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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, December 26, 2016

now "skinny" Santa can start stretching
and getting ready to pick up trash!

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings report – December 26th, 2016

Brought to you with the support of VLT and MCHT

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Winter Wishes, Buddha Bashes, Zen Zones….

Highlights – Seal Island trips, Red-necked Grebes, Northern Shrike, Common Murre, Old tailed Ducks, pellets and poop – featuring long-eared owl, Loons, some words on winter moth…

this ice formed on the inside of our basement
window during the polar vortex
Business contact us! We are always looking for wildlife sightings and photos to post – tell us what you are seeing and we’ll help you share and maybe even become a legend in your own neighborhood! Email –

Tiit trick – click on the photos to enlarge….. Try it out with this polar vortex photo gallery

Winter moth response We asked and we received! – No, not the complete Frank Zappa catalog for Christmas! We asked for Winter Moth sightings and got a couple! Thanks for sharing info about (one of)  the least liked critter from away!

Folly Pond

Armbrust Hill - On December 13th Kathy Warren shared…..”There have been bunches of them at my house. Gigi & Karols place. Not right now but a couple weeks ago they were down at the foot of the lawn on Atlantic Ave and up around my parking space and  first floor windows. Ick !”

Ick is right, and from Kathy’s details the flight in her neighborhood took place roughly at the same time as Linnell’s reports. Thank you Kathy!

frozen fluffernutter

Clam shell Alley  Jennifer Clement sent in a report of some winter moth activity. “I did indeed see winter moths here on Clam Shell Alley. I didn’t document the day, alas. One night, I left the front light on and, coming home, had to battle my way through a blizzard of them to get in the door. Just one birch out front, the subject of all that action. Another night, days later, I saw many on the kitchen window toward the stand of trees in back of my house. About the same as last year around here, I’d say. No parasitic fly success yet.”

Good call Jennifer on the state of the parasitic flies! Thanks for sharing!

common murre
photo by John Drury
Historic Sightings – not sure how these fell through the cracks – well I am sure actually – I missed an email! Which I have only stumbled upon today! My apologizes…… Enjoy the history…..

Add caption
(11/1) Seal Island – John Drury headed to Seal and sent in this report – 2 Bald Eagles, 300 Double crested Cormorants, 10 old tails (first of season), 10 black scoter, Atlantic puffin. On island – 15 snow buntings, song, savannah, and white-crowned sparrow. Hermit thrush, chickadee, 12 goldfinch, 50 purple sandpipers, 2 green winged teal, 1 great cormorant and 130 grey seal.
Broad winged Hawk

Greens island – 11/18 Northern Shrike.

There you have it – a little history lesson! Thank you for your patience!

Sightings – Seal Island – report from John Drury – 3 Common Murre, 3 Razorbill, 10 black-legged kittiwakes, 25 Northern Gannets, 12 old tails, 25 black ducks, 2 bald eagle, 1 peregrine falcon, 20 great cormorants, 8 song sparrows, 20 snow buntings, American pipits, 400 purple sandpipers and plenty of loons, guillemots, 10 red-breasted mergansers….

can you find the great cormorant in the picture?
The story here…is about how cool December trips to Seal can be. The purpose of the trip (if I am correct) was to set up the Seal Camera. That was the excuse I guess, but seeing all that good stuff is like the bonus. Thanks for sharing John! Keep ‘em coming!

bald eagle on leadbetter
Ferry Crossing (12/13) 7am to Vinalhaven – mixed with the “Animals on ledges” photo gallery…..18 Common Loon, 94 old tail ducks, 68 black guillemots, 21 Common Eider, 9 black ducks, 4 surf scoter, 1 black-legged kittiwake, 8 Bonaparte’s gull, 18 buffleheads, 1 great cormorant, 2 red-breasted merganser, purple sandpiper, 15 crows, harbor seals….

The story here….is obviously the 94 old tailed ducks! Over 80 of them were in Rockland Harbor! Working hard for the Kittiwake, Great Cormorant, and purple sandpiper was both fun and rewarding. Lots of crows heading to the mainland was interesting as well.

can you find the purple sandpiper in the photo?

(12/21) Long cove – 15 bufflehead, 3 Bonaparte’s gulls, 4 ravens, and loons singing!

can you find the seals in this photo?

red-necked grebes from state beach - about 20

(12/21) State Beach – 7Red-breasted Merganser, 8 common eiders, 5 common loon, 10 black guillemot, 57 red-necked grebe, 2 old tail ducks, 6 common goldeneye,

The story here…. Were the Red-necked grebes, which I totally love (don’t tell Amy!), and the goldeneye which I have not seen much of on the mainland so far. Give it time!

this river is pleasant
Another part of the story was getting to state beach for the first time in two months and having my eyes water up a bit because I love it there so much (don’t tell Amy!). Feels good to be there in the winter!

(12/21) Pleasant river – 2 hooded mergansers, 3 black ducks, 1 mallard

The story here…was the hooded mergansers which are always fun to see. Pleasant River is a pleasant place to observe – especially when the ice pushes critters towards the boondoggle bridge.

crow pellet - full of bayberries

(12/21 Carver’s Pond – 12 buffleheads, 7 hood mergansers, 1 common loon

(12/21) Lane’s Island – 3 common eiders, 2 black guillemots, 3 chickadees, long-eared owl pellet, crow pellet - and now for the … Pellet photo gallery

long-eared owl pellet
The story here…was finding a really cool long-eared owl pellet. I hardly ever find “Two skull pellets”, and to find two prey species in one – vole and shrew – just makes my heart skip a beat (don’t tell Amy!). plus, the Chickadees were the only songbirds I saw that day other than crows and ravens, and I have a love/hate thing going with them.

vole skull and bones

shrew skull

and as if that wasn't enough... tracks ...

snowshoe hare and deer tracks

not sure what this guy is, but
he was out on the snow
vole subnivial layer trail

and then there was this raccoon that got hit

I wonder if it made a popping noise when it got hit!

snow angels and getting ready for the Christmas show at school

and some leif

we are so ready for more snow !

hey - happy and safe new years - love to all and hope to see you out there in 2017!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

merry Christmas....from California...Satan's Bolete
photo by BAJ

Welcome to the Vinalhaven sightings report  Dec 11, 2016
Brought to you with the kind support
of VLT and MCHT

“when the deer are-a-dying,
the winter moth are-a-flyin’”
old Estonian proverb,
or Bob Dylan, nobel prize winner

happy 8th birthday mister....


We are welcoming off island photos of mushrooms, kid(s), and mushroom(s) and kid(s), as well as kid(s) and mushroom(s) in this edition. And we start with an incredibly beautiful Satan's bolete (above) from Santa Cruz County California. Enjoy!

Highlights – Winter moth update, red crossbill, red-throated loon, red-necked grebe, razorbills, kittiwake, otter and raccoon latrines, and lots of poop pictures….and mushrooms….scoter tri-fecta!...and so much more

any fire in this pit is underwater at high tide

Business – contact us with your sightings, photos and anything/everything in between at . It’s free and it won’t hurt.

Tiit trick - click on photos to jumbo size them

and in tiit's name - make sure you watch the wonderful ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "When the garden was eden". It's on Netflix and it reminds me of my dad and uncle gus. Interesting watch even just to see the last time the knicks won the championship.

snow. a little of it on the coast.
Hopefully more to come

Have you been seeing winter moth flights in your neighborhood? If you have been we cordially invite you to send in your sightings to the VSR as we (the royal “we”) do a “short hand documentation style” documentation


Winter Moth update – what started as a trickle became “a ton” for a bit and may not be done with yet!


the moss looked especially cool on Big Hen Island

Those dastardly invasive insects are back (or more precise– still around) and the cold weather flights of winter moth males may only be matched by the cold weather, non-flights of winter moth females (they have no wings) as a mating frenzy worth its weight in rabbits and mink has been underway for the last month or so (roughly). A timeline of reports sent in….


come on now! why don't we have these satan's boletes
around here? probably because we are so pure...
photo by BAJ
look at that phat, bulbous stipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(11/16) Linnell Mather reports a dozen or so moths flittin’ about between the Sands and Main Street on her evening ride home.


(11/25) after a (somewhat moderate) cold stretch, a burst of winter moth flight was documented this night in both St. George and Vinalhaven (and undoubtedly other locations as well). Words like “HUGE” and “TONS” were used for the observed flights that night as my windows were partially covered as I rode the horned lark (my old bike) and every time the door opened another moth or two would enter! This was a big night…


typical view from the ferry these days
of old tailed ducks
(11/29, 5:15pm) Linnell Mather and I drove through a couple dozen winter moth males as we headed up to the town hall. As we drove through the winter moth population, with their scattered and spaced out dynamics, their presence reminded me of a December a few years past where reports of intensely active flights when investigate 20 minutes or so after the fact turned up few to hardly any adults flying. In other words, what Linnell and I saw that night between the Sands and town hall reminded me of what I saw a few years ago when I barely missed a huge flight of winter moth.

I had never seen a mushroom like this before

(12/1) Linnell Mather (has anyone else noticed how connected Linnell is to the winter moth flights this year?)   reports male winter moths flying out by the Dyer’s Island bridge, which is further than she has seen them out of town (the Basin way) in the past.


The bottom line is that we are waiting for the “flies that are parasitic on winter moth” to take hold and start limiting the number of moths observed in an observable way. The flies of course were introduced maybe 3 springs ago, which can take 10 years or so to establish themselves which is slow, even by Vinalhaven standards.


then I realized it was an Amanita where the cap
never pulled away from stalk or stipe;
instead the cap split around the Amanita egg shell pieces
and what you are seeing as upper and lower teeth is
the torn gills

What we can do in the meantime is document where the winter moths are being seen. Have you been seeing winter moth, or any moths lately? Even if you saw them 3 weeks ago, it’s never too late to share! Send in your winter moth reports to .


red crossbill in the basin
best shot I got at the moment


turkey tail
photo by Jim Conlan
Sightings Shrooms galore….. with some recent rains and some recent warmth (not today or yesterday though) and with that Jim Conlan found, photographed, and then sent in this photo of one of our local favorites, Turkey Tail…Trametes  versicolor

Here’s some cool stuff about this frequently seen polypore, which is small with multiple layering shelves. Straight from mid-coast Maine’s own Greg Marley in his epic “Mushrooms for health


a little excavating after finding
some treasure with the metal
detector. that is my underwear
in the back!
Turkey tail is the best-researched and most clinically tested of the medicinal mushrooms, at least by allopathic medicine standards. In the mid-1960s, a Japanese chemical engineer saw his neighbor succeed in using the mushroom known there as Kawaratake as a traditional remedy for his cancer. The engineer’s initial horror at the idea that his friend would rely on an unproven treatment to address his cancer turned into wonder and intense interest in the mushroom behind this folk remedy. He then worked on a team that tested Kawaratake for antitumor activity, isolated a highly active strain of the fungus, and extracted and concentrated a bioactive fraction from the fruiting body.


The licensed fraction is a group of protein-bound polysaccharides called Polysaccharides-Kureha, now known as PSK or by the trade name Krestin. The Japanese Ministry of Medicine initially approved it for use in treating cancer in 1977 (Hobbs, 2004)…

BAJ and Asa and a Shaggy Parasol
photo by Shauna

…PSK is the second leading cancer “drug” in Japan….recommended for use as adjunctive therapy, along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Under these conditions they have been shown to strongly inhibit cancers, improve survival times, and help conserve or improve the immune status of patients facing the toxic stresses of conventional treatments …”


beyond what is recent, Marley delves into history….


Turkey Tail has been used as a folk remedy in Japan and China for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Traditionally, fruiting bodies of T. versicolor have been harvested, dried, ground, and simmered in water as tea. This type of extract is recorded in the China edition of De Materia Medica as a treatment for a variety of symptoms associated with liver dysfunction and respiratory-tract infection, and for promoting a healthy body and spirit generally.”

sign o' the time

In other words, Turkey Tail is as badass as it looks like a turkey tail. Hats off to the fungus that increases cancer survival rates. Can’t argue with that...

"overcast days never turned me on"
but overcast gives the best light
on morning rides from Rockland


Ferry and boat rides….11/29 – ferry ride - 8 razorbills, 8 great cormorants….all the regulars – 30+ old tail, eiders, 30+ guillemots,70+  loons plus Bonaparte’s gull, and a sizable flock of surf scoters (27 highest count) in hurricane sound, easily observable from the ferry

on sunny mornings the light on the 8:45am from rockland is
rather sprainty when it comes to observing. so I end
up looking backwards, still seeing birds, but watching them
float away rather that getting closer. what a whiner

12/6 – ferry ride1 Black-legged Kittiwake, ~ 12 Bonaparte’s Gull were the highlights….somewhat quiet….

…(12/6) on The Skua with John Drury - Ride around the east side to Big Hen Island, located in the beautiful, yet somewhat hard to get to, waters of Seal Bay/Winter’s what we saw on the way…~12 great cormorants, ww scoter, black scoter, surf scoter (scoter tri-fecta!), a few red-breasted merganser, old tailed ducks, black guillemots, common loon, red-throated loon, red-necked grebe, common eiders, Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals…


buffleheads and surf scoter
(12/7) ferry ride – red-throated loons, common loons, laughing gull, black guillemot, 1 razorbill, 1 black-legged kittiwake, 

common loons are commonly seen
from the ferry

this is big hen island.

So much to see here ….


Big Hen Island – (12/6) – out in the wilds of Seal Bay/Winter Harbor is a very fun island to visit, especially in December when undergrowth of the island has died back. Scat was especially prevalent on the island this day with Raccoon and White-tailed Deer represented in impressive numbers…

Big hen had some big rocks
view back to the Skua from Big Hen

Red-tailed Hawk perched momentarily on a birch snag while John and I were getting ready to go on the beach.


the otter latrine I spotted from my kayak
the second otter latrine was tucked in under here

2 River Otter latrines were located on island this particular day. Sign of multiple otters for sure, from the size and amounts on the latrine it felt safe to assume a den was nearby. The heavy use of otter trails was likely accentuated by local raccoons.

there is a dead raccoon in there

shells and skull
pretty sure that raccoon is dead.
cleaned by periwinkles no doubt....
ahhh, the irony

…which was funny because John and I came across sign of two Raccoon that had passed their life status – one body fully intact ….


And one skull in the shallows by a southern beach….there seemed to be lots of death on big hen.

...the irony is that the raccoon scats were loaded with
periwinkle operculums (trap door things) so the raccoons
have been cleaning up on periwinkle snails, and then when
they die their skulls are (likely if in the water) cleaned by
the periwinkles. its the periwinkle/raccoon poop cycle!
and beyond that is was a poop fest on the are some classics from the day!

one can never have enough otter spraint pictures!

deer poop on big hen

balsam cones before

and then there were these cones on the balsam fir trees

balsam cones after

Leif's Jurassic World

and of course leif and legos

Leif exploring the Camden Hills...

Lily got some cukes and cheese
photo by Amanda Devine

and introducing to the VSR family - Lily, Amanda Devine and "Amanda's husband Kevin"s kid. she's a sweety!! 

oh yeah - and before I forget -

check out leif talking legos on youtube!

he is so proud of the videos! I hope you enjoy!