Year 2, Issue 2
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Basin Bird Highlights Writer: "Inspector" Tom Nix
* Composite Deposit, Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Bird Brain Writer: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* Color Analyst: Jeff Wells
Some of you asked us, emotions amoosh, why we at The Cup didn't give
our fellow Cuppers and beloved Cup readers a valentine. No chocolates,
none of those little candy hearts that say inspiring things like, "You're
Okay" and "Why Not?"--you'd have thought we'd at least have sent around
Karl David as Cupid, dressed in pink leotards. Believe us, we entertained
the idea (and entertained is precisely the word here!) of sending each and
every one of you a sugar-coated, sicky-sweet show of affection--for about
Truth is, we here at The Cup know that the one thing Cuppers don't need
is a mess of fluff (unless, of course, it's in the form of a Great Gray Owl).
It only gets in the eyes and therefore under the skin.
Rather than drain the David Cup Dues Fund dry on the passing fancy of
whimsical forget-us-nots, we decided to give you all something utterly
irresistible: The Cup 2.2! Simmering with coaching confections,
heart-felt highlights, the oh-so-precious Pilgrim's Progress report--and
does not promote tooth decay--how sweet it is!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: "Aww, heck, I can't stand it anymore: sign me
up for the David Cup! I thought last year it would be too frustrating to be a
Cupper and not have time to lurch all over the Basin running down rarities,
but of course I read all about them in that insidious publication of yours,
so I was frustrated anyway, and felt left out, besides. With the madness
beginning all over again, it's just too much to resist. But no McCompetition
for me, it's too fierce- I'll just stay on the sidelines and watch Allison
make mincemeat of the upstarts again. See you at Myers." Translated, that's
John Greenly's way of saying, "I'm going to kick some serious David Cup
tail!" It's about time you joined the fracas, John. Steve Kelling is also to
be commended, for taking Kevin McGowan's excellent example of "family time"
one step further by signing up BOTH his kids for the David Cup. Consider
this post: "Last Friday my son Taylor was sledding with some friends near
the cemetery on Lounsberry Rd. outside of Brooktondale. Taylor spotted a Snowy
Owl and alerted his friends and his friend's mother to the bird. Taylor said
the bird had dark spots on it so it was an immature...Without any assistance
Saturday my other son, Sam, identified a Red-tailed Hawk flying over our
house." Is it any wonder, then, that we later got this red alert: "Both Sam
and Taylor want to be entered in the [David Cup] fray." Look for Sam and
Taylor to one day be Coaches!
CUP SERVICES: It's been brought to our attention that the writing's on
the wall, literally, of the Cornell University Press building, just off
Rt.13 south, behind Purity Ice Cream. We checked it out ourselves and sure
enough, there it is in big letters: CUP Services. We can only imagine what's
inside the place: steaming mugs of coffee for Cuppers coming in after a
wind-swept morning at Allan Treman or Stewart Park; high-tech cameras
loaded with film, just waiting for some Cupper who needs to document
his/her latest rare bird finding; field guides and checklists galore. That
it's located so close to Purity Ice Cream is surely no coincidence, either.
MEGAN UPDATE: As you all remember from The Cup 2.1, Cupper
Michael Runge put his chances at David Cup and McIlroy victory at serious
risk by becoming a daddy, on January 17. Back then things still looked
good; it seemed that daughter Megan might actually have been a born
Cupper. Lately, Cupping seems to have become a bit more challenging for
Michael. Here's how things looked in February: "Not only didn't I do much
birding in February, I don't even have time to sit down to figure out my new
totals (which can't be a half dozen above my January totals anyway), so you
better just put me down for whatever I had in January. Maybe the Feb +
March's new birds together will make it look like I really made some
progress in March. It turns out that having a child really cuts into your
birding time, WAY MORE than Ken Rosenberg ever let on."
MIND YOUR "PEE"S AND Q'S: Meena Haribal could invent an automobile that runs
on birders' energy, rediscover the Great Auk, determine once and for all the
best way to eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and she'd still go down in
history for her infamous typo about the Union Springs Eastern Screech-owl
"peeing" from its box--and the editors of The Cup have learned that's it's
not a typo after all! According to Carol Schmitt, faithful Cup reader, "My
Webster's Unabridged defines 'pee' as v.i. 'to look with one eye. (Obs.)'.
So, I have no doubts that a screech-owl could pee from it's nest box. In
fact, I think they often do." That's the definition you intended all along,
isn't it, Meena?
T-SHIRTS OR CUP CUPS: There's no doubt that Cuppers will be the best dressed
folks in the Basin again this summer. The question is, will they be wearing
their 1996 David Cup T-shirts or a spiffy new 1997 model? Some of you have
asked us, so we're taking a poll. You don't have to be a Cupper to get in on
the t-shirt action. Diane Tessaglia, who won in 1996 for "Best T-shirt
Designer," has graciously offered her talents again this year. Let us know
if you're interested so we can tally-ho (again, we need a minimum of 15 to
place an order.) They were $10 each last year. OR, if not T-shirts, than
maybe some other kind of Cup collectable, perhaps a David Cup Travel Mug?
Let us know what you think.
BIRD CUP BLUES: It was February 14, Ithaca College, and from 8pm-10pm, not a
single blues tune was played. But it didn't matter. This was jazz legend
Phil Woods, a man so obsessed with the music of Charlie "Bird" Parker--Father
of Beebop--that he actually married Parker's widow! And let's not forget
Woods' sizzling quintet, all of whom have performed with some of the best
jazz musicians in the world. Jazz lovin' Cupper Tom Nix was on hand to
enjoy the show: "I was walking into Ford Hall with long-suffering Ruth
(a.k.a., rkn3) for an evening of top shelf jazz by the Phil Woods Quintet,
when who did I spy but our esteemed Cup editors. Having just heard a few
hours before about young Taylor Kelling's Snowy Owl sighting, I of course
wanted to let the Wells know about it. So I mouthed the words 'Snowy Owl?'
Lo and behold, Allison thought I was saying, 'move over,' and produced two
excellent middle-of-the-auditorium seats. What a show. Man, them cats was
cookin'! The drummer had more rhythm than a Clapper Rail, the piano player
was sweeter than a Hermit Thrush, and Phil Woods - well, he even had a
jazzman hat, one of those cool leather berets." Woods' marriage to Parker's
widow, by the way, didn't work out. Too much tooting of his own horn.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> >
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By Tom Nix
Coming, going, the waterfowl
Leaves not a trace,
Nor does it need a guide
-Dogen (a Japanese Zen master)
Is it my imagination or did the big flocks of Purple Finches that blew
into town in January disappear? And, speaking of winter and finches,
what happened to winter, and what happened to those Common Redpolls that
John Bower found while skiing Hammond Hill? Just when bin-toting,
finch-seeking Cuppers were shussing through the State Forest like the
Finnish infantry, the winter of '96-'97 was blown north by mid-February's
amazing, early warm front. Record-early Tree Swallows accompanied great
summer-bound flocks of blackbirds and a smattering of Killdeer and Turkey
Vultures, and waterfowl migration kicked into gear with a few Green-winged
Teal and Wood Ducks and good numbers of pintails and wigeons, including an
early Eurasian Wigeon at Canoga. Trend-meister Steve Kelling informs me that
while there is a Basin Record of EUWI for February 5, most first sightings
are in mid-March. Frustratingly, following an enticing posting on
Cayugabirds, Cuppers with scope-scorched retinas searched in vain for that
Greater White-fronted Goose among the tens of thousands of Canadas on the
Yeh pays yer money and yeh takes yer chances with the McWhite-winged
gulls. Only the truly steadfast and/or jobless could be sure of ticking all
three winter visiting gulls at Stewart Park. Not only did January's Lesser
Black-backed and Iceland Gulls stop in at the south end of the lake in
February, but so did a Glaucous Gull. First noticed by Karl "the Elder" David
and newcomer J.R. Crouse, the great white bird only did a one night stand.
This reporter managed only the LBB Gull for his McIlroy list, having to resort
to camping outside the Seneca Falls landfill to tick the white-wings for the
Big Race. (But check out the "Jerry Garcia" sandwich at the Downtown Deli on
main street next time you're in Seneca Falls - smoked turkey on focaccio!)
In other local news, McIlroy (and Town of Ithaca) strategists found
McRuffed Grouse on the slope behind the Biggs building on the west shore. This
is a bit of under-birded forest within the McIlroy Award limits. McWinter
Wren and McMeadowlark at Hog Hole may prove crucial by year's end. A pair
of White-winged Scoters continued off Stewart Park in early February and a
female Ruddy Duck has been playing hide-and-go-seek all winter off East
Recent raptor reports included Merlin on the first in King Ferry, and
again a few days later in Lansing, followed by Andy Farnsworth's early
Red-shouldered Hawk, checking out the new Octopus. Not to be outdone,
John Bower tied up traffic with an inlet Merlin. While the self-starters
among us trudged hooting into the night woods trying to run up a decent
owl list, some lucky stiffs heard the saw-whet's metronomic call right
outside their doors, in an aural version of K.V. Rosenberg's out-the-
window Connecticut Warbler sighting last season. Hey, but the bird and
birder of the month are Snowy Owl and Taylor Kelling, respectively.
Young Taylor spied the one that got away while sledding in Brooktondale.
OK, did you get out to see the Dryden Longspurs? If not, it might just
be too late. If the groundhog was right (and who will argue at this
point?), you shouldn't pass up a chance to see one if another is posted.
Comfort Road Shrike? It's the only one seen since New Year's, so jump on
that one too, when the opportunity arises. Oh, well, the Red-headed
Woodpecker's still at Skillet and Ridge east of Union Springs, last I
(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad turned carpenter, now a Code Inspector
for the City of Ithaca. Although he has a taste for focaccio, he has no
idea what it is.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
How pathetic. Hardly worth opening the doors for. No kidding, the 100 Club
was de-winterized by February's end for one lousy Cupper. We suppose it's a
good thing that Cupper is Tom Nix. Since he's a building inspector by
profession, the place must be safe if he's willing to go in.
BIRD 100: Wood Duck.
WHAT BIRD WERE YOU HOPING IT WOULD BE: "Hoping for
a really cool bird for #100, and exhorted by Stephen Davies to 'go see that
bad boy' I arrived at Stewart Park a day late, looking without success for
the Glaucous Gull, but instead found 3 Wood Ducks off the ice. Glaucous
was 101 at Seneca Meadows February 28, 3pm."
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
"CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE"
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Not only is the number of Cuppers drastically up this February from last,
so are the totals! February 1996's Kickin' Tail leader had seen 80 species;
this February, seven Cuppers clocked in higher. Heck, our leader had more in
January this year than he had in February last year--five more species and
he'd have tied his 1996 March total of 106! Thankfully, the rest of the pack
has ridden that tide, too. The result of sharper birding skills? More species
around? More time in the field? Or just plain luck? Only the wise old owl
knows for sure.
1997 DAVID CUP FEBRUARY TOTALS JANUARY TOTALS
101 Tom Nix 84 Tom Nix
91 Stephen Davies 73 Stephen Davies
89 Andy Farnsworth 72 Karl David
87 Allison Wells 65 Kevin McGowan
87 Jeff Wells 63 Steve Kelling
82 Karl David 60 Bard Prentiss
81 Steve Kelling 59 Jeff Wells
78 Kevin McGowan 56 Jay McGowan
76 John Bower 54 Anne Kendall-Cassella
72 Bard Prentiss 53 JR Crouse
72 Ken Rosenberg 53 Allison Wells
71 Jay McGowan 52 John Bower
70 Anne Kendall-Cassella 49 Bill Evans
69 JR Crouse 48 Martha Fischer
54 Martha Fischer 41 Ken Rosenberg
54 John Greenly 36 Casey Sutton
53 Chris Hymes 34 Jim Lowe
51 David McDermitt 32 Margaret Barker
50 Margaret Launius 31 Rob Scott
49 Bill Evans 30 David McDermitt
45 Matt Medler 30 Michael Runge
40 Marty Schlabach 28 Marty Schlabach
40 Meena Haribal 24 Chris Hymes
39 Chris Butler 24 Matt Medler
39 Jim Lowe 20 Chris Butler
37 Casey Sutton 20 Meena Haribal
37 Caissa Willmer 13 Cathy Heidenreich
32 Margaret Barker 13 Diane Tessaglia
32 Anne James 8 Jane Sutton
31 Rob Scott 5 Margaret Launius
26 Sam Kelling 0 Ned Brinkley
26 Jane Sutton 0 Sarah Childs
21 Taylor Kelling 0 Dave Mellinger
19 Cathy Heidenreich 0 Ralph Paonessa
13 Dave Mellinger 0 Larry Springsteen
0 Ned Brinkley* 0 Mira the Bird Dog
0 Sarah Childs*
0 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Larry Springsteen*
0 Mira the Bird Dog*
* Currently living out-of-state but anticipate return to Basin within the
1997 David Cup year. They have faithfully opted to submit their totals and
do so despite a borage of "nah, nah, nah-nah-nah"s by other Cuppers.
1997 McILROY FEBRUARY TOTALS JANUARY TOTALS
74 Steve Kelling 51 John Bower
71 Allison Wells 49 Stephen Davies
68 Stephen Davies 49 Bill Evans
67 John Bower 49 Steve Kelling
66 Jeff Wells 45 Martha Fischer
59 JR Crouse 44 Jeff Wells
59 Tom Nix 43 Karl David
51 Martha Fischer 41 JR Crouse
50 Ken Rosenberg 41 Allison Wells
49 Bill Evans 36 Casey Sutton
46 Karl David 30 Michael Runge
43 Kevin McGowan 27 Jim Lowe
38 Matt Medler 27 Rob Scott
37 Casey Sutton 26 Jay McGowan
33 Chris Butler 22 Matt Medler
33 Jim Lowe 20 Chris Butler
31 Jay McGowan 14 Anne Kendall-Cassella
30 Michael Runge 8 Jane Sutton
27 Anne Kendall-Cassella 0 Ned Brinkley
27 Rob Scott 0 Ralph Paonessa
26 Jane Sutton 0 Larry Springsteen
13 Dave Mellinger 0 Mira the Bird Dog
0 Ned Brinkley*
0 Sarah Childs*
0 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Larry Springsteen*
0 Mira the Bird Dog*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipating return to McIlroy territory
sometime in the 1997 McIlroy year. They have faithfully opted to submit
their totals and do so despite a berage of "nah, nah, nah-nah-nah"s by other
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
They said it couldn't be done, but Tom "Mad Dog" Nix has done it!
He's made a mockery of the "See You in March" signs that appeared in
the windows of the 100 Club at the end of last year, forcing
it to open exclusively for him in February. At the rate the rest of
us are going, Tom, don't you think it's going to be awfully lonely in
there all by yourself? Take a friendly, non-competitive (heh-heh) tip: slow
down! Here's Tom's syllabus for Birding 101:
Common Loon, P-b Grebe, Horned Grebe, R-n Grebe, D-c Cormorant, GB Heron,
Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, G-w Teal,
Am Black Duck, Mallard, N Pintail, Gadwall, Eu Wigeon, Am Wigeon,
Canvasback, Redhead, R-n Duck, G Scaup, L Scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter,
Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common
Merganser, R-b Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, N Harrier, S-s Hawk,
Cooper's Hawk, R-t Hawk, R-l Hawk, Am Kestrel, Merlin, Ruffed Grouse, Wild
Turkey, Am Coot, Killdeer, R-b Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser B-b
Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great B-b Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, E Screech-Owl,
GH Owl, Barred Owl, L-e Owl, N S-w Owl, Belted Kingfisher, R-h Woodpecker,
R-b Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, N Flicker, Pileated
Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Blue Jay, Am Crow, Fish Crow, C Raven, B-c
Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, R-b Nuthatch, W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper,
Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, G-c Kinglet, E Bluebird, Am Robin, Gray Catbird,
N Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, N Shrike, Eu Starling,Y-r Warbler, N Cardinal,
Am Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, W-t Sparrow, D-e Junco,
Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, R-w Blackbird, E Meadowlark, C Grackle, B-h
Cowbird, Purple Finch, House Finch, Am Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
Tom, leave the room ... the rest of you, what's the matter? Tom got
more new year birds in February (17) than all the rest of us managed
to add to the overall total (16)! That still gives us 122, 20 more
than last year at this time. Tom's still missing (well, by now he
probably has half of them):
Brant, B-w Teal, N Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, R-s Hawk, R-n Pheasant,
Am Woodcock, Bonaparte's Gull, Snowy Owl, S-e Owl, Y-b Sapsucker,
E Phoebe, Tree Swallow, R-c Kinglet, E Towhee, Field Sparrow,
W-c Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, C Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak.
(Karl David teaches mathematics to students at Wells College in Aurora.
And if you don't believe us, check out this month's "Stat's All, Folks"!)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove that you're a repeat customer at The Cup than
by being featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup two months in a
row? Kickin' Tail brings well deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper
who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, made enchaladas,
and otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list. The words,
"Kickin' Tail" have virtually become synonymous with "Tom Nix". Here's
what we mean...
THE CUP: Knock, knock, it's The Cup again, Tom. You're February's
Kickin' Tail leader. May we ask you a few questions?
NIX: Sure, come on in.
THE CUP: Thanks. Brrrr. It's cold out there. Now, Tom, 101 in
February? Why couldn't you have gotten at least 100, then, by the end
NIX: Well, not to be making excuses, but....eight of the last nine species
added to my list weren't around in January: TV, redwing, grackle, Killdeer,
Eurasian Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Wood Duck, and Glaucous Gull. At
least I don't think they were around.
THE CUP: Sounds suspiciously like an excuse.
NIX: Ok, so maybe I should have had 93 by the end of January, but not
THE CUP: That's still sounding like an excu--
NIX: Anyhow people would talk, people would say that I've lost
perspective, that this Cup thing is getting out of hand and dominating my
life. Know what I mean?
THE CUP: Allison does, but Jeff, well...
NIX: Sunday the 23rd, the day after you guys saw the swallows come in at
Treman Marina, was really a great day, lots of new migrants came into the
Basin, and I added six new species for the year. I had to go around the lake
twice, it was so good.
THE CUP: Really, don't worry about people saying this Cup thing is
out of hand for you, Tom. It's certainly not dominating your life. What
was your most surprising non-rarity this month?
NIX: The Comfort Road Shrike was a surprise because although I was
looking to find that particular bird, I didn't really expect to be successful.
I had gotten out of work a little early on a Friday and decided to look for
it in what I thought was appropriate habitat near the south end of Comfort
Road. After walking around through the fields for a while I had nothing to
show but a pair of "soakers".
THE CUP: You mean *Super* Soakers. Not a bad find, Tom, just think of the fun
you could have squirting Cuppers as they're scanning unsuspectingly out over
the lake. Anyway, about that shrike?
NIX: I was driving slowly back towards town a mile or so farther north
when the bird magically appeared alongside the road in an area where I
probably wouldn't have spent much time looking.
THE CUP: Let that be a lesson to us all. Did you miss anything that you
"should have" gotten?
NIX: Nah. Oh, on second thought, I missed the Ruddy Duck that has been
around East Shore Drive.
THE CUP: You know, Tom, you're a hot shot when it comes to the David
Cup, but why the embarrassing discrepancy between your DC and McIlroy scores?
NIX: Well, I live and work downtown, so quite frankly I can't wait to
get away. Any McBirds I see are strictly incidental to the greater quest.
THE CUP: Rigghhht. Say, didn't you recently get a new vehicle, a
minivan? Steve Kelling also has a minivan, and you're both leaders this
month. What's the connection?
NIX: Steve and I got hooked on serious Basin birding around the same time,
and he has truly been an inspiration to me. In fact, I try to emulate Steve in
everything he does.
THE CUP: Now let's not get too precious. This is The Cup, after all.
