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Year 3, Issue 1

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*  The electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
*    Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
*    Basin Bird Highlights: "Thoreau" Geo Kloppel
*    Pilgrim's Progress Compiler: "Stoinking" Matt Medler
*    Composite Deposit, Stat's All: "Shot Gun" Kevin McGowan and
*    Jay "Beam Hill Me Up" Scotty
*    Evans Cup Compiler: "Bird Hard" Bard Prentiss
*    The Yard Stick Compiler: Margaret "in Mansfield" Launius
*    Bird Bits: Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" McGowan
*    Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
*    Underwater Cinamatographer: Jeff Wells
"Love ya!"  "You're special!" "Hey, Sweet Thing!"  What, you actually
thought The Cup would send you such saccharin little (belated) Valentine
sillies? You should know by now that The Cup would never pull itself
above the joyful revelry of slander, gossip, and venomous "slips" of the
tongue. It's not our job to be nice; it's our job to keep you snapping at
the heels in front of you, eyeing each other's totals, bickering,
snickering, tickering (okay, for your Karl...) and Northern Flickering.
Not only do we take our jobs seriously, but we take them with disdain and
disgruntlement; any sweet greetings from us gruff and grumpy Cup staffers
would be purely accidental and should in no way be held against us.
So read your "1998 Valentine's Edition," The Cup 3.1. But don't expect
any melt-in-your-mouth goo.
And (belated) Happy Valentine's Day.  Love ya!
                         @   @    @    @    @     @
                             NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
                           @   @    @    @     @     @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Will anyone be able to one-up
Kevin McGowan's thrust for this year's Family Time Prize?  Highly unlikely,
considering he's successfully recruited HIS ENTIRE FAMILY for the 1998
David Cup race!  Says Kevin, "Oh, it's so exciting around the
McGowan-Kline household this month!!  I've got totals for all four
Cuppers!!  [Kevin and Jay, of course; wife Kim Kline of News, Cues, and
Blues fame in 2.11, and daughter Peri, age 6.]  Jay wants to enter Swift
[their cat!] into the competition too, as she became very interested in
birds after we got the stick-on window feeder for Christmas.  We don't
think she got Hoary Redpoll yet, but definitely she has Common." Don't
suppose that means you've got "catbird" on your list now?
      There's Cup-reader-cum-Cupper Ben Taft who has already caught onto
the best way to be a serious Cup contender: "I am a sophomore in the
College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell U, and I hope to sharpen my
mediocre but (hopefully) ever-increasing birding skills by participating
in the David Cup and drafting all of the outstanding birders in the
area." Forget it, Ben, you sound too nice to be a real threat.
      And this Jon Kloppel guy who's been posting to Cayugabirds of late.
Is he related to our own Geo Kloppel?  According to Jon, he's Geo's
brother. Isn't it obvious?  He signed up for the David Cup! "I
guess I am a novice birder who just got started this January when I
subscribed to Cayugabirds-L and found exciting hot tips and scintillating
info and banter!  However, as a child I did a great deal of birding in
Schuyler County with some expert birders, and so I have a global base of
understanding about what's what.  Anyway, it sounds inspiring and fun."
      Speaking of family, Pat Ria could give hubby Geo Kloppel a Cup for his
money.  Well, maybe not, but then again, who could?  By the looks of it,
though, she's heading for the Top Ten!  "I watch the birds that come to our
feeders," Pat said at the Cupper Supper.  "And I go birding quite a bit
with Geo.  I may as well just start counting what I see." We're rooting
for you, Pat!  Well, we hope you beat Matt Medler, at least.
      "I would like to sign up for the Cup, although I don't spend the
summer here." Spoken like a true Cupper: always ready with an excuse for a
poor showing.  Cornell student Matt Sarver already fits right in.  Good
luck, Matt, but now that you're in the David Cup, don't plan on graduating
for at least another ten years.
      Garry Chapin, you were the guy who came to the Cupper Supper with
Meena, right?  If not, oops! But it doesn't really matter, because you'll
definitely be coming to Cupper Supper '98, right?  Now that you're
officially a Cupper.  Just don't let Meena lead you on any wild
White-fronted Goose chases--unless she actually finds one and calls the
editors, of course.
      If we've said it once, we've said it a dozen times: Once a Cupper,
always a Cupper.  This year, it's Scott Mardis turn to prove us right:
"Why don't you guys count me in for this year's David Cup? I have no
chance at winning the competition, but I'd like to throw down the gauntlet
for all the other out-of-state Cuppers. Tell Ralph he is going to have to
do better than 52 in '98! Margaret of Mansfield probably has the best
positioning, but I'll give all I can for my fewer than 10 visits to the
Basin. Save some good birds for me!"  Welcome home, Scott! And don't worry,
the starlings and Rock Doves aren't going anywhere.
      Finally, not to be outdone by Swift McGowan, the Wells are pushing the
envelop on pet labor laws by signing up kitties Teddy and Mimi.  "It's not
fair," says Mimi (the bold one).  "Swift gets to go outside. Our only
chance at seeing birds is through the kitty tv, which is always tuned into
the Fire Escape Channel."  "Meow," agrees Teddy (the scaredy cat).  Swift,
you didn't actually see the white rump on that "Common" Redpoll, did you?
LIVING THE HIGHLIGHTS: Due to insubordinance ("No! I won't refuse
to make you another stinkin', lousy, cup of tea!" he said on more than one
occasion), we've been forced to fire Tom Nix from the Highlights Column.
Are you crazy? Of course, we're kidding!  Tom's columns were nothing
short of inspiring. But, sadly, his current responsibilities with "that
other job" (building inspector for the city of Ithaca) have precluded his
staying on another year as The Cup's Highlights writer. Tom's brilliant
writing, hawk-eyed attention to Cayugabirds posts, and, especially,
occasional jabs at fellow Cuppers will be greatly missed.
