Year 3, Issue 3
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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-re-recording Specialist: Jeff Wells
Ahh, the phoebes are back. Tree swallows are again fluttering against a
friendly background of billowy clouds. Winter Wrens, Savannah Sparrows,
woodcock, and robins they're no longer desperate memories but now
dance before our bins for another blissful breeding season. Spring has
certainly sprung ... right?
Wrong! This is Ithaca, land of lies (remember that Western Kingbird tale
last fall?), cries (Bill Evans' whimper when he thought John Bower had
kicked his McButt last month?) and eternal gray skies (just look out
your window ... probably). And may you never forget the snow squall that
lambasted us a few years back on MOTHER'S DAY need we remind
you that Mother's Day is in MAY!
But don't despair! Here to help you resist the temptress of "spring"
weather is your faithful tell-all, The Cup! This issue is neither too hot
(unless you're Stephen Davies, who, we're told, is always looking for an
excuse to do the Full Monty down on the jetty) nor too cold (well, except
to Bill Evans, but only because he's not only a sitting duck but a
particularly showy one [see Cup Quotes, this issue]).
So although you may not be reaching for steaming mugs of cappuccino
these days, don't settle in with your iced tea just yet, either. Until
spring really has sprung, better drink from The Cup 3.3 a
Wells-"spring" of bird-brained bouillabaisse, simmered to perfection by
the staff here at The Cup ... more than just "fair-weather" friends!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Yet another Lab of O staffer
has joined the David Cup ruckus! Nancy Dickinson has been a reader of
The Cup for quite some time, and she also has first-hand experience with
seat-of-your-pants birding competitions, since she does razzle-dazzle
(sorry, Nancy, it was too good to resist!) legwork for the Lab of O's
World Series of Birding team, the Sapsuckers. We at The Cup were glad
to learn our subliminal (okay, blatant) message to join worked on
Nancy: "As always, I greatly enjoyed the latest issue of The Cup and felt
slightly out of it' for not being an actual Cupper. I had been mistaken
in thinking I lived outside the Basin. The map in Birding the Cayuga Lake
Basin clearly shows that I live in it. This morning I checked off all the
year's sightings I could recall, and came up with 57. Being competitive,
while against my nature, might get me out to see more things." News of
Nancy's Cuphood is especially bad for Bill Evans Nancy may not share Ken
Rosenberg's notorious green trailer, but at least her office is in McIlroy
Talk about a shameless use of family time, Cup coeditor Allison
Wells spent a recent Saturday with sister-in-law Nina Roth-Wells from
Syracuse. Did they spend the day sipping tea and gossiping about the
family? Of course not! Well, maybe just a wee part of it. They did get up
the lake, though, you can rest assured that by the time they swung back to
Ithaca, Nina was a full-fledged Cupper. Although they'd seen many local
attractions, what was the first thing Nina said to her hubby Andrew after
his conference at Cornell? "Honey, I'm a Cupper!"
SAPPING IT UP: Since we're on the topic of cut-throat birding
extravaganzas, let it be known that the World Series of Birding will take
place this year on May 9th. The Lab of O Sapsuckers (sponsored again
by ready? Swarovski Optik!) are Cuppers all: Steve Kelling, Kevin
McGowan, Jeff Wells, CLO Big Man John Fitzpatrick, and captain Ken
Rosenberg. Last year, the Sapsuckers tied for third place out of 50
teams from across the U.S. and Europe. More importantly, they raised
about $85,000 for CLO's bird conservation efforts, like their Birds in
Forested Landscapes project, which gathers info on North America's
thrushes and on Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks. To add to the fun
and rewards of pledging, CLO will again be holding a "Guess How Many
Birds the Sapsuckers Will See" contest: Write on your pledge card
the number of species you predict the Sapsuckers will find. If you guess
correctly, you'll receive a brand new pair of Swarovski binoculars,
courtesy of Swarovski Optik. (Hint: Their scores for the last three years
have been 205, 204, and 201.) Per-bird pledges of 35 cents or more will
receive a set of 12 handsome note cards imprinted with the images of four
different birds from their renowned Fuertes Room murals. Pledge $1 or
more and CLO will send you a landmark new book: Field Guide to the
Warblers of North America, published in 1997 by Houghton Mifflin and
signed by authors Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett. (Just how good is this
book? The Sapsuckers have already equipped themselves with a copy!) For
more info, call CLO at (607) 254-2470. And that brings us to our next
item of bird-brained business ...
WARBLER WATCH!: To stand any chance of winning the David Cup
or placing in the top 50! you gotta watch warblers this spring.
Hardly a painful procedure (so long as you skillfully avoid that infamous
and extremely contagious condition, "warbler neck"). You can make it
even more enjoyable by reporting your sightings to Warbler Watch at
http://birdsource.cornell.edu, the latest BirdSource project to come
out of the CLO and National Audubon partnership. With your
participation, this online survey will track the migratory movements and
breeding distribution of North America's warblers. There's no sign-up, no
fee, and the survey forms are quick and easy to use. Animated maps
showing warbler movements across the continent will be regularly updated,
so you'll be able to see how your information fits into the continentwide
perspective. You can also view images of warblers, listen to recordings
of their songs, read species accounts, look at range maps, pick up tips on
where and how to watch for warblers, and much more. By the way, a certain
Cup editor just happens to be very involved with this project, so if you
don't report those warblers, we can't be held responsible if "mistakes"
are made with your totals ... heh, heh, heh.
