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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


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings Report – March 9th, 2017

MCT/VLT approved!

Highlights –Otter slides, brown-tailed moth news, Spring peeper, more fisher stuff



Upcoming events – Huber full moon hike and bonfire – Hey – tomorrow night is the night (Friday 3/10) is the date for the hike. Meet at 5pm at Skoog to carpool. Sounds like much of the trail is free of snow, so it will be more of a hike. Looks like good weather, maybe some snow. Bring a flashlight, a mug for hot chocolate, a stomach for some smores and we’ll take it from there! Should be lots of fun!

when I was young my brother told me
that foam in fresh water was frog spit.
this is frozen frog spit

Business – congratulations! - to the Vinalhaven Girls Basketball team on their class D State Championship! What an achievement! First time ever!

contact us with nature sightings – be a stud and let folks know what you’ve been seeing, and see what you’ve been taking pictures of! is the place to share! See you there.


Daylight savings timeElizabeth Campbell, MCHT Office  Administrator was kind enough to send me a reminder that this Sunday morning at 2 am clocks get set ahead (Spring ahead, remember). It was a very kind gesture, and one that was thanked immediately since changing clocks was way off my radar. So thanks Elizabeth! And don’t be late by not changing your clocks!


Personal Sightings – weather and sickness limited my journeys to Vinalhaven over the last few weeks. I apologize for not having more to share that is island specific. What’s your excuse?

otter slides
photo by Niall Conlan
Sightings- Otter slides at Zeke’s Point – Good man Niall Conlan was kind enough to share this photo of some otter slides he came across on one of his many journeys around the island.


Niall also has been kind enough to plow many of the parking areas for both MCHT and VLT this past month – keeping the access clear is huge for wintertime outside enjoyment. Thank you so much Niall – your efforts are much appreciated.


it's always good to see Mike Windsor

Things to look for – Spring is upon us – other than the snow storm forecast for Tuesday next week! – and signs are already pouring in – Pussy Willows are in bloom, Cardinals, Chickadees and Brown Creepers are all singing, and I somehow got to hear a very early Spring Peeper (froggy) on 3/1 – in my back yard! By far the earliest I have heard in Maine. Woodcocks should be next! Get out there at dusk and listen! And then report what you hear!


two of many brown tail moth webs out
on Lane's
Stewardship – Brown-tail Moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) – or “oh damn, another jerky moth to deal with” or "I walked at lane's and all I got was this itchy rash!"


When you get an email from VSR favorite Maine State Forester Morten Moesswilde, you read it. Just like you would any other email that you received that day.


Well, Morten tipped off a few folks about his finding of a handful of Brown-tail Moth webs that he had found out on Lane’s Island. VLT Executive Director Linnell Mather and the MCHT Regional Steward (me – the royal “me”) headed out to Lane’s to clip and snip the handful that Morten had found.  We were instructed to gather the webs and then either burn them or soak them in soapy water. Squishing was not an option for fear of not squishing them all.


Here’s some interesting stuff about brown tail moth from –


brown tail moths don't stand a chance when Linnell
has her "long stick cutty thing" working! she is a pro. literally

“Life History

The brown tail moth produces one generation a year. It has four life stages; egg, larval, pupal, and adult. The larval stage lasts for nine months, from August through June. In the fall, colonies of larvae build winter webs in trees constructed from a single leaf wrapped tightly with large amounts of white silk. A colony consists of 25 to 400 or more larvae. The larvae overwinter within two to four inch long winter webs situated far out on branch tips. Webs are found most often on red oak or apple trees.

I like ice


The brown tail moth was accidently introduced into Somerville, Massachusetts from Europe in 1897. By 1913, the insect had spread to all of the New England states and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The population then dropped, for reasons that are not entirely clear, until there was just a residual population limited to Cape Cod and a few islands off the Maine coast in Casco Bay. Occasional outbreaks occurred on the mainland during twentieth century until the 1990’s when brown tail became a perennial problem along the southern Maine coast.

this raccoon had nothing to do with brown tail moths
I like raccoons more than I like squirrels

The larval stage (caterpillar) of this insect feeds on the foliage of many hardwood trees and shrubs particularly: oak, shadbush, apple, cherry, beach plum, and rugosa rose. Larval feeding causes reduction of growth and occasional mortality of valued trees and shrubs.

While feeding damage may cause some concern, the primary human impact from the brown tail moth is the result of contact with poisonous hairs found on the caterpillars. Contact of these hairs with human skin causes a rash similar to poison ivy that can be severe on some individuals. People can also experience respiratory distress from inhaling the microscopic hairs that blow around in the air.”

So it’s interesting that the main concern with this moth is not necessarily the damage to a forest they may invoke, but rather the rash that is the result- 

Check these articles from the Portland Press Herald about rashes (uncomfortable topic)




we were pretty happy to have these guys removed
photo by Linnell Mather.

So these guys sound pretty awful. Linnell and I ended up snagging a bucket full and I walked through so much blackberry that I am pretty sure my raincoat is not waterproof anymore and my pants had several new holes in them. But it was worth it!  


So when you don’t get burned by “toxic hairs” this summer at Lane’s you can thank Linnell, myself and Morten.


Have you been burned by the caterpillars or known someone who has? Have you been seeing the webs in your neighborhood? Let us know!


 some shots of the local (Tenants Harbor) fisher in my back yard. Can't afford to feed it anymore!
I love the twisting body in this one

and leif working on his pinewood derby car.

we'll see you out there! maybe even tomorrow.

good times and happy health. my family and I are finally starting to feel better. yahoo!