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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, April 23, 2017

Welcome to the vinalhaven sightings report – as of April 22th, 2017
The VSR is sponsored in part by VLT and MCHT, two good organizations for folks to sponsor


Highlights – Mourning Cloaks, Woodcocks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Purple Sandpipers, and Mushrooms, singing songbirds especially – brown creeper and golden crowned kinglets, bunch of other stuff


Business: contact us – send in your sightings and/or photos and stories and whatever you want to share – vinalhavensightings@gmail.comyou will be a better person for sharing.

these folks are all smiles


My oversight – I mentioned volunteering and the basin clean up last vsr and I don’t believe I put any of the pictures of people with garbage that I meant to include. So here you go…thank you peoples!


More volunteer opportunities

this is Luke, he is around the VLT
office sometimes. You should introduce
yourself to him, he's nice.


VLT is offering some select Tuesdays for trail work – May 23rd, June 13th, July 11th, and August 15th. Contact Kerry Hardy for more information on location and timing.

munch with a bag of skin

MCHT (and myself) are looking for a few (or a bunch of) folks who are interested in helping out with the trails at Huber and/or the Basin. We (the royal “we”) are offering a variety of volunteer experiences – all the way from trail monitoring to chicken wiring bridges!  So if you are looking to give back a little, contact me at and we’ll see if we can work something out



Verbs – look for “owlin’” &  “wormin’”  


woodcock nest!
photo by John Drury

Sightings  Greens Island – Woodcock eggs! – John Drury sent in this photo of a “wood hen” nest he discovered on Greens recently. Woodcocks lay four eggs (see photo) and the female was no doubt close by. personal note - I have never found one but would like to very much. good work John!


mourning cloak butterfly - deceased
photo by Linnell Mather

John also reports a Mourning Cloak butterfly – and Linnell Mather sent in this photo of a deceased Mourning Cloak she took out at the VLT Fish Hook preserve. Mourning Cloaks overwinter as adults, which is bold for a butterfly, but find sanctuary and just enough warmth in tree cavities and under bark to survive the winter. With patches of warm days – was it really 75 degrees last week  - mourning cloak awake and add a sometimes surprising butterfly factor to an early spring day.


what remains of an eagle
photo by Linnell Mather
Also at fish hook – Linnell Mather sent in these dead eagle photos. You just never know what treasures you might find when you are exploring on a Vinalhaven Preserve.


closer look at the skull
photo by Linnell Mather

eagle, seals, Camden hills, and a bunch of purple
sandpipers as far and low away from the eagle as they can get!

Thanks for sharing!

two other eagles scouting the

Rhett or scarlet
photo by Linnell Mather

Oh yeah – one more – this time from Linnell Mather (again!) – snapped this beautiful flamingo shot recently. Taken from (but not at) Skoog Park , rumor is the flamingo has been spotted in several lawns along the sands. At least that’s the rumor I just made up.

golden-crowned kinglet

Who’s singing – Seems like every April I get that “Brown Creepers are everywhere” feeling even if it means there is one singing male at each preserve. No spring song makes me smile quicker. Golden-crowned Kinglets (lots), Hermit Thrush, Ravens and Crows, Winter Wren and White-throated Sparrow also heard singing around the island.


Calderwood Island (4/13) – Yellow-rumped Warblers, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, 35 surf scoter, 15 old tailed ducks, loons, guillemots, raccoon scat, mink scat, 4 owl pellets…

butter butt in the sea-a-weed


Wonderful day up on Calderwood Island, off the little throrofare, east of Stimpson Island. Always lots to see there…really stoked to find some mushrooms in the burn areas. Including Split Gill and mustard red gilled polypore.


portion of a pellet
Also, the big ol’ grandma oak just up the trail from the southern campsite had 4 owl pellets underneath her impressive canopy. Even though I have always looked I didn’t find pellets under her limbs until we burned the juniper in her zone. Easier owl hunting zone is the grasses rather than the juniper? Harder for voles to survive zone? Either way it is always a treat to find owl pellets. These were old and beaten up enough to only be able to say they are probably not Great Horned. Size was hard to tell…

this dude's wormin' days are over

this is an interesting find. full of hair,
snail operculums, and seeds . under the
big oak on Calderwood. feels raccoonish,
similar to a pellet as well. 

