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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


Friday, November 23, 2012

Winter Moth Action Update – November 23rd, 2012

Not a VSR, but still Brought to you by the VLT and MCHT

They’re here!!!!!!
(remember that dumb movie “poltergeist”? you know, the one with the cute little girl who gets sucked into a TV by angry spirits. I’m sure you’re glad I brought that up).


still life of winter moths in tanglefoot
photo by Pam Johnson
Anyway, now is the time apparently. Possibly triggered by the cold spell earlier in the week, possibly just doing what horny insects do, our local Winter Moths are on the prowl - rising up from the ground like evil spirits that are pissed that a housing development was put on their graves. (perfect thought to end a paragraph with)


And so they have already eaten (way back in May) and now sex is on their minds, or on their pheromone receptors. Once they hook up (probably a ton of this kind of “action” has been going on the last few nights in town) the females are gearing to lay some eggs and die. The males of course have provided (sexually) what they provide (kinda gross, kinda gooey) and are officially dead or dying. Do winter moths go to Nirvana? Doubt it, but it does smell like teen spirit.


The adult winter moth was first reported by (the lovely) Amy palmer and her “vital signs” club at the middle school. Here’s a link to their posting on Winter Moths, and subsequent confirmation of species by state entomologist Charlene Donahue…


closer look - not a pretty sight
photo by Pam Johnson
What to do, what to do (part 1)... – “if you have bands” - If you are someone who has those sticky bands up on their trees, get off your lazy butt (or send your spouse/partner/servant), get outside and give those bands a look. Most likely you’ll say “yup, got ‘em”, (which should be said with the most unimpressed, deepest southern drawl you can muster). If your bands are filling up (which obviously depends on the extent of your local infestation) you may want to think about getting another band up as females that erupt down the line can use the ol’ “moth carcass bridge” to cross the tanglefoot and “get it going” further up in your tree.  Hopefully we are far from the kind of decision time. Time will tell just how many will be rising and how long this will go on for.



A note or two on those flightless females- vocabulary time!

Look close at the photos – you’ll see male moths with wings (show offs) and females moths without wings (“who needs ‘em anyway”). Alright, the females aren’t truly wingless; instead they have little stubby wings that are completely useless for flying, which is traditionally what wings are used for (or for making crappy music back in the 1970s).

nice wings
photo by Pam Johnson

The female wings are referred to as “vestigial” which means “occurring or persisting as a rudimentary or degenerate structure” (thank you free online dictionary). What this means is that somewhere back in time an ancestor that eventually evolved into Winter Moths (and likely other moth species) had wings that did the flying thing, but for whatever survival reason they survived in greater by going flightless (or at least by having the females go flightless). Could be a reproductive strategy - it’s easier to find those females when they can’t fly and females can be assured to lay eggs on the right kind of – but why is really not important right now. Anyway, over time more of the moths stopped flying, reproduced and survived successfully (as opposed to surviving unsuccessfully), so the genes for vestigial wings were passed on and the wings on the females got smaller and smaller. (They would/will likely eventually disappear unless they are still being used for another reason – like giving the males something to hold onto during mating (this is a made up example but gives you a feel of where my brain is)). This vestigial wing strategy has obviously worked for the winter moth, and is a reason (one among many) why they have been so successful as a species. It is also the reason why the tanglefoot bands work, cuz if the females could fly (and thusly we couldn’t catch’ em) we would be screwed – royally if not partially.
 vestigial's finest
photo by Pam Johnson


It should be noted that “vestigialness” (made up word) in the natural world is a common example of evolution. Whales have those vestigial legs from when their ancestors walked, snakes have those pelvic bones from back in the day and some people have vestigial brains from when they could think (for some it was many ancestors ago). Anyway, the point here is without vestigial evolution the bands wouldn’t work. So thank god for evolution (I’ve always wanted to write that), or else there’d be egg laying all over the place.


What to do, what to do…(part 2) if you don’t have bands but neighbors do, or you feel you might be in a vulnerable location.  Take a peek at your neighbors bands, if they are loaded with moths, well, you probably have them too, or will get them soon – like next May when the caterpillars are everywhere. Take a look underneath your hardwoods (trees that is), if you see moth carcasses take a closer look for the females with no wings. If you are concerned – it may not be too late to band and catch at least some of the winter moths in your yard – check the contacts and numbers below. Each female winter moth can lay up to 150 eggs on your tree, so catching even a few of them can cut down the egg potential by like a gagillion (my math may be a little off here, but you get the point). If you see a lot of carcasses under your trees you may want to get in touch with some of the folk about when and how to get your tree oiled to suffocate the winter moth eggs already laid. Those numbers again are


Ethan Hall (207) 390 – 0119


or James Rigsby (207) 975 - 6491


You can also contact Marjorie Stratton at the town office


207-863-2042, with sightings or questions.



Not sure if they both Ethan and James have applicator licenses, but they would be the ones to ask about that.


You can almost smell the squished females now
photo by Pam Johnson
What to do, what to do (part 3)…you go and see female moths climbing up trees that aren’t banded. Pam Johnson mentioned finding some females climbing unbanded trees in her yard. She examined them closely, and then took action. Straight from the email of Pam Johnson – “They (the females) are loaded with green eggs and there is a distinct odor when you squish them...not to mention the great pleasure in doing so!” that smell might be the teen spirit mentioned above, and that pleasure of squishing moths – priceless. Pam didn't mention is there was a popping sound with said squishing


And in conclusion, that’s where we are at. The adults are here and so it’s time to see how your bands are performing. A big thanks goes out to Pam Johnson for sending in the photos of her (and Ed’s) bands. And for the quote about squishing, we just don’t get enough of those.
We will update as things are needed to be updated. Regular VSR on the 1st or so. Remain vigilant!




Thursday, November 15, 2012


Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – November 15th, 2012
Brought to you by the kind folks over at the VLT and the MCHT
“Round here we just call them otters” – anonymous (well, i know who said it)



Hurricane Island and the Whites from the ferry
photo by Banner Moffett
Highlights –Otters!, Bald Eagles, Ducks & Sea Birds including Red-throated Loon and Parasitic Jaeger, Ipswich Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, Stragglers- Butterflies, Herps, and  Shorebirds; migrators, finches, Purple Sandpipers and of course Fungus and other stuff…


state beach is foggy sometimes
PSA – Hey – its hunting season and it also happens to be one of 12 most beautiful months to be in the woods. So  Wear orange & Be aware. But more important wear orange.

Don't forget the Tiit trick - click on any photo and they magically become larger than life, or at the very least they will fill up your computer screen. take a closer look. it won't hurt you.


there are no winter moths in this picture
this is the basin
Winter moth update –word on the street is that some folk are seeing some moths around and getting excited. Word from state entomologist Charlene Donahue is “take it easy” (not her exact words, but pretty much sums up her message). Apparently it has not gotten cold enough for the Winter Moth to take to the air just yet. And when they do it will most likely be in numbers, as in lots and lots of them. Many small moths look like winter moth, so try not to freak yourself out if you see a moth or two that looks like the picture on the posters around town – which are lovely posters for sure. Anyway, with temperatures being what they are, the Winter Moth flight might be delayed even into December. We'll keep ya posted as developments develop. or as the situation's evolution evolves. or something like that.


orange jelly is an important
fungus in our woods
Welcome (back) to the VSR– a big and hardy welcome to any new (any all historic) readers of the VSR. We here at VSR headquarters welcome and appreciate any photos, reports, and new email addresses (to add to our email list) that you all have to share. And while we welcome all correspondence from all sorts of views and perspectives, we do appreciate stuff being sent to our new email – – if you can remember to do so. And a big thanks to those who’ve sent in photos and sightings to share for this report! That’s why we do the VSR!  

three otters swimming
photo by Ali McCarthy
Sightings – River Otters – Carver’s Pond – Ali McCarthy was re-united with some of the (her) extremely local River Otters (and they are Northern River Otters (Lontra canadensis), not pond otters, or shoreline otters, and certainly not sea otters) in Carver’s a few weeks past. Anytime I get an email entitled “Otters!” I know that things are good, the planets are aligned and other silly things are doing well as well. Otters trump everything – even fungus! And that’s saying something.  Even our coyote. That’s the fact, Jack.
spy-hopping otter
photo by Ali McCarthy

Anyway, Ali spotted three Otters “across the pond” at about 6am (11/4) swimming and frolicking in the same locations she has seen them all summer. (all summer!?!). Ali got some great shots of them swimming and a VSR favorite is the otter “spy-hopping” or spy-sniffing along the shoreline.  

American Robin
photo by Sally

Migratorials – American Robin – our favorite Turdus – appeared in numbers for a few days early in the month, with hundreds being seen and reported (or at least seen) around the island. While Robins haven’t been pushed out by any means, it feels like the days of big numbers are behind us, and soon the token random Robin will most likely remind folks of spring and maybe Wisconsin as it is the state bird (hats off for our Wisconsin reader(s) – I have never met a Wisconsiner that I haven’t liked).  Skin hill Sally got this wonderful photo of a Robin that was macking on berries in her yard. (She had a flock of them that day). Her photo really highlights the intricate and delicate beauty that is an “American Robin”, a close look that often gets overlooked as “just another robin” or JAR. Anyway, we love ‘em! …. and speaking of Robins, Terry Goodhue reports a leucistic robin on North Haven, earlier in the period. “About ¾ white” was the description of the bird. Terry reported  it figuring it might be seen When asked Terry couldn’t come up with a location or how long it had been seen


nice woodcock!
photo by Banner Moffett
Straggler Shorebirds – (11/8) Pleasant River – Greater Yellowlegs and Black-bellied Plover…Crockett Cove – Banner Moffett got this wonderful photo of a Woodcock in late October.  Woodcock are certainly still around these days, but have a subtle presence and for the most part go unobserved.



pretty drippy, this moist conk
 just the way you like 'em
Around the island…Snow Bunting at school! Amy Palmer (THE Amy Palmer) has seen 3 Snow Buntings on Vinalhaven, all at the School. Her latest was by the parking lot…Andy Creelman spotted a Merlin by Wharf Quarry Road a few days back…John Drury spotted a late Northern Parula in his yard on east main street recently… and speaking of hunting – the Basin Bridge is a traditional deer carcass dump spot and with a slew of carcasses both Dana Barton and Skip Thompson mentioned seeing about 12 Bald Eagles in the marsh area around the bridge (11/3). Now that’s a lot of eagles (unless you live in Homer or Haines Alaska). Visits since then have recorded lower Eagle numbers, but still worth the trip to get close up views of the mascot of the United States Postal Service – which lost something like 11 billion from recent reports.  So support the postal service and go see some eagles. Now that ought to do it...John Drury also spotted a Northern Shrike by Carver's (11/8)


saw-whet owl pellets
and saw-whet owl poop
A trip to Northern Haven – (11/6) – keeping with the theme – Pine Grosbeak and White-winged Crossbill, Common grackles. American Goldfinch, American Robin, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, Butterbutts, Old-tailed Duck, Song Sparrow. Red Admiral butterfly as well (last of the season?). And a few Saw-whet Owl Pellets.
pellet instructions

this mouse is dead
but we love it anyway
Owl Pellets – these pellets from North Haven were found under eye-level stump, one that has had owl pellets under it 3 out of the last 4 years. Leif and I took them apart and found much of the skull and a lot of a skeleton of a mouse. It was dead. Have I mentioned how much I love finding owl pellets?


Fungus – “Warm and a little moist” are conditions that provide a cozy environment for a very important kingdom – Fungus. And these conditions also make for a productive November, fungally speaking of course.  So far this November we’ve seen a flew blooms and fluoresces (not sure of this word) but it remains to be seen how long into winter these fungus will go on! eternal? you bet ya!
the false chanterelle

 Basin – (11/1) – False Chantrelle, Old friend Jelly Tooth.


you mockin' me?
Huber – (11/1) - Orange Mock Oyster (Phyllotopsis nodulans)- possibly my favorite late fall fungus, Orange Mock Oyster is a classic gilled shelf-like fungus on Birch this time of year. So psyched to see this old friend
we love seeing mock oysters

a view of Sweet Tooth undercarriage
sweet tooth from above
with waiting daddy long legs

More from Huber (or “the hubes” as we call is around my house)…(11/10) – Sweet tooth – now here’s a treat, a toothed fungus that I have seen many times on the mainland, but I believe this to be the first on Vinalhaven for me.   


this photo does not capture
much of the essence of the
chage tree. not at all really
And speaking of old friends – the Chaga tree by the Vernal Pool along the Huber Trail was a casualty of (what we got of) Hurricane Sandy. I’ve pointed out that Chaga fungus (Innotus obliquus) to many a hiker and hike participant over the years, but realize it was a doomed relationship as the Chaga was what made that tree cool (personal opinion) and was what probably caused the tree to snap thru its decomposition of the Birch’s heartwood. Only so long until he rest of the tree comes down. So is the evolution of a forest, I haven’t lived in a place long enough to watch changes like this before. So cool in many ways as well. Big thanks to the Chaga tree for the good times.



Mostly lists below – lots of stuff to see on the water these days, here are some lists with marginal discussions for the next stretch of VSR

this is seal bay
or at least part of it
Huber preserve/Seal Bay – (11/1) 60 Bufflehead, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Surf Scoter, 3 Common Eiders, 1 Old tail Duck (1st of season), Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black-capped chickadee…(11/10) – 39 Ring-billed gulls, 58 Bufflehead, 3 Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, 15 Boneparte’s Gull, 1 Red-throated Loon, 10 Old tail ducks


state beach is a favorite
in novemeber and the other months
State Beach – (11/3) – 8 Red-necked Grebe, 3 Common Loon, 3 Red-throated Loon, 1 Parasitic Jaeger, Lots of Northern Gannets…(11/5) 8 Horned Larks, 1 Red-throated Loon, 6 Common Loon, 10 Red-necked Grebe, 1 White-crowned Sparrow, 3 song Sparrow…(11/6) 15 Horned Larks… (11/8) – 25 Horned Larks…(11/13) 25 Red-necked Grebe, 6 Common Loon, Common Goldeneye, Ipswich Sparrow, 7 Great Cormorants, 6 Old-tailed duck, 1 Red-breasted Merganser…(11/15) – 22 Red-necked Grebe, 2 Common Loon, 12 Horned Larks, 1 Purple Sandpiper, 2 Boneparte’s Gull, 3 Old-tailed Ducks, 6 Great Cormorants, Red-breasted Merganser.
hi. i am an ipswich sparrow
and i spend my summers on sable islan

ipswich sparrow at state beach
Carver’s Pond – (11/13) 45 Canada Geese, 20 Hooded Merganser, 9 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Black Duck, 2 Bufflehead, 1 Great Blue heron

video of some horned larks picking seeds off of the dirt road out at state beach. little windy on the audio, might want to turn down the volume before starting  this one....or not..

Lane’s (11/15) – Northern Flicker, 2 White-winged Scoter, 6 Bufflehead Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Butter butt, 80+ Purple Sandpipers, 4 Great Cormorants, 4 Old-tailed ducks


Basin, and walk to/fro the Basin – (11/5) – 6 Hooded Mergansers (Old Harbor Pond), 7 Bufflehead, 10 Black Guillemot, 1 Common Loon, Harbor Seal, Pine Grosbeak, Sharp-shinned Hawk, White-winged Crossbill, Blue Jays, Bald Eagle, Saw-whet Owl pellets and Kingfisher pellets,


Fox Rocks – (11/4) Bald Eagle, Pine Siskin, Eastern Towhee (pair), Raven, Garter Snake (straggler herp!), Lots o’ Robins, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black-capped chickadee

Loon Comparison!
Recently Red-throated Loons have been turning up in numbers around the island (i saw one ths afternoon from Lane's Island bridge. Here's a video comparison between the two. Red-throated Loon being a smaller, lighter colored, smaller billed kind of emperience...

where the Common Loon - state bird of Minnesota - is a bulky, dark headed mass of pure Loon-a-cee. You've seen these guys like a bunch of times.

And then there was Leif….

 eating apples along the basin trails...

In the snow? (yes this is this fall, he even went sledding


and In his new pirate ship? (thanks to the Meskos, but when leif talks about it Stevie is the only one who gets credit – sorry Mike)



And as Darth. His Arthur toy has become the emperor (upgrade for arthur i'd say), even though Leif doesn’t really know who either of the characters are. We take many trips to “the dark side” which is about a 5 by 10 area of his playroom.


hey - be safe and we'll see you out there.