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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


Thursday, May 25, 2017

slugs are tastiest when small

Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – May 20th, 2017
Kind support for the VSR provided by VLT, MCHT, and U!
(You probably didn’t even know it!)


spotted salamander eggs
“long overdue” happy mother’s day wishes to all the mothers!.....


I want to say a little something that's long overdue
The disrespect to women has got to be through
To all the mothers and sisters and the Wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end

- Sure Shot, MCA, Beastie Boys



Highlights : Orchard Orioles, Warlers – including Wilson’s and …. , Wood Thrush, Vernal Pools!!!!, Great Cormorants, rose breasted grosbeaks, Plant stuff and fungus things, purple sandpipers (breakwater) and the continuing story of a woodcock family coming into its own…plus special spring section...ancient murrelet and red billed tropicbird


Business : - contact us! send us your sightings! Your photos! Or your email address if you want to get an email announcing each new post (it’s not too annoying, once every two weeks or so).! Complaints can be sent there as well. Bring ‘em on!


it would all be so crystal clear
if it wasn't for the phone.

Tiit trick!Click on the photos to enlarge. Make them jumbo why don’t you! Best view available! Wish you were here dad!


Take this foam photo for instance, click on it if the foam isn't big enough for your taste! see...wasn't that fun?

Kid stuff – had a great couple of mornings (5/9 & 10) up at the Perry creek preserve with the 4th and 5th graders! We ventured off trail and explored wetlands after wetlands for 4.5 hours each trip and ended up discovering (for us) a world full of spotted salamander sign.


As reported in the previous VSR , North Perry Creek Preserve is home of one of the two (or three) most famous vernal pools (spring pools that dry up at some point) on island – “the mother lode”. The mother lode is famous for hosting over 200 set of spotted salamander egg masses each spring. And sure enough with the kids counting we came up with roughly 200 sets again this year for the pool!


From there we “hit the wetlands” and scooped and searched each and every wet spot that could possibly support eggs.


all in all we searched 4 wetlands over the two days – all 4 wetlands were somewhat close to the trail and between the N Perry Creek parking area and the mid-creek/ridge trail split – maybe ½ mile down the trail.


the group on (5/9) searched 3 of the 4 wetlands and came up with roughly 500 sets of egg masses found. Ever had a 500 spotted salamander egg mass day before? I hadn’t! it was epic.

holding onto eggs

the next day there was partial overlap and the group searched 3.5 of the 4 wetlands, with several in the group claiming they had seen over 600 sets of eggs that day – which is totally possible and even probable.


So the total between the two days was somewhere in the 650 sets of egg masses for the area. That is mindboggling. Females spotted salamander lay up to 3 sets of eggs, but many will lay one or two. With that in mind and if we were to play conservative and say the females lay 2.5 sets of eggs on average  we are looking somewhere around 260 female spotted salamanders living close to the first .5 mile of trail. that’s a heck of a lot of female spotted salamanders!

Jordan found this red spotted newt

What makes things even better is that there are probably about 260 male spotted salamanders in the same area, and who knows how many juvenile spotteds!


So these dudes must be everywhere at perry creek, the place can be literally crawling  with them….and so I have to ask, those of you who have walked the trails there, maybe know them “like the backs of your hands” – have you ever seen a spotted salamander at perry creek? I hadn’t until a kid named Parker turned over an old bucket in the woods and found one underneath.


And so where are they? Other than everywhere. It is known that spotted salamanders can travel over a mile to vernal pools to mate (average about 700 feet), but at perry creek there are vernal pools everywhere, its hard to imagine a salamander traveling too far to find a vernal pool.


And so they are in the ground, under rocks, under old chum-buckets (apparently) under logs and just about everywhere.

red spotted newt - in the red eft stage

We (the royal “we”, as I found nothing these days”) found one live spotted salamander, 1 dead salamander and this incredible cute red-spotted newt in its red eft stage. So exciting to see all these masses. Perry creek preserve is full of masses! Cool to know they are out there!


orchard oriole and treat
photo by Skin Hill Sally
Sightings….Orchard OrioleSkin Hill Sally was kind enough to send in these photos of two first year male Orchard Orioles that spent a day in her yard maybe a week ago at this point. Sally was concerned that one of the Orchard Orioles wasn’t able to fly as it seemed to be struggling. The bird was not seen the next day, which might mean one of a few things…and hoping it survived, maybe the bird was just purely exhausted and its wings were fine. I mean, the wings worked when it flew out to vinalhaven…anyway….

not sure if that is jelly or jam on the orange
do you know the difference between jelly and jam?
photo by Skin Hill Sally

Hillary Bunker reports a first year orchard oriole has been coming to her berry suet feeder since the weekend! Not sure if it’s still around, but three orchard orioles on island is huge. Not sure how huge or how one would go about measuring the hugeness of the whole thing, but it’s pretty fun and cool nonetheless!


photo by John Drury
When we last left….”the woodcocks on greens island” – report and photos from John Drury -

Yes, there were eggs, and a female who was working her camouflage “to the max” as Moon would say…since then there has been a flutter of activity that has resulted in some hatching…lets take a look at the eggs….


American woodcock youngster
photo by John Drury

And this adorable (judgment) baby woodcock that undoubtedly came out from one of those eggs! Awesome shots and awesome timing…Good work John


little Roberts great cormorants colony
photo by John Drury
….and no post from John (or conversation with John) is complete without some sweet Great Cormorant talk and photo. Courtship displays are when Great Cormorants are at their best (they are at their worst fending off hungry eagles!) and in the photo we see a few adult Great Cormorants with their heads pointing up , showing off their white cheeks (facial cheeks) and their white flanks (almost derriere cheeks). John is also quick to mention that the only place in America (USA!, USA!) where Great Cormorants breed is our neck of the woods and that in 1992 there were 260 Great Cormorant nests in Maine and last year there were 40 in only 4 sites. Save a shag! As they say…


harlequin ducks
photo by John Drury

Also from John, a photo (below) that acts like a reminder – Ancient Murrelets are John's "favorite fowl". WE (Royal anyone?) here at the VSR highly advocate playing favorites whether it’s with birds or children! We like favorites and that is why they are our favorites!


Anyway, it's incredible to have an Ancient Murrelet at Matinicus Rock (wasn't there one last year on seal?) . And great to have the red-billed tropicbird back in for a 13th consecutive summer in Maine! And now would be a good time to remind people that if you are looking to look for the Red-billed tropicbird, great cormorants, Harlequin ducks (25 at little Roberts last week), Puffin, Razorbill and a spraint load of terns, John Drury is the man for you to contact. Check him out at - – to get more info and to make your reservation today!


John also recently led a warbler walk up at Ambrust Hill (5/21) and the birds were out in force. Here’s the list John sent in – Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Black and White, Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted (hello mike Windsor!), Yellow-rumped, and Magnolia Warblers. Redstart, common yellowthroat, and northern parula rounded out the warblers. Also – Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, Indigo Bunting, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak… that is a nice bird walk list!

white violet

Greens island – (5/17) several Wilson’s Warblers…



Basin – Peggy Williams - 5/18/17 – Black throated Green, yellow rumped, blackburnian,  & magnolia warblers, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Osprey, Bald Eagle, blue headed vireo 30+ roadside spotted salamander egg masses.


something happened at this nest before I got there
and I don't think it worked out for the other robin eggs

Carrying Place Preserve – 5/18/17 – goldfinch, common yellowthroat, crow, black throated green, blackburnian warblers, osprey, overnbird, northern parula, red breasted nuthatch, junco, 1 roadside spotted salamander egg mass.

almost ready lady slippers

Huber – (5/17)  - ovenbird, black throated green warbler, northern parula, 50+ surf scoter, 2 Common Terns, White-throated Sparrow, Lady slippers – early stages, Full vernal pool (full as in water), tree swallow…(5/18) Owl Kill?, Brown Creeper, Magnolia




State Beach (5/18) – common loon breeding plumage.


Reach Road – Patience Chamberlin reported a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks singing.


the thought here is that an owl ate a white bird.
maybe a tern - wasn't there the evening before.
below is a video of creatures loving
the left over innards

31 Reach Road (5/18) – Wood Thrush, Black throated Green and Yellow Warbler, Junco


story here was the Wood Thrush – only the second I have heard on Vinalhaven. And then I heard two different ones on bike rides over the next two days in st. George. Wood thrushes are cool and remind me of my friend Jim in Ohio. The wood thrush is the district bird of the district of Columbia. Maybe there was some wave of wood thrushes recently. Anyway, they are cool.


here's a video of flies and carrion beetles working over a chunk of bird that was left over from the alledged owl kill at Huber.....

Bike ride – (5/18) – “round the island” – 4 overnbird, Blackpoll and Black throated Green Warblers, Blue-headed Vireo.


Armbust hill (5/18) – cedar waxwing, American redstart, black-throated green warbler, belted kingfisher, parula, black and white warbler, American goldfinch



Lane’s Island – (5/17) Mating eiders (see photos below) , woodcock displaying

the first of like ten eider mating photos..enjoy!

So here’s a hot new section with recent hot shots from the nature world…


When I went out to lane’s on the 17th I went out to the sunset rock because I had gotten there a little early for owls. They were the hope, but the eiders and woodcock were plentiful entertainers….


these are in order of sequence
The eiders were originally on some ledges but jumped in the water when I was still plenty far away. I wouldn’t say I felt bad, but when I realized that my humble presence may have influenced their behavior I said out loud ….. “that’s too bad” … because I was plenty far away!


As it turns out the pair almost immediately started to mate – no ducky, spinning around in circles bullspraint courtship! And with a quick hop on the back things took off….


she is underneath during this process

she was allowed to come up for air


and then she resurfaced
and they went on their way

…. And in the end I didn’t feel so bad that my
humble presence might have had impact on these eiders. And that feeling is purely anthropomorphic. It would be cool if my  presence led to their mating, but lets be honest...
they were good to go all cloacal even before I got there!


lets be honest, roger has looked better
The decay of roger – everyone’s favorite island mushroom, Roger a red-belted conk, on the Huber trail does seem to be coming close to the end. The ironclad beetles were out in force munching on its pore layer (not something friends do necessarily) and its color does not look fresh. What an awesome mushroom….

these ironclad beetles were feasting
how many can you see in this photo?

Blowing of the cup…..- here is a video of an orange peel cup (mushroom) dispersing spores. The dispersal is triggered by wind, and in this video I mimic the wind with my hot air. Unfortunately I blow pretty loud over the camera and the sound that is captured is kind of annoying to me (judgment).


Anyway, you should turn your speakers down now….

off island - found three barred owl pellets in St. George the last couple of weeks and each have had shrew skeletons in them. big ones too.

sizable shrew skull

here are some pictures... nice red teeth...


Rockland Breakwater – can be seen by the ferry and is made of vinalhaven granite!....anyway, Leif, Amy and I were celebrating mother’s day the day before mothers day with a walk on the breakwater in Rockland (5/13). Loads of fun and we even came across a group of about 10 purple sandpipers rocking their breeding plumage. Got a couple of shots to share…

the one photo where the bird was not looking at me

I had never seen purples in breeding plumage so close before
they are striking

And then this pileated woodpecker put one a show for me on the nature trail right out my back door in St. George. That pecking is a force to be reckoned with!

mouth full of food

working hard

lady slipper and poop bag

photo gallery -

skunk cabbage and poop bag camoflauge.
how many poop bags can you find in this photo

one of my tasks is to remove condoms
from parking areas.
just being honest here...

springtails on a bridge

perry creek pellet

And here’s the boy fishing....

and playing baseball – getting ready to score a run!

there are 4 purple sandpipers out there somewhere

And doing a belly crawl to sneak up on another 4 purple sandpipers we saw at Marshall Point Lighthouse! Good times!


Looking forward to seeing you out there!