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


Friday, March 9, 2018

this is the first of two tail shots in this VSR
this is from an old tail

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – March 9th, 2018

Thanks to MCHT and VLT for their continued support

HighlightsAmerican Wigeon, Ferry Rides and molting, Purple Sandpiper, Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill, Great Cormorant, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, Raven, otter slides, and other stuff – mushrooms in snow!

BusinessContact – send us your sightings, photos, and nature “whatnot nuggets”

Tiit trick – click on a photo to enlarge and make jumongo sized!

otter in the hole! - this is the 2nd tail shot in this VSR

Sightings – Who’s singing – I know, we literally just got dumped on with snow, but prior to this recent weather event the days were feeling a little long(er), the ice and snow melted away and birds were singing up a storm (not literally). Brown Creeper, Black-capped chickadees, red-breasted nuthatch, northern cardinal all have been singing. Multiple creepers singing in February is probably the most noteworthy here, and not only singing on Vinalhaven – Huber and Long Cove – but also many preserves on the mainland. We love brown creepers, and have for a long time it seems.

luminescent panellus

A little drumming going on – people may (or may not) know that I am a huge fan of “non-vocal communications”, but know you know. I am talking about some of the classics – like a “thumbs up” or a sticking out of the tongue to get a point across. In the woodpecker world (Picidae) there are many displays where wings can be tilted at certain angles, crests can be risen or bodies can freeze in a still pose for extended periods of time  all in the name of getting the point across about aggression or courtship (thin-line between). These displays are often accompanied with different vocalizations, which can soil the “non-vocal” part of the “non-vocal communications”, since there is corresponding vocalizations with the displays (with me?).

almost like he died mid yawn

That said (or moving on), the art of drumming for woodpeckers is a pure “non-vocal” outreach. Downy’s Hairy’s, Flicker’s, Pileated’s all have favorite hollow branches within their territories where a rapid succession of bill/beak poundings will result in a reverberated tone that reverberates long distances (it can be heard from afar). An expression of survival and territoriality, drumming acts in similar ways as a call or a song for the woodpeckers. Technically not song birds, so they technically don’t sing songs (syrinxes are overrated!) but woodpecker species still have distinctive calls that identify the caller. Anyway – listen for drumming from your favorite local woodpeckers – all species appear to be vocal and loud! Whole lotta drummin’ going on!

dos baldpates!

Ferry Rides – (2/20/18) – 7am to Vinalhaven – 3 American Wigeon, 5 Bufflehead, 70 common Eider, 30+ Black Guillemots, Surf Scoter, Red-necked and Horned Grebe, 8+ Common Loon, Harbor Seal, Otter Slides,

always otter activity on Lairey's
Nice morning ride after a snow. Otter slide on Lairey’s was classic, but the 3 American Wigeon chillin’ by the terminal – seen before the boat first set sail – was a wonderful way to start a ride. First for me from the ferry ride (VNM!) but not totally a surprise as a small contingent of American Wigeon have been spending most of, if not all of the last few winters  in Rockland harbor (and most likely many winter prior to that). Regardless of the frequency, it’s always great to see “baldpate” drake wigeons. And while they are not necessarily my favorite duck (Ruddy duck anyone? Maybe gadwall?) I do feel connected to it in a way I have seldom feel connected to animals I have observed. I think it’s the baldpate – very cool nature name!

two horned grebe

(2/22/18) 7am to Vinalhaven – 30 Common Loon, 28 old tailed duck, bufflehead, 9 surf scoter, 31 common eider, red-necked grebe, horned grebe, 4 red-breasted merganser, 20 purple sandpiper, 10 razorbill, 1 thick-billed murre, 10 black-guillemot, bald eagle, 3 common golden-eye…

Always good to see two species of grebes, but the thick-billed murre was probably the highlight on this morning cruise. I was given a hot tip from a couple of folks about numerous sightings of Dovekie and Thick-billed Murre being seen from land in southern Maine (and possibly elsewhere) - Cape Elizabeth is the epicenter of the sightings that I had been “hot tipped off to”. Anyway, it’s a big ocean, and even a bigger world, and no observations of increased dovekie or tbmurre number were observed by this bald observer from the ferry. There was a single tbmurre spotted from the ferry this day, and on my next ferry trip, but seeing a single tbmurre is not particularly uncommon from the ferry over the years. Anyway, always great to see tbmurre! Keep your eyes peeled for alcids of all kinds!

cozy pair o' oldtails

(3/1/18) – 7am to Vinalhaven – not super focused on counting

Bufflehead, oldtailed duck, common loon, black guillemot, surf scoter, common eider, razorbill, thick billed murre, red-necked grebe (molting), purple sandpipers, great cormorant, bald eagle, otter slide, harbor seal

A behavior thang that has not gone unnoticed recently has been that the old tailed ducks are paired up and appearing cozy – at least from this distance.

fact: guillemots are cute in all stages
of molt

An anatomically undertaking that is active at this very moment is “molt”. We’ve been reporting about “changing” black guillemots (going through the changes) for at least a month and a half now. They are continuing to “go thru the molt” (don’t worry, it’s only a phase) and are showing up in all kinds of mottled flavors from the ferry and by the terminal!

These days Loons are “losing it” - as in the flight feathers for many loons are gone – hard to see when resting, but a display/stretch that loons use (which I call “quick flap” (just made that up)) where body is lift off the water (from a sitting in the water position), the wings are stretched and flapped in a rapid manor. You’ve seen loons and ducks do it a million times. Recent “quick flaps”  shows that loon wings are essentially non-existent. Like no feathers at all – this observation made over the past two weeks now.
loon eating crab

 Red-necked grebe from the ferry starting to show red on the neck (thus its name, silly!).
wing feathers growing back on this loon

bunch of purple sandpipers on this ledge

Long cove – Red crossbills are the norm, Brown Creeper singing the first of March! They stuck around this winter, or so it seems….

Off island – River otter photo gallersy - a “pre storm”, snowless walk on the St George town forest loop trail turned up some action at a classic beaver pond. While getting a closer look at a stump along the pond shoreline that I was trying to turn into an otter, an actual otter came out of an unbeknownst (to me) hole in the ice between me and said stump! This was a big boy and while I was observing he was took maybe 7 (or so) dives of roughly a minute (at the most). Every time he came back onto the ice with Sunfish/Bluegill/whatever you want to call them. The waters below the hole must have been stacked with fish! It was the most impressive feat of fishing I have witnessed since 2009 on the ice along the ditch at the ballground. That otter was bringing up some tadpole looking fishies, the otter on in the beaver pond was bringing up fair sized sunnies – and eating them rather quickly.

...out of the water with treasure

down the hatch

And then just like that …. poof… he disappeared. Probably ate most of the fish in the area! So much fun to watch, a 20 minute or so session at 2 in the afternoon! Hard to argue with that!

Leif – of course, good times on the radio and out towards the Rockland harbor lighthouse. See if you can find him in the photos!

not as sharp as it looks..
he promises to only use for good!