Year 1, Issue 5
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Stage Lighting: Jeff Wells
Now that the feathery fury of May has slacked to a few slow-poke
species, you're surely (or shall we say "sorely"?) beginning to realize
just what a toll spring migration has taken on you. All those desperate
spur-of-the-moment jaunts for the elusive Gotta Hav'em Birds have turned
your legs to driftwood. Your rotator cuffs, once fluid as a ballet in
their graceful up-and-down routines as you bin for every chirp, flutter,
and skulk, now move with all the efficiency of hardened concrete. Then
there's that awful, nagging warbler neck--make that
vireo-oriole-grosbeak-bunting-warbler neck. None of these
post-migratory ailments, though, compare to the magic your eyes have of
late been performing for you. You know, the old
trick, and the infamous
now-you-see-a-Yellow-bellied-Flycatcher-now-you-don't routine. As you
sit at your computer now, the cursor blinking at you like a cautionary
yellow traffic light (yes, that's the cursor, not the undulating flight
of yet another goldfinch), you realize the May Madness has just been too
much, that even if you wanted to chase a
Yellow-throated Warbler now, you couldn't.
Well, since you've gone this far with the whole resignation thing, you
may as well keep reading. The Cup, after all, has been nothing but good
to you so far--no lumber legs, no stiff arms, no warbler neck. Assuming
you don't let Dear Tick under your skin, you just might come away from
The Cup 1.5 feeling remedied and ready to chase the next Sharp-tailed
Sandpiper...before it turns into a Pectoral.
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: It's official! Anne James is now a bona
fide Cupper! "After being mauled by a pack of Cuppers in the Lab of O.
parking lot, apparently at your bidding, I have decided to enter the
ranks of David Cup participants (to help flesh out the lower ranks),"
says Anne, a sparkle of pride in her eye. "At the very least, it will
allow me to keep an eye on the slanderous gossip you generate." (Well,
it looked like pride to us.) To those of you who did the mauling, your
checks are in the mail.
T-SHIRT UPDATE: The T-shirt campaign was a big success, measured not only by
the 50 or so David Cup T's ordered by Cuppers and Cupper Should-be's,
but more so by the birding good fortune that has kettled around those
who wear their T's birding. It was only minutes after purchasing his
spiffy T that Karl David flew off to the municipal golf course and
enjoyed a hardy scopeful of Marbled Godwit, found by Cupper Kevin
McGowan just hours before. Casey Sutton did a quick-change into his
before skittering away for the same bird and--presto!--the godwit was
his. He wore it the next day on a trip with the Wells' to Montezuma and
ticked up over a dozen new birds! Jeff and Allison, also in their
David Cup T's, plucked a spectacular 15 and 10, respectively, new DC
birds from the Basin haystack, including the much coveted Upland
Sandpiper found by Bard Prentiss at the airport. In short, if you're
not wearing your David Cup T--or, heaven forbid, you were too cheap to
fork out the lousy $10--you may as well blow a kiss to the competition
as it flutters slowly out of your grasp.
SIGNING UP: Move over, Carl Sagan. Out of the way, Stephen Hawkins.
Not surprisingly, Cuppers have moved to the forefront of earth-quaking
scientific research. One of our roving reporters brought to our
attention a June 6 posting on CAYUGABIRDS by Chris Hymes, apparently too
humble to inform us of his find himself. Chris writes of his Danby
birding expedition with fellow Cuppers Diane Tessaglia and Jim Lowe, "We
had a big success with the Worm-eating Warbler...The bird was pretty
much constantly signing..." Although this is the first recorded
incidence of birds using sign language, there is still some uncertainty
as to whether the bird was signing to establish territory to its
hearing-impaired rivals or to ask its mate what it would like for dinner
without having to give its presence away to the researchers. We look
forward to future reports on this ground-breaking work. Meanwhile,
expect the words "Nobel Prize" to crop up in the near
"'DO"ING THE RIGHT THING: Many of you may not yet had the chance to
notice but Cupper Rob Scott recently had his long, silken locks
scissored to a lean '90's look. Although it looks fabulous, we're told
that the reason Rob put himself on the chopping block was so he'd be
competitive in the David Cup. Less hair=less wind resistance=quicker
reaction time to reported rarities and more efficient birding activity
in the field=finding more birds=higher David Cup totals. If you, too,
want to be more competitive in the David Cup, Rob may (or may not) be
willing to give you the name of his stylist.
THE BIG 4-0: Happy Birthday to the flamingos that gaze eternally at the
lawnbetween the trailers at the Lab of O. The pink plastic posers,
who've relieved many a Lab Cupper with daydreams of one day seeing the
real thing, turned 40 in May. That is, one Donald Featherstone created
the archetype 40 years ago. Since then, "Greater Flamingo" has been
appearing on checklists everywhere. But Cuppers, don't get your hopes
up. Dear Tick has spoken:
"The Lab's ornamental flamingos shall not be allowed to be counted for
the David Cup/McIlroy competitions. They're not ripe yet."
SPIES T: We received an anonymous note that Cupper Ken Rosenberg was
spotted in his David Cup T at Myer's Point over Memorial Day weekend,
where he was apparently trying to use it as justification for free
admittance into the park. "You see," Ken was overheard saying, "I
really want to win this
thing. Please don't make me pay, I need to save every penny for gas,
for my mid-week birding breakfasts at Long Point. Just let me look for
a Tricolored Heron in there and I'll come right back out." "Under one
condition," the park attendant said. "Let me hear you imitate the song
of Myrmoborus myotherinus, of the humid, terra firme forests of the
eastern slope of the Andies and Amazonian Brazil." Ken, we're told,
confidently obliged. "Wrong!" the attendant guffawed. "That's
Myrmoborus melanurus, of northeast Peru. Looks like the picnic's over
for you, buddy!" Ken, the note reads, has been waiting in line ever since.
FEATHER-BRAINED FAREWELL: Congratulations--and goodbye?--to Matt Medler
and James Barry. Despite being formidable Cuppers--and, in James' case,
the UNO champion of the world--they both managed to graduate from
Cornell in May. Medler has taken up birding in Sweden, under the guise
of being a field assistant for some poor sucker. James, well, we don't
really know about James. But then, we never did. Suffice to say that
should he leave town, his High Teas will be missed by all. And it's
time to say goodbye for the summer to Dan Scheiman, who's shirked his
Cupper duties in the name of summer research. We'll look for your totals
in the fall, Dan; you should be about even with the Sapsuckers by then.
"IRON"ING THINGS OUT: Forget Time and Newsweek. If you want
hard-hitting news about life's most important issue--birding--all you
need is The Cup. We've not only got the stories, we've got the news
makers themselves. Tough, rumble-tumble types like Cupper Bard
Prentiss. Little did Bard know his life was in danger when he zipped
off to follow a lead on an Upland Sandpiper (at an undisclosed location,
for the safety of Cuppers--not the one at the airport). While scanning
for the bird with his bins, an irate man bolted out of a house across
the road. "He ran up to me, arms flailing," says Bard. "I was in my
hippymobile [Volkswagon Bus] and I think that made him nervous, besides
the fact that he was so drunk he could barely stand up. He kept grabbing
me, saying, 'You packin' iron? You packin' iron?' I was
parked on the side of the road, and the guy didn't own the land, anyway,
but I didn't know what he was capable of so I didn't do or say
anything." That is, until the fellow started grabbing at Bard's beloved
bins. "Finally I couldn't take it anymore and said, 'I'm not packing
any [expletive deleted] iron!' That calmed him down, but by then the
bird was gone. From the look I got, it seemed like it could have been
an Upland Sandpiper but I can't say for sure." Fearless Bard returned
to the location the next day but the bird was not around, and neither
was the accoster. This time, Bard was incognito in his nonthreatening
Toyota. In the words of his assailant upon realizing
Bard's only weapon was his bins, "You can't be too careful."
