Brought to you by

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, September 14, 2017

photo by Kristen McClelland

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –
 September 12, 2017

Thanks VLT and MCHT for their continued support! And You!

“I prefer chanterelles” – Leif Gentalen, age 8.
After trying giant puffball for the first time.


palm and yellow-rumped warbler in bait bags
photo by Josh Clayter, may 2017

Highlights – Mixed species flocks, raptors, mushrooms, shorebirds, crane flies, gannets, otter dens and sign, so much more!

harbor seals in the basin
photo by Mary DiMatteo

We’ll start ….. with a photo gallery of shots largely sent in from photographers around the island. Keep sending them in! People love to see what you are taking photos of…. Thanks Mary DiMatteo, Kristen McClelland, Jim Clayter, Rick Morgan for sharing these…


north haven mink
photo by Rick Morgan

Businessshare you stuff – photos, sightings, finding, epiphanies are all excepted (epiphanies are vetted thoroughly) – share and become famous – send your goods to – – also send addresses to be added to the email list! It makes a great present


lane's island deer
photo by Mary DiMatteo

Tiit Trick – click on the photos to enlarge. Miss you dad!


a first day of school gift - giant puffball
and the flash
Upcoming events – of island – this Saturday (9/16) at 10am at the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor I will be leading a mushroom discussion/slide show followed by a mushroom walk on the nature trail through the woods to the marsh. If you are on the mainland and have some time it should be fun. Good folks down here in St. George. Info on the sign.

more  Basin Harbor Seals
photo by Mary DiMatteo

photo by Rick Morgan

golden rod is goldeny

Or…if you are in the Rockport area on Saturday, September 30th and are looking for something to do, I’ll be leading a mushroom walk on the Erickson Field preserve trail. We did a mushroom walk last year there and it was super fun. 10am at the route 90 parking area, less than a mile on the left is you are coming up from rte. 1 (junction with the market basket – a weird establishment that the VSR does not endorse nor condemns, but proudly uses as a land mark). Nice trail and more of hardwood/mixed forest.


northern gannet
Other writings – with many good years under the belt here at the VSR (and many years more to come!) someone was bound to read it and think it might be a good idea if I also write for another publication as well (it could happen). Anyway, that day has arrived. The St. George Dragon, (providing the St. George peninsula with local news and info every other week for  years), asked me if I wouldn’t mind writing a nature column once a month or so and I said yes as long as it can be called “nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen”. Here are some of the first links, including an interview with me. May be of interest to few, may be really boring for most….

tapioca slime
photo by Jim Clayter



close up as it goes to spore - notice the black
photo by Jim Clayter

Sightings Slime molds – Jim Clayter was fortunate enough to have this large Tapioca slime mold (Brefeldia maxima) “going to spore” in some a newly woodchipped birch pile. We are fortunate enough that Jim has opted to share these nice shots of the changing mold, they don’t call them myxomycetes for nothing. George Barron refers to this species as having “massive fruiting body (aethalium) a giant amongst the slime molds…young aethalium is white to off-white, with the texture of semolina pudding.” Sounds yummy! Good job spotting, photographing and sharing.


photo by Rick Morgan

Rick Morgan sent in these photos of a Merlin he and Pete Jacques spotted at Folly Pond recently. Lots of raptors funneling south along the coast.


lesser yellowlegs

(9/12) Ferry Crossing – lots of Harbor Porpoise & Harbor seals. Surf scoter, 10+ Common Loons, many Black Guillemots – with adults molting into post breeding plumage, Northern Gannet.


solitary sandpiper. notice the grey legs
and circle around its eye. slightly smaller that the lesser

Mixed species flocks – alrighty and let’s face it – post breeding songbird migration is here (has been for a while) and booming. Even though this migration in straight up numbers is (most likely) a larger overall movement than the northerly spring songbird migration (considering all the newbie offspring making their first fall run) the fall often goes  “underappreciated” when compared to that pre-breeding movement a few months ago. This is a total judgment based on little to no data, just  
personal observations and attitude.


coral mushroom looking corally

definition - "newbie" in this VSR refers to songbirds born in the last few months who are making their first migration southward.

Or maybe I should say – we can see how easily this movement can go underappreciated as birds aren’t singing, football season arrives, school starts, mushrooms demand all our attention and the leaves are changing color. Throw in phrases like “confusing fall warblers” (top ten least favorite nature term/phrases) and a whole bunch of bland, quiet newbie birds and you can see were folks may be distracted and loose focus on songbird movement in the fall. Which is too bad, because it can be really fun in its own way.

scrambled egg slime

With birds not singing, and some being downright silent when passing through Vinalhaven one might be pressed to even find these “4.5 inch nuggets of pure bliss” (copyright that phrase to describe warblers (because songbird migration really is biased towards  warblers no matter what anyone says). This all is part of the fun.


same patch a few days later
For me it’s all about "checking in with the chickadees" and then “picking apart the flocks”.  I find this activity really fun and have been doing it each fall/winter since the winter of ‘94 I lived in Santa Cruz, California. I was just starting to bird watch full time, and learned that if I wanted to see Townsend’s Warblers in winter (and who doesn’t want to see Townsends Warblers) I should find the flocks of Chestnut-backed Chickadees. They always seemed to be hanging out together, and sometimes the Townsends outnumbered the Chickadees by 4 to 1!  I got into the habit of paying close attention to the flocks of Chestnut backed Chickadees, that was a good lesson.


orange scaber stalk - another mushroom
that Leif got to eat and he macked the
whole thing. he likes the way boletes taste.
so do I! 

Only later was I to learn that what I was observing was an actual thing (and not particular to the Forest of Nisene Marks) and comes with a name in print and everything – “mixed-species flocks”. It had a nice ring to it, so I decided to look for them other places. And so, for every fall/winter since ’93 part of my terrestrial exploration routine is to listen for chickadees, whichever species is local to where I happen to be living. Chickadees are always appreciated for what chickadees are – cute (judgment for sure, but a correct one), gregarious, and very very vocal. The fact that they hang out with a diverse crowd is a lovely bonus, bonus for them (safety in numbers?) and bonus for me (big smiles). Needless to say, mixed species flocks on the east coast can be impressive.


Locally it’s about the Black-capped Chickadees of course. I came across 3 Black and white Warblers in a flock with Chickadees and Red-breasted nuthatches at Carrying Place.


In my neighborhood bike ride I have a couple of chickadee flocks that I’ve been paying attention to. One flock had  for warblers : Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Black and White, Yellow, Tennessee & Bay-breasted Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula and American Redstart. Blue headed and Red eyed Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hairy Woodpecker. also represented. Not a bad couple of trees.


But my favorite – and the point of these is to mention that it is a good time to go out side and listen for chickadees – that’s the point of all this – but my favorite recent group was right up Watts Ave from me – 3 Cape May and a single Bay-breasted in the same tree. The last time I saw both species on the same day was the fallout at Fox Rocks ’05. Both species were in the parking lot that day – good day. Anyway, check your chickadees if you get a chance. Never know what might turn up.

happy trail to the otter den

Otter sign – Perry creek – otter den found in 2016 active in 2017! great to find one finally in Perry Creek - great to see it in use again.

can you find the opening of the den?

Raccoon scat – winter harbor (9/12) few nice piles, recent sign for sure. Not overwhelming…


this raccoon scat was not overwhelming

how is a white russula (Russulacae) different from
a white Russian? I only know of white Russian
the drink from the Big Lebowski 

Blackish-red Russula - Russula xerampelina 

Mushrooms – even with the recent downpours the woods feel rather dry. Russulas seem to be doing alright.


rosy russula

olive russula, and sluggy friend

Jack-o-lanterns. the poisonous alternative to Chanterelles.
there is no reason to ever get this confused with

Mainland - And this jack-o-lantern popped up down the road, up the road from our place.


Cirton amanita - smells like raw potatoes

Citron amanitas have been the amanita of choice, but…


this slug seems to have enjoyed its
destroying angel meal

There have been more destroying angels….

this destroying angel was left in the trail
by a squirrel interrupted? or was the taste too
nothing phallic here. but you can see where the squirrel
shaved off some of the bulbous base. the next day it was gone
but that means little to this story.

all smiles with the giant puffball

First day of school - A teacher I worked with last year was kind enough to bring over a giant puffball (Calvatia gigantean) before school started! It was mammoth.

And we ate some and shared with others – Leif’s comment “I think I prefer chanterelles”. Mushroom snob!



Also checked out this Purple Spored Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis) over a week or so on a ride I like. Mushrooms by bicycle is a nice way to go. Anyway, cool to see it change over the 8 days.

I went back a few days later and it had been run over by a lawn mower. might actually be a puffball's dream.



nice abdomen on this American Pelecinid
just a reminder

Insects as well -

some favorites -

American Pelecinid females use that long abdomen to lay eggs in soil inhabiting beetle larvae. in the ground! very cool.

ain't nothing wrong with being regular.
Crane fly....

2 flavors of Crane Flies these days - regular (but still cool)

phantom crane flies are pretty cool though,
totally based on appereance

and phantom......

flash going to the first day of 3rd grade

leif and rosy our neighbor

bumper cars
kayaking with friends
And some of leif of course!

hope to see you out there!