Brought to you by

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, January 27, 2017

valentine's day is coming up!

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – January 27th, 2017

Brought to you by VLT and MCHT


Highlights : Thick-billed Murre, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Shrike, Owls, Fungal species exclusive: Luminescent Panellus!!!!, summer dreaming, more dog stuff (dog stuff left off due to time constraints)

selfie on ice
photo by Leif Gentalen

Business : contact us: with sightings, photos, or to get on the email list! is the place for us to be reached!

Tiit trick - Click on photos and they get massive!

R.I.P. – Pat Gasperini. I met Pat when I subbed in the high school 11 years ago and always liked him. Good guy he will be missed. Our thoughts go out to family and friends.

poop in a bag on a log

Upcoming event - Don’t forget!Friday, Feb 10th Full Moon Hike/snowshoe bonfire outing! Meet at Skoog at 4pm to carpool to Huber Preserve. For more info email me at the email above! An MCHT/VLT event! Like this blog!


porcupines do scat in their own home

Off island event – if you are on the mainland Saturday Feb 4th I’ll be leading a hike (hopefully on snowshoes) at Erickson Field in Rockport. 9am at the parking area about a mile up from 90/1 intersection. It will be an “off trail” excursion, but there will be lots to see, including this cool porcupine log.

kind of outside the log
mudd room

The porcupine must have backed up into the root system of the log and left these beauties. Lots of winter mushrooms too. For more information on this and other MCHT trips :


quills left from a backing up accident I would think.
was stoked to find these

there is a lot going on in this photo - Red-billed Tropicbird
photo by John Drury

Shameless nature blog plug – VSR’s “sister blog” (does that make us Big Brother?) sometimes known as “Maine Sea Bird Tours” or alternatively “Sightings From Skua” – both edited by John Drury (2 blogs! -how does he have the time?) – has posted a great article about (and great shots of) everyone’s favorite local summertime seabird –  the Red-billed Tropicbird. Click here and you are on your way –



MDI snowy owl
photo by John Drury
Speaking of summertime, it’s never too earlier (but sometimes can be too late) to sign up for John’s Boat tours to Seal, Brimstone or just about anywhere you’d like to go in Penobscot Bay. Spring trips offer the chance to see Harlequins Ducks or maybe Great Cormorants displaying (that is when they are at their finest). Check out his blog for more info about when John’s boat “Skua” goes in the water!

snowy owl on MDI
photo by John Drury

John also sent in these photos of a snowy owl he encountered on Mount Desert Island recently. Thanks for sharing John!



Sightings : Ferry Ride (1/20) 7am to Vinalhaven – 103 Old tailed ducks, 43 Common Loon, 35 Black Guillemot, 23 Surf Scoter, 1 Black Scoter, 35 Bufflehead, 67 Common Eider, 21 Red-breasted Merganser, 143 Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Goldeneye, 7 Red-necked Grebe, 2 Great Cormorants, 7 Razorbill, Thick-billed Murre, 4 American Crow


black-legged kittiwake nesting colony
stock photo - Homer Alaska
The story here…was the 143 Black-legged Kittiwakes loosely scattered in the middle of the bay. It took at least a few minutes for the ferry to make its way past the gulls which were all on the south side of the ferry. There was no big group of them, but instead they seemed to be spread out as far as my eyes could see through the binoculars. 143 is what I counted for sure, there were plenty of unidentified gulls (more than likely Kittiwakes) beyond where I could pick up detail. Best Kittiwake day I have had from the ferry since that 500+ day a few years back (maybe 6 now?). This could have been the case today, but that the birds were just out range. Good to see them!..... And the Thick-billed Murre just inside the narrows was sweet! Lots of ducks today as well – good numbers a good ride!


Huber vernal pool looked especially cool that day
Huber (1/20) : Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, 38 Bufflehead, 17 Common Goldeneye, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Oldtailed Ducks, Ravens


The story here…fun to see the group of Common Goldeneye displaying out in front of the Loring compound.  Seal Bay is great for winter ducks!

not a very good picture of the shrike
nice tree though!

Lane’s (1/20) : Northern Shrike, 3 long-eared owl pellets


The story here…was twofold. Things seemed a little quiet when I started my search for pellets. No songbirds chattering at all, and with little to no wind it was surprising. That is until I spotted this Northern Shrike ( 1st Fold!) hunting from the tops of spruce. Suddenly it all made sense. There was a free roaming, aerial predator in the neighborhood. No place for chatter.


Shrikes are so cool, predator songbird – and unanimously voted the coolest of the songbirds (take that crow huggers!). Here’s a little bit from “the Sibley guide to bird life and behavior”…

shrike on lane's island obelisk
stock photo

When a shrike sights prey, it leaves it hunting perch in swift, direct pursuit, seizing most prey items on the ground and dispatching them immediately. A shrike kills vertebrate prey by pounding its bill into the base or back of the skull and then using its hooked bill to sever the spinal cord between the prey’s neck vertebrae, as falcons do” – David Allen “Little Al” Sibley


Now isn’t that the coolest thing you’ve ever read about a songbird. Never mind their “butcher bird” habits, not many songbirds eat other adult songbirds. Coward songbirds like Corvids take non-fledged baby birds from nest, but no other songbirds are bad ass like shrikes.


never get tired of finding owl pellets
Winter is the time to see them, and Lane’s seems to be the most consistent (yearly), and easily accessible place to check for them on island. And they are easy to find! Just check the tops of trees, their preferred hunting perches apparently. If one is around, they tend not to be too shy.
owl poop


2nd fold) – Oh yeah, the other thing. Finding these long eared owl pellets made me realize that this is the 13th straight year Long-eared Owls have been documented at Lane’s Island. Undoubtedly they were a regular visitor to Lane’s for many years prior as well. Anyway, that’s pretty cool, I am very thankful for them. Thanks owls!


I love finding luminescent panellus
Some photos taken at Huber (1/20) of a fresh patch of one of my favorite mushrooms – Luminescent Panellus (Panellus stipticus) . This is the freshest patch I have come across on island (and possibly my life). This is the one that has gills that GLOW an eerie GREEN 

Along the trails at night.


But for its luminescent gills, this listless little wood-rotter wouldn’t attract enough attention to merit mention” – David Arora, Mushrooms Demystified


Excuse me David, I know you are “the swami of shrooms”, but man have you taken a closer look at these beauties! Let’s stay positive David! Not all mushrooms are for eating!


nub of a stub

Here’s a slightly more positive, 4-part take from Lawrence Millman’sFascinating Fungi of New England” – pages 56 & 57.


(Take one) “…we should be grateful for small glows, especially in the winter time, a time when (Panellus stipticus) often fruits…it’s produced only by the gills…the stem is often little more than a nub attaching the fruiting body to its substrate….”


VSR Editor’s note - There is such a miss-mash of stuff Millman brings up, all out of it coming from a place of respect. I like the line about the “the stem (stipe) is often little more than a nub”. There is something different about the stipe for sure, and this nub description nails it for me.


(Take two)Local ChauvinismEat your hearts out, denizens of the British Isles. Your Panellus stipticus doesn’t glow at all, while North American fruiting bodies do. What’s more, specimens in the Northeast glow more obviously than specimens in other parts of North America”

the best/worst thing about this doggie
bag stuffed in the tree was that it was
empty. not sure what we can learn from this

Then he gets a little continental pride bashing on the “denizens” of the British Isles. Like there isn’t enough already to make the Brits feel bad about, now this – their panellus doesn’t glow as much as ours? I bet ours are bigger too!  Take that denizens! North-A-merica! North-A-merica!





(Take three) “A Versatile Fungus – a photographic darkroom is the best place to see the greenish glow of a P. stipticus. Let’s say you’re fumbling around in the dark of the darkroom, and you have happened to cut yourself on a sharp object. Not to worry. The mushroom’s species name is derived from its former use as a styptic (BLOOD CLOTTER), so just apply an infusion from it on your wound, and you’ll soon be, if not golden, at least a lot less red”


birch polypore - at Huber
starting to turn and re-orient its pores to "open down"
VSR Editor’s note - Now for the darkroom conversation. Which reminds me of when a group of folks and I went into the bathroom at the Cobscook Community Learning Center with some panellus. We didn’t see the gills glow, but fortunately no one fell on a sharp object and needed to “just apply an infusion from it on your wound” – quick definition


Infusion - a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid


I doubt the squirrels placed these birch polypores
in this formation
Ok , so if you are bleeding in a darkroom you should make a quick “infusion” of Luminscnet Panellus to stop the bleeding? I guess you are supposed to make it ahead of time, and be ready for anything like a scout. Sounds cool!


(Take four)  Habitat and Season – usually in large numbers or clusters on hardwood logs, branches and stumps. An important saprobe. Year-round.” –


I like ice under water
Are there non-important saprobes (decomposers)? Nice shout out the Panellus’ role in the forest, not sure what this is based on, but nice shout out anyway! And now for a few more mushroom photos!



On the mainland - (1/25) Erickson fields – after the ice storm and a relatively warm stretch the downed birch logs and stumps were loaded with fresh shrooms! In January! Love it. Take a look at these shots – starting off with more Luminescent panellus…

I still love finding luminescent panellus

Jellies and other decomposers were out in force.

black jelly roll

lots of tree ears

fresh turkey tail or cousin thereof

crowded parchment is one of our favorite

orange jelly was there of course

crimped gill was in no short supply

not totally sure what's going on here
these marshmallow guys were rising out a stump
Berkeley's Polypore? I'll just have to go back and see

like many good things black jelly oyster
is fun to look at from below
from below.

birch polypore is always photogenic

crowded parchment, black jelly roll,
and black jelly oyster on/in the same branch.

red-belted conk redirectional
viewed from above

turkey time

red tree brain.

hemlock varnish shelf is a crowd pleaser

burst of Violet Toothed Polypore (VTP)

VTP redirectional

orange mock oyster

this blue jay was dead with its head missing

hot poop

nothing dysfunctional about this chaga

impressive, no?

trail busy with tracks of humans
and their companions

mainland tracking - went to a new zone for me, St. George town forest from the Fort Point entrance

hard to tell size, but this was decent sized
lots of sign of local use, good to tracks and trails of people out in the woods.

and even with the congestion and busyness of the trail, it took maybe a couple dozen steps before I found this fisher trail. 

fisher stroll

beautiful spot

The tracks were exactly what I dreamed they would be - an otter in the woods. A small otter at that, probably a female fisher walked through. Way bigger than a mink. And just as wonderful all the same. walking on ice over puddles through the woods. business. good to see.

and now for a couple more leif

if you give an 8 year old your camera you get
a bunch of selfies

more pie-face madness

and one of our buddy Asa super excited at the Fungus Fair in Santa Cruz
Asa Casey-Jones
photo by Big Al

....and on that  note (I can hear Asa from here!) we will see you out there!!!!!