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Year 4, Issue 9-10

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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
*  Leader's List, Composite Deposit: "Thoreau" Geo Kloppel
*  Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
*  Acrobat consultant: Jeff Wells
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                         NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
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How did you spend your Sunday afternoon? The Cup editors raked the leaves
around their yard, transferred wood from the pile by the lawn's edge to the
stack inside the garage, chatted with our neighbors. After that, Allison
on a poem while Jeff read scientific journals, "Thistle and Shamrock"
lilting Celtic melodies from the radio. Now, as Jeff riffs on his trumpet
over a jazz improvisation tape, Allison settles in to work on The Cup and
bursts out, "What's happened to us?"
It takes a moment for Jeff to figure out that what Allison means is, "Why
didn't we go chasing winter finches at Summerhill? We still need Black
Scoter, how come we didn't swing down to Stewart Park for at least a quick
sweep? Good
lord, couldn't we at least have spent a little time on the back deck
scoping for Golden Eagles?
The answer, we couldn't have. Or rather, yes, we could have but we
didn't.  We did what we did and - are you sitting down- we're not sorry! We
enjoyed ourselves. Sure, Allison heard a couple of Evening Grosbeaks fly
over while splitting kindling, but even if she hadn't, she would've ended
her afternoon feeling just fine.
Well, how did you spent your day? Did you go traipsing out hoping for early
white-winged gulls? Did you sit around on your duffer watching your African
violets grow? It doesn't matter, we just hope you enjoyed yourself (and trust
you didn't see the bird that puts you in the David Cup Top Ten and bumps
Allison out).
We also hope that, despite our comfy-cozy intro, you enjoy
The Cup 4.9 & 10. Remember, there's lots more Cup to come...and there's
always next Sunday.
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                         NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
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SHOT IN THE DARK: Did you miss the last edition of The Shot Glass?
Compiler Matt Medler thought he was doing a good deed by sending it
only to David Cup participants. He didn't realize that the people
who actually read these publications are the non-participants, since the
Cuppers themselves are too busy birding to read (witness the intro to this
issue of The Cup!) So if you'd like to see who stomped over who last
month, e-mail Allison at Be sure to include a few
barbs at Matt that we can include in the next Cup Quotes.
MOVING PICTURES: If you're a member of the Finger Lakes Land Trust,
you probably couldn't help but well up with pride when you got to page five.
There in the Volunteer Spotlight was our own Geo Kloppel! Geo is a steward
for the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in West Danby. He's also
one of the voices of reason (perhaps the only one) here at Cup Headquarters,
churning out Thoreau-ish Highlights columns and dutifully keeping Matt
Young's nose to the Leader's List grindstone. Geo, congratulations
on your recognition. We promise not to draw squiggly eyes on your picture.
And pencil in a big fat cigar. And big fuzzy eyebrows. And write words
like "The FLLT's The Land Steward publication is ok but The Cup rules!"
coming out of your mouth. Oops. Too late.
at the Wells Birdland Bistro, but we're not sure when. Play it safe and
black out all of January and February. Details to follow.
PITCH PERFECT: Since one of The Cup editors is employed by the Cornell
Lab of Ornithology and the other is housed there, we feel obliged to pitch
the heck out of Lab projects (remember, the Lab director is not only a Cup
subscriber, he's also a half-hearted Cupper). The IRRUPTIVE BIRD SURVEY
is collecting observations of irruptive species, including winter finches.
PROJECT FEEDERWATCH needs bird-feeding enthusiasts to count the
numbers and kinds of birds that visit their feeders November thru early April.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for the GREAT BACKYARD BIRD
COUNT, a four-day bird counting spectacular to take place February 18-21,
The CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT is now online through BirdSource, a Cornell
Lab-National Audubon managed web site. To find out more about any of these
projects, go to Have fun!
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: You read in our intro that Jeff was
Jammin' just now. Well, he sounded damn fine. Of course, the songs he was
really mind blowing on were "A Fine Romance," "Silver Lining," and "All the
Things You Are" - you don't have to think too hard to realize this was less
about practicing his horn than lamenting his fall as a Cupper. Alas, his
final number suggested he may already be looking ahead to next year's David
Cup: "Pick Yourself Up, Wipe Yourself Off, Start All Over Again".
:>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>
                        BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
                             Geo Kloppel
A few weeks ago I was hunting for sparrows in an out-of-the-way corner of a
well-known birding area near Ithaca. Two noisy Carolina Wrens lured me into
the thickets beside a wooded ravine, where I discovered a hidden shanty. No
one was about, but there were clothes drying on a line before the door. I
imagined they might have been washed in the lake under cover of darkness. I
nearly stumbled over a tupperware flat of rather stunted homegrown
smokables as I hastily back-tracked out of this inadvertent intrusion.
Another walk featuring Carolina Wrens led me to a shanty on the inlet
valley hillside near Buttermilk Park. Not long abandoned, it still had its
stovepipe chimney. Layers of threadbare rugs covered the dirt floor inside.
Though located on the forested hillside, this structure resembled the domed
Marsh Wren's nest in that it was built from materials freely obtainable
nearby, lashed to the surrounding vegetation for support, and not likely to
endure for more than a few seasons.
Hank "the woodsman" Krauss, perhaps unusual among squatters for being a
devoted feeder of wild birds, also had wrens, House Wrens, near his
cleverly concealed shanty in the state forest on Bald Hill. It seems that
there is some harmony in habitat preference which links wrens and
squatters. Local history suggests that this principal extends even to the
wetland haunts of Marsh Wrens.
A set of six Grace Miller White novels in good condition was recently
offered for $175. At c. 350 pages each, that's eight and one third cents
per page, or a dollar a dozen, for those engaging stories about a local
girl who lived among squatters in the marshland at the foot of Cayuga Lake
a century ago. A straggling shanty-town had existed there since early Erie
Canal days. (See "Squatters of the Storm Country" by Richard Herson, NY
Folklore Quarterly, for an account.) Referred to as "The Silent City" by
civilized Ithacans, it was doubtless a great eyesore, and had a fearsome
reputation, upheld by the famous brawlers among its inhabitants. It was a
goldmine for stories about chicken thievery, peculiar characters, and much
other fine raw material for the novelist. Millions subsequently viewed the
screen adaptation starring Mary Pickford. During a hundred years of
untitled occupation the squatters carried all sorts of refuse materials
into the swampland to become fill, until they were finally ejected in 1925
when the city took possession of all the inlet lands along the old Glenwood
Road. The shanties were knocked down, the road itself was grandly
rechristened Taughannock Boulevard, and the city fathers declared
intentions to remodel the territory in a beautification campaign. The
result is that we walk dryshod over those former wetlands today.
In 1911 it was still possible for Arthur Allen to describe the rich
wildlife in Ithaca's cattail marshes - weasels, mink, Coots and Gallinules,
American and Least bitterns, Soras, Virginia Rails and Marsh Wrens - but
the end was at hand. The engineered control of lake level, a development
linked to construction of the New York State Barge Canal at the north end
of the lake, and continuing reclamation efforts, i.e. filling and draining,
resulted in the destruction of Ithaca's wetlands. Foster Parker, a
contemporary rush-cutter and breeder of ducks and pheasants from Savannah
NY, wrote to Louis Agassiz Fuertes in 1916 that the rails and other nesting
water birds were likewise disappearing from the Montezuma marshes along the
Seneca River due to the operation of the water-control dams and locks. The
squatters and the Marsh Wrens were both driven out of Ithaca's waterside
community, and their habitat was transformed to prevent their return. Today
when we want to see rails, bitterns, moorhens and Marsh Wrens our best bet
is to make a one hundred-mile round trip in the automobile to visit the
restored portions of the Montezuma marshes. But there still remain some
breeding spots for marsh birds closer to Ithaca, and it's a curious fact,
not widely recognized, that there is still some habitat for secretive
squatters in our area too. Look for wrens and shanties together.
During September Montezuma continued to be the place to bird, as the list
from the third annual Muckrace reveals - GLOSSY IBIS, Black-crowned Night
Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Virginia Rail, Eurasian Wigeon,
Bonaparte's Gull, Common Tern, American Golden and Black-bellied Plovers,
White-rumped, Baird's, and Stilt Sandpipers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper,
Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers, Black-billed and Yellow-billed
Cuckoos, Common Nighthawk, Long-eared Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker,
Olive-sided Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush,
Philadelphia Vireo, and Lincoln's Sparrow were among the 170+ species found
that day. Montezuma continued to produce after the Muckrace was over,
giving us Dunlin beginning on the 13th, Red Phalarope on the 17th,
Hudsonian Godwits beginning on the 21st, Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the
14th and 22nd, Wilson's Phalarope and Lesser Black-backed Gull on the 23rd.
Not ALL of the action was at the north end. Around the Lighthouse Jetty
Common Terns were seen on September 9th and 10th, Sanderling on the 16th,
and a late Common Nighthawk on the 21st. Myer's Point produced
Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Baird's
Sandpiper during September, but hopes for an Avocet faded. A few more
Lincoln's Sparrows were reported from various quarters, also White-crowned
Sparrows, Wilson's Warblers, etcetera. A lone Pine Siskin flew over Ken
Rosenberg's house on the 25th.
October's best find must certainly be the 5 LAUGHING GULLS seen by Bard
Prentiss at Dryden Lake on the 5th. More Pine Siskins began to turn up at
feeders around the region. The season's first Brant were seen flying over
Dryden on the 3rd.  A Cattle Egret was seen by many at Benning Marsh
between the 8th and the 11th. Chris Tessaglia-Hymes had an Orange-crowned
Warbler at the Lighthouse woods on the 7th, and Ken Rosenberg had another
in his yard on the 11th. A Red-necked Grebe and a small group of Black
Scoters were seen from the jetty on the 20th. The very spare,
seldom-noticed fall migration of Dickcissels down the east side of Cayuga
produced one or perhaps two audible birds at the Lab of Ornithology again
this year. Though these may be migrants from easternmost Ontario, some hope
that the new millennial atlas work will uncover breeding locations in
central New
York, more than a century after Dickcissels gave up regular nesting in our
At MNWR a Short-eared Owl was seen on the 14th, Ross' Goose on the 15th
through the 18th,  2 Red Phalaropes on the 16th, a Greater White-fronted
Goose on the 17th. There were more Western Sandpiper reports from May's
Point on the 24th and 25th, Greater White-fronted Goose and Hudsonian
Godwit again on the 27th. On the 31st both Hudsonian Godwit and Cattle
Egret were seen again.
All three Scoter species were found on Cayuga Lake during October, along
with Long-tailed Ducks, and a number of flights of Brant were spotted. The
first Golden Eagle of the season was seen from the Cornell Arboretum. Tree
Sparrows and Fox Sparrows were both reported. Red Crossbills were present
at Summer Hill. Small flocks of Evening Grosbeaks began to appear
throughout the area, and by the end of the month everyone was anticipating
Redpolls. November will tell. And by December we'll be looking out for Pine
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs fiddle bows. He plays in an old-time band
called the Crumtown Ramblers. We don't know what the name means.)
100      100      100      100      100      100      100       100
                               100 CLUB
100      100       100      100       100       100       100
Perri McGowan's 100th Bird: Great Egret
Perri is also a fabulous fiddle player. Except to her finer tastes,
it's known as the "violin."
200          200          200           200           200
                           2     0    0
   200             200                            200           200
Matt Williams' 200th Bird: Ruddy Turnstone
He stinks at ping pong.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Compiled by Matt Medler
"Jeff and Allison,
      Here are the totals for October.  I don't really feel inspired to
write an introduction for any of them, so feel free to add something.
