Welcome to the Vinalhaven Sightings Report – November 22, 2019
December 19 2019
Brought to you with pleasure by MCHT and VLT
Blip it good.
PSA – hey – its winter and the preserves on Vinalhaven are ready to be explored. Animal tracking and snowshoeing are the two activities most normal people get do after a snow, but regardless of whatever gets you out there, here’s a word of caution. At certain times each winter, puddles that have formed in trails freeze up and create slippery situations (for stretches). The ice is not constant for the winter (some winters it may feel like it) and any ice may come and go, or only be found in select locations. Grippy, spikey shoe things that prevent slippage may come in handy, but usually just being ready for the ice and adjusting walking style can be enough to prevent a fall. Just a heads up!
Thanks of course to all those who have shared and continue to share sightings – natural and beyond – because sharing is what the VSR is all about. Send your photos, stories and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org – its what the cool kids are doing!
New stuff –
Lane’s island – lots of bay berry….. and some winterberry – what a year for them! Yellow-rumped warblers were around. A quick visit after a morning snow.
Here’s something I wrote about winterberry for the St George Dragon last month….
With some tracking and winter photos mixed in…
Nature Bummin with Kirk Gentalen November 11, 2019
The nature never stopped
By now you’re aware that the St George Dragon Community Newsletter will cease its publicating-ways. Just a few issues left to treasure, we know! Decisions such as this are never made lightly and the entire Nature Bummin’ staff wants to extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Julie and Betsy, the backbone of the Dragon. Their incredible dedication, efforts and logistical/nitty gritty/dirty work kept the dragon informational, fun and afloat all these years. The Dragon will be sorely missed and all of us here at Nature Bummin’ share in the sadness of losing such a wonderful community resource and learning tool that is/was “the Dragon” . In other words, we are “bummed” in the more traditional sense of the word. And so…. HEARTFELT THANKS! & APPRECITAION! What a great run, will be sorely missed!
And while the Dragon is stopping, “nature” itself will continue to chug along, hopefully and of course. And strolling right along it will be “Nature Bummin’” ! Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) will continue its support for the column and has offered to post current (and past) posts on their website. It’s an offer too good to pass up – thanks MCHT!
With that, after the December 18th issue of the Dragon , Nature Bummin’ will be moving to a new home - mcht.org/story-tag/nature-bummin/ . We’ll keep pumping out the column every two weeks (roughly) as with the Dragon. And who knows, if a new incarnation of the Dragon (or something similar) develops on the peninsula we’ll be ready to jump back on! The nature will be there, that is for sure!
Now for something a little different…
It’s been an interesting stretch of weather this fall. Rains, winds and now snow(!) have been creating havoc for outdoor-work schedules (namely mine) and gave the St. George School students two of the warmest “snow” days I’ve ever heard of.
A silver lining that came with these weather events was the local deciduous trees – maples, oaks, birches, etc. – losing their leaves. Seemingly overnight, trees that had been loaded with yellows, reds and oranges (or what I like to call – equal parts yellow & red) quickly became bare, with fully exposed trunks (racy). These “dropping of the leaves” events made the world a little safer, however, as the “pretty” colors can be distracting to humans at times when they should be focused - like when driving. It’s also now a bit easier to scan he forest “canopy” for owls and other critters as things aren’t so cluttered up there (I know, what part of “canopy” do I not understand!). By the time the green leaves change color they’ve already served their photosynthetic purpose for tree right, so what’s the point? But the biggest bonus of this year’s dramatic leaf dropping has probably been the unveiling of the Winterberry.
|lots of raccoon tracks in Seal Bay|
Local Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillate) have spent most of 2019 quietly doing “natural things” - like growing and losing small (3 in.) leaves and blooming an impressive amount of tiny (.25 in) white flowers. Once surrounding trees and shrubs lost their leaves this fall it became close to impossible not to notice the loaded, red Winterberry shrubs lining 131 at stretches. It’s a “winterberry fall” - my favorite season to drive 131.
A shrub in the Holly family (Aquifoliaceae), Winterberry is creatively named for its bright red fruits and for the season into which said berries frequently remain on the plant. And while the Winterberry flowers are pollinated each spring, it’s not every year the shrubs are covered and almost screaming with red berries. There are winterberries every fall, but not every fall is a “winterberry fall”. We like winterberry falls.
|with snow fleas|
How many migrating songbirds and overwintering Corvids will tap into this fruity resource, fueling wings and life in an effort to sustain the never ending quest for nourishment? How many Raccoons will plop themselves in the middle of a shrub and eat every red berry they can reach? How many Winterberry seeds will be deposited, fertilized, and eventually fruitful themselves with the “help” of animals? How long will that red last before critters pick them clean? So many questions. Will be fun to get some answers, while driving safely of course.
Of course, Winterberries are not just on 131. Last Sunday I was on the Les Hyde Nature Trail by the library and school, sitting on a bench that overlooks the marsh. Winds were calm and the view was comforting as I sat there decked out in orange (a good habit for November). I was looking for anything perched but all I could see was the Winterberry shrubs across the water over by the beaver dam. Clear as day and all lit up red, from my perspective they were the story of the marsh as the sky started to darken at what felt like an obscenely early hour.
And it was the story until an oddly-shaped (judgment), non-duck critter was spotted swimming in the waters between the bench and the Winterberry. A swimming red fox with its fluffy tail pointed and almost entirely out of the water, what a sight. Never seen a fox swim before and I was glad I had been looking in that direction when it doggy-paddled by. It looked like a small reddish boat being pulled backwards. From one shade of red to another, or what I like to call “orange without the yellow”.
Before long (and before darkness) a muskrat swam through the scene as close to the bench as possible. With its thin, scaley tail mostly submerged, the muskrat offered a nice contrast in swimming form to the red fox, which had exited the water in full view (racy). One view led to another, and pretty soon the story was the marsh itself. The focus and presentation kept changing, but the nature never stopped.
|greens island otter latrines|
Greens island report – (11/11) kestrel, sharp shinned hawk, 5 bluebirds, dark eyed junco, golden crowned kinglet, cedar waxwing.
Robins and Black-throated Blue Warbler stayed into late November
14 buffleheads up in the Tombs
|wintermint ding dong.|
you are what you eat
a couple of classic limited editions...
|leif on the mic!|
.... and some Leif. More to come shortly....