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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, January 18, 2017

typical guys in hot pursuit. Oldtailed Ducks some call these

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – January 16, 2017

Brought to you with the support of VLT and MCHT

January can be a great time to get on the

Highlights – Rough-legged Hawk, Iceland Gull, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Ducks, Grebes, Great Cormorants, and Crow stuff, vernal pools, jelly fungus….kicking a dog story

on Feb 10 we will turn this....

Upcoming Event – hey – Friday, February 10th is a full moon so MCHT and VLT are offering a “Full Moon Bonfire and Snowshoe/hike” at Huber Preserve. Here’s how it’s going to happen….


...into this
At 4pm interested folks will meet at the Skoog Park parking area to carpool to Huber. At Huber I will meet the group (and already have the bonfire going) and we will hike/snowshoe and track the trail to the fire. After marshmallows and hot chocolate the sun will set (it often does) and the full moon will rise and then we’ll make our way back using only the light of the moon (hopefully). Should be a blast – back to Skoog by 7 or 7:30ish. Hope to see you there!

snow, rain and melting equals a lot of water in the woods

Business – contact us – send us your photos and sightings and get your name in the next VSR! It’s quite an honor – could be the highlight of the year for you. So contact us at


Tiit trick – good ol’ dad was the first one to tell me that if you CLICK on a PHOTO it makes the image BIGGER. So try it out!

male Common Eider looking sharp


Sightings – Greens Island – Rough-legged Hawk (reported by John Drury)


The Reach – Red-throated loon


Huber (1/4) – Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ravens, Bald Eagle, 33 Common Goldeneye, 31 Bufflehead, 6 Oldtailed Ducks, 4 Common Eider


Ferry Rides – (1/4) 8:45 out of Rockland-  102 Oldtailed Ducks, 39 Common Loon, 37 Surf Scoter, 37 Black Guillemots, 42 Common Eiders, 17 Bufflehead, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 11 Black Ducks, 1 Common Goldeneye, 10 Great Cormorants, 3 Razorbill, 3 Red-necked Grebe, 1 Horned Grebe, 4 Harbor Porpoise, 8 Crows all heading from Vinalhaven to the mainland….


…the story this trip was the impressive amount of birds highlighted by the hefty amount of Old-taileds and the nice Iceland Gull! 10 Great Cormorants on the ledges outside Lairey’s (most I have seen from a single ferry trip I think!), and the crows heading to the mainland (more on that later). Probably the best ride I have been on this winter.


A couple of blurry Iceland Gull shots. A white-winged gull

great cormorants have been making their presence felt
from the ferry these days.

(1/4) Pete Jacques made a winter ferry crossing and sent in this info from the 1pm out of Rockland…


Common loon, 2 bald eagles (1 juvenile), 10 oldsquaw (I know, I know), 5 black duck, 7 common eider (3 male), 5 great cormorants


Thanks for the report Pete!


Hurricane Sound surf scoter taking a wave for the team
(1/12) report from John Drury from Ferry crossing -  2 razorbills, 12 kittiwakes,  several dozen loons, 2 Surf Scoter, oldtailed ducks, 8 Great Cormorants  and some bonapartes gulls crossing the bay. Thanks for the report John!


(1/13) 7am to Vinalhaven – 30 Oldtailed Ducks, 18 Common Loons, 10 Common Eider, 12 Black Guillemot, 13 Razorbill, 14 Black-legged Kittiwake, 1 Bonaparte’s Gull, 6 Great Cormorants, 6 Purple Sandpiper, 1 Bald Eagle, 5 Surf Scoter, 7 American crows


those are 6 purple sandpipers flying beyond the seal

The story here…was the nice assortment of birds including Kittiwakes, Purple Sandpipers, and Razorbillthe winter ferry ride “Trifecta” as we say. Winter trips with all three are special right there. I liked getting the purple sandpipers in the picture when I was taking a shot of a seal.


tree ears are out in January with the warmer rainy days
The other thing was the crows….the last two morning trips I saw about a dozen or so (total) crows flying individually over the bay to Rockland (mistake number 1 crows!). Murders of crows – sizable groups of crows (20-70) - are spotted around Vinalhaven every winter, recently at Pumpkin Ridge and the Basin. That has been the extent of my observation of crow migration, so it was cool to see some heading out to new lands, possibly leaving the murder at Pumpkin Ridge to find more crows to hang with somewhere else. Also its one (or a dozen) less crows to yell at me in the woods, which is nice on its own!

everyone loves seeing orange jelly in the winter


a little black jelly roll

and water flowing down the platform trail
water in the basin

The Huber vernal pool has been overflowing 

skunk cabbage loves this time of the year...
so much promis

my favorite vernal pool on the mainland, solid
in three months there will be 1000s of wood frog and
spotted salamander eggs

abandoned beaver lodge.
probably warmer than my fingers were

Mainland tracking -a couple of weekends ago it was really cold and we got a little snow. Little enough to get me out on the ice and looking, cold enough for me to have intense pain in my fingers as I was trying to snap some shots of tracks I was finding. Hazard pay is due for sure. Anyway…

coyote trail

here's where the Coyotes made their way onto
the ice. note the broken through ice in the
cattails towards the top of the photo where
they broke through, and the slipping they did
once they made it to the ice.

On my first morning I was psyched to find a pair of Coyote tracks and trails as they investigate the world out on the ice. It was cool to see where they had broken through the thin ice amongst the cattails along the shore but still pushed through to get out on the ice. I had to start over three times to get out on the ice because of similar conditions on the shore –and I am sure they way a lot less than me!


