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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 27, 2016

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report -
May 26th, 2016


Thanks to the generous support of MCHT and VLT


“It’s an f*****g shag“– guy on the ferry talking about cormorants. With attitude



we're born again, there's new grass on the field

Highlights – Ancient Murrelet, Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-gray gnatchcatchers, Warblers (lots o’ them), Seals with pups, Harlequin Ducks, Giant Water Bug, Shadbush (Wine), Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, things I find in the woods, bike rides, all kinds of stuff…


Business contact us – photos and sightings request! –


Tiit trick – click on the photos to make them jumbo sized.


I found this on Armbrust Hill
Can you guess what it is?
Winter Moth updateMerry Boone reports “silks and winter moth larvae” all around town. Look for dangling tiny caterpillars, or just look for “swiss cheese” like holes in your leaves to see if you are infested. Word on the street is that samples of caterpillars will be taken soon(ish) is see if the parasitic flies released a few years back are starting to “take”. Once again it can take about 10 years for the flies to take hold, so we are in the “wait and see” stage. As opposed to the “run and see “stage, also known as the “black peter” stage. That stage was not pretty for Jerry. Let’s hope the next stage is not pretty for winter moth. I am tired of them.

can you see the burn? its in the middle of the peninsula

Huber Fire – Big thanks out to the hard working volunteer fire crew of the Vinalhaven Fire Department on putting out a burn in the “oak point” peninsula at Huber preserve. Ellen and Michael Chandler (thanks to you two too!) reported smoldering and smoky moss at Huber and within minutes 16 fire fighters were deployed to (full) bucket brigade the issue.

burnin' hot! hot! hot!

these brown outs are not done by otters
Deemed to have been started by lightning, the juniper and bayberry out at the point burned hot and fast, good enough to brown (and kill) some trees but fortunately was found “past its prime”.  MCHT thanks all those involved in the dowsing of the fire, be safe and alert out there!  

heading for the bubble rocks
photo by Colleen Conlan

Kid stuff - its been a fun couple of weeks hanging out with kids at tip-toe, polly cove, and the pond scooping in the quarries by the school. big thanks goes out to VLT, PIE, MCHT and the Vinalhaven School for arranging and supporting such fun days!

a highlight find was this massive "giant water bug"
AKA - "toe biter" & "electric light bug"
apparently they are attracted to lights.
doesn't seem that unusual for an insect

one thing we found in the quarries by the school was the killer to the right - a giant water bug looking very much like "Lethocerus americanus", which apparently gets to 2.5 inches. this one may have been even bigger. I don't think I have ever seen one bigger than half the size of this guy. I am a guy so my perspective on inches may be skewed, but I would have said 3.5-4 inches!

gotta keep 'em separated
we (the royal "we") plopped this bad guy in the main container and he (the royal "he") immediately killed a backswimmer. probably for being annoying (they are annoying!).  

When the GWB started "eyeing" the tadpole Alice took decisive action and kept the predator at bay while the tadpole swam around in circles, never seeming to be able to get away. eventually we let them go, but it was fun to see Alice protect the tadpole. hats off for a good show! good to have you there Alice!

that cute little guy mixed in with the razorbills is an
ancient murrelet
photo by Keenan Yakola
Sightings – on the water - Ancient Murrelet  – John Drury spotted this beauty hanging out with a bunch of razorbills (bad influences) off Seal Island last week. 1st Maine record (as far as we can tell) this little guy is a north pacific local in breeding and then common along the California coast at least thru Monterey bay in the winter.


An Audubon website said this:


ancient murrelet with eiders
photo by Keenan Yakola

Some remain all year off southern Alaska, others move south to waters off California in winter. Disperses widely at sea after breeding. Of North American auks, this one is most likely to appear far inland. Records exist for many states and provinces east to Quebec and New York, south to Nevada and New Mexico. A few such records occur virtually every year, most in October or November.


so in other where near Maine!
lady slipper at Huber (5/17)

Anyway, another great John Drury sighting from out at Seal island. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a trip with John today! The summer is filling up fast and the red-billed tropicbird is back! Never know what might turn up when you are onboard the Skua. Here’s John’s blog and contact -  




More from John – Little Roberts - 5 great cormorant nests & Harlequin Ducks,

leif found this spider nest at polly cove

From Greens - John also reports Blue-grey gnatcatcher among many warblers…. Nashville's, Yellow. Wilson's Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped warblers , Parula, redstarts.


Baltimore oriole
photo by Colleen Conlan
Patience Chamberlin also reports Blue-grey Gnatcatcher from the Basin. As well as Rose-breasted Grosbeak and many species of warblers


And speaking of Baltimore Orioles….good spring for them apparently, reports coming in from all over the island and even I saw and heard a pair. Colleen Conlan sent in this shot of a bright male “roosting on pipe” as the say.



Baltimore oriole - same one
photo by Colleen Conlan
 On the island – Armbrust Hill (5/18) – Chestnut sided, Black-throated Green, Yellow, Nashville’s, Black and White Warblers, Parula, Overnbird, Yellowthroat, Baltimore Orioles, Cedar Waxwings


Round the island bike ride (5/18) Yellow-rumped, Magnolia Warblers, American Redstart, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Alder Flycatcher, Hermit Thrushes, Broad-winged Hawk, Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Catbird.


the basin is nice

several blackburnian warblers singing up at Polly Cove (5/26)

On the ferry – (5/16) - many phat seals on ledges but no seal pups observed on the 7am....

(5/18) 4:30 ferry - 5 mother/pup nursing pairs observed....

(5/23) 7am - 10 mother/pup combos...(5/23) Razorbill


from the platform, seal pup being born below
In the basin – I took this picture from the observation platform where I was observing (5/18) while having a snack. what I did observe were two mother/pup harbor seal pairs laying on ledges exposed with the lowering of the tides (pardon my poetic waxing). there was a third adult harbor seal moaning and making quick, active dives back and forth close to the closest of the ledges exposed with the lowering of the tides. I could hear her moans as I approached the platform, and watched as she made several quick dives (with moans at the surface).

cabbage before ferns in the basin

I sat down and she made a few more passes and then took a long dive - or at least longer than she had before. When she came up she was not alone. A little head was following her in the water. fFeshly born? Seems like it and water births are so "in" these days. Twas the second time I have seen that in the basin. I waved to the seal and welcomed it as the two headed off towards ledges exposed with the lowering tide.  

still hasn't found what its looking for
otter explores Huber Preserve

At the Huber –  while checking up on the fire scene I found some otter spraint in the trail at "the rock bridge" with the water on your left when heading to Seal Bay. Anyway and blah, blah, blah - I have never seen spraint there or sign of otters at all on Huber even though they have a significant presence in Seal Bay and Winter Harbor.

My guess would be a new member or visitor to the area following wetlands and freshwater looking for a path to somewhere. A pond, a cove, a lake , a den. some place to eat, sleep or mate. I would think this otter would've been disappointed with what it found.


if you guessed it was "skull in scat" you are correct!
looks like a local cat ate
Bike rides to the ferry – have to say I have really been appreciating the 2 morning bike rides to catch the 8:45 to vinalhaven I have done recently.


(5/10) bobolink, turkey, pileated woodpecker, black-throated green, yellow rumped, black and white, yellow warblers, overnbirds.


(5/17) Yellow, yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, chestnut-sided (impressive numbers), Black and white warblers, ovenbirds, yellowthroat, redstart, parula, blue headed vireo, Brown Creeper.

shadbush, service berry. whatever you call it
its pretty pretty.

and the hits keep coming

poop in a bag! on the ground!

good to see old friends and seaweed hair gel at polly cove

big hugs and love to aunt linda gentalen!
hope you are feeling better!

see you out there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

this is referred to as a spotted turtle

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings report – may 10th, 2016

Big thanks to VLT and MCHT

April Snow - photo by Jim Clayter
Highlights – Red Crossbill with young, Spotted Turtles, Warblers including Black and White and Ovenbird, Great Horned Owl pellets, Mourning Cloak butterfly, Great Blue Heron in the snow,


Photos– a mid-spring snow (4/25) caught some off guard, not Jim Clayter though. He got this shot of a Great Blue Heron in the late April snow in Old Harbor Pond. Thanks for sending this in Jim!


Sightings(5/10) on island – Norhtern Parula, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Green, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrow singing,

the sighting in this picture is muskrat scat
(5/10) – bike ride to ferry (from tenants harbor) – lots of Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Black and white warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Single Yellow Warbler and Bobolink.


its this time of the year
(4/29-30) here are some highlights from the two days on island with a bike – red crossbills with young, pitcher plants, bald eagle on rocks, calling red-necked grebe, deconstructing State Beach, spotted turtle, spotted salamander eggs (in new spots (for me) in the basin), savannah sparrow, American robins & yellow rumped warblers on the seaweed, black and white warbler singing at Huber parking, lots of yellow rumped singing, also singing hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow, brown creeper; loons, eiders, male harrier, otter spraint, 2 owl pellets, newts, geese, red-breasted merg, bufflehead, razorbill in lairy’s narrows, mourning cloak butterfly.  


we want a pitcher, not a belly itcher

Red Crossbills with young. Over the last few months we’ve (the royal “we’ve”) been reporting about the small, but consistent population of wintering Red Crossbills on island. Sightings have typically had groups of 2-3 individuals. Things have changed though as groups of 6-8 were witnessed (testify! It’s right outside your door) at Long Cove, Round the island Road, Mack’s Pond, and by the platform on the eastern side of the Basin (all of which are American dreams). Family groups out for beautiful day flights!


These areas are all have supported breeding red crossbill populations in the last 4-6 years.  


The round-the-island-road sighting was especially rewarding, a bright red adult male crossbill landed on the moss on the ground in a boggy area. Watching that red rascal drink up water from a pool was refreshing. Soon a young crossbill whose bill hadn’t crossed yet (takes a few weeks after fledging for the bills to cross) joined him lower than eye level. Seeing these from my bike made it all the more special-ech-tacular. You know what I mean.


these two were feeling it
on the side of my house
The bible (aka The Birder’s Handbook) says that Red Crossbills incubate – 12-18 days, and then fledge after 15-20 days. Quick math has the time period between egg laying and birds leaving the nest somewhere between 27 days and 38 days for Red Crossbills. Quick (but not exact) subtraction from the 4/30ish sightings put egg laying commencing (it takes a few days) somewhere between March 15th and April 1st.


afternoon a tip-toe beach
red-spotted newt - chillin'
savannah sparrows are lovely to hear
Here’s what else they (the royal “they”) say in the birder’s handbook – “usually breeds from late winter to early spring. Male feeds incubating and brooding female by regurgitation, accompanied by mutual calling. Tips of mandibles cross gradually over few weeks after fledging. Individuals are right- or left-handed in opening cones, according to which way the mandibles cross. Mandibles inserted into cone force and hold apart the scales, seed then lifted out by tongue. Reminiscent of small parrots when climbing slowly among braches using both bills and feet. In Rockies, may breed in year hatched. “


In other words, sometime back in March male red crossbills were regurgitating digested seed stuff (probably quite pulpy) into the mouths of female red crossbills who happened to be incubating eggs that the male (hopefully, for his sake) has fertilized, oh so many moons ago!

spotted salamander eggs from the basin

Apparently the “paste regurgitation” has paid off as (seemingly) loving groups of crossbills were seen to be feasting on a healthy crop of red spruce cones topping off many of the trees around.    


Spotted Turtle – (4/30) took a few moments to walk along the stream that feeds into “Mack’s pond” which is more like “Mack’s pool” these days, to look for spotted turtles. Trevor Persons (remember that guy from last year? Caught and “tagged” turtles in the Basin?) mentioned he had seen one there, and so I took a look.

spotted turtle heading into the muck
"into the mud scum queen!"

And it was way too easy to find one this day. The turtle looked surprised and then spooked – after a minute staring contest the turtle went head first into the muck. It wiggled its way into being gone over the span of a minute, and then the big bubble came up. Many would say that was “just an air bubble from under its carapace” and we all know that is more than just “likely” the source. But there is still some part of each of us that hopes that “the big bubble that creeps out many moments after the previous bubble barrage ended”, well we all hope that that bubble turns out to not be “just an air bubble from under its carapace” but instead is what is commonly referred to in “the trade” as a “turtle toot”.


Yes, possibly the last attempt of a turtle desperate to minimalize buoyancy so as to remain submerged in the muck, and what better way than releasing some gas. If you were a turtle, what would you do?


air bubble rising to the surface
Either way (toot. Or not a toot.) Spotted turtles are protected under the Maine state endangered species act. Always good to see them!


turtle toot ripples

The marsh – tenants harbor – (5/1) Red-winged Blackbird, Canada Geese, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Cowbird, phoebe, flicker, song sparrow, red-breasted nuthatch, chickadee, goldfinch, purple finch, ruby-crowned kinglets, downy and hairy woodpecker…(5/3) Brown Creeper, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Wood ducks, Canada geese, peepers.

bluebird egg
photo by Carol Gentalen

wright brothers museum
photo by Amy palmer
South Carolina - the blue bird box in mom's front yard has had an active spring. here's a shot that my mom took of a bluebird egg in the box! good work mom!

leif and uto by the creek in yellow springs
photo by Amy Palmer

and leif in ohio visiting with his friend Uto from japan.