CRAB ABOUT SUCCESS!: Many (all?!) of you wrote letters last year on
behalf of the shorebirds that rely upon the horseshoe crab breeding
grounds of the Delaware Bay during migration, and New Jersey's Governor
Whitman responded to the outcry by placing restrictions on the taking of
horseshoe crabs. Now Maryland's Governor Glendening has done likewise,
according to a recent National Audubon press release. The action is part
of a tri-state, Maryland-New Jersey--Delaware effort to deal with the
over-fishing of the horseshoe crab. Delaware Bay is home to the world's
largest concentration of horseshoe crabs. In some parts of the Delaware
Bay, there has been a 75% decline in sightings of Red Knots. Other bird
populations have been in decline too. The horseshoe crab, which has been
around for at least 350 million years, was in danger of becoming extinct
in the next several years due to over-fishing. More than one and half
million shorebirds time their arrival in Delaware Bay with the spawning
of the horseshoe crabs. The birds feed on the horseshoe crab eggs,
allowing them to continue their journey from South America to Canada.
A TOWERING PROBLEM: Although Cup editors enjoy ribbing our pal
Bill Evans, his night-migration work is yielding some important work for
the protection of birds. He recently posted information about a growing
problem: communication tower kills. First, Bill's good news: "The
Ornithological Societies of North America approved a resolution addressing
the problem of bird kills at communications towers in North America and
the USFWS has initiated a dialog with the FAA and FCC regarding the issue.
This is good news but the FCC needs to receive thousands of letters in
the next few weeks from bird lovers across the continent in order to
impress upon them how important it is that they conduct an Environmental
Impact Statement on the thousands of new towers scheduled to be built for
digital TV and the cellular phone industry. Your letters now could
potentially help lead to a solution to
the needless slaughter of 5 million songbirds per year at such towers."
The horseshoe crab outcry has shown that birders' voices can make a
difference, so we implore you to take action in the tower kill issue.
Write a letter! And Mail FIVE COPIES of your letter to: Office of the
Secretary Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street NW, Washington,
D.C., 20554. Address your letter as follows: Mr. William Kennard
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M Street NW Washington,
D.C., 20554. Re: FCC Docket No. 97-296; MM. Docket No. 97-182. THE FCC
MUST RECEIVE ALL LETTERS by *April 29.* Volume is critical. Many
influential broadcasters are urging the FCC to bypass all environmental
review. To counterbalance their arguments, we needs thousands of letters
in support of the EIS. For more information, check out:
http://www.flap.org, or http://www.towerkill.com.
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: No, it wasn't a rumor, jazz banjo
virtuoso Bela Fleck and his band the Flecktones came and went to the
area recently. No, your faithful Cup editors didn't catch the
gig, because they'd seen them a couple of times already in the last few
years, but if you'd gone, you'd have been witness to some awesome jazz
banjo stylings. "Bela Fleck has masterly transformed a traditionally
blue grass instrument into a jazz artform," says Cupping coeditor Jeff
Wells. "He plays as fluently as a flock of yellowlegs wheeling from the
grasp of a Peregrine. In other words, so much for all those banjo jokes!"
If Bela himself weren't worth the ticket price, bass player Victor
Wooten (named Bass Player of the Year by Bass magazine) would be. You
gotta hear this guy! But Bela, baby, if you're out there somehow,
somewhere, reading The Cup, can we give you some advice? Lose Future Man.
That SynthAxe Drumitar is no match for an honest-to-goodness jazz drummer.
Besides, his poetry stinks.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
"If I missed anything important, you can blame Uncle Sam, who makes
curious demands on the self-employed at this time of year."
The many thousands of SNOW GEESE made a grand avian spectacle on
Cayuga Lake again this March, forming enormous rafts dense as grinding
pack-ice that trailed floes far across the water, and taking to the air in
great rolling fronts of swirling white like distant wind-borne squalls.
After such a mild winter we wouldn't expect to get a lot of
RED-NECKED GREBEs returning westward. I found only one report in
the Basin in March. N PINTAIL, N SHOVELER, both TEAL, AMERICAN WIGEON
and WOOD DUCK showed up in numbers, for all who cared to visit the
shallows, the marshes, and of course the Savannah mucklands, where
Stephen Davies discovered one EURASIAN WIGEON drake among its American
cousins on 3/22. Amazingly, he found another just 30 minutes later at
the Canoga marshes, but that was it for the Basin and the month.
Migrating RED-BREASTED MERGANSERs were numerous, a few SURF SCOTERs
and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERs were spotted; and RUDDY DUCKs piled up at
Montezuma near the end of the month, but Oldsquaw did not show in March.
The fields near Seneca Meadows continued to produce GLAUCOUS
GULLs, and Stephen described a GLAUCOUSxHERRING GULL hybrid
found there, while ICELAND, BONAPARTE'S, and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS
were all seen at Stewart Park, Myers Point and/or Dryden Lake. A note from
beyond the borders: 61 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLs were found one day on an
athletic playing field just north of Philadelphia, suggesting that the
North American success of this species continues to build.
WOODCOCK were widespread by month's end, COMMON SNIPE and AMERICAN
PIPITs turned up, and an early G. YELLOWLEGS was found by Kevin and Jay
McGowan at MNWR.
There was some disappointment expressed about the lackluster flow
of hawks through the region, but watchers ticked migrating RED-SHOULDERED
HAWKs and COOPERS HAWKs, a BALD EAGLE and several MERLIN, and the April
flights may be overhead even as you read this. At least 4 NORTHERN
GOSHAWKs were seen. Three GOLDEN EAGLEs were spotted from Mt. Pleasant,
another over Cayuga Heights, plus one barely extralimital bird in Newfield.
