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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, 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!