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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 1, 2018

Welcome to the
Vinalhaven Sightings Report

April 1st, 2018


We proudly accept the support of both VLT and MCHT!

And thanks for your support, too!

mink trail

Happy Easter! Easter people.

And a special “Rabbit, Rabbit” to the easter bunny!

little turkey tail for yah!

Highlights – northern shrike. American woodcock, otter den, brown tailed moth killing, eagles, purple sandpiper, loon morphage, and the continuation of the estrus story…

"bunch o' scoters!"
Business – contact us – – send in your photos, your sightings, your stories and we’ll stuff them into the next VSR post. Also feel free to send us (the royal “us”) your email address to be added to our ever-so-growing list of people who receive a kind reminder email – complete with a link and all – whenever we (the royal “we”) post a new VSR. It’s cool and painless. Or at least in theory it will be both of those.


Upcoming eventTuesday, April 3rdAmphibian Migration! – With much of “snow everlasting” finally melting over the past week it looks like we are lined up for a wet evening Tuesday. Temps at first darkness look to be in the 40-degree range which is perfect for spotted salamanders to migrate from their wintering burrows to vernal pools where their “mating action is at”. Drive slowly “around the island road” after dark and keep your eyes peeled for sizable salamanders crossing! Hop out and help them out – hands wet first please! If Tuesday doesn’t work for you – Wednesday evening conditions look just as good. Many to all of the islands spotted salamander population will likely move these two nights! Great way to see the island! If you go cruising and find stuff please let us know! We’d love to report some salamander sightings! – this also goes for a lot of areas along the coast that are not Vinalhaven.

"i'm still hungry"

Also – Woodcocks are going off in my neighborhood on the mainland – undoubtedly, they are in most fields on Vinalhaven – so go check out that sweet, sweet aerial courtship display! Lane’s Island is still the best place to observe – go there for sunset and stay until it gets dark – listen for the “peent” vocalization and then for the rising, circling buzzy flight as they rise a couple of hundred feet before zig zagging their way back to earth. My favorite spot to observe this is the picnic table closest to the graveyard on Lane’s. 


Tiit trick - click on photos to make them huge!

Sightings – Who’s singing?Cardinals, Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet…lots of song out there these days…

Who’s drumming – woodpeckers of all flavors are stating their presence with authority these days. Be it through vocalizations, drumming, or displays, woodpeckers are one of the first birds I’ve been hearing in the mornings.


"going through the changes"
From the Ferry – and so march can be like, kind of low in total numbers of birds from the ferry, but there is always something to observe. Here’s a little photo gallery…

Lunatics – yes, the common loon is somewhat of an honorary mascot for the ferry these days. A spectrum of loon looks can be viewed as head and body feathers are being swapped out for newer threads (or in reality, newer feathers).
this guy had only a feather or two on the head to go

Some of the loons looked a little beat up, others look pretty sharp. And while I saw no loons who had gone completely through the changes, a few were pretty darn close.

this guy had a few more feathers to go but was close

bin of young loons


Also, young loons that are apparently not molting with breeding in mind this year (it can 4 or more years before a loon is “mature” enough to mate) create rafts or small what’s locally known as “Bins”. Bins of youngsters can have 13+ individuals and create a little wakey patch when they are heavily paddling (kicking) under the water. Look for a bin near you!

Bald Eagles – let’s just say that something must have washed up on the ledges outside of Lairey’s narrows because there were 6 eagles jockeying for position as the ferry weaved its way past. 4 adults – guessing pairs from both the white islands and dogfish were representing, as well as two younger eagles.


The eagle scene on the rocks was cool enough, and then an adult eagle from the whites flew south, almost directly behind the boat. I snapped about a gagillion photos, but have scaled back the total to post in this VSR to just these three. Enjoy the eagles!

first approach


coming on in

move it on over!

Seals and sandpipers – from the ferry both harbor seals and purple sandpipers are fun to observe – check the ledges outside of Lairey’s Narrows !

bunch of purples

here's what brown tailed moth cocoons look
like in a tree

Lane’s Island – spent some time on Lane’s removing Brown-tailed Moth cocoon things. These are the moths whose hairs apparently cause rashes, itchiness and general discomfort when they make contact with human skin – I can’t speak for other kinds of skin. Anyway, Morten Moesswilde turned us on to the small population out on lane’s last year. Linnell Mather (the Linnell Mather) and I went out last winter and cut down cocoons we found, but apparently we didn’t get them all. felt good to take these down! They went into the wood stove for assured destruction. Take a gander at your shrubs for these cocoon things and if you find them – cut them down and destroy completely! Another case of helping the earth through destruction. What a world!
and here are some of the ones I removed

Also on lane’ssnowshoe hare tracks (never seen snowshoe hare trails on lane’s before), and a Northern Shrike

brown tailed moth
this gull is giving wormin' his all! head first

Gulls are a wormin’ – check shallow coves at low tide to see groups of gulls swimming in circle and every now and then hopping out of the water only to dive head first after marine worms. The worms are there for the “nookie” so to speak, and their strategy must be to show up in overwhelming numbers (Blitzkrieg or “shock and awe” style) that giving up a few hundred (guestimate of worm loss based on no data whatsoever) worms to gulls has negligible impact on the populations overall breeding success. I mean, there’s a lot of impact on the worms that get eaten of course, but you know what I mean. 

three otters soft trail


Old Harbor Pond – had some time to check in with the otter scene on the south end of OHP. At first it was tricky to see if there had been any activity near the classic den in the rock pier there, but once I came around the zone it was obvious that the “gang of three” was not only using the overday accommodations, but where in there while I was snappin’ photos! Clear path and not clear at all spraint led the way to the tunnel that must lead to the den entrance deep under the snow. Love those old harbor otters!

slightly tilted photo showing approach
trail and den access. plus spraint!

the actual den entrance is maybe 5 feet to the right.
thus the cool tunnel.

estrus fertilizer for the hemlock cone!

Off island – when we last left off we had a bleeding otter named Larry in the marsh. That was the last sign of Larry from the back-yard zone we sometimes call the marsh.

From earlier tracking expeditions we learned that Larry leaves the marsh on a regular basis, so I went to an area called “Clark Island” where I had picked up on otter trails and sign before. Clark island also happens to be very close to where Larry’s trail from the marsh ends. In other words, this solo, female otter uses the marsh and long cove/Clark’s island grounds for fishing and denning and marking.

a little blood and spraint

With that in mind I wasn’t too surprised to find more bloody estrus areas at some of the otter latrines I am familiar with on Clark’s. Here the blood must have been spread (do otters “spread” blood?) when the snow was wet as it had a different consistency (or “feel” if you will) than the blood in the marsh previously reported. Most likely tasted the same though. Very cool to find.

drying estrus on ice

A revisit to the estrus zone in the marsh showed me what bloody estrus looks like after it dries up. It takes on an interesting cobwebby look. Probably still gets the message across though!  

dry estrus exposed!
the one thing krispies had going for it was
the lack of artificial colors.
that is what spring is for!

and at this time of spring wonder, lets not forget the foods that use the hope of spring to sell their products. not limited edition necessarily, but ones we wish were limited to none.

at least they always use real cocoa

and the leif man, in the snow

and excavating the hermit house ruins nearby.

Good times! now
get out there!