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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


Sunday, November 20, 2016

inner tree

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – November 15th, 2016

Thanks to MCHT and VLT


Highlights – Great horned Owls, snow buntings, ducks such as old taileds & rbmergs, Ring-necked snake, bald eagles, common loon, red-necked & horned grebes, mushrooms, otter dens, trails and wonderful latrines!, other stuff – mink dens…


Business contact us! Gosh darn it, we (the royal “we”) are asking for you to share your nature sightings and photos! I mean, if you want to. You are welcome to share as much as you’re comfortable with, but still, it’s great to share…


Tiit Trick – click on photos to make them jumbo


bagged dog poop by the haven

Sightings Around the islandWhite-winged Crossbills heard/seen Reach Road, Wharf Quarry Road (flock of 15), Folly Pond Road and North Haven Road recently. Week of 11/7 there were more to be heard.

orange jelly

Red necked grebes and horned grebes at state beach.

heck yeah! we love hearing about dead things

Great Horned OwlsWalt Day stopped to tell me about a wonderful experience he had with a pair of Great Horned Owls in the woods near his house. Two owls hooted back and forth to each other for about 45 minutes. Walt noted that one of the owl's calls were lower than the other, which would be it was a “mixed gender” conversation – females have lower hoot tones (lower hoot tones?) than males. Walt was thrilled, as well he should be. Owls are nothing to take for granted, and we’re excited to hear what Walt finds with a little snoopin’ around under some choice trees on his property.

ring necked sanke lookin' at yah.
photo by Jim Conlan

Jim Conlan sent in this Ring-necked snake photo as well as a couple of a (probable) giant silk moth cocoon. neat to see what the sleeping moth looks like. thanks for sharing Jim!

giant moth pupae
photo by Jim Conlan

recent warm rains have resulted in some
nice late shroomage.
man do we love shroomage

photo by Jim Conlan


Ferry Rides – (11/9) – 37 old tailed ducks in Rockland harbor, red breasted mergansers, eiders, loons, Black Guillemots, Bonaparte’s and Laughing Gull.…(11/14) old tails & bufflehead in Rockland harbor, Great Cormorant, 10 Red-breasted Merganser. 

looks like a lot of otter potential over there

otter trails with tails

Pleasant river (10/25) every time I pedal past the boondoggle I look over across the “pleasant river” and drool about the river otter potential on the other side. A few weeks ago I went over and walked the shoreline there and my dreams came true. It was for work and with landowner permission!


Pleasant River turns into pleasant mud flat at lower tides, and the mud told some stories of otter crossings….


I walked the shoreline (opposite from North Haven Road) and actually the entire property line thru the woods before I finally found a classic otter latrine under a spruce close to the culvert. Some serious landscaping had been done there including mound building, clearing and sprainting as the cherry on top!

you can really see the boundary of the otter latrine.
the area cleared of leaves is totally done by otters. totally 

spraint and needles

the den was in the roots of this tree

a quick trail from the latrine to the rocks below turned up a den (#18 for the year) in the rocks and under a nearby spruce. This one was easy, but took a long time to get there. Slow and easy….just like the Whitesnake song…


Seal Bay – (10/25) I came across a series of trails, slides and latrines that led me to a mink den along the shores of Seal Bay. In a perfect world mink dens would get me as excited otter dens do. So much for perfect, but they are fun to find and the slides and trails certainly are cute to follow, whereas otter trails are not cute at all. Fun at times, cool always, but cute never. Awesome yes. Anyway…



mink latrine

mink slide into the water!

spark plug

Paddle to CalderwoodOld tailed ducks, Surf scoters, Common Loons, Bald Eagles, Guillemots

I saw my first Oldtail of the season in the thorofare

shaggy manes.
how are they not the state shroom?

Calderwood Island – 8 Snow Buntings sailing around – favorite part of the day was seeing these guys fly around the high point of the island.

we are fans of the basin falls

a different look at a shaggy mane

Another story….

(11/9) Walk around Basin Falls. On this day I completely circumvented the basin on my bike, or as completely "circumpedaled" as I could and still have stayed on ‘improved’ roads. The first leg of my adventure took me to wharf Quarry road and the ride was most pleasurable.


this rock wall is key to this story

Part of my job with MCHT takes me once a year to the property on the north side of the basin falls. It took me a while that morning to figure out that was my plan of action, but once I knew I was going there my mind focused on the shoreline I would be exploring.
this amanita muscaria froze or something.
looked cold.

On the ferry…in my head…I predicted I would find a 20th ‘new’ otter den for me on the old rock pier just outside and north of the basin falls. Back in the day this would have been a busy pier, but it’s been a long time and it just seemed perfect (even though I had only been there once and it had been years ago) for otters.


rocky pier. otter den on top!
Predicting an otter den in old rock pile on vinalhaven?  Not too bold a call at all. Otters are easier after all. The bold/bald (the bold and the bald!!!!!!) part of the prediction was that it would be my 20th, as I had only found (only) 18 dens up to that point. I was figuring I was going to find one along the stretch of shoreline inside the falls and north from there for a stretch. How bold? Not that bold really. I would say it’s about a 50/50 chance to find a den along any stretch of shoreline on any property on Vinalhaven. They are either there or they aren’t. And if they aren’t there must be a more attract place not too far away. Anyway….


otter trail in the fersn
…once far down wharf quarry road I have to end south into the woods until I cross paths with an old rock wall. This is my favorite rock wall on the island probably.


Anyway, from this rock wall it’s pretty much a straight shot down to the basin shoreline, just cutting across and down a hay-scented fern field. At the shoreline is where I figured my adventure would begin.

tracking rover otters in ferns.
what a world

As things would be, my adventure started about half way down the fern field when I noticed a worn trail that cut across downed ferns, but went under ferns that were still standing, less than a foot off the ground. Too wide to be a mink (svelte), the trail looked to have been made by a raccoon or an otter. So I followed it to a beautiful latrine by the shore (very dreamy) and then took about 5 more steps and found the entrance to den #19. It was destiny. And way too easy.

waterfront den entrance. not bad

I followed the path back up the hill thinking it might be a trail across property – kind of a short cut to avoid having to go by the basin falls. Up, up and up the tracking took me until I was face to face with acres and acres of huckleberry. If the otter went thru that stuff I was not about to follow. Too much work! Not enough time!

on the way the otter went under this log

this is an otter trail going up a small incline

another orange jelly shot!

can you see the water from here?
otter latrine with spraints, moss scratches
and mounds. with a view!
But it didn’t cut through that huckleberry world, instead it veered through some rocks to a spot where I couldn’t get much of a feel for the trail. I climbed up to a high rock to see if I could get an overview, but when I got to the top I learned I wasn’t the first visitor to the mossy rock. It was an otter latrine!

Hot fat that was cool. The otter(s) went all the way up there just to “lay some spraint”. I found the entire thing very inspirational. Very satisfying movements I would think.


mink den entrance and latrine.

Back at the shoreline I found a nice mink den as I approached the falls from inside the Basin. Cool leaning tree with a view!


nice latrine outside an entrance to the den

I worked my way towards the stone pier, serenaded by Old tailed Ducks and White-winged Crossbills, climbed up, over and onto the pier (I will assume access was easier back in the day!) and within seconds found otter trails criss-crossing the underworld below the spruce. Within minutes (conservative guess) I was on top of den #20, and I raised my coffee mug up in a salute to all the dens I had found as well as the ones that I had walked by.


den #20.
The whole experience left me with a smile on my face, like calling the entire second set at MSG (9/18/88). It was fun, but all in all not too surprising. They were both are straight forward and somewhat easy. But as you all should know by now, otters are easier….


Basin - (11/14) - More White-winged Crossbills on the ride in, access via Folly Pond Road. 7 Bald Eagles at Folly Pond, 5 different ages were represented. that is always cool to see.

folly pond looked like this on the 14th

As I walked along the Basin shoreline I made sure I checked by any freshwater streams, criks, or drips for otter sign. Spots where  the fresh water meets the salt water are perfect places for latrines - otters exploring an area might be interested in following streams in hopes to find a pond or other areas for feeding. Anyway, in my experience these are good spots to check...

latrine and brown out

I only crossed one such spot, just below High Mountain and found a latrine and trail almost immediately. the trail was classic, heading up and away from the latrine and the basin. I followed for a bit and realized it was heading up to Otter Pond, which makes sense it being made by otters and all that.

otter trail heading up from the latrine

So that would mean that this trail is another land crossing from the Basin to Vinal Cove, via Otter and Folly Pond.
Why would we (the royal "we") say this? Because that's the way they go, or at least one of the ways they go, from the Basin to Vinal Cove.  These are the ancient, sacred trails used by otters for generations (like 4 or 5 maybe?) that connect the east and the west coasts of the island. Both coasts might not always get along, but through otters just about everybody on island is connected. Deep spraint. in at least a few ways....very cool to find

flicker tail feather

that white dot in the intersection between me and the
yellow arrow is a black capped chickadee. seemed weird

Random shots

recently the moon was as close to the seaweed factory
as it will be for like 50 years or something.
special times

good low tides, palmer is not bending at the knees

and of course there is Leif... that kid


have yourself a wonderful thanksgiving everybody. I for one am looking forward to reflecting on the good things. gagillions of beautiful things happen everyday, enjoy some. see you out there!!!!!!!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report -
November 13th, 2016
MCHT/VLT supported!

Alright, I am working on the regular VSR - its coming along nicely, lots of photos, should be up in a few days - when the story below happened.

There is a ton of photos with this one, and I just needed to get these "out of the way" as Pat Lundhom would say. So this is the official....


..Stinky chicken story, Halloween, and thank you Francisco Lindor VSR edition.....


that blob that the squirrel is sniffin' is the chicken

Chicken story (based on a true story) – this story takes place in tenants harbor!

one of the main characters in this story is a stinky chicken. A dead, stinky chicken. It's the one that woke me up from my nap (and I am a big nap fan). It woke me up from my nap with its stench.

little mouse dude coming down for a sniff
check out those eyes.

I came out of my room, checked the bathroom and then asked if some had pooped in the living room. Things were smelling so bad. . “it’s the chicken” Amy exclaimed.

even a grey squirrel came by
only tail showing
leif would have felt like this if he had eaten that chicken

“I am not eating that chicken” was Leif's firm statement that got the ball rolling on this project. There had been a short discussion of possibly cooking it, but the smell of the raw made it apparent that it had to go.

So I grabbed the camera, a flashlight and some latex gloves and went outside. Found a deer trail, found a branch, jammed the chicken onto it, put the camera across from it.


Went back the next day with Leif and realized a couple of the neighborhood girls might use a path close – like really close – to the chicken.  So we grabbed some gloves, took the chicken, found a different looking path, jammed (not jellied) the chicken onto a branch and put the camera across from it. This is all within 200 feet of our backdoor.

So we got the squirrels and the mouse over the first couple of days (photos above) , but then around 2:06am on (11/11) this Fisher showed up to take a sniff or two

then decided to come back a minute or so later to get a closer look....

...and that the chicken was his......

he made another check a few minutes later to see if he had left anything...

went back to the chicken

and that appeared to be it...until he returned 2 hours later...

check out those feet!

climbing, sniffin' and inspecting.....

the fisher made his way up the tree. the tail is wide at the base, reminiscent of river otters...

he then climbed back down the tree

 Love the climbing down head first...

...apparently Fisher can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees so they can use their claws on the way down. they climb down with their hind feet pointing up.

that is my head

and then 11 hours later I got the camera

and so here we are. As some of you know, I am a sucker for river otters, but I think I may have found my next project. Tracking Fisher! (hopefully!)!!!! come on snow! cant get here quick enough!!!!

thank you Francisco Lindor!
this photo is sponsored by Taco Bell

and how could we forget!!!!! a big thank you to Francisco Lindor, shortstop of the Cleveland baseball team, who stole second base in game one of the world series. For some reason his doing that got Leif and I free tacos at Taco Bell. We wish he would steal second more often!!!!!!!!!

and some Halloween stuff!

interesting times to say the least. be safe out there.

we'll check in with the regular vsr in a day or two....