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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, May 12, 2019

spotted salamander egg - "unfurled"

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – May 12 2019

snake scales
MCHT and VLT sponsored! We thank both supportive organizations!


Highlights – Songbirds including Warblers and others, Upland Sandpiper, Owl Pellets, Butterflies, Flowers, Otter spraint! Vernal Pool updates, Spotted Turtles, loon migration and so much more!

sorry - in such an egg zone as of late.
lots of egg photos a-comin'!

Businesscontact us -  - your photos, your sightings, your reports, and your love – we’ll take ‘em all! And thanks for sharing!


Tiit trick – click on the photos to jumbize them and then say “oh no you didn’t!”

cattle egrets!
photo sent in by Tim Lee

SightingsCattle egrets – Tim Lee was kind enough to forward these shots of some of the recent Cattle egret that have been sighted around island. These egrets were spotted by Clayter Hill Road.


chatter-box by the rockland ferry terminal
Northern Mockingbird – Rockland Ferry Terminal – if you’ve been getting an “earful of avian babble” while waiting for the ferry – a Northern Mockingbird has set up shop and can be heard most mornings singing and mimicking his little heart out. The photo was from (5/9) at 6:30. He was in a tree in front of the granite inn, across the street.  He belted out hits such as “eastern phoebe” and “killdeer” along with an assortment of gargles and gobblers. If you are familiar with Northern Mockingbirds you know what I mean.


common loon - not in motion, but with a red eye!

From the ferry – Common Loons are looking good and ready for action… three in air heading north (migration anyone?), feet dangling and all. … Oldtails have molted and a few pairs are still around in Rockland Harbor…Eiders are always in style from the ferry…Black and Surf Scoters also seen this week….20 Purple Sandpipers (5/4)……(5/7) Barn and Tree Swallows flying over the 7am ferry as it leaves Rockland Harbor.....Laughing Gulls in Hurricane Sound and in the bay

loon in motion

eiders not from the ferry

click and enlarge for old tail breeding plumage
parula - ventral view



Warblers – let’s get to it. Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped and Northern Parula are in good number around island – yellow-rumpeds being in particularly high densities (at times) when found.

northern parula - side view

Black and white and Magnolia Warbler are also around, small numbers of Common Yellowthroats are here and I crossed paths with a solo Black-throated Blue male on the Basin Platform trail (5/7). Ovenbirds, Redstarts and Palm Warblers  on the mainland, lots more to come! Get out to Armbrust Hill, Lane’s or even your yard and take a look – migration is good stuff!

black and white warbler
nuthatch like. cool dotted pattern on vent



Other songbird singers – Purple Finches have been loud this week… Grey Catbird on Lane’s (5/9)…Blue-headed Vireos, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch,

magnolia warbler

yellow rumped.
classic butterbutt without seeing his romper!



Huber Preserve – (5/4) had a little time after the tick meeting – congrats to all those involved with the meeting and thanks for those in attendance. Good time! – and so headed over to Huber to check in with the “vernal pool along the trail”. Nine Spotted Salamander egg masses is on the higher side of counts for this pool (7 egg masses in 2008. Some years since - zero), and so I decided I had time to check the pools in the nearby wetlands.


At first there was a sprinkling of masses in some of the deeper water collections – with numbers like 12, 5, 8 and 1. Then I made it to roots had been uplifted with blown over trees, creating sizable – in both surface area and depth – longer term pools.


One had 29 and another had 32 egg masses in them., attached to one or two dropped branches that make the best habitat!

I went further in, to the last vernal pool that was named “Tyler’s undoing” by the outdoor explorer alumni group of John Morton, Joey Reidy, Willie Drury, and Tyler Chilles. The group surveyed the pools on May 4, 2008 and as a reward were allowed to name them (I know). The one by the trail is lovingly referred to as “Vita’s Drool” and it went down from there to “worthless”. 80 sets of spotted salamander eggs were found that day with 10 eyes scouring the wetlands for pools and eggs and eggs and pools.


Anyway, “Tyler’s undoing” had 22 sets of eggs in 2008, enough to be considered to be considered to be called “significant” by the state, if need be. Anyway, this spring Tyler’s undoing was overflowing with egg masses – 123 masses in total, divided into three branch laden sections. It was awesome. And the eggs were very photogenic on this particular day.

unfurled stage. spotted salamander embryo
in one circle its referred to as
"the little manatee" stage
Basin – (5/7) – Basin Platform TrailBald Eagle, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, & Black and white Warblers, Northern Parula, Winter Wren, Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Flickers, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, Spotted Salamander egg masses, Spotted Turtle, Canada Goose

checked out a vernal pool and found that some of the spotted salamander embryos had unfurled in this section.



the green algae in the yolk has a "symbiotic" relationship with the unfurling embryos. I use quotes on "symbiotic" since from the little reading I have done on this subject, it is not a "50-50" kind of symbiotic. The algae is eventually absorbed into the salamander on a cellular level, the only relationship of this kind known with a vertebrate as a one of the players. anyway, the algae apparently is under a significant amount of stress once absorbed. sounds like there are a lot of unknowns with this relationship, as well as my limited effort in researching (for a variety of reasons).

Anyway - fun to notice...

while other embryos in the same pool were a little bit behind, timing of unfurling wise....

Saw-whet owl pellet – right by the trailhead, stepped off to spray a little tick spray, looked down and found this regurgitated nugget bursting


this Garter Snake was sunning itself in the middle of the Mack’s Pond Trail (5/7). I decided to see what would happen if I slapped on the new macros lens and approached the snake’s backside (is that even a thing?), “other half”, “second half” , “closer to the tip” to get some scale photos. Well, the snake didn’t mind, or if it did it was too much of a sun coma to express. I took the head shot with my SLR, stayed clear of the head and left it there in the trail.


Also…at Jim Mack’s Pond I spotted two spotted turtles along the shores of the great cedar pond outflow. More on spotted turtles in future VSRs – for now, let’s just say – it was awesome!


Brown Creepers – they have been on every preserve as of late; I got these shots of one in the Basin. Good views of their camouflaging skills.


Here’s a couple shots of a Creeper that worked its way up a bending branch. Eventually the creeper found itself upside down as he followed the never ending being branch. In the end the creeper worked its way “down” (towards the ground) by continuing to climb

this creeper is going down

Lane’s island – (5/8) was in a rush on the outer loop when I spotted a shorebird on the rocks ahead of me. Looked to be most likely a Yellowlegs, and so I snapped a few shots before it went back behind some rocks and it was time for me to move on. As I was leaving the bird flew by me, making a call that was certainly not a yellowlegs call. When I got home I was glad I had taken the few shots that I had because it was an Upland Sandpiper. My first on Vinalhaven, and only the second time I’ve ever seen. Pretty stoked – the magic of lane’s island continues…

fair to less than fair shot of upland sandpiper on lane's

long-eared owl pellet close to trail

Plants stuff - Flowers – a couple of this year’s violets …



Skunk cabbage has been fun to check out as of late…

skunk cabbage

skunk cabbage




FiddleheadsCinnamon Fern fiddleheads


And sensitive fern fiddleheads are up – amongst others!
and a ,mushroom - tree ear/wood ear that looks like an ear...


American Lady Butterflies - a handful were seen fluttering around up at Long Cove last week. This is a migratory Lepidoptera species, and a welcome one at that!

the letter "j"

and now for something we like to call....hodge-podge!

greater yellowlegs in breeding plumage

isopod exoskeleton in otter spraint

carrion beetle in coyote scat on the mainland!!!!

deer skull at Huber

and Leif has been a huge help around the house

including removing asphalt to open up some flower space.

Earning his keep!

See you out there!