Dave Nutter reported a BLACK VULTURE over Cayuga Heights on 3/15. This year
the OSPREY seem to have returned to their nests at the north end of the
lake without being seen over Tompkins Co., which should make us wonder
what else we FAILED TO NOTICE soaring overhead!
Owlers continued to fill in their lists, reporting N. SAW-WHET OWL,
SHORT-EARED OWL, LONG-EARED OWL and BARRED OWL. Hope for a spring Snowy
TREE SWALLOWs and E. PHOEBEs appeared in appropriate habitat
nearly simultaneously. RUSTY BLACKBIRDs were found at Sapsucker
Woods and Dryden Lake. WINTER WRENs began singing in many places,
just as a bout of unseasonable heat in the final days of the month brought
in a few exceptionally early migrants, including John Confer's PINE
WARBLER (3/29), David McDermitt's HOUSE WREN (3/30), a ROSE-BREASTED
GROSBEAK and an E.KINGBIRD spotted by yours truly on the last day of
March. SONG SPARROWs were everywhere of course, but SAVANNAH, VESPER,
CHIPPING, and FIELD SPARROWS also reappeared by month's end, and FOX
SPARROWs began passing through, the earliest one being seen by Martha
Fischer way back on 3/1.
PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCHES were migrating northward
through the Basin and turning up at various feeders. The two CROSSBILL
species became thoroughly suburban, exploiting the superior cone crops
on lawn and yard trees in various places, and presumably enabling more
Cuppers to sweep the winter finches. It was quite exciting to follow the
shifting reports of mixed crossbill flocks around the East Hill
neighborhoods. So many of us were out looking for them that our chance
meetings in the City Cemetery made March seem like May!
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows. He won the Thoreau Award
in the 1997 Cuppers' Choice Awards. Big surprise, huh?)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Stephen Davies Bird 100: To be reported next month
Kevin McGowan's Bird 100: Osprey
Geo Kloppel's Bird 100: Ruddy Duck, "affectionately thought of
Daffy,' for that big bill."
Jay McGowan's Bird 100: Blue-winged Teal
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Sign on 200 Club door:
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1998 David Cup March Totals
112 Stephen Davies
110 Kevin McGowan
109 Geo Kloppel
106 Jay McGowan
102 Tom Nix
99 Pat Lia
96 Steve Kelling
93 Karl David
88 John Morris
87+ Bill Evans
87 Allison Wells
87 Jeff Wells
86 Anne Kendall
84 Jon Kloppel
83 Matt Sarver
79 Ken Rosenberg
78 Perri McGowan
74 John Greenly
74 Matt Medler
72 Martha Fischer
70 Alan Krakauer
68 John Bower
68 Marty Schlabach
63 Nancy Dickinson
61 Kim Kline
60 John Fitzpatrick
58 Jim Lowe
58 Ben Taft
50 Caissa Willmer
50 Ann Mathieson
49 Kylie Spooner
43 Chris "I'm Back and Here to Stay" Butler
43 Gary Chapin
42 Scott Mardis*
40 Anne James
39 Kurt Fox
35 Tom Lathrop
34 Margaret Barker
33 Anne James
33 Cathy Heidenreich
31 Michael Runge
25 Carol Bloomgarden
18 Dave Mellinger*
18 Mimi "Catbirder" Wells (David Kitty Cup)
16 Swift McGowan (David Kitty Cup)
16 Teddy Wells (David Kitty Cup)
12 Nina Roth-Wells
0 James "El Ni o" Barry*
0 Andy Leahy
0 Larry Springsteen*
0 Mira "the Bird Dog" Springsteen*
*Currently living out-of-state. But that's no excuse.
1998 McIlroy Award March Totals
87 Bill Evans
72 Jeff Wells
69 Allison Wells
68 Martha Fischer
67 Kevin McGowan
66 John Bower
60 Stephen Davies
58 Karl David
57 Jay McGowan
48 Jim Lowe
46 Ken Rosenberg
38 Matt Medler
31 Michael Runge
26 Ben Taft
18 Dave Mellinger
14 Anne Kendall
1998 Evans Trophy March Totals
(Compiled by Matt Medler for Bard Prentiss, who's currently out of town)
79 Kevin McGowan
75 Jay McGowan
72 Ken Rosenberg
47+ Bard Prentiss
1998 March Lansing
Compiled by Matt Medler
66 Kevin McGowan
58 John Greenly
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
Compiled By Margaret Launius
Happy Easter! Here's the New York yard list totals as of 3/31:
62 Ken Smith, Groton, NY
60 John W. Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
55 Steve Kelling, Berkshire, NY
53 Sandy Podulka, Brooktondale, NY
52 George Kloppel, W. Danby, NY
52 John Bower, Enfield, NY
50 Kevin McGowan, Dryden, NY
46 Nancy Dickinson, Trumansburg, NY
46 Mary Gerner, Macedon, NY
45 Ken Rosenberg, Dryden, NY
42 Bill Purcell, Hastings, NY
41 John Greenly, Ludlowville, NY
41 Jim Kimball, Geneseo, NY
41 John Van Niel, Seneca Falls, NY
40 Chris & Diane Tessaglia-Hymes, Etna NY
39 Marie McRae, Freeville, NY
38 Darlene Morabito, Auburn, NY
37 Joanne Goetz, Fredonia, NY
35 Ben Taft, Ithaca, NY
32 Ann Mathieson, Scipio Center, NY
32 Sara Jane & Larry Hymes, Ithaca, NY
29 Cathy Heidenreich, Lyons, NY
21 Nari Mistry, Ithaca, NY
5 Susann Argetsinger, Burdett, NY
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Stephen Davies Leader's List was unavailable to the compiler at the time
ofthis writing, but said compiler also writes Stat's All, which is thus
devoted this month to some highly scientific guesswork as to what that
Leader's List should be ... if said Leader were last month's Leader ...
which he isn't. But we didn't know this at the time. Need I confuse you
further? Aw, just read it and be amazed!
C Loon,P-b,Horned & R-n grebes,D-c Cormorant,G B Heron,Tundra
& Mute swans,Snow Goose,Brant,Canada Goose,Wood Duck,G-w Teal,
Am Black Duck,Mallard,N Pintail,B-w Teal,N Shoveler,Gadwall,
E Wigeon,Am Wigeon,Canvasback,Redhead,R-n Duck,G & L
scaup,Oldsquaw,Surf & W-w scoters,C Goldeneye,Bufflehead,Hooded,
C & R-b mergs, Ruddy Duck,BLACK VULTURE,Turkey Vulture,Osprey,
Bald Eagle,N Harrier,S-s&Cooper`s hawks,N Goshawk,R-s,R-t & R-l
hawks,Golden Eagle,Am Kestrel,Merlin,R-n Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse,
Wild Turkey,Am Coot,Killdeer,G Yellowlegs,C Snipe,Am Woodcock,
Bonaparte's,R-b,Herring,Iceland,Lesser B-b,Glaucous & Great B-b gulls,
Rock & Mourning doves,E Screech-Owl,G H,Snowy,Barred,L-e &
S-e owls,N Saw-whet Owl, Belted Kingfisher,R-h & R-b woodpeckers,
Y-b Sapsucker,Downy & Hairy woodpeckers, N Flicker,Pileated
Woodpecker,E Phoebe,Horned Lark,Tree Swallow,Blue Jay,Am &
Fish crows,C Raven,B-c Chickadee,Tufted Titmouse,R-b &
W-b nuthatches, B Creeper,Carolina & Winter wrens,G-c Kinglet,
E Bluebird,Am Robin,Gray Catbird,N Mockingbird,Am Pipit,
did everybody Cedar Waxwing?,N Shrike,Eurostarling,Y-r Warbler,
C Yellowthroat,N Cardinal,Am Tree,Field,Vesper,Savannah,Fox,Song,
Swamp & W-t sparrows,D-e Junco,Lapland Longspur,Snow Bunting,
R-w Blackbird,E Meadowlark,Rusty Blackbird,C Grackle,B-h Cowbird,
Pine Grosbeak,Purple& House finches, Red & W-w crossbills,Common
Redpoll,HOARY REDPOLL,Pine Siskin,Am Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak,House
Added in proofreading (yes, I do that!): Hermit Thrush. Total: 135.
(Karl David is a mathematics professor at Wells College in Aurora, NY,
and is currently on sabbatical at Cornell. He does not get paid for
subbing, at least not for The Cup.)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove that being cowinner of David Cup '97 was no
fluke 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 vanished
his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.
This month's Cup leader, Stephen Davies, is presumably still busy
giving Mum and Pop (fellow Brits) the grand tour (we expect them to
drop into Cup headquarters anytime what better tourist attraction is
there anywhere?) Our #2 Man, Kevin McGowan, had to leave town
unexpectedly on a family emergency. So we decided to stick with our
original plan of grilling Davies except we answered the questions for
him ... heh, heh, heh.
THE CUP: Stephen, you seemed surprised to find out you're on top this
month in the David Cup. Weren't you being a little, well, faux modest?
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: There's nothing "faux" about it.
I really am modest. I would never bloody brag about being the leader.
I've got good reason to, by jove, but I'm not going to pull a James
Cameron and start screaming, "I'm King of the World," especially since
I've got a helluva lot more at stake than a $200 million movie
budget. No, I'll just act surprised and blush (even if I have to powder
THE CUP: Where's your DC trophy sitting?
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: I wanted to put it some place
where I'd see it every day. The place where I spend 99% of my time.
What, my office at the vet school? Hardly! Just because I'm a
grad student doesn't mean I actually have to do any work, just ask John
Bower. No, the DC trophy is sitting prominently on the dash board of my
car. Right above the old Cheetos wrappers and Coke cans.
THE CUP: How does your dear Katherine feel about the trophy, is it a
painful reminder of precious "fianc time" lost to birding or a source of
pride for her rough-and-tumble macho birdman?
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: Fortunately
I have learned the timeless art of hypnotism. Whenever Katherine sees
the trophy, not only does she beg me to take her birding, she also gives
me a big smackeroo and beams with pride. She's a little disappointed
that I had to share it with Kevin McGowan, but I'm hoping Kevin will
forget that he was cowinner and I'll be able to take it to San Francisco
with me when I move. Hopefully, it's hypnotic powers will work outside
THE CUP: How has your impending wedding affected your birding life?
(How is it that you've managed to pull ahead in the DC despite of the
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: My lead is an early wedding gift
from Katherine. I hope it's the kind of gift that keeps on giving.
THE CUP: Which bird are you most looking forward to seeing when you move
to San Francisco, and which Basin birds will you miss most deeply?
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: My favorite colour is still
grey, so any gull will do. As far as what I'll miss, I'd have to
say any Basin bird I don't see this year before I move, because missing
those kinds of misses will significantly reduce my chances of retaining
my cochampionship, which I'm definitely planning on doing.
THE CUP: Will you make the 200 Club before heading out?
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY CUP EDITORS: The real surprise is that I
haven't made it in already, given how much time I've put it birding all
over the Basin.
THE CUP: Kevin heard your little remark about taking the trophy to
California with you. He's asked us to press you to keep that lump of
wood, er, beautiful DC trophy right here in the Basin and if you wouldn't
mind, giving it a polish before you hand it over to him when you leave.
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY THE CUP EDITORS: *$^#&$
THE CUP: Errr, thanks, Stephen!
DAVIES AS SECOND-GUESSED BY THE CUP EDITORS: Smoke me
a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast!
By Jay McGowan
The McGowans had to leave town unexpectedly, so look for BirdBits
again next month. (We wish the McGowans well.)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
The unavailability of Stephen Davies' Leader's List led the editors to
suggest that I devote this month to a discussion of how a statistician
would approach trying to make an educated guess as to our #2 Man's March
additions (he was the leader in February and that list appeared in
The Cup 3.2). Using the data most easily available to me, viz. my own
records, I would solipsistically calculate the frequency with which I have
seen species by the end of March that he's not yet recorded and assign
birds to him in decreasing order of those frequencies.
This is what any statistician, in fact any intelligent person, would
do in the absence of any particular information about what's actually been
happening this year in the Basin. In addition, information about what
actually happens inside Kevin's brain that makes him the kind of birder he
is can be used to override purely statistical deductions. These two factors
together lead me to the following analysis which, though it has almost as
little chance of being 100% right as I have of seeing Ed McMahon and Dick
Clark on my front doorstep, should fare considerably better than the purely
statistical one. There's a third factor: call it the "J-factor." Kevin's
birding is not purely driven by his own tastes and wants, if you know what
I mean. So: down to the numbers. We begin with a painfully common (to me
at least) occurrence in the Cup: Kevin's totals in February were 88 while
the number of species on his list was 87. So I have to begin by spotting
him one bird to level the playing field. Scanning the list of missing
birds, I won't add the most ubiquitous but posit that there's no way this
gull expert would have missed Lesser Black-backed Gull, especially since
it's been at one of his "work" sites (Stewart Park) all winter. So give
Kevin that bird in February and move on to March.
The Composite Deposit total I have for March is 135. Kevin reported
110 birds by the end of March. With his amended February list at 88, that
means he has seen 22 of the 47 birds not on his February list. It also
means he added the same number of birds to his personal list in March as
were added to the overall list, since the CD went from 113 to 135: 22
birds. That's quite a feat! Of course, he had some easy cleanup to take
care of after coming back from Costa Rica ... another specific fact that of
course could play no role in a purely statistical analysis.
Here's my annotated speculative list of Kevin's March additions.
First, the no-brainers: Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Eastern Phoebe, Tree
Swallow, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle (total: 6). Next I consider
winter finches. All have been seen this year, and the McGowans have Hoary
Redpoll. So it's a chance to go for a clean sweep (something I've
never managed). Add Purple Finch and both crossbills (cumulative total: 9).
American Pipit, Fox Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird, while hardly automatic,
aren't too hard to find at this time of year if you know where to look. I'd
guess our leader has all three by now (cumulative total: 12). The next
group relies in part on my questionably reliable memory, namely that
Kevin may have mentioned a late-month trip to Montezuma. Assuming (!)
that's right, add Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck
and Osprey (cumulative total: 16).
Now for owls. Even kids who aren't birders think owls are cool, so the
J-factor really weighs heavily here. Short-eared and Northern Saw-whet
Owls have been regularly reported; the only possible fly in the ointment is
that the Short-ears disappeared from the Seneca Airport before Kevin got
back to North America. I'll say they didn't, so we're up to 18.
It gets a lot harder now, but I'll assume Kevin put in both some lake
time and some hawk watching time this month, keeping the J-factor in mind
especially for the latter. This adds White-winged Scoter and Bonaparte's
Gull, probably at Stewart Park, and Red-shouldered Hawk and Golden Eagle,
possibly from Mt. Pleasant but also quite possibly from an increasingly
favored location of a number of Cayugabirders: their front decks. Anyway,
that brings us to the magic number of 22.
How about the birds I guessed he DIDN'T see? I didn't include any
half-hardies seen on the Christmas Count or later (e.g. Double-crested
Cormorant, Hermit Thrush, Swamp Sparrow). That's because one of the
most memorable points I remember Kevin making in one of his Coach's
Corners is not to chase goldfinches in January (unless you're out to prove
Kurt Fox right). These birds will come of their own later. By the same
token, I'm not counting the three permanent resident birds he's still
lacking (Northern Goshawk, Great Horned Owl, Carolina Wren). He well may
have gotten some of these, but he probably didn't go out looking
specifically for them either, since there's still a lot of time to get
them. So the probability in a one-month span is fairly low.
Another category are new birds just making the CD by the end of
March (e.g. Greater Yellowlegs, Field Sparrow). He'll get these sooner or
later, but the probability he was essentially the first to see them is low
enough to exclude them.
Finally, the CD has four birds unusual enough to warrant chasing,
especially with the J-factor in mind. One of these (Black Vulture) was
clearly just in transit and so can be ignored, but I'll bet the other three
were chased if the time was available: Eurowigeon, Red-headed Woodpecker
and Pine Grosbeak. The latter in particular would be needed to complete
a winter finch sweep, but it just didn't seem reliable enough at its one
location to make me confident he got it. For Jay's sake (I gave it away!)
I hope I'm wrong on all three of these.
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
"To the esteemed editors of The Cup"
As you know, I am quite a fan of your publication. Not to induce any
competitive squabbling among the staff, but the highlight, for me, is
Karl David's "Stat's All" column. The Longspur series was particularly
lucid and educational. Maybe if you paid him more, he wouldn't move
Just as most of America anticipates the remaining "Seinfeld" episodes,
I am looking forward to the remaining David columns.
Dear Mike --
You're a geek.
The Cup Editors
P.S. Father Karl agreed a few months back to continue his Stat's All
column from afar.
Scrawl #2: The below post to Cayugabirds was so exquisite, we had to
reprint it here, by popular demand:
An Observation by Geo Kloppel
Today's highlight, not at the feeders, was a Winter Wren found in a tiny
trickle that runs east down a ravine, an old logging slash tangled with
vines, brambles and roses. The sun was getting low in the west, and I
approached the ravine from the lower end, where it runs out into the little
valley of Beech Hill Brook through a gap in the steep wall. The sun shone
directly in my eye as I looked up the trickling ravine, and there at eye
level under the leafless raspberry canes stood a Winter Wren, bathing in
the water and merrily splashing droplets in all directions that blazed as
they caught the sunlight. It seemed about the cheeriest moment the world
can ever contain, and the dreary old slash was transformed.
(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 <
< < < <
"Coaches Corner should be with you soon." This from Stephen Davies.
On April 6. And here we've been blaming Bill Evans for everything!
Turns out, Stephen hosted (is still hosting?) a visit from his family from
Wales, so he's excused. Sort of. Cup coeditor Jeff Wells has agreed to
earn his title by stepping in to pinch-coach for Davies at the last
minute ... literally. Look for Coach Davies next month, unless he's too
busy getting married...
COACH WELLS: As this issue of The Cup reaches you, the Basin is on the
verge of experiencing the year's first great tidal wave of songbird
migrants. Already, the most northerly of our wintering warblers Pine and
Yellow-rumped are in the Basin. The colorful multitudes are not far
Most of the warblers that occur in spring migration also breed
in the Basin or pass through again in the fall. There are a few, however,
that seem easier to find or identify in the spring. Golden-winged Warbler,
Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler, are a few
that come to mind.
Where are some of the best places to look for these and other
returning migrants? Of course, there's the old standby, City Cemetery on
Stewart Avenue. Watch the tops of the trees, especially the hemlocks and
spruce. Search until you find the warbler flock it'll be constantly on
the move, so be prepared. Another great place to check is Mundy Wildflower
Gardens in the Cornell Plantations. Over many years, this site has
consistently turned up good birds it's one of the few places where
Golden-winged Warblers seem to turn up every spring. Other good places
include Sapsucker Woods (great Northern Waterthrush spot), Larch Meadows,
Buttermilk Falls State Park, and the old railroad bed along Dryden Lake.
With the relatively early leaf-out of many tree species this year,
songbirds may be less concentrated in just a few areas. Check out any
patch of woods or scrub. To find out more tips for watching warblers,
species accounts, recordings of songs, and other interesting information
visit the Warbler Watch Web site at http://birdsource.cornell.edu.
So get out there, enjoy the season, and delight in our incoming
(Jeff Wells is National Audubon of New York's Director of Bird
Conservation. That hair on the floor of Gene's Barber Shop? Yeah, the
five-inch strands, that's his.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Our McIlroy Man of the Month is in Texas and after all the fuss he made
over our little gag last month with Bohn Jower, er John Bower. (Actually,
Bill loved the joke. Hmmph!) Since he couldn't be reached for
comment, we thought we'd send him a little note:
"B.E. bird home!"
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
This month's Bird Brain is 6' 3" with blue eyes and brown hair. He
likes judo, playing the piano, and reading science fiction. He's "totally
head-over-heels" for his girlfriend and spends a lot of time trying to
convince her to go birding. He is Chris Butler, a sophomore in Natural
Resources at Cornell, aiming to get a PhD in ornithology, and a vibrant
He started birding at five, when his "kindergarten teacher gave us a
sheet of paper with the outlines of birds on it. I only recognized a robin,
but there was a cute little bird with a black cap that struck my fancy. I
asked my teacher, 'What color should this be?' 'That's a goldfinch, Chris,'
she explained. 'They're usually yellow.' So, I decided to pick a more
interesting color and made the bird green with pink polka dots.
"That afternoon, walking home from the bus stop with my little bird
drawings tightly clutched in my hot, grubby fingers, I saw a small flock of
birds explode from the shrubbery not five feet away. In the afternoon
sunlight, they seemed to glow with a yellowish fire as bright as the sun.
Stunned, I watched them flutter away. 'Goldfinches,' I whispered to myself
'are really really pretty.' I was hooked.
"No one in my family was interested in birds, but they were willing
to go out of their way to take me birding, particularly my father.
Although a wonderful, intelligent man, he didn't know a Scarlet Tanager
from a Reddish Egret. I found field trips with him especially hilarious.
When we encountered other birders, they would immediately assume that my
father was a birder sharing the experience with his young son.
Consequently, I would whisper things to him to help him out. A typical
conversation would go something like this:
"An elderly man with Zeiss binoculars and a Swarovski telescope walked
leisurely towards us on the beach. As he approached, I whispered to my dad,
'Ok Dad, there's a flock of Black-bellied Plovers out there on the mudflats.'
"'Got it,' Dad replied.
The man hailed us with a typical birder's greeting, 'Anything good out
"'There's a flock of Black-bellied Plovers out there,' my dad replied.
Just then I whispered to him, 'Dad, there's a breeding plumaged
American Golden-Plover on the far side!'
"'Oh,' my Dad added easily. 'There's also a Golden-Plover on the far
"'Well,' the man replied with extreme politeness. 'Black-bellied
Plovers look a lot like Golden-Plovers. Also, it's the middle of July.
Golden-Plovers don't usually show up until the first week of September.'
"'Take a look,' my Dad invited. 'It's in breeding plumage.'
"'That would certainly be interesting,' the man said, peering through
the scope. 'But I'm afraid... By Golly! There IS a Golden-Plover out there!'
"My dad would just smile.
"Although my dad was wonderful to go birding with, my mom was an
incredible good luck charm. One day, she took my sister and me out to the
South Jetty in Astoria, Oregon. I was very excited. Black-legged Kittiwakes
were regular there. A new lifer! To say that I was extremely excited would
be an understatement. I was practically bouncing off the walls!
"Once I got there, I was extremely disappointed. There were lots of
gulls, true, but no Black-legged Kittiwakes. I spent an hour sorting
through the gulls with no luck. I started complaining bitterly to Mom.
'There's no kittiwakes here,' I whined. 'We might as well go home.'
"'It's okay, dear,' she said calmly. 'I'm sure you'll find your bird.
What's that one?' she asked, pointing to a bird flying twelve feet over our
"It was a Black-legged Kittiwake.
"I love my mom.
"The first bird that I actually wrote down on my life list was a
Wilson's Storm-Petrel on July 18th, 1986. I was eight. My father had
taken me on a deep-sea fishing expedition off the coast of Cape Cod. I
forgot to bring my binoculars, so I concentrated on fishing. I caught a
Tautog that must have been ten inches long! To an eight-year-old, a ten
inch fish is a BIG fish. That was really neat. Even neater though were the
swallow-like birds that flitted around the ship. They seemed to actually
walk on the water! I was impressed and a little envious. After all, I
couldn't walk on the water! I decided that this was a bird worth writing
down. Before then, I had kept my life list in my head. Afterwards, I
started writing things down. Twelve years after I started listing
(and fourteen after I started birding), I'm up to 493 on my North American
Life List and hope to break 500 this year.
Chris's favorite birding sites in the Basin are Montezuma NWR, the
Ithaca City Cemetery, and Mundy Wildflower Garden. He likes the shorebirds
at Montezuma especially. "I have a soft spot in my heart for those little
mudsuckers. Every summer since I was born, my family would vacation at
Cape Cod. I would go out to Monomoy Island and spend hours staring at the
shorebirds. At first I thought they were really bland looking, but after
awhile, I really came to appreciate the subtle beauty of their grays and
"I like Mundy Wildflower Garden because it's close to where I live,
and I've had some pretty good birds there. It's often pretty dead but
then, suddenly, something like a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher will pop up.
"I like the Ithaca Cemetery because there's nothing else like it in
the Basin during spring migration.
"My favorite Basin birding companions are probably Chris Hymes-
Tessaglia and Dan Scheiman. I try not to let them go birding without me.
The last time they went without me, they found a Pine Grosbeak - my
archnemesis! We've had some really great times together. I also like
birding with Matt Medler, Ben Taft, and Matt Sarver."
Chris is one of the Basin birders lucky enough to have seen the
Gyrfalcon, but it took some doing. He heard about the bird on the Saturday
of its visit, too late to make a try for it. He had promised Sunday to his
girlfriend, which prompts him to think that the old chestnut, "No good deed
goes unpunished," was true.
On Monday, though, he says, "I woke up at 5:00 and was out the door
at 6:00. Hoping against hope, I sped north to the Mucklands. I got there as
the sun was rising and spent forty minutes fruitlessly searching. Dejected,
I went to Montezuma NWR and tried to wash the bitter taste of failure out
of my mouth by staring at waterbirds.
"At 8:00 I decided to take one more stab at the Gyr. I spent fifty
minutes searching the fields without any luck. A passing jogger slowed
down and asked me what I was looking for. I replied, 'A Gyrfalcon. They
live up in Alaska but one wandered down here.'
"'Where is it?' he inquired.
"'I've spent fifty minutes looking for it with no luck... but I think
that's it there!!!!' I shouted, pointing over his shoulder.
"It was the Gyrfalcon, coursing low over the field. I was happy.
"I had another memorable birding experience in the Basin last spring.
Dan Scheiman, Chris Hymes, Ryan Bakelaar, and I decided to do a big
'Half-Day' in between finals and studying. We started way too early
(midnight), had way too much caffeine, drove way too fast, laughed too loud
at jokes that weren't really funny, and had a blast. It doesn't get any
better than being surrounded by your friends as you try to do something
completely and totally insane.
Birding intrudes quite a bit in Chris's life. He spends spare time
reading bird books, looking at bird links on the web, and going birding
when he can, at least three or four times a week. "I'd like to get out
every day" he says, "but unfortunately I have all these silly restrictions
on my time." He keeps a life list, a list of Oregon birds, and a list of
Massachusetts birds, and when asked if he had any tips for other birders,
he said, "Yeah, I usually tip about 15- 20%." He's currently designing web
pages for the NY Gap Analysis project, and this summer, he'll be conducting
a grassland birds study in the Finger Lakes National Forest.
When asked about his all time favorite birding experiences, he boiled
over with enthusiasm, tales, and catalogues of wonderful times and
wonderful birds, ending with: "If I had to pick just ONE favorite
experience, it would be my trip this past summer. My dad and I drove (from
Oregon) to Ithaca by way of Arizona and Tennessee. We spent three days
exploring southeastern Arizona. I saw so many neat birds - Violet-crowned
Hummingbird, Gray Hawk, Vermillion Flycatcher, etc. I also got to go
birding with Kenn Kaufman, which was lots of fun. That guy is FAST(!) on
"My favorite experience of the whole excursion was when I was walking
up one of the canyons in Madera Canyon. I heard some muted whistling and
stopped to watch, transfixed, as an adult Elegant Trogon(!) settled down on
a branch 20 feet away and started feeding his/her fledglings! They were so
incredibly BEAUTIFUL! I don't know how long I watched them. After they
left, I wandered over to the tree they had been sitting on and found a
breast feather of the adult lying on the ground. Everytime I see it, I
have to smile. The feather sums up what birding means to me; all the
novelty, beauty and excitement of birding rolled into one feather."
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of
Development. She's also theater critic for the Ithaca Times.)
In honor of poet A.R. Ammons, Cornell Univerisity's Goldwin Smith
Professor of Poetry who was recently honored with "AmmonsFest" at
Cornell, we have included here some Cup-appropriate poems for your
reading pleasure. Ammons (who served on Allison's MFA committee) has
won almost every major poetry award, including the National Book Award
and Bollingen Prize; AmmonsFest, which included a reading by Ammons, was
attended by some of the literary world's leading scholars, who also gave
lectures about Ammons work and contribution to contemporary verse. Here
are a few reasons why the Cup editors admire his work:
There is not a single
leaf on the cherry tree
except when the jay
plummets in, lights, and,
in pure clarity, squalls:
then every branch
breaks out in blue leaves.
flies hard to
stand in the
lets us loose
and slow grace
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...
Are birders dyslexic? Everyone was making such a fuss over the crossbills
at "Community Corners" that I finally went there myself to see them. But
I also saw that the sign prominently identifies the location as "Corners
Community." Any observations on your part to corroborate my theory?
--Up Mixed in Aurora
:pU dexiM raeD
.flesym ngis eht tuo dekcehc I ."srenorC ytinummoC" syas tI .cixelsyd
er'uoy sselnu, ni hcihw esac ouy dluohs wonk yb won.
If a tree falls in a shopping center and nobody is there to hear them, do
the crossbills still make a sound when they fly out?
--Still Up Mixed in Aurora
Dear Still Mixed Up:
Hmm. Why don't you find out? Go cut down "the tree" at said shopping
center and see what kind of "noise" results ...
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Martha Fischer and I saw a group of 30 Eastern Meadowlarks feeding in the
large field that runs along Hanshaw Road, across from the south end of
Sapsucker Woods Road. One treated us to a song, which was music to our
"Nice work on the Bill Evans thing. Only thing is you let the cat out
of the bag a little quick. He did not get the chance to really sweat,
but he did get overly excited. Should take a few years off his life
"Hi Matt -- I just finished scanning 'The Cup' and just happened to
notice my totals weren't included. I know I was late in committing the
pound of flesh and pint of blood to this year's pot, but was wondering
if this was the reason, or if my January and February totals never got
through. Please advise."
--Regards, John Morris
"John -- Sorry that you got left out of the Cup standings. The usual
system is that people send their totals (and any messages or witty
comments) to [the editors] and then [they] send along the totals to me.
However, as far as I can remember, I never got your totals. It must
have been [the editors] fault. :) I'll let [them] know, and we'll be
sure that the whole (Cup) world knows your totals for March. How's
that for a little pressure?"
"It's Bill Evans', er, Stephen Davies' fault."
--Editors, The Cup
"Since you did not specify the number base for Bird 100, I'll assume you
meant binary. 100 in binary is 4 base 10. So... my bird 100 was American
"The really odd sight was at Tsache Pool. As we watched the Bald
Eagles there, a yellow and white parakeet (cockateil?) winged by at eye
level. Try explaining that one to a group of beginning birders!"
--John Van Neil
"Are we doomed? Late Saturday afternoon (cloudy and west windy) we
were inspected for about 5 minutes by a nearly stationary committee of
about twenty (20)! vultures soaring idly and virtually immobile on the
west wind above Parkway Place."
"On Friday, I took a day off from work for a trip around the lake.
There were a lot of waterfowl on the lake, but unfortunately, I did not
get past Aurora. I turned down Center Rd. near Long Point State Park to
look for Horned Lark ... By the time I got to the turnoff for Long Point,
one of my brand new tires (only on the car 4 days) had gone nearly flat."
"Although I really wanted an Ithaca Kestrel -- one practically landed
on my car last week in Wisconsin -- I was treated to some happy little
birds up on the Cornell fields by the water tower."
"I just got back from spending a couple months cruising around the
Sargasso Sea on the SSV Corwith Cramer. It's so great to be back on land
now and see exciting birds like European Starling and American Crow! Yes,
I really missed these fascinating birds. Life can get so boring when all
you see are White-tailed Tropicbirds, Brown Noddies, Red-footed Boobies,
etc. Since returning, I feel that I have made a successful adaptation to
land and have found 43 species during March. However, I DID have to get
a waterbed so I could fall asleep at night..."
"Stopped at the Stewart Ave. Cemetery yesterday at 3 pm, just in time
to see 18 crossbills fly off to the north."
"Regarding the recent crossbill sightings, it may be significant that last
week I saw five hefty flocks of Crossbills over the course of the week in
southbound flight ... Hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha!"
"Here are my March totals. These numbers are, of course, only for birds
reliably identified -- that is, by ear. None of that sight-only scamming
"Though falling short of last year's record marks by Kelling (97) and
A.Wells (91), Evans nonetheless turned in an impressive record given there
was no competition pushing him. A Vesper Sparrow early this evening put
him at 87 for March. "
P.S. Hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha!!!
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff