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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, August 31, 2016

"spraint with a view"
Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – August 31at, 2016

Thank you to VLT and MCHT, for your continued support

 Four years gone. Miss you Dad! Wish you were here.



Highlights Solitary Sandpipers, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, great horned owls, tree swallows, otter dens, sand dollars, pinesap (the plant!), othere stuff!


Business - contact us! – – with sightings, photos, questions and/or email



Tiit Trick – click on the photos to make them huge!


Thank you – to the folks who came by the town hall for the coyote talk the other night (8/22). It was fun for me to do.

and a big thanks to those who share sightings with us!


solitary sandpiper
photo by Rick Morgan
Sightings – Folly Pond – (8/15) - Rick Morgan took these photos of Solitary Sandpipers while paddling through. Rick also reports 6 wood duck, Canada Geese and about 10 Bald Eagles. Nice report and nice sightings! Folly pond is a place to be and it is great for viewing.

"not-so" solitary sandpiper(s)
photo by Rock Morgan


"one-legged geese"
photo by Jim Clayter
 Old Harbor Pond – Jim Clayter sent in these photos of Canada Geese in Old Harbor Pond.  Looking good. Thank you Jim.


In the bay – Seal Bay – MCHT Mount Desert Island Steward “ ’lil Dougy” McMullin spent a night in Seal Bay recently (7/25) and heard at least 3 Great Horned owls hooting it all up from lands around the water. Sounds like it was pretty cool.


female eider
photo by Rick Morgan

(7/24) Also in Seal Bay – Hay Island – Rick Morgan and his (and Arlenes!) daughter Julia were camping and cooking out when they were “serenaded by a Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow for 30 minutes”. Awesome to hear they are there and even awesomer that Rick knew what to listen for with the Nelson’s! Hot iron being dipped in water is the “song” described in Sibleys as “pl-tesh hhhhh-ush”. Catchy tune for sure!


this year's model
juvenile Black Guillemot


(8/23) Magic On the water – well. (Maybe the magic was more on the islands I visited). But I did paddle to the white islands last Tuesday and man was it magical. At least once a year I make a paddle out to the white islands, north westish of the hurricane island.  Highly recommend it! This is always a favorite trip of mine. Black Guillemot juvenile welcomed me to the archipelago.

"red tide pool" not red tide
more treasure

little white is nice
Little White Island was my first stop, as it is an island with a pretty strict low tide landing. Several sand dollars were there to welcome me ashore. Nice start…

mink den with washed out scat

osprey nest


…I started out from the north west “corner” (the royal “corner”) and went clockwise, a safe choice that lets one bound along a ledgey shoreline. I stopped by the osprey nest (osprey were around the islands, active and vocal),

close up of washed out scat

....and then checked out the mink den that’s been active over the last few years. It had an impressive pile of very “washed scat” (old pieces), but no sign of recent use.


little more active


Then I came across this second mink den, with multiple entrances (or exits really) that showed some recent use (more recent than that watered down scat at the first den!). good to see.


"5 dried spraints and a crack"

well-worn area by marshy spot

I made my way to “the marshy spot” (“TDC”) where over the years (the last 9 to be exact) an otter (or two) would mark rocks next to a marshy spot (the only marshy spot along the shore to be exact). The “typical 5 dried spraint on a rock” was to be found again this trip as it is pretty much every year.

old spraint skid marks

I stepped a few rocks over – as I have 9 years in a row – and came across the newly named “the stinky spot”. Newly named in honor of the strong aroma that came along with each photo taken – really close experiences to get shots of the spraints! Anyway…

so stinky


Thick, frothy, super fresh and four of them! Looked like mostly lobster in them, and we all know how lobster effects their digestive systems! Loosens and moisturizes (or “adds moisture” or however it is worded), and the runny streaks running down the edge of the rocks offer evidence of an overflow of moisture in the spraint. In my experience this added liquid is trypical of “otter spraints of lobster”.

every have one of those days....

…and so you see Monday (the morning before) it had poured, “Poured like the mother of dickens” (love that phrase). The fresh spraints were clearly laid (laid spraint!) after the storm, so likely Monday night/ Tuesday morning. So fresh that I would have quessed they were made that morning, potentially right before they ventured into a den.


I always picture the otters facing the "best"
view when "dropping spraint". I wonder if it
has more to do with direction of travel.


Adding to the fun were several old (or “elder”) spraints. Clearly older (at least older than the day before when it rained) it was apparent that “the stinky spot” had been marked multiple times recently.

otter run anyone?

There was a nice run from the “spraints in the latrine” (should have been the name of a Police album – would have most likely been the best part of the album!) that darted into some trees and behind a boulder. Closer examination showed a root system of a dead, leaning tree pretty much exposed and ready to be entered (if you know what I mean).
anyone home?

the den is under the tree leaning
behind the bolder


Anyway, I am willing to say that while the den may have been active in years past, there is no way I have missed this activity in years past. New den! I think number 11 for the year! Not sure.

raccoon scat with operculum

And so I continued to make my way clockwise, found a nice raccoon scat and it was made up mostly of crab shells but a snail operculum breaks the crab continuum. At least for a second.

sweet spot spraint

well-worn sweet spot
Back in the woods I was almost back to the beach with the sand dollars and my kayak. I had to pass by “the sweet spot” an area named for an historic abundance of otter spraint – maybe 40+ every visit.

Today there was one spraint – somewhat recent. Other than that the area looked well trampled, certainly marked in some ways, just not with spraint. A quick look down the bank had a couple of openings in the bank, below and in a tree’s roots. One had evidence of a dig out last winter maybe.


While not showing signs of currently being “active”, the den was possibly used over the winter, and possibly a female with young. Word is that there is no spraint close to den when young are in! But this is hefty speculation laid on here.

this bird had its brains eaten

The real story was two dens new to Kirk on an island I have visited many times. Great start to the day.

cool looking

spectacle island beach

A quick visit to Spectacle/White Island turned up a couple of otter latrines, a mink latrine and some nice rocks.


Continuing on….to Bald Island – which is a special one for me in many ways. One of course being the name. And the other being the awesome otter den in the fresh water marshy quarry on top. I checked on the three main trails to the den and found them to be thick with signs of use.
otter trail - straight shot

Otter trail, lined with spraint. Straight shot right to the heart of the matter
this is the gross gooey stuff

Otter slide – awesome and epic as always. Spraint along the slide and that gross white gooey stuff, that apparently can turn yellow over time.

top of the otter slide

look for the trail thru the cattails
across the way.

The best is the photo where you can see where the otters cross water (after sliding/running down) and then follow a well-worn trail through the cat tails. Very cool

this was stinky and in a new spot

Otter rocks. May be where the 4 otters had been hanging/focussed before heading over to little white. But who knows.

den # 3 for the day?
thank you very much!
And then I continued on…only to come across some stinky otter spraint in a spot I’d never smelled (nor seen) spraint before. And then there was a hole behind it that looked worn and visited. Den # 3 for the day – and I think #13 for the year (and its only august!). Quick easy and fun. Lovely day…and paddle….

I have a guess as to what animal uses that den and trail

On the way back I spotted this den when close to Crane Island (or one of it’s little pocket islands to the south). Not making any bets here…….

(8/24) bird walk – another nice morning, group and birds. Lane’s was sweet – Waxwing, Goldfinch and Purple Finch putting on nice displays on the tops of trees and the goldfinch posing on thistle.


State Beach turned up a pair of Greater Yellowlegs by the causeway (rough part of town) that were actively fishing and chasing (and eating!) tiny phish in the shallows. Common Loons, Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers, osprey from the causeway. Sweet looks….


Continuing on the group was entertained by a flock of 40-50 Tree Swallows that started out over the water circling and feeding and then came over to the group for a very low fly over. And then the process started again and went for several rounds.  Truly a remarkable experience. I haven’t see more than a couple dozen swallows (if that many) on Vinalhaven and can remember only one bird walk were we saw swallows and I think we saw like 4 total. Anyway, great wrap up to the bird walk. Fun for everyone.

this year's model - Herring Gull flavor

That afternoon I got to spend some time with some 1st year students from Bowdoin College on their 2nd day of school. We went to Huber and cut back the trail for a few hours with loppers. It was fun and the kids were cool.


pine sap is cool

We also found some pine sap and I took this crappy, out of focus picture of them. Pine sap is parasitic, as we know, and somewhat reminiscent of Indian Pipes but have multiple blooms on each stem. Anyway, I don’t find these too often on Vinalhaven, maybe one patch every few years or something.


old coral mushroom
Anyway. Some gallery photos……




afternoon delight
or at least a version of it





excited for some climbing




chillin' with the monkeys




calm like the Buddha

big fun at monkey c money do.

And some Leif stuff. Enjoy the day!