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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!