31 Reach Road – (4/13-14) – golden crowned kinglets, white throated sparrow, brown creeper, Eastern Phoebe,


split-gill  on burnt juniper - Calderwood island

split gill's split gills

last year's yellow-red gilled polypore

Perry Creek – (4/13) -an evening on the north side of the island is not complete without a little “owlin’” session, and my favorite pair of Great Horneds did not disappoint. Heard them from the mid-creek trail on the north side, and then again 45 minutes later from the fox rocks parking lot. Woodcocks, Peepers and the Great Horned were a wonderful tri-fecta for my ear holes – from Fox Rocks Parking lot!

black hairy cup

Huber - (4/14) – Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chickadees, Northern Flicker- seal bay159 Surf Scoter, 16 Bufflehead, 18 Common Eider. Mushrooms – black hairy cup and red-belted Conk “Roger”.

what's eating Rodger the red-belted conk?

The story here was the duck numbers. Seal Bay is a staging area for Surf Scoters (as is the thorofare) of historical proportions. We’ve been reporting numbers like this for years. A closer look (that I should have taken) showed that the scoters were broken into a few rafts, with much activity in each and roughly a 20:3 ratio of males to females. Quite the ratio, quite the pressure…

rodger's under carriage - chewed up

I was concerned with the lack of suitable branches for the
salamanders to attach their egg sac to

spermatophore city
…the other story here was when  I stopped to snag a photo or two of the vernal pool along the east side of the Huber trail. I noted the lack of egg masses, but I also noted the lack of branches, as well as a lack of any branches with lots of branches in the pool. Even though these are not necessary, it sometimes feels good to enhance the habitat a bit and give the lady salamanders more options. These branches are what she attaches her egg masses to!


spermatophore - out of the water!
Anyway, I noticed some white dots dotting the bottom of the pool, like discarded heartwood below an active woodpecker tree, flakes from a downy maybe. Except they weren’t. And when I took a closer look at a branch with them (them being the dots) I realized that these were spermatophoresmale sperm packets left behind by male spotted salamanders. There were a hundred of them. It was impressive. How had I never seen them before?


Here’s a little from Thomas Tyning from “A guide to Amphibians and Reptiles”

this turkey vulture flew right over the car line
waiting to load for the 2:45pm to rockland (4/14)

the courtship dance of the spotted salamander consists of a single male and female circling each other on the pond bottom. Occasionally one or the other will swim up for a gulp of air, but then will slowly drift back down and resume activity. Males and females nudge each other and try to push their heads beneath the other’s body, especially near the tail. Males attempt repeatedly to rub their chins along the back of the female.


numbers have only increased in the shallow coves around
Vinalhaven - and much of the coast.
These gulls be "wormin'", or just relaxing on the log.
At some point the males will walk away and slowly wiggle the tip of his tail. The female may follow and, if so, he will deposit  one or more spermatophores onto a leaf or twig. If fully stimulated, the female will walk forward and cover one with her cloaca and, in so doing, transfer the sperm to her oviducts. Generally, the female will then show little or no interested in this or other males and head out to deeper parts of the pond. The make may return to a nearby congress and search out another female on the pond.


“normally, they don’t lay eggs for at least a day or two after they court.”


So maybe, just maybe there were pregnant females in the leaf litter, just waiting for me to toss some branches in! will keep you posted on any egg mass development reports. Have you been walking Huber? Have you looked for egg masses in the pool? take a look, and take a photo! And send in your sighting! This is an assignment.


The thing that gets me is internal fertilization with no penetration for a vertebrate. No wonder they are so mellow.

skunk and spraint
nice otter dropping there in front

Basin - platform trail loop (4/14) - Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ravens, Bufflehead, Common Eider, otter sign, Skunk Cabbage -

the poor squirrel had to eat its plain cone next to a
bag of sh*t. and the bag had to deal with the squirrel.
don't know which is worse

we love the basin - and this day was a treat with Skunk Cabbage and otter spraint. Right where they should  have been!


cat poop, not in a bag - but on the trail!

Off island – Made a quick visit to MDI and Acadia with family and Nanni. Always a fun time.

Leif on top of Dorr Mountain
photo by Amy Palmer

sandhill cranes are loud

Amy and Leif bagged Dorr Mountain pretty readily , even saw some snow!. In the mean time Nanni (Mu Mom!) and I heard and saw this sandhill crane and the spring in Acadia. Thought I would share the view - never landed....

red-bellied snake meets minecraft

he's a good bowler

see you out there! I hope! Thanks for reading! 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report
April 10th , 2017
Brought to you by the kind people
at Vinalhaven Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust


Highlights: Barred and Saw-whet Owls, Northern Shrike, Brown Creeper, River Otters, Oldtails and other ducks, butterfly, Salamander migration, Eastern Phoebe, Osprey, and so much more…


Business : Shout out of love : Last Friday - April 7th, 2017  - was the 16th anniversary of the day Amy and I got hitched at Pigeon Point Lighthouse in beautiful Pescadero California. This year is our “silver hollow-ware” anniversary, which I have to say is almost as cool as the “paper anniversary” one. I went looking for a flask and gave up after a minimal effort, knowing full well her need of a flask is limited to say the least. Flowers and dinner make a better deal I think. Love you more every day Amy!


Contact us: – the place to send your photos, sightings and concerns!


Thanks - Thanks to the volunteers who came out on a chilly Saturday morning (4/8) to help tidy up the Basin. Volunteering is a great way to give back to places we all love.


More volunteer opportunities


VLT is offering some select Tuesdays for trail work – May 23rd, June 13th, July 11th, and August 15th. Contact Kerry Hardy for more information on location and timing.

pussy willow

MCHT (and myself) are looking for a few (or a bunch of) folks who are interested in helping out with the trails at Huber and/or the Basin. We (the royal “we”) are offering a variety of volunteer experiences – all the way from trail monitoring to chicken wiring bridges!  So if you are looking to give back a little, contact me at and we’ll see if we can work something out


Sightings:  Who’s singing? Black-capped chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Brown Creepers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Grackles!, Ravens, Purple Finch, Golden crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow, Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Phoebe


Who’s making noise but not singing? Woodcocks, Spring Peepers, Osprey, Eagles, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers – lots of noise in the woods these days!


Butterfly – Mourning Cloak (4/11)


Lane’s Island (3/30) – man do we love lane’s. Here are three things I saw out at lanes on the night of march 30th  – (1) found this dead deer when heading into a patch of woods to look for pellets. I get the head! –


northern shrike

(2) might be gone now, but the Northern Shrike that has spent a good chunk of the winter eating lane’s island voles (the tastiest vole in Maine!) was still present on the 30th! ….





(3)  And at dusk this lone male American Woodcock was flight displaying over the fields. Easily viewed from the picnic table by the graveyard. Lane’s is the place to enjoy the spring ritual known as “Woodcocking!”.



woodcock in flight

vintage vole poop
Alright, I’ll add some more Lane’s island photos here…..vole stuff



fallopian trails

31 Reach Road – (3/30) small group of White-winged Crossbills chipped and flew overhead and at dusk a Saw-whet Owl was heard beeping in the woods not too far off.

barred owl
photo by Amy Palmer

More on OwlsAngie Olson told me tales and showed me shots of a Barred Owl from Tip-toe Mountain Road from recent months. I never saw nor heard a single Barred Owl during the 11 years of “owling” on Vinalhaven  (others had spotted a few over those years- randomly) and I feel like I owled often on island. Anyway, never got my hands on her photo, but the lovely Amy Palmer, committed partner of mine for 16 years, took this shot of a barred in our backyard in Tenants Harbor…



Ferry Rides – end of March ferry rides represent a transition time for both species and plumage. Some years this time is referred to as the “doldrums” (by me) but this spring we (the royal ”we”) are royally stoked to still be catching views some of the classic species into spring. Here’s a taste….


4/8 - 7am from Rockland – 18 Surf Scoter, 48 Old tailed Ducks, 63 Common Eider, 22 Common Loon, 6 Bufflehead, Black Scoter, 2 Red-necked Grebe, 2 Razorbill, 8 Black guillemot, 10 purple Sandpipers, Great Cormorant


this loon is on its way

a little bit more molting and this guillemot
will be "complete"

molted old tail

this guillemot is pooping

purple sandpipers on bull rock
great cormorant

Always nice to see Great Cormorants, Razorbill, and purple sandpiper – the trifecta. Here are some photos…


red crossbill
Long Cove – (3/31) – snapped this crappy croppy photo of a male Red Crossbill that hung in the area for most of the morning with his “mate” (jumping to conclusions, but it is the time of the year and there were none others around and they looked really cute together!) with seeing this pair and understanding the recent history of the species in the area it looks like we may be documenting the 4th spring in a row with Red Crossbills breeding on Long Cove, and I think the 5th in a row for Vinalhaven. Now that is cool.


Also at Long Cove, and not too far from where Jamus Drury and I followed a 200 foot long otter belly slide maybe 6 years ago, the first sign of crossing island crossing we have seen in the area since. Undoubtedly otters have continued to cross from the head of Long Cove and east through the “Marcuse” wetlands and to the ocean over there whatever it’s called (Mill River?, near Perry Creek). Anyway, it was nice to see this little patch of trail with small belly slides again!

deep kicks, small slide

must not have been slidey that day

trails across the pond
Also found these “lost” photos from the otter action in Old Harbor Pond from the last VSR. Love those otters!


he's digging the amphibians
Off island – We finally got that sweet warm rain last Thursday (4/6) and amazing lightning show to boot! When I say warm I mean about 35 degrees, and so with that Amy, Leif and I headed out to “catch some critters” also known as “make new friends” and “snag a pet or two” on the roads of St. George. It was a complete success with Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders just about everywhere. They moved slowly at first – Leif was impressed with how easy it was to catch the frogs – and as the evening got warmer it was impressive how much the activity increased.


These frogs and salamanders are actually being “borrowed” for educational purposes and will be returned to wild when we are done. No breeding for them this year, which feels like the ultimate “block” (sorry dudes). But the kids love it – already the 1st, 2nd and 8th graders at St. George School have held these guys. They will soon be making their way to Vinalhaven, Frenchboro and beyond! Thank you amphibians!


And so (4/6) was most likely to be spotted salamander migration night on Vinalhaven as well. Keep an eye on those ponds and pools for egg masses sometime in the next few weeks! Usually by the first of May!




Up at Witherle Woods in Castine doing some animal tracking with students from the Adams School. Good times – here’s MCHT steward Caleb Jackson with a bagged treasure he found in the parking area.


And here is a kid getting low and sniffing Red Fox urine. If you have not smelled Fox urine before you really should. It is an acquired taste (or smell. I wouldn’t lick!) That falls somewhere in the “fancy wheel of cheese” to “skunk” range. There is a thin line between cheese and skunk smells!


MCHT steward Caleb Jackson and treasure

Anyway, all the kids smelled the urine which was fun. I mentioned this to a co-worker of mine who immediately said that it “wasn’t impressive” since “kids love to smell bad things” and will line up to smell the worst of anything. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess she’s right. But I wasn’t trying to say it was impressive at all. I just thought it was cool that none of the kids had smelled fox urine when we started the walk (I asked!) and by the end they all had. When was the last time you smelled Fox urine? We would know if there were Fox on Vinalhaven! They are little stink bombs!


Beaver actionCrepuscular in St. George for me means heading to the upper Marsh, or what I like to call “above the beaver dam” , to check on a couple of otter latrines and see what the duck action is. Wood and Ring-necked ducks, Hooded Mergansers and Green winged Teals have been the ducky highlights, and Canada Geese have gotten the “most annoying critter” award from me each night. 


The otter latrines by the dam have been well used, but the real treat has been the beaver action going on. So much in fact that I am considering calling my evening outings “beavering”. The two nights I have seen them in action the beavers welcomed me with some tail slaps….just long enough to let me get a shot or two, sit down and blend into the shoreline. The beavers go back to what they are doing surprisingly quickly.  Here are some action shots of beavers swimming and then tail slapping!


ring necked ducks

And with Leif – enjoying being healthy and good outside days (aren’t all days good days to be outside?).



Looking sharp…not sure where he gets those genes from…




And a couple of videos to round things off…..hatchet work!


And reaching his goal of making 100 shots in an hour. His arms were dead by the end!


See you out there! If not before! We look forward to it!