NIX: I suppose that means I will fall off my roof soon.
THE CUP: But let's not go to extremes either! Does the fact that your van
is *teal* green (incidentally, the same color as the many Pioneer Prize
pencils you won last year) have anything to do with why you're so far ahead?
NIX: Yeah, maybe the birds think I'm a big duck and allow closer approach.
THE CUP: What do you predict your total will be at the end of May?
NIX: I think my total may be slightly less than it was last year, 219. I only
have seen one bird this year, the Barrow's Goldeneye, that I didn't see
last year, and I've missed 3 or 4 that I had seen last year by this time,
the winter finches and Bohemian Waxwing.
THE CUP: Ouch.
NIX: I have lots of early birds on my list that everyone else will surely pick
THE CUP: The early bird catches the worm.
NIX: So I'd guess I'll be in third place with 215, and you, Allison, will
be in first again with say, 225, while Jeff will be playing catch-up somewhere
just over 200, once again missing a big migration fallout by being in Jersey.
THE CUP: Watch out, Tom. We hear the Sapsuckers may be tapping you
to do some scouting for them in New Jersey. So even third place for you may
be pushing it. At least you'll still have your grits, right?
NIX: Mpahgmnmmph. (Sorry my mouth is glued together.)
THE CUP: Thanks, Tom.
NIX: Thanks guys,
Just when you thought The Cup was going soft, in comes not another
cut-throat birder but....a cut-throat columnist! Enough of the fun and
games. Jay McGowan is here and he means business. Don't think for
a minute that just because he's ten years old he'll take it easy on you.
Let this be a lesson to you...
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge
of the world of birds. The answers will be in next month's issue.
1) Which American bird is called a "crow woodpecker"?
2) In Texas, which icterid nests with herons?
3) What color are the eyes of an Anhinga?
4) What color are the underparts of breeding Golden Plovers?
5) Which phalarope is restricted to the New World?
6) With what do rosy-finches often line their nests?
7) What is the scientific name for the Crimson-collared Tanager?
8) At normal walking pace, how many strides a minute does an Ostrich take?
9) What is the common name for Caprimulgus vociferus?
10) What bird is sometimes called the Bearded Vulture?
(Jay McGowan, age ten, is home-schooled, for which he was featured
in the February 17th Ithaca Times. He's been known to sign his math sheets,
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
An interesting Cup percentage to track is the ratio of the leader's birds
to the overall total. Last year's February leader, Steve Kelling, checked
in with 83/102 in this department. This year, Tom Nix is 101/122, besting
Steve by 83% to 81%. This percentage should rise during nonmigratory
periods, as birders catch up on missed sightings. It should go down during
peak migration periods, especially in the spring, since no individual can keep
pace with the pack total then. In Ithaca, the percentage should be at its
lowest on January 1, because of the Christmas Count. Anyone who records 50%
of the birds seen on the Count has gotten very lucky.
This month's sequence is: 46,17,7,2,50,1,1,31,3,15,46,21,2,7,66 and
counting. What is this? It's the number of days I've had to wait each year
since 1983 to record my first Pileated Woodpecker of the year. Yes, "66
and counting" indeed means I still don't have it for the year at this writing,
so it's a new "record" of sorts by a substantial margin. For years , I
faithfully wrote down every Pileated Woodpecker sighting, because I thought
these sightings would form an ideal data set to confirm conformation to a
statistical distribution known as the Poisson Distribution. A natural question
for this distribution is the notion of a "waiting time," i.e., the time spent
between successive observations. A whole theory has grown up around this:
"queueing theory," a nomenclatural nod for some reason to the British, who
stand in queues, not lines (incidentally, "queueing" may be the only answer to
the question: name a word with five consecutive vowels in it). Anyway, I've
always thought Pileated Woodpecker is the ideal bird for testing this theory.
It's a permanent resident, solitary, sedentary, and resists remarkably any
request to produce it on demand. Also, you're not likely to forget to write it
down when you see it! Of course, if one takes up residence in your back yard
for any length of time, you can throw the whole experiment out the window.
Well, I eventually stopped writing down every sighting, so I don't have
that much data. However, we can do this: find the mean (average) of the
waiting times for 1983-1996. If we assume the observations come from a
true, but unknown, Poisson distribution, then this mean is an estimate of the
actual mean waiting time. Follow? Then we (well, some of us) can use a
formula that tells us how likely it is that in a given year, we would have to
wait 66 days or more for the first sighting, as is the case this year. You'd
probably like to know what this probability is, since if you didn't, you stopped
reading several paragraphs ago. OK, since you insist...The mean waiting time
is 18 days (rounded off), so ...
[Time out for calculation.]
Da-da ... the number is between 2% and 3% (OK, I didn't calculate
anything ... I cheated and used a table, which only allows for a
rough estimate since my mean doesn't hit one of the table values
exactly). Isn't statistics fun?
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
"A Basin Big January, Part I: Surely You Jest?"
by Kurt Fox
I firmly believe that 100 birds in the Basin in January is possible.
The Cup 1.12 feature, "The Numbers Game," showed that "the David Cup winner
saw 96% of all species noted in the Basin". Last year's winner's effort (96%)
and this January's total (106) = potential 1997 Big January (101.76, which
tops 100 by 1 bird plus half a jaeger and a heard-only blip during night-time
monitorings). Let's look at it more in depth.
Mr. January topped out at 84 birds. He would only have had to gain
another 16 to reach a goal of 100. Review "Father Karl's Composite Deposit,"
in The Cup 2.1. Consider those species which (I believe) were seen by a
number of observers: Bonaparte's Gull, LBB Gull, Common Raven, Winter
Wren. Add a few that should've been seen by an observer scouring *all* the
winter haunts: R Grouse, N Shrike, P Siskin, E Grosbeak, and pheasant. Now
let's add those "sitting ducks": R-n Grebe, G-w Teal, B-w Teal, W-w Scoter,
Ruddy Duck. That brings the total to 98. With three species of blackbirds
being seen, at least one could've been picked up. The towhee and/or YB
Sapsucker were probably feeder birds and a phone call should've added them.
Nay-sayers may point to Tom's list and exclaim, "Geez, he had some pretty
good birds on that list. You don't expect to see Barrow's Goldeneye, L-e
Owl, N S-w Owl, R-h Woodpecker, Gray Catbird every year." However,
there are many more birds that were missed this January that were seen in
late December or in the beginning of February this season, not to mention
the ones seen in January's past. Let's look at what was missed that is
entirely within the realm of a January in the Basin: goshawk, Glaucous Gull,
Snowy Owl, Hermit Thrush and Short-Eared Owl (both uncommon but
regular in winter). Last year, it was a northern visitor year; this year's
a half-hardy year. Seldom comes a year when it's not one or the other.
Other possibilities: American Bittern, Virginia Rail, or Sora. Rochester
birders have been blessed with spring-fed Mendon Ponds Park. In any given
winter at least one of these two, sometimes all three, are found there by
the lucky. They have also been found in the warmer waters around the
power plant or large marshes near Braddock's Bay. There are similar habitats
in the Basin: Canoga Marshes, Union Springs, the Milliken Power plant on
the east side of the lake, and Montezuma. I bet those marshes aren't visited
often in the depths of winter. Around Rochester, Wood Duck is found
nearly every year and almost expected, and Northern Shoveler has been seen
on many occasions. White-crowned Sparrow turns up every winter, sometimes in
numbers, Savannah Sparrow periodically--both possible in the hill and dale
up around Canoga. Common Yellowthroat? Nix's own suggestion was to stampede
after the CBC birds. Did he know that two Common Yellowthroats *and* a
Vesper Sparrow were seen up in Montezuma on their CBC? Looking at the Little
Lakes CBC data around for Finger Lakes Region habitat, I've found that the
masked banditos are much more commonly seen in winter than you'd believe.
With gigantic Montezuma marshes and Canoga, I'd at least look. Do you want
other more outlandish suggestions? I'd bet that Andy Farnsworth has a bunch
of secret I-want-to-look- but-haven't-yet-checked that could turn up a bunch
*Look for Kurt's "A Basin Big January, Part 11: Strategy," in the next issue
of The Cup.*
(Kurt Fox is a Software Engineer at Eastman Kodak Company. He was not
bribed to write this column.)
(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 <
< < < <
He's currently President of the Cayuga Bird Club. Is that why he was asked
to be Coach for March, knowing it would boost The Cup's prestige factor?
Noooo. Unbeknownst to some of you, Bard Prentiss is the unofficial Master of
of Dryden Birding. Long before Ken Rosenberg and Kevin McGowan bullied their
families into moving to Dryden (solely because of Dryden Lake), Bard Prentiss
was there, lovingly tending that cradle. He also knows the value of giving
thanks when thanks is due; he knows that by publicly thanking Tom Nix, Tom
may give him the next Eurasian Wigeon he finds paddling around...who knows,
maybe Dryden Lake.
COACH PRENTISS: I am both flattered and humbled by being asked to author
this month's Coach's Corner. To follow the elite cadre of birders that have
previously appeared in these pages is an honor. My birding experience is
admittedly limited when compared to that of most past coaches. Whatever
reputation I have was arrived at by dogged persistence, coupled with
thoughtful watching and attempting to follow the examples of our many
resident experts. The fact is that anyone with the time and desire can
easily match my 96' David Cup total of 240. My birding success, such as it
is, depends on a few principles and a lot of help from my friends.
First of all, I check Cayugabirds-L religiously. The rational and
necessity of this habit is obvious. Second, I bird with others when possible.
The more pairs of eyes, the more birds get seen. In my case, being hard of
hearing in the ranges in which most birds express themselves, this is doubly
important. Third, I bird a lot, especially in peak times like migrations and
when weather conditions are prime. Birding is best for me close to home.
My last year's Town of Dryden list approached 200 species. When I range
too far in unfamiliar territory, especially alone, my birding success seems to
drop significantly. This is true even when conditions appear optimum and
is probably due to my unfamiliarity with the terrain. Fourth, I keep notes
on sightings, locations and weather conditions. This helps me anticipate the
arrival of key species and plan my birding activity accordingly. This, too,
seems to work especially well if I bird regularly in familiar spots. Fifth, I
listen a lot. We are blessed with a large, local population of extremely
experienced and knowledgeable birders. When they speak, it pays to listen.
To that end I also read this column and try to digest and internalize
the information it contains.
From Kevin Mc Gowan I learned to look at everything. That flock of
redwings might hold a Brewer's or Yellow-headed Blackbird, and who
knows what you might find in a flock of chickadees? Jeff Wells and Chris
Hymes showed me how effective spishing can be, especially if you can't hear.
It immeasurably increases your chances of a good look. Steve Kelling and
Tom Nix taught me to look twice and then look again. A habit that has
saved me from many embarrassing hip-shot postings. Bill Evans, Ned Brinkley
and Bernie Guirey taught me never to ignore a sunny day with a southeasterly
wind, especially after a prolonged cold spell, from March through May. A
stationary cold front here can stop the northward migration cold. Birds stack
up just to our south, and when the front moves out, the birds flood north
enmass. On such a day last April, 3800 Broad-winged Hawks passed over Mount
Pleasant, and in the past two years these conditions in mid-March have
produced three large flights of Golden Eagles. Thanks to Bill's shared
knowledge, weather conditions alerted me to each of these, and on many other
occasions and I was there for the action. Mount Pleasant is a special place
in March. Besides the already mentioned Golden Eagles, one can expect to
see TVs, all three accipiters, Red-Shouldered, Rough-legged, and Red-tailed
Hawks. American Pipits are frequent visitors. With luck a Merlin may zip by,
or one of the vultures may be a Black. In the best of all possible worlds
you could see a Swainson's Hawk, a Gyrfalcon or a flock of King Eiders,
But Mt. Pleasant can be a very lonely, very cold place. I suggest you
try and coax others to accompany you on your quest and pick your times
judiciously. I spent many hopeful but hawkless hours there before
admitting that, for example, a west wind is rarely very productive. You
will see an occasional bird but rarely any numbers.
Ken Rosenberg, upon moving to Dryden, coined the term "Dryden
Lake Effect" in honor of the productivity and predictability of really
crummy, migration season weather. Fog, rain, snow and an accompanying
cold front seems to cause it to rain birds, and uncommon water fowl are
sure to be among them. April, 1996 produced just two such days, April 7th
and April 13th. On April 7th, it was 32 degrees F, foggy and snowing. The
lake hosted 30 Oldsquaw, 7 Ruddy Ducks, 2 Horned Grebe, 30 G. Scaup,
6 Ring-neck Ducks, 2 Canvasbacks, 6 White Winged Scoters, 6 Buffleheads,
3 Red-breasted Mergansers, and 5 Hooded Mergansers. April 13th was
raining and 40 degrees f.; it produced an impressive 14 species of
waterfowl, including representatives of the above species plus Blue-winged
Teal, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Duck, Common Merganser. A
cold, rainy day in May produced 2 Surf Scoters. Past years have yielded
Red-throated Loons, Red-necked Grebes and an early Red-necked Phalarope.
A flock of 7 Tundra Swans spent a week there one March in the mid-1980's.
A warm spring this year may well produce these conditions in March and
who knows, an Eared Grebe. A year ago this column was hosted by Ned
Brinkley who enthusiastically generalized this phenomena, Basin-wide and
species-wide. He recommended dropping everything: "Bust butt", "go nuts"
at such times.
Although Dryden Lake is well known, the trail that currently runs
from Spring House Road in the village to Willow Crossing in Harford
provides an outstanding diversity of habitats. It is an excellent place to
pick up the owls you lack. The inlet and outlet of the lake often hold
waterfowl including N Pintail, H Mergansers, W Ducks and both teal.
I usually see my first Green Heron here and the Star Stanton Hill ravens
sometimes fly over. For the past two years both Bald and Golden Eagles
have been seen here. Osprey, too, could return late in the month. The fact
is, I have seen all the species of raptors over the trail or the lake that I
have seen on Mt Pleasant. The Park near the dam is a good place to see Fox
Sparrows in March. Northern Shrikes can sometimes be seen on the slopes
west of the lake and Brown Thrashers probably nest there.
Hammond Hill and Summer Hill are best bets for picking up those
elusive owls and winter finches. I am all but certain that persistent trips
to Summer Hill would produce a very good sampling of such species as Red and
White-winged Crossbills, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Pine
Siskins, N Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls, and who knows, maybe even a very
confused Boreal Owl, on its was north from New England. Much of that area
seems to me to be excellent Short-eared Owl habitat as well, though I have
yet to see one there.
If you're birding in Dryden or the eastern Basin, March is not too
early to visit Ringwood preserve, McLean Bog, Monkey Run and the Dodge
Road/game farm area. All are famous for the unexpected and warrant
(Bard Prentiss is a retired art history professor. His "Bird Hard" slogan
is expected to appear on the new $100 bill.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Just when Allison Wells was about to interview herself as this month's
McIlroy leader, Steve Kelling turns in his totals. Although she's coeditor
of The Cup and could have tossed the whole column to the wind, she graciously
agreed to allow Steve his first--and last--McIlroy leader's interview.
THE CUP: Last year you didn't enter the McIlroy race. This time around,
you've taken the McMonth of February. Why the change of heart?
KELLING: Time, and a general lack of energy to go screaming around the
lake to look at/for birds that Tom Nix finds.
THE CUP: Amen!
KELLING: I guess I don't have the stamina to try for a big year, year after
year as Karl David does. Also it was an incredible feat that Allison
accomplished last year, seeing 200 species of birds in the town of Ithaca.
I thought I might try to see if I could come near that.
THE CUP: Thinking about it's one thing, but remember you're a Sapsucker,
you'll be skipping off to the Garden State again in May. That's when
Allison made her move last year, she was unstoppable after that. Not to
dampen your spirits or anything. On the other hand, Sam and Taylor will be
around, right? How has their joining the David Cup affected your "family
time," and how did this factor into your taking February?
KELLING: Sam goes to a new daycare (at Cornell) so he and I drive in
together. We always stop at Stewart Park in the a.m. and he is learning to
ID the gulls (he saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull and differentiated it from
a Great Black-backed by the yellow legs [and my excitement!] and ducks.
THE CUP: Wow, Sam, who's three, has a McLesser Blacked-back Gull.
That's not going to sit well with Allison.
KELLING: And Sam, Taylor, Sue and I have been watching birds at and around
THE CUP: What are your McIlroy coups birds? Other than the Lesser Black-
backed Gull, of course.
KELLING: That is hard to say, and I really don't think I have very many.
Maybe Iceland Gull. As you say, the Lesser Black backed Gull, and possibly
Bonaparte's. The Long-eared and Barred Owls and raven were nice and I have
seen a bunch of Ruffed Grouse in town.
THE CUP: Ruffed Grouse was absent from Allison' McList last year. Hmm.
KELLING: But all of these birds are certainly possible in the fall. I missed
(so far) the Glaucous and the Red-necked Grebe which I consider much
more difficult to see along the south end of Cayuga Lake.
THE CUP: Stewart Park aside, where else can we look for you in March?
KELLING: Stewart Park is so convenient and historically so productive. Do
you know Roger Tory Peterson had a Kentucky Warbler at Stewart Park in
the late 60s?
THE CUP: No idea! According to an article I read (by some hack), Dorothy
McIIroy (for whom, you know, the McIlroy Award is named) used to see some
great birds there. Some of them, though, like Least Bittern and Marsh Wren,
haven't stood a chance since the cattails were destroyed decades ago. You
know, Steve, when John Bower won last month, he got hate mail from Bill
Evans (you know, Mr. "Most Likely to Win the 1997 McIlroy".) How will
you keep this ferocious go-getter from, let's just say, "distracting" you?
KELLING: Who is Bill Evans? Is he some hot undergrad birder who is
failing his classes because he is always out birding? Probably a young birder
with a tin ear and a penchant for identifying rare immature gulls that only he
THE CUP: You don't really want to win, do you? The trophy is, after all, a
smelly old sneaker.
KELLING: We have a new puppy so...
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
I am delighted to have been invited to be The Cup's Bird Brain of the
Month editor and have asked Marie Reid to be my first interview subject. I
am an admirer of Marie's bird photography and have envied the patience and
resolve that she exercises in order to get as close to and as familiar with
a common bird as she can. Last fall she could be seen for several days-
-equipment in place--on the edge of the inland pond at Stewart Park,
studying and photographing the myriad antics and angles of plain old Mallards.
Recently I had a bird experience and wished that I had had Marie's
expertise and equipment to record it. I had gone out on March 1 to get some
additions to my David Cup list--OK! So I've let myself be dragged in, at
least temporarily. I went to Myers Point marina to see whether there was
something beside Mallards and coot, and there was. A very lively Hooded
Merganser was cavorting around in stark contrast to the sober--almost
lethargic--Mallards. He would pivot with his hood displayed, then lay it down
flat and scoot away--looking as though two white-mittened hands, not quite
touching, were clasping his head. He showed me every angle of his crisply
and handsomely marked self and every aspect of his cocked up and cocky tail
when he dove--and all within yards of where I sat in my car! At one point, a
staid and self-important male Mallard took offense at the merganser
buffoonery and launched himself, neck out threateningly, at the impudent
jester, who promptly dove--giving the tail, so to speak, to the Mallard--and
in his passion, the Mallard dove, too, going under completely, but bobbing
up almost immediately like the proverbial bath toy, while the merganser popped
up gaily, many moments later and several meters away.
I already had Hooded Merganser on my list, and I didn't find any March
additions, but I went home happily birding-sated anyway.
Enough of me. Here's Marie:
CAISSA: Can we talk about how meaningful birdwatching is?
MARIE: The best way for me to talk about that is to tell you what
birdwatching means to me. First, it's a simple, gentle way of escaping the
rushed, overwhelming life that humans seem to have developed for themselves.
Second, I view what I do (i.e., observing birds) as being closer to someone
studying animal behavior. Birds we see here in Ithaca in the breeding
season have other lives in other parts of the world. The same Red-winged
Blackbirds that are so "commonplace" in our marshes here are a swirling
surreal mass of charcoal and scarlet when they're in huge flocks in the
winter marshes of New Mexico. Listen to the interplay of calls between male
and female redwings when they're nesting. Watch the wild displays, wings
quivering, of the male redwing when his new mate is nearby. I thoroughly
enjoy the common birds, exploring their lives, taking time to learn
wonderful things about them. Third, by birdwatching and seeing neat
behavior, I've never become tired of those familiar birds, so there's
always something interesting for me to watch. (By the way, one of my
current projects is writing a book about common birds and their sounds, a
collaboration with local sound-recordist Lang Elliot.) I'm always thrilled
by whatever comes to my bird feeder: the cardinal feeding his mate; the
Sharp-shinned or the Northern Shrike chasing the chickadees. I'm rewarded by
the ephemeral flock of redpolls. Last year I became fascinated with crows
after trying to photograph them (not easy!!). I had never realised they were
so cool! Now I can't see a crow without wanting to watch what it's doing.
CAISSA: Would you talk about your recent trip to Florida?
MARIE: I specifically went to Florida to do bird photography, so maybe in
a way I'm just as compulsive about "collecting" bird photographs as some
birdwatchers are about counting birds!!! However, because I've studied bird
behavior and photographed birds for so long, I'm very used to spending
hours at a time with individual birds, watching them doing their thing.
In Florida, I visited Ding Darling NWR and a heronery in Venice,
but my most exciting experiences were on Fort Myers beach. There, I was
thrilled to be able to slowly approach a resting flock of hundreds of
skimmers. I spent about 2 hours with them one morning, sitting on a
sandbank, listening to their calls, "wuk,wuk ....wuk,wuk ....," seeing their
ridiculous bills. I got to within 20 feet of them, taking picture after
picture. Finally some beachcombers came along, and all the skimmers flew up
and swirled around me, leaving me utterly spellbound.
Other memorable things: seeing a White Ibis scratching itself IN
FLIGHT!!! and noticing that Willets often hop around on one leg (almost
as though they've tucked one leg up and can't be bothered to put it down
again in order to walk!!) To me these things are much more thrilling than
being able to identify obscure shorebirds from their bill shape at half a mile
CAISSA: How did you come to bird photography? And could you give me
a bit of biographical rundown on your career as a photographer (with a
special focus on the bird part of it)?
MARIE: I started doing wildlife photography in Kenya in the early 1980s.
I was there as a field research assistant to Steve Emlen, on his
bee-eater project. That project sharpened my observation skills and taught
me the tenacity and patience I would need later to do bird photography. It
was also there that I realised my fascination with animal behavior.
I had always loved nature, and especially birds, since early childhood in
England, but as a child I never had binoculars. Despite that, I came to know
the shapes and calls of all the local birds by sitting still or being out in
the woods where they would approach me. I started seriously birding in the
USA in the late 1970's.
In terms of photography, I decided to try and become a professional
wildlife photographer about 10 years ago, but have retained my position at
Cornell as a research technician in Neurobiology and Behavior because
freelance photography is hard to make a living at! As the years go by, I
find I'm concentrating more and more on bird photography. And my pictures
are published in a variety of magazines.
But getting back to bird watching: I'd be lost without the spiritual
renewal that birds provide. I must have seen a million bobolinks in my life
(I used to study them with Tom Gavin of Natural Resources), but I still
excitedly anticipate their arrival on Mt Pleasant where I live, in the first
week of May, and am always thrilled to hear their song for the first time in
spring!! And come to think of it ... for the rest of summer too...!
EDITORS' NOTE: The image of the Bohemian Waxwing on the 1996 David Cup
t-shirts was taken from a photo taken by Marie. Is it any wonder Cuppers
are in fact the best dressed people around..at least when we're wearing our
David Cup T's.
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...
My sister and I are planning a grand SE Arizona trip in March and she
recently wrote to suggest that hubby Bruce (mine, not hers) send along
his Leica binos for her to use (he gets to stay home and dog-sit). She
assured him that ABA rules clearly state that you may count any birds
that are seen by/through your binoculars, regardless of whose eyes they
are attached to! Now I'm not sure about that, but sounds reasonable to
me. Before I loan my bino's to Karl David I wanted to check it out with
a known bird-brain such as your eminent self. Please hurry with your
response as the clock is counting down on my David Cup which, believe me,
is nearly empty!
--Near and Far Sighted in Mansfield
Dear Near and Far Sighted:
I guess when you sent me your question you had no way of knowing
Karl David was slipping. A shift from third to sixth place--behind Jeff
Wells, no less!--in the course of a single month is a slip indeed! To stay
competitive--to save face, even--you must give up your high-fallutin trips
to birdier places like Arizona. Besides, if it weren't for the Grand Canyon,
Arizona wouldn't be nearly what it's cracked up to be.
Perhaps you could help me with a rather delicate issue...It's still a
mystery to me how everyone else manages to get all those great birds and
in such great numbers. When I manage to get away to watch birds its only
for an hour here or there and then it takes me 45 minutes of that hour to
figure out what I'm watching, if it stands still long enough. Between husband
and home and work and church and garden and laundry I barely have time to
sleep--even then I dream of what to make for dinner and have nightmares
about brown bag lunches when everyone else seems to be dreaming of
barking ducks... Phooey!
It's been a real problem for me to hook up with a birding bunch schedule-
wise so I could learn some new birds. And I fall asleep over the guides at
night. Imagine, just this week I saw my first Song Sparrow (a lifer for
me...) and it took me 20 minutes to figure out what it was! I've been
hearing them for years and never saw one. Phooey! What's a girl to do?
Maybe it's because I'm still a newlywed and haven't got the hang of juggling
all of this stuff at once? Does birding improve after your 1st anniversary
or something? (Mine's next weekend- we're going back to Niagara Falls, Canada.
The fire place and heart-shaped Jacuzzi probably mean I won't see many birds
there either...) Ph...oops- cancel that! Anyway, Tick, how can I squeeze in
some quality birding time with some bird smart folks- I desperately want to
get into the 100 Club this year and keep my marriage together at the same
time...can it be done, Tick? Is there any hope for me?
--Dearly Loved But Birdless in Lyons
Dear Dearly Loved:
Love is not what propelled Karl David to David Cup victory in 1996.
True, his Beloved Elaine was an effective support specialist, but, heck, he
didn't even thank her in his acceptance speech at the Cupper Supper . The
Beatles were wrong: all you need is not love, all you need is to move, either
to Ithaca, where Stewart Park is "right along the way" to anywhere, or to
Rochester--the birders there are always ready to pounce into the Basin at an
email's notice. Why, moving to Tanzania might even be a step up in your
case. And while you're at it, dump the husband. Newlywed or not, that
"family time" talk that continues to circulate is a bunch of "phooey."
P.S. Scheming so that your anniversary would be celebrated at Niagara Falls
was a nice try, but unfortunately you chose the wrong month. Change your
anniversary date until sometime in the fall, when the gulls are there in force.
I was driving around some lesser traveled roads at the north end of the Basin
recently when I drove past an Ostrich farm. So they were on a farm, with a
fence around them. They were still Ostriches. Why can't I just count them
for my David Cup list?
--Keeping My Head Out of the Sand in Throop
Dear Keeping Your Head Out of the Sand:
The Wells' once shared with me a little anecdote from Maine, where they're
from. It goes like this: A man from "from away" says to an old, taciturn
Mainer, "I wasn't born in Maine, but my kids were. So even though I'm not
a native Mainer, my kids are, right?" The old timer puffs on his pipe for a
bit. "If my cat had kittens in the oven," he says in that deliberate, Downeast
way, "I wouldn't call 'em biscuits."
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at firstname.lastname@example.org)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"One of the great things about birding is that you can have great
"This morning...I observed a Merlin booking darned fast to the southeast
over the intersection of the Cayuga Mall entrance and Triphammer Road...
Quite an exciting bird to see while waiting for the light to turn!"
"At approximately 12:30pm I watched an adult Red-shouldered Hawk
move north over the Octopus area. Good thing the Octopus has
been 'improved' or otherwise I surely would have crashed into
oncoming traffic or befallen some other horrible fate while looking up
at the hawk rather than at the cars in front of me."
"I spotted [a Merlin] and even sighted it in my bins while waiting for a
light change on Rt. 13 south. Next thing I knew, I was rudely awakened (after
drifting off into birdwatcher's dream land) by several drivers not so gently
letting me know that the light had turned green."
"This morning was sweet for birding along the Cayuga Inlet: Carolina
Wren singing its head off about some 'tea-kettle,' and lots o' Eastern
Bluebirds vocalizing. mmmmmm."
"We have bluebirds looking over the 'real estate' in our yard ."
"Sam and I were planning to spend the morning at Stewart Park. But
when I went outside the sky was alive!"
"...As I pulled back in the driveway at home...a Carolina Wren was
serenading the neighborhood in a tree across the street from my house.
Which is good because...I need every bird I can get for the fierce yard bird
contest that is waging now between the haves (Steve K.) and the have
nots (the rest of us)."
"We were jolted out of our winter (no feeder birds) blahs last night, by
the calling of a Northern Saw-whet Owl from somewhere near our house
just outside Brooktondale... (Before Karl says this, if we only hear it, does
that make it a Northern Heard-whet Owl?)
"With the 22 birds added to my 5 from the hour birding before the
Cupper Supper in January I'm well on my way to beating last year's
Basin total of 40 birds. This year my goal is to top 100 Basin birds
or beat Mira the wonder bird dog, whichever comes first!"
--Margaret in Mansfield, PA
"For the David Cup, I had 39 species at the end of February. For
the McIlroy Cup, I had 33. With luck, this will keep me ahead of
the birding dog."
"Well, it's almost mid-February and I still haven't made it to the Basin.
Mira [the birding dog] and I are still tied on our Cup totals at the end of
Feb. We both still have 'zippo'."
"Finally on Friday, I found a flock of about 70 Horned Larks by the
road and in with them I found two Lapland Longspurs--my life Lapland
Longspurs! This sighting was so satisfying because I found and identified
the birds myself by patiently looking at every bird in the flock. I got
really wonderful looks with the birds about 15 feet from the road. A big
payoff for signing up for the David Cup--previously I would have noted the
Horned Larks and driven on. I still didn't have Snow Buntings, though, but
yesterday I went on the Cayuga Bird Club trip around the lake...and saw one
lone bunting on Seybolt Rd. in the fields parallel to Rte 89. Last night I
went to bed with dreams of making it into the 200 club dancing in my head."
"February wasn't so smurfy in the grand scheme of Cup things although I
have spent hours watching with great enjoyment the chickadee circus and
sparrow ballets out the kitchen window."
"Not only did I see a Killdeer on the weekend and hence March, but it
wasn't in the Basin. Oh well. My goal was to provide a name for the
bottom of the list. More tocks than ticks = Success!"
"Zero! Still. But not for too long..."
"In this my inaugural David Cup year, my modest, some might say
meager, goal is not to be lapped by Cup leader, i.e. - never have less than
half of the Leader's monthly total. What will I need to have by the end of
February - 55?"
"Naturally [my totals] include only 'heard birds, ones identified by sound.
After all, you can't really count a bird if you merely see it."
"J.R. Crouse and I ran into each other while scoping out
gulls in the howling winds Monday afternoon at Stewart Park."
"Like many fellow birders, I have tried repeatedly to spot a Lesser
Black-backed Gull at Stewart Park. Yesterday afternoon my efforts were
finally rewarded! Kevin McGowan and I both saw one individual settled
down with a flock of other gulls near the ice edge. There is hope if you
keep on trying!"
"I've been gone two weeks, and feel pretty out of the local scene. I need
some birding gossip!"
"I stopped by Mundy Wildflower Garden on my way home last night to try out
my own screech imitation (inspired by Tom Nix's unbeatable screech owl, I
have been practising in the shower every morning). I 'let rip' with a few
pathetic whinnies. Much to my amazement, the owl fell for it and responded
with a couple of half-hearted trills."
"A friend of mine has heard the cardinal's 'cheeyew, cheeyew, cheeyew'
so it must be spring. No?!
"Thanks for the news of spring...I can add two small things: our
mockingbird is beginning, haltingly, to limber up his vocal apparatus, and 2
snowdrops are blooming in the yard!"
"Yesterday, a flock of about 100 Canada Geese flew over the middle of the
city of Rochester, heading northwest. The first sighting of geese from
my office window always signals spring to me. The fact that it's a few
weeks early gives me pause, but I'll take it."
"I went out 'Hale-Bopp-ing' Sunday AM. No comet, however, I did find
MY 'spring sign': Three times I passed pockets of POTENT skunk scent."
"I, too, had noticed that the cardinals were singing. I also noticed the
Tufted Titmice singing. And, the Mendon Chickadees are singing their fee-bee
songs more often. It won't be long now... a slow gradual start, but a start
"By the way, not only do we now have two snowdrops in Ludlowville, our
witch-hazel has broken bud and the flowers are about to unfurl."
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff