Year 2, Issue 11
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* The electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Basin Bird Highlights: "Inspector" Tom Nix
* Pilgrim's Progress Compiler: "Stoinking" Matt Medler
* Composite Deposit, Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Evans Cup Compiler: "Bird Hard" Bard Prentiss
* The Yard Stick Compiler: Margaret "in Mansfield" Launius
* Bird Bits: Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" McGowan
* Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* On-site Choreographer: Jeff Wells
What's Santa bringing YOU for the holidays? A Yellow-billed Loon?
Great Gray Owl? Maybe a flock of Bohemian Waxwings?
Before you scribble down your wish list, you better ask yourself if
you've been naughty (shamelessly spending quality time chasing other
people's birds, or--gasp!--not even doing that much) or nice (finding
American Avocets, Cattle Egrets, and Franklin's Gulls for the rest of
us to enjoy.) In other words, unless your name is Stephen Davies, you
might just as well write "lump of coal" at the top of the page.
Lucky for you, Santa has implored a few elves--nine, to be precise, and
their names are in the masthead--to help him this season, and these
busybodies have been too hurriedly preparing a certain home-spun gift
for you all not to have it delivered.
Surprise! (No, Ken, it's not a honkin' slab of salami.) It's The Cup
2.11! And with it, we at Cup Headquarters say "Merry Christmas-
Happy Chanukah to all, and to all, a good last few weeks of 1997
David Cup birding!"
So go on, unwrap. And if it doesn't fit...too bad. No refunds or
exchanges at this establishment. But don't be too down-hearted: Maybe
you'll get those Bohemian Waxwings after all!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: We got him! He squirmed and
bucked and thrashed on the line, but we reeled him in! Who is this Big
Fish that nibbled at the bait last month? None other than John
Fitzpatrick, Mr.--or rather, Dr.--Lab of O Himself! Although the Lab's
esteemed director has joined our ranks, it is not without hesitation:
"I'm a little concerned that this will mean I'll stop getting good
birds at my house," he says. In fact, the Common Redpoll that visited
his feeder in his pre-Cupper days has not been back...of course, how
many of us can boast of EVER having Common Redpolls at our feeders?
Just to be safe, he gave us only his yard total so far. And most of you
Yardbirders are gonna be sorry he sent that much, when you see what that
CUPPERS' CHOICE AWARDS: Did our latest Cupper sign up just so that
he'd qualify to participate in the 2nd Annual Cuppers' Choice Awards? We
wouldn't blame him if he did. The opportunity to vote for "Best Dressed
Cupper" and "Family Time Prize" is, again, too good to pass up. We
invite all Cuppers to cut and paste the "enclosed" ballet sheet (nestled
appropriately between "News" and "Highlights"), weigh in (yes, you can
vote for yourself, since it may be the only way some of you will get
highly coveted Cup face time!), and email your ballet back to us. Don't
be surprised to see some of last year's categories omitted from the
ballot form (can anything this year compete with Meena's "peeing"
screech owl from last year, in the "Best CayugaBirds" category?), and
perhaps our new category will give some of you (okay, most of you) who
don't stand a chance for "Best Dressed Cupper" an opportunity to take
home a fabulous prize. Perhaps not.
YUPPER, IT'S THE CUPPER SUPPER: Where will the prestigious
Cuppers' Choice Awards be bestowed? At the 2nd Annual Cupper Supper!
"Fun, Food, Fodder, and Foolishness" was the motto last year, and we're
aiming to keep it just as high brow this year. There'll be food, blues,
drinks (again, BYOB--we'll supply soft drinks), food, friends (including
some you've met so far only on Cayugabirds), food, and food. As before,
the Cupper Supper will include the "Top Ten Reasons to Be in the David
Cup" contest (newly revised, and this year easy enough so Sue Kelling
won't stand a chance!), the Cup Conferments (our chance to embarrass,
uh, thank our highly paid Cup staffers), the bestowing of the prestigious
Cuppers' Choice Awards, and of course, the anointing of our new David
Cup King! And we're standing by our promise to award fabulous prizes to
those who place in David Cup Top Ten. Awe-inspiring David Cup
Certificates will again be distributed with warmth and pride (and ample
opportunities to bribe the editors for next year's DC competition.)
This year, in addition to the McIlroy Award, there'll be the Evans
Trophy and the Yard Stick winners to be envious of (that is, assuming
you compilers provide or get someone to provide a trophy!) Sorry,
since "Bird Hard: the David Cup Movie" has run into some unanticipated
production problems (Quentin Tarantino is balking at his verbal
agreement to direct), we can't promise you a sequel (but we just
may have a different sort of deal in the works...) As for the date of
the Supper, it's looking like the 24th of January (we'll confirm
ASAP via email.) All Cuppers and their significant others (including
spouse and children) are invited. Please RSVP with what you can bring
(main dish, dessert, salad, a good bird joke) so we can figure out if
we can squeeze in again at Jeff and Allison's Birdland Bistro or if
we'll be forced to take one of you generous Cuppers up on your offer to
have it at your place (thanks!) We'll again supply paper plates/
cups/utensils but invite you to bring your own reusable set. Doors
open at 5pm. Cover charge: Adults $0, kids under 12 half price.
WE'RE BEING INVADED!: No, we're not talking about the Cupper
Supper! We're talking winter finches. They're invading North America in
what could well be a record year! How do we know? Because the North
American Winter Finch Survey says so! The survey, developed by Cupper
and Lab of O web master Steve Kelling, is an online web site created
specifically to track the southward movement (from Canada and the
northern U.S.) of Pine Siskins, Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills,
Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Hoary Redpolls, and Common Redpolls
into more southerly locales across the continent. The irruption is
proving to be quite a show--literally! The site features animated maps
that reflect where each species has been seen since October as well as
images of the different finches (and examples of their songs and calls),
range information, and interesting facts about the 1997-98 invasion. If
you'd like to see what's going on--or better yet, be part of it by
submitting your winter finch sightings--you can access it at
STORKING STUFFER: Winter finches aren't the only ones making
appearances lately. The stork made a special delivery to Cupper Kurt Fox
and his wife Jeanine on December 4, just after midnight: "We named her
Olivia Rose," says the DC's latest proud papa. "She was a huge baby
9 lbs, 11 oz. and 23 inches long." Both mom and baby are doing fine. As
for signs of Cupperhood, Kurt reports, "She responds well to spishing."
Congratulations, Kurt and Jeanine!
A DOUBLE-CRESTED CRUNCH: A recent flurry of activity regarding the
perceived impact of Double-crested Cormorants on Great Lakes sports
fisheries has raised concern among many in the bird conservation arena.
Assemblyman Bragman held his own public meeting to hear constituents'--
primarily sport fishermen--opinions on this matter. A few weeks later,
the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service held an open house to share information with interested
parties. Despite evidence to the contrary, a number of legislators have
expressed their view that the cormorant population should be reduced.
Legislators need to hear the views of those in the birding community
regarding the issue. For more detailed information, contact Cup
coeditor Jeff Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send letters to: Thomas
Cahill, Commissioner, Dept. of Environmental Conservation, 50 Wolf Road,
Albany, NY 12233. Send cc's to Assemblyman Michael Bragman, LOB 926,
Albany, NY 12248 AND Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, LOB 625, Albany, NY 12248.
MEGAN UPDATE: So, how has little Megan kept Papa Michael Runge "puffin"
along this month?: "Meg picked up Common Redpoll on her lifelist
this month; unfortunately, it was outside of the Basin (in Vermont).
We were disappointed that no Wild Turkey walked brazenly across the
backyard, as it did last year, after the Thanksgiving feast was
finished. Two big developments this month: (1) Meg started walking,
which means that it won't be much longer before she can carry her own
weight on birding strolls, and (2) her new favorite book is *The Bird
Alphabet Book* (by Pallotta & Stewart), a good sign if I ever saw one.
Clearly, the favorite page is P is for Atlantic Puffin,' although Q
is for Quetzel' is a close second. If she can pick out the rare Quetzal
that blows into Sapsucker Woods during migration, I will be a proud
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Finally, our relentless promotion of
classical music here in the pages of The Cup has paid off!
Classical connoisseur Karl David filed this report: "There was an
extraordinary sighting of several vagrant bluesbirds at the United
Methodist Church in Ithaca on December 6, a common site for classical
music concerts and hence one where this species is rarely reported.
Various theories to account for this remarkable sighting have been
proposed and discounted, in particular a rather far-fetched one
involving ship-assisted transport. The real facts in the matter are
that Wife-of-(Kevin McGowan) Cupper Kim Kline was singing in the
chorus, thus attracting the McGowan and Wells clans to the event. The
concert was an all-Brahms affair. Though quite a few sevenths were
flatted, the composer was still unable to make it sound much like the
blues, which explained a lot of the fidgeting, fussing, and general
displacement activity on the part of the bluesbirds in the balcony. The
Father of the Madness, who actually loves Brahms (though there were zero
bird references in the texts), sitting in the orchestra, tried mightily
to ignore the distraction and enjoy the music. He threatens to crash the
next Ithaca Ageless Band gig in retaliation and disrupt it with his
rendition of I Can't Give You Anything But Lovebirds, Baby".
vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote
CUPPER'S CHOICE AWARDS
vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote
With another year nearly over, what better time to think deep thoughts
about saving the rain forest, global warming...and who you think should
win the "Family Time Prize" in the 2nd Annual Cuppers' Choice Awards!
Copy the ballot below, paste it into a new email message to
email@example.com, and cast your vote. Will voting qualify you to win a
fabulous prize? No. In fact, we may not even count your vote in the
final tally, depending upon where you might have penciled in "Allison
Wells" or "Jeff Wells". (On the other hand, go ahead and plug Matt
Medler's name wherever you so choose.) We'll announce the "winners" at
the Cupper Supper. So get out the vote--and feel free to give examples
whenever you wish! Return your ballot to us ASAP. Have fun!
2nd Annual Cupper Supper Official Voting Ballot
QUICK DRAW AWARD (fastest Cupper to post sightings):
SLOW GIN AWARD (slowest Cupper to post):
STRIKE OUT PRIZE (Cupper who tried--and failed--for the most birds):
UNDYING PATIENCE PRIZE (for Cupper who put in most effort offering
insights, answering questions, etc. on Cayugabirds):
BEST DRESSED AWARD (not necessarily most appropriate for the
BIRDMOBILE PRIZE (most unique Cupper vehicle--please describe how
you perceive this vehicle as being unique):
FAMILY TIME PRIZE (who demonstrated the best example of birding
time as "family time"):
THOREAU (or DICKINSON, or ...) AWARD (for most creative postings-
-poetic, humorous, outrageous, etc.):
TREKIE AWARD (most number of miles Cupped):
HOMEBODY PRIZE (least number of miles Cupped):
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED NEXT YEAR AS DAVID CUP CHAMP:
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED NEXT YEAR AS MCILROY CHAMP:
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED NEXT YEAR AS EVANS CHAMP:
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED NEXT YEAR AS YARD STICK
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
by Tom Nix
"Nothing that lives is without wide margins of adaptability that cause
me to look up and find a rootedness that I thought long buried."
--from "Margins," by Mary Parker Buckles
This is it, the long awaited Winter Finch Invasion Year. All the
species collectively called "winter finches" have been observed in
decent numbers, save Hoary Redpoll. Well, there was only that single
Summerhill Pine Grosbeak, but it was a very cooperative Pine Grosbeak.
Evening Grosbeaks have become commonplace. Flocks of Common Redpolls,
reported early on by those intrepid lakewatchers, have been reported
from many Basin locales, some flocks numbering close to 100. Siskins
seemingly have been more elusive, although Sara Jane Hymes reported
them firmly in McIlroy territory at her feeder on Vine Street, and the
Wells had their first in two years--on Thanksgiving Day! But the really
exiting news thus far has been the appearance of both crossbills. For
the first time in a decade there have been many sightings of White-winged
Crossbill, and Red Crossbills have appeared as well. Andy Farnsworth's
South Hill sighting back in October has been followed by multiple
fly-overs and a few observations of stationary birds, especially in the
Beam Hill area. The largest Red Crossbill group sighted, I think, was
Andy's at Taughannock on the 17th. So check out Steve's winter finch web
page at http://birdsource.cornell.edu for some really cool maps and
information. Calls and songs of the various winter finches are
During the first couple of weeks of November, Cuppers picked out
passing Red-throated Loons and Red-necked Grebes from among the flocks
of Common Loons and other waterfowl heading south. Stephen Davies
noted three of the former species at the lighthouse jetty on the 18th,
Geo Kloppel reported a "fine" Red-necked Grebe at Varick on the
16th. This year the Brant seemed to manage their Cayuga Lake passage
without leaving behind a youngster with the Canadas at Stewart Park. An
adult Lesser Black-backed Gull has taken up residence with the Herrings
and Ringbills on the Stewart Park shoreline, and a first winter Iceland
has been a somewhat less regular visitor there.
November is also a month of last sightings. Many people noted Fox
Sparrows, and on the 14th, a nice flock of Rusty Blackbirds were seen a
the Lab of O. Andy Farnsworth reported a late Eastern Phoebe the 17th on
the west side of the lake. Numerous observers reported what might have
been the Common Snipe's last gasp of Basin air on or around the 18th.
Late Dunlin were reported "on ice" at Montezuma and from Myers Point on
the 20th. A flock of both Black and White-winged Scoters were noted at
Myers on the 20th. It's interesting how things change from year to year:
last year the hard scoter to find was the Black. This year it seems to
be the Surf Scoter that's missing from many lists (mine included). But
then again, challenging this assessment, the Wells had all three scoters
off Stewart Park on the 6th and Stephen Davies (of course) had all
three at the lighthouse on the 29th.
And so, as we move into the waning moments of 1997, those of us who
once again have slid far behind the front runners must look to next year.
It looks like a good winter to pick up not only the winter finches, but
Northern Shrike, and maybe, just maybe, Bohemian Waxwing. The former
has been seen already, of course, first on the IC campus, and the latter....
Those who would make a run for the roses next year should stake out
a shrike for the turn of the year, locate the best stands of cone trees
where finches might show, and follow Kurt Fox's tracks deep into the
marshes to where the rails linger.
(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad-turned-carpenter, now a Code Inspector
for the City of Ithaca. Last year he was Mr. January. Will he be going
for the Big January 100 in the new year? Stay tuned!)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
[Overheard inside the 100 Club]
"I think we can close this door now. I don't see anyone else coming, do
"Nah, go ahead and close it. And lock it, too, while you're at it."
"But then it won't be so easy to kick Bill Evans out."
"That's true. Leave it unlocked. Better yet, leave it open."
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
[Voices overheard inside the 200 Club]
"Well, then, let's at least close this door. There's no way anyone's
gonna make it in this late in the game."
"Yeah, go ahead--no, wait! Who's that coming? Good heavens, it's Geo
Kloppel! And what's that he's carrying?"
Geo Kloppel's BIRD 200: White-Winged Scoter
WHAT HE THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I expected it to be
one of the winter waterfowl, since I hadn't nabbed those during the early
months of '97, as most Cuppers presumably had. My last winter waterfowl
census was decades ago, but after devoting 175 gallons of gasoline, 5
quarts of motor oil and numberless hours roaming Cayuga's shores, not to
mention undertaking a lengthy indenture to a certain Austrian telescope
maker, I'm happy to say that most of those hardy birds fell right at my
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
by Matt Medler
And they're heading down the homestretch!!!
1997 David Cup November Totals
240 Stephen Davies
240 Kevin McGowan
240 Allison Wells
238 Steve Kelling
237 Ken Rosenberg
234 Jay McGowan
234 Jeff Wells
229 Karl David
229 Tom Nix
224 John Greenly
222 Chris Hymes
221 Andy Farnsworth
221 Matt Medler
215 Meena Haribal
210 Bill Evans
210 Bard Prentiss
209 John Bower
207 Geo Kloppel
205 Anne Kendall-Cassella
199 JR Crouse
195 Chris Butler
181 Martha Fischer
158 Michael Pitzrick
151 Anne James
150 Marty Schlabach
149 Margaret Launius
141 Jim Lowe
141 Michael Runge
126 David McDermitt
118 John Fitzpatrick
111 Caissa Willmer
106 James Barry*
96 Andy Leahy
92 Casey Sutton
81 Cathy Heidenreich
68 Jane Sutton
68 Diane Tessaglia
64 Sarah Childs*
61 Rob Scott*
59 Dave Mellinger*
46 Larry Springsteen*
42 Sam Kelling
40 Mira the Bird Dog*
37 Taylor Kelling
11 Kurt Fox
5 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Ned Brinkley*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate or have made a temporary
return to Basin within the 1997 David Cup year. You should see their
holiday wish lists!
Evans Rules!???? How about Wells rules!!!? After watching Steve
Kelling lead the McIlroy standings for most of 1997, Allison Wells is
back where we found her at the end of last year-- at the top of the
McIlroy list. Will she retain her Ithaca bragging rights, or will Steve
or Stephen emerge victorious?
1997 McIlroy Award November Totals
206 Allison Wells
203 Stephen Davies
203 Steve Kelling
190 Jeff Wells
185 John Bower
178 Andy Farnsworth
168 Bill Evans
167 Kevin McGowan
156 JR Crouse
155 Karl David
150 Martha Fischer
148 Ken Rosenberg
144 Jay McGowan
142 Matt Medler
136 Tom Nix
124 Chris Butler
122 Michael Runge
117 Anne Kendall-Cassella
113 Jim Lowe
70 Casey Sutton
57 Jane Sutton
57 Dave Mellinger*
51 Rob Scott*
50 Sarah Childs*
46 Larry Springsteen*
40 Mira the Bird Dog*
0 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Ned Brinkley*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate or have made a temporary
return to Basin during the 1997 David Cup year. You should see their
holiday wish lists!
THE EVANS TROPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Named in honor of the late Dick Evans--beloved local birder, Cayuga Bird
Club president, and friend to many--the Evans Trophy will be awarded to
the Cupper with the highest Dryden total. Guess who our money is on!
By Bard Prentiss
204 Ken Rosenberg 199 Ken Rosenberg
193 Kevin McGowan 188 Kevin McGowan
191 Bard Prentiss 188 Bard Prentiss
182 Jay McGowan 180 Jay McGowan
127 Anne Kendall-Cassella 127 Anne Kendall-Cassella
111 Matt Medler 111 Matt Medler
Kevin McGowan's Lansing total: November: 161 October: 156
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
By Margaret Launius
Only one month to go in our first ever yard list competition! Can Mr.
Enfield keep the Dryden boys at bay?? Stay tuned! A Mystery Dove,
Northern Goshawk, displaying Ruffed Grouse, and lots of Common Redpolls
enlivened the yards of our erstwhile yardbirders this month. To get all
the juicy details, watch for the year-end summary newsletter coming to
an e-mail near you in January!
137 John Bower, Enfield, NY
135 Ken Rosenburg, Dryden, NY
134 Kevin & Jay McGowan, Dryden, NY
122 Sandy Podulka, Brooktondale, NY
120 Ken Smith, Groton, NY
118 John Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
114 Bill Purcell, Hastings, NY
109* Mary Gerner, Macedon, NY
106 John Greely, Ludlowville, NY
94 Nancy Dickinson, Trumansburg, NY
93 George Kloppel, Ithaca, NY
85 Joanne Goetz, Fredonia, NY
82 Sara Jane & Larry Hymes, Ithaca, NY
78 Jim Kimball, Geneseo, NY
76 Margaret Launius, Mansfield, PA
76 Allison & Jeff Wells, Ithaca, NY
70 Darlene & John Morabito, Auburn, NY
68 Nari Mistry Family, Ithaca, NY
44 Cathy Heidenreich, Lyons, NY
*Mary's jump from 45 to 109 species in one month was not the effect of
incredible bird fortune but a slight misunderstanding of how the list
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
A three-way tie going into the final month! Most compilers would be
tearing out their hair at the task of tabulating and checking this list,
but it gives me the opportunity to put on my "Stat's All" hat and remind
you that there will thus be eight (two-cubed) categories of birds based
on who of the three has or hasn't seen them. To be precise, it breaks
down like this: 227 species have been seen by all three leaders (call
them S, K, & A); 4 by only S & K; 5 by only S&A; 8 by only K&A; 4 by S
only; 1 by K only; 0 by A only. Thus for S, K & A respectively we see
227+4+5+4 = 227+4+8+1 =227+5+8+0 = 240. And, the number of birds seen
by at least one of S, K, & A is 227+4+5+8+4+1 = 249.
S, K, & A species: R-t & C loons,P-b,Horned & R-n grebes, D-c Cormorant,
A Bittern,G B Heron,G & C egrets,Green and B-c Night herons,Tundra &
Mute swans,S Goose,Brant,C Goose,W Duck,G-w Teal,Am Black Duck, Mallard,
N Pintail,B-w Teal, N Shoveler, Gadwall,AmWigeon, Canvasback, Redhead,
R-n Duck,G & L scaup,Oldsquaw,Black,Surf & W-w scoters, Common
Goldeneye,Bufflehead,Hooded, Common & R-b mergansers, Ruddy Duck,
T Vulture,Osprey,Bald Eagle,N Harrier,S-s & Cooper's hawks,
N Goshawk,R-s,B-w,R-t & R-l hawks,Am Kestrel,Merlin,Peregrine Falcon,
R-n Pheasant,Ruffed Grouse,Wild Turkey,VA Rail,Common Moorhen,
Am Coot,B-b, Am Golden & Semipalmated plovers,Killdeer,Am Avocet,
G & L yellowlegs,Solitary,Spotted & Upland sandpipers, Sanderling,
Semipalmated,Least,W-r & Pectoral sandpipers,Dunlin,Stilt Sandpiper,
S-b & L-b dowitchers,Common Snipe,Am Woodcock,Franklin's,Bonaparte's,
R-b,Herring,Lesser B-b,Glaucous & Great B-b gulls,Caspian,Forster's
& Black terns,Rock & Mourning doves,B-b Cuckoo,EScreech, G H,
Barred,S-e & N S-w owls,Common Nighthawk,Chimney Swift,R-t Hummingbird,
Belted Kingfisher,R-h & R-b woodpeckers,Y-b Sapsucker, Downy & Hairy
woodpeckers, N Flicker,Pileated Woodpecker, E W-Pewee, Alder,Willow &
Least flycatchers,E Phoebe,G C Flycatcher,W & E kingbirds, Horned
Lark,Purple Martin,Tree,N R-w,Bank, Cliff & Barn swallows, Blue Jay,
Am & Fish crows,Common Raven,B-c Chickadee, T Titmouse,R-b & W-b
nuthatches,Brown Creeper,Carolina,House,Winter, S & M wrens,G-c & R-c
kinglets,B-g Gnatcatcher,E Bluesbird,Veery, G-c, Swainson's,Hermit &
Wood thrushes,Am Robin,Gray Catbird, N Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher,Am
Pipit, Cedar Waxwing,European Starling,W-e,B-h,Y-t,Warbling & R-e
vireos,B-w,TN & Nashville warblers, N Parula,Yellow,C-s,Magnolia,Cape
May,B-t Blue,Y-r,B-t Green, Blackburnian,Pine,Prairie,Palm,
B-b,Blackpoll,Cerulean & B&w warblers, AmRedstart, Prothonotary
Warbler,Ovenbird,N & L waterthrushes, Mourning Warbler,Common
Yellowthroat,Hooded,Wilson's & Canada warblers,Scarlet Tanager,
N Cardinal,R-b Grosbeak,Indigo Bunting, E Towhee, Am Tree, Chipping,
W-t & W-c sparrows,D-e Junco, Lapland Longspur,Snow Bunting,Bobolink,
R-w Blackbird,E Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, C Grackle,B-h Cowbird,
Orchard & Baltimore orioles, Pine Grosbeak,Purple & House finches,
Common Redpoll,Pine Siskin,Am Goldfinch,Evening Grosbeak, H Sparrow.
S&K species: Least Bittern,Iceland Gull,G-w Warbler,Y-h Blackbird.
S&A species: Wilson's Phalarope,L-e Owl,O-s & Y-b flycatchers, Red
K&A species: Golden Eagle,Ruddy Turnstone,Baird's Sandpiper,
R-n Phalarope, Thayer's Gull,Acadian Flycatcher,P Vireo, W-w Crossbill.
S only species: Eurasian Wigeon,Common Tern,Y-b Cuckoo,W-e Warbler.
K only species: Sora.
A only species: "DearAllison: To really rub in the fact that you have
no birds that Stephen and/or Kevin don't also, you should add a +0' to
the end of the calculation that yields 249 birds that one or more of you
have seen in the Leader's List. I took every other opportunity of
highlighting that fact, as you can see :), but forgot to there. Karl"
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
Okay, I said there were eight categories and you only counted seven.
Well, how about the birds not seen by any of our three leaders, but by
one or more of the rest of us laggards?
Others only species: Am White Pelican, Snowy Egret, G W-f & Ross'
geese, Barrow's Goldeneye, Black Vulture,Western & B-b sandpipers,
jaeger sp., Laughing,Little & Sabine's gulls, Snowy Owl, Whip-poor-will,
N Shrike, O-c & KY warblers, Dickcissel.
That's 18 species added to 249 for a grand total of 267: one less than
last year! Come on, we can tie that. Most likely candidate for tying
species: Bohemian Waxwing. For tie-breaking species: who knows, but I
hope I see it! It should be good, because there's nothing even half-way
(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora and is
spending a sabbatical year at Cornell. Look for him (still) in his
summer shorts and "tennies" [fide Stephen Davies].)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove October is a tail-kickin' month than by being
part of a record-setting three-way tie interview exclusively for The
Cup? "Kickin' Tail" brings well deserved honor and recognition to the
Cupper who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, three-way
tied or otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.
No kidding, this month's interview is a three-way doozy (we at The Cup
were tempted to knock either Kevin or Stephen--okay, both--down a notch,
literally, in an attempt to keep a handle on the madness such an
interview was sure to bring. But at the last minute, we suspected they
might notice--240 to 239 is a giant step indeed, particularly if that
240 ties you for the lead. So, we went ahead with the three-way
interview...and then checked into the local mental health institute
with Leaders' List compiler Father Karl.
THE CUP: So, it's the Three Stooges! Congratulations on being part of
the David Cup's first three-way tie. Are you surprised that the DC
ended the month this way?
MCGOWAN: Well, I'm surprised that Allison has worked her way up to the
[Voice in the background]: Same to you, buddy!
THE CUP: What was that? Did you hear something? Nevermind. You were
MCGOWAN: I'm not surprised that there are multiple people here. It's a
pretty tight race this year. Just look at all the people right behind.
DAVIES: Well, I wasn't surprised to see McGowan ranking highly, but I
think we were all taken aback at the unprecedented change of fortunes
experienced by the indomitable Ms. Wells. How do you expect us to
believe, er, I mean... how do you explain your meteoric rise to kicking
taildom in recent weeks, Allison?
WELLS: The writing was right there on the David Cup wall, boys. If you
go back and read the Pilgrims' Progress in the last issue, you'll note
that I was at 235--tied with Dr. McGowan, and both of us were only four
behind the Brit. Before that, I was 227--two behind the Brit, four
behind McGowan, with many obvious misses. I'm still missing an obvious
bird: Iceland Gull. Of course, Davies is making sure it's not so
obvious anymore. Someone (and I point no finger at John Bower here)
told me he saw Davies throwing McDonald's Breakfast Burrito wrappers at
the one that showed up briefly a few weeks back at Stewart Park.
DAVIES: [Please note no denial here. Notice how he changes the subject,
too.] Interesting change of tactics from last year, too, if I remember
correctly. DC '96 saw you starting strongly, with a period of frenetic
activity during spring migration, followed by an unglamourous nosedive
toward the latter part of the year. Care to comment?
WELLS: Unglamourous? But I was wearing my best taffeta gown!
THE CUP: Yeah, but it was the wrong color for you. Where did you all
spend your time birding this month?
DAVIES: Err, there was the jetty of course, particularly early on, but
desertion by Evans and Farnsworth kinda disbanded the Jetty Badboys
until next year. I decided to vary the routine a little, a tactic which
payed dividends on the 5th, when a quick stop at Myers Point produced a
THE CUP: Yes, the interest rate on that little investment went sky high.
MCGOWAN: Stewart Park and Dryden Lake have been about it for me.
The farthest away from home Jay and I went birding this month (in the
Basin) was Myer's Point. I was out of town two of the five weekends, so
we never made it up and around the lake. I picked up two birds on Beam
Hill behind the house, though, so I've been pretty successful staying
THE CUP: A candidate for the "Homebody Prize"?
WELLS: Jeff and I put in a serious Saturday morning and a few late
afternoons at Stewart Park, hoping for good looks at scoters. We got
all three species and Red-throated Loon early in the month, but we were
selfish and wanted a better look at Black, since neither of us saw one
at all last year. I picked up a fly-over Red Crossbill while walking
back from the Lab one morning. Same thing with Common Redpoll on another
occasion. It was quite a thrill to hear them, but I would still love to
see one at a feeder, or sitting sweetly in a conifer somewhere.
DAVIES: Winter finches, Bohemian Waxwings, etc. were on everybody's
minds, of course, so I spent a little time working the conifers and
remoter recesses of the Basin. Not much success on that front, I'm
afraid, since the lack of cones has discouraged these northerners,
particularly crossbills, from lingering. Despite having heard
White-winged on almost half a dozen occasions now, I've decided not to
count it until I get a decent look--being a European, this would be a
life bird for me.
THE CUP: Absolutely, you shouldn't count it. In fact, why don't we say
you're at 239, just to be safe?
WELLS: Stephen, I hope you're a little embarrassed that you let not one
but two Cuppers catch you.
MCGOWAN: Well, it's all his own fault. Stephen has been the one out
there looking for birds, braving the cold jetty every day, cruising
around the lake. But then he goes and tells people about the birds, and
the rest of us swarm up and get them, too. If he had just kept his
mouth shut, he'd be far out in front.
DAVIES: I'm delighted to be sharing the limelight with two such
top-class birders and splendid sports. Particularly at this season of
peace on earth and good will to all birders.
THE CUP: Hmm. Santa's surely got some fabulous gifts for you this year,
with an attitude like that.
DAVIES: I have a new mantra for the month: "I get knocked down, but I
get up again. You're never going to keep me down".
THE CUP: Hmm. More words of wisdom from people with green hair. (With
a name like Chumbawamba, can you really take them seriously?) Speaking
of gifts, if, heaven forbid, you were forced to bird anywhere outside
the Basin that you wanted to, where would it be?
MCGOWAN: Jay and I actually had a great morning birding down on Long
Island the day after Thanksgiving. Jay picked up four lifers
THE CUP: Congratulations, Jay! (But remember, though, these were
OUTSIDE the Basin.)
MCGOWAN: --and I got a new state bird. I think Jay's life list (326)
has just passed my New York State list (322) for all time; they've been
just about tied all year. Jay is clamoring to go to Arizona, and I
would love to do that. He has never been to the Southwest, and I could
still pick up a bunch of new birds there, too.
WELLS: That's where I would go, to Arizona. Jeff visited there last year
on business and has been raving about it since. Tom Nix's Arizona tales a
few issues back have also put me in an Arizona state of mind. I've also
always wanted to visit the arctic. True, you don't get the mind-boggling
numbers of species you get in the tropics (you don't get the nasty
parasites, either, right Stephen?), but it just seems so vast and
mysterious. And the idea that the creatures that live there--not just
the birds, mind you--are so perfectly adapted to live in such a place
just blows my mind. For that matter, I'd love to visit the penguins in
THE CUP: And you, Stephen? (Remember, the lighthouse jetty is IN the
DAVIES: Just so happens I've been coerced by Katherine's parents to join
them for a week in Key West at the beginning of the New Year. (How much
did you pay them?) I finally succumbed when I heard that frigatebirds
are frequently visible from their outdoor hot tub. To capitalize on the
opportunity, I decided to invest in a brand-new pair of top-flight
waterproof binocs and a sizzling new bathing suit. So I guess I'm all
set for some serious "Tubthumping". Yeah. I'll let you know how I get
THE CUP: "Sizzling," huh? That must be how they keep the hot tub hot.
Kevin, if you win, what will you do to celebrate, and will your home
brew be involved?
MCGOWAN: Alas, I have been remiss in brewing this year. I have not
brewed anything for about a year and a half. Maybe I will celebrate by
starting a new batch: Cup-kicking Stout.
DAVIES: Home brew? Could this explain the rash of Pink-backed
Pelican sightings (hic) from the Beam Hill area?
WELLS: I've tried Kevin's home brew, and let me say this: I've never
once seen a Pink-backed Pelican. A Rainbow-billed Barking Duck,
THE CUP: Can you speculate for us about what happened to last year's
Kickin' Tail King, Karl David?
MCGOWAN: Burnout, obviously. It just goes to show the intense pressures
on the David Cup leaders and the level of competition involved here.
It's rough at the top, and he just couldn't handle it a second year,
especially not without his beloved Elaine nearby to support him. It's
not for the faint of heart.
DAVIES: I last sighted Karl back in early November. Bill, Andy and I
were huddled together next to the lighthouse, fighting exposure and
watching the loons hurtle by on a 40 mph northerly tailwind. It was so
cold that nose drips were freezing in mid-air before they hit your
rainguard. Karl arrived in his usual winter attire: t-shirt, shorts,
and tennies. We marveled at this inspiring display of ironmanhood from
our fearless Father Karl. Here he was, tweaking the nose of Old Man
Winter, laughing in the face of hypothermia. We guessed this might be
some sort of preparation for a bare-chested birding adventure along the
Niagara River later in the month. I believe Karl is still out there,
somewhere, roaming the snow-covered countryside, equipped only with his
optics and a thong to protect him from the elements. I thought I caught
sight of him a week ago, performing a leisurely freestyle out in the
middle of Aurora bay, doubtless in search of an Eared Grebe or something.
But the swell was too great for me to be absolutely sure. I bet he'll
surface again soon, with some stellar sightings to report. By the way,
is it true he was kicked out of the Seals when, during a mid-Atlantic
training exercise, he wilfully disobeyed his commanding officer and swam
off to confirm the identification of the Northern Hemisphere's first
WELLS: It's absolutely not true. He didn't swim, he took a jet ski.
THE CUP: How will you bird these last few weeks of David Cup 1997?
MCGOWAN: Either haphazardly, whenever I can get out there, or
determinedly with a grand plan. And maybe with a shotgun. I am allowed
to take two Iceland Gulls on my collecting permit, and rumor has it that
one of my competitors is lacking this species. ;^)
WELLS: Didn't you hear? Your permit was revoked. In fact, I heard you
and Stephen both have been fined one Yellow-headed Blackbird, for
driving too fast on the MNWR auto loop. So that means...
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge of the
world of birds. This month is about raptors (the word "hawk" that is used
here means any raptor except for owls.) Answers next month. (But if you
happened to find me a Glaucous Gull or a White-winged Crossbill...)
1. Which North American hawks are sexually dimorphic in plumage (males
and females look different)?
2. Which North American owls are sexually dimorphic in plumage?
3. Which North American hawks have only one word in their names?
4. Which North American hawks are also found in Europe?
5. Which North American hawk has a yellow bill?
6. Which North American forest hawk is becoming a common breeder in
cities and towns in North America, including Ithaca?
7. What is the largest hawk in the world?
8. What is the "Mexican Eagle" on the Mexican flag?
9. Which North American raptor has spiny processes on its feet to help
it hold its prey?
10. Which North American hawk is a cooperative breeder?
ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:
1. What type of bird is a dikkop? An African thick-knee (stone-curlew),
an odd kind of shorebird.
2. In Britain, what is the Lapland Longspur called? The Lapland Bunting.
3. What are the largest South American waterfowl? The Black-necked
4. Why do crossbills have crossed bills? To get seeds out of pinecones.
5. What do Townsend's Solitaires like to eat in the winter? Juniper
6. Which bird has to be removed from the New York checklist with the
recent changes by the AOU, and which bird will be put in its place? A
Marbled Murrelet was seen a few years ago. This year the AOU split the
Marbled Murrelet two species: the Marbled Murrelet of North America and
the Long-billed Murrelet of Asia. The bird seen in New York, like most
"Marbled Murrelets" seen away from the west coast, was a Long-billed
7. In Florida, which icterid (in the blackbird family) feeds extensively
on snails? The Boat-tailed Grackle
8. Which bird's genus means rain? Any of the Pluvialis plovers
(Black-bellied and golden-plovers). Latin pluvialis, relating to rain
9. Which bird's trivial (species) name means snow? The Snow Bunting,
Plectrophenax nivalis. Latin nivalis, snowy, of snow (nix, nivis, snow).
10. Which large wading bird preys on penguins? The Sacred Ibis preys on
Jackass Penguin eggs and chicks, as well as cormorant chicks, in South
(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. He has the finest collection
of Nerf dart guns ever to be seen...or shot with.)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
For those of you anxious about the "never-missed" list I wrote about
last month, some good news and bad news: I finally located a Ruffed
Grouse (at Monkey Run South), but I came up empty looking for Short-
eared Owl. That bird is now my final priority (besides "nosing out Nix")
for the year! The flurry of Fox Sparrow sightings during the snow
flurries of mid-November had a statistical moral of sorts to them. I
thought they were a bit late for this bird, but Steve Kelling informs us
it's just about the peak time for them. My perception was clearly
colored by the fact that once we locate a bird we're looking for, we tend
to stop looking specifically for that bird. As often as not, I've missed
Fox Sparrow in the spring, so it then becomes basically the last regular
passerine migrant to pick up in the fall. That's never happened for me
later than the first week in November, whence my mild surprise at Steve's
Well, most of you have probably heard by now that because "my
beloved Elaine" found a tenure-track job at Carthage College in Kenosha,
Wisconsin, we will almost certainly be leaving the area sometime next
summer. Thus, it's time to get nostalgic and retrospective about my
career as a Basin birder, if you will bear with me.
I don't think anyone was ever successful in getting Dorothy McIlroy
to add up her lifetime Basin list (or to reveal it if she has). I would
be most curious to know if she has seen 300 species. That number seems
about right to me for a lifetime achievement award, which of course she
is the leading, if not the sole, candidate for. Her data would make a
refreshing change from my own in this column, I realize. But I don't
have it, so once again I'll use my own experience to explore the question:
how hard is it to see 300 birds in the Cayuga Lake Basin?
First, what are the rules? Going by what I count personally, I now
have 289 species. However, eight or nine of those are birds whose reports
NYSARC rejected or for which I never bothered submitting reports, knowing
they wouldn't pass muster. Remember, rules committees don't usually
reject reports because they believe you're wrong, but because your report
isn't convincing enough to make them believe you're right. However, for
the sake of argument, I'll go with the higher number, it representing
what I believe I've seen. Only God knows the precise number, of course,
but even if yours is a very skeptical deity, the true number is surely at
least halfway between 279 and 289. Since I've been at it for 13 years,
just subtract about 2/3 bird per year from the data below if you're a
If you're looking for a coffee-table book to give (or ask for) as a
holiday present, may I suggest "The Commissar Vanishes" (yes, I will tie
this in with birds in a moment!) This book would be highly amusing if its
subject matter weren't so grim: the airbrushing out of photographs of
persons who subsequently became non-persons in the Soviet Union. Well
(back to birds), I am happy to say that I too can now rewrite my personal
Basin birding history. It's always annoyed me slightly that that history
did not begin on a January 1, but on a September 1 (could you guess I'm
an academic from that if you didn't already know so?). September 1, 1984
to be precise. Well, I recorded 145 species for the remainder of that
year: interestingly, it's taken me (almost) 13 years to (almost) double
However, with this fall's Western Kingbird, I have now "recovered"
all the 1984 birds (which explains IN PART why I kissed Allison in
gratitude for relocating it ... the other part's just between her and me,
heh heh). Thus I can present a doctored list of accumulated new species
year by year for the full years 1985 through 1997 (well, almost the
latter), and here it is:
1985 - 213 1991 - 5 1997 - 4
1986 - 18 1992 - 10
1987 - 2 1993 - 3
1988 - 7 1994 - 4
1989 - 5 1995 - 3
1990 - 9 1996 - 6
No huge surprises in the distribution, I would think, but it doesn't
completely go the way you might expect. For example, the third year has
the least number of added birds. However, we didn't have Brinkley, Byrne,
or Cayugabirds back then, and I was fairly isolated from the Ithaca
birding community, anyway. Still, that hardly explains why it should jump
back up to seven the next year; my level of intensity was about the same
both years. The "10" for 1992 sticks out of course: what betting person
would have thought I'd ever get back into double digits that late in the
process? That year was the Brinkley/Byrne annus mirabilis, of course,
which explains a lot ... the rest of us benefitted greatly by drafting
off their birds.
I think what surprises me most, though, is the persistence of
numbers higher than 0,1 or 2 through the years. The numbers clearly have
to asymptotically approach zero, but I would perhaps not have guessed
beforehand that they would take so long to get to those levels. Which
brings me back to the original question of reaching 300 birds. Unless I
return to the Basin for another protracted stay, I obviously won't make
it. But it might only take another 5-6 years, to be conservative, to get
11 more birds for 300. Even if you knock 10 off my list, it might still
be only 10 more years. So, I would conclude that 20-25 years of active
Basin birding (and with a community such as ours that shares sightings)
should produce a list of 300 birds.
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
Since we have a three-way tie for Kickin' Tail Leader this month, why not
a "tie" for the Scrawl of Fame, too? No kidding, for only the second
time in David Cup history, we have two--count 'em TWO--Scrawl of Fames.
In fact, don't just count 'em, read 'em...
"The Truth About Linda's Junkyard Diner"
by Stephen Davies
"KELLING: ...Ken Rosenberg realized there might be a problem, and
very few people know this but in fact several years ago we tried to get
rid of the UK upstart. Remember Linda's Junkyard Diner? It's the gas
station-turned- restaurant near MNWR. Ken and I took Stephen there
and made him eat three WRECKER's SPECIALS. We did not see him for
about three years, but I guess he eventually got over it." --McIlroy
Musings, The Cup 2.10
I've been extremely wary of Kelling and Rosenberg ever since
that fateful day, and it's about time the truth came out. First of
all, its a real stretch of the imagination to call this place a
'restaurant'. I knew I'd gotten into a bad situation when I noticed
the bullet holes in the front window and the portrait of John Wayne
hanging crookedly on the wall. The 'waiter' came over to take
our order: 6' 4" of snarling, tattooed muscle in a sawn-off
T-shirt (it was November.) I ordered the special with everything,
not wanting to look like a fish out of water, but I think my accent
gave me away. A deathly hush fell over the place. The two hunters
seated in the corner looked up from their game of poker and scowled
in our direction. It was like a bad smell had filled the whole room,
and that bad smell was me.
The waiter growled something unintelligible at me. I looked
blank. Ken translated: Did I want white bread or white bread?
I opted for white bread. Five minutes later, the special arrived: the
Wrecker Sandwich (spelt 'Recker' on the menu)--a warm conglomeration
of cheese, egg and bread, held together with engine grease. Somewhere
in the background, a banjo started playing and the waiter told me I
sure did have a purdy mouth. It was then I suddenly remembered I had a
date with a Eurasian Wigeon, so I swallowed the Recker Sandwich whole,
slammed some cash down on the table and bolted for the door.
What happened next is a blur. I remember a scuffle, and I
chinned this guy who was wearing some funky leather headgear--was
that you, Steve? I finally burst out into the crisp, November air,
dived into the car and made a quick getaway down 5 and 20.
I guess Steve and Ken survived the experience, too, but it's
taken Steve three years to finally get to the point where he can talk
about it. As for silent Ken...
"De-coding for A Big January"
By Kurt Fox
In the Scrawl of Fame (see "A Basin Big January, Part II:
Strategies", The Cup 2.3), I suggested that "Many of the strategies
for a Big January are just large-scale versions of a Big Day, but are
on a lesser scale than a Big Year." In "Kickin' Tail" (The Cup 2.9),
leader Kevin McGowan states "In my list of difficulty codes for Basin
birds, the 3's are those that are predictable each year but are
difficult to find. Every fierce competitor should have all of the
1's and 2's, but will probably miss some 3's." Thinking about those
two lines, I think Kevin's difficulty-rating scale needs a little
re-adjustment for a Big January. Birds that are a "1" (easy) rating for
the year (such as a Am. Robin) are not necessarily a "1" rating in
January. They may be bumped up to a "2" or "3". A Yellow Warbler (a
former "1") would be a "5". It may be hard to get excited and exert
effort to find a Robin in January when you'll know that there will be
hundreds come spring. But, it is that sort of mindset that is needed to
succeed in a Big January.
I spent a rainy weekend and a few weeknights reading the past 31
Region 3 winter issues of The Kingbird. I charted and tracked which
species were seen in January and winter in Reg 3. In the past 31 years,
there has been a total of 166 (!!!) species recorded in the Cayuga Lake
Basin in January. Add the other Region 3 and winter possibilities and
that number stretches to almost 200! That's a super starting number.
You'd only need to get just over 50% of those to break 100.
If only it were that easy. Of course, you are not going to get
them all in one year. From that chart of 31 January's, I broke them
down into Kevin's difficulty scale. I am reminded of Father Karl's
words in "Stat's All, Folks" in The Cup 2.8 when he so wisely says:
"Of course, as estimates of probabilities, these need to be
taken with lethal doses of salt. For example, for a 12/12 bird like
Wilson's Phalarope, using this principle means I can never miss it! But
alas, I'm on the verge of doing so [every] year. Again, I use these
numbers for illustrative purposes only."
In short, what Karl is saying is that those estimates of
probabilities are somewhat based upon EFFORT. Without the effort,
those probabilities would certainly be less. Given Karl's effort,
here is what ** I ** came up with for things that have already been
seen in the CLB in Jan.
Note 1: if considering all of Reg 3, or all winter, more species get
more common and more predictable).
Note 2: "Winter" is a subjective term, since I would consider an
early December Bonaparte's Gull as a fall migrant, or a mid- to
late-Feb Killdeer, C. Snipe, TV or RS Hawk to be an early migrant.
Nevertheless, the list below are (facts!) ONLY CLB in Jan.
Note 3: Birds like Rock Dove were NOT mentioned in The Kingbird every
winter, so some obvious things (not founded in print) are assumed.
Note 4: The actual numbers for Reg 2 is higher than Reg 3 for
a) Region 2 has a bonus called Lake Ontario, and
b) several teams of observers have gone gangbusters in the past
regularly gave a substantial effort to break 100. Asking
them about this list, many of these species would be bumped up a notch
or two (it gets easier with time - in just 1 year TNix jumped 8 species).
***** The Difficulty Codes *****
A total of 19 "1" birds (impossible to miss--everybody with a
feeder and one stop at Stewart Park, plus normal driving to/from work
should get these): C Goose, Am B Duck, Mallard, R-t Hawk, R-b, Herring,
G B-b gulls, R & M Doves, D Woodpecker, B Jay, Am Crow, B-c Chickadee,
E Starling, N Cardinal, D-e Junco, House Finch, Am Goldfinch,
A total of 31 "2" birds (impossible to miss with reasonable
effort--a trip or two around Cayuga Lake, and a walk or two in the
woods, plus owling):
C Loon, P-b & H Grebes, G B Heron, Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead+,
Gr+ & L Scaup, Com Goldeneye+, Bufflehead+, Cmn Mergansers,
N Harrier, Am Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Am Coot+,
E Screech-Owl, G Horned Owl, R-b+ and Hairy Woodpeckers, N Flicker,
P Woodpecker, T Titmouse, W-b nuthatch, B Creeper, G-c kinglet,
E Bluebird, C Waxwing, Am Tree & W-t Sparrows
A total of 25 "3" birds (predictable each year but are difficult
to find--you should get almost all of these): R-n Duck, Hooded & R-b
Mergansers, B Eagle, S-s & Cooper's Hawks, N Goshawk, R-l Hawk,
R-n Pheasant, B & S-e Owls, B Kingfisher+, R-b Nuthatch, Horned Lark,
Co Raven, C Wren, Am Robin, N Mockingbird, N Shrike, Song &
Swamp Sparrows, S Bunting+, B-h Cowbird, Purple Finch, Evening
Of the "4" birds (not seen every year, but much more regular than
"5"), I broke this into two parts. First, I believe some trends are
occurring in which some of the following may now occur more often.
Secondly, The Kingbird facts 16 out of 20 years is NOT every year [aka:
not a "3"], but it certainly beats the 6 or 7 of 20 years like the
others on the list. Given a concentrated effort, many of these should
be found more often than the literature suggests.) More common "4"
birds (list 4A)--you should get over half of these 43 species: D-c
Cormorant, Tundra+ & Mute+ Swans, S Goose+ & W Duck+, G-w Teal, N
Pintail+, Am Wigeon+, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter, Ruddy Duck, R-s Hawk,
Merlin, Killdeer, Iceland+, L B-b, & Glaucous+ Gulls, Snowy, L-e+, S-e+
& N S-w+ Owls, R-h Woodpecker, Y-b Sapsucker, F Crow+, W Wren+, R-c
Kinglet, H Thrush+, G Catbird, Y-r Warbler+, C Yellowthroat+, E Towhee,
Field+, Savannah+, W-c+ Sparrows, L Longspur+, R-w Blackbird+, E
Meadowlark+, C Grackle+, Rusty Blackbird+, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin+,
Less common "4" birds (list 4B)--you should get only a few of
these 15 species: R-n Grebes, N Shoveler, Va Rail+, Cmn Snipe,
Bonaparte's Gull, BB Woodpecker, E Phoebe, Boreal Chickadee, B Thrasher,
Chipping, V & Fox Sparrows, Baltimore Oriole, R & WW Crossbill.
A total of 33 "5" birds (not seen every year, rarer than "4"--you
CAN NOT count on ANY of these, but you CAN expect that something odd to
show up every winter): R-t Loon, E & W Grebes, Am Bittern+, Grn Heron,
G W-f Goose, B-w Teal, King Eider, Bl. Scoter, Barrow's Goldeneye,
T Vulture, Osprey, Sora, S Crane, Dunlin, Am Woodcock, Thayer's Gull,
Ross' Gull, Barn Owl, Hawk Owl, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Gray
Jay (25 Jan 1958 and 15 Jan 1973 - KB:23,2 D. Kibbe, and 20 Feb 71--
MNWR--Gene Hocutt), H Wren, V Thrush, B Waxwing, L Shrike, Am Pipit,
Pine Warbler, Dickcissel, R-b Grosbeak (some regional immatures
questioned by editor as being Black-headed!), Ghopper Sparrow
(D. McIlroy), Harris' Sparrow.
**** Note words of wisdom by Bill Evans:
"Of course, one needs to carefully sift through the reality
of past records." The Cup 1.8 - COACH'S CORNER
+= birds that might be (questionably) bumped up into an easier category.
***** Topping 100 *****
Doing some homework, I found that in the past 31 years, the Basin
has produced 166 different species in January (that's a nice base line
to start with.) Kevin's prediction of getting all the "1" and "2" birds
and "most" of the "3" birds (say 90%), should add to a total of 72. You
should pick up over half (60%) of the 4A birds, and a few (15%) of the
4B birds. You should be lucky and pick up one or two of the ultra-rare
"5" birds that occur each winter (recall, nobody said that you had to
*FIND* all these solo--remember to draft). That should give you 100,
regardless of the the type of winter it is as the half-hardies,
waterbirds and winter finches are all scattered across the difficulty range.
Jan Total =(100% * "1") + (100% * "2") + (90% * "3") +
(60% * "4A") + (15% * "4B") + (15% * "5")
Jan Total =(100% * 19) + (100% * 31) + (90% * 25) +
(60% * 43) + ( 15% * 15) + (5% * 33)
Jan Total = 19 + 31 + 22 + 25 + 2 + 1 = 100 !
! Note: when percentages calculated to fractions, I pessimistically
rounded down; otherwise, it would be 104.
I firmly believe that I have been rather fair with percentages, but
perhaps lean to the pessimistic side for grouping in the "1" to "5"
range. I welcome all comments in this regard.
***** To the test *****
The above rating scale was a subjective rating based on factual
Kingbird data. I thought I'd stack that up against the 1997 totals
presented in The Cup 2.1. I put in leader Tom Nix's total as a baseline
comparison of the best 'published' January list so far. (Karl David
alludes to a higher total in The Cup 2.1: "Sorry, Tom, but I did once
(1995) have 86 at the end of January." Perhaps Karl will stack his
1995 list against the above rating?). I think the collective Cup effort
and CLB 100 Track are closely aligned. As Kevin predicts, the leader
will have more of the "3", "4" and "5" birds. This is especially true in
January when the largest grouping is in the "4A" range.
CLB 100 Track The Cup Effort Tom's Excellent Solo Effort 1997
1 19/19 (100%) 19/19 (100%) 19/19 (100%)
2 31/31 (100%) 31/31 (100%) 30/31 ( 97%)
3 22/25 ( 90%) 23/25 ( 92%) 19/25 ( 76%)
4A 25/43 ( 60%) 28/43 ( 65%) 15/43 ( 35%)
4B 2/15 ( 15%) 3/15 ( 20%) 0/15 ( 0%)
5 1/33 ( 5%) 2/33 ( 6%) 1/33 (3-5%)
Total: 100/166 106/166 84/166 (or 79% of CLB
***** Needful things *****
The following is a list of birds seen in Region 3 in January, or in
the Region or the CLB in winter, or some combination of that. These were
not considered in the calculations above, but are all "4" or "5" birds.
It is provided here as things to look forward to:
[For the following, to give a sense of regularity, I abbreviated
CJ: Cayuga Lake Basin in January; BW: Cayuga Lake Basin in Winter;
RJ: Region 3 in January; RW: Region 3 in Winter]
Those species that have been recorded in the Cayuga Lake Basin in
winter (right spot, wrong month) and also recorded in Region 3 in Jan
(right month, wrong spot in Reg 3)--5 species:
Brant (RJ '72, RJ '78, BW '83, BW '87, RJ '89)
Eurasian Wigeon (RJ '67, RW '70, BW 5 Feb 87, BW '97)
Surf Scoter(RJ '95, BW/RJ '96)
Hoary Redpoll (RW '72, RJ '78, BW/RJ '82, RJ '94)
YH Blackbird (RJ '76, BW '96)
Those species that have been recorded in Reg 3 in Jan, but not recorded
in CLB that same year--11 species:
Harlequin Duck, Common Eider, Peregrine Falcon (seen several times
region in winter, should be seen in CLB in winter soon), Marsh
Wren (see note on Peregrine), [Red] Phalarope, Veery (RJ '77, RJ '83),
(Arctic/Northern) Three-toed Woodpecker (RJ '73, RW 78),
O-c Warbler (RJ '69, RW '80), Cape-May Warbler (RW '76, RJ '83),
Brewer's Blackbird (RJ '77), Lark Sparrow (RJ '77).
Those species that have been recorded in the Cayuga Lake Basin in winter,
but not recorded elsewhere in Reg 3 that same year--9 species:
Ross's Goose (11 Feb 96), King Rail (29 Dec 79, MNWR), Sora (17 Dec
71, 5 Dec 96), Laughing Gull (Dec 96), Swainson's Thrush
(27 Dec 80--W. Benning), Say's Phoebe (13 Dec 77),
Yellow Warbler (Dec 86), Ovenbird (Dec 87), Y-T Warbler
(twice in Dec)
Those species that have been recorded in Reg 3 in Winter, but not
recorded in CLB that same year--6 species:
B-c Night-Heron (RW 76), B-L Kittiwake (RW 31 Dec),
Bl Guillemot (RW 23 Dec 78), Nashville Warbler (RW 77, RW 80),
Am Redstart (RW 68), YB Chat (RW 75)
Note: Because I sped through this exercise, somewhere along the lines I
lost a few birds than are likely in CLB and in Jan (ie Gyrfalcon?)
Cayuga Lake Basin - January 166 species
Region 3--January : 11
Cayuga Lake Basin/Region 3 Jan: 5
Cayuga Lake Basin--Winter: 9
Region 3--Winter: 6
Total Reg 3 in winter: 197 (!)
Hypothetical: 2 (Mtn Bluebird, Carolina Chickadee)
Exotics/Escapees: 5 (Trumpeter, Cmn Crane, Monk Parakeet, etc)
***** ***** ***** *****
Several Cuppers have been asking me: "Are you busy planning for your
Big January'? Actually, no, I am not. I could whine about living so far
out of the Basin, or whine about not knowing the birding sites intimately,
but I will use that time with the family' card as Jeannine has just
delivered Olivia Rose on December 4th. As Kevin McGowan (The Cup 2.9)
says, "Those of you without a newborn baby don't have acceptable
excuses." So, I guess I will have an acceptable excuse.
Is 100 possible in the Basin in January? Sure! Am I brilliant or
bonkers? I plead the fifth.
(Kurt Fox is a Software Engineer at Eastman Kodak Company. He spends
his free time imagining that he lives in the Basin, or at least close
enough to compete in a Big January.)
(If you have an opinion--or insider information--about the art, science,
and/or esthetics of birding or birding-related topics, write it up for the
Scrawl of Fame.)
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
What do you do when someone writes up a Coach's Corner and parks it in
front of your front door and vows not to vacate the premises until it
sees the light of The Cup? You run it...especially since it means
less work for the editors! This month's Corner, from Kurt Fox, leaves
you no excuse to not get 100 in January, especially in light of his
recent Scrawls of Fame. Just don't expect him to set the example.
He has a new baby. Yeah, that's it the newborn...
COACH FOX: If you recall the "Scrawl of Fame" in recent (and not so
recent) issues of The Cup, you know how to tackle a "Basin Big
January". Well, that month is just around the corner. It's time to
reread all of those pieces, especially the strategies in The Cup 2.3.
Above and beyond that, here is what I've added and summarized to
tackle a Big January (which is sometimes, but not necessarily always,
the best tack for a Big Year in the David Cup).
(As I re-read what I have written, I was amazed at how much of
it has been said before. It bears repeating! Much of it has been
repeated again and again as Coach Evans so eloquently states in The
Cup 2.8, "I'll try to educate the greenhorn but youth rarely listens
to experience." So, I included quotes from "Coach's Corner"s of past
issues of The Cup as gentle reminders for naysayers.)
Key things to think about beforehand:
* Plan. "Think about where you are going birding and why. Don't
just go out hoping to find birds" (1) and "the key to planning [...]
is knowing exactly where to go, when to go, and what birds to look for" (2).
* Research. "So where do you want to begin?...Go get a map,
NOT THE DELORME." (3). "Read old Kingbird issues" (4) and your old
notes, and especially "Scrawl of Fame" in The Cup 2.2 and 2.3.
"Past avian occurrence patterns can be mined for big year rewards"
and there is a "secret knowledge of bird distribution in the C. Basin
that one [has] to sort of be initiated into. Keep digging!" (5).
* Plan. "Pace yourself and look for birds in the most
productive ways" (6).
* Scout. Stake out those birds. Start scouting in the last half
of December. Get to know those areas now. Be forewarned: "Birding is
best close to home. ...When I range too far in unfamiliar territory,
especially alone, my birding success seems to drop significantly" (7).
* Plan. Try for those staked out birds before they move on.
"Spend time maximizing your chances of finding birds that are present
only now; don't waste your time looking for things that will be common
* Network. Get help: Let the others know that you are "going
for it." Be the first on everybody's list to call when something
"good" shows up. This is especially good for feeder birds. "Tiny
minds working together can accrue more species" (9). "And what about
the real vagrants? Check those feeders" (10). "I'm hoping for some
interesting feeder visitor this winter. Something like a Harris's
Sparrow or Varied Thrush" (11).
* Plan. Try to get most of the meat-and-potato birds (scale
"1"s and "2"s) early on. Circling the lake once and a walk in the
woods should net many of the regulars and alleviate some pressure.
Do not worry if you miss a few. Once you have the majority, you can
more easily concentrate on the "3" and beyond birds. You will have a
whole month to tick the "regulars."
* "Draft". Many birders will be looking in the "obvious" places.
Like NASCAR racing, let the lead [birders] do some of the work for
you. Let networking kick in. "In a maneuver something like "drafting"
in a bicycle race, one could shadow the David Cup leaders, letting
them break trail and do the heavy lifting" (12). Go somewhere else.
Search nooks and crannies. Predict. Imagine. Get something "good" to
return the favor. "After all, if normal rounds haven't yielded up a
Sedge Wren or Dickcissel yet, they probably won't, so your only chance
is to go somewhere [they] haven't been" (13).
* Plan. Search nooks and crannies. Cover all the habitats. This
includes the outlandish stuff like marshes and cattails that might
normally be considered "barren" in winter. "The more you know about
the habits of birds in the area, the better you can spend your time
when you're out looking for birds" (14) and "Skulking treasure (not
just hidden but skulking) lurks among the weeds and rotting
* Predict. Pick some target birds, consider habitats and predict
where they will be. Talk to others (especially Andy Farnsworth and
Bill Evans) about their "top picks" and predictions. Take notes.
"When they speak, it pays to listen" (16).
* Plan. Try for half-hardy passerines, and warmer weather
ducks early on.
* Dream. Imagine. Envision. Being top dog means going beyond
the "1" and "2" birds. Aim high. "The rule for rarities: assume
they're in there" (17). Bentam Basham (An ABA Big Year specialist)
says to target the "good" birds and the easy ones will fall into place.
Do not plan to seek out a starling. It will be found when looking for
something else. For example, "Check those small pine groves, looking
for whitewash [of Boreal Owl] and listening for mobbing chickadees.
Maybe you'll find a consolation Northern Saw-whet Owl instead" (18).
Key things to think about during:
* Keep focused. Try this mantra: "Only the Big January counts."
* Keep a positive mindset. "Predictable things, weird birds
do turn up. So keep hoping and keep watching" (19).
* Contact BOTH basin CBC compilers (Ithaca AND Montezuma) and
tackle the most difficult birds from those counts.
* Go owling. Wind and weather may hinder progress. Plan to do some
owling on several weeknights (not just one).
* Keep a positive mindset. "Try to set a standard you may never
equal again!" (20). Getting 100 **IS** possible.
* Have fun.
* Every bird counts. Tick it now. Do NOT take the alternate
attitude of "I can easily get that in spring". "An intrinsic factor
in big [January] competition is that one can't compete successfully
without chasing the good sightings of others" (21).
* Time. Recall the immortal words of Kevin McGowan in the
"Coach's Corner" from The Cup 1.1 !!! "Spend time in the field
looking for birds" !!!
* Plan. Evaluate. Re-plan. Evaluate. Re-plan. You will have a
holiday (January1st) and four weekends. Consider progress and
seasonal progression of weather. If you get all your target birds
early, readjust your plans for the following weekends. If you have
all your target birds, target some more. "The strategies in this last
[hour] have to be fairly individual-specific. Ask yourself, "What
species am I missing that are still around?"" (22).
* Plan. Spend your "free" time and last weekends trying for
a homerun (the ultra-rarity). Get connected with BirdEast and see what
trends are developing nationwide, especially the northeast and at
inland sites. "Know when to take advantage of a local irruption" (23).
Consider the birds and search all likely habitats. Food, water and
shelter will likely be key. "There are about 20 times more possibilities
for water-associated oddballs than landbirds" (24). "Here's to a strong
kick at the finish!" (25).
* Keep focused. Try this mantra: "I am the Master of January."
"Persistence ... can turn up a bird or two" (26).
* Stick with it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Maybe you will not break
100 this year, but you will gain ground and knowledge for next year.
Take notes. "So now that you've done it once, you should be better
prepared to do it again. Go over your notes and see where you missed
out" (27) and "keep notes on sightings, locations and weather
conditions. This helps ... plan birding activity accordingly" (28)
and "Consider the lost sweat and blood an investment for the
* Keep a positive mindset. Getting 100 **IS** possible.
* HAVE FUN.
All Quotes from _The Cup_ "Coach's Corner"
(1) Kevin McGowan, 1.1 (16) Bard Prentiss, 2.2
(2) Ken Rosenberg, 2.1 (17) Ned Brinkley, 1.2
(3) Steve Kelling, 1.5 (18) Kevin McGowan, 1.11
(4) Ned Brinkley, 1.2 (19) Kevin McGowan, 1.11
(5) Bill Evans, 1.8 (20) Karl David, 2.4
(6) Kevin McGowan, 1.1 (21) Bill Evans, 1.8
(7) Bard Prentiss, 2.2 (22) Kevin McGowan, 1.11
(8) Kevin McGowan, 1.1 (23) Kevin McGowan, 1.1
(9) Bill Evans, 1.8 (24) Ned Brinkley, 1.2
(10) Kevin McGowan, 1.11 (25) Jeff Wells, 1.10
(11) Kevin McGowan, 2.9(26) Ned Brinkley, 2.6
(12) Tom Nix, 1.7 (27) Kevin McGowan, 1.11
(13) Karl David, 1.6 (28) Bard Prentiss, 2.2
(14) Kevin McGowan, 1.1(29) Stephen Davies, 2.5
(15) Andy Farnsworth, 1.9
(Kurt Fox is...aw, heck, you remember him by now, don't ya?)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Last year, I was very good, and you brought me a McLaughing Gull
for McBird 200, just as I'd asked. Well, this year I've been very,
very good, and I'm asking for even less. I won't list any birds for
you to bring me; you can send on down the chimney any species I don't
already have on my McIlroy list, and I promise I won't complain.
All I'm asking for this year, Santa, is to beat Steve Kelling. You
remember him, don't you? He's the one that tried to run over
Rudolph last year so he could serve him for Christmas dinner.
I'd also like to place higher than Stephen Davies--he's a
*really* bad boy! Santa, what were you thinking, giving him that
leather jacket (not to mention the stilettos!) Another part of
my teensy-weensy wish this year is to score better than my husband,
Jeff. He hasn't been too bad, but he still hasn't bought me a new
surround-sound stereo system with dual cassette tape deck and
programmable 5-CD player and turntable for all my vintage vinyl.
I know, Santa, as a giving kind of guy yourself, you would have
expected him to do so by now. Andy Farnsworth has been an okay guy
about the only McGood Boy this year--but he didn't bird hard enough,
Santa, you must agree. According to your elves, you have a very
strict work ethic, so you wouldn't want to look like a hypocrite,
right? Bill Evans and John Bower have never really been a threat
to anyone except each other, but Santa, I would like to remind you
that they spent a lot time fighting.(This has nothing to do with my
wish, I just wanted to remind you of that in case you can't decide
if you should give that Gyrfalcon to Bill, John, or me.)
Santa, since my wish is so unselfish, so pure in heart, and so
easy to give, I'm already working on my McIlroy Award acceptance
speech for the Cupper Supper, and you'll be the first one I thank.
speech for the Cupper Supper, and you'll be the first one I thank.
P.S. I'll be sure to leave out milk and cookies for you again,
and this time you won't have to worry about my cats, Teddy and Mimi,
drinking your milk before you get here. They still don't believe in
you, they're just really tired of those "Got milk?" ads.
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
"Wow, these sorts of things take on a life of their own!" exclaimed
this month's Bird Brain when he returned the answers to my e-interview,
and a great life it is, too.
Kevin McGowan's passion for birds has become both his vocation
and his avocation. "I have been watching birds and other animals in some
fashion for as long as I can remember. I cannot remember ever being
very interested in anything other than animals, but where this obsession
came from, I cannot say. No one in my family, close or extended,
had any interest in similar things. They were all interested in the
humanities, my least favorite subject."
I think that anyone who reads "the list" regularly can attest
to the fact that, although Kevin may have little interest in the
humanities as such, there's a family of humans that engages much of his
attention and cherishing concern.
He spoke of the Christmas when he was thirteen as the point when
his interest in animals became focused on birds. "That year, my parents
gave me three things that changed my life: a pair of decent binoculars
(not like the frustrating toy binoculars I had gotten before when I had
requested binoculars), a membership in the local Audubon Society, and,
most important, a copy of Robbins, Bruun, Zim, and Singer, *The Golden
Guide to Birds of North America*.
"My older sister and I knew where our parents hid the presents,
and it was our ritual to sneak looks at them whenever our folks were
out of the house. I remember the awesome feeling I had when I first
laid eyes on that book. My jaw dropped open! I didn't know something
like it existed, and I was extremely excited. When I opened it up, I
was confronted with the vastness of my ignorance (a constantly
reoccurring feeling in my life, I might add). "I had thought that
there was The Hawk, The Duck (which looked a lot like a Mallard), and
The Sparrow. Now I was presented with what seemed like hundreds of
totally unfamiliar birds, but also an incredible profusion of variation
in what I had previously considered well known and familiar birds.
Every chance I got I returned to that closet and looked at that
book. By the time Christmas came and the book was actually mine,
I had read the entire thing. I kept it beside my bed and looked at
it every single night for, gosh I don't know, years, I guess.
Almost as important, says Kevin, was the local chapter of the
Audubon Society--a "friendly bunch of folks" for whom lunch, after birding
excursions, "was just about as important as were the birds." The Sunday
trips every spring and fall "became the highlight of my week. The members
of the club were helpful and encouraging, although not nearly the
high-powered and skilled birders we have here. It was a rather relaxed
bunch, but I am proud to say that that group produced from my cohort of
young birders three Ph.D. ornithologists, another professional biologist,
and one of the top birders and tour leaders in the world. Not bad for a
group that sort of discouraged finding rarities."
Kevin was one of those Ph.D.'s, and currently he is the associate
curator of birds and mammals at Cornell, and is responsible for 48,000 bird
specimens and about 20,000 mammals.
"I got a Master's Degree working with the ecology of small mammals
on reclaimed strip-mines," he explains, "then turned to bird behavior for
my Ph.D. Although I am not nearly as knowledgeable about mammals as
birds, I do know quite a bit, enough to consider myself a mammalogist of
sorts. I think of myself as having a major in birds and a minor in mammals."
When asked what his special interests are in ornithology, he said,
"I am interested in just about anything that has to do with birds, from
behavior to systematics to ecology to physiology. I work mostly, however,
with behavioral ecology, and especially social behavior. My Ph.D. thesis
concerned the social behavior of young Florida Scrub-Jays. My current work
with crows is related; crows have similar social systems to jays: many
offspring remain with their parents for several years and help them raise
subsequent broods. I am gathering data on nest success, survival, social
interactions, and life history strategies.
I couldn't help asking what his studies are revealing, and
he replied, "Ah, there is not enough room to go into it very deeply.
I can talk about crows for hours. OK, the basics are that American
Crows have incredibly complex social lives. Young crows can remain
with their parents for up to six years before they find a breeding place
of their own. While they wait, they help their parents defend the home
territory and raise more young, making for families of up to 15
individuals. The youngsters come and go from the home territory,
sometimes spending weeks or months away and then returning. Unlike
the vast majority of birds, crows maintain long-term family bonds,
interacting for years and years. Sometime they join siblings
that have found breeding spaces and help them raise families, and then
find their own mates; other times the may go home to their parents. I've
found lots and lots of other things too, about their eggs, about
their nestlings, nest success movements, behavior, vocalizations!
I think I'd better stop.
And, of course, I had to ask him about his data-collecting
guess the tree climbing part is the most exciting.
I love being above all of Ithaca in some of the huge white pines
that the crows nest in. Getting to each nest is kind of a puzzle
that must be solved. Some are easy, others impossible, and some have
just enough difficulty to make it challenging and fun. Although I've
been in some scary situations, I've never had even a small accident,
and I want to keep it that way."
I was also curious about what his curatorial work entails, and
he said, "You can think of me rather like a reference librarian and
the collections kind of like a library. The bulk of my job involves
making information about the collections available to other people and
enhancing the value of the collections themselves. I answer questions,
loan specimens, prepare specimens, identify specimens, and make sure
that they are all properly housed and taken care of. I guide classes
around the collections and try to assist people who are interested in
using them for whatever purpose (from local bird identification to
scientific research to class projects to bird art to computer animation)."
And then I asked my pet question about how birding influences his
daily life, and Kevin insisted, "I get out birding less than I would like,
and perhaps less than most people might expect. I am, however,
constantly on the lookout for birds. I have managed to structure my
day such that I can do a little birding in the morning, depending on
whether I get up before my alarm or laze around in bed a little after it
goes off. Usually this just means
checking Dryden Lake before I head to work (it takes 10 minutes).
Sometimes I take the long way to work and check out the fields around the
airport. Only occasionally do I do something intense like go to
the jetty or Myer's Point before work, and I usually get up early to do
that. Saturdays my daughter takes music lessons and, happily for me,
my son is an avid birder, so we end up going birding somewhere nearly
every weekend. If Jay was not birding with me, I would do considerably
less birding than I manage now."
I had been wondering about Kevin's daughter. Faithful "list" readers
know Jay McGowan well as someone who keeps well up with the leaders
in the David Cup Competition, but we don't hear so much about Jay's sister.
"Perri is not becoming the birding demon that Jay is, but she is
interested and knows quite a lot. Because she is five years younger than
Jay she is placed somewhat at a competitive disadvantage and feels a bit
overwhelmed by Jay's and my enthusiasm. She decided last fall that she
wasn't going to be a birder. She is reconsidering right now and wants to
do more. I don't know if she will ever be as avid as Jay, but she will
always have the knowledge that birds are there to be enjoyed, at whatever
level she chooses to enjoy them."
And then I plied him with questions about his most memorable Basin
birding adventures. "I've had so many that are special and memorable it's
hard to choose. Things that come to mind involve people as much as birds.
[Please note that; he's a humanitarian after all!] The big hunt for the
Sharp-tailed Sparrow at Hog's Hole and then the sociable brunch at the
3rd St. Caf afterwards last year is an outstanding memory. The
single best birding event for me this year has to be discovering the
first-year Thayer's Gull at Stewart Park in March at a great distance
in a blizzard while my kids were feeding the ducks. Being able to get a
dozen other people there to find it, too (and freeze along the way), made
it even more special."
And out-of-Basin birding adventures? "Again, so many to choose from.
I think I'll pick last winter's trip to Amherst Island in Ontario where
I saw six species of owl in one day (with killer looks at Great Grays
and Boreals). I am still a little miffed, however, that Steve Kelling,
Bard Prentiss, and Tom Nix conspired to keep me from seeing the
Great Horned Owl, so that Jay could have a higher tally of owls in
one day than I have ever had!"
And, finally, anything else? "I am extremely fortunate to be
able to mix my profession of ornithology with my hobby of birding.
I am in charge of a fantastic reference source in the collections.
Everyone else has to look things up in books; I get to go to the
drawers to research the fine points of gull plumages. It is
worth noting, however, that birding is simply my main hobby.
It wasn't always this way.
"In my final years of graduate school, after a number of avid years
of birding (although somewhat tame by today's standards), I quit birding
recreationally. Although I continued to keep daily records, I kept no
lists other than my life list. I made no effort to chase rarities or to go
out of my way to see common interesting birds. I didn't feel like I had
time, but more importantly, it wasn't fun anymore. Having been trained
to be a scientist, I came to view birding differently. I had always
taken notes and kept records, thinking that I was taking data that I
could use at some later time. As I became a better scientist I
realized that my data were not worth much, that I had no protocols or
consistency. I then felt the need to take more notes, be more rigorous,
pay more attention. In short, it became work. It was hard enough work
to take the data that I needed with the scrub-jays, I didn't need any
"When I came to Cornell I still was enjoying seeing birds, but I
did not pursue any. (Looking back I kick myself for not having gone to
look at relatively easy Blue Grosbeak and Harris's Sparrow.) It wasn't
until I had been here three years that I saw my first Pied-billed Grebe
in the Basin! After a few years, with the pressures of a new job, a
new research project, and a young child, I realized that I desperately
needed a hobby. The only hobbies I have ever had were sports and
birding. I found it difficult, for various reasons, to do the sports I
would have needed, so I took another long look at birding. I made a
conscious decision to tally up a state list, a Basin list, and a
year list, and start playing the game again. I decided that, to
heck with the data idea, I was birding to have fun. I was serious
about crows, but birding was a game I was playing for enjoyment and
relaxation. It worked. I became much more relaxed and happy. Then
Jay (aged 5) learned to look through my spotting scope, and he
became interested in looking for birds. Suddenly going birding
became time WITH family instead of time AWAY from family. Jay and I
started going out regularly, although we were constrained by his
inability to use binoculars very well and his unwillingness to
walk anywhere more than 100 yards. Montezuma became our favorite
spot: he could sit in my lap and look in the scope, he didn't
need to walk very much, and we inevitably purchased some kind
of fun (read junk) food on the way.
When Perri got big enough to understand what we were doing, she
started coming along, too. It took a while before she got the knack of
looking through the scope, although she assured me that she could see
those birds even though the eyepiece of the scope was firmly placed
in the middle of her forehead. But when she did, she became a regular
participant. At the same time that I was getting more interested in
birding, the local scene was changing, too. More people, and perhaps
more importantly, more energetic people were getting involved. Local
birding was starting to become the energetic, highly social activity
that it is around here today. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Caissa Willmer is a senior staff writer for the Cornell Office of
Development. She's also theater critic for Ithaca Times. She recently
wrote and acted in a local theatrical show. She promises
[right, Caissa?] to tell us all BEFOREHAND when her next performance
is upcoming. )
(your birdverse here)
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations, The Cup has
graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and intuitive columnist,
Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions, like these...
I heard a rumor that you, Dear Tick, are Santa Claus. Is this true?
If so, I'd like a Barrow's Goldeneye (I'm not sexist, but could you
make that a male?) for Christmas.
--Making My List in Sapsucker Woods
Dear Making Your List:
I'm afraid you do not have security clearance that would allow me
to tell you whether or not I am Santa Claus, but I will tell you
this: Despite what you've heard about Cabbage Patch Kids and now that
gawdawful Beanie Babies, Santa rarely delivers the same gift to
more than one person in the same year. Barrow's Goldeneye was
seen last January. You'd be better off asking for a David Cup--
or McIlory--victory. [Gales of laughter from what may or may
not be elves.]
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at firstname.lastname@example.org)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
I'm quite tired of this. It seems that I get a request for a monthly total
altogether too frequently. Certainly another month has not yet passed by.
What calendar are you on? Has the power of being The Cup editors gone
to your heads and you have now altered the calendar to the point where a
month seems like just a few days? You just asked for the October totals.
Why are you asking for the November totals already? Well, I'm not going
to tell you my total. If you need a number, just put down my previous
month total. And next time wait a month before asking again."
--Marty (I thought basins were for washing hands)Schlabach
"Yet another spectacular edition of The Cup. How do you keep doing it
month after month? I especially liked the QuAC Team!"
"There is (or at least was) a beautiful Fox Sparrow visiting the
feeders at the Lab of O Tuesday afternoon. Amazingly enough, this bird
was not at Ken Rosenberg's feeder, but rather at the feeders by the Stuart
"The Cayuga Bird Club witnessed the first major Ontario loon migration this
morning (Sat.). Approximately 1100 loons were counted with a high of 445
between 7:30 and 7:45."
"Saturday went to loon count by the time reached it had started
raining, so missed all the loons Bob Meade posted but did see quite
few north bound loons. As it was raining we quit count, but once I left
Tompkins county towards MNWR it was dry."
"As well as being a big loon day, there are a lot of Horned Grebes in
the neighborhood today. The little devils are hard to count, popping up
among the coots off Myers."
"Yes, I am still alive! The newfound girlfriend has cut down on the birding
"Arrgghh...I went to HH this afternoon hoping to find some of these great
birds. What did I see? (1) Hairy woodpecker. Yup. That's it. Just a
"Well, I happened to pick up Steve's e-mail this morning during a one-hour
break between classes...so, I made a decision to go for the Gull. I went
to see the Franklin's Gull because I have never seen one and thought this
was a perfect opportunity."
"My heart almost stopped Sunday (11/16) when I scanned a mixed flock
of gulls and doves by the Triangle Diner in King Ferry and what appeared
to be a hooded gull suddenly materialized in their midst. I looked hard for
the eye crescent that would confirm Franklin's gull, delaying by a few
seconds the slow realization that I was looking at an aberrantly plumaged
"This made my third disappointment at Summer Hill. The first time I
missed the Pine Grosbeak by five minutes, the second time I got only an
appropriately-sized streak of gray as the most-likely-P G flashed from the
rearmost cranberry viburnum into the spruces and vanished. This time I
watched and waited in vain..."
"It looks like it will be a good year for the redpolls. Yesterday,
even *we* had one at our feeder. Fortunately I looked out at just
the right moment and spotted it before it flitted off."
--Sara Jane Hymes
"We have also had a Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll, in with all of the
"I had several Common Redpolls fly over my house this morning.
Unfortunately, they did not join the goldfinches at my feeders."
"Just another morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I'm taking some
classes. Imagine my surprise to turn on the radio and hear the voice of
Kevin McGowan! I'm sorry to say that I didn't remember the name of the
environmental/science program on public radio. But it was a very nice
piece on the lives of crows and the dashing young men who risk life
climbing limbs to study them. Congratulations, Kevin!"
"This Am was uneventful at Dryden Lake but our feeders hosted a rare,
for Dryden Village, visitor. We are being visited by the first Fox Sparrow
to visit my yard in perhaps 10 years. Also in addition to the regulars was
a female Purple Finch and a Common Grackle, and I don't get to report my
Project FeederWatch counts till the 15th."
"Nothing new in November for the Cup. I'm still camped at the doorstep of
the 200 Club."
"I saw a meadowlark yesterday, in Jacksonville. It was in a snowy field.
I'll try to remember its forlorn look when I see one again next spring."
"I'm at 96 through November and unlikely to get out that way again this
year. I've collapsed right at the threshold of The 100 Club's door. So
close I can hear the cackling inside--and smell the pizza!"
"Goodbye, 100 Club...but there's always 1998!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff