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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, January 25, 2016

birch polypore. the bottom of this one makes leif laugh.
Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report

January 16th, 2016

All this and more, brought to you by MCHT and VLT…

“Often an activity enjoyed when one first wakes up” – Estonian riddle



some sort of Xylaria, "carbon fingers" group.
always great to see an Ascomycetes,
these are hard at work

Highlights – otters: sign and anal slime, American woodcock, white-winged crossbill, red-necked grebe, kittiwake, great horned owl, northern harrier, razorbill, and so much more…


Contact us – – send in your otter stories from anywhere. sightings photos. we love any attention.

may have interrupted a Saw-whet
even before he/she got to tear
into this frozen morsel.

Tiit Trick – click the photos to see the pictures jumbo sized. You don’t really get that anal


Upcoming events – for the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

( VLT and MCHT have joined forces once again to offer a night and a day of tracking stories, slides and…well, tracks (hopefully). We’ll start with a showing of the slide show “Owls are easy, otters are easier – year round tracking on Vinalhaven”. The evening of Feb 12th (Friday) at 7pm at the Washington school. The next morning – 9:30am on Saturday February 13th for those without a calendar – we’ll be meeting at Skoog to go to where the tracking is good (or at least doable).

probably a raccoon. at what point in decomposition does
something become something else.

What’s more…mid-coast Audubon and MCHT are teaming up the next week as well for a version of the “Owls are easy…” slide show at the Mid-coast Audubon February meeting (and that is your local Audubon group) (the royal “local” society)…Thursday February 18th, at 7pm (maybe I think) – at the Camden library in lovely Camden, Maine. Will be a good ol’ time.



this is where a fox slipped on the ice on the
marsh in St. George.
SightingsLong Cove PharmAdam White reports multiple sightings of a Northern Harrier, seen somewhat consistently over the last stretch of time (. Whether it’s the same animal as months back is unknown, but to see Harriers any time on Vinalhaven is special. Historically Harriers have bred at nearby Fox Rocks and as recently as this past fall Rick Morgan and Kerry Hardy were treated to great looks at a Harrier from (nearby once again) Middle Mountain trail.

Sharp-shinned hawk hunting on east Main Street. John Drury reports.
phat Great Horned Owl pellet

‘Round the island - Lots more Juncos around. A small group (5-7) of (small) White-winged Crossbills consistent along Long Cove. Also at long cove - Great Horned Owl hooting at sunset.

Great Horned Owl – Tenants Harbor – on a tracking walk from the house (fox focused) I found my first great horned pellet (and lovely scat) in St. George. This historical event got me asking my neighbor and landlord Johnny when he had seen a Great Horned before (he had mentioned) when he excitedly told me about seeing one just a few days before not too far away. I told him about the pellet and scat. It was a nice connection. I think he got the better view.

scat on tree
phat pellet and fresh scat

3 otters and one human
photo by John Drury

Otter sightings, otter trails, otter tracks – here,
there and everywhere. As some of you may know, River otters are the current “personal favorite animal” (“PFA”) of mine and have been for some time now. I think we are going on 7 or 8 years, which is the longest continual “PFA” for me, the previous record being 4 years for Bobcats. (None of this is important in any way).


big foot.
photo by John Drury


And anyway – John Drury sent in these photos documenting the trail of 3 otters over on Greens (1/4?ish)….John reports the three were taking the short cut across “Ma’s point”, an historical and traditional crossing that may have been used for multiple generations. Very cool. We do love the “creature of habit” thing. These trails and latrines are goldmines for information.
anal slime
photo by John Drury

A few days later (1/6), and a full 9 days after the snow, I had myself a walk on Vinalhaven and visited two otter dens within walking distance of the terminal.

hoping to turn this into a mathematical symbol
pretty much an "n" - frozen anal slime


Carver’s Pond – the rock pile by the side of the road, also known as “Elaine’s den” showed sign of recent activity. Compared to sign found in years past (both in scats and total mass of scats (the “ol MOS” as they say)) it all seemed low when compared to the 4 otters that were often there over those couple of years. Felt more like maybe from one or two otters, the scats were laid over time, if you are into aging scats that is….no snow to track, no sign of trails over the ice.
a little older, a little crustier.

in years past this rock was "covered" with spraint.
beautiful sight. 

fresh on like the one

raccoon latrine - carver's pond

Old Harbor Pond to the sands - When I first walked the road I did not notice any otter crossing (from old harbor pond to sands cove). After leaving the road I decided to check the “traditional**” spot along the sands shoreline (by the rock) where the otters have entered and exited the cool, soothing waters of the sands. Mixed in with a ton of other tracks – humans, dogs, deer – were two sets of otter tracks. 4 going and 3 returning. Didn’t look like the same night, maybe a few between. (** - “traditional” referring to generalizations based on observations from the last 5 winters of the original gang of 4 crossings)

"returning 3"


The returning 3 had used the “traditional” exit spot from the sands, but instead of following the “traditional” path to the road and then crossing, the otters ran close to a nearby house and even went under this guy’s (his name is Bob) porch.  

the returning three snuck under
this porch.

classic entry/exit to the sands. by the rock

when the 4 left, they went this way

When the 4 left they slid more (than the returning 3) when the snow was deeper and still being blown around by the wind. The tracks had filled in a bit and re-frozen. This group crossed the road by “hugging” the house, similar to the 3, but did not go under the porch (re-iterate - so cool).

down the deer trail

and further down the deer trail

Both groups went through the wetland on the north side of the road, rather than the woods just up from the wetlands as they had done “traditionally”. The group of three even opted to use the deer trail that I follow to the latrine rather than hop into the water through ice, which they have done every time I have tracked there. Maybe 10 trails.

traditional access and trail

The returning three made it to the latrine and then to the den - fresh dirty activity from the night or two before found.   No sign of the trail or tracks of the homecoming crossing they made over the ice. No paper trail. Like they went under the ice.
from the latrine, directly to the den
the four left, but first stopped to relieve


The 4 that left left an amazing trail across the ice. No slides (what’s up with that? - windblown maybe?) but some of those classic tracks where the trail may have been made on a warm night or in fresh snow. I love these kind of ice tracks, bounding as they were over to the latrine. Straight line from den to latrine. “Often an activity enjoyed when one first wakes up”


I love to find trails like this

What does this all mean? Jack-spraint for sure. Pure speculation and questioning - makes us wonder though about what otters are making up this group. Any of the original 4? Is there a surplus of food and no territories? Once otters go out on their own do they ever go back? What happened to the 4th otter? Whatever.

mud room

den entrance
what an otter trail. latrine by the shore
clark island
The Clark Island otter was not captured this go round, but recent (like really recent) anal slime and scat activity were noted on the visit.   And a nice thing about being an otter person is that people tell you when they see otters (not sea otters, but those are cool too). And a nice thing about getting great reports from all over (well, not all over, but all over enough) is that we get the understanding that otters are everywhere and hopefully how they are taking over.  We welcome any and all otter stories! Send them in! Here are a couple of good recent ones….


"have you ever sniffed anal slime? - personal quesion
a bit fishy this one was
Kristen Lindquist, friend, long-time VSR reader, poet, quality person and a bunch of other good stuff (not all, but some in that order) reports of catching both visuals and audio of a group of 4 otters up on the Schoodic Peninsula (up and over from Vinalhaven) last weekend. From Kristen’s account the otters were chirping and yapping it up at a Harbor Seal laying on some rocks close to their den. Kristen recognized the rocky area as a den when the otters disappeared into the rocks after yelling at the phat phoecid (earless seal). You know, now that we are talking about it – harbor seals agitate me too – all cute and laying on rocks! Good for the otters! I wouldn’t mess with one otter, much less a group of them. Sounds like the interactions ended without escalating. I think otters aren’t shy about letting everyone know who’s boss and who might be a little close. Big weasels, I would never mess with them on purpose. Thanks Kristen…
bunker hill otter
photo by Don Reimer

Don Reimer sent in a couple of photo of otters he spotted (or at least watched) during the “Bunker Hill” Christmas Bird Count back in December. No one is really sure where Bunker Hill is, at least no one I asked. But apparently there are otters there, and if they are there they are everywhere!


bunker hill otter
photo by Don Reimer

open seal
photo by John Drury


open seal and friends
photo by John Drury

what's that again? seal with a chunk missing. Photo by John Drury from Seal Island. not sure of the date.
bill waving is funner on video. the hairy on the right
kept its head bobbin' left and right.
Hairy Woodpecker ragin’(1/6) (they are special) I watched these two hairy woodpecker duel it out with posturing and feather spreading over at pumpkin ridge. Nice day inspired chickadees to sing, and these neighbors (I would guess) to “re-post the fence” between their “yards”. So to speak. Way too anthropomorphic in this VSR.



tail spread

still pose is not that exciting. they will sit still for an
extended period of time.
a little "V" wing aggressive encounter

Anyway, this went on for 15 minutes or more. They froze postured when cars went by or when I walked far. When the coast was clear or I stopped moving they returned to tail spreading, wing-raising and bill waving. Very active, easy to see.



red-necked grebe

Ferry Ride – regulars who have enough time and interest and something else know that I have been a tad bit whiney about the ferry rides this winter. That’s all in the past as just a few days ago (1/15) I rode (like a buckin’ bronco – not really) the 245 – that sweet ride to Rockland and was pretty stoked on what I saw. It was a classic ride and the best one I’ve had this season. Thanks Pete!

some silhouettes from a distance...zoom in on these!

kittiwakes shillin'

Regulars and multiples – old-tails, Bufflehead, Eider, Black Guillemot, common loons…5 Kittiwakes, 6 Razorbills, 3 Red-necked Grebes, 7 Great Cormorants, Bald Eagle, red-breasted merganser, harbor porpoise, (annoying) harbor seals.
it's always butts up first,
flapping second when it comes to

young razorbill - immature even.

and more cousins! mia and ryley

at ease! we'll see you out there!
Asa questioning stropharia
photo by UBAJ

 and our good friend Asa Casey Jones checking out a some Questionable Stropharia bloom. Thinking the woods in California may or may not be mushroom heaven right now.

Quite the murder - 150 Crows on Pole island (1/15) reported by Peter Drury