      Our only consolation is that stepping into the Highlights spotlight
will be Geo Kloppel.  That's right! Geo was this year's winner of the
Thoreau Award, in the Cupper's Choice Awards. And seeing as 99.9% of all
postings to Cayugabirds are his, he should have an easy job keeping track
of what's been seen each month in the Basin.  Geo, all of Cupland awaits
your column with great anticipation, and we here at Cup Headquarters
welcome you to the staff ! (Ha, ha, ha!)
LEADER LISTS: In anticipation for his upcoming move from the Basin
(in other words, he needs as much time as possible to get his totals up
there before moving away) in June, Karl David has stepped down from his
tour of duty as Leader's List and Composite Deposit compiler.  Father Karl
did a eagle-eyed job knit-picking through the lists of our monthly fearless
leaders; he won considerable admiration in particular for catching Steve
Kelling in his desperate attempt to cheat his way to David Cup victory in
December. Karl, we'll miss your hovering over that Composite Deposit like
a mama hawk guarding her young.
      But in true Cupper spirit, Kevin and Jay McGowan have picked up
where Karl has left off.  Of course, Kevin's ahead this month, and Jay won
for "most likely to succeed as David Cup Champ in 1998."  So hard can it
be for them? Plenty.  Just wait, you'll see.  Thanks, boys!
IN THE KNICKS OF TIME: The editors at The Cup give our Number 2
pro basketball team (Number One, of course, is the Celtics) a little face
time, and what do we get in return, from our own staffer Matt Medler?
"I let it slide the first time, but as the brother of a big Knicks fan, I
had to let you know that it's Knicks, not Nicks.  If you're going to live
in New York, you've got to know a little bit about New York State history.
A Knickerbocker was a name for a Dutch settler in the New Netherlands
(New York) colony in the 1600s.  The arena in Albany was called the
Knickerbocker Arena (quite the cool name, I think), until they sold out
recently and allowed Pepsi to buy the rights to the name.  Pepsi Arena is
the new (lame) name."  Matt, what are doing wasting your time writing for
The Cup? With knowledge like that, you could be writing for something
really exciting, like "Dutch Settlers' Weekly".
MATTING MISTAKES: To ensure he would in fact receive a healthy
dose of public humiliation, courtesy of The Cup , Matt Medler not only sent
in the above insubordinate remark (remember what happened to Tom
Nix, Matt? By the way, that's "Nix," not "Knicks") but also committed the
ultimate David Cup faux pas: he messed up a total, and an end-of-year total
at that!  "By the way," wrote Geo Kloppel when sending in January's tally,
"my total for 1997 was 211, not 207."  "Do you want us to draw and quarter
Matt? Or worse, we could run a correction," we wrote to Geo.  "Nah, don't
bother!  It doesn't even bring me _near_the 1997 Top Ten, and I don't care
anything about _previous_ years' standings anyway, I'm focused _entirely_
on 1998 (but be sure to give Matt a private roasting--it'll be good for
him!" Consider this your private roasting, Matt.
COUNT YOURSELF IN: Be part of birdwatching history!  Join the rest of
the nation on February 20, 21, and 22 as we all count birds for the Great
 98 Backyard Bird Count!  Great '98, the first of its kind, invites every
family and individual in the country to count the birds they see at their
bird feeders, backyards, local parks or other outdoor locations, as a way
to help scientists learn more about North American birds. Key to this
history-making event is that participants contribute their sightings
online, through a revolutionary Web site, BirdSource
<>, a joint project of Audubon and CLO.  In
turn, BirdSource will provide almost instantaneous feedback to participants
through graphics, animated maps, and regularly updated information
summaries.  "Watching the count results will be like watching election
returns from all across the country, right on your own computer screen,"
says CLO's Director (and Cupper!) John Fitzpatrick. "It's fun, it's easy to
participate in, and it's good for science. All you need is a love of the
outdoors and access to an online computer."  Mark your calendars, and keep
those feeders full!
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Guess who came to Syracuse
and went with nary a word about it.  B.B. King!  Were Cuppers notified?
Were they told of this legend's awesome approach to Cupland and how
Cuppers had darned sure better get their tails up there to his concert?
(BB's no spring chicken, you know, he may not have many cock-a-doodle-doos
left in him.)  Who's responsible, huh?  Who's to blame for this
unforgivable oversight? Oh.  Um, we are. Er, sorry.
:>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>
                                                              BASIN BIRD
                             Geo Kloppel
"How's this for a first-time effort?"
                                                    --Geo Kloppel
      1998 began with a harsh challenge from Mother Nature: deep snow
and frigid temperatures made birding on January 1st more difficult than
had been the case a couple of days earlier or would be again just a few
days later. But bold counters headed out anyway, with four-wheel drives,
snowshoes, skis, plenty of warm clothing, and clean slates for the new year.
      During the following days the two-foot snow pack melted completely
away, and so much muddy water flowed into the lake that summer
water-level was restored, illustrating the engineers' rationale for the
annual winter drain down. But the waterfowl seemed to desert the south end
of Cayuga Lake in response. Pieces of driftwood and rubbish floated
everywhere, bobbing up and down on the chop to tease the viewer with
imagined heads of the absconded ducks. I slogged out to Myers Point
through deep slush a day or two after the Xmas count, walking in the tracks
left by the counters' snowshoes, but found no birds at all on the water for
my effort. The geese, marsh ducks, gulls, and even swans were out gleaning
in the newly bared and sometimes submerged fields.
      Those who scanned gulls at the north end of the lake had good luck,
beginning with Catherine Sandell's appropriately "champagne-colored"
Kumlien's ICELAND GULL on the first day of the new year. More Icelands
turned up in the Seneca Falls area. A few MUTE SWANS continued the
overwintering trend that began in 1996, along with many Tundra Swans.
Later in the month one or more ICELAND GULLS shared Tompkins
County shores with an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.
      Among the less-numerous waterfowl species, PIED-BILLED GREBE
and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, which were both missed by the Ithaca
Christmas Count, turned up during the early stages of the thaw.
in fact, it might be better to list the few misses: neither RED-NECKED
the Basin via Cayugabirds-l in January. Those hoped-for long-shots BARROW'S
GOLDENEYE and KING EIDER didn't show.
      BALD EAGLES were seen at Tschache Marsh and along the lake. John Bower
found a MERLIN in the vicinity of lower Robert Treman State Park.
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were not hard to find, but NORTHERN HARRIERS were
scarce.  A SNOWY OWL was found again at the Savannah Mucklands, as was a
LONG-EARED OWL at Union Springs, by the McGowan team. A SNOWY OWL was
reported at Montezuma near the end of the month, leaving us to wonder if
the individual that was first found standing in the Mucklands during
December might have been in the Greater Montezuma area continuously since
then. Only one SHORT-EARED OWL was reported to Cayugabirds, a lakeside
fly-by seen by Tom Nix at Aurora. Then ,in the final minutes of the last
day of January, N SAW-WHET OWLS began to be heard in West Danby.
      NORTHERN SHRIKES were seen east of the Tompkins County Airport
and west of Trumbulls Corners. LAPLAND LONGSPURS were found
among the Snow Buntings in several locations. COMMON REDPOLLS were
widespread, and began descending to the feeders in the early days of
January, often joining the EVENING GROSBEAKS already there. WHITE-WINGED
CROSSBILLS were found at Summerhill State Forest, and PINE GROSBEAKS
continued there as well, also making an appearance near Mecklenburg. RED
CROSSBILLS and PINE SISKINS were reported from the Hammond Hill area. C
RAVENS showed up on Hammond Hill, at Hogs' Hole, and in Danby. Sandy
Podulka had a visit from RUSTY BLACKBIRDS. Half-hardy passerines found
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows.  This may or may not explain
his "knack" for attracting unusual sounding birds--Whip-poor-will,
N Saw-whet Owl around his house.)
100      100      100      100      100      100      100       100
100      100       100      100       100       100       100       100
Sign on 100 Club:
"Looks like Kurt Fox was coo-coo after all."
200           200          200          200           200           200
                                     2     0    0
      200             200                            200           200
Sign on 200 Club door:
"200? In January? Righhht."
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1998 DAVID CUP JANUARY TOTALS !!!!!!!!!!!!
Compiled by Matt Medler
78 Kevin McGowan
75 Jay McGowan
67 Geo Kloppel
66 Tom Nix
65 Stephen Davies
63 Karl David
54 Pat Lia
53 Bill Evans
48 Ken Rosenberg
48 John Fitzpatrick
46 Jon Kloppel
42 Gary Chapin
42 Bard Prentiss
41 Jeffrey Wells
40 Perri McGowan
36 Allison Wells
32 Jim Lowe
31 Margaret Barker
29 Anne Kendall
27 Matt Medler
26 Kim Kline
22 Anne James
21 Matt Sarver
21 Ben Taft
15 Cathy Heidenreich
10 Mimi "Catbird" Wells
10 Teddy "Catbird" Wells
  ? Swift "Catbird" McGowan
  ? Steve Kelling
  ? Caissa Willmer
Too embarrassed to divulge low total: Michael Runge
0  James "Way out of Basin" Barry*
0 Andy Farnsworth*
0 Kurt Fox*
0 Andy Leahy*
0 Scott Mardis*
0 Dave Mellinger*
*Currently living (or visiting) out-of-state but anticipate a return to
Basin during the 1998 David Cup year. This is where the REAL competition
lies. (Get it? "Lies"?)
Compiled by Matt Medler
53 Bill Evans
40 Stephen Davies
36 Jeff Wells
31 Karl David
30 Kevin McGowan
30 Allison Wells
29 Ken Rosenberg
26 Jim Lowe
19 Jay McGowan
19 Matt Medler
  2 Anne Kendall
Compiled by Bard Prentiss
51 Kevin McGowan
45 Jay McGowan
40 Bard Prentiss
Kevin McGowan's Lansing total:   46
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
By Margaret Launius
Say, uh, Margaret? Aren't you forgetting something?
By Kevin McGowan
Good thing I came out first!  I did a Kelling!  I made a couple of errors
in my tallying and missed a species. Here's what I had in January:
C Loon, P-b Grebe, H Grebe, G B Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan,
S Goose, C Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black
Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, A Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, G Scaup,
L Scaup, C Goldeneye, Bufflehead, H Merganser, C Merganser, R Duck,
B Eagle, N Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed
Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, A Kestrel, Ring-necked Pheasant, R Grouse,
W Turkey, A Coot, Ring-billed Gull, H Gull, I Gull, G Black-backed Gull,
R Dove, M Dove, E Screech-Owl, SNOWY OWL, Long-eared Owl,
B Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, D Woodpecker, H Woodpecker,
N Flicker, P Woodpecker, H Lark, B Jay, A Crow, F Crow, C Raven,
Black-capped Chickadee, T Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,
White-breasted Nuthatch, B Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, E Bluebird,
A Robin, N Mockingbird, C Waxwing, E Starling, Yellow-rumped
Warbler, N Cardinal, A Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow,
Dark-eyed Junco, L Longspur,S Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird,
H Finch, C Redpoll, HOARY REDPOLL, A Goldfinch, E Grosbeak,
House Sparrow
Since Kevin and Jay were late on the Composite Deposit scene,
Father Karl has generously agreed to put together this month's CD.
Be a sport, will you?  Help us play "Yes, This Was (or Was Not) Seen
in January" by responding to the questions marks accordingly.
D-c Cormorant, Brant, N Pintail (?), R-n Duck, W-w Scoter,
R-b Merganser (?), N Goshawk, Lesser B-b Gull (?), N S-w Owl
(Feb definitely ... Jan?), S-e Owl (ditto?), Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl,
N Shrike (Feb for sure ... Jan?), Carolina Wren, Winter Wren (?), Pine
Grosbeak, W-w Crossbill (in January?), Red Crossbill (?), Swamp Sparrow,
Song Sparrow, Purple finch, Pine siskin (?)
                               !   KICKIN' TAIL!  !
What better way to prove that being a cowinner in the David Cup wasn't
just a fluke by being featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup?
"Kickin' Tail" brings well deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper
who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, or family-timed
his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.
THE CUP: Hey, Big Guy, Mr.,er, Dr. David Cup 1997. Did you expect to
be on top at the beginning of  '98?
McGOWAN: No, not really.  I'm always a threat to be a contender for a top
spot, I guess, but usually only if no one is trying really hard.  The big
difference this year might be that I stayed in the country for the first
January of a David Cup competition.
THE CUP: Yes, but we hear you'll be leaving for a spot in February, and
that your son Jay is already scheming to plow ahead of you.  What a shame.
(Jay, where shall we bird first?) How hard did you have to work to get 79?
McGOWAN:  I didn't try all that hard.
THE CUP: Righhht.
McGOWAN:  We didn't target any species that were hanging around that
we could get easily later (1's or 2's in my rankings), only 3's or higher,
the seasonals and rarities.  You know, stuff like Snowy Owl, Iceland Gull,
Lapland Longspur, Pine Grosbeak (which we missed).
THE CUP: Pity.  Have you seen our totals, by the way?
McGOWAN:  We didn't even think to go after the Common Yellowthroat
or Gray Catbird.  We did, however, pick up a few unusual winter 1's and
2's.  Green-winged Teal and Ruddy Duck come to mind.
THE CUP: How much harder would you have had to have worked in order
to make the Big 100?
McGOWAN: It's a long way to 100.  It would have taken quite a bit of
THE CUP: You mean like actually leaving your house?
McGOWAN: Looking back at it, this might have been the year.  We
had a bunch of half-hearties around and all the winter finches and some
good ducks.  Sigh, I suppose it was a missed opportunity.
THE CUP: Aw, don't be so hard on yourself, Kev, you've got your family to
think about.  Wait a minute!  That's no excuse, since you forced them all
to enroll in the David Cup! Speaking of which, has this yielded some good
fortune yet in your quest for a repeat victory?
McGOWAN: I guess the Hoary Redpoll at the feeder could qualify.  We all
got killer looks at it.  Which was good, because Kim and Jay were my
biggest skeptics about that identification before they got to confirm it.
(Jay: "Well, IF it really WAS a Hoary Redpoll, then we had 26 species in
the yard this month."  Kim: "It seems awfully convenient that you found
this rare bird right at our own feeders.")
THE CUP: And then you paid them off with promises of a big "family
vacation" around the lake, right?
McGOWAN: We haven't made a big family outing to pad our lists yet, but
I'm hoping that will come later.
THE CUP:  Why isn't "Big Kitty", a.k.a., Skeezix,  signed up for the DC?
McGOWAN:   Although Skeezix is the big hunter, he showed little
interest in looking out the window after we began his confinement.
THE CUP: What you need is a good ol' fashioned fire escape, the kind that
gives a solid, resonating "BOOM" whenever the squirrels miss their target
(the sunflower feeder) and crash down onto the metal platform.  This'll
keep Skeezix on his paws.
McGOWAN: He had a little too much enthusiasm for hanging around the
feeders.  Swift, though, who has never caught a bird but is similarly
confined, really took a big interest in the stick-on window feeder I got
Jay for Christmas.  (I don't know when she will learn that she can't break
through the window and get those pesky birds.  First she tried the direct
approach, trying to smash her way through, then she thought that perhaps
being sneaky would work better.  Of course, it didn't.)  After we put the
window feeder up Swift seemed to realize that a whole BUNCH of birds
were coming into the yard to visit the other feeders.  For a couple of days
she stayed pretty much in the kitchen watching out the window.  That's
when we realized she could compete against Mira in the non-human
category (as long as John Bower and Bill Evans don't think to join).
THE CUP: We hear John Bower is wimping out all together, but don't tell
McGOWAN:  Skeezix still doesn't pay all that much attention to the
feeders, although the redpolls got him going a little. The chickadees at
the window didn't interest him, but he really seemed to want a redpoll.
THE CUP: Mimi and Teddy say they hear redpolls taste more like chocolate.
Good, quality chocolate, not that cheap stuff. Right now your shared
victory resides with cowinner Stephen Davies.  Come June, it'll be yours.
Can you describe for us the spot in your home where it will proudly sit?
McGOWAN: Well, the glass-fronted, lighted (UV shielded, of course)
display case is still on order.  I expect it will go in the living room so
that it will be the first thing guests notice when they walk in the door.
THE CUP: Just don't let Jay use it for target practice with those dangerous
Nerf darts. By the way, Teddy found one under the couch the other day. At
least, we think that's what it is.  It could be a really, really old ear of
corn. At this stage, who are you most concerned about?
McGOWAN: Well, despite the Cuppers' Choice victory by my son Jay, him
I don't worry about.  When he can drive, then I'll worry.
THE CUP: (Jay, what were those "free" dates again, in February?)
McGOWAN: Stephen Davies would be my biggest concern, but we know
he's leaving part way through the year.  Same with Karl. So, no problem.
(I'll be calling them first with all my rare sightings.)  I'm not sure
about Steve Kelling.  Two years at the runner-up position could either have
firmed up his resolve not to let anyone even near him this year, or it
could have killed his competitive spirit all together.  It's hard to judge
right now.
THE CUP: Um, have you seen his totals this month?
McGOWAN: I'll have to take a look at him after the big BirdSource
opening when he'll be a bit more human and see which way he's leaning.  But
I have to say that my biggest concern at the moment is GeoKloppel.  He has
the lean and hungry look.  And he's turning up at all the right places
seeing all the right birds.  He could be dangerous.
THE CUP: And watch those young upstarts, too. Newcomer Matt Sarver
obviously has too much time on his hands, despite being a Cornell student.
Or is it *because* he's a Cornell student?
McGOWAN:  I don't expect to repeat on top in 1998.  I have a bit too much
time planned out of the Basin this year.
THE CUP: Oh, we hear that lame excuse from you every year.  C'mon, fess
up, you know you want to.
McGOWAN: I can be dangerous, too, so time will tell.
THE CUP: Now, that's better.  But watch your back...
                             By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits!  Here is a chance to test your knowledge of  the
world of birds. This month is Gull Month, because there are hardly any
other birds to look at! Answers next month.
1.  What is the largest gull in the world?
2.  What is the smallest gull in the world?
3.  Which gulls have dark heads in breeding plumage?
4.  Which gulls have white heads and dark bodies in breeding plumage?
5.  Which gulls have dark hoods and white bodies in non-breeding plumage?
6. Which gull besides Sabine's Gull has a black hood, forked tail, yellow
tip to the bill, a gray back, white triangles in the wings, and black
7.  What is the scientific name of the Sooty Gull?
8.  Which gulls have black backs in breeding plumage?
9.  What is the common name for Larus fuliginosus?
10.  Which two gulls in North America sometimes are pink?
1.  Which North American hawks are sexually dimorphic in plumage
(males and females look different)?  Hook-billed Kite, Northern Harrier,
Rough-legged Hawk, Osprey, American Kestrel, and Merlin.
2.  Which North American owls are sexually dimorphic in plumage?
Snowy Owl.
3.  Which North American hawks have only one word in their names?
Osprey, Merlin, and Gyrfalcon.
4.  Which North American hawks are also found in Europe?  Golden Eagle,
Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Osprey, Merlin,
Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.
5.  Which North American hawk has a yellow bill?  Bald Eagle.
6.  Which North American forest hawk is becoming a common breeder in
cities and towns in North America, including Ithaca?  Cooper's Hawk.
7.  What is the largest hawk in the world?  Harpy Eagle.
8.  What is the "Mexican Eagle" on the Mexican flag?  Crested Caracara.
9.  Which North American raptor has spiny processes on its feet to help it
hold its prey?  Osprey, which eats slippery fish.
10.  Which North American hawk is a cooperative breeder?  Harris's Hawk.
Mississippi Kites occasionally have helpers at the nest.
Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. Can't you tell? He actually
know something about birds!)
                     STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
                       By Karl David
      How big does a mixed Horned Lark/Snow Bunting flock have to be
for you to have a fifty-fifty chance of finding a Lapland Longspur in it?
Hurray, you say, after several months of columns of more anecdotal than
statistical content, the Father of the Madness finally returns to hard-core
number crunching! This is why you subscribed to The Cup in the first
place! [Editors make snide remarks in the background.] So hang on for
the ride.
      My question was motivated by the fact that the lark/bunting flock
hanging out near the Triangle Diner in King [not King's!] Ferry twice
failed to cough up a longspur for me in January. It's a good-sized flock of
50-75 birds. But, the only thing I got for my troubles was a "Was that you
standing by the side of the road staring our over the field?" from a couple
of Aurora acquaintances when I next saw them. That and some chilled
fingers and toes [cf. "Best-dressed Cupper Award," The Cup 2.12].
      The answer to my question depends, of course, on the relative
frequency of longspurs in such flocks (from here on in, "bird" refers only
to any of the three mentioned species). On an otherwise disappointing trip
to Point Peninsula once in search of wintering raptors, I remember running
into a pure longspur flock (about a dozen). I remember it because it's so
unusual. More typically, we have to scan a large flock carefully and hope
there's one or two mixed in. I have no idea what the true figure is, so
let's pretend one bird in a hundred is a longspur, and start calculating.
      First, if you find a 100-bird flock, are you guaranteed to find a
longspur? After all, 100 * 1/100 = 1, right? If you believe that, you also
believe you must get a head if you flip a coin twice [2 *   = 1]. The birds
don't travel around in flocks of exactly 100 with exactly 1 longspur in
each, just as heads and tails don't alternate when flipping coins.
Nevertheless, you would probably guess that in a flock this size, your
chances are better than even...and you'd be right. But, exactly how would
you calculate the odds?
      As usual, simplify the problem first: what if it's a 1-bird "flock"?
Duh, then the probability it's a longspur is 1/100. Okay, that's
simplifying it too much. How about a 2-bird flock? Now, we get a little
more insight in how to proceed. The trick is to pretend the birds are lined
up in a row and don't move (this is theory, not practice). Longspur
"success" is:
           Bird #1 is a longspur, Bird #2 is not
or        Bird #1 is not a longspur, Bird #2 is
or        Bird #1 is a longspur, Bird #2 is also
(Surely when you said you wanted a longspur, you didn't mean one and
ONLY one!).  The corresponding probabilities are
                  1/100 * 99/100 = 99/10000
                  99/100 * 1/100 = 99/10000
                   1/100 * 1/100 =  1/10000
and since these are three mutually exclusive events {only one can happen],
you add them up to get 199/10000 = .0199, i.e. a 1.99% chance of finding
a longspur in a 2-bird flock. Note that's already ever-so-slightly but
tellingly less than the "naive" guess of 2% obtained by just doubling the
probability on a single bird. That gap widens as flock size goes up.
      Perhaps you noticed something here: the omitted scenario is
               Bird #1 is not a longspur, Bird #2 is also not
which has probability 99/100 * 99/100 = 9801/10000. And now the "grey
poupon" insight hits you: this is the longspur "failure" scenario, and
since either success or failure is assured, and they're mutually exclusive,
               199/10000 + 9801/10000 = 1.
That is, you could have found the answer more simply as 1 - (99/100)^2.
"But of course!" [for TV ad familiarity, see "Contest Award Winners,"
op. cit.].
      Believe it or not, the leap from 2 to 100 is nothing: the probability
of finding (at least) one longspur in a 100-bird flock is, by (correct)
                    1 - (99/100)^100 = 0.6340
i.e. about 63%.
      So, we know the flock size for a 50% chance of a longspur will be less
than 100. Finding the exact size amounts to solving
                     1 - (99/100)^x = 0.5
for x; this is what logarithms were born for. Sparing you the details, it
comes out x = 68.9676. That is, a flock size of about 69 gives you a 50%
chance of finding a longspur ... always keeping in mind this is under the
assumption that 1% of the birds are longspurs.
      This is all too easy, you say ... what about the probability, alluded
to earlier, of there being one and ONLY one longspur in the flock?  This in
turn leads me to the happy realization that I can get another column out of
this next month!  You may say on the other hand, who would ever care
about one but only one longspur in the flock? Well, it's an intellectual
challenge, and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out other scenarios where
knowing the probability of an exact number might be important.  I'll leave
that to your imagination, until next month.
(Karl David is a mathematics professor at Wells College in Aurora, New
York, currently on sabbatical at Cornell. He is still trying to count the
vulture puppet he was given at the Cupper Supper on his 1998 DC list)
                          SCRAWL OF FAME
                          Your Scrawl Here
(If you have an opinion--or insider information--about the art, science,
and/or esthetics of birding or birding-related topics, write it up for the
Scrawl of Fame.)
                      <  COACH'S CORNER        <
                     <           <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
                     <           <
                      <         <
                        < < < <
This month's Coach has no excuses: no newborns, no out-of-Basin business
trips.  Nothing but Cayuga Lake stretching out before him like the promise
of coming spring...
COACH WELLS: In some ways, the strategy for remaining competitive
in the David Cup/McIlroy competitions is the simplest in the first two
months. That's because there are only a few species around that will be
hard to get later in the year.  The most obvious birds in this category are
the winter finches--Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks,
both crossbills. Since these species generally show a two-year periodicity
to their invasions, more than likely you won't even be able to find these
species in the waning winter days of 1998.  Next time you see a posting
about their whereabouts, go out and get them!  Allison and I checked
Summerhill recently with no success--it looked as though there was not much
available for natural food in the area.  With luck, there may be an influx
of finches in our area again March and April, as they return north to their
breeding grounds though, so heads up!
      Other birds in the "see now" category include Northern Shrike, though
it seems as though everyone has already gone to see the now-famous Niemi
Road individual.  If you haven't, get out there!  You'll probably be able t
find it just by watching for its flock of human admirers parked along the
roadway.  It not, watch for a robin-sized bird perched horizontally at the
tippy-top of a tree or post.
      The various saw-whet owls tooting around the Basin will likely be
harder to get as the season progresses.  Get in touch with Geo Kloppel or
the Cup editors if you want more info on where and when to listen for their
      Rounding out those "hard to find" birds are one of my favorite groups,
the gulls.  Gulls regularly roost in the late afternoon, on the ice in
front of Stewart Park. Bring your scope and search through the many
grey-backed Herring and Ring-billeds for the tan or creamy white of an
Iceland or Glaucous.  Several immature Icelands have been noted there
recently. Look for the more gracefully rounded, pigeon-headed look of the
Iceland and hope for a massive, large-billed Glaucous Gull.  Remember that
in first-winter plumage, the Iceland will have an all-black bill and the
Glaucous' will be two-toned pink a the base and dark at the tip. Also check
the dark-backed gulls for a Lesser Black-backed.  It you spot a dark-backed
adult gull that appears lighter than a Great Black-backed Gull, check its
head.  Lesser Black-backed in winter plumage have heavily streaked head and
neck. Adult Great Black-backeds typically have only a little streaking on
the top of the head, with the head appearing otherwise very white.  Of
course, the yellow legs, when visible, on a Lesser Black-backed versus the
pink legs of a Great Black-backed are also an easy field mark.
      Of course, if you'd rather chase those first Killdeer and Red-winged
Blackbirds just to remind yourself that spring is on the way, don't le me
stop you!
(Jeff Wells is Director of Bird Conservation for National Audubon New
York. Lately, he can be seen whistling at trees, especially clusters of
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm    McILROY MUSINGS   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Guess who's back! (But is he better than ever?)
THE CUP: Why, it's Bill! Bill Evans! What took you so long to get back
EVANS: Is that all the acknowledgment I get for smashing the January
McIlroy record?
THE CUP: Speaking of which, does John Bower know you're here?  How
should we break it to him?
EVANS: Bower is like one of those cheap light bulbs that burns bright for
few months then spits and sputters as it fades out of the picture.  In a
few years no one will remember him for his McIlroy total in 1997, but rumor
has it, the echos of his snoring during a 1987 night flight call outing at
Mount Pleasant can still be heard murmuring through the wooded hollows of
Tompkins County.
THE CUP: Is that what that noise is? We thought it was the planes taking
off at the airport.
EVANS: In this regard, the DEC will be disappointed if Bower leaves the
Basin as it was their one chance for attracting moose back into the area.
THE CUP: So, is this just a big tease, or are you really going for it this
EVANS: Hey, from what I can tell, everyone is moving out of town.  At
the rate things are going, even if I'm only in town for a few months I
still might win it!
THE CUP: Ah, but not the one person you need to keep your eye on
the most: this year's repeat winner, Allison Wells! Say, we want to thank
you for that "special award" you presented us with at the Cupper Supper.
We were so moved that we thought it would be nice if you shared with the
one-hundred thirty-odd Cup readers what it was the store clerk said to
you when you made your, er, "little" purchase on which to stick the
statuette [see The Cup 2.12].
EVANS:  Yes, but maybe the Cup audience would rather hear about how
[this portion of response censored.  Bill, The Cup is rated G!)
THE CUP: What do you expect to see in February, and how far will you go
to keep others (well, Allison and Davies, at least) from seeing the same?
THE CUP: Davies has left the competition mentally as he is moving to
San Francisco at the end of the summer.  Allison is looking pretty old and
haggard recently under the stress of her new job at the Lab and general
exhaustion after two years of editing The Cup.
THE CUP: At least when *you're* being interviewed!
EVANS: I'm not worried about either of these has-beens.  However,
Jeff Wells is another story.  Having been pummeled by his wife the last few
years, the boys down at the gym are starting to talk. I wouldn't be
surprised if he makes a push for the title.
THE CUP: Will you in fact be leaving town, Bill? In other words, when can
we expect your totals to drop off the face of the earth like they always
do? Really, it takes a lot of guts to step foot into the Basin again, after
blowing the comfy McLeads you've held in the past.
EVANS: I plan on keeping the lead through February and possibly even
THE CUP: Ooo! Scarey!
EVANS: I have applied for a job as a groundskeeper at the City Golf Course.
If I get the job, I expect I'll rain terror on McLand in 1998.
THE CUP: Haven't you heard? They gave that job to Tom Nix. That's
another reason why he's not doing the Highlights column this year. On the
other hand, we know of the perfect job for you, Bill, over on Seneca Lake...
                  BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
                      By Caissa Willmer
This month's Bird Brain, a native down-easter, maintains that she has been
fascinated with birds for as long as she can remember. She certainly
compels the list waves with her enthusiasm and fascination, and it's about
time that she was featured in this column. She is, of course, Allison Cup
Co-editor Wells.
        "My earliest memories are of my nana's 'wild canaries' in Cooper's
Mills, Maine. There were always lots of relatives at her house when we were
there, and things were joyfully hectic, but when her 'wild canaries' came
to her bird feeders, right outside her kitchen window, she'd point them out
to everyone. The look on her face when she was watching them was magical.
Any guesses what those 'wild canaries' were? Hint: In breeding plumage,
the males are a glowing yellow with black wings and little black berets.
      "I was fortunate that in high school, my biology teacher, Mr. Miller,
offered (and still does--despite what Matt Medler would like to think, it
wasn't all *that* long ago!), an eco-ornithology class. In addition to
learning the biology of birds, we had to keep lists with dates, notes on
habitats, descriptions--if we reported unlikely birds like Gull-billed Tern
and Western Grebe, we had to write details of our sightings. Mr. Miller
was the NYSARC of Winthrop High School!  He rejected my report of
Gull-billed Tern, and rightly so.  On the other hand, he also rejected my
Western Grebe, even though he admitted my details were precise. That bird
was later confirmed by every birder with a vehicle that could handle the
mud road down to Indian Point in winter!  It reappeared every season for
about twelve years.
      "Mr. Miller also encouraged his students to go on the Augusta (Maine)
Christmas Bird Count, which a classmate of mine and I did and loved.
And we didn't even get extra credit."
        Allison won't admit to any great birding expertise, but she
explains, "I
established good habits from that eco-ornithology class. I love to read
field guides and species accounts, particularly when I'm driving (just
kidding). And I've learned from Jeff. The first time I went birding with
him (our first date was a birding trip), I was blown away. He's one of the
best birders I know, and I'm not just saying that so he'll do the laundry
next time! My favorite way to learn is just by watching birds, the way my
grandmother watched them, with respect and wonder."
        Asked how she managed to snag so appropriate a mate, Allison was
quick to respond, "I set up a mist-net in my parents' backyard, and lo and
behold, a Black-bearded Trumpeter flew into it!  Actually, we were both in
music school at the time.  I had a job in the evening monitoring the music
building, which basically meant sitting by the doors to make sure no one
walked out with a piano on their shoulders.  The concession machines were
there, so Jeff would wait until everyone else had taken their breaks and
wander out to strike up conversation with me.  It didn't take long for
birds to come up. I couldn't believe another person (around!) my age was
into birds, so when he said he had a telescope in his car, I said, 'Oh, are
you into astronomy?' Next thing I knew, we were on the Misery (Maine)
Christmas Bird Count, which is way up in northern Maine.
        "Talk about an adventure! The heater boxes in his little yellow
volkswagon bug were rusted out, so if you turned on the heaters, you got
carbon monoxide poisoning.  I questioned my sanity the moment I saw him
lean towards the windshield and breathe a peep hole in the frost so he
could 'see'--it was like cruising down the highway in a big, yellow bird
house! Fortunately, it was predawn, so we didn't cause any accidents.  I
wrote an essay about this that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor a
few years back.  Our birding adventures have given me much inspiration,
to say the least."
        It's also very interesting to find that Allison and Jeff are currently
working at the same place, too. I wondered what a basic 9-5 job might be
doing to her identity as a freelance writer and poet.
        "Nine-to-five? I wish! My therapist said that I now suffer
from an acute
case of Labofornithology syndrome, symptoms of which include frequent
relapses into trailerphobia. Steve Kelling is having a particularly bad
attack of this right now. He may not pull through. His hallucinations are
so real that he sterilizes his coffee mug every morning, convinced that
those little black beads at the bottom really are mouse droppings.
      "Seriously, I've always seen myself as a writer--of poetry, fiction,
and creative nonfiction (essays as well as articles).  As long as I'm
writing about something I find compelling, I'm blissful.  I'm enjoying
writing about birds and birding for BirdSource, at the Lab; my
'assignments' are interesting and vary from press releases to a whole range
of materials for the Web site. Working at the Lab has also given me the
opportunity to do some writing/editing for some of the other
citizen-science projects, too--Project FeederWatch, Birds of Forested
Landscapes, Cornell Nest Box Network, and Classroom FeederWatch.  So I
still feel like a freelancer, only I'm not currently scrambling for the
next project.  But for the record, let me tell you I have a story at
Birders' World right now (centered around gull-watching at Niagara,
co-authored with the most knowledgable gull-lover I know, Jeff), I'm do my
Ithaca Child stuff, and I just had a poem come out in a literary journal.
So my checks and balances continue to add up nicely."
        Then I asked my inevitable question: "How does birding affect/color
your day-to-day routine?"
        And she answered: "As for work, almost all of my writing projects are
centered around birds, even if I'm concentrating on poetry--birds are very
prevalent in my poems. As for my 'free' time, Jeff and I go around the lake
a couple of times each month, more when things are really promising.  This
doesn't seem like nearly enough to me.  And despite what some might think,
we're don't do this because we're list-crazy. When my parents were raising
my (four) brothers and me, we often went on drives along the coast or
around the countryside. They didn't go to look at birds specifically, they
enjoyed it, that's all.  Both my parents were working full-time, too.
Yankee ingenuity? Maybe, but the point is, if you enjoy something, you find
a way to make it work, even if you have five kids.  I love to go around the
lake for the same reasons my parents took us on those rides--for the simple
pleasure of visiting familiar places and discovering new ones, for the
great conversations we always have along the way, and because I love to
look at birds.
      "Also, we live near Sapsucker Woods.  This means that what to some is
a family outing is a walk to work for us. Then there's our fire escape..."
      Since she's in the David Cup, McIlroy, and Yard competitions, I
of course asked her about her various lists:
        "Despite what my David Cup persona (my evil twin?) would have
you think, I'm really not much of a  lister.'  I love to keep lists, but
mostly so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing things off them.
Bird lists don't work that way.  I keep a life list, which was
(pathetically) out of date until last December, when I finally caved under
Matt Medler's relentless harassment to update it--I guess he thought he had
more lifers than I do. Ha!  For many years, my life list and my North
American list were one and the same, until I became the vocalist for the
Ageless Jazz Band a few years back.  Since the band goes to Aruba every
year (this year, Jeff and I skipped over to Bonaire, too!), I've been
forced to add a new list to distinguish them, using high-tech,
state-of-the-art birding equipment: a pen, marking 'x' for lifer, a
checkmark for North America only.
      "I never kept a Basin list until this crazy David Cup thing, which, IF
was a jab at this columnist!] [yes, but a friendly one--you saw me smile,
didn't you, Caissa?] you'd know was the brain child of Bill Evans,
Karl David, Steve Kelling, Ken Rosenberg, and I think I can safely
implicate Kevin McGowan as well. I got a taste for it when Steve Kelling
and I had a friendly contest to see who could see more birds on our
birthdays (a week a part in September).  After that, I was hooked into the
David Cup. Jeff and I figured if we were all going to go that far, there
should be some vehicle for comparing our monthly totals (preferably in some
format that would allow me to change other Cuppers' scores according to my
whims), and The Cup was born.
      "Now, Kevin, er, certain of my pals enjoy calling me a 'chaser.'
Well, I am, but not necessarily for the 'tick.' If I haven't seen a shrike
this year, say, (by the way, Kevin, I have!), of course I'm going to try to
see it.  If you really love birds, how can you not?  I did that long before
the David Cup was a twinkle in Steve Kelling's eye, and  will continue to.
By the way, I don't keep a New York list."
        Allison balked at the idea of recounting some particularly
memorable birding adventures.
      "Thanks, Caissa.  You set me up nicely! But...I guess you're right.
      "This is too big a question for me. Honestly, it overwhelms me.
There are so many 'big' birding times in my life, yet so many 'little'
birding moments, too.  If I told you about one, I'd have to wonder why I
didn't tell you about this one and the next, and so on.  I love expounding
about them in context, though, so when the next Swallow-tailed Kite sweeps
into the Basin, remind me to tell you about the time on Monhegan Island
(Maine) that had Jeff  leaping over a table the size of a small car . . .
                              BIRD VERSE
                           "Shrike Limerick"
                               Karl David
                   On old Niemi Road there's a shrike
                   A good look at which we'd all like.
                   McGowan doth say
                   "I see it each day,"
                   For others it's always on strike.
                                   DEAR TICK
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations, The Cup has
graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and intuitive columnist,
Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions, like these...
I've been curious, but afraid to ask: What is up with the Mc-prefix on
some of the [Cayugabirds] posts?
                                      - Inquisitive in Ithaca
Dear Inquisitive:
Being an new comer, you obviously don't know about the McBeast.
The "Mc" prefix is given to tip off birders that the species posted was
seen in McIlroy territory (town of Ithaca) and therefore any efforts to see
said bird could result in a "pummeling" by this McBeast.  This mysterious
creature is said to roam the woods of Ithaca, commanded by the voices of
his masters (they sound a lot like night-migrating thrushes and warblers)
and has supposedly been spotted on the lighthouse jetty on foggy evenings
in spring and fall.  He looks a lot like Bill Evans, but don't worry, he's
really not dangerous.
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at
                  """""""""       CUP QUOTES      """"""""
"Sign me up for another year of fun!"
                                              --Anne Kendall
"I have no experience with anything but GH Owls, so my ear should be
considered untrained, but I heard something owl-like: It was a somewhat
high-pitched -- at or above middle C."
                                               --Ben Taft
"Yep, the brother thing is true.  But don't worry, we have no similarities
at all."
                                               --Jon Kloppel
"The Northern Shrike was still on Niemi Rd west of Hanshaw this morning."
                                               --Kevin McGowan
"Made my very first "search drive" for a bird - the N. shrike. No luck..."
                                                --Ann Mathieson
"Morning. Fourth visit to Neimi Rd. Sunny, beautiful. Grim: glassed
whole pond area, no luck...Proceed east to Hanshaw. Nothing. Go south...
Return once more to intersection. Dot in treetop 300 yards east of Hanshaw
along Neimi. Rather horizontal...big head...HEAVY bill!!! Zoom over, get
three-second confirming look before shrike dives down out of sight."
                                                  --John Greenly
"After 3 unsuccessful tries I finally found the shrike yesterday noon in
the spot Kevin saw it."
                                                  --Bard Prentiss
"I guess I paid my shrike dues. This morning I had a long look as the
Shrike hunted the ponds, using bird boxes for lookout perches."
                                                   --John Greenly
"Having just returned from my own  4th  unrewarded trip  to that location
I really guffawed at John's message!  All I've seen are cars of other
birders asking - have you seen it?  no.  Surely tomorrow..."
                                                   --Marie McRae
"Patricia and I found the Northern Shrike again this morning (Thursday)
just north-west of the experimental ponds, but no second Shrike along
Hanshaw Road. This afternoon I spoke with Matt Young, who lives very
close to  Shrike's Corners'."
                                                   --Geo Kloppel
"I couldn't find the meadowlark, but I did have a starling imitating one."
                                                   --Kevin J. McGowan
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff