Year 1, Issue 2

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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy

competition.

* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells

* Errand Boy: Jeff Wells

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So. You've survived the first months of David Cup/McIlroy competition. Now

you're feeling invincible, like you could swim the frigid waters of Cayuga

Lake, leap Mt. Pleasant in a single bound. Instead, you've opted for

something a little more challenging: facing the sad, sad reality of where

your lists have limped in for February's Pilgrims' Progress report. Harder

still is the intense pressure you'll certainly feel after you've read this

issue: You'll have had not one but two Cup-fuls of expert birding advice and

less-than-subtle hints about where to find what. In short, by devoting

these few minutes to reading the latest issue of The Cup, the only

acceptable excuse you'll have for not scoping up and zooming in for some

excellent Basin birding is if you're in Manitoba, flushing some Willow

Ptarmigan down into the Basin for the rest of us.

That said, we want to emphasize that you shouldn't, under any circumstances,

let fellow Cuppers (including the insensitive editors of The Cup) bully you

into spending more time in the field than you can afford. Birding is

important for all kinds of noble reasons, but everyone knows that family,

job, school, and televised college basketball should be given a little

consideration, too. Besides, the David Cup is meant to be a fun, friendly

competition, not a cut-throat, birder-eat-birder bloodfest. All steps must

be taken to keep it that way. Anyone not abiding by such guidelines will be

dealt with accordingly. Let it be known that the committee has already

issued warnings to two of the David Cup's finest, one of whom flung himself

off the icy bluff at Sheldrake in a desperate attempt to scare off a

Red-necked Grebe before his birding partner (and chief competitor) could see

it; another time, said chief competitor spied a Lapland Longspur at a Center

Road field, mist-netted it, and painted it to look like Snow Bunting, to

keep Bird #__ off his pal's David Cup list. We'll tolerate no more of this

kind of foolishness. However, we do encourage you to bird as much (or as

little) as fits into the pattern of your life, and to have a grand and

glorious time doing it. Remember: It's doesn't matter if you win or lose,

or how you play the game, as long as you're in the David Cup/McIlroy race.

@ @ @ @ @ @

NEWS, CUES, and BLUES

@ @ @ @ @ @

REGARDING THE CUP 1.1: Our mailbox was overrun with words of enthusiasm,

songs of praise, and deafening applause for The Cup 1.1. We, the editors,

spent many gleeful hours gloating over this positive feedback and were

tempted to horde it all for ourselves. But alas, we were paid good money to

publicly thank everyone who contributed to The Cup's maiden voyage. Okay,

seriously now, thanks to those of you who sacrificed precious birding time

to write columns and submit to probing interviews. Thanks also to those of

you who took the time to write us those words of encouragement. And to

those of you who bravely sent in your monthly totals, a special thanks. By

doing so you make the David Cup/McIlroy race that much more exciting and

interesting for everyone, yourselves included, we hope. Finally, it's to

all Cuppers that we dedicate our new Back o' the Book. Without you, we

wouldn't have the fun of putting together The Cup. But don't get too

comfortable; we're still asking you to coo soothingly into the ears of those

who remain quivering-behind-the-scenes Cuppers. Tell them how good it feels

to just come out with it, to just say yes, my totals are important, I won't

let the team down. I'm okay, you're okay. The power of positive thinking.

Chicken soup for the soul...

WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: The editors, seized with joy over exquisite

birding quotes by one Larry Springsteen, have coaxed him into the David Cup

competition, despite the fact that he must leave us for Connecticut before

the end of the year. Let's hope he--or dang it, somebody--finds a Great

Grey Owl before his departure. We also extend a friendly hand to Carol

Bloomgarden who actually signed up long ago but had temporarily slipped

through the jagged David Cup cracks. Welcome back, Carol, but no, you don't

get a bonus bird for your troubles, since it's all Steve's fault. A special

welcome to Kristen Grotke (age 4 ½) for throwing her feather into the David

Cup wind. We hope such bravery will inspire Sam Kelling (age almost 3) to

do the same.

TEA AND...RUGALAH?: It is our understanding that James Barry will be hosting

a formal tea for all David Cup participants, to be held in the austere

surroundings of his Cornell dorm room. He will be reading selections from

Keats, Browning, and Stephen King. Let him know if you'll be interested in

attending.

T-SHIRT UPDATE: Since our previous update, the demand for David Cup T-shirts

has skyrocketed. Those of you who know a good deal (and soon-to-be

priceless collectors' item) when you come across one will be glad to know

that the T-shirt committee has nearly completed its task. We refuse to

release details at this time, however (suffice to say it is truly splendid.)

Instead, we will hold an "unveiling" for those of you whose discerning aural

palette have as yet kept you from embracing true David Cup spirit by blindly

committing, so that you can make up your mind once and for all (albeit with

four testy T-shirt committee members and quite possibly a Doberman pinscher

snorting over your shoulder.)

BIRD CUP BLUES: Birding and the blues. They go together like tea and

rugalah. Fish and chips. Regis and Kathy Lee. Beavis and Butthead. We've

got an insider's report from esteemed Cayuga Bird Club president Rob Scott

to prove it: "I see the woods have ears... I was in fact looking for fellow

Cuppers at the show but couldn't ID any through the bottom of my pint of

Rolling Rock. Here's what happened, since you missed it...

"Given the tremendous number of accipiters we've observed in downtown

Ithaca recently, Hillary and I were scouting the area down near the Green

Street mini-mart, hoping to find a Northern Goshawk hunting small dogs near

the Commons (if there are so many Cooper's and Sharpies around, why not a

Gos?) Frustrated, cold, and with a list totaling four species, we staggered

into the Haunt, where we delighted in half-price drinks and some twisted

strands of Louisiana blues. C.J. Chenier alit onstage with his accordion

blazing faster than wrensong, and was accompanied by a band of equal

intensity. Most notable was his sideman who'd taken a few lessons from our

local band, the Flickers, swaddling himself in melodic downspout pipe, which

he drummed on incessantly and rhythmically. The band launched into "On the

Bayou" and then into the old classic, "Prothonotary Stomp". They followed

this with "Hawkwatch Blues," featuring CJ's patented "owl prowl growl." I

left the show, my head buzzing with visions of golden slippered Snowy Egrets

holding big hurricane glasses and eating crawfish..."

:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>

It's late at night, you're about to stretch out on your sofa with a cup of

ginger peach tea, your favorite Count Basie CD playing softly in the

background. The phone rings: It's your mother, in Gary, Indiana. She

informs you all is well--your dad got the promotion, your nephew has

recently taken his first step, and your Great Uncle Henry won the

million-dollar Lotto Indiana. You express obligatory excitement, then

prepare to say goodbye when the real reason your mother has called rears its

ugly head: "So, what were the birding highlights for the Cayuga Lake Basin

this month?" she asks. Panic overtakes you--your mind races, you experience

a sudden shortness of breath--as the consequences for not staying as in

touch with the CLB birding scene as you should have squeezes in on you. You

sense your life collapsing around you--you're a vole caught in the deadly

grasp of a Rough-legged Hawk--when suddenly, mercifully, you spy your latest

copy of The Cup. You scan trendmaster Steve Kelling's monthly column, Basin

Bird Highlights, and immediately your mind relaxes, your heartbeat returns

to its natural rhythm, and most importantly, your mother is impressed as you

drop phrases like "By far the most exciting February find was the Basin's

second-ever Ross' Goose" and "Other highlights include the finding of Red

Crossbills." You sip your tea. The sassy sound of a saxophone crescendos

and decrescendos in the background. Life is good.

BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS

by

Steve Kelling

By far the most exciting February find was the Basin's second-ever Ross'

Goose, first reported by Ralph Paonessa on the east side of the lake. Ralph

did a super job of getting the word out, locating the bird again on the west

side of the lake, and making sure that all had permission to see it.

Thanks, Ralph! Other highlights include the finding of Red Crossbills on

Dodge Road by Chris Hymes and Bard Prentiss. Again timely reporting and

cautionary advice on private property made the chase after these birds

eventful in a positive way. Rob Scott's find of a first winter Glaucous

Gull early in the month initiated a flurry of activity around the lake,

which also turned up an adult Glaucous Gull. But for me, the most

spectacular bird seen in Februrary was the rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk

first identified by Kevin and Jay McGowan at the pheasant farm. This western

Red-tailed Hawk is certainly at least as, or even more, uncommon in the east

than Ross' Goose. The end of February ushered in the first of the returning

migrants including Killdeer, blackbirds, and American Robins. Waterfowl

(including newly arrived Wood Ducks) also began pouring into the Basin

towards the end of the month, providing excellent viewing opportunities

around the lake which will extend well into March.

(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region III. He

teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and appreciates the

necessary sacrifices made by his fellow birders [see Kelling, Cup Quotes].)

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Oh, the fickle throne of the David Cup. One month, Tom Nix is wearing

victory's dazzling robe; the next, it's Steve Kelling who's proudly

bejeweled with the crown of success, and poor Tom is left to schlep and

slide in the muck of Steve's slippery footprints with the rest of us. And

who's to say that come April, Steve won't be face-down in the awful mire as

any one of us who have marched quietly but diligently in this valiant army

overthrow his reign as the David Cup's February dictator? But then again,

March might well leave us with the terrifying sound of Steve's sinister

cackling as he finds himself lording over the rest of us again. Or maybe

not. It's up to you. Until then...

1996 DAVID CUP FEBRUARY TOTALS 1996 DAVID CUP JANUARY TOTALS

83 Steve Kelling 76 Tom Nix

80 Karl David 69 Steve Kelling

80 Tom Nix 67 Karl David

78 Chris Hymes 65 Scott Mardis

78 Jeff Wells 64 Bard Prentiss

78 Bard Prentiss 61 Chris Hymes

76 Allison Wells 61 Jeff Wells

75 Scott Mardis 59 Ken Rosenberg

71 Ken Rosenberg 51 Allison Wells

68 Ralph Paonessa 47 Martha Fischer

67 Kevin McGowan 47 Pixie Senesac

64 Carol Bloomgarden 45 Meena Hariba

62 Meena Haribal 43 James Barry

58 Bill Evans 42 Kevin McGowan

58 Kurt Fox 39 Michael Runge

54 Rob Scott 38 Matt Medler

49 Michael Runge 37 Ralph Paonessa

48 Pixie Senesac 36 Jim Lowe

47 Jay McGowan 35 Rob Scott

44 James Barry 32 Bill Evans

42 Jim Lowe 31 Kurt Fox

40 Casey Sutton 30 Jay McGowan

39 Matt Medler 17 Casey Sutton

37 Larry Springsteen 14 David Haskell

28 Diane Tessaglia 4 Diane Tessaglia

27 Dan Scheiman

8 Kristen Grotke

1996 McILROY AWARD FEBRUARY TOTALS JANUARY TOTALS

51 Jeff Wells 44 Jeff Wells

44 Martha Fischer 31 Jim Lowe

43 Allison Wells 28 Michael Runge

42 Ken Rosenberg 28 Allison Wells

42 Rob Scott 25 Rob Scott

41 Scott Mardis 17 Casey Sutton

39 Kevin McGowan

37 Jim Lowe

37 Tom Nix

36 Carol Bloomgarden

31 Michael Runge

29 Bill Evans

27 Casey Sutton

25 Jay McGowan

8 Diane Tessaglia

LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

Steve's list is NOT Tom's list recycled with a few new birds tacked on. Oh,

no. This is STEVE'S list. Can you figure out how they're different?

Where's Waldo?

Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue

Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Snow Goose, Ross' Goose, Canada Goose,

American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon,

Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common

Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle,

Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk,

Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Wild

Turkey, American Coot, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull,

Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern

Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Belted

Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker,

Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Blue Jay, American Crow,

Fish Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,

White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American

Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, European

Starling, Northern Shrike, Northern Cardinal, American Tree Sparrow, Song

Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow

Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll,

Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.

Total: 83

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

COMPOSITE DEPOSIT

An overwhelming number of you--okay, three of you--requested that The Cup

run a composite list of all birds seen during the David Cup/McIlroy race to

date. Although we're embarrassed that we didn't come up with this ingenious

idea ourselves, we're going for it just the same. So, add to Steve's list

(above) the following species and you'll have the entire list of birds seen

in January and February:

Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk,

Ring-necked Pheasant, Killdeer, Short-eared Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,

Common Raven, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush,

Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Pine

Grosbeak, Purple Finch

Total: 102

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

! KICKIN' TAIL! !

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What better way to impress your friends and frustrate you enemies than 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, danced, and otherwise made his/her way to the

top of the David Cup list. February's leader is Steve Kelling, who you no

doubt remember was "kicked around," shall we say, by Tom Nix in last month's

KICKIN' TAIL interview. Has Steve answered Tom's vicious attack with the

gnashing teeth of revenge, or has he taken a more genteel approach? You

decide.

THE CUP: Tom gave you quite a thrashing last month. How does it feel to

have met his February total and raised him three? Which birds pulled

you ahead?

KELLING: There is a group of us, including you, Jeff (but not Allison

because even when sick you need to chase birds) and certainly including

Tom, who are really dead even. "Dead even" means that you have seen all the

"good birds." So far, those "good birds" have been Red-necked Grebe, Ross'

Goose, both white-winged gulls, the owls, and the winter finches. I believe

that I

went ahead of Tom on a robin and a Red-winged Blackbird.

