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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


Saturday, August 3, 2019

after sunrise rockland harbor

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – August 4 2019

Brought to you, with love and the support of MCHT and VLT

spotted salamander larva

Highlights : Vernal pool sampling, dragonflies, butterflies especially Monarchs, Redstart with young, yellow warblers with young, flowers including Indian Pipes and Common Bladderwort, damselflies, and so much more!

painted skimmer

Business: Lots of photos in this one. Hope your eyes are ready…

widow skimmer
Contact us: Hey – we love it when you contact us (yes, even you!), so share what you are seeing , send in your photos and stories and we’ll plaster them all over this blog. In a way you’ll be famous. In most ways you probably won’t be. is the email for you to remember! Or better yet – to use!


Tiit trick: Click on the photos to have them fill up your universe (or computer screen!).

spotted salamander larva with leg out
this is the vernal pool update!

Skua plug – Hey – it’s not too late to get out on the water for a boat ride, see some island and learn/observe a bunch load of stuff with Captain John Drury onboard the Skua. Here’s a link to his wonderful blog “Sightings from Skua” – for recent sightings and for reserving your spot on the hottest pelagic show in Maine! Or something like that ….



northern bluet

last minute update! - This just in from John – a recent trip beyond Seal turned up roughly 450 Ocean Sunfish! On one trip! I guess you can tell them apart on the way back since they are facing a different direction? Anyway – prior “record” on the Skua was about 7 ocean sunfish from what John remembers. So, get out there today! Never know what you might find!


Upcoming events: VLT bird walks continue – Thursday mornings either at 7 or 8am. Check the vlt website for times and dates! Impressive lists being sent in from the birdwalks – don’t want to miss….

American redstart


Break in the action - When we see you next…..well, it may be September, unless we are feeling giddy from the road. Never know. Enough the break and go outside and look at some stuff!


Sightings: Where to begin? There is so much going on these days – dragonflies, butterflies, mushrooms, birds….so let’s start with birds…


American redstart underside
Couple of bird list from the Thursday morning bird walks – looks like there has been a lot being seen!


Lanes Island: Amer redstart, Amer goldfinch,  Common yellowthroat, Black-capped chickadee, Catbird, Cedar waxwing, Alder flycatcher, Red-breasted nuthatch, Yellow warbler, Common crow, Purple finch, Amer robin, Herring gull, White throated sparrow, Song sparrow, Flicker, Common eider, Black guillemot, Double-crested cormorant, Lesser yellowlegs.


State beach - greater yellowlegs, semipalmated plover, common tern, black-throated green warbler, osprey, bald eagle, raven




Love getting these lists. Fun outings, lots to see, and then it gets shared right here - some pure citizen science, documented here for all eternity! Catch the next bird walk you can!


begging Redstart fledgling
And since we are talking Lane’s and birds – that said, coffee breaks happen in lane’s island, well, once a day or so (when we are out there) and the watching is often good while the water is getting to a boil. Last week I made coffee three times in the parking lot (have I ever come clean with my love for coffee?) and each time a pair of American Restart (young and a responsible male) made all kinds of racket in the trees above the parking lot. I say responsible because in each case a male was feeding a young fledgling on indeterminant gender (not that that’s important!).

first spring male Redstart, that was feeding young

What was cool was that one day it was an adult male feeding a youngster and the next it was a firs spring male – not so sharp with the black and orange pattern – feeding a begging fledgling. Most likely young from two different nearby nests but shows that first year male redstarts can be successful in rearing offspring. Good for you young Redstart!

one young yellow warbler

The yellow warbler saga has played out rather well, as two fledglings were spotted in the proximity of the skewed nest, and a third could be heard close by. Still begging but close to be on their own. I had one of them in my hand once.

and a second young yewllow warbler

black swallowtail

ButterfliesEastern Black Swallowtail spent “a small chunk of a time” along the shoreline of Lane’s, which was cool.

atlantis fritillary

Hey – Numerous fritillaries, and lots of Red Admiral and White Admiral butterflies around, both of which have “chevron” like patterns on their wings filled with their respective, namesake color.
American lady butterflies have two large circle on the
bottom of their hindwings
Here’s a tutorial on the to Lady butterfly species we have – American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

American ladies have four dots on the top if its hindwing

Armbrust Hill – a bonus of spending time on the lane’s island trails system is the proximity to Armbrust Hill. Don’t get me wrong, Lane’s is a top treasure island-wide for me, wildlife and calmness wise, but when it comes time for lunch sometimes you want to go somewhere other than where you work. So, I’ve been having these ~20 minute lunch sessions by the frog above the medical center. Quick math says that’s about an hour of total time spent by the pond, and the sightings are impressive both in quality and quantity.  So productive….


painted ladies, on the other hand, have four small black dots on the underside of its hind wing

and four dots above - none blue
what a July for monarchs!

No one seems to remember a July full of Monarchs quite like this one. in my experience the fall, southern migration tends to be when Monarchs are at their thickest along the coast.

This July is nutty with Monarchs!

caterpillars are made! or something like that

and when two monarchs love each other....


adult male green frog
Green Frogs of different stages abound….

green frog eggs

this one still has a small tail

eastern pond hawk male

If you are interested in dragonflies and damselflies there is no better/easier place to access. Here’s a sample of what I’ve been seeing by the pond!


Eastern Pondhawks – with their cool green faces…

eastern pondhawk femals


All green females!


Blue Dasher male


Blue Dashers – males similar to the pondhawks – but with a white face


blue dasher female


Females look way different.

painted skimmer


Painted Skimmers


painted skimmer from atop a clothespin!

chalk-fronted corporal

Chalk-fronted Corporals – may be the most abundant dragonfly up at the pond


twelve spotted skimmer


Twelve-spotted Skimmer

twelve spotted skimmer face on

widow skimmer male


Widow Skimmer

female widow skimmer

common whitetail

close up of whitetail face shows two deer fly
wings sticking out of its mouth


white-faced meadowhawk
Common Whitetail


White-faced Meadowhawk


cherry faced meadowhawk


Cherry-faced Meadowhawk –


mating cherry faced meadowhawk

dot-tailed whiteface


Dot-tailed Whiteface

dot-tailed whiteface

mating red-waisted whiteface

red-wasted whiteface


And the Red-waisted Whiteface –

lots of hot action in the salt marshes when seaside
dragonlets are arpund
And then there is the case of the Seaside Dragonlet – observed in a local salt marsh, Seaside Dragonlets are the only Odonata in North America that can lay eggs in salt water. Salt pannes – shallow pools that collect salt water within a marsh system – are preferred habitat for these small dragonflies. With osmosis and all that makes me (the royal “me”) wonder how salty the eggs must be. Anyway, never seen – not heard of these before – so that was a different kind of bonus.
this seaside dragonlet has a funky right hind wing

baneberry. do not eat this stuff


Plant stuff – there are some cool flowers out these days – Baneberry – the plant that killed that doofus from “into the wild” – all berried up and looking scrumptious on North Haven this week. Have only seen one patch on Vinalhaven – but there is sure to be more around!

indian pipe, old and new

Indian or Ghost pipes – everyone’s favorite parasitic plant is lining trails with its ghostly white glow. Drop and get a closer look! Its fun! I swear


dodder vines

Another favorite parasitic plant is Dodder, whose vines are starting to take over sections of Lane's Island - and that's not a bad thing!

dodder viney tendrils
common bladderwort


(Armbrust Hill) Common Bladderwort is in bloom – cool yellow blooms on a seriously firm stalk, rising out of the water above the plants’ carnivorous assortment of bladders ready to take in any copepod or small critter that dares to tread near.

bladderwort with female eastern forktail

Funny to say that because as I snapped photos of Bladderwort, a female Eastern Forktail damselfly landed on the Bladderwort and proceeded to work its way down the stalk, submerging itself as it sliced into the stalk and laid eggs within the carnivorous plant. That’s the part that gets me – almost seems counter intuitive  to lay eggs on a plant that will try to eat your offspring. Who am I to question?


you can see the forktail's abdomen under the water as she
slices the bladderwort stem to put an egg inside.

just the wings above water


Cool to see how low the Forktail would go. Did the forktail use the surface tension to allow her to lay eggs and enter the water almost completely while not getting wet in the least? May be the case, the female flew off with no drying necessary!  

scrambled egg slime



Slime molds – still lots of sign of slimes….another drizzle or two might go a long way, but days of 150 patches clicked are commonplace this summer. here are a couple of scrambled egg slime and a dried chocolate tube slime from recent ventures…


thinning chocolate tube slime
bitter bolete

Mushrooms – lots to see out there these days, even with the heat and lack of moisture.


Couple of Boletes – Bitter Bolete

bitter bolete pores
bitter bolete with its cobwebby stalk

totally dig the violet brown bolete


And the Violet-brown Bolete


violet brown boletes
blusher button

Amanitas - Blusher – Amanita rubescens – here’s a column I wrote for the St. George Dragon newsletter – sums up a little of the Amanita scene these days….




Maine summers get hot (broken record, I know). Great time to be an insect, or anything cold-blooded really. For warm-blooded humans, though, these are the “sweaty days”. And as an observer, it’s hard not to notice that “things” in nature often slow down a little with the heat (and sweat). Not quite to a halt, but close to mid-winter levels of activity – a steady, but non-overwhelming pace. The difference, of course, is how incredibly comfortable winter is.  Enough already!



The oppressive summer heat and its associated dryness can’t stop fungus from doing what they do, however. Sure, when the top layers of soil dry up most fungal activity stops within that layer. Dig a little deeper, though, and fungal mycelium are happily absorbing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Many fungus species will then trade these absorbed treasures with plants, via roots, for sugars made during plant photosynthesis. It’s the classic “mycorrhizal” symbiotic relationship between plant and fungus, working together to build a robust forest habitat. We’ve been over this before, I know. Repetition (cloning) can be the key to getting into the fungal state of mind and it’s a relationship worth repeating. It’s a relationship worth repeating.


Summer mushrooms give credence to the catch phrase “just add water” from the old gray train commercials. A little rain, or even some thick fog, and woods and yards alike respond with a bloom of summer shrooms. They may go quickly, sometimes lasting only a day or two before drying up. Long enough to disperse their spores, and it’s all about those spores.



For any myco-novice (or myco-newbie) the number of mushroom species in mid-coast Maine can seem a little overwhelming, even when focusing solely on “mushrooms that look like mushrooms” - no shelf or coral or whatever. Organize what you find, however, and you’ll see that around 80% of mushrooms in mid-coast Maine are members of four mushroom families – Boletaceae, Russulaceae, Cortinariaceae, and Amanitaceae. Understanding this gives mushroom observers a place to start when beginning the identification process.


And while I am a self-proclaimed Boleto-phile, in my mind the summer is owned by Amanitas, fungally speaking of course. Amanita diversity can be good after a summer rain, with a mix of Cleft-footed (Amanita brunnescens), Tawny Grissette (A. fulva), Grissette (A. vaginata), Strangulated Grissette (A. ceciliae), Fly agaric (A. muscaria), Yellow Patches (A. flavoconia), Frost’s Amanita (A. frostiana) and the Destroying Angel (A. virosa) lining a trails and sprinkled throughout a forest after a moist summer day.  I may be a sucker for boletes, but deep down inside I am an amanita man.

cleft-footed amanita

In mid-coast Maine The Blusher (Amanita rubescens) is not a rare summer mushroom by any means. In fact, along with Yellow Patches it is one of the most abundant (early) summer Amanitas. And yet, pound for pound, it may be the most overlooked and underappreciated Amanita. Let’s see if we can change that, shall we.
cleft -footed bulbous base with tares

holy blusher


One issue with Blushers is simply recognition. David Arora says that the Blusher “in many respects is an exasperatingly variable Amanita”. That is true. Blusher mushroom caps are mostly white(ish) to tan(nish) and covered with scales that run a good chunk of the color spectrum – white, pinkish, brownish, to grayish. All parts of a Blusher mushroom stains red when torn chewed or incidentally bumped (thus, the common name “Blusher”). Arora states that “the “blushing” of the cap, stem and flesh is the one infallible fieldmark for this fickle fungus”. This staining process may take minutes or longer before being noticeable, and so while the blushing may be a reliable fieldmark the blushing is on the Blusher’s terms, make no mistake of that.

blusher attacked by amanita mold

As a family, Amanitas are the deadliest group of mushrooms in North America. And yet, most Amanitas are non-poisonous and a few species – Ceaser Amanitas in the east, Corcorra in the west – are considered “choice edibles”. Field guides describe the edibility of Blushers as “good, with caution”, which is a standard phrase when mentioning eating Amanitas to strangers. In other words, you can eat it, but it’s on you to identify correctly. You are taking your life you’re your own hands. For you see, even though Blushers are “good”, they need to be cooked thoroughly as they contain “a hemolytic toxin in its raw state and hence causes anemia if eaten raw”. Just another mushroom that is edible in certain states and when prepared correctly. Do your research before eating any wild mushroom!


blusher attacked by amanita mold

When you find a patch of Blushers (or any Amanita for that matter), it’s a safe bet you’ll be able to find more in the same general area year after year. Over time you can get a feel for Amanita populations and dispersal in your area, another step in “getting to know your neighborhood”.   But the knowledge doesn’t stop there as Blushers are routinely parasitized by Amanita mold (Hypomyces hyalinus). The mold turns Blusher mushrooms into “a phallic, chalky, pimpled mutation of its former self” -Lawrence Millman. Molds gotta live too. So, as you learn about Blusher distribution, you can also learn where the Amanita molds live as well! The learning, like the music, never stops!



There’s a lot going on with Amanita rubescens. They are mycorrhizal with trees as a fungus, a non-poisonous, “good” edible as a mushroom, and seem to have an endless variety of looks while changing color over time. Blushers are also a great way to learn about Hypomyces mold distribution, for those interested in mold distribution (you know you are interested!). A species easy to dismiss, but one worth a second viewing for sure. And then a third……




 that's a lot of stuff -

And in the yard in st george…. preying mantis and Leif's arm.

And Leif on stage at acting camp - having a ball.

See you out there!