Year 1, Issue 3
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Rigging Gaffer: Jeff Wells
What with a taste for ticking and tallying, one might think that Cuppers
would be the first to file their income taxes. After all, they're pretty
much the same thing, competing in the David Cup/McIlroy races and compiling
your W-2's. Both require an aptitude for mathematics, impenetrable
concentration, undying patience, and, most importantly, impeccable honor.
Really, the only difference between the two is that in order to file your
income taxes, you must buy a stamp. Since that means sacrificing valuable
birding time, there's little doubt but that your 1040 awaits, untouched, in
its own little corner of your desk in your study (or buried under overdue
library books on your kitchen counter). Now that you can no longer ignore
Uncle Sam's bony finger stabbing you in the back and have set aside an hour
or six to deduct, depreciate, and downright dig-in, The Cup 1.3, like an
Eastern Bluebird staking innocent claim to its favorite nesting site, has
taken up residence in your e-mail box. Of course, if you read it now, you
risk filing those income taxes a little late. Maybe more than a little
late. What to do?
We, the editors of The Cup, believe the answer is obvious. By filing late,
you'll face hefty late-filing fees, possible jail time, or worse, an
agonizing, shirt-off-your back audit. Fees, jail time, audits--sorry
tortures, indeed. But could anything be worse than waiting another day to
find out who's Kickin' Tail, or getting the scoop on the latest News, Cues,
and Blues? Can you really bear not knowing all about this month's Bird
Brain? Maybe--think of it!--your wisdom, insight, or amusing typos have
landed you prime time in this month's Cup Quotes!
Go ahead, indulge. Read on. Uncle Sam rules with an iron hand, but Dear
Tick holds the power of the pen...
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Just when you thought everyone foolhardy
enough to step into the fierce and feisty David Cup ring had already done
so, along comes Tom Lathrop: "Sign me up for the David Cup. I plan to be in
the Ithaca area the next two weekends, and it will give me more incentive to
get out and do some birding. I don't expect to be competitive; I may well
finish last. But at least I'll get the newsletter!" Tom, welcome. (Heh,
TEA CUPPERS: James Barry extends warm thanks to all Cuppers who attended his
recent tea. We've been told by those who were there that his interpretation
of Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" was extraordinary, and that his lilting
oration on Tennyson's "The Dying Swan" brought tears to many eyes. Other
highlights, they're saying, include Ken Rosenberg's and Martha Fischer's
free-style rap duet of Bobby Burns' "On Scaring Some Waterfowl in Loch
Turit, a Wild Scene among the Hills of Oughtertyre," which climaxed to lap
dancing and the playing of a kazoo. But those of you memorizing poetry for
upcoming teas needn't bother. "This month I won't be able to have tea hours
in my dorm room," James tells us, "but I might be willing to hold a seance
in a week or two. Lately, I've been getting the glitches out of my spells.
Heck, I have to do something to get on the leader board."
T-SHIRT UPDATE: Hard as it is to believe, our Class A T-shirt designer has
temporarily halted David Cup progress for--can you believe it?--a paying
project! Although she promises to migrate back to us very soon, those of
you who have not yet committed yourselves (huh?) have a little more time to
do so. In case we haven't yet mentioned this, the one-of-a-kind 1996 David
Cup T-shirt is expected to become a valuable collectors' item. Even better,
they'll be sold at cost ($10 or less).
SAY IT AIN'T SO!: No doubt a disproportionate number of Cuppers were glued
to their junkboxes hoping to collect on sizable bets that the Syracuse
Orangemen would rule three-point land and then some during the NCAA
tournament. By now you know they lost in the finals. Nonetheless, it is
the general consensus that Orangeman John Wallace should be held up as an
example for all Cuppers. John refused a million-dollar offer to play in the
NBA, electing instead to finish his college education and valiantly remain
with his team. Similarly, certain hot-shot Cuppers have likewise been
tempted, and rumor has it, they've already caved: come May, the David Cup's
minuscule elite will be shunning the Basin for the big time to participate
in the notorious World Series of Birding, in New Jersey. There's good
reason to believe that the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology resorted to
promises of fame and fundraising success, and when that didn't work, agreed
to provide a team mascot--Rob Scott dressed up in a Sapsucker costume.
Although we do hope they win on the Big Day, it might be nice for the rest
of us to hear that during scouting week, they got lost in Hoboken.
FOR SALE: One (1) inflatable Ross' Goose (white phase), like new, used only
two weeks. Floats, and has accessory legs for propping in cornfields. Best
offer (or will trade for Hoary Redpoll decoy). Contact Ralph Paonessa.
BIRD CUP BLUES: Those of you who opted not to go hear the world-famous,
time-tested, hot swingin' jazz sounds of the Count Basie Band March 16 at
IPAC really missed out. Fortunately, some of you had taste enough to
attend. Cupper Jim Lowe was there, shuffling and scuffling, and scrounging
up this report: "I spotted a few local birders Trav'lin' Light to the Count
Basie concert, undoubtedly hoping to add to their lists 'Round Midnight.
Watching through Them There Eyes were Jeff and Allison Wells, John Confer,
Karen Allaben-Confer, and probably others. (Alright, O.K., You Win, I can't
think of any Basie tunes with birds in the titles.) The band was great and
the vocalist sure could Sing, Sing, Sing (not like Allison, of course)."
What's that? You only care about The Blues? Well, you snickering tickers,
who do you think put "Everyday (I Got the Blues)" on the map? Joe
Williams--and the Count Basie Band! Whose sizzling, swaying "One O' Clock
Jump" has become standard for any band with a horn section worth their
chops? The Count Basie Band's! We could go on and on, but if you weren't
there, well, that isn't where you were.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
King Eider. Varied Thrush. Great Gray Owl. Yellow-billed Loon. These are
only a few of the spectacular birds Cuppers didn't find in the Basin in
March. But Gyrfalcon? Whoa! Golden Eagle? Hmmm. California Gull? Find
out for yourself.
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
Through March 31 a total of 127 species of birds have been identified in the
Cayuga Lake Basin. This is a one-month increase of around 20 species. The
first noteworthy sighting was the 24 RED-NECKED GREBES that were found by
Ken Rosenberg on Cayuga Lake off of Myers Point on March 10. This is
noteworthy due to the numbers. While lower than the numbers recorded in
1994 (>100), they still are significantly higher than last year's (2) and
are indicative (to me) of a harsh winter (great hindsight, eh?). It seems
the annual BIG PUSH of GOLDEN EAGLES occurred during the 2nd week of March.
South winds in early March brought a significant Golden Eagle movement
through the Basin--significant in that they are probably the highest daily
counts of Golden Eagles in the Northeast during the spring migration. The
one-day high was 11 on March 14. The YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD observed by
Sharon Skelly on March 24 near MNWR indicates that it is time to scan the
blackbird flocks. Sharon picked this adult male out of a flock of
blackbirds that she estimated to be 1.5 million! But by far the most
impressive find was the HOARY REDPOLL at Laura Stenzler's feeder. The
gracious openness of Laura and Tone (phonetic spelling of his name) allowed
many of us to sit in their nice warm house (I watched Oprah while others
waited in vain) and wait for the bird to arrive (which it did only 2 more
times C[K- I am learning]arl and I saw the bird on separate occasions).
What a finch year! If someone could just dig up a White-winged Crossbill,
we will have gotten all of the winter finches--something that I believe is
unheard of in the Basin. And Karl has a chance of seeing them all. And if
you are the first to guess what the winter finches are (there are 6 of them)
Jeff and Allison Wells will give you a gift (maybe a pencil!).
(Allison and Jeff: Oh.)
(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region III. He
teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and is the Basin's
top pencil pusher.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
In any fledgling society, new traditions need to be established for those
oh-so-important rites of passage--bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings,
graduations. We, the editors of The Cup, have found that as Cuppers see
more and more birds in the Cayuga Lake Basin, they need some way to mark the
occasion, a way of saying, "Yeehaww!" To that end The Cup has instituted
the 100 CLUB, which will be our (and Club members') way of congratulating
Cuppers at an important milestone in their David Cup life. April finds a
few Cuppers with a foot through the clubhouse door. But they're not in
until they tell us:
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN THE 100 CLUB?
KARL DAVID: Well, remember what happened to George Burns soon after he
Seriously, it feels good. It was the earliest I ever reached that mark, by
2 or 3 days. [Bird 100: Eastern Phoebe "The little olive-green tail-wagger
had 100' written across its T-shirt..."]
STEVE KELLING: I'd feel better if you gave out a prize; without prizes, it
feels rather like being at any number. [Bird 100: Swamp Sparrow]
TOM NIX: I think it's a small, and with April here, soon to be forgotten
milestone. As the tortoise proved to the hare, it's much better to be a
member of the 250 Club. [Bird 100: Ruddy Duck]
JEFF WELLS: It's like enjoying a frosty glass of iced tea on a hot summer
day. [Bird 100: Common Snipe]
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
AND THERE OFF! Kelling's out in front at the gate, but look, there's Hymes
picking up some Dryden Lake ducks, and there's Prentiss, they're neck and
neck, but wait, here comes David, he's got siskin, he's got
phoebe--Kelling's loosing steam--and look, here comes Wells on the inside
lane, he's rounding the turn with a kingfisher, a Fox Sparrow, oh, but look
at Nix, he's surging ahead with a slew of hawks, Kelling's not giving up,
he's not giving up, but Nix is really frothing at the bit, look at him go!
Northern Shoveler, Lesser Black-backed Gull--can you believe it, folks?
Wells and Hymes are gasping for air, they're slowing, they're slowing, but
look at David! He's moving in again--Green-winged Teal, he's got the Fox
Sparrow, but it's no use, Nix is pumped! He's really ticking up dust!