THE CUP: So, according to your theory, both Jeff and Allison are actually

ahead of you, because neither have seen much in the way of owls. They'll

be thrilled to know this. Meanwhile, let's move on to the topic of

sophisticated birding technique. What's yours?

KELLING: When Tom and I go birding, we usually have the proper good-luck

T-shirts on and good-luck food to eat. Here is a special tip for all those

chasers: Find a fellow birding enthusiast, put on all the T-shirts you own

(at once) and go to the Ithaca Bakery and buy all of the breads that they

sell with names that you can't pronounce...like Flowcotula and Rutabaga, and

Bobolonga and stuff like that. Drive around the lake eating all this stuff

and stopping at likely spots. If you don't see anything at a stop, take off

the T-shirt and throw out the food you were eating. Repeat this process

until successful. Then NEVER wash the shirt and ALWAYS eat that food. I

think Tom has lucky underwear also but you have to ask him about that.

THE CUP: Interesting. Jeff tried that technique for the McIlroy race and it

seems to have worked for him, too. What about your overall strategy for

winning?

KELLING: That would be my almost-three-year-old son Sammy. Each morning

before I take him to preschool, I ask him what bird he wants to see. We

usually get what he mentions. For example, he said "blackbirds" last week,

and we walked out of the house into a flock of Redwings.

THE CUP: Amazing!

KELLING: He mentioned Crossbills and we saw them by the side of the road.

THE CUP: Wow!

KELLING: But the best was yesterday. He wanted to see a Red-tailed Hawk and

we saw the rufous-morph Red-tail.

THE CUP: Did you have a specific number of species you were aiming for this

month?

KELLING: In 1992 or 93, Adam Byrne saw 200 species of birds by May 1. Last

year I saw 195. I would like to try to hit 200 species by May. I figure

I'm two birds ahead of last year at this point.

THE CUP: We already agreed we wouldn't bring up your leaving the Basin in

May, a particularly painful subject for you, we understand. Let's talk

optics. What kind of binoculars do you use?

KELLING: Bausch and Lomb Elites 10x.

THE CUP: Scope?

KELLING: Swarovski HD 20x60.

THE CUP: More importantly, what kind of vehicle do you drive and do you

think that it has had an effect on where you are in the David Cup standings?

KELLING: Either a 1986 Ford F-150 (when I might have to drive) or a 1995

Ford

Windstar (when I know I won't have to drive.)

THE CUP: I guess that answers the second part of the question, too. Okay,

Kelling, let's cut to the chase. What's the REAL reason you're in this

race, anyway?

KELLING: Since I'm making the winning trophy, I thought I would enter.

THE CUP: Sure, we've heard that before. Is it true that you didn't send in

your McIlroy total because you thought The Cup's own Jeff Wells might be

behind you so, in return for The Cup giving you the Highlights column you

lobbied for, you agreed to let Cup readers think he won?

KELLING: Yes, I admit it is true. I needed to give him something.

THE CUP: There's also a rumor going around (spread by Tom?) that you spent

at least one day this month birding outside the Basin. Is this true?

KELLING: I sleep outside the Basin. That way, when I enter it I'm

completely refreshed and have tremendous confidence. Right, Ralph?

THE CUP: If you could be any one of the David Cup birds seen so far, what

would it be and why?

KELLING: This question is too personal and I am a private person. My

son Sammy

likes nuthatches.

THE CUP: Well, then, tell us your favorite color.

KELLING: The purplish-black iridescent color of the Common Grackle. I

think the

diffraction pattern created when oil is mixed with water is beautiful and

the grackle comes close to this.

THE CUP: What has been your most exhilarating David Cup moment so far?

KELLING: Answering these questions.

THE CUP: Really? Too bad, because your 15 minutes of fame just expired.

Maybe you'll get another 15 minutes next month?

THE CUP: This is the first time I have been first and probably the last

time.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

????????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ??????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls and

by hiring Special Agents Muldor and Scully have determined that recognition

is in order for the Cupper who has braved wind, rain, ice, and snow in a

quest for new David Cup birds for us all to enjoy. Equally weighty in this

award category is prompt notification to other Cuppers of said sightings, be

it via e-mail, phone line, dramatic hand signals, or homing pigeons.

We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow February's PIONEER PRIZE upon

Ralph Paonessa, finder of the Ross' Goose. Ralph went to great lengths to

give explicit directions so that Cuppers and the general birding public

wouldn't get frantic scoping the innumerable non-Ross'-Goose-productive

fields around Romulus. He also took it upon himself to acquire permission

from landowners so birders could access the land. Steve said it eloquently

in the Highlights column when he said, "Thanks, Ralph!" Your David Cup

Pioneer Pencil awaits you.

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

SCRAWL OF FAME

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

In Defense of "Listing"

"Listing is a perfectly valid sport or recreation, and the best listers

usually make good naturalists and conservationists. It can be not only a

skillful game, but also a science, an art, an esthetic experience, a

healthful recreation, a philosophical pursuit--or just a bore--depending on

the observer."

--Roger Tory Peterson, from Where to Find Birds in New York

State

The scenario is as common as crows: You're out scoping for the newly posted

Eurasian Wigeon when up walks a fellow scoper. When you find the bird you

are awestruck by its beauty--the rusty-red head, the creamy yellow

forehead--and the very idea of its presence on Cayuga Lake makes you glad to

be alive. Alas, you must high-tail it to work and as you fold up the legs

of your tripod you casually ask your fellow birder what his total is for the

David Cup. "Oh, I'm not a lister," he sniffs with an air of moral

superiority, "I watch birds because I enjoy them."

Such comments seem intended to make us feel ashamed to be involved in a

competition that revolves around how many birds we see in a year. Certainly

many of us would in fact like to win this competition. And why not? The

David Cup is a sporting event, after all. Golfers like to win. Tennis

players like to win. So do basketball players, distance runners, and heck,

even Scrabble players. But is that the only reason they participate, to

win? Of course not. They participate--arguably, first and

foremost--because they enjoy the sport, the challenge it represents to their

abilities (in the David Cup, abilities includes strategically squeezing in

time in the field, particularly when this seems impossible!) not only as

compared to their "opponents" but perhaps especially to themselves. Yet it

is doubtful that you'll find postings on the Internet indicting the practice

of keeping track of RBI's, ERA's, and other more traditional, highly

publicized sporting statistics. Translate that same kind of record-keeping

to the listing of birds and, well, watch out.

Yes, there are some birders who will do anything to see a new bird merely so

that they can tick it off on a checklist (thankfully, we have yet to meet

anyone like that.) Sometimes, though, those who break the limb or spook the

bird off the nest are photographers, eager non-listers, or naive beginners

who haven't yet realized the consequences of their actions. However, some

would have us think that keeping lists, particularly for competitions such

as the David Cup, encourages this sort of behavior, or in the very least,

does little to discourage it. Such thinking is misguided.

The truth is, birding competitions can have immense benefits to the

conservation of birds and their habitats. We've seen this to be true even

in the short time the David Cup/McIlroy races have been going on. Cuppers

have been at the forefront of talking to and informing landowners of the

significance of the habitats found on their lands. At places like Stewart

Park and Allan Treman Park, the presence of people with binoculars strapped

around their necks or peering into scopes raises public awareness of the

importance of such areas to wildlife. These kinds of actions are important

steps in building a strong constituency of people--birders and non-birders

alike--who will support conservation efforts. We have also seen that it's

our very own Cuppers who are issuing reminders about what is appropriate and

inappropriate to post on the potentially dangerous (though mostly

beneficial) tool of the Internet regarding bird sightings. Finally,

competitions like the David Cup encourage people to go birding. A good many

of us joined the race not to win but because we recognize that sometimes we

need a little push to get us off the couch (or out from behind the desk) and

into the Great Outdoors. Knowing that the network of people who are the

David Cup are rooting for you to come and see those stunning crossbills, to

discover again and again the delightful song of the Winter Wren, makes it

that much easier--and rewarding--to put in the effort.

Those who still aren't convinced that the "lister" can thrill at the beauty

and behavior of birds as much as any "non-lister" or who still perceive the

David Cup as nothing more than so much ticker tape need only read Ned

Brinkley's wonderful memoir/Coach's Corner in this issue, or peruse the Cup

Quotes, which captures in participants' own words the essence of all aspects

of birding. Or better yet, talk to anyone who has signed up.

To finish the scenario: You stride off towards the office, the image of the

wigeon still swimming in your head, and nod, "Yeah, me too."

Allison and Jeff

Wells

(If you have an opinion about the art, science, and/or esthetics of birding

or birding-related topics, write it up for consideration for Scrawl of

Fame.)

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

< COACH'S CORNER <

< <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

< <

< <

< < < <

In exchange for tickets to the upcoming Count Basie Band concert at IPAC,

March 13 at 8pm, the editors of The Cup have agreed to run the COACH'S

CORNER again. Valiantly taking up the whistle as coach for March to early

April is the one, the only Ned Brinkley. Though having migrated permanently

to Virginia a few years ago, Ned birded the Cayuga Lake Basin inside-out,

upside-down, round and round, during his seven-year stop-over here. Coach

Brinkley does a superb job here not only of coaching how to bird the Basin

over the next month but also of motivating the team into action,

particularly with his vivid descriptions of his Mt. Pleasant observations.

If you don't agree, we'll refund your subscription.

COACH BRINKLEY: Thanks to Allison and Jeff for the opportunity to take up

the pen on the extremely serious subject of New York birding competitions,

and in particular, on the even graver subject: the David Cup/McIlroy race.

So, there is now a tangible Holy Grail, named in honor of the Father of this

Madness. And there are those of you who think 260 is possible, without

stretching Basin boundaries? Or without quitting your job and living in a

trailer along River Road south of Montezuma? I saw that Diane T. reports

four species for January in the previous Cup. She may well be the only sane

one among you.

For my seven years up there, I blamed myself for never really finding that

ONE GREAT BIRD in the Basin. Oh, sure, a White-tailed Eagle flies over

Derby Hill, the Spotted Redshank was tethered to floating garbage in

Brooklyn, and California Gulls at Niagara were like shooting fish in a

barrel. But I think by now we've proven it (certainly with all the hours at

the loon watch, we know it): vagrants are few and far between in the

interior. Gradually, I realized that it was small increments--finding the

unusual "good" bird as opposed to the nearly impossible "great" bird--in the

Basin that made the difference: Yellow-throated Warbler and Little Gull on a

foggy fallout morning at Long Point, a slew of Red-necked Grebes one spring

(when the previous year, in searching 200 hundred hours, I found none), a

Yellow-breasted Chat right about where Bill Evans predicted one would be.

Finding vagrants on the California coast is trivial--any one of us could do

it half-stoned, I mean, half-asleep. On the east coast, it's a bit more

difficult, though still a matter of little effort. But in the Basin, I

found it very tough. If you don't enjoy bird behavior or just the esthetics

of the dawn chorus, I think competitive birding in the Basin would be

extremely frustrating. Indeed, the birds themselves save it, and so does

the good company up there. Nowhere (that I have visited) is such a critical

mass of knowledgeable people SO AGREEABLE and SO FRIENDLY. I don't think I

left that area with anything but fond memories of just about everyone

reading this. I miss the people there more than the birding haunts.

But enough nostalgia. About this coaching thing. I would like to begin by

expanding on Coach McGowan's strategy and approach. A few ground rules.

--Read old Kingbird issues, as far back as you can get them. The really old

ones have a lot of great specifics that the new ones don't. Devour them.

--Read adjacent regional reports, not just Region III. Figure out exactly

when birds arrive and depart, and find them as they arrive--don't hope for

late birds. And don't put anything off. Kevin is right to say that the

person who chases the American Goldfinch in January is a fool, but sometimes

(as he says) the robins hold the Varied Thrush. If you have unlimited time

and money, then just knocking around can be great.

--There are about 20 times more possibilities for water-associated oddballs

than landbirds. Your annual dickey bird total will vary very little from

year to year, but your pre-doves species will be full of holes each year.

That means, keep your butt on that lake and at Montezuma as much as you

possibly can. Kelling and Co. have proven that most of the shorebirds are

regular, and David has demonstrated that daily junkets to Myer's Point, even

in early June, can turn up Red Knot, Whimbrel, and others. Even if you have

only a half-hour or less, the water is your friend.

--Take little mental breaks. Go to a movie. Live dangerously. But don't,

under any circumstances, leave the Basin during migration. For 255 birds or

more, you can't really leave then. Too much is at stake.

I feel pretty silly giving advice to a crowd that has clearly surpassed, in

overall knowledge, anything I was able to assimilate and discover in seven

years. A Ross' Goose was found at Canoga! I whined endlessly about the

Snows being too distant at Montezuma to find a Ross', and this is the second

record since I left in 1994. My strategy, nonetheless, was as Kevin

suggested: time in the field. Reconstructing my big year, which was 254, I

find that I spent some part of 310 days birding, even though 50 or so of

those were on the golf course or were Myer's Point quickies. (Ah, the

advantages of being a complete disaster as a Humanities grad student.) With

selective birding, anyone could surpass that list with perhaps 200 or less

days afield.

Concentrate on only birds that you can't count on in December: all finches,

owls, northern rarities, blackbird and waterfowl vagrants, odd fish-divers.

If I may be so bold, stand for as many vigils at Mt. Pleasant as possible.

It was there that I saw Clay-colored Sparrow, a flock of King Eiders,

migrating American Golden Plover, Western Kingbird (in spring!), Swainson's

Hawk, and in one narrow window in spring, display flights of the following:

Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, Northern Goshawk, Red-tail, Red-shouldered,

American Kestrel, and Golden Eagle (the latter obviously not a local nester

but just goofing off.) The Cooper's and Northern Goshawk displays were

breathtaking, butterfly synchronous movements that I had never seen before.

I don't know anyone who isn't moved by sights such as these, and they help

pass the duller hours there. I recall watching a Golden Eagle attacking a

groundhog in the field, then running away as the groundhog charged it. I

remember the intensity of the lemon-yellow eyes of the adult male Northern

Harrier hammering the plastic owl repeatedly on the Big Tree in the field.

The talons were nearly as lemon yellow. I remember Adam Byrne's face after

he'd seen a tremendous push of raptors, including two Peregrines harassing

an adult female Gos. And I remember him picking out a migrating Short-eared

Owl at an impossible height and distance on a March day. A lot moves in

March--a very underrated month, birdwise. A warm day in March is a good

time to wait for a Black Vulture up there. I remember the extraordinary

sandwiches made by Karl's indefatigably generous Elaine--pumpernickel with

turkey, mustard, Boston lettuce, sprouts, and thinly sliced red

onion--appearing out of nowhere for everyone at the watch that day.

In March through early June, the busting of butt will make all the

difference. A great spring for the very active birder will set a pace that

probably can't be broken with the shorebird migration of summer and fall or

with clean-up birding for dickeys in fall. How does one go about it? Most

vagrants, other than those powerful, high-altitude migrants (Sabine's Gull,

jaegers, etc.) and "true" rarities brought from the far west (Varied Thrush)

or Gulf Stream (Black-capped Petrel) are annual in small numbers, but you

don't want to spend 30 hours scanning for them. You don't have much time in

March. Blackbirds, for example, move through the southern Basin in a few

days and linger in the northeastern Basin only a week or two at most.

Knowing how to search among thousands of birds can cut your time way down.

Take Brewer's Blackbird. Did you know that, in flocks of Redwings, they are

easily picked out by virtue of their foraging behavior? Redwings hug the

ground, parallel to it, whereas Brewer's like to tower erect, strutting.

Also in those flocks are the cursed Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Look for

them. The rule for rarities: assume they're in there. Until you begin to

go blind looking for a few hours, don't give up. Resist the temptation to

"string" that can set in after mounting frustration, libidinal cramps, and

no "good" birds for weeks. Reputations are as delicate as spider webs and

as entangling as well: it's easy to lose credibility, and it's tough to win

it back.

Resist the temptation also to have the first of the year for common birds.

It makes no difference when you get your Louisiana Waterthrush. Watch the

weather. You want to mate with every southerly breeze that breaks through

into the Basin. The best weather will be the combination of rain and fog

(especially fog) that interrupts a nocturnal flight right around your

latitude. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, bust butt. Go

to your favorite local spots if you can't take the morning off: the

wildflower gardens at the Plantations, the fish ponds, Stewart Park. On a

day like this, I looked up out my windshield at a Yellow-throated Warbler

five feet above the car and found a Little Gull at Long Point minutes later.

If you can take the day off, go nuts. The birds will be trying to get

organized after their disoriented advent, and bird movement often means more

species.

How outrageous should your thinking be? How can you motivate yourself to

get out and do it? Well, just think GREEN. I mean envy. Rochester has had

a White-winged Tern, which has also nested due north of us. Do you really

want to leave it to someone else to find that species at Montezuma? NEVER!

Get your butt out of bed and find that beauty yourself, hovering delicately

with a few Black Terns over an insect hatch in the western quarter of the

wildlife drive or feeding at Tschache Pool. Then boldly go and get your

Prothonotary Warbler. What a day that would be! Celebrate! Beer, burgers,

and fries all around!

Remember: if you lose your sanity, you forfeit the David Cup! It might be

worth your while to anticipate the following birds: Good luck to you all!

RED-NECKED GREBE: Along with those three scoter flavors, watch for southerly

winds combined with crappy visibility in mid-March through the end of April.

Then head to Dean's Cove, or Aurora, or Canoga, or Taughannock, or all of

the above and do a lot of scanning. Throw in Oldsquaw, Little Gull, and

maybe a damn Red Phalarope!

EARED GREBE: These birds show a real tendency toward more sheltered areas.

Look among the Horneds between Myer's and Long Point and in Aurora Bay, but

spend a lot of time at 65x looking at birds in the main pool at MNWR, March

through May.

NORTHERN GOSHAWK: Could be tough in a low-cycle year, but spending all

possible lunch hours in March and April on Mt. Pleasant will guarantee one,

I think. Occasionally hunts at Lettie Cook through April and can be heard

calling in there.

GYRFALCON: March is still a good time. Try the northwestern Basin. They

have to eat waterfowl, so look for areas with a lot of food south of

Waterloo and Seneca Falls. Great birding up there, so you won't be bored.

Same goes for the unbirded north Basin.

(Ned Brinkley is an assistant professor of Germanic languages at the

University of Virginia. He leads pelagic trips off the North Carolina coast

and dreams often of eating turkey on pumpernickel while watching hawks at

Mt. Pleasant.)

mmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmm

The David Cup leader isn't the only one who deserves a little fame. Noooo,

indeed. The fact that the McIlroy territory represents considerably less

acreage and variety of habitats would suggest that a little more weight

(i.e., interview space) should be given to the McIlroy leader. However,

since that leader this month is The Cup's own Jeff Wells, we were afraid

you'd all cry nepotism and boycott this publication. Therefore, we'll keep

it short, but not so sweet.

THE CUP (Allison): I understand you're married, have two cats, and your

living room is a disaster. How have you been able to shirk these

responsibilities in order to participate in not only the David Cup but also

the McIlroy race?

WELLS: Well, you obviously didn't know this but my wife is a birder, and she

joined both competitions, too, though she's trailing far behind me in both.

Thankfully, my cats also are birders (albeit window birders), and as for the

livingroom, let's just say it's lived in.

THE CUP: I bet your wife would say your pushing it.

WELLS: I suspect so.

THE CUP: Why did you sign up for the McIlroy, anyway? Why not concentrate

on just the David Cup?

WELLS: Mainly because I think I stand a chance at coming in somewhere in the

top 10 or so, since I have the luxury of being able to walk to work through

Sapsucker Woods. I also was lucky enough to have Stewart Park as part of my

area for the Christmas Bird Count, which gave me an excellent start on the

waterfowl, so I had to sign up. Of course, that advantage is quickly

disappearing as the ice melts on the lake and the ducks move back in and

everyone else gets them, too. One thing I find particularly compelling

about the McIlroy Award is that it encourages people to bird right in Ithaca

where many of us live and/or work. This is especially nice when you have

very limited time and can't run up the lake for who-knows-what. It's also a

nice way to honor someone (Dorothy McIlroy) who's done a lot for Cayuga Lake

Basin birding.

THE CUP: As I understand it, there's been a lot of squawking from David Cup

participants when they're asked why they haven't sent in their McIlroy

totals. The most common grunt seems to be that it's too hard to keep track

of both or that there's not enough time to keep two lists. How do you

manage?

WELLS: I've got to say that it is extremely difficult. I have two pieces of

paper that have Cayuga Lake Basin checklists printed on them, one for the

David Cup, one for McIlroy. I write the date of my first sighting of each

species in the space beside the species name, and after the species name I

write the location. When I see new species I add the number to the running

tally I keep in pencil on the back. I do this for both lists and find it is

quite hard for me to fit it into my busy schedule since it normally takes

about five minutes per week for me to keep up.

THE CUP: Do you find that it takes more birding time to be in both races?

WELLS: Since I love to go out and look at birds, I don't find that being in

either competition takes any more time than I would want to devote even if

there were no competition. However, the competition heightens my awareness

of what's around me so that I see birds, behaviors, and beauty that I might

otherwise miss.

THE CUP: What are the rewards for being the McIlroy leader?

WELLS: I get free Snapple and chocolate bars at all the convenience stores

in town.

THE CUP: For some reason I don't believe you. What's your favorite McIlroy

birding spot?

WELLS: My two favorite spots are Sapsucker Woods and Allan Treman State

Marine Park (Hogs Hole). It won't be long before Sapsucker Woods is hopping

with activity, and walking through it daily has made me appreciate it more

then ever before. Allan Treman has been one of my most beloved hang-outs

since my wife and I arrived in Ithaca in 1988. I've seen things like

Short-eared Owl, Sedge Wren, Connecticut Warbler, and Nelson's Sharp-tailed

Sparrow there. I think that it's one of the least appreciated but best

birding spots in town.

THE CUP: Yes, I bird there quite often with my husband. What's been your

most memorable McIlroy experience so far this year?

WELLS: On the Christmas Bird Count (Jan. 1), I was trudging through the snow

under the power lines near Sapsucker Woods. I had come down with a pretty

bad cold and felt lousy but was repeating over and over to myself the

importance of the Count for monitoring bird populations, and science, and

conservation, etc., etc. As I was wallowing in my self-pity, I looked up to

see some ducks flying over. Of course, the only ducks that fly over

Sapsucker Woods in the winter are Mallards and Black Ducks, right? I

assumed that these would be more of the same. Still, I picked up my

binoculars for a look and was surprised to see two very white-bodied

ducks with long necks and brown heads--Northern Pintails, a species

that's always scarce in winter in the region and almost never occurs

at Sapsucker Woods. It was a pleasant and very unexpected surprise and

still leaves me wondering what the heck they were doing out there. There

was also the cold, rainy day my wife and I were scoping the gulls from along

the railroad tracks, up a ways from Stewart Park. We got chilled and wet,

but we saw the Iceland Gull and found an adult Glaucous--in the same view!

THE CUP: How romantic! How do you plan to stay ahead next month?

WELLS: I'm going to walk to work as often as possible and maybe squeeze in

an early morning or early evening stop at Stewart Park. I'd like to find a

good hawk-watching spot somewhere within the town limits, too.

Unfortunately, I'll be gone a lot of the month, and I'll really have to

scramble to keep up with the competition. Hopefully, all those student

competitors will be too busy studying to check out Beebe Lake and Mundy

Wildflower Garden.

THE CUP: What advice do you have for Cupper's who are considering dipping

their toes into McIlroy bay?

WELLS: Stay out! There's only room for one of us in this here town. Watch

your back. Eat spinach. Don't leave anything on your plate. Take vitamin

C and echinacea root extract. Stay away from red meat. Exercise

regularly.

THE CUP: Do you take your own advice?

WELLS: Sure. Just ask my wife.

THE CUP: I will.

======================================================

BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH

======================================================

Dorothy McIlroy

When famed ornithologist Arthur Allen was teaching his students about birds,

Dorothy McIlroy was there. When renowned bird and wildlife artist Louis

Agassiz Fuertes gave a talk on his Abyssinian adventures, Dorothy was there.

And she was there in the early years of Ithaca's Christmas Bird Count, and

for the birth of what is now known as the Cornell Laboratory of

Ornithology's Monday Night Seminar Series. In fact, Dorothy McIlroy was not

only present during the making of Ithaca's fascinating birding history, she

was an active participant in it.

Mention to Dorothy her contributions to Ithaca birding, though, and she

graciously shrugs them off. "I don't think I've done much more than some of

the other people," she says, then adds with a chuckle, "Of course, I go back

longer--I'm surprised anybody still knows who I am!"

Local birders, in fact, often refer to Dorothy, who is approaching 90, as

"Ithaca's First Lady of Birding." For many years, she was Region III editor

for The Kingbird. She's also been a coordinator for the New York State

Breeding Bird Atlas. Perhaps most Ithaca birders know Dorothy for her work

on the guidebook, Birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin. Published in 1974 and

revised by Dorothy and Charlie Smith in 1993, the manual remains invaluable

to birders by providing directions to and descriptions of the best birding

areas in the Cayuga Lake Basin.

Every bit as remarkable as Dorothy's contributions are her unique

experiences as a lifelong birder. Taken under the wing of Peter Paul

Kellogg, who with Arthur Allen pioneered bird song recording, and then by

Arthur Allen himself, her memories offer an fascinating, insider's view of

the Ithaca birding scene's early years.

Dorothy was a fifth grader living in Rochester, New York, when she first

discovered her interest in birds. Captivated by pictures she saw in a

magazine her mother received as a teacher at the Rochester School for the

Deaf, she began exploring her backyard in search of these beautiful

creatures. One of her favorite areas was a swamp not far from her home. "I

spent all of my free time over there," she says. "I borrowed my mother's

mother-of-pearl and gold opera glasses so I could see the birds. I'm amazed

now that she trusted me with them, but I never dropped them." It was around

that time that her father gave her a Chester Reed bird guide, the same

checklist-size guide used by Roger Tory Peterson in his youth.

In high school, Dorothy was the first girl in her high school to have taken

every math course offered. It was this peculiarity that caught the

attention of one of her classmates, who had returned to high school to take

some courses he needed in order to get into Cornell University. While

there, Dorothy remembers, "He wanted to get acquainted with that `weird

girl' who was taking advanced math." That classmate was none other than

Peter Paul Kellogg.

Dorothy says it was Kellogg who taught her that it was possible to identify

birds by their songs. "We were studying at my house when he said, `Oh,

listen to your oriole singing out there.'" Kellogg encouraged Dorothy to

come to Ithaca for Dr. Arthur Allen's summer school course in ornithology,

which she did several summers while a math and physics major at the

University of Rochester.

Allen's class also included early morning bird walks twice a week at what

have remained--since the 1920's, when Dorothy was taking the course--Ithaca

birding mainstays, among them Sapsucker Woods and Stewart Park. "The street

cars weren't running that early in the morning, and there was no such thing

as buses then. So we left campus at 5am to get to Stewart Park by 5:30." A

challenge, she admits, but it was during that class, with help from the new

Bausch & Lomb 6 x 30 binoculars her dad gave her, that everything came

together for her as a birder.

Though Dorothy married soon after college, her professional ambitions

remained. "I'd been promised a place on the staff of [what was then known

as] the ornithology department [at Cornell] if I could get my doctorate. I

thought, `Oh, that'll be easy.'" She and her husband moved to Newburgh, New

York, where he'd been hired as an electrical engineer. The plan was that

Dorothy would take graduate courses at nearby Vassar College. But the stock

market crashed that same fall, and though her husband was able to keep his

job, a pay cut made it impossible for Dorothy to pursue her education.

"But," she says triumphantly, "I've kept up birding as a hobby all these

years."

In 1952, the couple moved back to Ithaca, and Dorothy was immediately swept

back into the Ithaca birding scene. "Doc Allen took me in like an old lost

friend," she recalls fondly.

She has seen many changes over the years in the Ithaca birding scene.

In Allen's time, the Christmas Bird Count was by Allen's invitation only,

and of course, Dorothy was among those asked to participate. "Doc's

grad students always came back for that count, it was really quite a thing,"

she says. After the count, the troupe returned to Allen's for dinner, the

report session, then a talk. "The best speaker was Fuertes," she says.

"He had bird skins and monkey skins--he stuck his hand in and made the

monkey skin talk. Oh, it was just fascinating."

Allen also made sure she was invited to what has become the Cornell Lab of

Ornithology's Monday night seminars. At that time they took place in a

room at the top floor of Fernow Hall and were not posted to the general

public. "The speakers were always Allen's students, talking about their

research projects," she says, "and they were really grilled afterwards,

with our questions."

Many of the places Dorothy birded back then are no longer the habitats they

once were. Stewart Park is one example. "There used to be a wonderful elm

woods down there, full of migrating warblers in the spring." Sadly,

Dutch Elm

Disease killed most of the trees, and the rest, she says, were destroyed by

severe storms. And, she adds, "I was always very disappointed when they

chopped up the cattails. We lost our rails and our marsh wrens." She

remembers taking pictures of Least Bitterns in the cattails that used to

line the front of Stewart Park.

Perhaps the most dramatic change of all, says Dorothy, is in the sport and

science of birding itself. "It's just mushroomed. In the early days, I used

to say I should carry a camera with me, I got so many stares while I was

walking around with my binoculars, looking at trees. Now, it seems to be

accepted everywhere."

Although she says she's never been much for keeping lists, many local

birders consider her perhaps the Basin's most diligent record keeper.

"Having been brought up by Doc Allen on the importance of keeping good

records, I was real fussy. You don't just say, `Oh, yes,' and write it

down. If it's something unusual, you get all the details." Among the index

cards she used to keep her own detailed sightings are some pretty

exceptional records: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Harlequin Duck, Tri-colored

Heron. "I was so excited whenever I found a new bird that I'd go to the

nearest phone and call somebody else and say, `Come on down and corroborate

this sighting.'" Dorothy is pleased whenever local birders find new birds

but says, "I don't bother to chase much anymore. I let other people do the

chasing now."

It's not surprising that Dorothy has passed on her love of birds and birding

to her children and grandchildren. "My son kids me by saying, `We had to

take up birding, in self-defense!' And now his kids are saying that about

him," she laughs.

It's with fondness--and a little pride--that Dorothy recalls an incident

that has always stayed with her since her days as an Arthur Allen protégé:

"I'd just found a rail, I forget which kind, down where Allan Treman Park is

now, when over came another birder. He was a know-it-all grad student, and

when I told him about the rail he told me no, there wouldn't be any of those

here. Out came a Sora, and he gave me a see-I-told-you-so look. Then out

came that rail. He looked at me and said, `I'm going to give up birding.'

It's a good thing he didn't. I won't say who it was, but he went on to

become a very well-known ornithologist."

Such is the life of a woman revered by so many birders who have made their

mark in the birding world. Dorothy, too, has made quite a mark, and

fortunately for local birders, she's made it right here in Ithaca, New York.

@#$$%#%$^!(*$)%^@>(#?@<$&%^@(

DEAR TICK

@#%$^!)$(%*&^>$*%?<!>*%^#*%(*&

Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations--and now with

the added strain of intense competition brought on by the David Cup/McIlroy

Award--The Cup has graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and

intuitive columnist, Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions,

like these...

DEAR TICK:

Has anybody developed a list of team colors and maybe names? You know, like

Kelling Cardinal (team color would be red, of course) ? I'm not a

participant but I'm thinking of starting a booster club for whichever team

wears the colors I like.

--Colorful at Cornell

Dear Colorful:

Team colors are out of the question. Sure, they're well and good for those

whose team names would mean safe, bright colors--Kelling Cardinal, Tessaglia

Tanager. But what about Fischer Pheasant? And Runge Ruffed Grouse? They

could easily get their fingers blown off by some hunter who mistakes them

for giant birds--there have, you know, been confirmed reports of giant birds

in the Basin (see Tessaglia, Cup Quotes.) So, no, the committee has ruled

against team names/colors. It's just too dangerous.

DEAR TICK:

I have a grand total of 20something birds on my list. Do I win?

--20something in Ithaca

Dear 20something:

Yes, you win, but not the David Cup. You win the honor and respect of your

Cupping colleagues for posting your February total. That in itself is worth

more than bringing home some macho trophy (I hear it's being made by Steve

Kelling, anyway.) You've proven yourself a sensitive, conscientious ‘90s

kind of guy. Give yourself a hug.

DEAR TICK:

The other day, I was talking over the phone to my friend--let's call her

Sandy. As we were talking, she told me she could see a Pine Siskin at her

feeder. Now, I do not have this bird yet on my David Cup list, so

naturally, I was quite excited. I asked Sandy to put the phone receiver up

to her stereo speakers, which she has hooked to microphones outside her

house. If I had been able to hear the siskin via her sound system over the

phone, could I have counted the bird for my David Cup list? Her house is in

the Basin.

--Still Sleepy in Ithaca

P.S. I already have Pine Siskin on my dream list, but that was last year.

Dear Still Sleepy:

Don't get me started on dream birds again!

About your question. I admit it's a real stinger to my ego--I could not

answer it. I consulted esteemed members of the David Cup committee, but

they were all useless because there is as yet no ABA (American Birding

Association) ruling on this. Thus I went right to the top and forwarded

your question to Dr. Greg Butcher, the ABA president himself. Here's what

he had to say:

"I will forward your question to Bob Pyle, Chair of our Listing Rules

Committee. I have a Sora in Illinois, based on its appearance on Soldier

Field during live telecast of a New York Giants-Chicago Bears pre-season

football game, complete with commentary by John Madden."

So, Sleepy, when I get my official ABA ruling, I'll run it in The Cup.

Meanwhile, stop stirring up trouble. As for Dr. Butcher's Sora, I'd rule

against it, since it was only a pre-season game.

DEAR TICK:

I know that seeing a species or hearing it lets you count it for the David

Cup. What about direct evidence, like finding a feather, finding a small

bird impaled on a barbed wire fence, finding a new or recently abandoned

nest, etc.? For example, I heard crows mobbing and saw feathers floating

down from a tree. I spoke with crow expert Kevin McGowan who said that this

is consistent with Great Horned Owl predation. You might think I'm trying to

pad my list--let me assure you I'm not. Personally, I want to see or hear

one of these owls, but I'm curious enough to ask.

--Curious at Cornell

Dear Curious:

You're right, I do think you're trying to pad your list, but you're not the

only one (see Sleepy in Ithaca, Cup 1.1 & 1.2.) Now, the committee has

ruled that "direct evidence" can only lead to more uncertainty. What if the

alleged crow had plucked out its own feathers, as part of a confused mating

ritual? This would explain the mobbing you heard, too. What if what you

saw floating down from the sky weren't crow feathers at all but filthy

snowflakes? So much for your Great Horned Owl! By the way, have you

considered that you may be bad luck for the birds that you're trying to see?

If you continue to see more dead ones than live ones, perhaps you should

consider taking up competitive backgammon or some other hobby so there'll be

some birds left for the rest of us.

(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)

"""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""

"Just in time for the changing of the guard. A Great Horned Owl taking over

the field as the Red-tails are leaving off. "

--Jeff Wells

"My feet are freezing."

--Casey Sutton

"I don't think anybody else has seen [the screech owl] except me and a few

undergrads I forced to stop and look at it."

--Larry Springsteen

"Don't forget Sunday, March 3. Tom Nix will lead the Cayuga Bird Club on a

full day field trip around Cayuga Lake. Tom was the leader for January in

the David Cup."

--Basin Bird Alert

"Like the ‘rabbit' in a distance race, I was used up early only to be left

ignominiously panting along the track with a stitch in my side."

--Tom Nix

"We discovered two Horned Larks battling it out. Wings flapping, breast to

breast, these two birds went skyward about 25 feet. After descending and

rising a few more times, we saw a puff of loose feather dispersing with the

wind."

--Chris Hymes

"My feet are REALLY freezing."

--Casey Sutton

"Knowing a sacrifice needed to be made, Ken stuck his head into the path of

the door."

--Steve Kelling

"When I got to the lake at Vineyard Road, it was largely goose-free."

--Bard Prentiss

"A lesson about timing: Tom found the Ross' Goose at about 5:30. I was at

Vineyard Road around 3:45 and I saw a grand total of five Canada Geese."

--Scott Mardis

"I increasingly came to believe that the birds were right there in front of

me among the mud clumps and mowed-down corn stalks. But I couldn't see

them, no matter how hard I stared. Worse yet, I thought they were laughing

at me. After I'd drive away, they'd run around, stand on each others'

shoulders, perform aerial somersaults. As soon as I'd return, they'd freeze

in place, stifling giggles. I became morose. I avoided cornfields."

--Ralph Paonessa

"While walking across Cornell's arts quad early Friday morning, I heard a

Red-tail call very close by. I looked up to see...a very gifted starling.

The bird went on to [imitate] a Blue Jay, then a Carolina Wren, then a gull,

and finally another Red-tail. Spring has finally sprung for this bird."

--Rob Scott

"Yesterday I thought I had my first Red-winged Blackbirds and Common

Grackles flying over, but then I realized that I also was hearing a talented

European Starling."

--Kevin McGowan

"[Chris Hymes] found several small owl pellets on the ground, presumably

from an Eastern Screech-Owl...Inside one of those pellets was a pink band,

and a leg fragment with a USFWS band over a lavender band. It turns out

that [that banded bird] was a Black-capped Chickadee...weighing 10.9

pounds."

--Diane Tessaglia

"The chickadee must have been feeding by the airport, where in the past,

Cornell dumped all of its radioactive waste."

--Steve Kelling

"My feet are REALLY, REALLY freezing."

--Casey Sutton

"Thanks to the extra day in February, I was able to add a whopping one bird

to my David Cup list."

--Matt Medler

"Wow, February is over already?"

--Mike Runge

:] :] :] :] :] :] :] :] :]

BACK O' THE BOOK

:] :] :] :] :] :] :] :] :]

What critics are saying...

"All Cayuga_Birders who have not enrolled in the David Cup/McIlroy

competition should do so immediately. Receiving the first issue of The Cup

makes it all worthwhile."

--Diane Tessaglia, Cupper, author, "James and the Giant

Chickadee"

"The Cup is a masterpiece."

--Bard Prentiss, Cupper, Basin bird telephone talk show host

"My cup runneth over! What an astounding accomplishment. I'm elated to be

here at the beginning of what, I'm sure, will one day become one of

birding's most celebrated monthlies."

--Rob Scott, Cupper and legendary blues critic whose essays

include the Pulitzer Prize winner, "Birding Your Blues Away"

"The first issue of The Cup was excellent. Congratulations on a very

creative and informative production!"

--Ralph Paonessa, Cupper, famed pioneer, discoverer of Goose

Island

"Fantastic job on The Cup! I'd like to order a T-shirt!"

--Dave McDermitt, world-renowned T-shirt connoisseur

"Congratulations on a magnificent job putting together the first Cup! I was

still reading it even after my lunch hour was over."

--Karl David, Cupper and producer, "Father of This Madness"

May Your Cup Runneth Over,

Allison and Jeff

Editors