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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, September 5, 2011

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – August 31st, 2011
Brought to you by VLT, MCHT, and many volunteer hours by the VSR staff
“The last report was a little technical”

Highlights – Lichens, Snails, Tri-colored Heron, Great Egret, Mixed Species Flocks, Common Nighthawks, Shorebirds, Raptors, Fungus featuring The King! & our first FUNGUS VIDEO!, Mythbusters – fungal style, Slimes, Great Horned Owls, Crossbills (finally)!, Rosy Maple Moth caterpillar, and much more

munch, munch - hi to munch!

Business:  Interesting recent sightings to share? Well then send them along with any pictures to and they will magically appear in the next VSR. Recently it was mentioned by a longtime friend of the VSR that a sighting they left on my answering machine months ago was never published. My response was simply that I forgot it at the time of writing which was the truth. Unless it goes to the sightings email above there are no guarantees it’ll get published. My apologizes to our long-time friend by the way. And hey while we’re at it- Please do not send anything to the kgentalenvlt email address ever again. Stuff sent there will not get to me as I quit my gig as the vlt steward about 3 months ago. There you have it. is a good address to send non-sightings stuff to. ‘Nuff said.

Sightings – Warning- this is a long report! I know, I know! There is much more I could add, but at this point it’s long enough and I want to get this done. We were off island for the last 5 days, in Ohio were the internet hasn’t made it yet, so this is a little backdated. Nothing after August 31st, thats the way it goes. There you have it again….

"The Velvet" - photo by Javier Penelosa

Lichens – Hot news! – Javier Penelosa is a really nice guy (with an even nicer beard), who’s known for his plant knowledge, his use of latin (don’t hold it against him) and for his overall sweet demeanor (with a hint of sassiness). Well, he’s added another feather, or rather lichen to his beard of respect (while continuing to add to our (collective) knowledge of island) with a “spectacular find” up tip-toe mountain way. Here’s the play by play in Penelosa’s own words…

“Last year I collected a lichen that turns out to be something special (KG’s note – all lichens are special in their own way, even if it’s a really boring way): Cystocoleus ebeneus, hitherto unrecorded from Maine, rare in New England with the only other record from Western Massachusetts.  Jim Hinds (coauthor of Macrolichens of New England (KG note -awesome insomnia killer - read at midnight or later)) identified the specimen and calls this a "spectacular find".  I found it on a wet rhyolite ledge on Crockett Point southwest of Tiptoe Mountain, and here is a photo.  For a lichen it has an unusual structure: it is microfruticose, composed of a tangled loose mass of filaments each about 10 microns in diameter.  The symbiont is a green alga.  The species is not visually arresting and when I collected it I wasn't even sure it was a lichen.  The thalli are fuzzy little patches about a centimeter in diameter.”

british soldiers anyone?

reindeer love this stuff
How ‘bout that! Another rare lichen found on our island paradise! Those who know Penelosa probably aren’t too surprised by his find, as Javier’s third eye (his hand lens) is often plastered to his face (in a good way) and he is quick to drop and “go belly” to inspect even the smallest of non-moving beings in the woods. Javier reluctantly shared the lichen’s common name with me “Velvet Lichen” (once again, he’s a Latin guy),  and expressed how this find is shaking up the Lichen world. “I won’t take anyone to the site, or give out the GPS coordinates”, Penelosa noted “Lichenheads don’t respect private property and show no mercy when it comes to checking a Lichen off their life-list”. Penelosa is concerned with impact on the local environment if lichen lovers go search for the “the Velvet” as it is known in Lichen circles. Anyway, “spectacular finds” don’t come around everyday especially in the lichen world, so a huge “hats off” from everyone at the VSR to our favorite local lichenhead, (even if he does call me bad words sometimes). Penelosa promises to write some lichen stuff in the near future for the VSR, but I think we’ve all heard that before.  So, in the meantime, abive there’s a few other photos of some of our favorite local lichens.

Land Snails – or continuing with nature topics less traveled - Sure, we’ve all seen ‘em around, Leif loves to pick ‘em up and check’em out (some get squished, there will be impact!), but typically that’s the extent of our knowledge (and interest really). I’ve never known a land snailer (they apparently fall into the malacologist, or shell people, catagory) in my life, but I’m sure there are dozen(s) of them in North America. Vinalhaven was recently visited by one, Harry Lee of Jacksonville Florida – home of the “Big Ol’ Apple Snails!”- (Limpkin love these). His time on Calderwood Neck was productive snail wise, or at least it sounds like it was – it can be hard to read those malacologists. He pointed out that rains can be “a damper on tourism, but for a snail collector it is often a mixed blessing.” Same for Fungophiles. Here’s more on what he found in Harry’s (may I call you Harry?) words…

this photo has nothing to do with snails

“Shortly after our arrival for a brief but pleasant stay on Calderwood Neck in mid-August, my wife pointed out an unusual snail crawling on our hosts' porch. I can say unusual because I have made a nearly lifelong study of mollusks of all sorts, and this one, actually just its shell, was of a truly extraordinary golden color. I had only seen a snail of this sort once before; it happened to be on the preceding day in a flower garden in W. Stonington, some 15 miles distant from this part of Vinalhaven…By the time of our departure I had plucked about two dozen more specimens from a flower garden and a variety of weeds and grasses.

A closer look at the shells indicated that the vividly golden color greatly intensifies as they approach maximal growth. Adolescent specimens are much paler and indistinguishable from the largest typical specimens of a species known as the Blunt Ambersnail, Oxyloma retusum (I. Lea, 1834), ( for a photo go to collected elsewhere in the species range. e.g., Vermont <>. Nonetheless, the taxonomic story is not without some hookers:
(1) The largest shells in each sample are 20 mm in height. This size has been reported only in a few populations of O. retusum in the upper Mississippi River Valley, which snails were named O. r. magister (Pilsbry, 1899). The shell color is not mentioned, so one may assume it to be pale yellowish typical for the species.
(2) Pilsbry (1948 785-788) mentions "golden" in detailing only one population of this species. These snails were collected along the Calumet River, near Chicago and were named O. calumetensis (Calkins, 1878). The shells of the type series measured 12 to 13 mm in height.
(3) Despite its conspicuous habits, size, and coloration, this species (and genus) had not been reported from Maine previously. In fact, the quite easily distinguished Novisuccinea ovalis (Say, 1817) had heretofore been the only ambersnail (family Succineidae) known from the state (Hubricht, 1985).
(4) Finally, what about the artificial environment in which these two colonies thrived and the large and abrupt zoogeographic leap? To a terrestrial malacologist, the snails' synanthropic habit and disturbed habitat is a red flag for adventitious origin. Could these snails may have been introduced on horticultural or nursery stock? This contingency is entirely unlikely. Under such a scenario the ambersnail stock might have originated as far away as South America, Eurasia, or Africa!

As regards classification, Pilsbry (loc. cit.) synonymized Oxyloma r. magister (Pilsbry, 1899) and O. calumetensis (Calkins, 1878) with O. retusum, and this analysis has been accepted by subsequent workers, e.g., Hubricht (1985), Turgeon, Quinn, et al. (1999). Given this amplitude of variation in shell features, acceptance of O. retusum as the proper placement for these golden giants seems reasonable - at least for the time being. On the other hand, for well over a half-century, every ambersnail taxonomist has faulted sole reliance on shell characters in species (and, in some instances, generic) identifications. Traditionally, genital anatomy, and, more recently, molecular genetics must be applied to arrive at proper systematic placement in this particularly perplexing group. Accordingly, material from these two populations has been sent to Dr. Gary Barker of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, whose lab is performing an integrated study of the systematics of ambersnails worldwide. Hopefully an epilogue to this report may appear soon. DNA forensics should provide a more secure name for these snails - maybe even their origin if, as suspected, they are recent immigrants.” Now how can you argue with that?.

Vinalhaven is for lovers...
lovers of snails that is!

So what does this all mean (other than this guy spends way too much time with snails)? To be honest, I’m not sure, but he did use the word “hooker” in his writing, which means this report will probably get banned by the island institute (.“We’ve never had a relationship with that organization”). The bottom line here? I think it’s that Vinalhaven has some cool looking snails!!!  If I read this right, it sound like he’s sent off a collected sample or two from Vinalhaven to New Zealand for DNA work? This is way hard core to say the least! We’ll keep you all posted when wind of said “epilogue”  is available.
Tri-colored Heron
-photo by Steve Nanz
Tri-colored heron – The summer of the Heron continues out here on the Fox Islands as visiting naturalist Steve Nanz  (8/24) found himself this sweet, not-so-little bird down Indian Creek way. Tri-colored Herons, formerly known as Louisiana Herons before bird watching expanded beyond the bayou,  are pretty common, year-round residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast, across Florida and up along the Atlantic Coast thru Virginia or so. The puny range map in the book has them breeding all the way to Rhode Island (I need Penelosa’s hand lens to see the map) I think. Anyway, this juvenile was spotted from schoolhouse road, where steve noted “I would have gotten a better picture but I didn’t want to cross private property”, even birdwatchers are more considerate than lichen heads!  Anyway, this is the first Tri-colored Heron documented on Vinalhaven (VVNM), to go along with the Little Blue Heron from earlier in the summer, and the Great Egret over at Pleasant River – recently spotted by Bill Chilles - (plus the Cattle Egret from last fall) all add up to a very Heronry time.  Thanks for sharing Steve!
Round the island – (8/22) Reach road - Broad-winged Hawk…(8/26) Red Sea – Common Tern with young on ledges…(8/26) Granite Island Trails – Sharp-shinned family, complete with fledgling, is chatting/screaming in the trees above the creek-crossing bridge on the Quarry Loop trail. Same spot as last year, just  little later this summer…Common Nighthawks seen migrating over the Reach (8/22) and Old Harbor Pond (8/25) - more to come!...Martha Reed's yard - Great Spangled Frittilary, Red Admiral, and a Black Swallowtail. great butterflies! 

"First dibbs" - waiting for low tide

Great Horned Owls  - (8/22 ) Patience Chamberlin hears Green’s Island Great Horneds “hooting it up” while inside her house! (patience was in her house not the owls)...(8/23) I hear the Green’s Island Great Horneds from our parking area at about 9pm – so loud it’s like they were at the Chamberlin’s (neighbors). (8/29) The Adairs mention they’ve been hearing the local Great Horneds in the evening lately. So what’s up with that?

Bird Walks – So we wrapped up the Summer Wednesday Morning Bird Walks and I want to give a big thanks to all those who attended, it really was a great summer series, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. And I want to extend a big thanks to the VLT and MCHT for sponsoring the outings, and I’m looking forward to the next round! Here’s how it all wrapped up….
(8/24) State Beach – Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Semi-palmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, 4 Bald Eagles, 3 Osprey, Song Sparrow, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Common Loon, Goldfinch (cloacal kissing!), Crow, Common Eider… The story here was three fold – Incredible Eagle flybys – right over head and low!, the shorebirds and their truly amazing migration, and that the Goldfinch were still “doing it”! August cloacal kissings, now that’s’ hardcore!

not the best pectoral sandpiper photo
but we'll take it.

Elderbirds Bird Walk – our motto – “We see just as much, but just at a slightly slower pace”. (8/29) This was a special outing for folks who mentioned to me a desire to join on the summer bird walk series but for a variety of reasons (that largely boiled down to concerns about terrain and not wanting to slow the group down) didn’t join in. Publicity for it ended up being word of mouth (and please tell anyone who you might think would fall into the elderbird group to get in touch with ) and it was such a great idea and so much fun that we will surely do more of these in the future. Thanks to MCHT for sponsoring the outing. Here’s what we found, the day after Irene passed us by…

Folly Pond – Bald Eagle, Wood Duck, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, Ravens, Downy Woodpecker.
Dump – Black Vulture
State Beach – Tons of Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Ravens, Crows, Black Guillemot, Turkey Vulture.

Marasmius decompose a single needle

The story of the morning, other than that we closed out the Vultures again!, had to be the shorebirds at State Beach. It was hard to tell just how many were feasting on the huge piles of washed up sea weed, but as individual Sanderling and Pectoral Sandpiper passed thru and worked the shore along with groups of mostly Semi-palmated Sandpipers, I got the feeling that we may have seen, oh I don’t know, at least a 100 and even possibly 100s of shorebirds go by. By far the best shorebird day I’ve had at State Beach, which is saying something cuz I feel like I’ve had some good days out the there. And the birds were so tame, obviously hungry after surviving the storm, we were often within 15-20 feet of birds as they focused on the feast. It was legendary. The mixed-species flock at Folly Pond was fun too!
Mythbusters – Fungal style – I don’t talk with many mushroom heads very often, so I’m not really exposed to many myths or rumors about the fungal kingdom. Sometimes though one can’t help but overhear something being mentioned or read something in the book that just gets you asking – how’d they come up with that? Here’s are two that I’ve been reminded of with the recent fungal bloom.

Amanita muscaria - being eaten by a slug
notice the slug is neither vomitting
nor pooping.
Myth #1 – Poisonous mushrooms are brightly colored – This is one I heard while scoring a backpack full of King Boletes and Chanterelles in Acadia National Park a few summers back (two steps ahead of the closest ranger). A dad was pointing out a fresh patch of bright yellow Amanita muscarias to his kid and told him to “stay away from the brightly colored mushrooms, cuz they are the poisonous ones”. He was right to a certain degree, as the kid probably shouldn’t be eating Amanita muscarias as they would most likely make him both vomit & be digestively unstable (the rooster), with the slight potential of hallucinating all the while (sounds dreamy, huh). Normally I don’t enter conversations with strangers spouting misinformation, but with the kid’s survival in mind I was quick to point out that the bright white mushroom on the other side of the trail, a Destroying Angel, was the one that would invoke a long and unpleasant death with the climax of the experience being liver and kidney failure. I then told them I didn’t really think they should be eating any wild mushrooms and to question those scab mushrooms you can buy in the store. I think the “brightly colored things being poisonous” rule is good for coral fish and frogs (how many frogs do you anyway?), but how it got transported to a fungal myth is unclear. What is clear is that the Destroying Angel and it’s reserved looking cousin, the Death Cap, result in something like 75% of all fungal induced deaths in North America. Please don’t chew on that for any amount of time.

destroying angel that's been destroyed by slugs

if this slug were you, you'd be vomitting by now.

Myth #2 – This concerns slugs, fungus  and some vague wording– “They (slugs) seem to prefer the mushrooms that are edible to humans.  By no means are we suggesting that it is safe to eat any mushroom you see a slug eating, but a conspicuous lack of slug feeding often indicates an especially toxic species”.  (Page 293 Tracks and Sign of Insects – Eisman and Charney). My question is, what exactly are you suggesting? (And may I suggest that next time you have a point! It makes it much more interesting to the reader!) This is my favorite fungal wishy-washy myth (generalization), mostly cuz I’d never heard of it before last year and really can't imagine how this guy made this up. I’m sure we humans share many traits and genes with slugs (some humans more than others) but how a correlation between us and them (slugs) developed in the case of fungal poisons is a head scratcher to me. Now, we’ve all found that perfectly beautiful (from a distance) Bolete only to find with closer examination that it’s been macked by slugs, which might make one think that they are out to get our fungus and no other fungus at all- us against slugs . But come on! I have included three pictures if fungus that would either kill humans or make us ”puke out a lung” – Emetic Russula and Amanita muscaria – the fly agaric- all being feasted on by slugs. And a picture of a well slugged Destroying Angel, one that would’ve taken us down (and I mean down) in one full swallow. A waste of a paragraph in a field guide as far as I can tell.

the beautiful basin

Outings - Williams section of the Basin Preserve(8/22) Fungus – Orange Jelly, Orange Mycena, Yellow Patches, Spruce needle Marasmius, Red-mouthed Bolete, Tinder Conk, White Cheese Polypore, Conifer Violet-toothed Polypore, Salmon-unicorn Entoloma, Lilac Brown Bolete, Oak loving Collybia, False Chanterelle, Violet-toothed Polypore, Red-belted Conk, Blusher, Boring Poria, Birch Polypore, Hemlock Varnish Shelf, Gypsy, Painted Suillius, Turkey Tail, Butter Bolete, Lack Luster Laccaria,
AnimalsMixed Species Flock – Black throated Green Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Black-capped chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch. White –winged Crossbills, Osprey, Common Raven, Spring Peeper. Sharp-shinned Hawk. Caterpillars – Rosy Maple Moth

Green striped mapleworm = Rosy Maple Moth

non-swimming version

A few observations stands out on this day – first the high number of fungus observed, but more importantly was the mixed species flock (MSF). MSFs are a sign of the season and a sign of things to come. As territories break down and hormones relax (thankfully) songbirds seek that safety in numbers associated with the MSF. This was the first MSF of the season for me, and as migrators (legal and illegal) pass thru the MSFs will be noted and worth checking out on a regular basis for an assortment of songbirds…and the caterpillars of course. Checking out gulleys connected to the recent Wharf Quarry Road work. The first caterpillar was swimming, not a typical behavior for a caterpillar, and we (I) saved the day after a few photos were taken. Checking the books (Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America kicks ass) calls this a “Green striped Mapleworm” which means little until you realize that the latin (Dryocampa rubicunda) is the same as the Rosy Maple Moth spotted, photographed and documented in the last sightings report! Apparently the moths have been active (sexually)making the next generation. Their offspring are macking on the maple leaves as I write. Macking and feasting to build up reserves for the winter which they spend as pupae. …..

contemplating lumenescent panellus
Huber Preserve(8/27) Crossbills singing!, Cleft-footed Amanita, Yellow Patches, Salmon unicorn entoloma, Blusher, Fading Waxy Caps, Emetic Russula, Destroying Angel, Luminescent Panellusd, Red mouthed Bolete, Tawny grisette, Chrome footed Bolete, Dye Maker’s Polypore, Chanterelle Waxy Cap, Red-belted Conk, False chanterelle, Amanita Caelia, Blackish-red Russula, Purplish bloom Russula, Violet Toothed Polypore, Birch Polypore, Turkey Tail,

(8/29) Destroying Angel, Yellow Patches, Celft-footed Amanita, Luminescent Panellus, Amanita Caelia, Orange Jelly, Chrome-footed Bolete, Red-belted Conk, Emetic Russula, and others mentioned above.

Hail to the King!
Hurricane Island – (8/18) Palmer was lucky enough to go to the island all week to check out the scene on hurricane , but Leify and I weren’t able to make our way to Hurricane until Thursday evening that week. Our  simple over night stay was full of fun and friends, rock climbing and experiments. It was great- King Bolete, Chanterelle, Yellow patches, Milkies, Barn Swallow, White-winged Crossbills, Common Terns, Cedar Waxwing, River Otter Scat.

Leif and Isa had lots of fun
rock climbing on Hurricane

We were out there less than 2o hours and I feel like we saw so much. True highlights were everything – Barn Swallows! Swallows of any kind come as a welcome beacon of hope – one bird walk this summer we saw 2 barn swallows – the only I’ve seen on Vinalhaven this summer. Out there they nest in the shop, and are a major part of the scene for sure. White-winged crossbill male singing from a top of a spruce rang out a welcome to Leif and I, the best view I’ve gotten with the recent small wave that has reached Vinalhaven. Our morning walking with Leif’s buddies Isa and Addy the kids climbed some rocks and King Boletes were found! What a statement on the wealth the woods there has to offer. Needless to say we escorted two Kings found their way into Amy’s famous lasagna. Read my lips - There is nothing like a King Bolete.  The yummiest of the yummy. And pretty cool looking too! And with that said, Otter scat was also found by the quarry out there. There are some really great folk getting things rolling out there (again), our hats off to them and all the

feed me!

Basin Marsh – (8/21) 33 Black-bellied Plover, 11 Least Sandpiper, 2 Short-billed Dowitcher, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 4 Common Tern, 2 Osprey, 3 Harbor Seals…(8/26) By Kayak – 28 Black-bellied Plover, 4 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Least Sandpipers, 1 Short-billed Dowitchers, Great Blue Heron, Common Tern feeding young, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher.

Basin  - Granite Island trail – (8/25) – 21 Licorice Slugs on the trail – Tawny Grisette, Violet Toothed Polypore, Yellow Patches, Blusher, Orange Jelly, Chocloate Milky, False Chanterelle, Oak-loving Collyibia,
Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Crow..

The highlights were two-fold – Leify hunting mushrooms is one of the funniest things I’ve ever known, but also the re-locating of the local breeding Shape-shinned hawk family. Things seem to be late this year,

The raccoon that pooped this didn't chew its food at all
Are ash berries better the second time around?

North Haven – (8/25) - Had a great day exploring the other fox island. Lots of fungus – Orange Birch Boletes (3 made their way to my eggs (8/26)), Grey Bolete, King Bolete, Orange Delicious, Yellow Patches, Chanterelle, Almond-scented Russula, Tawny Grisette, Butter Bolete, Variable Russula, Conifer Violet-toothed Polypore, Caelia Amanita, Cleft-footed Amanita, Deceptive Milky, Blusher, Tinder Conk, Violet toothed Polypore, Emetic Russula, Chrome Footed Bolete, Red-mouthed Bolete, Destroying Angel, Salmon-unicorn Entoloma, Yellow-red Gilled Polypore, Brown Cup, Marasmius…Birdies – Cedar Waxwings, Osprey, Greater Yellowlegs, Belted Kingfisher, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet…Slimes – Tapioca Slime, Many-headed Slime…Mammal stuff – Raccoon Scat, Mink Scat, Deer (dead)…

The story of the day was largely connected with the impressive numbers of fungus, not only species numbers, but the large numbers of Amanitas especially the Blusher, Cleft-footed, and Destroying Angel Amanitas. You could walk on the backs of the Amanitas across the island or so it seemed. This definitely an Amanita summer (and continues to be) which is much cooler than a corvette summer or summer of love, although not as cool as a summer of slime (2009). But its this video that steals my heart, cuz if you've ever really checked out fungus with me you've probably seen me "go belly" to try and inspire a cup fungus to release its spores. You see, cups forceably release their spores when (naturally) triggered by the wind, but a mock strong, stiffy breeze blown across the top of a cup sometimes (certainly not all the time) stimulates a cup to "shoot their smoke", which is really spores. Anyway, it seems to never work when you want it to, and yet in the woods around Pulpit Harbor smoke was shot while my video was running. Here's a looksy....

eyelash cups are striking little buggers
Strangley enough it worked on greens island the next day with Eyelash Cups - the first time i have seen it work with that beautiful species (VNM).

What's even cooler (in my mind which shouldn't mean much) is that when the cups release their spores, if there's no wind or anything, you can actually hear a "pffff" sound being made by the fungus! this is the only time i've ever heard a fungus, other than the dream i had in 1997 of a chocolate milky wearing a sombraro telling me about hermit thrushes (that was a cool dream).

Yeah, and there's a lot of other stuff that's incomplete. we'll see you in mid-september....