Ruddy Duck, Eastern Meadowlark--it's Nix, no, it's David, it's Nix, it's
David, they're thundering to the finish line, it's...it's...it's Nix by a
tail! He takes it with a woodcock! Oh, and look, David's going beyond a
handshake, ladies and gentlemen--what a guy!--he's giving Nix one last
1996 MARCH DAVID CUP TOTALS 1996 FEBRUARY DAVID CUP TOTALS
106 Tom Nix 83 Steve Kelling
105 Karl David 80 Karl David
101 Steve Kelling 80 Tom Nix
100 Jeff Wells 78 Chris Hymes
99 Chris Hymes 78 Bard Prentiss
99 Bard Prentiss 78 Jeff Wells
96 Allison Wells 76 Allison Wells
95 Ralph Paonessa 75 Scott Mardis
94 Scott Mardis 71 Ken Rosenberg
92 Ken Rosenberg 68 Ralph Paonessa
89 Kevin McGowan 67 Kevin McGowan
84 Meena Haribal 64 Carol Bloomgarden
81 Martha Fischer 62 Meena Haribal
77 John Bower 58 Bill Evans
75 Kurt Fox 58 Kurt Fox
73 Rob Scott 54 Martha Fischer
70 Casey Sutton 54 Rob Scott
69 Jay McGowan 49 Michael Runge
68 Larry Springsteen 48 Pixie Senesac
65 Diane Tessaglia 47 Jay McGowan
64 Carol Bloomgarden 44 James Barry
57 Jim Lowe 42 Jim Lowe
51 Michael Runge 40 Casey Sutton
50 James Barry 39 Matt Medler
45 Matt Medler 37 Larry Springsteen
30 Dan Scheiman 28 Diane Tessaglia
24 Tom Lathrop 27 Dan Scheiman
8 Kristen Grotke
1996 MARCH McILROY AWARD TOTALS FEBRUARY TOTALS
73 Allison Wells 51 Jeff Wells
73 Jeff Wells 44 Martha Fischer
69 Kevin McGowan 43 Allison Wells
64 John Bower 42 Ken Rosenberg
60 Larry Springsteen 42 Rob Scott
58 Martha Fischer 41 Scott Mardis
58 Ken Rosenberg 39 Kevin McGowan
58 Rob Scott 37 Jim Lowe
57 Scott Mardis 37 Tom Nix
49 Chris Hymes 36 Carol Bloomgarden
49 Jim Lowe 31 Michael Runge
47 Tom Nix 29 Bill Evans
46 Karl David 27 Casey Sutton
44 Casey Sutton 25 Jay McGowan
40 Jay McGowan 8 Diane Tessaglia
39 Ralph Paonessa
36 Carol Bloomgarden
34 Michael Runge
24 Matt Medler
21 Diane Tessaglia
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Tom's list is NOT Steve's list with a few new birds tacked on. It's
actually more like Karl's list, which is closer to Steve's list except a
little longer. But of course Tom's is longer still, but only by one--he has
one more than Karl--but many more than Steve, who has many, many more than
some of us but not as many as Karl, and not as many as Tom, who has more
than everybody but not a lot more than Karl who has only one less than Tom
but more than Steve and the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue
Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Snow Goose, Ross' Goose, Canada Goose, Wood
Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail,
Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canvasback,
Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Common
Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted
Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier,
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel,
Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, American Coot, Killdeer,
American Woodcock, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser
Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove,
Mourning Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Short-eared Owl,
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy
Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Horned
Lark, Tree Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven,
Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,
White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet,
Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, American Pipit,
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, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed
Cowbird, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, American
Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.
Add to Tom's list (above) the following species and you'll have the entire
list of birds seen in January, February, and March (unless, of course, one
of you haven't fessed up to finding that White-winged Crossbill):
Double-crested Cormorant, Oldsquaw, White-winged Scoter, Merlin, Greater
Yellowlegs, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed
Woodpecker,Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Hermit
Thrush, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow,
White-crowned Sparrow,Yellow-headed Blackbird, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch,
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to scope in the spring birding season 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, pole-vaulted, and otherwise made his/her way to the
top of the David Cup list. Despite Karl's scrappy pick-'em-ups around the
Lab of O, Tom's back for Kickin' Tail, Round II. Don't worry about Steve,
he's already recovered nicely. But that's another month...
THE CUP: Tom, you've done it again. Magnifant! How does it feel to be
Kickin' Tail for the second time?
NIX: First let me say that I tried to avoid this interview, being of mixed
emotions, since I'd love to be ahead each month but don't want to read my
own interview each issue, but you insisted. I'm ahead, but only barely; any
one of a number of people could have been in first place. I admit to being a
little surprised to be in the lead and I suspect that the bad weather may
have retarded migration a little, so that the high list might not be as high
as it could be.
THE CUP: Of course, we'll be careful not to ask you the same questions as
before--we know now that your favorite color is the red on a Eurasian
Wigeon's head (a color we enjoyed ourselves recently!) Where was your most
productive March birding location and what did you see there?
NIX: Mount Pleasant, with Golden Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern
Goshawk, and first TV, Common Raven, Great Blue Heron, and American Pipits.
THE CUP (this question submitted by guest co-interviewer Casey Sutton): What
the heck do you do for a living?
NIX: I work as a building inspector for the City of Ithaca, which hasn't
very birdy job. I did see a Wood Duck in Six-mile Creek while on the job,
and (as one smirking Cupper pointed out on the Net) narrowly missed seeing
a Merlin over City Hall.
THE CUP: Amazing, then, that you've ever made Top Tail at all. People at
the Lab of O are pretty spoiled, when you think of it, with all those
feeders right outside their workplace. No use hissing over lost feathers,
though. If you could bird at only one place in the Basin in April, where
would it be?
NIX: I'd really like to see Steve's Eurasian Wigeon, so probably the
of the lake, or Montezuma, remembering also that Coach Brinkley emphasized
that there are more rarities to be found among the water birds than among
the land birds.
