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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


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – April 1st, 2016

Thanks to VLT and MCHT and their continued support


Highlights – crossbills, Pine siskins, kittiwake, razorbill, woodcocks, phoebes, springtails, mink, wood ducks, early mushroom stuff and of course – owl and otter stuff




Business contact us with sightings, photos, questions, concerns, criticisms (we are not listening by the way) ….. ….


Click on the pictures to make them bigger – the ol’ Tiit trick!




Upcoming Events4/9 – Basin Clean-upwe all love the basin so let’s show it (our love) this Saturday – April 9th – 9am at Skoog. Bring some work gloves, a good attitude and we’ll see you there!


4/9Woodcock walk – after a nice morning of cleaning up the Basin, nothing comes close to taking that edge off than an evening of woodcocks.  This Saturday April 9th, 7pm at in the lane’s parking lot. Bring binos and warm clothes – woodcock walks are not strenuous.

The two activities above are VLT/MCHT co-sponsored. Thanks!

SightingsAnd speaking of woodcocksColleen and Jim Conlan report hearing Woodcocks (not sure why that is capitalized) a week or so back at Lane’s Island. People from all around the island and throughout mid-coast Maine are reporting woodcocks, and I seem to scare them up on most explorations these days. (4/4) spent a frozen crepuscular on lane’s

MINK! - Gabe Peter Harp reports seeing a mink out on Lane’s while exploring with his two favorite small naturalists Mia and Dylan. Here’s a picture of a mink coming out of a den I got recently at Lake Megunticook which is very close to Camden.
mink coming out of a den


Basin(3/29) – (singing) Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Song Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadees, Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinch, Ravens, Robins…


Others singing around island – song sparrow, phoebes, juncos,

red crossbill

John Drury reports Red Crossbills in Moyer’s boatyard. Red crossbills also seen regularly Long Cove way and heard at Huber.


Ferry Ride(3/21 – HBAP!) So we caught a nice little snow, hope folks got to take advantage of it however you take advantage of snow…


 (3/23) 5 Razorbill, many Long-tailed Duck, Kittiwake, molting Black Guillemots and Common Loons (not together), otter sign… - this was nice after the bonus snow on the first full day of spring (?) – otter slides from the ferry – Lairy’s Island – historic den appears to still be in use with trails and slides easily viewable from the ferry.

where the otter entered the sands


OttersOld Harbor Pond – (3/22) It didn’t take long for me to “meet” the new otter (same as the old otter? Apparently not) in my favorite Old Harbor Pond den. It also didn’t take long for the new otter to let me know that I am not welcome there. After years of standing on, over, and in front of this den - maybe 3 dozen times, many times when multiple otters were inside - and now I was finally growled at.

the otter would be coming right at ya.
nice truck!

I heard nothing when I approached the den site. I could see last night’s otter trail in the snow leading away from the den – and eventually across Sands Road to Sands Cove. The signs told that only one otter had spent the previous night in the den was no evidence of the otter returned. This is the first time of finding evidence of a solo otter in this den after 5 winters of tracking multiple otters there.

follow this back to the den

“It started out as a low growl” – I was standing about 5 feet from the entrance of the den when I started to hear a low rumble. I thought I might be a sound that my new phone was making – it shakes and beep when it wants to – but I recognized quickly that the sound was coming from the den. After a few seconds it started to get louder and then there was a splash. I learned that there is water under the den, and undoubtedly an underwater access option for the otter. I didn’t stay to check it out, message received and understood, there wasn’t enough room for me and the new guy.

while taking this photo I heard the otter growl

Well, it’s official. You are not from here anymore” Jamus Drury summarizing the underlying energy of this encounter. Not that I was ever from here, but catching spraint about it from an otter hit home!! I didn’t have to look for a deeper message because the message was clear – you are not welcome at the den. And I shall not return anytime soon. Gotta respect the growl.

I was standing on the den when I took
this photo

And so the dynamics have changed at den # 5 since the fun loving gang of 4 lived here. And with change comes a plethora of questions. Who is this otter?  A remaining otter from the gang of 4 maybe? A matured one – possibly a male (or a female) – with different hormones pumping through it (literally)?


Probably not a nursing female as from what I’ve read, and if what I’ve read is true, nursing females do not mark by the den with young. Makes sense, who cares if you draw attention to your den when it is empty, but when the helpless little ones are there probably a good idea not to attract too much attention. This den had plenty of spraint around it. It may be one of the gang of 4, matured and calling the shots. Regardless, there is a changing of the guards in the dynamics at old harbor pond. And this otter was a very good communicator.
nice spraint! - latrine associated with OHP den #5

more otters…. There is a place called the Acadia Center for English Immersion 

( ) and they contacted me about a student of theirs that was coming from Barcelona who was interested in wildlife and conservation. Would I be interested in spending an afternoon with Oscar and a teacher?  Once I found out he wasn’t a soccer fan I said “sure”.  For convenience sake we decided on Fernald’s Neck out in beautiful Lake Megunticook. And so I did a little otter tracking there and found 6 latrines and a place to put the camera up.

look at this beautiful scene - brown-out hump to the left
another spraint zone in the center and den opening

The first latrine I found was so classic and beautiful it almost made me cry. A nice mound with a brown out on top and spraint sliding down along its sides, maybe 20 plus spraints in all, and the fresher ones looked to have been laid (?) at different times. (Do you “lay a spraint”, like one would “lay a dookie”?).

"brown - out" is my favorite new otter
sign term/phrase. where they spraint and mark
so much that all plant life dies

This was right alongside an entrance to what had to be a sure fire otter den. I mean there was no other scat around- we are talking pure otter spraint my friends. So I put up the camera and got these shots of a big ol’ male river otter visiting the brown out (which was unfortunately outside of the lens view of the camera).


here's a photo gallery of the male visiting and marking the latrine area

notice that the tail is wagging
this dude is marking

look at that back foot - so webbed.

4:30 pm visit

just heading to the brown out

What’s equally as cool (kinda) was seeing a mink while putting up the camera. And then learn that the den in the photos in actually a mink den! The otter literally spraints all over this mink’s home! The pictures show the mink coming out of the den and sniffing where the otter had been marking.    
photo gallery - mink

coming out - same as above
sniffin' the spraint

sniffin' and lookin'


Had a good time exploring with Oscar from Barcelona and Brian from Camden, we found 10 Barred Owl pellets as well, to go along with the 15 or so pellets I had found on the recon mission to set up the camera. That’s a lot of pellets! Safe to say owls call some of shots out there at Fernald’s Neck!

apparently there is a lot of love
on fernald's neck

Bald eagles also nest along the raging shores of Megunticook… and Kerry Hardy watched the local couple get cozy on the ice not to far back. Here’s a shot of the pair a few steps away from each and a few moments away from cloacal kissing! Smooch city!

business time
photo by Kerry Hardy
she and he eagles
photo by Kerry Hardy

Otters in the Marsh….and now on to Tenants Harbor where I took the extra hour from the first day of daylight saving time (extra hour of light later in the day I mean), added it to a bunch of other hours and walked around the main section of the marsh north of the big beaver dam.

the marsh

this is an otter mound
this is an otter mound with spraint on top
All in all it was a 4 hour stroll looking for sign along the shore. 13 otter latrines, 3 mound areas (mounds with no spraint) and possibly 2or 3 new dens to go along with the 5 latrines and 1 active otter den I had found previously this winter. I also found two highly used otter trails heading off into the woods connecting the marsh to the ocean! To top it all off I saw an otter at the end of the walk, which made it an official otter walk.
this is a series of mounds with spraint
maybe 5 or six


the mounds were thick and wonderful around
the marsh

the cherry on top of mounds
is spraint

and of course there was this stuff

nice mound

why all the mounds? border between two male territories?
but there are three otters living in marsh? at least
never seen so many
leads to this
wide trail coming out of the water

Beyond the otter scene the local beaver folk have awoke and their phat trails coming out of the water led to some tree carnage evidence.

and this

wood duck and wigeon
photo by Linnell Mather
photo by Linnell Mather

Whatsmore… A great thing about the marsh is its geese. Paired up, spread out and making a racquet, the geese are always up to something. Here’s some geese pictures Linnell Mather took recently. These are Seattle geese, not Canada or Canadian or French Canadian

knockin' leif around



 For some reason the blog wont let me put pictures in the next section. associated photos are a little below(er). but it will let me put some leif photos here. kickin' ass!

Amphibians – as we know, Amphibian movement is often earlier than we realize. Spotted Salamanders migrating from wintering burrows to vernal pools often have to cross snow and deal with freezing temperatures in late March and early April (typical time frame for salamander migration on island).

This year however things warmed up and got moist early – and on the mainland here Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders moved on the nights of March 9th, 10th and 14th (at least many did). Vinalhaven conditions were similar, and undoubtedly salamanders have made their way to pools around island. This means that since migrating they have had to deal with snow and freezing temperatures that freeze the pools.

leif can handle it

and takes charge.

We’ll keep you posted on vernal pool status and numbers as the season goes and eggs are laid. Found wood frog eggs yesterday! Too bad Vinalhaven doesn’t have any of them.


Until then here are a couple of shots of Leif and his buddy Isaiah holding a pair of Spotted Salamanders I rented for the season (found on the road).


Rock on and keep it real!


See you out there!