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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, January 31, 2018

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report –

February 1st, 2018


Brought to you with the support of VLT and MCHT


Welcome abroad and bon voyage! Thanks for stopping by and spending time with us.


Highlights – Owl activity, otter stuff, gross partially/mostly digested thing, red crossbills, pileated woodpecker, and the curious case of the headless hare…and some other stuff.


Ice shots – with melting and freezing being “the thing” these days we start with a gallery of icy photos. Enjoy!

Mini-rant . We are officially at what we (the royal “we”) at the VSR refer to as “the gap” of February. The next 28  fill in the gap between real months that get full moons and have the standard minimum of 30 days to be recognized by the united nations as “true months”. Gap months are the ones that get excited when the rest of the year throws it an extra day every four years or so, like getting to 29 means something! 30 is the new 30, so to speak. Anyway, that’s the case for demoting Feb to official gap status, and I really think the whole “not having a full moon while the big months on bought sides of you get two each this year” is the ultimate slap in the face. All feb 2018 gets is a new moon, and we all know those happen all the time or at least on Monday according to Duran Duran.


Maybe I’m jaded against “the feb” since its timing also tends to coincide with the heart of “the doldrums” from the ferry (KG original description), as “tweeter” (bird) numbers have dropped in the bay last few trips…


Business -

Contact – send in your sightings, photos, email addresses – we’ll take ‘em! We’ll post ‘em! Thanks ahead of time for that!

this is larry

Thanks! – To those who have shared photos and sightings in this VSR – that is what it is all about.


Tiit Trick – click on photos to enlarge!

and this is lefty and poncho

Also – send us your email address to “get put” on our super exclusive email list. You’ll get about two emails a month from us (the royal “us”) each with a link to the latest VSR post as it “gets put” up.


Upcoming eventsSaturday February 10th  – 10am at Skoog! VLT and MCHT are sponsoring a Basin Preserve Snowshoe and animal tracking outing. Twill be a blast – snow or no snow! This is an official Great Maine Outdoor Weekend event.


Off island events – Owl talkwith Kirk Gentalen – Tuesday, February 13th 7pm at the Camden Library. This talk is an effort of a partnership between mid-coast Audubon society and MCHT. I will babble about owls and make jokes about birders. It’s what you do at Audubon society meetings.


Otter talk with Kirk Gentalen – Tuesday February 27th, Noon at Merryspring Nature Center. Will talk about otters on Vinalhaven and other spots along the Maine coast and make fun of birders and trackers. It’s what you do at nature centers.

subnivean exposed!

Sightings – Huber Preserve – apparently the trail is clear, alive and well as Chuck Gadzik has sent in a couple of “great sightings from his walking of the trail as of late”, or “gsfhwotaol”! Get out there looking!


Pileated Woodpecker – Not many are reported on island each year, with one or maybe two mercy sightings sent our way. Nothing too substantial, and yet over the last few years the reported sightings have become a bit more regular especially when compared to 2004-2010 when Pileated were fewer and even farther between. Most recently Gadzik reports his third Pileated sightings along the Huber Trail from the past few years. From the mouth of Gadzik – or more like “from the computer of Gadzik”.


The bird followed me along the trail, at one point landing eye height on a fir bole 15 feet from my head. It was HUGE.”


Apparently a “fir bole” is the base of a fir tree. Chuck is forestry guy so he gets to use words like that. Anyway, this is the time of the year where a lot of woodpeckers are observed on wood and roots low to the ground. Very cool and I hope others get to see this beautiful woodpecker!


split gill in a beaver chew
Side note – lots of woodpecker activity these days. Multiple Downy and/or Hairy woodpeckers in the same trees setting up territories and pecking orders through displays, chases and games of freeze tag (staring). Non-vocal communications like drumming are heard on calm days when the message can carry the furthest. Woodpeckers certainly know when the day length gets longer! They are at the mercy of their hormones, which are at the mercy of day length. What a world!

this got upgraded to...

Whatsmore, Chuck also reports a decapitated snowshoe hare, or “headless hare”, laying (presumably dead) trailside at Huber as well. I really enjoy getting emails like this one –


“There is a fresh corpse on the Huber Trail - a headless hare. Do you know what predator would remove the head?”


...something frank would be proud of.
We could use a little Zappa in days like these.
And while there are probably loads of predators that might remove a head – including humans – the one most likely responsible for this heady little story would be a Great Horned Owl, and maybe a parliament of them. Back in my VLT days, I found many a snowshoe hare leg left behind by Great Horned Owls at Perry creek. I used to find headless turkey on Cumberland Island in coastal Georgia and remember learning/hearing (source not remembered) that decapitation was not an uncommon behavior of GHOs. It’s hard to know from an email report and really impossible to know the story without being there when it all came down, but that would be the guess from this end (my better end). Have the Huber owls been fortunate with so much food that they can discard hare bodies and just eat the tastiest part? Are the owls getting smarter by just eating the brains? So many questions, but the fact that GHOs are known to breed at Huber not too far from where the carcass was found, and are heard in the area on a semi-regular basis leads to the GHO quesstimation. There, I said it!
barred owl
photo by Angie Olson

Speaking of owls – I just got an text from our  friend and all around good person Angie Olson with a photo of a Barred Owl she took up on Tip-toe Mountain road near the Fish Head road turnoff. Angie and family report seeing and hearing Barreds on numerous occasions on the north end of the island over the past year or two, and highly suspect breeding activity occurring in the area. While being downright numerous on the mainland, Barred Owl reported sightings have been few and even further between on island so this development is exciting and curious. Will be good to hear any developments from anyone! Have you seen/heard Barred Owls on Vinalhaven?

Great Horned Owl – Angie also reports that “her” (yes, it’s her owl) local owl that lives in the woods behind her house has started hooting it up a bit. Angie refers to this Great Horned as “Hoots your daddy”, which is by far the coolest nickname for an owl that I have heard.  When is the best time to listen for owls? “Never been a better time, than right now” . unless you are a snowshoe hare.


gross things - photo by Jim Conlan
Speaking of non-owl stuff – Jim Conlan sent in this “shot of grossness” and was wondering if an owl was part of the process or what? From the looks of it, and it doesn’t look that good (just being honest), I would think a cat and its digestive system was involved. People sometimes talk about feral cats not being part of the equation anymore on island, and that is not true from my observations. Most trails have feral cat latrines on them, usually full of segmented poops that are full of fur and less, well, grossness of skin or whatever innards that passed through in this little present left behind. The world may never know the complete story of this pile of stuff, but it can be confirmed that it is gross! And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

otter track


BasinOtter signNiall Conlan mentioned following a “well beaten otter run”  that appeared to be a short cut across the peninsula just north of the basin falls. From Niall’s description of a particularly distractive rock wall the otter trail is most likely a historically known trail stumbled upon a few years back. The trail begins (and ends really) at a den in the base of a spruce along the shores of the mighty Basin. Through ferns or snow the otter(s) go straight up (impressively steep for Vinalhaven but not too insane) to a moss covered boulder pretty close to the top of the run there. On said boulder there is a ”well sprainted otter latrine” and undoubtedly a continued trail by-passing the basin falls.

3 at the old harbor pond latrine


All this otter talk, and with otters on the brain in general, got me looking through some old Vinalhaven otter shots I have. Here’s a little gallery of blasts from the past otter glory.




and rolling


5 set of eyes in Carvers Pond
I think I called this guy "roy" - big dude in the Reach
Long Cove – Red Crossbills – it’s been what, like 6 years straight with Red Crossbills breeding late winter in the Long Cove area and this year is starting off the same! Multiple red crossbills have been heard calling on recent trips to the area. It’s red crossbill heaven…


belly slide

larry by his hole

Off island – been hanging out with the local male otter in the marsh here in Tenants Harbor we refer to as “Larry”. The hole in the ice that Larry frequents is now referred to as “Larry’s icehole”. Right out the back door and seen when walking to and fro school across the ice, Larry is becoming a legend in our household.  Here’s a few of the better shots as of late.

Larry sniffin' and watchin'

larry on ice

And of course some of the Leifenator! In the snow…



Cookie picnics on the ice….


huge otter belly slide?


He’s been active with karate and skiing. Palmer with the skating. Good times now that health has returned in a good way to the PG


I actually saw someone buy one of these
the other day

or a kid dragging a tire

And we conclude with an array of limited edition foods products! Enjoy!

valentine ding dongs are the gift that keeps on giving

and as if that weren't enough, I found this priceless item in the hot dog section.....
yes! awesome links!!!!!!!!
your mouth's destiny awaits

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings report – all Fisher edition.

Brought to you with the support of MCHT and VLT
Don't forget the "Tiit trick". Click on the pictures to make
them large.


hope you like pictures of fisher!

The word of this post is “Macked”, or “macking”, or I guess simple old “Mack”. Meaning to eat voraciously, usually for an extended period of time or until the food is all gone…quickly. “Man, you macked that veggie burger”.

the fisher is chewing on a deer leg bone in the snow.
this is macking

Let’s be clear on this – nothing in this VSR happened on Vinalhaven. This is a continuation of the VSR posted today? Or Yesterday?. There simply was not enough room for the 40+ Fisher pictures included here. I don’t know where else I can put these, and many of them are cute, so here we go!



To get more of the complete story about this event check out the last two VSRs. The pictures in this VSR are all from Tenants Harbor, and all within walking distance of my house. I took none of these shots, all I did was put up the camera. The rest is luck.


The condensed version of the story is this – I tracked a fisher in the snow on December 23rd. The trail led me to a dead buck in the snow. I put the trail camera up and got pictures of a phat raccoon and a silly snowshoe hare. It got cold and nothing visited the dead deer.
Then it got warm. I put the camera back up on January 2nd, and on the night of January 3rd the fisher returned and macked on the deer for about 2 hours. It came back two mornings later for more macking and better light for the photos. When I retrieved the camera there were 1320 pictures registered. I was excited because I could see the fisher tracks in the snow and knew at least some were going to be of the fisher. It ended up that 1300 photos of the fisher were there. And 20 pictures of my mug putting up and taking down the camera. Needless to say, the fisher shots were the cutest ones on the camera that day.
sniffin' my snowshoe track


And so – the first thing the fisher did when it returned to the deer was to sniff out my snowshoe tracks. From 36 hours before! I made sure not to leave my trademark “coffee stain” spill in the snow there, but apparently the scent of my regular snowshoe was enough.


Got me thinking just how many animals recognize my coffee smell out in the woods.


The fisher was very aware of smells and sounds nearby. Many times in the course of the two hour feast it stopped to sniff the air.  Got to be alert.


The fisher started its feast at the rear of the deer, which had been opened previously. This is classic (or so I have read) as the butt of a carcass is the easiest way to get to the meat inside. Note that for when you are starving and find a nice carcass to mack on.


This fisher chewed on the leg bones for a bit before opening up a new hole in the carcass at the deer’s chest.



From here the photos are partially blocked by the carcass itself, which is cool. I skipped a lot of pictures where the fisher’s back is all that can be seen. But the fisher continually took breaks to sniff out the scene, and looked up often to see if anything was moving in the area


there were several shots of the fisher with its head face first
into the carcass and its back arched as its pulling meat and
goodies from the carcass

and of course it kept coming back to sniff the zone

the fisher is on its back rolling in the snow.
the snow was majorly stained afterword.
that's it left back leg in the air

Some of my favorite photos here are of the fisher rolling  in the snow next to the deer. Was it rolling to get the scent of the deer in its fur or was it rolling to mark the deer as its own? Probably a combination of the two, but the dirty snow left behind was too similar to the rolling marks in the original trail I followed on the 23rd to deny that at least some of the stain in the snow came from the fisher itself!


cute paw!
clear paw


paw, tail, and butts up!

there were many breaks from marking and eating
to look around
and as if that weren't enough.....

The morning of the 5th the fisher returned for a quick snack and registered some of the better lit photos included here. Sometimes I think the way the fisher’s paws are hanging when it stands up it should have a piano in from of him. More ol’ timey western saloon type piano scene than Elton Johnny, big glasses piano type. I guess that goes without saying.


reminds me of ralph the dog.
without the floppy ears of course

big sniff

needless to say, the camera is back up on the deer.....can't wait to see what shows up next!