Year 3, Issue 2
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*The electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Basin Bird Highlights: "Thoreau" Geo Kloppel
* Pilgrim's Progress Compiler: "Stoinking" Matt Medler
* Composite Deposit, Stat's All: "Shot Gun" Kevin McGowan and
* Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" (SPECIAL GUEST: 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
* Re-recording Specialist: Jeff Wells
Although the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, have skated off
to oblivion, burning questions no doubt continue to keep you awake at
night. Tough, biting questions like, "At what age in your life do you
decide you want to be an Olympic bobsledder?" "How do you get excited
when you've been assigned to cover curling?" "Those tutus--how do
figure skaters decide whether to fringe or lace?" and, most important,
"Are there any good birds in Nagano, and how can I count them
for my David Cup?"
Your faithful Cup staff are researching these vexing inquiries even as
we speak. (What, you thought Kevin McGowan was doing important
ecological research in Costa Rica these past few weeks? No, no,
he's been devising difficulty codes for the birds of Nagano, knowing
that Karl "Father of the Madness" David is already devising a scheme
for including all of Japan in the Basin.)
Until we can come up with some hard-core findings, though, we offer you
a little reading material: another issue of The Cup! True, there's
nothing quite as mind-burning as Hermon Maier's head-first slalom
collision with the side of that mountain and the way he went on to
ski his way to two gold medals! But, hey, we come pretty darned close.
So go on, read The Cup 3.2. It's kind of like running with the
Olympic torch. Only here at the David Cup, the fire keeps on
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Plunging into the David Cup
is a life-altering experience. Just ask new Cupper Ann Mathieson:
"In response to your tick-tock, I'll give David's Cup my best shot -
if only to swell the ranks of the people at the slim end. My total
through the end of February includes three lifers for me! [Horned Lark,
Redhead, and Short-eared Owl.]" Congratulations, Ann. Perhaps a Kylie
Spooner-sighting is not far behind, for you or the rest of us. Kylie
has joined our throngs, too although consider this note from Marty
Schlabach: "My partner Kylie has decided to join the David Cup. Her
response to her cat upon making the momentous decision was, 'My god,
what have I gotten myself into? (pause) But my mother would be
proud.' Sure, I can hear you now, Marty talked Kylie into joining so
there would be at least someone with fewer ticks than he has.' You
wouldn't believe me if I told you otherwise, so why should I bother?"
Marty, you shouldn't be ashamed to have talked Kylie into joining so
there would be someone with a lower total than yours.
Now, who's Alan Krakauer? Wouldn't you like to know! Just
watch out, he's slinking up the David Cup ladder faster than you can
yell, "Got it!"
Remember Tom Lathrop, Rochester Cupper from two years ago? He's
rejoined the flock, too: "Sign me up for the David Cup this year. It
looks like I may make it into the Basin more often than I did last
year. I'm leading a field trip to MNWR in three weeks, and hope to make
a scouting trip before that." Betcha Kurt Fox is rooting for you,
Guess who else is back. Larry "I'm Living in Connecticut Now"
Springsteen! "I'd still like to play... I haven't been in the Basin at
all this year, so my totals are zero... yes, zippo... nada... I'm
pretty sure I'll be in the Basin in late March or, more likely, early
April. So watch out for a huge increase in my totals." Heck, it's
not you we're worried about, it's Mira the Bird Dog! No word yet,
Ralph, on whether or not Mira will be woofing it up again this year.
Carol Bloomgarden is another familiar face from two years back.
"I'm going to give it another try. You've inspired me. Twenty-five
species so far this year. OK, it's not great, but at least it's a
start." Ha, not worried about Carol yet? Well, it just so happens
Carol more or less shares a home with a certain pair of Upland
Sandpipers so don't be so cocky or she may not invite you over.
Welcome and good luck to all newly anointed birdbrains!
KILLING TIME?: So you think our Cup newcomers are birdbrains?
Consider this newsclip that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"DILLON BEACH--A woman notified [sheriff] deputies that an
apparently suicidal man kept putting a gun to his head on Park Avenue
(Dillon Beach). Two deputies raced to the scene from south of Point
Reyes Station, and a helicopter was dispatched from Sonoma County. In
fact, the man was watching birds and kept putting binoculars not a
gun to his head. Moreover, hearing the sirens and seeing the
helicopter, he started looking for them, hoping to take a photo of
what was going on. The officers and the birder unwittingly chased
each other around Dillon Beach until the helicopter spotted his car
parked on Kailua Way. Deputies briefly took the man into custody and
then released him." Hmm. Question is, who's the real birdbrain, the
birder or the cops?
CREDIT HISTORY: It was recently brought to our attention that
Cupper Anne Kendall was spotted on national television! Okay, so it
wasn't national television, it was our local public access channel.
And, well, she wasn't actually seen. An anonymous Cup source tells us
that while channel surfing, s/he came across a production called
"Murder Over Easy". Our source tells us the show was fabulous, and
that Anne in particular was outstanding...even though this same source
reports that all s/he saw were the closing credits. Hey, Anne, how
about bringing a clip to next year's Cupper Supper?
FINDS OUT: The Great '98 Backyard Bird Count was a great success!
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon extend a
big birdy thanks to all of you Cuppers and Cup readers who
counted for the birds. As a show of appreciation, you're all
invited to participated in the next exciting BirdSource project, to
take place this spring! The following press release will tell you
little about it, along with some interesting Great '98 findings:
"Nearly 14,000 bird enthusiasts of all ages across North America
reported more than half a million birds at feeders, local parks, and
natural areas in the first-ever Great '98 Backyard Bird Count,
Feb. 20-22, cosponsored by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
(CLO) and the National Audubon Society (NAS). And this spring,
birdwatchers can keep counting for the birds by participating in
BirdSource's upcoming project, Warbler Watch.
"Findings from the Great '98 Backyard Bird Count are revealing
that El Ni o may have influenced where certain species spent their
winter months. Meteorologists predicted that El Ni o would mean a
milder winter for those of us here in the Northeast, and we're seeing
evidence of that in bird distributions,' says Frank Gill, Senior Vice
President for Science at NAS. American Robins and Red-winged
Blackbirds generally spend the winter in southerly locales. The
Great '98 count is showing them in far greater numbers than usual
farther north, including Maine, Vermont, and elsewhere across the
northern states and provinces.'
Reports poured in from all states and provinces, with New York,
Texas, Maine, and Florida showing the busiest flurry of count activity.
Mourning Dove, Black-capped Chickadee, and Northern Cardinal were the
most reported species. The general public is invited to visit the
BirdSource Web site and view findings in the form of colorful graphs,
maps, and charts. Images as well as bird songs and calls are also
accessible at the site, and an animated map shows when reports came
in from across the continent.
"Those who participated in the Great '98 Backyard Bird Count put
their towns on the first map of its kind in ornithological history.
Those who didn't can still contribute to scientists' understanding of
birds by participating in Warbler Watch, taking place this spring.
Like the Great '98 count, Warbler Watch will combine the unique and
powerful partnership of the continent's citizen birdwatchers with the
state-of-the-art technology of BirdSource. This endeavor will track
the migratory movements and breeding distribution of North America's
warblers--some of which, like the handsome, sky-blue Cerulean Warbler,
are experiencing severe and long-term population declines.
"Stay tuned for upcoming news about Warbler Watch, and visit the
BirdSource Web site <http://birdsource.cornell.edu> often in the
upcoming months for the latest developments. The Great '98 Backyard
Bird Count has proven to be a great success,' says John Fitzpatrick,
Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. We've taken a
new step in the process of engaging citizens across the country to
become involved in gathering information about birds. With the
continued participation of citizen scientists, Warbler Watch '98 will
be just as successful as the Great '98 Backyard Bird Count.'"
PHOTO OOPS: The photos are in! Roving photojournalist/Cupper Ken
Rosenberg's snapshots of the Cupper Supper have arrived here at Cup
Headquarters, and, boy, did he capture the action: Bill Evans
sprawled helplessly across the floor as wild munchkins pounce
mercilessly over him (actually, they're Anne Kendall's kids, and
Bill's obviously having as much fun as they are). Stephen Davies
clubbing cochamp Kevin McGowan with the David Cup trophy (umm,
actually, they're just shaking hands). Among other favorites:
Compilers Bard Prentiss and Matt Medler forcibly, er, proudly wearing
the duck bills they were awarded for their hard work here at The Cup
they really quacked everybody up! Nice work, Ken. Your check's in
the mail...but remember, mail sometimes gets lost.
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Another gig-less month for
Cuppers. But as we here at Cup Headquarters are busy cranking out
this issue of The Cup, jazz legend Carmen McRae is cranking out of our
CD player. "For Lady Day" a tribute to, who else? Billie Holiday!
This is especially appropriate Cup music, since there's strong
evidence that Lady Day was a birder: "Them There Eyes" an ode to her
binoculars; "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" about listening to
calls of night-migrating birds; and of course, her ultimate classic,
"God Bless the Child" the anthem of the Jazz Cup (the trophy went
home to Charlie "Bird" Parker). Ms. McRae sings these great tunes
like a true songbird albeit one hip, swingin' one!
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
"Shorten this if you need to, but if you steal any of my material I'll
expose you to the world!"
February birdtalk alternated between excitement over early
migrants and a morbid fascination with mortality, both topics that
should continue at least through the ides of March. In addition to
duck-murdering Great Black-Backed Gulls, massive road-kills, prowling
housecats, rampant dogs, sinisterly winking broadcast-towers, and the
international plot to convert the biotic potential of the world's
forests to hamburger-production, we had a string of anecdotes about
barnyard roosters confronting marauding hawks. For my money the prize
in that last category belongs to Tina Fenn's story about her white
Bantam ("Come quick! The brown rooster and the white rooster are
having a hell of a fight!" ..."We don't have a brown rooster!")
Of course, no account of deadly High Lights would be complete
without mention of Bill Evans' towering opus entitled "150 pounds of
Lapland Longspurs". There's something grim about the month of February.
Topping the WOULD-HAVE-BEEN-NICE category, yours truly took
a bold but short-thrusted stab at the "black-necked" Podiceps, and
received some tips on extending his reach to clinch the next one.
Meanwhile, a BARROW'S GOLDENEYE on Seneca Lake thrilled quite a few
cuppers. LESSER BLACK-BACKED and ICELAND GULLs were reported from
both ends of Cayuga, but GLAUCOUS GULL only at the north. Kevin
McGowan described a hybrid BARNACLE X CANADA GOOSE at Stewart Park.
SNOW GEESE have been flocking in.
Owls were news, especially N SAW-WHET OWLs, which began
tooting in West Danby on the last evening of January and continued
there and in a few other spots for weeks, so that many cuppers not
lucky enough to have one in the back yard were able to travel to them.
I can't find any report of Snowy Owl, but a SHORT-EARED OWL was seen
near Interlaken early in the month, and thereafter they have been
dependable at the traditional Seneca Falls Airport location. Yours
truly was frustrated again by elusive LONG-EARED OWLS, but hasn't
given up the attempt to actually find one visible!
NORTHERN GOSHAWKs were reported from Summerhill and near
Seneca Falls. NORTHERN HARRIER became a dependable find again, at
least if one was waiting for dusk to fall along Thorpe Road, as many
owlers have done. TURKEY VULTUREs made an appearance very early in
February, with seven reported by month's end. BALD EAGLEs in singles,
doubles and triples spanned the month and the basin, but that story
about 6 Bald Eagles fighting over one salmon was thoroughly
extralimital, and it's no surprise that a couple of days later the
perpetrator led us on a wild-gull chase to Singapore! COMMON RAVENs
were seen in West Danby, in Groton, and at Dodge Road, in addition to
the expected pair at Hammond Hill. NORTHERN SHRIKEs continued from
January at Connecticut Hill and in the neighborhood of Hanshaw and
Niemi Roads, where many people eventually got views of at least one
Shrike, maybe two.
Just down the road a GREY CATBIRD could be found at Bill Dilger's
feeder. A wintering COMMON YELLOWTHROAT continued at the Hogs' Hole.
An adult RED-HEADED WOODPECKER appeared at TFSP on 2/13, and an
immature continued nearby at a feeder just north of Trumansburg.
Nancy Dickinson had an early YELLOW BELLIED SAPSUCKER at home on 2/22,
and A WOODCOCK the next day. Others have been hearing or seeing
woodcock, a first flush being reported on 2/13! At least one LAPLAND
LONGSPUR was still among SNOW BUNTINGS in farmland near Dryden Lake.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS, C GRACKLES and COWBIRDS have been making
their way north through the Basin.
On the finch-front, Kevin and Jay McGowan gave us a splendid
description of a HOARY REDPOLL that visited their feeder on 2/1. Niall
Hatch reported 2 male PINE GROSBEAKs at Myron Taylor Hall on 2/18.
Both CROSSBILL species have wandered into more civilized areas, and
PINE SISKINs are apparently moving northward again. Has the retreat
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows. Talk about highlights!)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Sign on 100 Club:
"Have I SEEN 100 ? Come on, I haven't even POSTED 100 yet! Look for
three-digit scores in both categories on the first of April."
200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Sign on 200 Club door:
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1998 DAVID CUP FEBRUARY TOTALS
Compiled by Matt Medler
88 Kevin McGowan
86 Jay McGowan
80 Geo Kloppel
75 Karl David
70 Jon Kloppel
66 Tom Nix
65 Stephen Davies
64 Ken Rosenberg
63 Bill Evans
63 Steve Kelling
61 Pat Lia
60 John Greenly
57 John Bower
55 Martha Fischer
52 Perri McGowan
52 Anne Kendall
52 Bard Prentiss
51 Marty Schlabach
50 Alan Krakauer
50 Jeff Wells
48 John Fitzpatrick
47 Matt Sarver
46 Allison Wells
43 Meena Haribal
42 Gary Chapin
41 Matt Medler
41 Ben Taft
38 Jim Lowe
37 Kim Kline
37 Ann Mathieson
34 Margaret Barker
33 Anne James
32 Jim Lowe
31 Michael Runge
25 Carol Bloomgarden
21 Kylie Spooner
20 Cathy Heidenreich
16 Swift McGowan (DC "Kitty" Cup)
14 Mimi Wells (DC "Kitty" Cup)
12 Teddy Wells (DC "Kitty" Cup)
0 James "Closer to the Great Basin" Barry*
0 Kurt Fox*
0 Tom Lathrop*
0 Andy Leahy*
0 Scott Mardis*
0 Dave Mellinger*
0 Larry Springsteen*
*Currently living out-of-Basin (or out of state) but anticipate at
least one return during the 1998 David Cup year. Don't put your money
on any of them. Or on Bill Evans.
1998 McILROY AWARD TOTALS
Compiled by Matt Medler
64 John Bower**
63 Bill Evans
53 Bohn Jower
48 Martha Fischer
45 Jeff Wells
42 Kevin McGowan
42 Ken Rosenberg
40 Stephen Davies
39 Karl David
36 Allison Wells
32 Jim Lowe
31 Michael Runge
29 Jay McGowan
26 Jim Lowe
26 Matt Medler
26 Ben Taft
14 Anne Kendall
(**Go directly to the McIlroy interview! Do not pass go! Do not
collect $200. Repeat: Go directly to the McInterview!)
EVANS TROPHY TOTALS
Compiled by Bard Prentiss
57 Kevin McGowan
52 Jay McGowan
50 Ken Rosenberg
47 Bard Prentiss
Kevin McGowan's Lansing total: 49
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
By Margaret Launius
Well, spring is in the air and so are the migrants! Yard Birders
reported with delight the arrival of Robins, Grackles, Bluebirds, and
even a Fox Sparrow or two! Of the New York contingent, listed below,
Ken Rosenberg added the most birds to his list in February, with 11
47 Ken Smith, Groton, NY
40 Chris & Diane Tessaglia-Hymes, Etna NY
39 John Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
38 George Kloppel, W. Danby, NY
37 Ken Rosenberg, Dryden, NY
35 John Greenly, Ludlowville, NY
34 Nancy Dickinson, Trumansburg, NY
33 Mary Gerner, Macedon, NY
32 Jim Kimball, Geneva, NY
31 Sandy Podulka, Brooktondale, NY
29 Darlene Morabito, Auburn, NY
28 Steve Kelling, Berkshire, NY
26 Kevin McGowan, Dryden, NY
25 Ann Mathieson, Scipio Center, NY
25 Bill Purcell, Hastings, NY
23 Joanne Goetz, Fredonia, NY
21 Cathy Heidenreich, Lyons, NY
21 Ben Taft, Ithaca, NY
18 Nari Mistry, Ithaca, NY
17 Sara Jane & Larry Hymes, Ithaca, NY
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
C Loon, P-b Grebe, H Grebe, G B Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan,
S Goose, C Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black
Duck, Mallard, N Pintail, Gadwall, A Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead,
G Scaup, L Scaup, C Goldeneye, Bufflehead, H Merganser, C & R-b
Merganser, R Duck, B Eagle, N Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, A Kestrel, Ring-necked
Pheasant, R Grouse, W Turkey, A Coot, Ring-billed Gull, H Gull,
I Gull, G Black-backed Gull, G Gull, R Dove, M Dove, E Screech-Owl,
SNOWY OWL, B Owl ,L-e Owl, B Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker,
D Woodpecker, H Woodpecker, N Flicker, P Woodpecker, H Lark, B Jay,
A Crow, F Crow, C Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, T Titmouse, R-b
Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, B Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet,
E Bluebird, A Robin, N Mockingbird, C Waxwing, N Shrike, E Starling,
Yellow-rumped Warbler, N Cardinal, A Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow,
White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, L Longspur,S Bunting, R-w
Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, H Finch, C Redpoll, HOARY REDPOLL,
P Siskin, A Goldfinch, E Grosbeak, House Sparrow
By Karl David
D-c Cormorant, Brant, R-n Duck, W-w Scoter, Ruddy Duck,
N Goshawk, Merlin, Killdeer, Am Woodcock, Lesser B-b, Glaucous
gulls, G H, S-e & N S-w owls, R-h Woodpecker, Carolina & Winter wrens,
Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, N Shrike, C Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow,
E Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Red & W-w
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to follow in your pa's footsteps than by being
featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup? "Kickin' Tail" brings
well deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper who has glassed,
scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, or come-in-second-while-the-
true-leader-is-out-of-countried his/her way to the top of the David
THE CUP: Congratulations, Jay! You made it to the Kickin' Tail top!
Umm, but, be honest, how did you REALLY end up getting this interview?
JAY McGOWAN: Well, first I tricked Dad into going to Costa Rica,
because I knew we would be ahead for February. So with him out of the
way, I knew I would get the interview.
THE CUP: (Little does Jay know, we almost gave it to Swift. But then we
remembered that some people are allergic to cats.) Do you have any birds
that your big daddy doesn't have?
JAY: Yes, Common Grackle, Killdeer, and Eastern Meadowlark.
THE CUP: Excellent, excellent. There's no way he'll get those later!
Now about Swift, Mimi and Teddy tell us that she's been bragging about
seeing some birds she really hasn't seen. Like that Beam Hill Hoary
Redpoll report on Cayugabirds, wasn't that hers?
JAY: No, I know she has seen all the birds on her list. She meows
every time she sees a new bird. As for the report, Swift cannot use
the keyboard, of course.
THE CUP: Interesting. Because Mimi and Teddy have both become
proficient at it. In fact, we've hired them to type up The Cup from
now on. So if any of you come across any typos, you'll have to take
it up with them.
JAY: We were going to keep the redpoll a secret, but Swift talked us
into posting it. I understand nobody ever got to see it, because
after we had all seen it, Dad got out his BB gun and the Hoary Redpoll
was never seen again
THE CUP: A BB gun? So much for his macho image! No wonder he
ropes up and swings around in trees every spring he's gotta save face.
Speaking of creativity, what's your latest Lego creation?
JAY: I suppose it would be Danger Island, an island full of Blue-footed
Boobytraps, opening mountains, rushing rivers, and trapdoors with
scorpions. It took me all day to build.
THE CUP: How terrifying! Is it life-size? What better way to keep
your pa, not to mention your ma and Perri, safely out of the running!
Say, those Nerf darts you lost last time you were over at the Wells,
are they poisonous? Because Teddy found one and chewed it up.
JAY: Yes, very. On the package it says: "WARNING! Extreme
poison inside! If eaten, symptoms are that you become scared of anyone
coming in the door."
THE CUP: Hmm. So if we can get him to cough it up, maybe he won't run
off when someone closes a door two miles away. Of course, who knows
what else he might cough up... How has having Perri [age 6] and your
mom in the David Cup affected you?
JAY: Well, having Perri in hasn't made any difference that I can tell,
but having Mom in has. She's a lot quicker to agree to quick runs
down to Dryden Lake, or last-minute decisions to stop at Stewart Park.
Also, she actually gets out of the car to see some Snow Geese flying
over, and she gets up to see a robin in the tree. The other day we
went up the lake to Montezuma while Perri played at a friend's house.
She may have enjoyed it more than I, because although I didn't get
any new birds, she got eleven. It is fun to show her ducks and things.
THE CUP: Hmm. Sounds like we editors should get our moms signed up.
Of course, they both live in Maine... Would you still go birding if
there was no such thing as McDonald's?
JAY: Sure, there's always Burger King.
THE CUP: Did you hear that, Geo? So, Jay, who do you think will place
higher, Jeff or Perri?
JAY: Jeff, because he can drive. But if he couldn't drive, then .
THE CUP: That really hasn't helped him much lately. Of course, it
hasn't helped his wife, either. No Kickin' Tail rookie interview
would be complete without this last questions: What's your favorite
JAY: It's a tough question, but I think I like the green on a Tree
Swallow's back. Either that, or the green on the head of a male
THE CUP: Hopefully, you'll be seeing both soon enough. And with a little
luck, so will the editors.
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge of the
world of birds. Answers next month.
1. The Solitary Vireo is no more. The American Ornithologist's Union
recently split it into three separate species. What are these three
species called, and where in North America do they live?
2. What do a loon, an eider, a goldeneye, a merganser, a snipe, a tern,
a raven, a yellowthroat, a grackle, and a redpoll have in common?
3. How many falcons in the world have only one word in there name?
4. Which birds have X as the first letter of there common name?
5. What North American bird is sometimes called a "man-o-war-bird"?
6. What is the common name for Paradoxornis atrosuperciliaris?
7. Which North American bird has all five, but only five vowels in its name?
8. What bird is sometimes called an Acadian Owl?
9. What is the scientific name of the Drab Water-Tyrant?
10. Why is the Obscure Berrypecker obscure?
ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:
1. What is the largest gull in the world? Great Black-backed Gull.
2. What is the smallest gull in the world? Little Gull.
3. Which gulls have dark heads in breeding plumage? You really want to
know them all? Okay, here goes: White-eyed, Great Black-headed,
Bonaparte's, Saunder's Andean, Mediterranean, Relict, Sooty,
Brown-headed, Brown-hooded, Common Black-headed, Lava, Laughing,
Franklin's, Little, Sabine's, and Swallow-tailed gulls. I would tell
you something about them, but there are so many and I'm pretty busy, so
4. Which gulls have white heads and dark bodies in breeding plumage?
Heerman's Gull and Silver Gull.
5. Which gulls have dark hoods and white bodies in non-breeding
plumage? Dolphin Gull and Band-tailed Gull.
6. Which gull besides Sabine's Gull has a black hood, forked tail,
yellow tip to the bill, a gray back, white triangles in the wings, and
black wingtips? The Swallow-tailed Gull of South America.
Swallow-tailed Gulls look very similar to Sabine's Gull, but there
are a few differences: Swallow-tailed Gulls not only have a yellow
tip to the bill, but also have a yellow base to the bill. Sabine's
Gulls have a gray back and white neck, whereas Swallow-tailed Gulls
have a gray back and a gray neck. Also its gray is a little darker
than that of a Sabine's Gull. It has black wingtips, but unlike the
Sabine's Gull, it has little white things (I know there's a word for
them, I just can't remember it) on its wingtips.
7. What is the scientific name of the Sooty Gull? Larus hemprichii.
"Larus," meaning, "gull" and hemprichii after Friedrich Wilhem
Hemprich, an explorer in Egypt and Arabia, 1820-1825. Sooty Gulls are
confined to the north-west Indian Ocean.
8. Which gulls have black backs in breeding plumage? Dolphin, Pacific,
Band-tailed, Great Black-backed, Kelp, and Slaty-backed Gulls.
9. What is the common name for Larus fuliginosus? Lava Gull. Lava
Gulls are the world's rarest gull. Total population is 400 pairs.
Lava Gulls live only on the Galapagos Islands. Lava Gulls are
unmistakable, being dark all over and scavenging sandy shores (rarely
on water) in the Galapagos.
10. Which two gulls in North America sometimes are pink? Ross's Gull
and Franklin's Gull. Ross's Gull adults are variably pale pink to
bright pink below. A Franklin's Gull in breeding plumage has white
underparts variably tinged with pink.
* If you would like to find out more about these species of gulls, try
purchasing the new Seabirds of the World, by Jim Enticott and David
Tipling. (I wonder if they'd pay me to say that.)
(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. His favorite class is
"Birding 101." )
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
Where were we? Oh, yes, we were panning through a Horned
Lark/Snow Bunting flock, looking for that elusive one-in-a-hundred
bird, a Lapland Longspur. We found last month that in a 100-bird flock,
the probability that there's at least one longspur is
1 - (99/100)^100 = 0.6340, i.e,. about 63%.
This month we tackle the question: What are the probabilities for
any particular EXACT number of longspurs in the flock: exactly one,
exactly two, etc. Since "at least one" is the same as "exactly one or
exactly two or exactly three or ... or exactly one hundred," the 100
probabilities we generate in the process should all add up to 0.6340.
Actually, they'll round up to 0.6340 well before we have to
contemplate a 100-longspur flock, since its probability would be
(1/100)^100, a number your and any other calculator or computer will
declare to be 0 because it doesn't carry that many decimal places. In
other words, we'll see a 100-longspur flock (in the Basin at any rate)
when hell freezes over, or the Eagles reunite ... whichever comes first.
Without further ado, the probability of exactly one longspur is
100 * (1/100)^1 * (99/100)^99 = 0.3697,
the calculation decoded as follows: As we did last month, line the
birds up and patiently wait for Kevin McGowan to attach wing tags
numbered from 1 to 100 on the adorable little critters. Pick a bird at
random from the flock. Then "100" means that it could bear any one of
the 100 numbers; "(1/100)^1" is the probability it's a longspur;
"(99/100)^99" is the probability all the other 99 birds aren't
For exactly two longspurs, you have to figure out how many
different number combinations those two birds could have. For example,
one scenario is "birds 32 and 87 are the longspurs"; another is
"birds 93 and 99 are the longspurs." This isn't trivial, but it's not
rocket science either. There are 100 possible numbers for one longspur,
99 for the other, i.e., 100*99 = 9900 combinations. Unfortunately,
this is wrong! In fact, it gives us exactly twice the number we want.
Why? Well, it counts "birds 32 and 87 are the longspurs," as it should,
but it ALSO counts "birds 87 and 32 are the longspurs," which is of
course the same thing. In other words, it double counts. So the
multiplying factor we want is 9900/2 = 4950. The probability of
exactly two longspurs is thus
4950 * (1/100)^2 * (99/100)^98 = 0.1849.
You see the pattern, I hope. For 3,4,5, ... longspurs the hard part is
figuring out how many ways the longspurs can sit in the flock. For
"extra credit," see if you can deduce that for exactly three longspurs,
that number is
100*99*98/6 = 161700,
so that the probability is
161700 * (1/100)^3 * (99/100)^97 = 0.0610.
In general, the formula for exactly n longspurs is
C(100,n) * (1/100)^n * (99/100)^(100-n),
where C(100,n) is the symbol devised for the number of ways n objects
can be distributed in 100 places. Its formula is well-known but I
won't give it here. Adding up just the first three cases we calculated,
0.3697 + 0.1849 + 0.0610 = 0.6156
as the probability of exactly 1,2 or 3 longspurs.
Remember that 0.6340 was the probability of at least one longspur.
0.6340 - 0.6156 = 0.0184
then give us? Does "the probability of four or more longspurs" make
sense? If it does, give yourself an "A" for your ability to count
(unless you're Steve Kelling, in which case you deserve an "A+"!).
Well, you've certainly earned your "spurs," so to speak, for
getting through this. See you at a freshly-manured field somewhere in
the Cayuga Lake Basin soon (though it's getting late in the season!)!
And spare a thought for all those longspurs massacred in that tower
kill Bill Evans related to us on Cayugabirds. The migrants we see
seem more and more to take on the aspects of survivors.
(Karl David is a mathematics professor at Wells College in Aurora, New
York, currently on sabbatical at Cornell. If he ever started gambling...)
SCRAWL OF FAME
Your Scrawl Here
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 <
< < < <
Given his passion for expertise and the numbers' game, who better to
coach into the coming days of spring than Karl David? Father Karl's
advice on birding in the Basin is as insightful as his statistical
lore. Find out for yourself...
COACH DAVID: Sez the editors: please advise Cuppers how March can
fit into their overall strategy for the year. Sez I: that depends on
which Cuppers you have in mind. If it's Bill Evans, nothing I say will
stop him from monomaniacally pursuing every McIlroy lead so he can
declare moral victory before leaving the Basin until June, as he always
does. If it's Ken Rosenberg, no amount of rhapsodizing over the
aesthetics of hawk-watching at Mt Pleasant will keep him from
perversely trying to get his Golden Eagle by sticking a wide-angle
periscope outside his office window. And for Steve Kelling, it's not
what you see, it's how you count.
But for the rest of us, what promises does March hold forth?
Having just read the post on City Cemetery White-winged Crossbills as
I write this, I'm reminded that now is an ideal time to pick up any
missing winter finches, as those that wintered to our south search for
food on their way back north. Several people noted the first Pine
Siskins of the winter at their feeders recently. That's typical. So
remember, it ain't over till it [= your seed supply]'s over!
As for waterfowl, you should have most of the common species in
place by the end of the month, and without extraordinary effort.
Scoters, Oldsquaw, and Ruddy Duck are more likely in April, so don't
worry about missing them yet. And Brant they're really late, and much
easier to get in the fall [that applies to the scoters, especially
Black, as well]. Check all sizeable wigeon flocks for Eurasian, and
Snow Goose concentrations for Ross's.
And, of course, hawk-watching. Though you probably won't ever see
Bill Evans at Mt Pleasant again he'll be on King Rd south of IC,
trying for Mcraptors it's still the premiere spot. The editors
suggested giving some ID tips for turning those distant specks into
immature female tundra-race Merlins, but the best advice I can think of
for relative beginners is to make sure there's at least one expert up
there with you (preferably several, so you can enjoy hearing them
disagree with one another). Seriously, learning the fine points of
migratory raptor identification by yourself is slow, painful, and
frustrating. But if the winds are from the south, and it's not raining,
early morning, or late afternoon, you should have company. And if you
do find yourself alone try anyway. You may be uncertain of your IDs,
but you'll have something to compare when you do have company.
What else? The bulk of the passerine migration is still to come,
but it's such a kick to strain your ears for that first Eastern Phoebe,
or your eyes for those first Tree Swallows, as you approach month's end.
The phoebe could be anywhere, but the Tree Swallows will typically be
out over the lake, as you look out some cold, misty morning to see them
coursing for insects over its surface. To me, that moment is a major
breakthrough on the true road to ... SPRING!
(Karl David is ... heck, you should know by now.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Is it true? Can it really be? Has the mighty Bill Evans gotten his
McIlroy tail kicked this month by none other than his arch rival,
John Bower? Read on and find out!
THE CUP: John, this is amazing! How were you able to climb the steep,
mud-slicked embankment of McIlroy hill?
BOWER: Well, you know, I've always had great respect for Bill, but
those nasty comments he made about me in last month's Cup made my
blood boil! I don't know why some people are so mean spirited - I
guess deprived childhoods lead to depraved adulthoods. Anyway, I
decided I was not going to get drawn into a name calling feud - I was
just going to go out there and bird like crazy to beat the pants off
Bill Evans! I was pretty pleased with how I did!
THE CUP: But poor Bill. He had so much riding on this. How on earth
will you be able to face his shattered spirit ever again?
BOWER: I've dropped a hint or two, but earlier I managed to delude
him into thinking I wasn't even participating, so I think he's gonna
get kind of blind sided. Should be a good lesson for him, don't you
THE CUP: Maybe so, but he surely would have preferred a different
teacher. How has Bill been treating you, in light of his victory last month?
BOWER: Oh, you know, he's been kind of quiet about it. I think he's
one of those sociopaths who does an evil deed, then feels a lot of
guilt. He's made it clear though, that he thinks he's really a big
fish with his sad little McIlroy total.
THE CUP: Has another year of McIlroy competition changed you in any
BOWER: I am the greatest! I see birds Evans doesn't even see in his
dreams! I sting like a ichneumon wasp and fly like a woodcock! I leap
small buildings (mostly doll houses) in a single bound (sometimes two).
I am testosterone!!!
THE CUP: (Bill, you didn't hear any of that, did you?) What were some
of your more surprising McIlroy birds in February?
BOWER: Ummm. Let's see. I think the coolest sighting was this one
day I was just out walking my dog and when I got back to the house,
what was at the feeder? A Black-Capped Chickadee! I already had the
bird in January, but it was really cool to see it again. I also saw
some turkey tracks.
THE CUP: (Your own, perhaps?) Umm, er, what do you intend to do to
stay ahead of Bill, er, to come out ahead next month?
BOWER: Depends. If Bill hasn't learned a little humility by then, I
just might have to catapult to the top of the charts again. Some
people are such slow learners!
THE CUP: Thanks Bohn, er, John.
*If it isn't painfully obvious already, John Bower is NOT our McIlroy
leader! Knowing Bill Evans was going to be out of town on April 1,
John Bower persuaded the editors (with promises of another McWestern
Kingbird) to go along with his little scheme to rib Bill. So don't
worry, no punches were thrown, no blood shed (well, except Bill's,
when he fell on the ice at Stewart Park chasing a high-flying Snow
Goose.) As for John Bowers true score, again, if it isn't painfully
obvious already, see "Bohn Jower." In honor of Bill's astounding 63
McFebruary birds, join us in singing,
"For he's a jolly good fellow,
for he's a jolly good fellow,
for he's a jolly good fellow...
which no birdy can deny!"
See you here next month, Bill!
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
This month's Bird Brain has been running away from agriculture
and the soil since his late teens only to end up as Information
Services Coordinator in Mann Library, primarily working with "students
and researchers in agriculture and the life sciences... [and with]
those doing bird research." To compound the irony, he lives "on a
rather isolated 40 acres in Newfield," where he spends his spring and
The object of bird-brain e-interrogation in this issue is Marty
Schlabach, who says he has been a birder for about as long as he can
remember. "When I was quite young I was building bird feeders and bird
houses. Recently while digging through some elementary school-era
papers, I discovered the beginnings of a field guide to birds that I
intended to complete but never finished. "I suspect it was my older
brother that got me interested in birds. Though he probably wouldn't
have called himself a birder, he was interested in the natural
environment and enjoyed hiking. On occasions he would take his
younger brother with him. I remember going out on snowy days and
trying to step exactly in his footprints, so the trail we left looked
like it was made by just one person. His legs were longer than mine
(at that time), and it was sometimes quite a stretch for me."
Marty grew up near Buffalo, and his family occasionally took
outings to Sapsucker Woods. "Though that was 35-40 years ago," he
recalls, much was still the same as it is today including "the glass
case with the hummingbirds, the observatory looking out over the ponds,
and also the trails." When he was eleven years old, he worked for a
neighboring dairy farmer, and when it was time to bale hay, he says, "I
was the one driving the tractor with the baler, following the windrow
around the field. On more than one occasion I remember the farmer
hollering at me from the hay wagon to steer back to the windrow after
I had gotten distracted by some bird in the hedgerow and allowed the
tractor and baler to get off course. "Before I could drive a car, I
would point out birds along the road. My parents, especially my
mother, were amazed. Half of the time they didn't even see a bird,
much less identify it." Marty is quick to remark, however, that
"though I am a lifetime birder, I am not an expert. I am primarily a
backyard birder. Each morning, as soon as it is light, I usually
check out the feeders to see if there is anything of interest. I do
not regularly chase reported birds. Last year, though, I did go
looking for the Red-headed Woodpecker in the Scipioville area three
times and never did find it. I don't take many birding trips, but I
will often go birding when I am on a trip."
When asked to talk about his favorite memories of "birding the Basin,"
he explained, "For six years I lived in a house located in
mature woods on Ringwood Rd. near Ellis Hollow. It was there that I
got familiar with Barred Owls. I would turn a speaker from my stereo
out the window and play a recording of Barred Owls, and within minutes
they would be in the tree outside my window responding to the recording.
I not only enjoyed it, but it was also a way to share something special
about birds with non-birders. For those six years I invariably had a
barred owl to report for the Monday night 'reading of the list.' Being
a fairly regular attendee, I suspect I have skewed the data a bit"
And asked for his favorite all-time birding memories, Marty spoke
of the time when he was in high school and took a birding trip with two
friends down the east coast from Virginia Beach to Key West in a VW
bug. "I particularly enjoyed the day near Lake Okeechobee, Florida,
when we asked the local Audubon warden to take us out to find Sandhill
Cranes. We got in his jeep and drove the dikes, seeing birds but no
Sandhill Cranes. Finally he stopped and said, 'there's one.' He found
it without binoculars, and we had difficulty seeing it in the distance
with binos. We were impressed."
"Ten years or so ago," he adds, "I was in Phoenix, Arizona, with
my two younger brothers and their families. My youngest brother is
also a birder, and after a few days of family tourism, he and I said,
'Ok, you can do what you want tomorrow, but we are heading down to
Ramsey Canyon.' We had a wonderful day birding. Though we didn't see
many hummingbirds, we did see Painted Bunting, Bridled Titmouse, and
other species we don't see in the Northeast."
Marty also recalls that "one of the best birders in the Basin for
a four-year period was Cornell undergraduate Adam Byrne. He was from
Michigan and also one of the best birders there. My lifelong friend
Tom, also a birder, lives in Michigan. They didn't know each other at
the time, but I promised that someday their paths would cross. After
graduation, Adam got a job counting migrating waterfowl at White Fish
Point in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Tom was up there birding
one early spring and walked out to the point. As birders are wont to
do, they struck up a conversation. After a few questions, Adam looked
up from his scope and said, 'You must be Marty's friend!'" Now that
Marty lives in New York and Tom in Michigan, they make it a point to
meet halfway each year "to catch the spring migration at and near Point
Pelee. It has been great birding and a time to reminisce about old
times with a long-time friend."
The inevitable question about listing was put to Marty, and he
replied, "Compared to many, I am a rather listless birder. I started
a life list when I was a teenager, but didn't keep it up for very
long and have not returned to it. I usually keep feeder lists and
field trip lists. Last year I joined the David Cup with the idea that
it would motivate me to get out birding a bit more. It worked for half
of the year, and it forced me to keep a Basin list, which I hadn't done
Marty lives with his partner, Kylie Spooner, her two cats, and
some chickens, who have been falling afoul of the local raccoons. When
the spring gardening season arrives, he faces a number of tough
decisions "when both gardening and birding demand my attention, as of
course does work. I am also an avid contradancer," he adds, leaving a
lively image of a life lived close to the soil, whatever his teenaged
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of
Development. She's also theater critic for the Ithaca Times. She's
been seen Wood Ducking around Sapsucker Woods from time to time.)
"Ode to the Tick-Tock"
To be in the race quite auspicious,
I stomp through the wood making spishes.
I admit I have wondered
Who's over a hundred?
Seventy is mine, plus some wishes.
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 am ever so excited and thrilled to tell you I had a Northern
Shrike in my dream last night. Heck with straining my eyes out on Neimi
Road, this bird was way cool. In other dreams, I've also seen a flock of
American Robins and a Rough-legged Hawk. And heard a Carolina Wren
(which in my dream a disbelieving Steve Kelling went scurrying off to
find, leaving me feeling mighty superior I must say).
So, dear Dear Tick, I ask you: Have you changed the rules for the
David Cup/McIlroy Award *yet*??? I sure hope so, cuz just listen: Not
only was I myself within the Basin *and* within Ithaca city limits
while these dreams occurred, but the very birds themselves were within
these boundaries, too! I can vouch for this! I can tell you exact
locations! Steve might even back me up on the wren!
So waddaya say, huh, Dear? Don't you think it's time for the David
Cup to move into the '90s and recognize that Basin birds do exist on
Still Sleepy in Ithaca
P.S. And please, Dear, don't go psycho-analyzing why SK appeared in my
dream. Heck if I know.
Dear Still Sleepy:
Sleepy, Sleepy, Sleepy. I've put in some phone calls, just for you,
and now the rules have changed. Dream birds not only count when
dreamt in the Basin, they count wherever you've dreamt them. In fact,
go ahead and count movie birds, calendar birds, and give those
wish-list birds a tick, too!
By the way, Still Sleepy, you're also still dreaming!
P.S. By the way, the meaning of SK's appearance in your dream?
Clearly, you haven't had enough ice cream lately. I suggest Mocha
Accustomed as I am to birding by ear, I am becoming increasingly
aware of sounds emanating from the Cayuga Lake Basin. Believe it or
not, I hear it all the way here in New Jersey. At first I thought it
was a flock of Redheads somewhere on the lake calling "Carr, carr,
carr, ...." Lately, however, it has grown considerably louder, joined
by Baldpates, and I think a Bower bird somewhere in the southwestern
portion of the Basin. Now it sounds more like "Karl, Karl, Karl...."
Please help; I'd like to hear more!
--Probably Confused in Jersey
Dear Probably Confused:
No, no, you're not confused at all. In fact, if you listen more
closely you'll probably hear even more interesting voices echoing down
from the Basin. We don't get many, but last year we had a
Whip-poor-Bill, did you hear the call down there in the Garden State?
Listen also for the rattle of the kingFischer. There's the Bard Owl's
"Who-cooks-for-Haribal." Now, if you want to hear an interesting Jay,
I suggest you check out the Kickin' Tail interview in this very issue.
As for larids, we do get the occasional Little Gull, and on a good,
clear day, you may detect its raspy "Randy, Randy"...
I couldn't help but notice that the Lab's director, Dr. John
Fitzpatrick, is now in the David Cup. I was wondering what would
happen if a Cupper who also happens to be a Labber beats out
Dr. Fitzpatrick at the end of the year. Any ideas?
--On the Outside Looking In Near Sapsucker Woods
Dear Outside Looking In:
Have you strolled around the pond at Sapsucker Woods lately? Did you
notice what looked like a beaver's lodge? Surprise! This is Steve
Kelling's office. Steve, you recall, placed well ahead of Dr.
Fitzpatrick last year. No need to wonder anymore why Steve's not
doing so great in the David Cup this year, huh?
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"We just wanted to express our appreciation for the coach's corner
guides that the Wells (plural?) post. Us beginners, or arrested
intermediates as the ski instructors called us, find them very useful
and hope that you will be encouraged to continue them and just maybe
increase their frequency."
--Page and Watt Webb
"Hope it is not too late to have some fun. Bill is so set up! My
only fear is that he will jump off a bridge before he realizes it is
"Matt Sarver and I hoofed our way from Cornell to the lighthouse,
hoping for Valentine bird treat, despite it being Friday the 13th."
"This morning, while filling my feeders for the Great 98 Backyard Bird
Count, I was greeted by the "O-ker-eee" of a lone Redwing Blackbird
atop my maple tree. I then passed a small flock, east of Mecklenburg,
on my way to work. It made up for the hour I spent in the muddy dusk
last night, sure that the woodcocks would start doing their thing (but
--Nancy W Dickinson
"At 6:30 last night I heard the peent'ing of a woodcock near my house.
This is a week earlier than last year!"
--Nancy W Dickinson
"I realize that Pine Siskins are in the area and that some people have
had flocks of them this winter, however, it was nice to come home to a
calling Pine Siskin which was with several House Finches in the top of
a tree at the corner of our yard. I watched this female siskin with
our new Leica spotting scope--beautiful!"
"This afternoon I looked out my office window on North Triphammer
and saw a vision similar to watching the herds of animals on the
Serengeti...well, almost. In the fields between East Shore Dr. and
Triphammer Rd. about the 2700 block North, was a flock of at least 52
"Yesterday while walking along Tower Road near the ILR school on
the Cornell campus, a Pileated Woodpecker flew overhead calling. I
think of Pileateds as being difficult to find predictably."
think of Pileateds as being difficult to find predictably."
"Are Pileateds really difficult to find regularly here? That's
"I seem to be sharing a statistical fluctuation with Karl- I too
haven't yet seen a Pileateds, and saw few last year. What is the
"I'd have to agree that Pileateds are a bit hard to see on demand, even
when you know where they live and they know where your suet is.
Perhaps it is because of their large (I presume) territory."
"What short memories you all have! In I believe my very first Stat's
All' in The Cup (January 1997), I specifically singled out Pileateds
Woodpecker as the bird par excellence for resistance to being seen on
demand, even when you know it's present (heard is a different story).
For what it's worth, I am currently in a rather amazing drought period
for Pileateds Woodpecker sightings. Last year, I saw one and only one,
in June (several were heard). This year, I still haven't encountered
one (even by ear)."
"Yesterday I had the first Purple Finch of the year at my feeders and
then on the way in this morning, I heard Killdeer on Stevenson Rd. On
Saturday, I found a Bluebird singing and staking out territory on
Ellis Hollow Creek Rd. Also heard my first Robin Saturday and then
saw lots of them yesterday. And who could miss the geese and
blackbirds! Ah, spring!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff