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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


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – November 1st, 2012
With the support of the Vinalhaven Land Trust and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Hats off to “Avian Haven” for all the good work they do


the blood tooth only bleeds
on full moons.
this is not true.
photo by john drury
Highlights – Fungus and finches (featuring Evening Grosbeak), raptors and raccoons, woodpeckers and woolly bears, otters and owls, two horned things, and post-storm Ipswich sparrow, snow buntings and black-bellied plover.


Viewer Warning: Video viewers who find slightly gross things disturbing may find the first two raccoon videos disturbing. Video viewers who find slightly gross things entertaining may be entertained by the first two raccoon videos.  Watch at your own discretion. I’ve probably built this up too much.


Contact info change – please send VSR related correspondence to our new email - Thank you Fair point, for all the sightings and however else you happened to help make the VSR better over the last few years.

Tiit trick - click on any photo to make them larger. some might say "too large!" 

saw-whet owl
photo by amy palmer
Sightings – Saw-whet owls – the lovely Amy Palmer (favoritism I am guilty of) took these shots of an adult Saw-whet Owl right outside the Emergency Services building in beautiful downtown Vinalhaven. Last word (we heard) was that the owl was shipped to Avian Haven over there in Freedom. This wasn’t the only recent call AH got from Vinalhaven, Hayley from the Friend (a nice place for drinks and snacks and stuff) shipped another owl (most likely another Saw-whet) who most likely had been hit by a car by the ballfield just a week before.  Both Owls got to ride the ferry topside with the captain, with word being that they were allowed to steer the boat only out in the middle of the bay away from any ledges (owls are crappy drivers). The Avian Haven people met the owls at the ferry and took them to their rehabilitation center to be checked out and (hopefully) reinvigorated. Avian Haven’s number is 382-6761, (and their website is and is the place to call if you find injured birds. You can also call me if you want to be told to call them. If you do find a Saw-whet Owl make sure you also call Hillary Bunker, she digs owls and would love to get some good shots of one.
the owl is in the shade
photo by amy palmer


VSR devotees will recall reports from the past few falls of Saw-whet Owl banders setting up  nets over at the Huber and catching 26 different owls in one night! So we know they come thru in numbers, and some might say the ones landing in town were looking for the banders (they are/were nice folk for sure).  I guess they picked the wrong year to skip. Anyway, it most definitely is owl migration time of the year, so keep your eyes open when you are driving around looking for Winter Moths. 


hello evening grosbeaks!
photo by sally
Finches – We had a nice run of finches as of late – seen around the island - American Goldfinch, White-winged Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Purple Finches and even Evening Grosbeak!.... at the feeders – Leave it to Skin Hill Sally and her feeders (let’s be honest - it’s all about who puts the seed out) to be the one to attract and document Evening Grosbeaks on Vinalhaven! Just Look at these beauties! These are the first (and only) Evening Grosbeaks that I’ve heard of in my limited time out here on the island. (Word from Kristen Lindquist (friend of the VSR) is that Evening Grosbeaks are being reported on the mainland as well). What does that mean?  For starters - Sally gets high fives for a week, so if you see Sally at the store (and you know you will) give her a high five or two. She deserves it! (maybe I should have checked with sally on this one, but nah, she’s into high fives).

breakfast with siskins. chaos.
photo by sylvia reiss
The Birder’s Handbook (best book ever) mentions that Evening Grosbeaks will “feed on dirt and gravel for minerals and salts”, so if you run out of sunflower seeds and money maybe put some dirt in your yard. The book also mentions they are a “frequent highway casualty when seeking road salts.” Bummer. More stuff – “Very tame. Highly irruptive. Wings longest relative to body size of all N.A. finches”.  Now that is a cool stat, if you are into wing/body size ratio. I feel sorry for anyone who is into that …. SiskinsSylvia Reiss recently had breakfast with a load of Pine Siskins having breakfast at her feeders! She got this nice shot that captures the overwhelming scene as Siskins take over the feeder scene… Jim Clayter also reports Pine Siskins and Purple Finch at his feeders…  Finches around the island – there were a few days there were White-winged Crossbills were pretty much the only thing I could hear in the woods (will they ever shut up!), as they certainly became the most numerous songbird on the island, along with Pine Siskin. Red Crossbill over at Spectacle Island as well…Pine Grosbeak along Poor Farm road