THE CUP: We don't want to rub this in again, but having seen that wigeon for
ourselves, we do hope you'll make it up there. Of course, it took us two
trips to find it. Which makes us wonder, do your kids watch birds?
NIX: They enjoy the big colorful ones that stand still, like ducks, but
interest in LBJs.
THE CUP: We can't blame them. What fun is there in watching a dead
president? No doubt you're already scheming to see certain birds in April.
What are they?
NIX: Well, the aforementioned wigeon. Of course, a couple of falcons,
Sharp-tailed Sparrow, King Rail (why not aim high?)
THE CUP: Here! Here!
NIX: And first warblers (Orange-crowned would be a lifer).
THE CUP (Sutton): Does your family follow your standings in the David
THE CUP: Certainly it's a nerve-wracking ordeal, this whole David
Cup/McIlroy thing. (Sutton): Where did you get your most memorable cup of
coffee in March?
NIX: By far the worst, completely burnt, was from the convenience store near
Cayuga Lake State Park. I've enjoyed a couple of cold ones on the drive
around the lake, but Ithaca Bakery wins my allegiance.
THE CUP: What do you think the winning David Cup total will be?
NIX: 250 or 251. I doubt anyone will beat Ned and Adam's record.
THE CUP: Can we look forward to chatting with you again in the next issue?
NIX: ¿Quien sabe?
THE CUP: [Translated, that means "Does anyone else really stand a chance?"]
Good point. And we'll end with it.
?????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ???????????????????????
The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls, and
by scanning misdirected e-mail messages, 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 skywriting.
We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow March's PIONEER PRIZE upon Chris
Hymes. Chris went above and beyond the call of Cupper duty by virtually
adopting the Red Crossbills he and Bard Prentiss found last month at the
Dodge Road spruce grove. As a result of his faithfulness (which, we're
told, included him lullabying them at dusk), everyone who put in the effort
to see the crossbills was likely rewarded. To you, Chris, a coveted David
Cup Pioneer Pencil!
SCRAWL OF FAME
A Blue Note
I have to admit, when I read the first edition of the esteemed The Cup, I
wondered what the Bird Cup Blues was going to be about. Blues, huh? Must be
about them Eastern Bluebirds, or maybe Blue Jays, perhaps Indigo Buntings or
Blue Grosbeaks, I thought. Nope. Not even the Blue Darter or the Little Blue
Darter made its way in. So, I was baffled ...
... until I made my first trip of the year down into radio-range of Ithaca.
My programmed radio stations weren't coming in, so I hit the scan. I ended
up on the Saturday morning 93.5 radio show, Crossroads--The Blues!
I pulled into Myers Point and instead of turning down the radio (which was
sufficiently cranked) when I rolled down the window, I left it on. It was
then that I noticed them birds. They were tuned into the same radio
frequency I was! (Have any of you Lab of O acolytes studied this
phenomena?) The radio was belting out Etta James. The Common Goldeneye were
tossing their heads back, yelping "OOOh yeahs" and "Yoooowww!!" just as the
regular clientele do in The Haunt. I watched this display for minutes on
end. Perfect rhythm. One male would rally his head back, and the others in
the group, not to be outdone, matched him (silent) shout for shout. My
attention turned to the coots as the song ended and the next tune kicked in.
Mere coots? No way. These coots were strutting about, bobbing their heads to
John Lee Hooker as he wailed out the lyrics. Ice pickin'? Yeah, well that's
what those gulls were doing as Albert Collins wah-wah'ed his gee-tar.
Then it hit me like a black cat bone ... it must be something in the water
down there. I wonder what I need to blast out my window if I want to reel in
a Barrow's Goldeneye, some Bessie Smith? Sapphire? I think I'll try Koko
(Kurt Fox is a full-time birder, though he holds a daytime job as a
engineer at Eastman Kodak Co. to help pay for birding expeditions with
his wife Jeannine. He now travels to Ithaca regularly in order to fill
empty milk jugs with the blue waters of Cayuga Lake.)
(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
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
Ever since The Cup first appeared long, long ago, Ken Rosenberg has been
begging us to let him write the Coach's Corner. Since he's no good at
center field, we decided to give him a chance at pitching. Turns out, he's
darned good at it--heck, he's even coined his own phrase ("pure transient"
should make Noah Webster all squinny-eyed with envy). But even if we hadn't
known beforehand that Ken would be a clever Coach, we'd still honor him.
Anyone who'll take a concussion or two for the sake of seeing a few good
birds (see The Cup 1.2) has "IMMORTALITY" emblazoned across his forehead.
COACH'S CORNER: As winter loosens its icy grip (or does it? Four inches of
snow as I write this on Easter Sunday), Cuppers are anxiously awaiting the
inexorable onslaught of spring migrants into the Cayuga Lake Basin --
dreaming of hitting that really big wave and turning the leader board upside
down. Indeed new species will be coming fast and furious, and every Basin
birder will have a chance to greatly increase her/his list and take a shot
at the leaders. Although all of us will be basking in the welcome spring
thaw and thoroughly enjoying each new avian arrival, we must not lose sight
of our ultimate objective -- as large a total year list as possible. This
objective requires a well-considered strategy, and some discipline. For
example, don't be lulled into lingering at that early wave of beautiful but
common warblers and vireos in Sapsucker Woods and pass up the dull little
Orange-crown that Ralph Paonessa finds at Myer's Point.
The most important element of a successful spring-migration strategy is
knowing which species are "pure transients" in the Basin and therefore must
be seen during the relatively short migration season. The vast majority of
spring arrivals and migrants also stay to breed somewhere in the Cayuga Lake
Basin; therefore most of these species are reliably found later in summer,
after the frenzy of migration dies down. Some, however, are heading for
breeding grounds far to our north and must be ticked as they pass through.
For many of these, we'll have a second chance in the fall, but some are more
easily found (or identified) in spring and should not be taken for granted.
A good way to start planning is by using the list of average spring arrival
dates compiled by Charlie Smith and rearranged in chronological order by
Dave Mellinger (posted on CayugaBirds 4/1/96). This list is an excellent
guide for what to expect on any given date, although many of the
sought-after rarities are omitted. Many of the earliest migrants are also
local breeders. Exceptions that you should make an effort to see in April
include raptors like Golden Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Goshawk
(rare breeder), Peregrine, and Merlin; other exceptions include uncommon
waterfowl (scoters, oldsquaw), Rusty Blackbird, and Fox Sparrow. Among the
earliest spring warblers, Palm and Orange-crowned are easily missed.
Rarities that should be looked for and chased in April include Eurasian
Wigeon (already found), Black-headed and Little Gull, Loggerhead Shrike,
Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.
As migration gets into full swing in late April and early May, keep the
following species in mind that cannot be found later as breeders: Caspian
Tern, Bonaparte's Gull, White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrow, Cape-May,
Tennessee, Northern Parula, Golden-winged, Wilson's, Bay-breasted, and
Blackpoll warblers, Philadelphia Vireo, Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush,
and, a little later, Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers. In
addition, some uncommon shorebirds appear regularly in spring: Red Knot,
Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, and Whimbrel. Finally, a few species
that are rare breeders may be more reliable as spring migrants: Upland
Sandpiper, Whip-poor-will, Sora, Virginia Rail, Purple Martin, Cliff
Swallow, Pine Warbler, and Prairie Warbler.
Another point to keep in mind is that migrants rarely linger more than a day
or so and some stay in one place only a few hours. In winter you had the
luxury of trying five times for birds like Ross' Goose and Short-eared Owl,
but not anymore. If possible, chase birds immediately after they are
reported (and please, report your finds as quickly as possible so others may
chase your birds, too!).
Although the temptation will be there to forsake family and job to spend
every waking hour in the field, most of us must economize our birding time.
To efficiently cover the spring migration, keep your eye on the weather and
take advantage of the best conditions. On April days with warm south winds,
head for Mt. Pleasant on your lunch hour and check the lakeshores as often
as possible. Always watch the sky. On those cool, drizzly days in early
May, head for any patch of woods where migrants will concentrate -- Stewart
Park Golf Course, Sapsucker Woods, Mundy Wildflower Garden, and Monkey Run
are some local favorites, but even your own backyard may be productive.
(Hint: spruce groves seem to be particularly attractive to northern
migrants, such as Cape May, Tennessee, and Bay-breasted warblers). Try to
hit Montezuma Refuge during the last few days of April for peak waterfowl
flights, and a chance for rare shorebirds, gulls, terns, and rails. If you
can't get to Montezuma, try Dryden Lake. If you're goal is the prestigious
McIlroy Award, get out to the lighthouse at Stewart Park as often as
possible to spot those waterbirds on their way to Montezuma, and scour the
Cornell Plantations and Sapsucker Woods -- don't wait for Jeff and Steve to
post their morning totals.
Remember, too, that the game is still young. Don't be intimidated by the
early leaders' sprint from the gate. There's barely a species seen so far
that can't be picked up by the rest of us in the next few weeks or cleaned
up next fall or winter. We're all in this competition to maximize our
precious time in the field, to sharpen our skills, to better our
understanding of the common birds around us as well as the dream birds that
might cross our paths. So, get out there, find some good birds, write down
what you see, call or post your sightings to the communal lists, and send
your Kingbird report to Steve Kelling at the end of the season.
(Ken Rosenberg, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist of the Bird Population Studies
department at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and has recently
initiated a Cup sub-competition, The Bowl.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Let it be known that the editors of The Cup came dang close to not running
McIlroy Musings this month. The interview started out with a snicker and
got digressively uglier. By the end, the air was so thick with malevolence
you couldn't penetrate it with a Kowa TSN-4. Nonetheless, the editors
decided to remain true to The Cup's faithful readers and run the nasty thing
but with this disclaimer: The following does not necessarily reflect the
views of The Cup, the editors of The Cup, advertisers in The Cup, or family
members thereof. The interviewee(s) is (are) solely responsible for the
ALLISON: So, you thought you could get away with it all these months. Well,
Baby, I caughtcha!
JEFF: I wasn't keeping anything from you--
ALLISON: What, leaving at the crack of dawn under the guise of getting to
work early? Didn't you think I knew what you were doing along the way?
JEFF: Aha! That's why you've been walking me to work. It wasn't out of
love, it was out of jealousy!
ALLISON: Yes, yes, it's true. Do you think I'm proud of that?
JEFF: Yes, I do. I think you've been enjoying this little game.
ALLISON: Me? What about you! Calling me on the phone to tell me what you
can see from your window over there at the Lab--
JEFF: Well, you don't exactly keep your eyes focused on the ground when
you're out jogging.
ALLISON: And it's a good thing I don't. I would never have caught you.
JEFF: You won't catch me again. Spring is here, and you know what that
ALLISON: It means I'll be leaving you behind. I need to be by myself. I'm
tired of sharing the McIlroy title with you.
JEFF: I guess we should feel fortunate to have shared the Big 73.
ALLISON: Perhaps we'll meet again at 100?
JEFF: Perhaps...did you here there's a Black Scoter off Stewart Park?
ALLISON: Really? Let's go!
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
Now that The Cup 1.1 and 1.2 have established why the David Cup and McIlroy
Award are aptly named, the question has no doubt been weighing heavily on
your mind: Who'll be the next Bird Brain of the Month?
Postulate no more. Our featured Bird Brain for The Cup 1.3 is none other
than Jeff Wells, the coeditor himself! Mind you, Jeff fluttered and
squawked in protest (the word "nepotism" flew around, as it did in creating
The Cup 1.2), but Allison, being coeditor--and more powerful still, his
wife--over-ruled his veto, in the interest of fellow Cuppers. Indeed, she
happens to know that Jeff's new job will be of interest to you, Gentle
Readers. You see, he's now the...nah, find out for yourselves:
He's coeditor of the prestigious newsletter, The Cup. You've seen his
impressive tick totals in the Pilgrims' Progress report--why, he's been the
McIlroy leader an unprecedented number of times! He's led bird trips for
the Cayuga Bird Club, and can even be seen from time to time filling the
feeders behind the Lab of O's green trailers. By now, you probably feel as
though you know him.
But you may not know that Jeff Wells was in elementary school when he made
his first tick: a Song Sparrow, near his family's home in the northern Maine
town of Masardis. "Unfortunately," he says, "we moved before I realized
that we had Gray Jays and Spruce Grouse in the backyard!" During those
young, formative years, Jeff's family frequently made the five-hour car ride
to their ancestral farmhouse overlooking the Sheepscot River in North
Edgecomb, nestled along Maine's central coast. Here, Jeff enjoyed taking
meticulous notes about his observations of nature. "I remember seeing what
I was pretty sure were Ruffed Grouse tracks in the snow," he says. "I
really wanted to see one, so I spent hours following them, and they led me
to an unsuspecting grouse, strutting around in the understory."
By the time he was in high school, Jeff had become an avid naturalist. So
when the family moved to the city of Bangor, he was soon an active member of
the Bangor Nature Club and the Penobscot Valley Audubon Society. It soon
became commonplace for he and several of the other spontaneous members of
the clubs to go racing off in zealous quests for birds. "They set the
example: Don't let anything stand between you and a life bird!"
After graduating from high school, Jeff pursued another of his lifelong
passions, jazz music. It was as a trumpet major in college (he studied with
Chuck Winfield, screech trumpet player for Blood, Sweat, and Tears!) that he
met his wife-to-be, Allison Childs, a jazz vocal major, a warm, kind,
loving, gentle person, and most importantly, a birder. After realizing his
primary reason for attending post-secondary school in the first place
(securing the woman of his dreams), Jeff decided to devote the remainder of
his formal education to ecology.
In 1988, Jeff came to Cornell for his master's, the focus of which was
reanalyzing an historic Ruffed Grouse study from the pre-computer 1930's.
He received his M.S. in 1992. Jeff went o to pursue his Ph.D. at Cornell
under Dr. Milo Richmond. His thesis investigated theories and practical
applications of biogeography and conservation, for which he used the Maine
state-endangered Grasshopper Sparrow population at the Kennebunk Plains, in
southern coastal Maine as a model. In May of 1995, he was paroled for good
behavior. "They tried to stop me at the last minute with a couple of figure
margins that were a sixteenth of an inch too small but I was too quick for
Over the years Jeff has worked in various capacities as a conservationist.
He spent one summer as a field assistant for a study of breeding birds in
various habitats in northern Maine, where he also served as bait for whining
hordes of blackflies. He's counted Piping Plovers and banded Least Terns
along the Maine coast, one of the rewards of which included being bombed by
angry terns. "I can still remember the unusual sensation of standing on a
beautiful beach with hot guano being slung full-speed into my face." For
three summers, Jeff was the primary field assistant for a project on the
Kennebunk Plains in southern coastal Maine, studying the effects of
herbicide treatment on this grassland habitat. His efforts were
instrumental in the purchase of the land as a state wildlife preserve. (It
was those summers at the Plains that led him to base his Ph.D. work there.)
Jeff has also done threatened/endangered species censusing work for The
Nature Conservancy and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
and has taught courses in wildlife management and wildlife ecology at
Jeff's first scientific investigation in avian ecology was initiated while
still an undergraduate, when he founded Dump Duck Day, a volunteer-based
study of the distribution and abundance of wintering gulls in Maine. "It
was inspired in part by the many romantic lunches Allison and I shared at
the Farmington Landfill between classes," he says. Dump Duck Day results
were published in the Journal of Field Ornithology. This affinity for gulls
explains, of course, why mere mention of the words "Niagara Falls" in
November promptly increases Jeff's blood pressure and causes him to salivate
with a ferocity not unlike the Niagara River itself.
