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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, February 22, 2016

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – Feb. 20th 2016

Brought to you by MCHT and VLT

Great year for a leap year! One more day of winter! Thank you Ben Franklin! (not sure if he had anything to do with leap year, but he sounds like a funky guy).

this was a "cold" morning

Highlights – terrific otterific, owlific, blizzardific, off islandific, pretty photos of snow and more


Tiit trick – click on the photos to make them fill up your screen. There are some nice ones in this edition. Enjoy!


bagged poop in a tree in Cambridge mass.
photo by Gabe Peter Harp.
Share it, don’t spray it! – why talk to people when you can write or maybe even type up your sightings and send them to us! You will see, and it will be clearly obviously after reading this post that we don’t really care where the sightings are from anyway, so if you see bagged poop in a tree in Cambridge Mass, as Gabe Peter Harp did, or something else you think we might like – well then send it in. And if you have sightings or photos from vinalhaven then it is a no brainer – share your observations! Makes the world a better place and angels get their wings.


seal island tropicbird
photo by John Drury
“Some other nature blog” -We all have been aware of the red-billed tropic bird that has been residing on seal island for the past, well 7 or 8 summers, 11 or 12 in the gulf of Maine. Maybe some of us have actually seen the bird, and maybe a few of us have seen it multiple times, less than a handful of times probably. And now think about John Drury. Between delivering researchers and leading tours to Seal John Drury has seen our red-billed tropicbird so many times it could be considered “his” bird. Well, john has written – in the form of one draft or another – about his observations and interpretations of the seal island tropic bird on his blog and if you are a nature appreciator this is an article for you. The link is….

the marsh



And to get to the rest of john’s blog just visit…..


Time to make your reservations for a boat ride with John aboard the Skua. There must be details somewhere on there.



Thanks – to those folks who came out to see the “owls are easy, otters are easier” slide show and talk on both Vinalhaven and at the Camden Library with Mid-coast Audubon. Nice to see familiar faces and meet some new folk at the events. Now go outside and look for stuff!

polar snakes have white scales
photo by Jim Conlan

SightingsPolar snake – compliments of the Jim Conlan and his creative eye…


hummingbird almost made it to house
photo by Gabe Peter Harp

.And Gabe Peter Harp sent in somehots of a humming bird frozen in time, apparently in some sort of torpor state. With the recent snow melt it is expected that the bird flew off after a week or so in its suspended state.



from the house to under this bend scene.
otters – made it out for an overnight on Vinalhaven for the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend (2/12) and got to walk to Reach Road thru town and of course, by the famous otter crossing to the Sands. As we (the royal “we”) have mentioned this winter, a new gang of otters seems to have taken over the scene – the gang of three – and from their tracks they appear to be new to the scene as their trails seem to journey all over the place. Or, maybe they are just wanderers, a group of adventurous, beatnik weasels ready to get “on the road” and set out to see the world. Will be interesting to see if they fall into a groove of habits. Soon enough.


Anyway, the gang of three were up to their antics, and for the first time I found tracks where they visited the house on the property. They barely hesitated at the south east corner of the house before belly sliding down to rock wall with den. The den was frozen over and with being denied access the three exited the Old Harbor Pond scene and crossed into the Sands. They took the “new” route under the side porch. What I liked about their trail from the house was that instead of taking a direct route to the den they slid under the bend in this old apple tree. Fun or survival instincts? It’s what they do.


I did not see where the trail came from, but the otters left the road way up towards the top of the first, slight hill of old harbor road. I figured I would have time the next day to track them, maybe even with a group of friends on snowshoes. But they were no tracks to be found that morning…..

after one trip in the

harbor view from the ferry
… (2/13) because there was a blizzard that sat on vinalhaven all day that day. Snowshoe was canceled, and if anyone did show up all I can say is that I question your survival instincts. Anyway, I took these shots as I left on the 1pm. Awesome snow, not so much in st. George…

grimes park

just another hole to you and me - on frenchboro
Island hop - …Frenchboro – and why the heck not? It’s another island right? – anyway, MCHT sent me and “Little” Dougy McMullin to Frenchboro for an overnight with 4 hikes lined up with 2/3s of the regular students (one student is on the mainland for February). Anyway, we found some nice mink activity, lots of deer – no snowshoe hare to be found (not sure why I found that disappointing. Maybe because it means fewer owls.). On the morning hike we went to a place called Eastern Beach at the request of the 8 year old student. After walking the beach we hooked up with an otter slide that came down a decently inclined hillside. We followed what basically amounted to a 200-250 ft. belly slide right up to a den. Natural opening in the rocks out there and the sign was plenty around the opening and the hillside.

up up and away, we followed this belly slide
straight up a hill, up to a den

but the otter activity said otherwise.

Way too easy I would say. It should take more than a day to find an otter home on an island you haven’t been to in years, and only twice totally. Anyway.


 Clark Island – (2/17) went out for sunrise on a -9 degree morning. Couldn’t feel it at all so excited about looking for otter trails. Could see the cold in the sea smoke but that was far from me. Anyway - up to this point – 5 latrines, I slide and photos of one otter on Clark. Just hoping to see some sign.

three otter bellies and one fox


I followed a fox trail up, over and off trail but eventually came back to the water. That when I noticed the three belly slides that went the length of the land below me (say what?). The entire length of “human maintained” in front of me had slides marking a trifecta of otters. So cool, I finally found a use of the panoramic setting on the camera!

otter slides below!

this is what I mean by red. at the latrine

The otter trail continued and then disappeared into Long Cove. The next latrine, being the first latrine I checked for sign and there was this red stuff and snow matted way down from lots of activity. The latrine is no more than 10 ft from shore and so I followed the activity back to the water. It was really no surprise to see the trail continue along the shore above the high tide line and directly to an opening into the roots of a shoreline spruce. Too easy.


so many times up and down turn the snow
into ice and then I bet its even faster!
see the den opening at the top?

Marsh – love walking to this place. right out the back door! Camera check – the latrine next to one of the local otter dens had some activity, two of the three otters were captured on film, one sprainting.

I am standing on a beaver dam


big eyes and a little extra baggage on the side

with a little hamburger grease I smeared a log close to the woodland edge along the marsh to hopefully attract some large predator over and what I got was this flying squirrel. Well, that and this peace sign (thank you very much to whoever discovered my camera and left the thoughtful message). Anyway, active at 321 in the AM, big old eyes, flat tail, little extra baggage on the sides, not really a muffin top, or a muffin man for that matter. Anyway – this is new to me. But I am done with baiting for the camera. Has been fun and informative.


big eyes, flat tail, 3:48 in the AM

peace out

big eyes, 3:55 in the AM, holding tail flat

day one - janu 31st
tracks look to have been made two nights before

The evolution of otter tracks- snow  to ice. Here are the tracks in the marsh -from a latrine to an active den. couple days old when found. the ice tracks at the end are my favorite kind of track.

day one to my left

day 2

and then the next day starting/continuing transformation….


day 4

And thirdly on day 4…. Ice on ice. There is no missing link here.


Enjoy! It’s been enjoyable!