old harbor bald eagle
photo by jim clayter
red-breasted nuthatch
photo by jim conlan
Around the islandJim Conlan sent in this photo of a Red-breasted Nuthatch that became an honorary Conlan for an afternoon – lucky bird! Red-breasted Nuthatches are in good numbers around the island …Common Grackles have shown up in numbers….Red-bellied Woodpecker (10/27) across from the Library…Turkey Vulture fly over at 31 Reach Road….Bald Eagles in the basin, town, all over the island and old harbor pond - see jim clayter photo


amanita with a view
Paddle thru Red Sea and Whites - (10/24)33 Common Loons, 20 Black Guillemot, 17 Surf Scoter, 1 Horned Grebe, 1 Great Cormorant, many eider and double crested cormorants. 1 Ring-billed gull, harbor porpoiseFly OversAmerican Goldfinch, American Crow, Common Raven, White-winged Crossbill, Northern Goshawk and Northern Harrier. Yellow-rumped warblers on Spectacle...On islands- Black-capped Chickadee, White-throated Sparrow, Hairy Woodpecker, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Juncos, Winter Wren, Song sparrow, Flicker, Pine Siskins, Yellow-rumped Warbler...

angel wings. every time it rains
an angel gets its wings
angel's wings
Fungus on islands – Amanita muscaria, Dye-maker’s polypore, Coral Mushroom, Orange Jelly, Decorated Mop, Jelly Tooth, Yellow Fairy Cups, Conifer Violet-toothed Polypore, Angel's Wings, Rufus Milky, Cinnamon Cort, Saffron Cort, Emetic Russula, False Chantrelle, Marasmius, Chocloate Milky, Lackluster Laccaria, Red-yellow Gilled Polypore, Sulphur Tuft, Varnish Shelf....wolf's milk slime too!

there are no raccoons in this picture
at least none that i can find
Gross raccoon videos. Alright, so I scared up a pair of Bald Eagles and a Raven that were feasting on this washed up doe white-tailed deer. And while the birdies may have flown, the raccoon who was also feasting did not. probably because he was "half in the deer" so to speak. check out the stretching of the deer skin as the raccoon goes head first.....

here's another angle...


So the raccoon was oblivious to my presence for quite some time, but surprisingly (or not surprisingly) when it finally pulled its head out of the deer, it immediately caught my scent. Now I know that we all smell differently (and that i am setting myself up for jokes), but I would have thought, hoped that maybe it would take a minute or two for my smell to dominate over the rotting carcass he was just sticking his whole head into, but i guess its a statement about human smell. Whatsmore, the raccoon may have caught my whiff, but apparently couldn't make my shape out as i stood out in the open wearing a bright orange coat. Here's a video of the raccoon sniffin' the air and coming closer to me. If i hadn't moved I'm pretty sure this raccoon would have tapped my foot (hopefully the only tapping). anyway......

whasup dude?
quote by Doug McMullin
Otters on our mind - Old Harbor Pond - i put the trail camera at a grassy otter rolling site along the shores of Old Harbor Pond for a little over a week. 6 mammal species were photographed - White-tailed Deer, Raccoon, Local Cat, Red Squirrel, Mink and River Otter - no Homo sapiens.  Rolling sited are very import for otters. Read on...


mink are cute
this raccoon appeared to add
to the latrine
"Rolling sites (also called haul outs, landings, and scrapes) where they roll and tumble on the ground in snow, vegetation, washed-up seaweed, sand and grass. Rolling both cleans and dries the fur, fluffing it up and renewing its insulation. Any river otter that swims in the ocean also requires access to fresh water with which to rinse its fur in addition to regular grooming. Otter that are unable to roll ans sufficiently dry their fur after swimming (e.g., captives with unsuitable ground for rolling) catch pneumonia and die". - "Behavior of North American Mammals" - Elbroch and Rinehart 


there are 4 otters in this picture
The group of  otters (at least 4) paid two visits over a 4 day period. The first visit was around 8pm (10/22), and the second was 2:40am (10/26). The otters rolled, swam, and slid for about three minutes straight on both visits, with a varying number of individual otters viewable in each picture.  (I used to have 4 pictures of Otter, i now have hundreds). With the proximity to Carver's Pond, it's likely that these four are the same otters Ali McCarthy has been photographing.  Ali hasn't seen them for a few weeks now, which would make sense if they are acting more nocturnal these days.

this guy couldn't fight the urge to "rub the camera"
And speaking of smelling me - maybe the camera might make a click that otters can hear (doubt it), or maybe the red flash somehow caught the otters attention, but three times during those two visits the otters took interest and note of the camera. More likely it was my smell. (scent i think would be a better word) But its all the same really. Putting a camera covered in my stench at ground level, 7 feet from a rolling and marking spot (the rolling spot was also an active latrine) probably meant i was making more of a statement with my scent they i realized (DUH!).

this is what otter fur smushed up
against a camera lens looks like.
in case you were wondering
So anyway, they stared at the camera, approached it, and then one just went all out and rubbed up against it, smearing otter fur schmeg into a smudge on the lens! Look at the smeary deer shot a half hour later! In a way I am in!, finally marked by an otter. this may be a turning point in my life or something. or something. at the very least i am going to move the camera to a tree a little further back.

smeary deery

Ipswich Sparrow, straight Sable Island
this just in....(10/31) State Beach - checking out the "after burn" of the storm, 6 snow buntings, 2 ipswich sparrow and 3 black-bellied plover took some refuge in the grasses and by the rocks.

more post storm action in the next VSR....

and this just in as well.

Leify digs his fungus...

and a big thanks to pat paquet for having rakes handy...

and a postcard from the dark side where after months of thor and skull pirates, darth was settled on as a costume to wear. year-round undoubtedly.....

thanks for reading

Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – October 22, 2012
VLT, MCHT, & U are our favorite letters! Plus Q
“It is said to be responsible for the phases of the moon” –
Adrian Morgan writing about Soma, a deity and drink made from Amanita muscaria
spiny puffball


Highlights – Red-bellied woodpecker, migration including Cormorants, seabirds including Brandt Geese, sparrows, Fungus! Including FOTM and a 3rd Chanterelle run!, slime mold, other things. Owl pellets…finches, including White-winged Crossbills…

Lowlight - there are several videos in this VSR, some better quality than others. please don't hurt yourself! turn your volume low!

javier modeling the color orange

PSA - and speaking of getting hurt - Hunting season is ripe! We are fully in bow season, looking forward to shifting gears this saturday - which is kids day with the ol' guns. And then we have november (and the last three days of october) where hunting will be the norm out in the woods. So wear that orange! Here's Javier sporting the orange and looking way too close at an algae covered Cattail.


Folly Pond is pretty

Business – We got some great feedback on all the wonderful photos and posted sightings in last report (and in previous ones) – so thanks again everyone for sharing. If you’ve got something to share, then share! Photos, a list, a particular view, we’ll take it!- send your thing to . It’s just that easy. It’s not checked often, but often enough.

 Don't forget the "Tiit-trick" - clicking on any photo stimulates said photo into growing! Technology engourges them with enough life and light to fill up your computer screen! In other words- click on the photos and they get bigger. Dad figured this one out.

nice red-belly from this angle
 but watch out for that siskin!
photo by sally

Sightings -  Red-bellied Woodpecker. Skin Hill- You can’t be sure how to answer an email from Skin Hill Sally titled – “Guess whose back!”. She has seen and documented so many cool things in her back yard – the list is hard to choose from! On this occasion though the correct answer was a rugged male Red-bellied Woodpecker! VSR devotees will recall that last spring a male Red-bellied Woodpecker excavated a cavity in a tree up on Skin Hill and was seen at a few feeder stations before being run off by Starlings (bastards). Anyway, great to see one of the “rarer” woodpeckers on the island swinging by one of  our favorite feeder stations!

when siskins attack
photo by sally

And while we are at it – here’s that Hairy Woodpecker photo that I wrote about in the last VSR and failed (miserably) to post up the photo. Better late and all’s well, or so it goes!

the missing hairy woodpecker photo
by Sally


Migration – roadsides are lined with Sparrows – largely Dark-eyed Juncos, Song and Savannah Sparrows. Northern Flickers and American Robins are more than numerous along roadsides and in yards as well. Keep your eyes open for the flee flight these guys do when you venture “north” along North Haven Road or up to Calderwood Neck. Swamp sparrows being reported around the island, Sapsuckers seem to have passed. This morning I heard my third pair of White-winged Crossbills in the last 4 days. – Polly Cove, Huber, and State Beach. First I’ve heard for a few months at least…goldfinch and pine siskins reported around the island as well…Lane’s island is infested with Yellow-rumped warblers, Patience Chamberlin reported a Palm Warbler on reach road…


Hooded Mergansers are pretty
and in Carver's Pond
photo by Karen Oakes
Ducks, sea birds – Hooded Mergansers are showing up in numbers in Carver’s Pond – 20+ (10/22) first handful seen a few days back – also in Pleasant River…BuffleheadCarver’s Pond and Polly CoveSurf Scoters – 40+ Polly CoveRed-breasted Merganser (10/21) State Beach, Carver’s Pond…Red-necked Grebe – (6) State Beach (10/21)…lots of common loons


i like reflections

Note about Grebes - Grebes eat fish, that's pretty much their thing. They also eat feathers, their own feathers mostly - except for the proud parents who give their youngin's some of their own to eat. Why eat feathers? other than the obvious answer (Why not?), the thought is that since Grebes eat fish, and since they don't regurgitate pellets of bones or anything, feathers eaten are "used" to coat the bones - take the edge of if you will - while they pass thru the digestive system. Its such an important behavior that young grebes who don't even have feathers of their own yet have been founds to have feathers in their stomach. Good parenting comes in so many forms! 

So here's a video i took of a Red-necked Grebe over at State Beach (best grebe spot on the island). Looks like basic feather maintenance/preening, except at the 3 second mark the Grebe pecks at the water for something that fell its back. Now, it could've just been a basic parasite - tick or mite or whatever - but i like to think it was a small downy feather that he/she/it jsut couldn't let get away. 
anyway, enjoy!   

Shags- Double-crested Cormorants may be the least popular native bird in North America , but regardless of how many lobsters and fish they have kept out of traps and nets (and in their bellies) you have to (you don’t have to do anything) tip your hat to them as far as mass migration goes. I have included 2 videos I took from State Beach yesterday (10/19) as Shags from up north got “the hell out of dodge” , flewing the coop so to speak for a warmer, more southern  winter (wimps!). The first two videos are of a single line that went past Saddleback Light, about 50 seconds of crossing, where hundreds of Shags headed out I only got 35 seconds of video.


The second video is of a Shag group that came really close to state beach, I could only let the group pass by and hope to capture some of the massiveness in their numbers as they cruised thru the zone. My guess is that I saw maybe 2000 shags in a half hour that day. If I had more of an attention span I probably could have passed 10,000. Another day.


Brant Geese – also at state beachBrant geese are a cooler (judgment), smaller version Goose than the similar Canada Geese (don’t tell Canada Geese that though). They are a species more tied to salt water and salt water algae than other Geese. Brandts can be seen each fall and spring on islands nearby, like Brimstone and Otter, but tend to stay a little away from Vinalhaven proper. They can also be seen from Lane’s Island, with a scope, during migration in March, where 100s can be seen flying by – usually a bit off. here's a crappy video of the pair of Brandts by Greer Island


Anyway, this was the first time I’ve seen Brandt in the waters around Vinalhaven. Brings me back to Dungeness Spit out on the Olympic peninsula where I saw a Brandt for the first time. The national wildlife refuge there was designated in order to protect a food source for the subspecies of Brandt that can be found there.


Owls – Saw-whets – well, the owl banders didn’t make it out this year, but that certainly hasn’t kept the Saw-whets from coming thru our zone. Someone – I believe it was Tim Oxton – had a Saw-whet land on his lobster boat out in the gulf, Hayley found an injured owl by the ballfield (species not confirmed) that was taken to friendship or freedom or some other happy sounding place, and I have been finding saw-whet pellets on the old harbor trail in the Basin preserve.


No owl sighting for me, but 3 pellets went to 6 in a matter of days  and a single scat spot increased to “latrine” levels. Keep your eyes open at night for these little buggers as they pass over our island paradise.  


nothing regular about
this Irregular Earthtongue
Fungus – Even for a chilly morning after a rain we had a nice turnout for the Fungus Watch a week or so ago where we found a bunch of fungus – nice to have so many eyes looking. Things certainly have warmed up since – even the wind has been downright comfy most days. Anyway, we’re happy to report that the fall run of mushrooms continuing, with the northern end of the island showing a bit more diversity than what I’d been seeing “down here”. The recent warmth throws that out the window or at least the door.

honey mushrooms are breathtaking
in all phases of development


Honey Mushrooms – Armillaria mellea – the run has been extended (apparently), with patches on the north end of the island still pumping ‘em out. A diverse group, these are tasty while also glowing in the dark (not always, right conditions).


Round three – Chanterelles – so the first run was kinda weak, the early September bloom was nice, and now this warm wet spell has turned up a nice round three from my favorite patch. It was a handful, for sure. Other patches checked were blank – but still worth checking your stuff! Leify quote – “I love chanterelles!”
these Chantrelles were
"Quite the handful in the woods"


Species Exclusive - Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria – there’s a nice run out on Lane’s Island these days, on the right, just before you make the left into the preserve, in a yard by some canoes.  Anyway, there’s a good 7 or so, reminds me of many front yards we saw down east a few weeks back. Here are a few shots from the group – over two or three days at this point.  


one day
Amanita muscaria is every weekend ethnomycologist’s dream. Polypores have had known “medicinal and other uses” for forever, but haven't had the cultural impact in the same way A. muscaria has. I mean, you name it – its universal – from Shamanism, Siberia and Soma, to Berserkers & killing flies, even Storm’s weird story, and  that takes place in the woods, the Fly agaric is certainly the most recognizable fungus on the planet! You know , the Alice in Wonderland mushroom. Except the ones around here are yellow-orange((A muscaria var. formosa) Whatever the hell a “var.” (variation) is in a scientific name). But they are just as hot as the red ones. Anyway, to  put things in perspective here are some random quotes about A. muscaria from by Adrian Morgan, from the incredible work “Toads and Toadstools – the natural history, folklore, and cultural oddities of a strange association”. epic


Norway, 1814 – “ The Varmland regiment was advancing, when an officer noticed that some of the men were raving or foaming at the mouth. This was investigated and it transpired that they had eaten fly agaric in order to be in fighting form” – Berserker legacy
and then the next day


“”Indra (you know - Indra) is mentioned as loving to drink an intoxicant and hallucinogen known as soma. Soma appears as a deity, and in 1968 R. Gordon Wasson (kick ass ethnomycologist) published a persuasive hypothesis, arguing that in its original form, soma was the fly agaric.” -


“The Rig Veda describes soma as being a plant with neither leaves, flower, nor fruit….The deity soma was said to have “a hundred knobs”…it is said to be responsible for the phases of the moon. As the gods drank soma to prolong their lives, the moon waxed and waned. Soma was ritually consumed in various ways, called “soma-sacrifice””

one day
 “..Catherine the Great, the nymphomaniac Empress of the Russias, consumed such a drink prior to her debauches”


“in 1601 the French naturalist Clusius of Arras (Charles Lecluse) asserted it was only one of 6 types of mushrooms used to kill insects in his seminal work Rariorum Plantarum Historia. “


then the next day
when the orange spots appeared
All above quotes from "insane" chapter five entitled  - The Fly Agaric in Europe and Asia

In other words - dude, this has been recognized as a cool fungus for a long, long time. And there’s way more in the book. Our local version is on display out on Lane’s. And probably other places under pine, I see it less out here than on the mainland. Worth a glance for sure. Congratulations Amanita muscaria – you are the FOTM or Fungus of the month for October 2012.


very graceful

graceful boletes were also seen as of late as well as tons of others.
Along with the late run of fungus has been a nice bloom of Wolf’s Milk Slime – The pink bursts quickly went brown, in other words I found way more brown than pink. Anyway. Don’t forget our mantra – “Don’t forget the slime mold”.


And where would we be without Leify and his Horse Mushrooms out on Lane’s. Several folk have asked about them as this is one of two patches I know of on the island, and the one seen most often by people, especially people with dogs as they are in the trail on Lane’s. Anyway, we left a couple for others, and are glad to report that longtime VSR reader and supporter Suzanne was spotted carrying her treasure back to her kitchen. Happy feasting! It is local food week!

and the beach fleas that tickle when they hope onto your hands....and then pop when you step on them.

and the world's best sand box and nice sunsests

huntley beach, job site

rock on everyone!