October 1999 David Cup Totals
244 Matt Young
239 Geo Kloppel
238 Matt Medler
238 Matt Sarver
230 Chris Tessaglia-Hymes
229 Kevin McGowan
225 Jay McGowan
225 Matt Williams
224 Meena Haribal
223 Chris Butler
222 Ken Rosenberg
220 Ben Fambrough
220 Steve Kelling
210 Allison Wells
198 Bard Prentiss
195 Jeff Wells
192 Bill Evans
185 Anne Kendall
184 Jon Kloppel
184 Catherine Sandell
175 John Fitzpatrick
171 Nancy Dickinson
163 Tringa
158 Ben Taft
157 Rachel Kloppel
154 Pat Lia
149 Anne James
140 Marty Schlabach
135 Jim Lowe
127 Melanie Uhlir
125 Sam Kelling
123 Taylor Kelling
121 Brian Mingle
120 Carol Bloomgarden
111 Terry Mingle
109 Kim Kline
107 Aaron Kloppel
107 Perri McGowan
102 Jeremy Mingle
  90 Tom Nix
  84 Swift A. Cat
  63 Andy Farnsworth
  57 Martha Fischer
  56 Teddy Wells
  50 Mimi Wells
  44 Ramona Kloppel
  21 Rob Scott
   0 Ralph Paonessa
October 1999 McIlroy Award Totals
165 Allison Wells
154 Kevin McGowan
142 Bill Evans
142 Jay McGowan
126 Ken Rosenberg
120 Jeff Wells
116 Jim Lowe
112 Matt Medler
105 Chris Butler
  53 Martha Fischer
Compiled by Matt Medler
October 1999 Evans Trophy Totals
197 Ken Rosenberg
186 Matt Young
175 Kevin McGowan
172 Jay McGowan
143 Bard Prentiss
140 Allison Wells
128 Matt Medler
105 Jeff Wells
October 1999 Lansing Totals
142 Kevin McGowan
  October 1999 Etna Challenge
94 Allison Wells
61 Carol Bloomgarden
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
148 Rosenberg/James Family, Dryden, NY
140 Kelling Family, Caroline, NY
130 John Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
128 McGowan/Kline Family, Dryden, NY
109 Geo Kloppel and Pat Lia, West Danby, NY
  93 Nancy Dickinson, Mecklenberg, NY
  66 Wells Family, Etna, NY
  61 Carol Bloomgarten, Etna, NY
  50 Fredericks Family, Van Etten, NY
  46 Jeff Holbrook, Canton, NY
  42 Melanie Uhlir, Etna, NY
88 Wes Hochachka & friends, Green Trailer, Lab of O
46 Steve Kelling & friends, Tan Trailer, Lab of O
41 Allison Wells, Main Building, Lab of O
40 Melanie Uhlir, Tan Trailer, Lab of O
By Geo Kloppel
Matt Young has been very busy, too busy to chase a number of nice birds
that have turned up recently. So busy in fact that I finally sent him the
following list of 244 species for quick certification. At that he was quite
prompt, and so here they all are for our collective amazement:
C & R-t Loon,P-b,R-n & H Grebe,D-c Cormorant,Am & Least Bittern,Great Blue
Heron,Great Egret,Snowy Egret,Tricolored Heron,GLOSSY IBIS,Green Heron,B-c
Night Heron,T & M Swan,G W-f Goose,Snow Goose,ROSS'GOOSE,C Goose,W Duck,G-w
& B-w Teal,Am Black Duck,Mallard,N Pintail,N Shoveler,Gadwall,Eu & Am
Wigeon,Canvasback,Redhead,R-n Duck,G & L Scaup,KING EIDER,L-t Duck,Surf &
W-w Scoter,C Goldeneye,Bufflehead,H,C & Rb Merganser,Ruddy Duck,T
Vulture,Osprey,Bald Eagle,N Harrier,Sharp-shinned,Cooper's & N
Goshawk,B-w,R-s,R-t,& R-l Hawk,Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon,Merlin,Am
Kestrel,R Grouse,W Turkey,R-n Pheasant,V-Rail,Sora,C Moorhen,Am
Coot,B-b,Golden & Semi Plover,Killdeer,G & L
Yellowlegs,Sol,Spotted,Upland,Least,Semi,W-r,Baird's,Stilt & Pect
Sandpiper,H Godwit,R Turnstone,Dunlin,RUFF,C Snipe,Am Woodcock,W & R-n
Phalarope,L-b & S-b Dowitcher,Sanderling,BUFF-BREASTED
SANDPIPER,Bonaparte's,R-b,H,I,LB-b,G & GB-b Gull,Casp,Common,Forster's &
Black Tern,R & M Dove,B-b & Y-b Cuckoo,E-Screech,G-H,Barred,L-e,S-e & S-w
Owl,C Nighthawk,Ch Swift,R-t Hummingbird,B Kingfisher,R-b,D,H & P
Woodpecker,N Flicker,Y-Bellied Sapsucker,O-s,Y-b,Ac,Al,Wi,L & G-c
Flycatcher,E Phoebe,E W Peewee,E Kingbird,H Lark,Tree,N.R-w,Bank,Cliff &
Barn Swallow,P Martin,B Jay,Am & F Crow,Common Raven,B-c Chickadee,T
Titmouse,R-b & W-b Nuthatch,B Creeper,Carolina,H,M & W Wren,G-c & R-c
Kinglet,B-G Gnatcatcher,E Bluebird,H,W,G-c & Sw Thrush,Veery,A Robin,G
Catbird,N Mockingbird,Brown Thrasher,Am Pipit,BOHEMIAN WAXWING,C Waxwing,N
Shrike,E Starling,B-h,W,R-e & Y-t Vireo,B-w,Tenn & Nash Warbler,N
Parula,Yellow,Ch-s,Magnolia,Cape May,B-t Blue,Y-r,B-t
Green,Blackburnian,Pine,Prairie,Palm,Bay-b,Blackpoll,Cerulean & B&w
Warbler,Am Redstart,Protho & W-e Warbler,Ovenbird,L & N
Waterthrush,Mourning Warbler,C Yellowthroat,Hooded,Wilson's & Canada
Warbler,S Tanager,N Cardinal,R-b Grosbeak,I Bunting,E Towhee,Am
Tree,Chip,F,V,Sav,Grasshopper,Henslow's,Fox,Song,Swamp,W-c & W-t
Sparrow,D-e Junco,L Longspur,S Bunting,Bobolink,E Meadowlark,R-W,Rusty &
YELLOW HEADED BLACKBIRD,C Grackle,B-h Cowbird,Balt & Orchard Oriole,H
Finch,Purple Finch,Red Crossbill,P Siskin,Am Goldfinch,E Grosbeak,House
Matt's percentage has actually dropped 2 tenths of a point since our last
examination, but he has still managed to keep his neck just above the mark
at 94% of all the species seen in the basin yet this year. Altogether there
have been 15 additional species found by other birders within the basin
thus far in 1999:
Cattle Egret,Brant,Black Scoter,Sandhill Crane,Little Gull,Thayer's
Gull,Laughing Gull,Red Phalarope,Western
Sandpiper,Whip-poor-will,Golden-winged Warbler,Kentucky
Warbler,Orange-crowned Warbler,Lincoln's Sparrow,Dickcissel
The composite total as of 10/31/99 - 259
The window of opportunity has not quite closed yet. Among reasonable
possibilities are three more winter finches, Snowy Owl, several gulls...
263 is an attainable finish, if the gods are kind. That's without invoking
any of a number of genuine longshots - Purple Sandpiper, anyone?
(You already know Geo.)
                      <  COACH'S CORNER      <
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It's now Wednesday evening. Getting late. No more flowery intros.
Jeff's coaching again. We ain't sayin' no more about it.
COACH J. WELLS: Here we are in November with the leaves gone but the
days still warm enough to wear t-shirts.  Well, that might be a slight
exaggeration-only about a third of the days are that warm.  The other half
feel like a Siberian winter or worst yet-gull watching at Niagara.
Whatever the weather, the birds seem to be more-or-less following the same
they always have-though certain species may be lingering a little longer.
For the Cupper trying to pull that David Cup list up to a respectable level
before the end of the year there are still quite a few species to fill in
the gaps.
Waterfowl, of course, are still around in abundance (except for
Blue-winged Teal, many of which are probably already in the Caribbean or
Central or South America). Tundra Swans have now arrived in relatively large
numbers and virtually all the regularly occurring ducks and geese can be
seen at Montezuma or certain places around the lake like Union Springs or
the south side of Myer's Point.
Sea ducks like scoters and Oldsquaw (Long-tailed Duck) can still be
found into December on Cayuga Lake and Dryden Lake.  As a matter of fact,
White-winged Scoters are sometimes counted in the Christmas Bird Count in
January.  For the birder who wants to push the envelope just a little,
there are at least three other duck species to scour Cayuga Lake for--King
Eider, Harlequin Duck, and Barrow's Goldeneye.  Just last winter a female
King Eider spent part of the winter at Myer's Point and a Harlequin Duck
wintered at the south end of Seneca Lake a few years back.   The few
Barrow's Goldeneye that have been spotted in the Basin in the last decade
have not been cooperative enough to stay long enough for many observers to
enjoy. But there have been a few times in past history when an individual
of this species did stay longer and outside the Basin, individuals have
been known to return to the same wintering location for many years.
For example, a female returned to a wintering site near the Throgs
Neck Bridge in the Bronx for three consecutive winters.
Speaking of out-of-range birds that are very faithful to their
wintering areas, we might consider some VERY rare Basin birds.  How about
Western Grebe?  A Western Grebe that was discovered wintering on the
coast on Maine in the late 70's returned to the same spot for at least a
decade.  They now show up quite regularly along much of the east coast.
One of the birds that pass over us will eventually stop-at least for
a time-on Cayuga Lake or Dryden Lake.  Another grebe that occurs with
increasing frequency on the East Coast in fall and winter
is the Eared Grebe.  Of course, picking out this species at a
distance among the Horned Grebes would probably be difficult
but again, occasionally one of these few rare off-track individuals
must stop here.  For all these waterbirds there is the question of
whether there is sufficient food resources in Cayuga Lake to sustain them
overwinter. Eiders and Harlequin Ducks specialize in mussels so the
increase in Zebra Mussels would suggest that in some areas they might
have adequate food resources.  It seems less clear what the situation
would be for fish-eating species like the grebes, although there are
always a least a few loons and grebes that seem to survive the winter on
the lake.
Enough rambling.  Sticking to this cold water theme that I seem to be
on, I'd like to throw out some ideas that are close to being beyond the
imagination. Alcids are seabirds of the cold nutrient rich northern oceans
and they are also small birds that fly fast and are often hard to pick out.
  But twice in New York's ornithological history, very rare alcids have shown
up in the fall or winter in Upstate New York.  A Long-billed Murrelet
(Asian variety of the Marbled Murrelet) spent part of October on the St.
a few years back and an Ancient Murrelet hung out for a few days in early
November in Rochester.  Can't you just imagine finding
one of these floating off the Lighthouse jetty?  Just a gentle note to go
along with this wild idea-make sure you get some photos!
I could go on with dreams of the super rarities that might show up but
maybe before I stop I should put my feet back on solid ground and mention
some of the great birds that you stand a chance of actually seeing.  I
mentioned in the last column that Golden Eagles would be starting to move
through on their way south from Canada in October.  It seems as though
really good northwesterly winds have been a little scarce this season which
may prolong the migration window for Golden Eagles. In any case, November
is an excellent time to watch for the species from Mount Pleasant though
standing on a hilltop in strong northerly winds may feel less than
White-winged gulls have started to appear along the Niagara
River so checking the Seneca Meadows Landfill roosts and the Stewart Park
roosts may yield an Iceland or Glaucous Gull.  Finally, anyone who is on
the Internet knows that this is shaping up to be a winter finch year.  Pine
Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks have been found at multiple locations around
the Basin and Common Redpolls are starting to appear as well.  There have
even been a few Red Crossbills and at least one report of Pine Grosbeak.
My sources tell me that the best bet for Evening Grosbeaks and Pine Siskins
is Summerhill in the nether reaches of the Basin and it was Summerhill that
yielded the most reliable Pine Grosbeaks two winters ago. Connecticut Hill
also been a great spot for winter finches but watch out for hunters!
(Jeff Wells, PhD., recently accepted the position of National Director of
Bird Conservation for National Audubon Society. He rakes a mean pile of
                            !   KICKIN' TAIL!  !
What better way to prove you're a Class A chef than by being the first
Cupper to be featured as Bird Brain AND Kickin' Tail at the same time,
exclusively for The Cup? "Kickin' Tail" brings well deserved honor and
recognition to the Cupper who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven,
climbed, dug, or sauteed his/her way to David Cup glory. The word
"sauteed," of course, can only refer to one Cupper: Renee's chef perfecto
Ben Fambrough!
THE CUP: Ben, how nice of you to join us. Even if you do smell like
slivered onions.
FAMBROUGH: Hi. And by all means, cut/paste/rewrite to your hearts delight. If
it serves The Cup, I'm game.
THE CUP: Oh. We thought you were referring to our cooking. What's the REAL
difference between a cook and a chef?
THE CUP: Hallelujah! There's hope for Jeff!
FAMBROUGH: Of course, the word suggests better training, broader scope
of knowledge, more refined skills, not to mention a whole barrage of
responsibilities that come with managing a staff. But I do know what
you're asking - in our everyday language games "chef" might involve an
ability to improvise and rise above recipe-dependent cooking through
experience, applied technique and aesthetic savvy.
THE CUP: Hmmm. "Rise above recipe-dependent cooking." Guess
that qualifies Allison as a chef - she's lousy at following directions, which
may explain why she's such a great cook. How does one decide to become
a chef? (This question is for Ben, not for Allison)
FAMBROUGH: And lord knows why anyone would decide to become a
chef. It's hard on the mind and the body. In fact, it may be one of the most
abusive industries (not so at Renee's). Speaking for myself: it was a
combination of a deep love for making people happy and the need for
immediate gratification (and to avoid graduate school!). But you've got
to admit, there's something incredibly satisfying about a great meal.
And you know what? People will pay you for it, if you're good at it.
Are we gonna get to the birds soon?
THE CUP: We prefer to talk about food. Jeff has a mad passion for Renee's -
the food, that is. How about a combo question: What Renee's specialty
are you especially proud of and what does it have to do with birds?
FAMBROUGH: AH, that might be the duck liver pate which is entirely
my own.
THE CUP: Gross! Just kidding. Uh, actually, no we're not.
FAMBROUGH: I love pates and terrines. This is a duck liver terrine with
green peppercorns. And it's really, really yummy. Need I elaborate on the
bird connection? The duck confit is also very good. I sometimes wonder
what Canvasback and woodcock taste like...or a fattened grouse, yum...
why I bet I could...err...never mind.
THE CUP: We'll look for them on the menu when we celebrate Jeff's new job.
When we were at Renee's, our waiter claimed to be a birder and even
knowingly chit-chatted with us about Chihuahuan Ravens and the ABA's
700 Club (not be confused with the David Cup's more prestigious 100
and 200 clubs). Is he really as good a birder as he is a waiter or is this
some conspiracy for a bigger tip (did he hit you up for pointers as you were
sprinkling creme broullee over sauteed scallions and baby carrots?)
FAMBROUGH: Although that guy is constantly hitting me up for
snacks, he is indeed a veteran birder. I think he pulled the same joke on
Medler when he was in recently.
THE CUP: Ok, on to the obligatory Cup stuff. We all know no one can
touch Matt Young at this point (although with a little gumption he might have
gotten the record). Who's going to place second? Where will you place?
FAMBROUGH: Yeah, Young is untouchable, but that lunatic Sarver
may just give him a good run next year. Of course I mean that with the
kindest of sentiments. I really don't know the extent of his lunacy -
THE CUP: Oh, he's out there!
FAMBROUGH: But I think he's positioned to finish second. I'm trying my
damnedest to stay in the top ten. I may be able to do it. The competition is
fierce, however.
THE CUP: How did a chef-minded man like you become a birdhead anyway?
FAMBROUGH: The lucky synchrony of two events: reading Kingbird
Highway and subscribing to Cayugabirds. You crazy people are almost
entirely to blame for sparking the motherload of birding passion that lay
dangerously dormant within me.
THE CUP: We love it when  people call us crazy.
FAMBROUGH: And I can't thank you enough. My life has changed pretty
radically. And I've had the most incredible help and encouragement from
so many of you. Yes, I was always a birdwatcher. I never knew I was a
birder until I saw the light here in Ithaca, the center of birding in the
THE CUP: Amen, brother. Where would you most like to go birding, some
place you haven't been before, and how are you using your chef artistry  to
get there?
FAMBROUGH: I'd really like to get the know the birds of North America
better before I make any exotic plans. Specifically within the ABA area I'd
like to venture out West: California or Arizona would be great. Alaska would
be awesome. I birded in Hawaii last January. That was absolutely fantastic.
But the birds here are enough to keep me busy for the next few years. On
the other hand, if you here of any world traveling birders who need a
private chef....
I'd like to add that I've exceeded my own personal goals for this year. After
a few misses, I was expecting (hoping, really) to see maybe 210-213 species
in the Basin. Right now I've seen 224. Winter finches could push me over
the 225 mark.
THE CUP: Well, good luck. So long as you bring back Renee's spinach ravioli
shrimp and sundried tomatos. We really miss that
                        STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
                          By Karl David
                            SCRAWL OF FAME
(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.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm    McILROY MUSINGS   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
This time around, we decided to shut Allison up once and for all about all
of her past McVictories and future predictions by interviewing her
Get it? She doesn't have any.
                     BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
                                By Caissa Willmer
See Kickin='Tail!
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of
Development and theater critic for the Ithaca Times.)
                                BIRD VERSE