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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


Monday, June 18, 2018

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 18th, 2018

Brought to you with the kindly support of MCHT and VLT


Highlights – Ancient Murrelet, Red-billed Tropicbird, Red crossbills, mushrooms including Dye makers Polypore, Mourning Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, and so much more!

motherly love

Business: contact us – hey – ain’t too proud to beg – send us your sightings, photos, nature reports, whatever– you name it, we’ll take it! . Sharing is good, so be good and share.


Tiit Trick – click on the photos to enlarge. They’ll fill up your screen magically! But it’s not magic, like it’s not magic that I can be in the middle of nowhere and talk on a cellphone with my mom in South Carolina. You can tell me the science behind it, but you can’t convince me witchcraft is not involved.


Upcoming eventsVinalhaven bird walks – Thursdays starting on June 21st, 8am at Skoog Park. There are good times to observe in the woods, and birds are a great window to learning about your neighbors (not human ones that is). Check ‘em out! Thursdays from now through the end of summer! Who else is looking forward to the end of summer? Just kidding.


Off island“Nature Bummin” - St. George Historical Society - June 28, 7pm at the St George Grange at Wiley’s Corner.  The historical society was kind enough to invite me to speak at their next meeting which happens to be next Thursday! Should be a fun show – and there is a potluck before the meeting – at 6pm. With a title like “Nature Bummin” the show will ride the spectrum of nature topics and kingdoms to the fullest. Whatever that means. If you are on the mainland swing by!


Side plug – Seal Island is a sea bird nesting island like no other, and no one can take you on a tour like Captain John Drury on the Skua. Spaces are filling up quickly so contact John today to make your reservations for the “trip of a lifetime” (I just made up that quote – but it is an awesome trip). Contact John through his blog – .



red-billed tropicbird
Sightings -  we ain’t too proud to brag either – this in an historic VSR, as we (the royal “we”) can honestly say there has never been a post that included the tri-fecta of Ancient Murrelet, Red-billed Tropicbird and Red Crossbill. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say there have never been any nature posts from anywhere where all three of these species are reported. So you have to ask yourself – do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk? You should! Anyway, let’s get going..


black guillemot
Seal Island – few reports have been floating in from Seal, but John Drury “throws us a bone” every now and then and his reports always “hit the spot” (not literally). Along with the “standard” (just kidding) multitudes of Atlantic Puffin, Arctic and Common Terns, Razorbills, Black Guillemot, Laughing, Herring  and Great Black-backed Gulls there have been recent sightings of both the Red-billed Tropicbird (local legend) and an Ancient Murrelet. VSR readers  know of the Red-billed Tropicbird and its yearly presence in the Gulf of Maine (last 14 summers) with activities over the last 10 summers  focusing on Seal Island. Quite a treat to see, or even just know about really, and his return is welcomed with open arms.

common tern with fish

Alcid lovers (you know who you are!) are aware that Ancient Murrelets are more of a northern Pacific phenomenon and that sightings in the Atlantic are few and far between. That said, an Ancient Murrelet was spotted at Seal Island last week, which makes the second Ancient Murrelet sighted in the three or four years. Could it be the same bird? Can this be a new tradition similar to the tropicbird? Is Seal Island big enough to accommodate both the Tropicbird and the Murrelet with their associated egos? Good times!


From the ferry – Seals and pups are the early June thrill from the ferry – for me. The teams of moms and pups seem to be breaking up – they grow up so fast!


Speaking of growing up fast – June is the “easiest” time to find woodpecker nests as young woodpeckers continuously beg and cry from their nest cavities from dusk til dawn (pretty much). I found 12 active woodpecker cavities this year – 4 on Vinalhaven, 8 on the mainland - which may be a personal record (it’s really all about me). 10 were Hairy Woodpecker cavities and 4 were. Downy. At this point the nests I crossed paths with are empty (what a syndrome!)  So look (and listen!) for youngsters flying around and begging from their parents for the next few weeks. Good luck and welcome!


Pileated Woodpecker – Calderwood Neck - Walt Day reports a Pileated Woodpecker regularly visiting his property all spring. More and more reports of Pileateds over the last few years, they are everywhere on the mainland, only makes sense that they would be on Vinalhaven!  Very cool news!


male Red Crossbill

Singing around the islandBrown Creepers have “turned it up a notch” in my time in the wood s recently – lots of singing. American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Ovenbirds, Black and white, Yellow, Black-throated Green, yellow rumped, and Magnolia Warblers,  Song and White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple and Gold finches, Golden-crowned Kinglets….lots of song still being blasted in the woods and along roadsides. Seems like the Kinglets and Creepers may have moved on to brood two – good for them!

female Red Crossbill

Speaking of Red Crossbills – while “getting stuff” from the MCHT shed on Reach Road a family of Red Crossbills visited the few, heavily coned Spruce trees that are left standing  on the property after the October wind storm. Actually makes it easier to figure out which they are in when there are only a handful to choose from!



youngster red crossbill
The nice thing about Crossbills is you know they are going to be really high up in the tree because they are going to be where the most cones are. The bummer thing about Crossbills is that you know they are high up in the tree, so observing and photographing them can be tricky. This group of a male, female, and youngster were somewhat user friendly and seemed to enjoy the fixin’s the tree had prepared in its cones.

sticky tongue

Check out the photos – the crossing of the bill is clearly visible and one shot got a quick view of a crossbill tongue which is rumored to be very sticky.


Basin Preserve – platform trail – young Hayscented Ferns are a favorite kind of green. Hope folks are getting out to see that color!


Macks pond trail – young, developing Dye-makers Polypores are slowly growing mushrooms on a log that lays across the trail (who’s the steward over there anyway?). I didn’t have the heart to cut up and remove as the Dye-makers has grown on this log in years past – when the tree was perpendicular with the ground. Anyway – Dye-makers often bloom in the same spot for years so check out your favorite Dye-makers spot…especially with the (little) rain we’ve gotten. Could use some more!



On the mainland – bike rides – they have been good – a four woodpecker nest ride hit the spot.



Couple other highlights – mushroomsOyster mushrooms love late May rains ad have been numerous on Big-toothed Aspen


And on father’s day I rode to Rockland to meet up with Leif for our radio show (every Sunday night on, or 93.3 in Rockland Maine. 7-8pm!) when I spotted this King Bolete (the king!) in a front yard in South Thomaston.

I think this may be the first time I have ever found a King in June, which is now one of my 12 favorite months to find a King! July for sure, September is even better around these parts – in California they were a January –March kind of thing. Well, anyway! Happy June everybody!


reptiles on the road – always love crossing paths with reptiles and seeing them from my bike and their actually being alive (rather than roadkill) just makes the experience that much sweeter for me (and it is all about me). Anyway, riding by an area in “downtown” Tenants Harbor called Ripley’s Creek I spotted this huge Snappin’ Turtle making its way from the traditional “mound in the middle of the turn around/parking area” towards a marsh called The Marsh and the safety of the waters held there within. It hung out long enough for me to contact Amy and Leif (thank you Verizon!) and they got to watch her make her way back to a more aquatic world. Very cool.


I like this Garter Snake.



And some of Leif – with Zo and Leif’s “most improved player” award – great to see Zo on the mainland or on island !


Checking out seals and puffins on a great field trip to Eastern Egg Rock


Getting free tacos – thank you golden state warriors!



With an unhatched Robin egg that remained in a nest after our local robins fledged. among other adventures

see you out there!



Saturday, June 2, 2018

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – June 1st, 2018

With the support of VLT, MCHT and readers like you! Thanks!


Highlights – Beaver on the beach (and at the tidewater!), harbor seals with pups, woodpecker nest, flowers, winter wren session, robin nests, warblers, and so much more….

robin's egg blue


Business – contact us – send in your photos, your sightings, and your videos of beaver swimming in the ocean – whatever! As long as it’s somewhat (loosely) nature based we’ll gladly take your photos and reports and “spread the love” so to speak. is the place to send all that/those as well as email addresses of those looking to be added to the “VSR posting announcement list” or “VSRPAL”! Very exclusive list!


Tiit Trick – click on the photos to jumbo size them. Simple as that! Simon says “click”!

beaver on the beach!
photo by Sam Rosen

SightingsBeaver in the creekSteve, Sam, Emma (Rosens), Alice and Molly (I think, my bad if wrong name or if someone was missed!) were doing a beach cleanup out at Pocus Point when Steve found a “beaver in the Rosa rugosa”. Here are some shots of the encounter.

beaver at pocus point
photo by Sam Rosen

beaver on the rocks!
photo by Sam Rosen


And some videos….


Beavers in salt water sound funny? (“if you think round is funny” – Raising Arizona). “They got to get out here somehow!”  Someone once said, and beaver show up on many if not most islands along the coast of Maine at one time or another. Seeing beaver on Damariscove Island during a Purple Sandpiper survey with John Drury years back was a particular beaver experience that sticks out in my mind. Miles from nowhere and with a complete lack of trees, and there’s a beaver and a lodge and a tail slapping, acknowledging our presence.  They seem to do fine in salt water in other words.


Sometimes its young dispersing, sometimes is elders getting the boot – pretty much sums up the conversation Steve and I had about beavers in general and this particular beaver. Full grown and healthy if not a little pooched from swimming from wherever it came from, Steve mentioned that his research indicated that under certain circumstances older beaver will be asked/forced/neglected/harassed until they kindly leave the area they have known their entire adult life (maybe). Such circumstances might be connected with population density, change in habitat or resources, or change in group dynamics (out with the old, drain the swamp!) to name a few.



Best of luck to this one wherever it is heading. I hear Matinicus has trees this time of year!


beaver at the tidewater
photo by Paul Taylor
Update – June 1st – most likely the same beaver was spotted on the rocks below the Tidewater Hotel! A hotel guest snapped this shot of the rascal checking out the harbor, maybe sizing up which boat looks the most like a tree. Anyway, hope this one finds a home, or maybe it’s cool with being on its own. I don’t know, you talk to it.

 Thanks to the Tidewater and the Rosen clan for sharing these exciting sightings!

dead buck
photo by Kerry Hardy
Dead deer – as opposed to pictures of a live mammal, VLT steward Kerry Hardy sent these photos of a dead buck, White-tailed Deer. We like pictures like this, in fact with love them! So never hesitate to send in shots of dead stuff whatever its state of decay may be! Our standards lie between none at all and completely open! However you look at it sending in pictures of dead stuff is always a win-win!

pup getting a good hold of mom
from the ferry

Harbor Sealsfrom the ferry and in the basin – more seal pups have been popping out left and right around the island. They only stay with their moms for a month or so, so make sure you check them out on the ledges and rocks from the ferry, in the basin, seal bay or wherever. The pups are the little ones. Here are some photos

hold on tight! not too tight!
nursing pup gets splashed - from the ferry
mother and pup harbor seals in the basin
harbor seal and pup on the rocks! in the Basin

Basin – (5/25) -Hermit thrush, winter wren, golden-crowned kinglet, black throated green warbler, American redstart, northern parula, hairy woodpecker (nest) harbor seals with pups.


winter wren
This winter wren came from literally under the ground where a tree fell trailside many years ago. The roots (and rootlets I guess) opened up space around themselves in the ground when the tree they are attached to fell and the trunk repositioned itself. Over time the space increased until there was enough room for a winter wren to make a nest in a gap. The access to this newly opened space runs along  the trail, and over time “skylights” in the ground (some call them “holes” ) opened up along this 4-5 foot long opening (does this make sense at all?).

As I was walking with my chainsaw on my shoulder my peripheral picked up this wren bailing on the nest space as it flew up the “skylights” into the gap. Anyway, it was cool. Trust me! And then it hung out for a couple of shots. It seemed like he was trying to figure out what I am, story of my life! Anyway, this winter wren was a highlight


Tidepoolin’-  Lane’s Island (5/21) – I took a group of 1st graders from the Montessori School in Camden on a field trip and we caught a beautiful day with a great low tide. Young lobster, sea urchins, gunnel eels, red rock crab and loads of green crabs kept us busy


oh great, the next generation of
green crabs
American lobster with a tiny crusher claw


Armbrust Hill – (5/21) – after tidepooling we did a little pond scooping up on the hill and had a blast with green frogs, red-spotted newts, dragonfly nymphs and plenty of spotted salamander eggs. Good times!  


hello newt


Robin’s nests – these are from the neighborhood in st George, but robin nests status around the island is probably in a similar state. We are watching two nests, but keeping closer tabs on the one in the yard – so convenient. Spotted it through the “clubhouse” window.



and so much more growing to do! welcome to your first week out of the egg baby robins!

here's a shot of a Hairy Woodpecker nest I found while I was walking to the ferry. lots of nesting activity these days!

golden heather

and a bunch of flower pictures for those of you who are plant inclined.

golden heather in the basin is lovely

golden heather

blueberries have been looking especially nice these days

shadbush, juneberry, service berry - whatever you call it
its looking good these days

Huber is still the place to see lady slippers

there are lots on the trail, and a bunch right around
the parking lot

skunk cabbage should be Maine's
state flower.

this busy dude is busy making blueberries for us!
and getting pollen for itself. thanks pollinators!

fern fields are growing along

triple star flower

...and now for something completely different....

....what's sadder than a grown bald man taking pictures and laughing out loud at Oreo packages in Hannafords? the fact that someone thought these were good ideas for cookies. I am old school for sure, and remember getting angry when Nabisco put out double stuff for the first time ("they are ruining Oreos!), but this is insane. Pina Colada? red flags for whomever came up with this one.

And of course a bunch of Leif.


Fishing is going really well – “I love fishing!” – real quote from Leif.


And there is often some sick cat tail action – cat tail fights are the best. Really.

Hey - its been great seeing folks and we'll see you out there!