On the ice they slid around a bit at first and then got to business in a gallop as they inspected the rock out in the middle of the marsh, a tire that was added to the marsh habitat sometime this summer and then worked the shorelines and marsh lines, pausing every so often to catch a sniff or listen for little critters/food. In the end they left the marsh pretty quickly, maybe their toes were starting to feel the freeze, but probably not.

the coyotes also spent some time around this tire
that stuck out thru the ice. Marked it maybe?
frozen beaver dam, with flowage coming over

oh my these are cute

The next frozen morning I crossed paths with the trail of a smaller weasel – with Ermine or Long-tailed weasel. These two species have very similar tracks, overlapping in many traits and having miniscule differences in track size – like 1/16th of an inch. The tracks I found were not the most distinct I have come across and since I have never have tracked either in the snow before (they don’t live on Vinalhaven) nor did I realize that Long-taileds were even an option here I focused more on the trail and habits than IDing to species. Which was so cool and fun to follow.


little bounders - just sweet

Adorable”, “Cute”, “So Sweet” – these were words actually came out of my mouth while I was following this trail. And it was all about the bound. “Like a tiny Mink trail”. After following and learning mink trails for years on Vinalhaven, this was like a tiny (not fully pygmy, I’ll save that someday for a Least Weasel trail) baby Mink (which it wasn’t – last year’s mink babies are full grown at this time of the year) had bounded through the woods! Super cute and went on forever! Very focused, the weasel went from log pile to marsh edge to log pile in a continuous search for some food. Super fun, and super sweet, looking forward to crossing paths with another in the future.


Kicked my first dog of the year. It was unfortunate, but had to happen. I was on the trail by the school here at St. George when I heard and saw a couple and their rather large dog bumbling towards to me. Once they saw me the man owner gripped the leash tight and said, rather fearfully – “You don’t have a dog with you, do you?” I gave an annoyed “No” back, because really, if your dog can’t handle other dogs maybe you shouldn’t bring it to where other dogs go? (Heartless non-dog owner). Maybe. Anyway, I could see he didn’t really have control of the situation so I stepped off the trail and onto a rock, giving them more than enough space to pass. (Question – why the hell do I have to be the one who gets out of the way? Because I am nice and these people had little to no control over this dog and I am not even another dog!).


As they made their way towards me the woman owner said “Don’t worry he has already been fed”, which was kind of funny I guess, maybe some light dog owner humor or something. But nothing they could say or do was going to take my eyes off that dog as they passed just a few feet away from me with the dog obviously trying to get at me – pulling excitedly, but not really lunging on the leash.


show a little backbone - in the otter spraint!
When they were right next to me the male owner eased up on the leash so the dog was free enough to reach me and he proceed to let the dog take a sniff at my glove. Maybe he thought that would calm the dog down, but instead he bit my glove….the glove that was on my hand at the time! With that the male owner pulled the dog away – not forcefully, but more of a “come on lets go” and the woman owner said “oh yeah, he has a thing for gloves”. Nice to let me know now! And that was it....that was the discipline of the dog. He was still within range, so I reared up, let out a “F****n’ bite me” and made a solid kick on the side of the dogs head. The owner humansquickly hugged the dog and made their way away from me. I did mention to them that kids walked that trail, but they weren’t in the mood for chatting. Not sure why….


dog owners always win....
here's the latest dog bag left on a bridge picture
That my friends is a totally unique feeling – kicking a stranger’s dog that is being aggressive to you. I hope you never have to experience, but if you do - soak it in….because it feels good. I have seen the dog since, and let’s just say he wants nothing of me. Wow, you can teach old dogs a new trick! Too bad the owners weren’t smart enough to give warning to me or be responsible in any way. Sometimes I wonder if it would feel better to kick the owner in the head. The woman owner was shorter, but still probably out of my leg range. Chuck Norris would have been able to kick either of them in the head, but Chuck Norris can do anything!


pizza crust in the middle of Watts Ave in St. George
reminds of a flutternutter I found a month or so ago

Anyway and whatever, I get hassled by dogs a few times every year (maybe its me? That’s the dog owner in me saying that) and my rule of thumb is “if your dog is aggressive towards me – growling, showing teeth or a snarl, no tail wag (I always look) – and the owner isn’t doing squat and the dog is close enough to kick, then I kick”. And if I get bit, lord help that dog because it’s coming swift and hard. I’m wearing extra toughs so how hard can I really connect?


I will end this rant with this – I like dogs.

Kristen Lindquist inspecting her tree stand.
not really.
I have seen three  Barred Owls so far this year -
this is only one of them - which feels like a lot.
Kristen Lindquist - poet, friend, reader of the VSR, Robin
hugger, and a wealth of information - told me 2016 was a banner
for Barreds and now many of the young are starving. Two of the
three were mid-day sightings, not necessarily a good sign
for an owl. Long may you run my Barred friend!








Here’s some Leif of course…..

santa gave me Pie-Face and the boy enjoyed his
face getting splattered. I am thinking of turning this
into a nature game - with the white stuff being bird
poop or the gross otter secretion thing. kids will love it!

he loves to get on the ice



ultimate barrel
And some links of interest that have been sent in by Bob Hahl. Thanks Bob! Good stuff  here!






I love my mom.


And one that I especially liked. She wasn’t denied the passport because she was vegan….the headline says it all….


Enjoy!! See you out there!