BIRD CUP BLUES: Our insiders got the blues trying to locate an upcoming
blues concert, festival, heck, even another blues show. No luck. We
did, however, turn up a little tidbit about the King of the Blues, B.B.
King, from our sources at Entertainment Weekly magazine. B.B., it seems,
recently locked himself out of his Indianapolis hotel room--in his
skivvies! The exit from his room that night was where the bathroom door
had been in the hotel room he's been in the night before. Upon leaving
to use the john, our B.B., who's on the road 310 days a year hopping
from city to city, got confused. The hotel housekeeper, however, didn't
give a king's ransom. She gave the bluesman a roaring glare and said
suspiciously, "What are you doin' out here in your underwear?" "It
seemed to her," says B.B., "that I wasn't out there
for the reason I said I was." No wonder the man's always singing the blues.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
Some of you just don't get it. Ever since the first edition of The Cup,
we've been inundated with letters like these: "I'd like to request a
Peregrine Falcon, preferably in the vicinity of The Haunt, and dedicate
it Hillary. Love and Featherness, Rob" and "One Hooded Warbler, please,
preferably at night, for Annette, Always on Call, Bill." Or how about
this doozy: "A Yellow-crowned Night-heron would be a "crown"ing
achievement. If you'd dedicate it to my beloved Elaine, from "heron"
in I'd be grateful! Karl." Look, folks, this isn't Casey Casum's Top
40 Count Down, you can't just request a species and dedicate it to your
lovebird. Rather than sitting around putting your wistful thinking into
words, get out there and find the bird of your fantasies! Who knows?
Maybe you'll find a diamond in a Ruff!
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
A lot of good birds were seen in May, so I am not going to simply run down
the list as in past months, but do the highlights. The LEAST BITTERN found
at the Laboratory of Ornithology was truly impressive. To be able to study
this secretive bird out in the open was a thrill. The breif appearance of a
GREAT EGRET, while not uncommon in the fall, is relatively uncommon in the
Spring and represents the only real interesting wader report. Ken
Rosenberg's observation of the WHIMBREL flying up the lake accounts for the
only sighting this year of this rare migrant through the Finger Lakes. They
do sometimes get reported in July from MNWR though very rarely. Gulls and
terns were real exciting. Allison Well's LAUGING GULL, which many people
saw certainly headed the list, but LITTLE GULL and LESSER BLACK-BACKED
May are also unusual. And it was a banner migration for FORSTER'S TERNS.
The couple of OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS and YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS
reported were nice though did not wait around for all Cuppers to come see
them. But don't worry, these two species are certainly much more common in
the Fall. The
southern invaders really made the scene this May also. Multiple reports of
WORM-EATING WARBLER in migration and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT made the birds an
exceptional presence. But the reports of YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, and
WHITE-EYED VIREO in the Caroline region as well as the protracted stay of
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER at Newman Golf Course, which apparently continues,
certainly proved the migration had a sourthern flavor. Certainly, though,
the cream of the crop this month was the MARBLED GODWIT first reported by
Kevin McGowan at Newman Golf Course. I believe this is only the second
the Cayuga Lake Basin of this largest of all shorebirds, the first seen
flyby in 1980 by Steve Sibley. A spectacular bird that provided blinding
for many happy Cuppers!
(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region 3. He
teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and keeps his farm
clear of Blue-winged Warblers by spitting at them [see Cup Quotes, this
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
We, the editors of The Cup, have found that as Cuppers see more and more
in the Cayuga Lake Basin, they have trouble keeping track of their totals.
To encourage them to keep their ticks tallied, we continue to invite them
into the esteemed 100 CLUB. But they're not officially in until they
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN THE 100 CLUB?
Bill Evans: Like a crow on a roadkill. Bird 100: Canada Warbler
Kurt Fox: "Kinda like putting your bare feet into a bowl of cold pudding.
It's a gushy feeling that sends a shiver from your toenails to your scalp
and makes you say 'ooooh'." Bird 100: "I don't know! I think a Wild
Jim Lowe: "I'm speechless!" Bird 100: Black-throated Blue Warbler
Mike Runge: "Well, I'm certainly relieved that I made it into the triple
digits." Bird 100: Cape May Warbler
Mira Springsteen: "Ruff! Ruff!" Bird 100: Grrrouse
Diane Tessaglia: "I've arrived! I'm in the competition now!" Bird
don't have a clue, but it was in May!"
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Figures. Just as the dance floor over at the 100 Club starts filling up, a
handful of party goers decide they don't like the music and start they're
own club. This one, the 200 Club, board members are saying, won't be such a
to sneak into. Indeed, just look what current members had to do to gain
Karl David: Danced the hoola, complete with grass skirt, on a party boat in
Aurura Bay and attracted a nest-seeking loon. Bird 200: Hooded Warbler
Chris Hymes: Using deep-water scuba gear, swam from Seneca Lake to Cayuga
Lake through deep, underwater tunnels with his bins in one hand and his
fishing pole in the other. Bird 200: Black-billed Cuckoo
Steve Kelling: Roiled naked with the carp at Montezuma. Bird 200:
Scott Mardis: Waded through the muck near the golf course wearing
his David Cup T-shirt, in search of the Prothonotary Warbler. Bird 200:
Kevin McGowan: Sat on an abandoned clutch of crow eggs 100 meters up in a
pine tree until all the young hatched. Bird 200: Alder Flycatcher
Tom Nix: Bribed the committee. Bird 200: Eastern Wood-pewee
Bard Prentiss: Wrestled a giant chickadee and an inebriated man. Bird 200:
Ken Rosenberg: Walked all the way up Beam Hill Road without an oxygen
Bird 200: Hooded Warbler
Allison Wells: (Invited member: she was flown into the 200 Club on the
of a Golden Eagle.) Bird 200: Red-eyed Vireo
Jeff Wells: Juggled three pairs of expensive binoculars while walking
up the Tschache Pool tower, with Allison on his shoulders. (Membership
initially rejected when he mistakenly kicked a board member while attempting
to tapdance to a medley of woodpecker drummings.) Bird 200: Yellow-breasted
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Hold your "ooh"s and "wow"s over how well the Sapsuckers scrapped their way
back after their little excursion to the Garden State. If you only knew
Ken Rosenberg bribed several Lab Cuppers to woo wife Anne into the
competition (thereby making frequent "family time" picnics to Myer's Point
and Long Point simply irresistible to her), you wouldn't be so impressed
with his David Cup total. If you had any idea that Steve Kelling birded
himself sick--near all-nighters at Montezuma, pre-dawn excursions to the
Danby Worm-eating Warbler spot, speed-of -light lunches at Myer's
Point--leaving wife Sue to nurse him back to health only to have him
swashbuckle back out after Ruddy Turnstones and Common Terns, you'd have
much ("0") respect for him. Kevin McGowan's son Jay has testified that
never seen his pa so eager to get back to his "crow research"--can you
get excited about this kind of shameless on-the-job moonlighting? Oh, and
Jeff Wells even now continues to stowaway on Allison's ship of success.
don't expect The Cup to print this kind of insider info. Suffice to say,
don't go shaking any Sapsucker's hand--unless you've got a hand buzzer
in your palm.
1996 DAVID CUP MAY TOTALS 1996 DAVID CUP APRIL TOTALS
225 Allison Wells 153 Scott Mardis
220 Karl David 153 Kevin McGowan
219 Tom Nix 152 Tom Nix
215 Jeff Wells 151 Ken Rosenberg
213 Steve Kelling 149 Allison Wells
212 Bard Prentiss 148 Steve Kelling
207 Kevin McGowan 146 Bard Prentiss
205 Scott Mardis 145 Karl David
202 Ken Rosenberg 143 Jeff Wells
200 Chris Hymes 140 Chris Hymes
185 Jay McGowan 129 Jay McGowan
180 Ralph Paonessa 119 Meena Haribal
174 Casey Sutton 115 John Bower
173 Anne James 114 Pixie Senesac
172 John Bower 112 Ralph Paonessa
168 Martha Fischer 112 Casey Sutton
167 Meena Haribal 110 Martha Fischer
165 Bill Evans 107 Larry Springsteen
163 Larry Springsteen 94 Rob Scott
153 Diane Tessaglia 88 Kurt Fox
152 Rob Scott 88 Diane Tessaglia
131 Michael Runge 86 Michael Runge
120 Jim Lowe 80 Jim Lowe
112 Kurt Fox 80 Matt Medler
105 Dan Scheiman 71 James Barry
49 Tom Lathrop 63 Dan Scheiman
49 Tom Lathrop
Top Dog: 112 Mira Springsteen
1996 McILROY AWARD MAY TOTALS APRIL TOTALS
181 Allison Wells 126 Kevin McGowan
164 Jeff Wells 124 Allison Wells
161 Kevin McGowan 119 Jeff Wells
154 Ken Rosenberg 111 Ken Rosenberg
152 John Bower 109 Scott Mardis
149 Scott Mardis 97 Jay McGowan
149 Larry Springsteen 95 John Bower
140 Jay McGowan 93 Larry Springsteen
132 Martha Fisher 91 Tom Nix
132 Karl David 88 Martha Fischer
131 Tom Nix 84 Casey Sutton
128 Rob Scott 78 Chris Hymes
126 Casey Sutton 74 Rob Scott
125 Chris Hymes 72 Jim Lowe
108 Jim Lowe 70 Karl David
105 Michael Runge 56 Michaels Runge
103 Bill Evans 42 Matt Medler
55 Diane Tessaglia 28 Diane Tessaglia
Top Dog: 86 Mira Springsteen
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Time to play "Guess the Abbreviation," featuring Allison' Leader's List.
For extra fun, we denotated her McIlroy birds with an "M"--something we'd
do last month with Kevin's list, but in our haste forget to squeeze in.
Maybe, just maybe, he'll get another chance--next year! Ha! Ha!
C. Loon (M), P-b Grebe (M), H. Grebe (M), R-n Grebe, D-c Cormorant (M), L.
Bittern (M), G. B. Heron (M), G. Heron (M), B-c. Night-Heron (M), Tundra
M. Swan (M), S. Goose (M), Brant, C. Goose (M), W. Duck (M), G-w Teal, A.
Black Duck (M), Mallard (M), N. Pintail (M), B-w Teal (M), N. Shoveler (M),
Gadwall(M), E. Wigeon, A. Wigeon, Canvasback (M), Redhead (M), R-n Duck (M),
G. Scaup (M), L. Scaup (M), Oldsquaw, S. Scoter (M), W-w Scoter, C.
Goldeneye (M), Bufflehead (M), H. Merganser (M), C. Merganser (M), R-b
Merganser (M), Ruddy Duck (M), T. Vulture (M), Osprey (M), B. Eagle (M), N.
Harrier (M), S-s Hawk M), C. Hawk (M), N. Goshawk, R-s Hawk (M), B-w
R-t Hawk (M), R-l Hawk (M), G. Eagle, A. Kestrel (M), R-n Pheasant, R.
W. Turkey (M), V. Rail, Sora (M), C. Moorhen, A. Coot (M), B-b Plover, S.
Plover, Killdeer (M), G. Yellowlegs (M), L. Yellowlegs (M), Solitary
Sandpiper (M), Spotted Sandpiper (M), Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit (M),
R. Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral
Dunlin, S-b Dowitcher, C. Snipe (M), A. Woodcock (M), Laughing Gull, Little
Gull, B. Gull (M), R-b Gull (M), H. Gull (M), Iceland Gull (M), Glaucous
Gull (M), G. B-b Gull (M), Caspian Tern (M), Common Tern, Forster's Tern,
Black Tern, R. Dove (M), M. Dove (M), B-b Cuckoo (M), E. Screech-Owl (M), G.
H. Owl, S-e Owl, N. S-w Owl, C. Nighthawk (M), C. Swift (M), R-t Hummingbird
B. Kingfisher (M), Red-headed Woodpecker, R-b Woodpecker (M), Y-b Sapsucker
(M), D. Woodpecker (M), H. Woodpecker (M), N. Flicker (M), P. Woodpecker
(M), E. Wood-Pewee (M), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (M), Alder Flycatcher (M),
Willow Flycatcher (M), Least Flycatcher (M), E. Phoebe (M), G. C.
Flycatcher (M), E. Kingbird (M), H. Lark, P. Martin (M), T. Swallow (M), N.
R-w Swallow (M), Bank Swallow (M), C. Swallow (M), Barn Swallow (M), B.
Jay (M), A. Crow (M), F. Crow (M), C. Raven (M), B-c Chickadee (M), T.
Titmouse (M), R-b Nuthatch (M), W-b Nuthatch (M), B. Creeper (M), C. Wren
Wren (M), W. Wren (M), M. Wren, G-c Kinglet (M), R-c Kinglet (M), B-g
Gnatcatcher (M), E. Bluebird (M), Veery (M), S. Thrush (M), H. Thrush (M),
W. Thrush (M), A. Robin (M), G. Catbird (M), N. Mockingbird (M), B. Thrasher
A. Pipit (M), Bohemian Waxwing, C. Waxwing (M), N. Shrike, E. Starling (M),
S. Vireo (M), Y-t Vireo (M), W. Vireo (M), Philadelphia Vireo (M), R-e Vireo
B-w Warbler (M), G-w Warbler (M), T. Warbler (M), N. Warbler (M), N. Parula
(M), Yellow Warbler (M), C-s Warbler (M), Magnolia Warbler (M), C. M.
Warbler (M), B-t Blue Warbler (M), Y-r Warbler (M), B-t Green Warbler (M),
Blackburnian Warbler (M), Pine Warbler (M), Prairie Warbler (M), Palm
Warbler (M), B-b Warbler (M), Blackpoll Warbler (M), Cerulean Warbler, B-a-w
Warbler (M), A. Redstart (M), Prothonotary Warbler (M), Worm-eating Warbler
(M), Ovenbird (M), N. Waterthrush (M), L. Waterthrush (M), Mourning Warbler
Yellowthroat (M), Hooded Warbler (M), Wilson's Warbler (M), Canada Warbler
(M), Yellow-breasted Chat, S. Tanager (M), N. Cardinal (M), R-b Grosbeak
(M), I. Bunting (M), E. Towhee (M), A. T. Sparrow (M), C. Sparrow (M),
Sparrow (M), V. Sparrow (M), Savannah Sparrow (M), G. Sparrow (M), Henslow's
Sparrow, Fox Sparrow (M), Song Sparrow (M), Lincoln's. Sparrow (M), Swamp
Sparrow (M), W-t Sparrow (M), W-c Sparrow (M), D-e Junco (M), Lapland
Longspur, Snow Bunting, Bobolink (M), R-w Blackbird (M), E. Meadowlark (M),
R. Blackbird (M), C. Grackle (M), B-h Cowbird (M), Orchard Oriole, N. Oriole
(M), P. Finch (M), H. Finch (M), R. Crossbill, C. Redpoll (M), P. Siskin
A. Goldfinch (M), E. Grosbeak (M), House Sparrow (M)
Total: 225 species (DC), 181 (Mc)
Add to Allison's list (above) the following species and you'll have the
entire list of birds seen in January, February, March, April, and May:
American Bittern, Great Egret, Ross' Goose, Merlin, Whimbrel, Lesser Black-
backed Gull, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Barred Owl, Whip-poor-will, Olive-sided
Flycatcher, Gray-cheeked Thrush, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-headed Blackbird,
Pine Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll.
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to remind the Sapsuckers that they left the Basin during
peak migration 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, horse-and-buggied,
and otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.
And once Cuppers got wind that it was The Cup's own editor, Allison Wells,
who had knocked Mardis and McGowan off the highest branch of the David
Cup tree, a mad scramble ensued: Cuppers far and wide begged coeditor Jeff
for the honor of jabbing her with pointed questions, a few has-beens going
so far as to cry, "Revenge!" Since it's in the bylaws of The Cup to not
play favorites, Allison was forced to give all Cuppers the opportunity to
reveal the secrets of her success. Many tried, all failed. We're running
the interview anyway, despite the embarrassment of those who came, saw, and
CUPPER (KF): The Cup is now "cleansed" with the backwash of 6 leaders in
five months. How does it taste to be the leader?
A. WELLS: It's indescribable. One really needs to taste it for him/herself.
CUPPER (SM): So, what's it like having a double L in both your first and
A. WELLS: It's very frustrating. "L"s are hard letters to write in
I waste a lot of valuable birding time making sure mine don't look like
CUPPER (SM): Seriously, how many birds on your list did you actually see or
A. WELLS: Actually, I haven't counted them up yet. My totals are just
really, really rough estimates. I could easily be 219 or lower.
CUPPER (TN): Being a chanteuse of some renown, you undoubtedly have
a good ear for bird song, unless it has been damaged by too-close proximity
to a certain brass instrument. How many heard-only birds are on your list,
and with all the birders spishing, whistling, hooting, barking, yelping and
otherwise beating around in the bush, can you be sure that you haven't been
hearing whistled, hooted, barked, yelped or other imitations?
A. WELLS: I strongly suspect that the 4-5 Henslow Sparrows Steve, Jeff, and
I had at Caswell Road around midnight a few weeks back may have been a
similarly Henslow's-seeking Cupper sneezing, but the three of us agreed we'd
worked too hard to give up the tick, regardless of whether or not what we
were hearing were actually birds. Aside from that, the only other
heard-only was Greater Yellowlegs, the one flying over Sapsucker Woods (I
later learned, at the exact moment Ken heard it as he walked out of the
Of course, there are those I initially ticked as heard-only's but have
seen, like Virginia Rail. If you let me count my June birds for May,
Gray-cheeked Thrush is one I've heard but not yet seen. Thanks to
Bill Evans' genius, Jeff, Casey, and I pulled a call out of the sky at
11:15pm last week, while listening for night migrants.
CUPPER (RS): Have you missed any of the "common" birds for this area (that
have already been seen)?
A. WELLS: The most common bird I've yet to tick is Barred Owl. This is
especially discouraging because for the last few years I saw the one in
the Sanctuary here several times a week. I even saw its newly fledged
I don't have American Bittern yet, either.
CUPPER (CS): Are any of the birds on your list so far life birds for you?
A. WELLS: No. I'd seen most of the rarities in Maine over the years-
-Little Gull (several), Laughing Gull (many, and several in the Basin in
the past), Marbled Godwit (at least once), and Yellow-breasted Chat (in my
parents' backyard!) Little Gull, Marbled Godwit, and the chat are new
Basin birds for me, as was Worm-eating Warbler (which I'd seen
CUPPER (KR): What size rope did you use to tie up Jeff while you went out
A. WELLS: I had a dog chain ready but it turns out I didn't have to use it
since Jeff sabotaged his totals all by himself by flapping off to New Jersey
during key David Cup time. And you, I might add, did likewise.
CUPPER (RS): How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could
A. WELLS: The real question is, how many ticks could a Cupper tick if
that's all s/he had to do in life.
CUPPER (KF, RS): What was your most pleasant, surprising bird find of the
A. WELLS: The fly-by Little Gull was exhilarating, though the Laughing Gull
is a more beautiful bird in my opinion. The Laughing was particularly
satisfying because so many other Cuppers (and non-Cuppers, I hope) got to
see it, and in the same scope I had my first Ruddy Turnstones of the
year. The Worm-eating Warbler, on the other hand, was very special because
I saw it with Casey Sutton. Casey momentarily had a better view of it than
I did and he yelped, "Worm-eating Warbler!" I was very impressed that an
eleven-year-old birder who'd never seen one before could make the I.D.
the bird obligingly hopped into the middle of the trail, well, we were
CUPPER (SM): It seems you bird a lot with Casey and yet, he doesn't have
near as many birds as you do. How do you explain that? Do you see them
while his back is turned or do they just fly away before he can get on them?
A. WELLS: I bird a lot with Jeff, too, yet look how pathetically he's
dragging. As for Casey, I suspect that if he didn't have so much homework
and had a driver's license, he'd be the one being interviewed right now
instead of me!
CUPPER (KR): Did you pick out the Laughing Gull because you were laughing
so hard at the Sapsuckers being out of the Basin, and the gull responded
from the flock?
A. WELLS: Precisely. Also, Kevin's offhanded "Big Day, big deal" was
if not a challenge. I can't resist a challenge.
CUPPER (RS): If a tree falls in a forest, how many birders does it take to
screw in a lightbulb?
A. WELLS: I know many very good birders, but most of them are not
humans unless the tool is a scope or a pair of bins. Ken Rosenberg is the
exception here, right, Anne?
CUPPER (DS): How do you deal with mosquitos?
A. WELLS: I stand next to the tallest person I'm birding with. Supposedly,
mosquitos and black flies flock around the tallest person, which is almost
CUPPER (KF): What kind of binoculars do you have? And your scope? Why?
A. WELLS: Bins: 10 x 40 Leitz. Scope: Bushnell Spacemaster 10 x 40 zoom.
Both are Jeff's hand-me-downs, and I have no complaints.
CUPPER (KF): What was your most memorable moment?
A. WELLS: When Jeff proposed to me. It was on the Fourth of July--oh, you
mean this month in the David Cup? My most memorable moment was actually a
couple of hours, birding my way through the Sanctuary on May 11 in the
pouring rain. There were birds literally everywhere. I was not
exaggerating when I posted on CAYUGABIRDS that I had to inch my way over the
trails in order to see everything, and even then I anguish over what
I must have missed along the trails I birded, say nothing of the ones I
didn't. I've never seen anything like it in my life. Apparently, the
fallout took place from Maine to Pennsylvania. I'm incredibly glad I was
out there for this event. I got very wet (despite my complete rain-proof
attire) and very cold, but it was just incredible.
CUPPER (RS): Do you support a moratorium on counting birds seen on
A. WELLS: Absolutely. But only if I've seen (and ticked) elsewhere
birds are there.
CUPPER (RS): Do you find that your birding skills are sharper in the
morning or the afternoon?
A. WELLS: As long as I've had a cup of Twinings English Breakfast Tea,
CUPPER (RS): What is the airspeed of an unburdened swallow?
A. WELLS: Um, excuse me, you're not interviewing Steve Kelling here.
But as a guess, I'd have to say probably a little faster than I can run.
CUPPER (RS): Do you use a computer program to keep track of your sightings
and standings in the David Cup and McIlroy Award races, or do you use a
checklist, or what?
A. WELLS: I prefer the paper checklist, at least for the competitions. I
love holding the paper in my hands, especially now that they've gotten
somewhat crumpled and dirty from where one of my cats dug up my begonia
and got dirt all over them--every time I pick them up now I feel like a real
adventurer. It's nice, too, to be able to check dates and locations of
sightings without having to waste electricity by firing up the old IBM.
CUPPER (RS): Which wood-warbler is your favorite, and why?
A. WELLS: This year, after seeing Cape May Warbler at the cemetery it was
Cape May because I hadn't seen one for a quite a while and they're
gorgeous); after I saw the Bay-breasted in the Sanctuary it was Bay-breasted
(because I hadn't seen one in a while and they're gorgeous). My current
Hooded. It's the latest addition to my collection of extremely cooperative
warblers--I've had excellent looks at several Hoodeds this year.
CUPPER (KF): Now that May has come and gone and the bulk of the birds
are through, the list of targeted birds has dropped dramatically. Of all the
possible rarities, which selected few birds would you like to add to your
A. WELLS: Ross's Goose, Hoary Redpoll, and Pine Grosbeak.
CUPPER (KF): What's your favorite color? (I like this one.)
A. WELLS: I love the chestnut color on the throat of a male Barn Swallow.
CUPPER (SM): Have you thought about selling the rights to your story to a
A. WELLS: I already have. And you should know, since you were the one
me around for the story!
CUPPER (SM): How many friends and family members have you alienated by
devoting so much effort to The Cup?
A. WELLS: I work on The Cup a little at a time during the month and always
when I wouldn't otherwise be doing anything important. ([Ithaca Ageless
Jazz Band] practice, when we're not working on vocal numbers, is my most
productive time--yes, Jim Lowe, THAT'S why I'm always scribbling when John
[the director] is pontificating on the importance of pianissimo). Also,
I'm a writer and editor by profession so I really enjoy this sort of thing.
Other birders contribute columns, and they've been conscientious, including
all of you sending in your monthly totals. Nonetheless, there's inevitably
a squeeze getting The Cup in final form, which is why there are typos and
losing battles with e-mail text margins. As for my family, obviously Jeff
enjoys working on it, and my parents in Maine really enjoy it--they feel as
though they know you Cuppers now! My thirteen-year-old niece Sarah (also
in Maine) loves it so much that she has plans to write a Scrawl of Fame
and be a Temporary Cupper when she comes to visit us in July.
CUPPER (SM): Martha Fischer once described herself as Rough-legged Hawk.
If you could be a bird, which one would you be?
A. WELLS: Jeff tells me I'm a dove.
CUPPER (SM): What do you intend to do with the prize money?
A. WELLS: Use it for bribing anyone who can help me win.
CUPPER (SM): What do you think about the idea of naming the Cup each
year after the previous year's winner? For example, if you won this year,
next year's competition would be the Wells Cup.
A. WELLS: Nah, I like the "David Cup" not only because Karl is so inspiring
and such a fun person but also because it has that "David and Goliath"
connotation--every Cupper is a David, and Goliath is, of course, the
It also plays nicely off the Davis Cup.
CUPPER (SM): Pop quiz: How do distinguish juvenile Least Sandpipers
and Long-toed Stints?
A. WELLS: If I saw one or the other but I wasn't which it was, I'd count
it as both.
CUPPER (KF): Your overall strategy for winning this month seemed to be
to "family strife," to get your husband out of the competition for a few
precious days. Since this sophisticated birding technique has already been
used from your bag o' tricks, what is your new overall strategy for winning
The Cup (other than running under the guise of being bird mentor for the
probably fictitious Casey Sutton as an excuse to get out into the field)?
A. WELLS: My strategy is to continue to recruit excellent coaches to write
the Coach's Corner. That's the only reason I'm ahead now, really. I was
the starting point guard for a championship basketball team when I was in
high school, I take the advice of coaches very seriously. I should also
warn you that I led the state in the number of steals.
CUPPER (SM): Do you even think you have a chance at breaking the Brinkley
and Byrne Basin record this year?
A. WELLS: That will be totally up to my coaches.
CUPPER (MR): What are you going to do with the rest of the year? You've
peaked so early. Sure, you can chase down one bird at a time trying to
creep up to the record mark, but until next January 1st, you won't have the
thrill of even ten new Basin birds on any one day. Whereas, if you had paced
yourself like the rest of us...
A. WELLS: I've always been more of a sprinter, but I can do many
repetitions. Back on the basketball team, we had to do these sprints
called "suicides" over and over and over. But I'm looking forward to the
shorebird migration, not only because it'll be nice to see shorebirds in
respectable numbers again but also because with so many birders out
birding these days, if there are unusual birds out there in the Basin, they
have a good chance of being found. I must also confess that I really love
to go birding. I've never gotten bored seeing the same birds over and over
again. Helping Casey find birds is also really fun. He's a good birder
a great sense of humor. Then there's the challenge of helping Jeff play
CUPPER (SM): Is Jeff really as nice as he seems or does he turn into
Mr. Hyde after dark?
A. WELLS: Jeff is one of the nicest, most thoughtful and generous
people I've ever met. But I married him anyway.
CUPPER (KD): Don't you wish you weren't the leader, so you wouldn't have
to answer all these pesky questions?
A.WELLS: I'm sure there are those who would argue I've had it coming to me,
though I've handled all previous interviewees with kit gloves.
CUPPER (RS): What, in your opinion, should the rest of us poor slobs do to
catch up with you?
A. WELLS: Nothing. Unlike my spineless predecessors, I'll admit that I
no intention of stepping down. Ha! Ha! Catch me, if you can, Bill Evans!
CUPPER (KF): Since history dictates that you won't be "Kickin' Tail" next
month, what words of wisdom do you offer for the next leader?
A. WELLS: History doesn't always repeat itself...
(KF=Karl David, KF=Kurt Fox, SM=Scott Mardis, TN=Tom Nix, KR=Ken Rosenberg,
MR=Mike Runge, RS=Rob Scott, CS=Casey Sutton)
????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ????????????????????????????????
The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls and
by hacking their way into sensitive ornithological databases, 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 inscriptions on whirligigs.
Anyone who's on CAYUGABIRDS will find it no surprise who this month's
pioneer is. Despite her protest, I (Jeff) as coeditor of The Cup bestow
upon Allison Wells May's Pioneer Prize (it's MY turn to over-ride HER veto!)
Allison's Laughing Gull brought bliss to countless Cuppers (and tears of
frustration to the Sapsuckers). Kevin McGowan ranks high for his Marbled
Godwit, but Allison was also half of the pioneering expeditions that turned
up easily ticked Prothonotary Warbler and Orchard Oriole. Allison, to you,
shiny teal-green David Cup Pencil.
Allison: If Julie Andrews can reject a nomination, so can I. But rather
throw it back at you, I'm passing it along to Casey Sutton. Casey is one
of the bravest, most gung-ho birders I know. On my "BirdFest Saturday" on
May 11, after making my way through Sapsucker Woods in the pouring rain, I
phoned Casey from the Lab to tell him what I'd seen. Despite having no
raincoat, while other folks stayed warm and dry inside (and therefore,
missed out big time), Casey hustled out the door in a flash. In fact, he's
always ready to go birding, often literally on a moment's notice, and is so
committed to the sport (and art) of birding that through most of May, he
even did his homework in a timely fashion so he wouldn't miss out on any
rarities that could get his phone ringing. Casey, to you a shiny,
teal-green David Cup Pencil!
: > : > : > : > : >
: > : > : > : > : >
For the last few months, Casey Sutton has been giving a lot of bill
service to starting his own Cup column. He would, he proposed, choose one
of the unusual birds seen that month and write an informative life
history-based segment about it, for the enjoyment and education of Cup
subscribers. Having gotten a taste for show time in last month's Scrawl of
Fame, Casey hit the books this month for his first official column. The
research, the writing, the whole bird brainy idea was Casey's. If this
educational venture pans out, he may start charging tuition.
One of the rarest birds for the month of May in the Cayuga Lake Basin had
to have been the Little Gull (Larus minutus) seen along the lake in April
and in early May off Myer's Point. People who had a chance to see it saw a
beautiful bird and moved one bird ahead on their David Cup lists. The
Little Gull is the smallest gull on earth. For those who didn't see it,
this is the description: the bird has a gray back and wings, white
underparts, a black hood, and the underwings are black. The call is
described as "kek-kek-kek-kek." The favorite habitat is marshes, meadows,
lakes, rivers, bays, and harbors. The breeding range is Central Europe to
southern Siberia. They also breed locally in Ontario and Wisconsin. They
winter in small numbers along the east coast from New Brunswick to New
Jersey and the Great Lakes. The nests are lined with grass and leaves, and
placed in marsh vegetation. They lay three olive-brown eggs with dark
on them. They are known to get food from the surface of the water while
flying, and they dive after minnows and insects. This month's runner-ups
are Marbled Godwit, Worm-eating Warbler, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, and
SCRAWL OF FAME
Birding and SEX
by Karl David
Now that I have your attention, I'd like to ask you a simple question:
have you noticed that most of the David Cup/McIlroy Award competitors are
Of course you have. So much for the "little old lady in tennis shoes"
stereotype of the typical bird-watcher. When men got involved, it
went from "bird-watching" to "birding," and it became a competitive
activity, like any other sport.
For this competition, the men (and boys!) were happy to have a few
token women sign up, because it made us look less Neanderthal. As
long as they "knew their place," it didn't hurt: the "glass ceiling"
of birding seemed securely unbreakable.
BUT: now a woman is leading the competition!!! We didn't reckon with
that. How do I feel about it personally? Well, let me just say that
my first high school sweetheart's name was Allison, and I've been
very fond of the name ever since. Now I'm not so sure.
But seriously, folks ... I'm happy for Allison, really I am. Whatever
else one may think of the competition, I detect no sign on the part
of any of the competitors, of either sex, that they're taking it so
seriously that they begrudge anyone else their "good birds," or that
they hoard sightings to themselves, hoping to get ahead. Everything I
read on CAYUGABIRDS suggests that everyone is out just for the fun of
it. And that, I believe, is healthy.
To turn Tom Nix's phrase around: last one to 200 is still a good egg!
(Karl David is a dread mathematics professor, at Wells College and is
well known far and wide as the Father of The Madness. When he tips his
hat to birding, he seldom gets the hat back.)
(If you have an opinion about the art, science, and/or esthetics of birding
or birding-related topics, write it up for the Scrawl of Fame.)
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
In a desperate attempt to regain the favor of the editors (one in
particular) of The Cup and thereby hold on to his beloved Highlights
column), Steve Kelling "generously" volunteered to write this month's
Coach's Corner. No need to wonder if this boy's on the up-and-up; in the
eyes of his fellow Cuppers, he's been down-and-out long enough--and he's
got May's David Cup totals to prove it.
COACH'S CORNER: It's June, it's Summertime. Pull up a chair, the
is over. Breathe a sigh of relief. It's all downhill from here. Clean up
time. If you're Allison, or Tom, or Karl, pat yourself on the back. To
attain or even approach 220 species! Take a nap.
Think about it: 220 species! You'll probably win this little game if you
get 30 more. But that's the problem. How do you get 30 more species?
all you've been through, the next 30 species are the HARDEST. It is a
relatively easy game until the end of spring migration. A depressing
thought. So what do you do? Are there any birds in the Cayuga Lake Basin
that you have missed? YOU BET THERE ARE. Sure, as far as the year goes,
it's all downhill. But it's the downhill run that will win the Cup. Let's
do some searching.
The Finger Lakes Region, of which the Cayuga Lake Basin is a major part,
supports arguably the greatest diversity of breeding North American
passerines in New York State. This diversity is due in part to its
position at a longitude where two major drainage basins coincide. The
southern section of the Region drains into the Susquehanna Basin, while the
Finger Lakes drain into the Great Lakes. This confluence may influence
breeding ranges by providing natural migratory pathways for passerines to
follow. The northern limit of many southern breeding passerines and
the southern limit of many northern breeders overlap throughout the Finger
Lakes Region. Consequently, it's been said that if you want to find
southern specialties, look on the south side of the hill, and for northern
specialities, check the north side.
So where do you want to begin? Let's start with some of those southern
specialties. Go get a map, NOT THE DELORME. A map with some topographic
relief. Huh? What? Go find one of those maps of the Finger Lakes made out
of plastic, where the little bumps in the plastic give you an indication of
altitude, or the lack thereof. Or if you know how to read them, buy a
of topos. Find Elmira. What, not in the basin? Yep, your right. But
notice there's a valley, or series of valleys that lead up from the
River that extend to the bases of the Finger Lakes. Find Alpine. It's from
Alpine to Cayuga Lake that may be the ticket. Ticket? Ticket to where?
How about a ticket to....Horseheads! Nah, just kidding.
Over the past few summers I have noticed that there seem to be a lot of
observations of typically more southern breeding birds found in the valleys
extending from Elmira to Ithaca. Here are some examples just from along
this valley: Laughing Gull (Ithaca); Snowy Egret (Elmira); Acadian
Flycatcher (Arnot Forest, Michigan Hollow, Connecticut Hill);
(Arnot Forest); Worm-eating Warbler (Elmira, Ithaca, West Danby, Montour
Falls); Kentucky Warbler (Montour Falls); Prothonotary Warbler (Montour
Falls, Ithaca); Yellow-breasted Chat (Elmira). And these reports are only
from the last three years! Any of these birds can be as likely found IN
BASIN as not. Who knows what might fly up the Susquehanna River and plop
down somewhere right next door, so to speak? Let's see, what do we all
need...Kentucky, Kentucky Warbler. Look for slow-moving creeks (that is,
the water moves slow) in forests with a very thick understory. FIND THE
BIRDS. They are there! People like Ned Brinkley, Karl David,
Jeff Wells, Dave Russell, Jack Brubaker, and Bill Evans have found them in
the past. You can, too!
That's half of it, the southern half, the ones with the glamour. But...who
has White-winged Crossbill? Did everybody get Mourning Warbler? What about
Hermit Thrush, or maybe, do I dare say it, Swainson's Thrush or
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher? They may be breeding right here in the Basin.
What, blasphemy? Nah! It's June! Let's get out and beat the bushes.
Here's a little hint: I was up in a particular this past winter. Bard
had THE NERVE to go up there this spring with a CBC outing! Bill Evans was
there last week. And we all had crossbills. The Red ones, but the
White-winged ones are just as nomadic. And there are beaver-dammed creeks
and huge conifer plantations and bottomlands and bogs. Where is this
The Adirondacks? No...check out the Summer Hill area and the Fall Creek
watershed! There might be some hidden gem up there. Yellow-bellied
Fly's have probably bred less than 40 miles away. Swainson Thrush, less
than 30 miles. Mourning Warbler breeds throughout the entire area. And
White-winged Crossbill? Well, the Breeding Bird Atlas makes it look like
they've bred right next door, so they might be around. I bet that the
Hill Region of the Cayuga Lake Basin has some really nice hidden gems.
worth the probing!
My conclusion: Forget Montezuma, except to listen for Sedge Wren (near the
visitors' center), and forget Cayuga Lake. Start hitting them again in
July when the hurricanes come (we can always hope...). Check out the
valleys south and west of Ithaca, and the hill tops and watersheds north and
east of Ithaca. Check out Conn Hill, and get up to Summerhill! And
everybody, including the leaders, remember one thing: IT ISN'T OVER UNTIL
(Steve Kelling writes the Basin Bird Highlights column for The Cup. His
mantra is, "It ain't over until it's over." And he actually believes it.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
To keep this from becoming the "Allison Issue" of The Cup, she suggested
she accept this one measly question, submitted by herself: "HOW DID YOU DO
Allison: That's a good question, and I have a simple answer: location,
location, location. If you want to be a serious contender in the McIlroy
competition, you must move to Sapsucker Woods. It's a happening place
during migration. Furthermore, should someone else find something in there
(Sora, for example), running quickly out to see it isn't a problem if you
live close by.
Also very important: jog. Jog at least five days a week. I got a lot of
"first for the year for me" McIlroy AND David Cup birds this way (handy for
beefing up prestige early in the competition by inflating monthly totals,
even if the inflation is only temporary). Jogging has also rewarded me
some hard-to-get McIlroy species, like Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Goose (all fly-overs), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (though I "tick"nically had
a few days earlier when I heard a night migrant).
Finally, marry someone who works at the Lab of Ornithology. Lab spouses
(and significant others) are required to phone their loved ones as soon
find things like Fox Sparrows and Common Redpolls around Lab feeders, and
must also immediately pass along Lab bird gossip like, "Is it true Steve
and some other Labbers found a Sora out by the straight bridge?" and "Every
one [at the Lab] is running up to the dog barn pond--they're saying there's
a Least Bittern up there!" Of course, by marrying someone who works at the
Lab AND moving next to Sapsucker Woods, you can walk your spouse to work,
thereby satisfying "family time" and "birding time" necessities. In other
words, you can find a Worm-eating Warbler, and soon you'll be kissing your
beloved fellow Cupper goodbye...
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
Cuppers have been banging on The Cup's doors recently, wanting to know all
about our youngest serious (no offense, Kristen Grotke) Cup competitor, Jay
McGowan. How does he do it? After all, he has no driver's license, no car.
Perhaps even more intriguing, WHY does he do it? He's nine years old,
shouldn't he be playing Nintendo? Not if you're a McGowan!
Here's what we mean...
"I was born for birding! I can't remember not being interested in birds.
My father might have had some influence, too."
See what we mean? If you didn't know better, wouldn't you guess you were
reading about Kevin? In truth, father and son are a pretty tight birding
team. The two of them have been spotted scoping out all the key birding
locations: Sapsucker Woods, Hammond Hill, and of course, Jay's personal
favorite hot spots, "Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, Cornell golf course woods
(a new favorite spot), and down the road near our house (not that I've seen
anything unusual there, but I like to go down there birding on my own)."
That's right, Jay's not always under his dad's wing. He says he manages to
squeeze in time to find things on his own. In fact, he even teaches younger
sister Perry about birds. "Her favorite bird is Snowy Owl," he says.
Jay's own favorite bird? "That's easy: Peregrine Falcon." And he's
certainly seen a lot to choose from. He's birded out west and in Florida.
"I saw lots of things," he says, "including: (Florida) Magnificent
Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Swallow-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, Florida
Scrub-Jay. (West): Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Steller's Jay, Tufted
Puffin, Burrowing Owl, Blue Grouse, Black-billed Magpie." How many Cuppers
can rattle those birds as keepers! As for his own life list, so far Jay's
racked up an impressive 283. He says that at this point, he doesn't keep a
So why would a Basin nonlister sign up for the David Cup? "My Dad talked
me into it." Ah, huh! "And it sounded like fun." Oh.
Jay says that if he could see any bird in the entire world, it would be a
White-tailed Kite, "because I like raptors," he says, "and I like black,
gray, and white together." Hmmm...sounds like the whole David Cup/McIlroy
boundary issue. Did your dad tell you to say that?
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations--and 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,
The other day, someone borrowed my binoculars (I graciously lent
them). This person promptly went out and found a Sora. Therefore, my
binoculars saw a Sora. Because my binoculars are an extension of myself,
it seems reasonable to me that I add Sora to my David Cup/McIlroy Award
lists. Am I right?
--Sleepy in Ithaca
P.S. My dream list continues to grow, with good looks last night of
Black-capped Chickadees drinking water.
If I'd let you count all the birds you've been trying to trick me into
thinking are countable these past months, you'd be Kickin' Tail by now!
Unfortunately for you, you're not going anywhere with this one, either.
You're right, binoculars are an extension of any Cupper, and ordinarily,
whatever bird wanders before them is countable, provided the bins can make a
correct I.D. The problem here is that you lent yours to someone. It's
already been shown, many times over, that being in the David Cup means no
nicey-nice. You should be in this thing to win, Sleepy. Your generosity is
a disgrace to the competition. I'm going to have to insist you cease
with the sweetness before the reputation of the David Cup is forever
sullied. As for your dream birds, they're starting to become my nightmare.
Last week I saw a Buick Skylark flying down the road. Although it's not on
my checklist, can I write it in and count it for my David Cup total?
--Dazzled and Sappy in Sapsucker
Dear Dazzled and Sappy:
In the World Series of Birding in New Jersey, teams that get ticketed by
the police lose their right to participate in the event for the following
two years. There are similar rules regarding the David Cup and McIlroy
competitions. The word "flying,"in the context you've used it here,
that your skylark was breaking the speed limit. I'm afraid you won't be
to count it, at least for two years.
There's been a lot of Internet discussion lately about the finer points of
identifying Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. It just so happens I saw Great
Crested Flycatcher on Wilson Trail North while all this was going on and
noticed it had a yellow belly. Therefore, it's a yellow-bellied
and I'm set for the David Cup. Do you agree?
--Yellow-bellied in Cupland
You blew it. As a connoisseur of birding discussions over the Internet,
you should have known that not capitalizing bird names is a sin (see
CAYUGABIRDS, around the turn of the new year). By capitalizing the name,
you would also have done the granddaddies at the ABA proud. But you
and as a result, you've disqualified your sighting. Next time, don't be so
yellow-bellied when it comes to taking notes.
Choosing between sleeping in May and getting up and birding is easy.
Simple choice ... birding, even in a downpour. But I've got a bigger problem
that occurs only when I'm down there in Ithaca. With the blues cranking
out, I find it awful hard to shut off the radio and get out of the car. Or
worse .. try driving down Lake Road listening for Grasshopper Sparrows while
listening to Francis Reed. It's a worse problem than hitting the snooze bar
at 4 am. I've tried listening to Neil Diamond, Mel Torme, Barry Manilow
even Vince Gill and Garth Brooks to force myself into that Pavlov theory
the radio is a "bad" thing. It isn't working. Just how do you folks handle
all those blues and get birding in edgewise?
--The Blues Ponderer in Rochester
Dear Blues Ponderer:
I've asked around and none of the Ithaca Cuppers have any problem hearing
Grasshopper Sparrows with the blues cranking full volume. Maybe you
have your ears checked.
The following question, of course, is purely, for the most part,
hypothetical, and has really no real significant relevance to any kind of
reality that we normally think of as being normal. Say I have a friend who
knows his neighbor released a bunch of bobwhites this spring. Over the
weeks and weeks of late winter (March through May) he hears those bobwhites
every day, day after day, week after week, month after month, calling
"bobwhite! bobwhite!" If he hears them call their beautiful call on so
many beautiful cold and rainy evenings that he somehow forgets that his
neighbor released these birds and thinks of them as being wild as lions on
the Serengeti, is it okay for him to count them on his McIlroy list?
I don't blame you for leaving your last name blanc, I mean, blank, Robert.
Your friend is understandably an embarrassment to you. However, don't be
too hard on him. In truth, I don't think your friend forgot that the
bobwhites were released; rather, he appears to be suffering from Mad Cupper
in which the brain of afflicted Cuppers turns to feathers, tickling the
endings and usually triggering hallucinations of rare Basin birds. Your
friend is still in the early stages of the disease, during which every bird
he hears or sees is a "good" bird. Should you by any chance, overhear
Cuppers throwing around phrases such as "every bird is a good bird" and
are good," you can be sure they've got Mad Cupper Disease. Leave them be.
If an expert standing next to me identifies a distant raptor and I can see
the bird, I should be able to count it even though I couldn't identify it by
myself, right? And if an expert standing next to me identifies the flight
call of a night-flying thrush and I can hear it, I can count it even though
I couldn't identify it by myself, right? Now imagine two birders are
next to each other and they hear rustling leaves. They both focus intently
with their binoculars on the location of the noise and one of them gets an
all-too-brief look at the bird--a good bird (let's say Connecticut
Can they both count it? The bird has been positively identified and it is
clear that the noise that they heard came from the identified bird,
it was not a vocalization. If the bird gave a "chip," we can probably
that they both can count it. If the bird were a woodpecker and the
a pecking sound or drumming, we can probably agree that they both can count
it. But what about other noises? Can those count when other factors are
used to ID the bird? You can assume the bird was actually in the Basin and
not in some nearby place like Michigan Hollow.
--Listening Intently in Ithaca
This is the most blatant incidence of leading the witness in the entire
history of David Cup court. You're in contempt. Case dismissed.
[Name witheld] seems to have special power to create areas of the
Basin where none existed before. Let's say I'm at Jamaica Bay NWR
and I see a Hudsonian Godwit. If the bird is within 100ft. of [name
witheld], can I count it on my Basin list?
--[Name witheld]'s Shadow
"Special powers" is out of my area of expertise. Maybe you should phone
Dionne Warwick at the Psychic Friends network.
Earlier today I picked up my Cup shirt and was very pleased. I will wear it
proudly. What's confusing me is the row of shoes across the bottom. What's
going on with those shoes?!? The binoculars and owls I "get". What do I
people when they ask, "What's with them shoes?" Should I just fake it and
give them a "don't you get it" look? So, fill me in if you know, DT.
--Not losing sleep over it in Ithaca
Dear Not Losing Sleep:
Don't you get it?
I think the competitions would be fairer if we had age categories.
After all, runners for example get to compete against others their
own age, in recognition of the fact that everyone slows down a bit
as the miles pile up. The same is true for birders. Our eyes, ears
and, most importantly, minds go. I had a really good example in mind to
drive this point home, but I can't seem to remember what it was ...
--Embitterned in Aurora
What's important in the David Cup is not the mental and physical fitness
of Cuppers. What matters is the condition of their cars. Cuppers need not
only to be able to get there from here, they need to look snazzy doing it.
Case in point: Chris Hymes drives a sorry old Subaru--he missed the
Laughing Gull. Ralph Paonessa, who lives and works on the other side of
the state, put pedal to the metal and enjoyed indulgent views of the bird--
he drives a splashy sports car. Likewise, Ken Rosenberg putts around in a
beat up Nissan Sentra. Did he get Little Gull? No. Scott Mardis drives a
sharp, zippy number--he owns that Little Gull. If you want to win the
David Cup, don't lobby for age categories. Buy a new car.
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"I know full well what every Cupper who can get away from his/her desk
today is doing ... frantically trying to pad those May totals!!!"
"Methinks the only one really itching (or twitching?) to be going is
Allison, gone hog wild in her grasp for this month's ephemeral glory and
brief celebrity. 225 I hear!?!? My God woman, what's gotten into you? And
they said this competitiveness thing was a male problem. Here are my humble
"You two must be off chasing the twitterers, trying to fill your David
--Jewell Childs (Allison's mom),
via message left on Wells'
"I am, of course, no longer in the thick of things, but I'll try to
"I don't recall ever having a cold this bad. May really beat me."
"New Jersey only cost me a species or two, but the major banding
effort of the last few weeks cost me more than a dozen, most of them
McIlroy birds, too!"
"Hoping to replenish our chi, we walked Wilson Trail South (Sapsucker
Woods) today and heard a dreamy Blackpoll Warbler, but that's about it.
We did, however, get some good chi."
--Allison and Jeff Wells
"What is chi'? To me it is tea."
"Congratulations, Jeff and Allison, on a successful poaching job in my
"I agree with Casey Sutton's comments in the [The Cup 1.4). Changing 'our'
towhee's name does seem to be a rip-off of the bird. Sure, the bird
doesn't care, but it doesn't lend it much appreciation. Gee, maybe we
could start a petition."
--David J. McDermitt
"Yesterday (Sunday) at about 11:30am I had an Olive-Sided Flycatcher
in my back yards in Dryden village."
"I actually have only one back yard but it's very big."
"I recall an instance along Monkey Run where [Ned Brinkley]
started imitating a Blue-winged Warbler, inhaling shhhh and spitting
(literally!) puussttt'. A Blue-winged came careening into his lap!
So I decided to try this at home: shhhh puuussstttt,' (I said) and this
Blue-winged Warbler flew out of a bush and immediately ascended 100
feet...before it took off north. We have not had a Blue-winged in our
"A Yellow-Breasted Chat was seen by myself, Diane Tessaglia, and
Jim Lowe, singing its head off in Etna..."
"The Prothonotary Warbler at Stewart Park golf course was still singing its
head off on Friday morning."
"There was no warbler neck to be had looking at that thing [Worm-eating
"Finagling the car around, I managed to get good long looks at the Vespers."
"Returned today and saw the spate of Prothonotary Warbler reports and
had to laugh. This weekend I saw LOTS of Prothonotaries; when I
checked my socks for ticks I found Prothonotaries on my shoes...That's
because I spent the weekend in -- no, not the Vatican-- Cape May!"
"[The Cup] is very interesting and funny. If I lived in Ithaca, I'd
definitely be in the David Cup!"
--Sarah Childs (Allison and Jeff's
"Since I didn't spend any time in the Cayuga Basin during the month of
May, my David Cup total is still at a meager 49 species. Next month
will be better, though. I was at MNWR last weekend and added about
20 species to my list. Now if you'd consider "stretching" the David Cup
boundaries to include the Rochester area, I'd be doing a *lot* better!"
"Great thanks are due...for getting this McIlroy and David stuff off the
ground, and inspiring me to brush up on my faded birding skills. I have
not been a very active birder since I started grad school. It has been
frustrating at times getting back into the swing of things, but I am
starting to remember songs I had forgotten, and I have seen some birds I
have not seen in several years (especially the warblers)."
"What made the sight particularly wonderful was that when my
wife and 1 ½ yr old pre-birder Tony came out to look, the male tanager
came right up to a dogwood in the garden and sat there unconcernedly
while Tony, from 20 feet away, pointed at it and yelled "ORANGE! ORANGE!"
(just recently having learned his colors). Indeed, the bird was at the
orange end of the tanager color spectrum. I couldn't have said it better.
What a thrill- at least equal to my life Least Bittern yesterday. I'm
beginning to realize that I will get to have all the birds with Tony as
vicarious "lifers" all over again. What a treat!"
"I just had the honor of observing the Prothonotary at close range
down at the golf course woods. Thank you to whoever first reported it!"
"What next in this incredible collective adventure we're having this
"I just want to register my thanks and my sense of great vicarious
pleasure (if not exaltation), as you collective adventurers share
your birding with this list. If there were ever a solid argument in
favor of listing--and warm comradely, dead-earnest birding
competition--it's in the David Cup and McIlroy Award tournaments unfolding!
Thanks so much!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff