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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, November 9, 2015

tree island
photo by Banner Moffat

Welcome to the VSR – November 5th, 2015
Brought to you with the appreciated support of VLT and MCHT
“good to see there is crap for you to photograph on the mainland“– Uncle Tom.
He has always called it as he saw it.
Rocks and grass
photo by Banner Moffat

HighlightsDucks featuring Harlequin and Oldtails, Hooded Warbler, Pipit, Snow Buntings, horned larks, salamanders, butterflies, mushroom stuff of course, couple of new otter latrines, molt stuff,

photo by Banner Moffat


Thanks to Banner Moffat for sending in some recent landscape shots of Vinalhaven. Nice way to ease into the VSR – we are always looking for new ways to ease into things. Don’t ease me in.

crockett's point west
photo by Banner Moffat


Got orange? – if you go out in the woods on any of the 6 days of the week that is not Sunday it is highly recommended that you wear some bright orange hat or coat or underwear (as long as it worn on the outside of your slacks). It is hunting season and no one wants to see anyone get hurt and no one wants to hurt anybody (is this a true statement?). Anyway, lots of the latest orange fashions can be found at the Fisherman’s Friend or at the Island Closet. Or maybe in your closet! Put it on!

surf scoter
 photo by Rick Morgan


can you smell the sunset this evening?

Tiit Trick – click on the photos and they will enlarge to the limits (size) of your monitor or the programs you run on your laptop. Or something like that. Just click on them, you’ll like it.
fall ferns
photo by Banner Moffat


Share Your Sightings – always appreciated. Send in reports, photos, rants, questions whatever to .  

these tiny people rolled logs
and found plenty of salamanders
photo by Susan Raven


Kid Stuff – the annual fall Salamander hunt never disappoints, no matter how many years we ravage the woods surrounding the school. (11/3 & 11/4) were fantastic. As many as 50 red-backed salamanders were found (and lovingly relocated) by the students, and a great time was had by all. Thanks to perspectives staff – Susan and Elizabeth for dealing me, to VLT and PIE for sponsoring perspectives, and to MCHT for sponsoring my time with the kids. Looking forward to the next one!
we started with some intense instructions about the hunt.
no one is paying attention by the way
photo by Susan Raven


Olivia was into it
photo by Susan Raven

Sightings – Martha Reed reports finding a spotted salamander in her yard recently. Armbrust Hill is loaded with Spotted Salamander eggs each spring, so one might figure “good luck” in several cultures, including the Estonian one, so Martha can look forward to 15 minutes of good luck sometime in the next 4 weeks. Non-consecutive minutes of course.


oldtail ducks.- stock photo

Drury on water and land– John drury sent in a report of highlights from a recent trip to Seal Island and from around Greens - (10/26) Hooded Warbler, many Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. American Pipits on beach. Bufflehead in shore, oldsquaw and Black-legged Kittwake off shore. 


purple sandpiper - stock photo

From the ferry – finally caught a couple of early morning ferry rides from Vinalhaven. The lighting was great and the birds were fun – (10/28) 8:45am from Vinalhaven – 53 Black Guillemot, 24 Common Loon, 13 Eider, 28 Double-crested Cormorants, 4 Surf Scoter, 4 Black Scoter, 16 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Black-legged Kittiwake, 2 Bonaparte’s Gull, 6 Oldtail ducks, 1 Bald Eagle

common tern
photo by Rick Morgan
(11/5) 7am from Vinalhaven – 1 Bald Eagle, 85 Black Guillemots, 36 Common Loons, 11 Oldtail ducks, 3 Red-necked Grebe, 6 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 8 Surf Scoter, 1 Great Cormorants, 4 Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Laughing Gulls, 3 Ring-billed Gulls, lots of herring and great black-backed, 1 Black-legged Kittiwake, lots of Eiders…


…some notes – great to see some of the winter classics return – oldtails, kittiwakes, scoters and purple sandpipers. Lots more to come! November is a great month to be on the ferry! And you are pretty much guaranteed not to get shot!


this loon is working its feathers
maintenance or
black guillemot, non breeding plumage
Molt – multiple words on molt (bird molt that is).  A few years back the Peterson Field Guides, Inc. started pumping out “jumbo reference guides” – books jammed full of information that you are meant to read at home, while standing in your basement hoping that the swelling in your left leg will disappear and maybe feeling will return. You know what I mean, in the comfort of your own home or wherever you are squatting.

They are great books, all bestsellers in my household, with catchy titles such as “Gulls of North America”, “Behavior of North American Mammals” and my favorite “Molt in North American Birds”.  What a fascinating topic to have a reference guide to. How each family of north American birds – from Anatidae (ducks, dude!) to Fringillidae (Finches, man!) – go thru the motions of growing new feathers.


diggin' needle covered trails
perry creek!
How can anyway argue with sentences like “Spending their lives in relatively cool forested habitats, chickadees are not exposed to much strong sunlight and hence their feathers are not prone to wear. Thus their performative molts are partial, typically involving head and body feathers and some wing coverts.” What’s your performative molt like?


And while observing molt in Chickadees takes a lot of imagination, there sure are enough birds that have molted along the ferry route to observe the changes. (purple sandpiper).


Here’s what Steve Howell (son of Thurston) has to say about molt.


“although molt (or molting) is often thought of as feather replacement, it is really the systematic process of feather growth”. How cool is that – Steve squashing a false understanding of what molt is. People who believe this drive Steve crazy.  Here’s more

certainly something was molting somewhere
on earth when I took this

“the loss of feathers in later molts is usually a passive by product of new feathers growing in and pushing out the old ones.” Typical.


And then to cover all angles Steve writes “Molt is also a dynamic evolutionary process, and what we see today reflects millions of years of ongoing fine-tuning. In some cases, a bird’s strategy may not make sense to us, but this may be because there has not been enough pressure to change a strategy that worked well thousands of years ago”. When in doubt though in the ol “we have no idea what pressure millions of years ago inspired this adaptation”!
some trails look like this


Overall I like Steve’s perspective and information (wait – is this a book review?). the triggers and stimulators (are you with me?) of molt and feather plumage – different color feathers alternating out of the same follicle! I think that is frowned upon in several states. Molt is cool – think about it, or not. 


Bike ride (on the way somewhere) 11/4 – state beach – 6 red-breasted merganser, 4 horned larks, 10 red-necked grebe, 4 common loon, 4 oldtails, sharp-shinned hawk, bald eagle…folly pond – 7 wood ducks, 2 green-winged teal, 2 mallards, 4 black duck, bald eagle.  


In the woods – brown creeper, red-breasted nuthatch, chickadee, golden-crowned kinglet – all very loud.

last red admiral on the black cohosh
photo by Sylvia Reiss

best. card. ever. - Leif
found a couple of "new" (for me) otter latrines over the last few weeks. two in "the marsh" and one at otter pond.

also got this awesome card from one of my favorite two sister-in-laws. probably a copyright infringement here, but even if its up for only a short while, I think its important for everyone to see where candy corn comes from. eat it hallmark.

and congratulations to all who see this card and say "I knew it".

otter pond scat -
more otter pond scat

nice try tar.
can't keep a good mushroom down

mushroom photos - we love them shrooms, and love looking at photos of them. here are some recent lovelies..
shaggy maine
how is this not the state mushroom of maine?
photo by Amy Palmer

hope to cross with more honey mushrooms

tough tawny grisette in a dry grassy field

turkey tail

chicken mushroom - see it every year, same spot
had an awkward conversation with someone about this
I think they thought I was going to take.
protective mushroom appreciaters

irregular earth tongues
are nice and yellow

time has flown, we have other stuff to share but it will have to be in the next one.....

and some of leif....

it was a grim reaper sort of Halloween.

and good times on a beaver dam and the beach.

stay safe out there!