Jeff has published many scientific papers and has received numerous awards,
though he forbids the writer to elaborate (the dastardly "N" word again).
He's also given uncountable talks at scientific meetings and at local bird
clubs throughout the northeast. He's led field trips for the Lab of O, the
Maine Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and other conservation
In 1994 , Jeff came to the Lab of O to work on a project for Partners in
Flight, assessing the conservation status of neotropical migratory birds in
the northeast U.S. After completing the project (during which he worked
closely with the Lab's Chief Scientist Ken Rosenberg), he became a research
associate at the Lab, his major responsibility being analyzing data that
many Cuppers no doubt collected, as Project FeederWatch participants.
This past March, Jeff became the New York State Coordinator for the
Important Bird Areas program, under the National Audubon Society. The goals
of the program are to identify critical bird breeding, migratory stop-over,
and feeding areas in New York State. The purpose of this identification
will be to develop conservation strategies that ensure the protection of
these key bird habitats. Sites will be identified by soliciting site
nominations from bird clubs (like the Cayuga Bird Club!), Audubon chapters,
and individuals, including, he hopes, some of our own Cuppers. Through an
enthusiastic agreement between the Lab of O and National Audubon, Jeff's
position is being housed at the Lab. This means that Cuppers will continue
to be forced to read The Cup, as it appears according to the whims of
Allison and Jeff.
When asked what his next goal in life is, Jeff had this to say: "I want to
take the McIlroy competition. I've got a corner on Sapsucker Woods, and
Stewart Park is just down the hill," he says. "However, my most valuable
asset for a McIlroy victory is also my worst liability: my wife. You see,
her next goal in life is the same as mine."
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,
(In The Cup 1.2, Dear Tick received from a troubled Cupper a particularly
difficult question that required a little hobnobbing. Since then, Dear Tick
has come through! The original query has been republished here:
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
--Still Sleepy in Ithaca
As you recall, your question was passed along to ABA president Greg Butcher.
Greg, probably fearing the loss of that Sora from his Illinois list, passed
the query off to Robert Pyle, ABA Listing Rules Committee Chair. Here's
what Pyle has to say:
"The pertinent rule states simply that the bird must be identified by
the lister him/herself either visually or audibly. Virtually all birders
would agree that birds observed with aid of binoculars or scope are
countable. For the audio analog, use of parabolic reflector and earphones
to enhance a distant bird call would also have to allow the bird to be
countable as heard, although some birders would have to think about this for
a bit...What about using your microphone to feed a bird call into a
telephone line, sent 1000 miles away, and listened to "live" in real time?
If these birds are to be countable, there must be a clear distinction
between these techniques and the photo image and recordings sent 1000 miles
away. If these are to be not countable, there must be a clear distinction
between these techniques and the binoculars and earphones."
How's that for restating the question? Since neither the ABA nor the David
Cup committee has the guts to draw a line in the sand, DEAR TICK will do the
drawing: No, Sleepy, you cannot count that siskin. I had a lousy cup of
coffee this morning.
If I remember correctly, Benjamin Franklin advised, "Moderation in all
things." Aren't Cuppers "flying" in the face of the considerable opinion of
America's beloved sage?
--Brainy Cup Benchwarmer
Typical of you brainy types, you've taken Ben's words out of context to suit
your own purposes, in this case, justifying why you're vital signs as an
honest-to-goodness Cup contender are weak. The quote in its entirety reads,
"Moderation in all things that may cause you to be struck by lightning."
Since the only kites Cuppers are interested in are Snail, Swallow-tailed,
and Mississippi, you needn't worry yourself. Now get off the bench and into
When I stopped near the Triangle Diner yesterday my dog and I both saw the
Short-eared Owl. Can pets sign up for the David Cup?
--Dogs' Best Friend
Dear Dog's Best Friend:
Did you have dinner at the Triangle? If "Spot" sat across from you at the
booth and asked for something other than a doggy bag, then by all means,
sign her up! But remember: your dog may already have more ticks than
If a phoebe called in the woods and I didn't hear it, was it really singing?
Can I count it for my David Cup/McIlroy lists?
--Philosophical in Sapsucker Woods
Of course you can. (Remember, send your check to my post office box, not my
I submit that Ned Brinkley's suggestion that the selective birder can find
255 birds in the Basin with less than 200 days afield is the equivalent of
suggesting that a barefoot, scantily clad teenager can climb Mt. Everest
with no oxygen and a 100-lb. pack. S/he who accomplishes this is toying
--Doubtful in Ithaca
Sacrilege! And on sacred David Cup soil! I can only surmise that it is the
jealous residue of not being featured in Kickin' Tail. Sorry to further
embitter you, Doubtful, but in reference to your barefoot, scantily clad
teenager climbing Mt. Everest, the David Cup's own Bill Evans has already
accomplished such a feat--and with an expensive night call recorder in one
hand, a chaise lounge in the other, and a six pack of Rolling Rock clenched
between his teeth. You should consider trying it yourself, it may well
level your mountain of hostility.
If buttered toast always lands buttered side down, and a cat always lands on
its feet, what would happen if you tied a piece of buttered toast on a cat
and dropped it?
--Confused at Cornell
The real question here is, why would anyone tie a piece of buttered toast to
a cat? That's so cruel. Use Nuttala Hazelnut Spread, or better yet, a
cream-cheese-and-bagel combo. Otherwise, you're risking a visit from
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Lately it has been really exciting seeing people get involved in seeing
many of the bird highlights that have occurred in the Cayuga Lake Basin.
The friendly competition of the David Cup and McIlroy Award has ignited a
fire in quite a few people in this area to get out and see birds."
"Most of us who "bird," I think, bird not just to see but also to feel..but
we often don't share these emotions in public. It's been wonderful to read
about them and to experience vicariously."
"Longspur, Oh, Longspur! I sing a song of Longspurs! Is there ever a sight
more satisfying than the one you've really worked for? After more trips to
King Ferry than I am willing to mention, Heather and I finally found a
Longspur among the field birds near King Ferry. Ah, yes."
"I watched [the Short-eared Owl] for 10 minutes hoping it would do
other than swivel its head back and forth. It finally shifted in the tree
from a side view to straight on. Pretty neat."
"This morning, Bard Prentiss and I ran into each other at Dryden Lake."
"While scanning across a loose group of gulls on the edge of the ice I saw
one that looked 'good'."
"I surmised that the eagle had dived down to capture a snipe but had gotten
snarled in the mud and was then set upon by the brethren snipe."
"On Sunday afternoon, in the trees at the middle of the commons, looking
down on the little padded children's play area, was a kestrel. I watched
for a while, and walked around to get better views, but at least while
I was there it didn't get any small dogs (or small children)."
"These are my totals (without cheating and adding in either the Red-bellied
Woodpecker or the Brown-headed Cowbirds I saw today [April]."
"Ha det bra! (Swedish/Norwegian for I'm going to catch you, Nix and
"Crows are good."
"We watched [the Red Crossbills] hang upside down pulling out the seeds and
doing all sort of things."
"As the eponymous honoree of the David Cup, I feel the weight of
set an example ... so, in vain pursuit once again of the mythical Pine
Siskins on Dodge Rd.. Tuesday afternoon (only a "slight" detour on my way
home), I saw an Eastern Phoebe there for Cup bird #100...The feeling was
exactly like that of seeing an old friend again after a prolonged absence."
"Even though you haven't invited readers to vote for quotable quotes, if I
could I'd nominate Ned Brinkley's 'water is your friend' (from Coaches
Corner, The Cup 1.2). While it elegantly distills the powerful tick
strategy of concentrating one's Basin birding time near the lake, standing
alone it is sufficiently ambiguous that it becomes humorous. Moreover, in
the midst of a dissertation on birding the interior of NY State, I believe
Ned has managed to surreptitiously slide in an off-handed plug for pelagic
"I saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker fly into a nearby Sugar Maple. As I watched
the bird, it proceeded to fly to icicles that were hanging off the
would reach down and lick/sip the droplets off the end of the
icicles...Realizing that there was no roof edges to create such an icicles,
I realized that this was not mere ice, but frozen sap from broken maple
branches ... sap-sicles ... or natures very own pop-sicles."
"This AM on Dryden Lake, on about 2 acres of open water, I saw 49 Mallards,
11 Black Ducks, 20 Canada Geese, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Bufflehead, 5 Ring-necked
Ducks, 1 Hooded Merg., 1 Northern Shrike, 1 Great Blue Heron, 2 Song
6 Red-winged Blackbirds, and a good variety of winter regulars."
"Please note: the last 4 species I listed this AM as in about 2 acres
water were in fact on land or in trees as is their habit. "
"Whasamatter Bard, afraid that the CayugaBirds harpies will pick on you for
your imprecision? Afraid to see your quote in the next The Cup?"
"I am humbled--nay, AWESTRUCK--that you have seen fit to bestow upon me
the honorific Pioneer Prize for those birds that I so happily located in the
month of February. I did not do this for any personal gain or glory, but
my tiny contribution to the whole of Basin birding. Indeed, I take as my
model none other than Mother Theresa, and I think of her often while birding
(e.g., "Would Mother Theresa throw rocks at these gulls to get them to
move?") Still, almost one month has passed, and I have come to a painful
realization: there is no money involved in this award. (The beautiful David
Cup Pencil sits on my bureau, until I can get someone to sharpen it; I
treasure it. Truly.) Therefore, if space permits, please run this ad for
me in a future edition of The Cup."
"No rufous 'tail, but on the way to look for the Red Crossbills had great
looks at a Cooper's Hawk and met up with a group of people watching the Red
Crossbills. They are wonderful, and if cooperative, can be easily seen from
"Rob, it's nice to know the crossbill watchers were wonderful,
cooperative and easily seen from the road. How about the crossbills?"
"Since I see I am on my way to fame, joining the ranks of the 10 lb.
chickadee reporters and the screech-owl-bathroom-habits reporters, let me
say that *both* the crossbills and the birdwatchers were wonderful. Ralph
let me look through his great Swarovski scope, and the birds sweetly came to
trees near the road for fantastic views in the early afternoon sun."
"I saw an Eastern Phoebe at 7:00am this chillllly Wednesday morning at Larch
"Cut out the beef, vote Congress out, and enjoy the birds. Last one to 200
species is a rotten egg."
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff