throated Green, Yellow, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Parula, Redstart… Armbrust Hill – nashvilles and black-throated blue to add...Blackburnian as well


parula checking out the usnea

upstart redstart
Other songbirds singing– Blue-headed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Gray Catbird, White-throated, White-crowned, and Song Sparrow.       

black-throated green


eastern towhee, previously known as the
rufous sided towhee. one of the cooler names
to go by the wayside in my lifetime.

Eastern Towhee – seen several in the last few weeks, including a male coming to the feeders, been singing in the yard and now has a female companion joining him. Things are heating up quickly
this armbrust hill hairy drills on this tree by the parking lot


Lots of woodpecker action these days – hairys and downies defending their turfs!

another random dead thing
from arbrust hill trail


And speaking of Seal Island – the red-billed tropicbird is back for its 11th summer in the gulf of Maine, and the 6th or 7th at Seal Island. Check out Captain John Drury’s website - www.maineseabirdtours.comto set up your trip to Seal before all the trips fill up!
this long eared owl pellet had shrew skulls in it.


“Plant chat with penalosa” – Friendly botanist Javier Penalosa sent in some may flora photos and commentary. Thanks for sharing Javier! series of photos by Javier Penalosa


Viola pallens (Smooth white violet). Seems to occur everywhere, from dry roadsides to wetland margins. I like the purple markings on the lower petal, there to guide the pollinators.



Skunk cabbage under a leafless canopy. This species seems to be the first major photosynthesizer of the year, getting a huge head start before the alders and so forth leaf out.


Equisetum arvense (Field horsetail). Fertile colorless reproductive shoots and green photosynthesizing shoots. The fertile shoots soon senesce after shedding their spores. I had thought they might be connected under ground, but I dug up several and was unable to find any connection. I’m not sure how the gametophyte decides to send up a green or reproductive shoot. I will look into it.


Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot). This has got to be one of the finest non-native species on the island. Very elegant with its bright yellow heads and light green stems stems with dark green rudimentary leaves. Roadsides and forest clearings — flowers before leaves.



And here is a coltsfoot leaf. Gray furry undersides. All summer they suck carbon out of the atmosphere, storing it underground for the spring flower display.


Viola sororia (Wooly blue violet). Not sure why “wooly” - maybe the dense hairs on the inside of the lateral petals. I’ve recorded two more violet species on the island, but haven’t seen them yet this year.


Amelanchier arborea (Downy shadbush). I had no idea this was so common. In the summer it’s a rather nondescript shrub or small tree, but this past week the display has been glorious. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this species is that the leaves are only partially expanded when the flowers are fully developed. “Downy” well describes the hairy under surface of the leaves.


Amelanchier laevis (Smooth shadbush), doesn’t seem to be as common as A. arborea. In this species the leaves are more expanded while the plant is in flower and the leaves are nearly hairless


Freedom of information act - Hippy poop bagger story developments – three more bags were located recently at the dogtown trailhead parking for the basin preserve. The bags were inflated, and looked to have been there for a while. We have received several leads/conspiracy ideas about this situation, and have scared off each source with comments like “everyone is a suspect” and “you seem crispy enough to use decomposable dog poop sacks”.  It’s a work in progress, and any info sent to our hot line will be addressed seriously.

Or not.
Salamander eggs with Zo. Leif and his buddy Zo transplanted some spotted salamander eggs from a dry sunny spot in the motion/vernal pool at the granite island trail, to a moist and shadier spot. Then we rock climbed and they deserved cookies.



Spotted Turtles – the turtle neighbor you never see. Spotted Turtles are considered Threatened by the state of Maine and thusly even our governor. And that means…..something. probably that there are not that many of them, but not so few to make it a high priority.

this is what it looks like when a
turtle is being weighed


 We (the royal “we”) have heard of 4 sightings of spotted turtles on the island over the last 9 years. We presume that there have been more, but those are the ones that we know of for fact.  And apparently 4 is enough sightings to interest the governor and the state’s wildlife people and have them send out a crew to do a little spotted turtle survey.


With that Trevor Persons (who turned out to be just one person) brought out some turtle traps and spent this last week baiting (with sardines) and catching turtles in some pretty mucky habitats! Otter pond outlet to folly pond he caught 7 individuals (at writing), as well as individuals at Mack’s Pond and along Seal Bay Road (Gid and Sally that’s your spotted neighbor!).


Trevor was kind enough to let Leif and I join on his checking of traps at Otter Pond and man was it exciting. 2 in one and then 4 in another – for a total of 6 spotted turtles for those keeping track at home. Cool to see and cool to learn about, and from what Trevor says the island has got a healthy population. We just don’t see them because of preferred habitat and habits like not basking on logs.


And maybe even cooler than all of that turtle spraint, Trevor was exploring down Wharf Quarry Road and checked what I have recently heard referred to as the “kettle hole” , and found 4 different four-toed salamander nests. Not only are those considered to be the hardest nest around to find (in my mind at least) but these were the first four-toed salamander nest he has found. So Trevor gets a true VVNM/VNM bonus.

if you guessed painted turtle you were right!

So congrats Trevor and thanks for helping us learn more about the wildlife we are so fortunate to have out here.



Anyway, life is good – get outside and check it out!