Year 3, Issue 6
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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
* Leader's List, Composite Deposit: "Shot Gun" Kevin McGowan
* Evans Cup Compiler: "Bird Hard" Bard Prentiss
* The Yard Stick Compiler: Casey "Sapsucker Woods" Sutton
* Bird Bits: Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" McGowan
* Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* On-set Grounds Keeper: Jeff Wells
You worked hard this spring. Staying on top of all those warblers
everywhere, the thrushes by the bushels, and the sparrows! Good heaven's,
the sparrows! Lincoln's, White-crowns--why, there was
barely time to post your sightings to Cayugabirds, right? Okay,
so migration was all but a myth this year. You still worked hard!
You got up and out there, hoping, with every buzz of your alarm
clock that this would be the morning the migrants dropped by Mundy
for breakfast. And everyday, you were pretty disappointed. But
still, you rose and shone...sort of.
So kick back, relax, unwind. Seek joy in the dear ordinary: the iridescent
ruby-red and emerald-green shimmer of the hummingbird
that hovers at your bee balm in the late afternoon sun; your "neighborhood"
meadowlark's melancholy whistle; the kestrel perched majestically on the
wire every morning as you drive to work; the
swallow peeping out of the nest box you put up at the edge of your
yard; the lazy flap of a heron high over the road up ahead. Okay,
so you miss the Least Sandpipers at Myer's Point. You'll see them
and a dozen other shorebird species at Montezuma soon enough.
Meanwhile, there's the current issue of The Cup to print and read
out in the hammock as your "pet" Carolina Wren "teakettles" nearby.
So pour yourself and your sweetie a frosty glass of lemonade and
settle in with The Cup 3.6!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN?: [See Dear Tick, this issue.]
ETNA CHALLENGE: Have you heard? The Cup packed up and left town!
Literally. Our new headquarters is in Etna, nestled next to a
certain vast grassland where Upland Sandpipers and Henslows Sparrows have
been known to roam, and overlooking the "Mt. Pleasant Mountain Range," with
a bit of wetland thrown in for good measure. What does this shift mean for
the David Cup adventure series? It means that
now there's a new title to gallop after: the Etna Challenge! Despite
Cup staff having the upper hand, everyone is invited to join...
except Chris and Diane Tessaglia-Hymes, because they live in Etna,
RUNNER-UP: Apparently there's a big to-do over a new Nike add in
which a runner is wearing a t-shirt proudly bearing, "Ithaca". The
real question is not "What's the Ithaca connection here?" or "Why Ithaca?"
but rather, "Why isn't it a David Cup T?" Well, here's
why: they never asked for one! Can you believe it? Just wait till
the David Cup movie comes out. They'll be wanting not only DC T's galore
but a McDonald's tie-in, too: the Big Mac will become the
Big David, and Ronald McDonald will morph into...Father Karl
himself! Now that'll really be something to savor!
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Syracuse Blues Fest. This weekend.
We won't be there, we'll be out of town. Ken won't be there,
he'll be out of town. Kevin won't be there, he'll be out of town.
If you're not going to be out of town, it's sure to be a groovin'
good time. Go check it out...and send us a report!
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
My inner DJ thinks I'm hopelessly dense. He's forever spinning
some song or tune which obliquely highlights the circumstances of
the hour. It loops unobtrusively in my mental background until finally my
attention is snagged. I received such a covert message from my subconscious
in June, characterizing the month's Basin birding.
Since the editors have perversely abandoned the culture-segment of
the monthly Kicking Tail interview, I'm gonna insert it here as
During the month, cuts from Bala Toujour's TERRE HAUTE and
DEUX VOYAGES were circling suggestively between my ears. Among
then was LE FALCON GRIS, a Louisiana fiddlers' anthem worn shiny
with age, sometimes the frame for lyrics about the Battle of New Orleans.
It hadn't spent much time on the charts since Jean Jacques Fougere Audubon
ceased offering instruction in the genteel arts of fencing and the dance,
but here it was, wearing deep ruts in my gray matter, like an obsession
sent from the ghost of "Stonewall"
Jackson. When I shook it off, up popped LE CANARD A BOIS SEC (the
Duck of Dry Woods) in its place, a little puzzle which still has me
wondering: "Si on veut le manger, on a besoin de cuire; si on veut
le cuire, on a besoin de plumer, si on veut le plumer, on a besoin to
trouver. Qui sait qui va trouver le canard a bois sec?" Who knows indeed?
Then I got carried off by the infectiously swinging "J'AI PERDU
MES LUNETTES" - wouldn't the Cup editors have found that a laughable
excuse! When there was a break in the bird-music programming, I
would receive some obscure bird story or riddle, like the following:
On one occasion Ma-tsu and Po-chang were out for a walk when they
saw some wild geese flying past. "What are those?" asked Ma-tsu. "They're
wild geese," answered Po-chang. "Where are they going?" demanded Ma-tsu.
Po-chang replied "They've already flown away."
Suddenly Ma-tsu grabbed Po-chang by the nose, and twisted it so that
he cried out in pain. "How," he shouted, "could they ever have flown away?"
This was the moment of Po-chang's awakening.
That was pretty much the moment of my awakening too - I
suddenly knew what deprivation I suffered from. "J-U-N-E-H-A-S-
B-E-E-N-S-L-O-W" said my secret decoder-ring. Oh sure, there were
lots of birds around. Where I live, you have to dodge accipiters when you
go outdoors, and 16 or so warbler species breed within a short
walk. But June offered scant opportunity for those who had birded
intensively in May to list additional birds. The few highlights of
the month stand-out in lonely relief against a backdrop filled with
RUDDY TURNSTONES and BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER put in
at Myers Point in the early days of June, along with a COMMON TERN.
A CASPIAN TERN near the white lighthouse jetty, a BLACK TERN
along Neimi Road, and a LAWRENCE'S WARBLER hybrid along the
South Hill Rec Way were among the more interesting offerings.
People continued to find VIRGINIA RAILS, both BITTERNS, a few
ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS, a scattering of ORCHARD ORIOLES, and other
uncommon breeders like PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, not to mention the CROSSBILLS
and SISKINS. Escapee TRUMPETER SWANS showed up at
The one true rarity of the month put in a very brief appearance
on the final day thereof: an AMERICAN AVOCET at Myers Point,
possibly the same bird that visited the Red Lighthouse Jetty last summer,
although that one passed almost a month later, around July 24, '97. We owe
this year's avocet to the vigilant Matt Young, who oughta
be turning up near the top of the DC standings if he ever gets
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows. He speaks French. Or
at least he sings it. Bon, Geo!)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Sign on 100 Club Door:
"Please go directly to 200 Club"
200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Sign on 200 Club door:
"Temporarily Out of Order"
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1998 David Cup June Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
212 Geo Kloppel
205 Kevin McGowan
202 Jay McGowan
199 Ken Rosenberg
194 Allison Wells
191 Karl David
189 Jeff Wells
186 Meena Haribal
185 Chris Butler
183 Alan Krakauer
182 Pat Lia
181 Anne Kendall
178 Matt Medler
176 Steve Kelling
161 Matt Sarver
154 John Greenly
152 John Morris
146 Jon Kloppel
146 Nancy Dickinson
138 John Fitzpatrick
138 Marty Schlabach
133 Steve Pantle
127 Jim Lowe
126 Ben Taft
124 Perri McGowan
120 Gary Chapin
115 Martha Fischer
112 Stephen Davies
116 Kim Kline
102 Tom Nix
99 Melanie Uhlir
96 John Bower
85 Michael Runge
85 Caissa Willmer
84 Carol Bloomgarden
75 Swift McGowan (DC Kitty Cup)
72 Anne James
70 Ann Mathieson
57 Kylie Spooner
52 Mimi Wells (DC Kitty Cup)
48 Cathy Heidenreich
46 Dave Mellinger
44 Teddy Wells (DC Kitty Cup)
42 Scott Mardis
39 Kurt Fox
35 Tom Lathrop
34 Margaret Barker
26 Andy Leahy
19 Figaro (DC Kitty Cup)
0 James "Apapane" Barry*
0 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Larry Springsteen*
0 Mira "the Bird Dog" Springsteen*
*Currently living out-of-state.
1998 McIlroy Award June Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
133 Allison Wells
132 Kevin McGowan
131 Jeff Wells
122 Karl David
107 Jay McGowan
110 Ken Rosenberg
99 Jim Lowe
93 Martha Fischer
91 Matt Medler
89 John Bower
82 Michael Runge
80 Anne Kendall
62 Ben Taft
60 Stephen Davies
42 Dave Mellinger
1998 Evans Trophy June Totals
Compiled by Bard Prentiss
174 Ken Rosenberg
169 Matt Young
164 Kevin McGowan
160 Jay McGowan
156 Bard Prentiss
108 Anne Kendall
1998 June Lansing Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
132 Kevin McGowan
122 John Greenly
1998 June Etna Challenge!
73 Allison Wells
71 Jeff Wells
17 Casey Sutton
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
By Casey Sutton
120 Steve Kelling, Berkshire, NY
117 Ken Rosenberg, Dryden, NY
111 Kevin McGowan, Dryden, NY
110 John Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
104 John Bower, Enfield, NY
83 Nancy Dickinson, Trumansburg, NY
70 Geo Kloppel, W. Danby, NY
65 Darlene and John Morabito, Auburn, NY
64 John Greenly, Ludlowville, NY
52 Ben Taft, Ithaca, NY
50 Ann Mathieson, Scipio Center, NY
44 Jeff and Allison Wells, Etna, NY
28 Susann Argetsinger, Burdett, NY
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Kevin McGowan
Here is Geo's Leader's List of 212 species:
R-t & C Loon,P-b,Horned & R-n Grebe,D-c Cormorant,Am &
L Bittern, G Blue & Green Heron, Tundra & Mute Swan,Snow &
C Goose, W Duck,G-w Teal,Am Black Duck,Mallard, N Pintail,
B-w Teal, N Shoveler,Gadwall,Am Wigeon,Canvasback,Redhead,
R-n Duck, G & L Scaup,Surf & W-w Scoter,C Goldeneye,
Bufflehead,H, C & R-b Merganser,Ruddy Duck,Turkey Vulture,
Osprey,Bald Eagle, N Harrier, S-s & Cooper's Hawk,N Goshawk,
R-s,B-w,R-t & R-l Hawk, Am Kestrel, Merlin,R-n Pheasant,R Grouse,
W Turkey,VA Rail, C Moorhen, Am Coot,Semipalmated Plover,
Killdeer,G & L Yellowlegs, R Turnstone,Solitary,Spotted, Upland,
Semipalmated,Least,W-r & Pectoral Sandpiper,Dunlin,C Snipe, Am
Woodcock,Wilson's Phalarope,Bonaparte's, R-b,Herring, Iceland,
L B-b & G B-b Gull,Caspian,Common,Forster's & Black Tern,
Rock & Mourning Dove,B-b & Y-b Cuckoo,E Screech-Owl,G H,
Barred,L-e, S-e & N S-w Owl,C Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will,C Swift,
R-t Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher,R-h & R-b Woodpecker,Y-b Sapsucker,Downy
& Hairy Woodpecker,N Flicker,Pileated Woodpecker,
E Wood-Pewee,Alder,Willow& Least Flycatcher,E Phoebe,G C
Flycatcher,E Kingbird,Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree, N R-w, Bank,
Cliff & Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, Am & Fish Crow,C Raven,B-c Chickadee,Tufted
Titmouse,R-b & W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina,House,Winter & Marsh
Wren, G-c & R-c Kinglet, B-g
Gnatcatcher,E Bluebird,Veery,Hermit & Wood Thrush, Am Robin,
Gray Catbird,N Mockingbird,Brown Thrasher,Am Pipit,C Waxwing,
N Shrike,European Starling,Blue-headed (Solitary),Y-t,Warbling,
Philadelphia & R-e Vireo, Blue-winged,TN & Nashville Warbler,
N Parula,Yellow,Chestnut-s,Magnolia,B-thr Blue, Y-r,
B-thr Green,Blackburnian,Pine,Prairie,Bay-b, Blackpoll,Cerulean &
B-and-w Warbler,Am Redstart,Prothonotary & W-e Warbler,Ovenbird,
N & LA Waterthrush,Mourning Warbler,C Yellowthroat, Hooded &
Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager,N Cardinal,R-b Grosbeak, Indigo
Bunting,Eastern Towhee, Am Tree,Chipping,Field,Vesper,Savannah,
Grasshopper,Henslow's,Fox, Song,Swamp & White-t Sparrow,D-e Junco,
S Bunting,Bobolink,R-w Blackbird, E Meadowlark,Rusty Blackbird,C
Grackle,B-h Cowbird,Baltimore Oriole, Pine Grosbeak,Purple & House
Finch,Red & W-w Crossbill,C Redpoll, Pine Siskin,Am Goldfinch,
Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.
Great Egret, B-c Night-Heron, Brant, E Wigeon, Oldsquaw,
Black Scoter, BLACK VULTURE, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon,
GYRFALCON, Sora,AMERICAN AVOCET, B-b Plover, Sanderling,
S-b Dowitcher, Glaucous Gull, Snowy Owl, Olive-s, Y-b & Acadian
Flycatcher, G-c & Swainson's Thrush, Golden-w, Cape May,Palm &
Wilson's Warbler, Lincoln's & W-c Sparrow, Lapland Longspur, Orchard
Oriole, HOARY REDPOLL.
(Kevin McGowan is a curator of the Cornell Vertebrate Collections.
He will be attending a conference in South Africa in the near
future, if anyone would like to try to stuff themselves into his suitcase. )
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
Remember what we said in the introduction? Well, if you insist on
going birding anyway, who better to get advice from than the Basin
Big Year Record holder himself, Ned Brinkley! We're reprinting his column
from last year at this time. No, not because we forgot to tap
a coach, we were just too darned tired to! Besides, Ned is lively
and knowledgeable. Catch your breath before reading this one!
COACH BRINKLEY: July is one of the nicest months to bird the Basin,
in my opinion as a Dixie-born birder. First of all, it is actually
warm enough to go outside. This is the season for southerners
drifting north, as well as the first arctic nesters coming back south.
Moreover, if you're running low on new birds, you can usually find a
gamebird breeder to sell you a Northern Bobwhite, which you can
release somewhere and tick off. Adam Byrne once saw one running
around the quad near Mann Library on the Cornell campus. Tick!
But seriously, it goes without saying that if you want to See
All That You Can See, you must now work very hard on your Missing Nesting
Species. Yellow-billed Cuckoo was often a nemesis for me.
Low, dense vegetation near water seemed good but nowhere was
reliable over more than 2-3 year periods. I used to play tapes for
them (perish the thought!) but often got little response. The TC
Airport ponds used to be okay, and some areas in the far southwestern Basin
and southeastern Basin were good (also for migrants). These
birds seem to be tied to the tent caterpillars. You might also just wait
to get a flyover in August or early September from Mt. Pleasant
at night (also good for the bitterns and for Upland Sandpiper calling, all
of which you might be missing in September still, eh). [Editors' note:
Yellow-billed Cuckoos have been reported on a number of
occasions this year from the Prothonotary Warbler spot on Armitage
Road, near Montezuma.]
Orchard Oriole can be tricky, but the lakeside communities on
the west shore, not just Sheldrake, should produce one. No? Then
drive roads of the western central Basin, listening for their
syncopated song around little clusters of houses with large shade
trees (and hopefully a pond or two), or around any group of old
orchard trees (apples) near cattle groves and watering holes. This is
tedious but important work. [Editors' note: We all know about the
one at Myer's Point now, too, right?]
Certainly things like King Rail and Common Moorhen have nested in the
past, but you must content yourself with the hope of stumbling across one,
maybe at MNWR or the north end of the lake. The tough warblers
(Yellow-throated, Kentucky, Worm-eating) have been much more reliably seen
south and west of the Basin lately, but keep hiking the glorious southern
boundaries of the Basin, at Conn Hill and elsewhere. The lower elevations
are often given short shrift, as the higher elevations have those
enchanting Appalachian-affinity species. Try
the streamside sites at lower elevations in addition--in the early
succession stuff for things like White-eyed Vireo. (I never did see
the latter in the Basin.) For Yellow-throated Warbler, check any pond area
(though I suppose one was found a good distance from water two years ago...)
One of the most frustrating things for me while birding there in the
late 1980s and early 1990s was that Mays Point Pool was almost
NEVER drawn down in time in order for the parade of shorebirds to
stay a while on their way southward or southeastward--one often had to wait
until late August or later to see any good flats out there. One hopes this
has changed. Even if there is not much in the way of
stopover migrant habitat, I remember a fun thing to do was to peek around
the edges (never, never in trespass, of course) of the old Storage Pool,
known now as Tschache Pool, on the other side of the
road. Even 5-6 inches of edge would often hold Baird's Sandpiper in July,
and by the month's end, Wilson's Phalarope also became a reasonable hope.
Even a little habitat here goes a long way, and it's advisable
to get here early in the morning, bird around other spots, then come back
and hang around (get a group together, shell peanuts, gossip,
work on field marks and vocalizations of common species), as the shorebirds
really can change rapidly over the course of a few hours here, even in
July. Your shorebird list will be longest if you spend massive amounts of
time in this little area; if you know your field marks (things like
Long-billed Dowitcher undoubtedly come through
the Basin in July); and if you own a $2000 Questar--the birds often
look like specks here in July at Mays Point, if there are any around
at all. The looks here can be very tough, especially in the early morning
if it's a sunny day. Foul weather probably puts down
more migrants anyway, so try it up there following a night of
thunderstorms in the northern Basin.
The north end of the main refuge loop should be checked also,
even if it's only moist. Andy Farnsworth has shown us that those
huge plowed potato fields known as the Savannah Mucklands, just north
of MNWR, can be a goldmine for shorebirds during rainy episodes--he found
both Whimbrel and Buff-breasted Sandpiper there in one day. Reason enough
to take a scope and scan hard there, even when
conditions are less dramatic. Persistence. Likewise, checking those little
bait ponds at Canoga can turn up a bird or two--many goodies
in the past, though one must be diligent and lucky here.
There are many shorebirds on the move in July. Baird's is the
obvious first target, and Sanderling will have been missed by many
in the spring, so that's perhaps number two (if not number one).
After that, dates of arrival seem hodge-podge from my notes. It's
obviously on the very early side to be looking for Dunlin and
Western Sandpiper, but the odd bird does turn up. Curlew Sandpiper is
another bird I could never figure out; surely they should pass
through in July (we have had up to 6 on a flat in NC in July)--just
a water-level problem? (Later in August and September, the juveniles might
be passed off as Dunlin, but July birds should be more
obviously different.) Go down your shorebird list, then look at
Steve Kelling's compilation of shorebird arrival dates. Don't
sneeze at possibilities like adult Red-necked Stints in July--they
look like miniature Sanderlings in alternate plumage, with peach-red heads
and little pin-pricks of bills. They are, after all, coming
from Siberia, and the records from the interior of the continent are slowly
increasing. Remember to have your Lars Jonsson guide to the Birds of
Europe in your backpack at all times. Don't blow a stint in breeding
plumage--look carefully at the head and covert pattern and
take great notes.
July would also be the time that this vicinity might eventually
produce a White-winged Tern. Heaven knows people have strained at
some Black Terns here, but they are never all that numerous. Plant thyself
in the MNWR tower and look for the ghostly white basic-
plumaged bird among the Blacks in the distance. Stay for a long time.
Seen or heard your Least Bittern yet? 'Tis the season. Try the southeast
corner of the main loop (scan reed edge along the drive-
-with binoculars) and try the marsh at the north end of the lake
(Cayuga Marsh). Father Karl used to get them by canoeing out there (boat
launches available on both sides of the lake). One could do a
lot less interesting things in July.
Canoeing would seem a nice way to find more POWAs in the
extended northern Basin. I believe some have done this in recent
years; the more the merrier. This area, with its flat agricultural lands
and beautiful riparian canal habitat, has always screamed "Mississippi
Kite" to me. Look for areas of dragonflies, focus on vulture kettles, cloud
edges, whatever gets you that razor-sharp
focus on your bins, and just keep scanning, scanning, scanning. The
silhouette can look remarkably Peregrine-like at times. Also keep
a watchful eye out for post-nesting Black Vulture. Scan
these stretches of sky in the north Basin as much as patience will allow.
A billowy, warm day with lots of TUVUs in the sky is just
the thing (there is a nice vulture roost in the dead trees around
small freshwater ponds east of MNWR--worth checking here for vagrant
herons, as well as immigrant Black Vultures).
Did someone mention herons? There's a whole list of things
that might drift up from the south. I really have no idea what is
most likely on that list, never having had much luck with that group.
I suppose Glossy Ibis and Little Blue and Snowy are slightly more
likely than Tricolored, which is more likely than Yellow-crowned
Night-Heron, and there are a number of birds, such as White-faced
Ibis and Neotropic Cormorant, that should be kept in mind. Scanning
is meaningful, again, as things like Wood Stork and Am. White Pelican can
be identified at vast, vast distances, and these are birds that begin to
show up in late summer. These BWBs (Big Wandering Birds)
are once-in-a-lifetime events, perhaps, in the interior in central
NYS, but scanning is a skill that should be honed, no matter where
you are. If you and your birding buddies shelling peanuts at
the Mucklands should happen to spy a Roseate Spoonbill ahead of some
Ugly Gulf Moisture one day, what more need one ask of the day?
I'm sure I have forgotten a whole host of possibilities, but
this is as much as I can recall, without having much at my disposal.
Remember that butterflies and dragonflies and herps beckon as well
(have you seen Northern Red Salamander on Conn Hill yet? Is your
life complete if not??), and these things can seduce you, along with
wildflowers, nearly as well as any bird, if you just take the first couple
of steps. The middle of the day is brimming with
possibilities in this respect, so "birding" should never be "slow,"
once the bug bites you beyond birds...
(Ned Brinkley is an assistant professor of Germanic languages at the
University of Virginia and the Basin's Wayward Son. He also often
leads pelagic trips off the North Carolina coast. His team won the Texas
Birding Classic this year...and he did not share the prize
money with The Cup!)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove that you live well within the Basin--and
are among the elite who actually had migrants on your property this
year--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
violin-bowed his way to the top of the David Cup list.
THE CUP: Do you realize, Geo, that you're 7 birds ahead of the gettingest
go-getter Cupper in the Basin, Kevin McGowan?
KLOPPEL: Actually I've added a couple more birds in the last few
THE CUP: Oh, that explains your last-minute Kelling "miscount"!
KLOPPEL: My mantra comes from Kevin himself, a master and
Cup-winner, who explained the game to me a year ago, when I was
playing catch-up: "You have to stay competitive." For that sage
advice I owe it to him to make as good a run as I can.
THE CUP: Ahh, yes, you're doing it all for Kevin.
KLOPPEL: Kevin's spending quite a bit of time out of the Basin.
When the great are elsewhere occupied, leadership necessarily
devolves to the lesser.
THE CUP: Oh, pulleease!
KLOPPEL: We have some real aces in this game, who I don't equal, but
sharpness alone won't earn them superior tallies. Kenn Kaufman
himself couldn't beat me without putting in the time.
THE CUP: Considering a career change? Politics, maybe?
KLOPPEL: I live in an underbirded area that's uncommonly rich. And
I'm here the day long, because I work at home. My home turf has
yielded birds like Northern Saw-whet Owl, Whip-poor-will, and Philly
Vireo, all the hawks on my list, and some of the best warbler
territory anywhere this year, to judge by the wailing that rises to
my ears from distant quarters.
THE CUP: Cup Headquarters, to be exact.
KLOPPEL: Beyond that, I enjoy jumping in the car and going after the
birds I can't find around home. I have generally refrained from
asking reporters to tie ribbons around the particular trees I should look
in, but have stooped nearly that low when I couldn't find the
birds on my own.
THE CUP: Where did you bird this month and what did you pick up?
KLOPPEL: Six species are all I added for June. Broad-winged and
Red-shouldered Hawks I got at home, where incidentally we now have
Cooper's Hawklets fledging only a few hundred meters away from our
nesting Sharp-shins. As I wrote on Cayugabirds, this is fine
accipiter habitat out here. I got Ruddy Turnstones at Myers and Henslow's
Sparrows at Rafferty Road. And eventually the marsh-gods smiled on my
blood-offerings, granting me a Virginia Rail and Least Bittern(s) at
Tschache and the Main Pool respectively, plus two more peeks at American
THE CUP: We understand you struck off to Myer's Point for the
avocet...and missed. How'd you handle that disappointment? (Did you
see the one that was on the jetty last year?)
KLOPPEL: I did see last year's avocet and was consoled for missing
this year's by Ken Rosenberg, who speculated that it could well have been
the same individual. One ought to be philosophical about the misses,
feeling the disappointment keenly but not clinging to it, because such
disappointments are a vital component of the thrill of subsequent scores -
if the birds fell like clockwork, the play would quickly become uninteresting.
THE CUP: Wow. Sounds like you've had serious therapy. How do you
drink your iced tea?
KLOPPEL: As Coach Davies might have said, iced tea is for those who
have already listed all the breeding birds (that's none of us), or
those who have already engraved their names on the David Cup and are
not trying for another Big Year in the Basin.
THE CUP: Did he really say that about Father Karl?
KLOPPEL: You'll find me out on Howland Island with a plastic bottle
of tepid coffee tasting faintly of insect repellent, if you can
find me at all.
THE CUP: How have you been able to keep your Cupping wife, Pat
Lia, from catching up to you?
KLOPPEL: She's coat-tailing me this year. Besides, anyone who can't
tolerate biting insects doesn't stand a chance in this game.
THE CUP: Do you expect to be back here next month?
KLOPPEL: It's conceivable that I could enjoy another month on top,
before the pack catches up. It's a long six months down to the
finish line, and those not so far behind still have plenty of opportunity
to pass me by. To be perfectly frank and invite your disbelief, I have not
set my sights on a Cup victory.
THE CUP: Kevin, do you believe him?
KLOPPEL: My actual goal is a modest 225 species, and when I set that
goal (in January) I told myself that a top-ten finish would be enjoyable,
but not the sort of thing I want to rest my heart on. I
keep a realistic view of my rank as a birder, and my current Cup standing
doesn't reflect it very accurately. I expect the coming
months to produce some reshuffling. And looking further, beyond the
year-list, beyond the life-list even, each individual birding life
is only the briefest manifestation. One ought to be philosophical
about these things...
By Jay McGowan
(No BirdBits this month, due to a leave of absence of the Big Daddy. This
gives you another shot at last month's:)
1. How many kinds of Whistling Ducks(in the genus Dendrocygna) are their
in the world?
2. What is the scientific name of the Black-headed Duck of South America?
3. Where does the Musk Duck live?
4. There are three kinds of Eiders. Common Eider, King Eider and
Spectacled Eider. Their scientific names are Somatria mollissima, S.
spectabilis, and S. fischeri. S. spectibilis is King Eider not Spectacled
5. What Duck has the longest scientific name and what does it mean?
(Jay McGowan is home-schooled. Isn't it obvious?)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
Before we begin, let's recall the difference between mean and median.
The mean is what's normally meant by "average": add 'em all
up and divide. The median is the middle number when they're lined
up in order. For normal distributions, the mean should be used, but
I'm going to use the medians anyway since they were easier to find. After
the fact, I calculated the means and found they never differed from the
median by more than one day anyway. But, to reinforce the ideas, I'll use
the word "mean" throughout the discussion.
Incidentally, you might find it amusing to figure out how to find the mean
of calendar dates, say April 28, May 2 and May 5. Rocket science it isn't,
but you have to think, and the most literal way is not the simplest.
Looking at my Chimney Swift arrival dates from the last two [!] Cups,
1998 was clearly a late year. The 1985-97 median is 4.27, with
a range from 4.20 to 5.5. The '98 date of 5.4 is the latest but one, '97's
5.5 being the only date as late or later.
If we say Chimney Swift arrival dates are "normally
distributed," we mean they fit a symmetric bell-shaped curve
centered at the mean arrival date, with about 68% of the dates
falling within one standard deviation, 95% within two, and well
over 99% within three standard deviations of that mean.
Of course, no one knows the exact mean and standard deviation, least
of all the swifts themselves. A human can only estimate them
from the rather meager data at hand, so let's do it. The mean will be
estimated by the median date of 5.4 given above. The standard deviation,
which is a measure of the "spread" of the data, is
calculated as follows: (1) find the difference between each year's arrival
date and the mean; (2) square each of these differences;
(3) add up all these squared differences; (4) divide by the sample
size [13 years] minus one, i.e. by 12 [subtracting one is a
technicality having to do with "degrees of freedom"]; (5) take the square
root. This works out to 3.98 or approximately 4 days.
To reinterpret: about 68% of the arrival dates should therefore fall
within 4 days of 4.27, i.e. from 4.23 to 5.1, 95% within 8 days, i.e. from
4.19 to 5.5, and so on. In fact, 11/13 = 85% of the '85-'97 dates fall in
the first range, and 13/13 = 100% in the second. If
you'll let me toss '98's 5.4 date into the mix, then the one-standard
deviation range is met 11/14 = 79% of the time, a little closer to
the prediction. Presumably, as the data accumulates over time, we
should gradually close in on the stated percentages.
One can now look at the '98 date, find its difference from the
mean [7 days], and divide by the s. d. to get what's called its "z-score"
of 1.76. All this really is how many standard deviations the
'98 date is from the mean, right? A standard table of areas under the
normal curve gives the area to the right of 1.76 s.d.'s from the
mean as .0392. This means the probability of Chimney Swift arriving
5.4 or later is 3.92%. Yes indeedy, unarguably late ... based on the (many)
For the ten species I selected, the analogous probabilities for
>the '98 dates work out as follows:
Chimney Swift .0392 Warbling Vireo .4052
Eastern Kingbird .2810 Yellow Warbler .0384
House Wren .4052 American Redstart .3745
Wood Thrush .2709 Common Yellowthroat .5000
Gray Catbird .5000 Baltimore Oriole .1867
Note how two facts are mirrored by these percentages: no bird arrived
ahead of its mean [else its number would be more than .5], while two
arrived exactly at their mean [the two .5's].
Chimney Swift [and Yellow Warbler] now look like aberrations or
extremes ...overall, species were not outrageously late. How do we
measure the overall lateness of the migration?
A simple-minded [my favorite] thing to do would be to just "average",
i.e. find the mean, of these ten probabilities. This works out to .3001.
Looked at this way, you could say there's a 30% chance
of a migration being as late as '98's was. You could also say you saw Elvis
at the Rongo last night.
Here's a more sophisticated approach. Take those summed squared
deviations from the mean for each of the 10 species for each of the
13 years and add them ALL up. Then divide by the pooled sample size
minus one, i.e. by 10x13-1 = 129, and take the square root, resulting
in a grand potpourri standard deviation of 3.42. Now get the average grand
difference of '98 from the mean by averaging that difference
over the 10 species. This works out to 2.2 days. The amalgam [am I running
out of collective adjectives yet?] z-score is thus 2.2/3.42 = .64, leading
to a probability of .2611 the migration is as late as it was in '98. So,
26% vs. 30% the simple-minded (and much easier) way ... not much
Either way you slice it, the migration was not remarkably late.
We can perform one more test to see how much confidence to have in
these figures. For EACH year, find the average difference from the
mean for the pooled data [the calculation that resulted in 2.2 for
'98]. This means negative numbers for dates earlier than the mean,
of course. By this measure, '97 actually ranks as the latest year
[3.0 days late], while '90 comes out as the earliest [-2.3 days late, i.e.
2.3 days early]. Of the 14 years '85-'98, '98 now ends up only
4th latest, in fact. But get this: 4/14 = 29% ... a number very much
in line with the 26% and 30% we got earlier. In spite of the questionable
nature of all our assumptions, we are vindicated!
Pretty cool, huh?
You might wonder in closing why we seemed to get plausible
results when lumping the ten species together. If you felt uneasy
about doing that, it's probably because you're thinking of the
arrival dates for different species as independent events. Suppose House
Wren is a week early next year. Wouldn't you be extremely surprised if
Yellow Warbler then turned out to be a week late? But
if the dates were independent, it wouldn't be surprising at all.
The dates are in fact highly correlated, and so it was OK to lump
the data. In fact, if the dates were independent, then a year where
all ten fell on the same side of the mean would be a genuine fluke,
with probability only 1/2^10 = .001, roughly. No way!
(Karl David is a mathematics professor on sabbatical at Cornell. He's
moving to Wisconsin soon. Too soon.)
SCRAWL OF FAME
"Here's a lame contest for the June 'newsletter,' since no one
is out birding now. I actually made it into the Basin for a bit, a
tiny bit, last week and saw a few birds. What was the first one I
saw or heard? Candor is out of the Basin, right? I figure it's too
far South. That would change the first bird, but not my overall
"I guess Bobolink, but that it didn't count (outside the Basin). I
saw a bunch driving home from Candor yesterday (along with
Grasshopper Sparrow that I couldn't count)."
"I'll take a guess at Larry's first Basin Bird: sounds like he came
in along 96B... plenty of Eurostarlings!"
"House Finch. Either that or Red-tailed Hawk. Don't ask me why!"
"The answer: American Crow." I drove to the area
on the 14th but stopped in Candor to help with some house
remodeling. If Candor were in the Basin the 1st bird would have been
Barn Swallow. We didn't head into Ithaca until about 11pm - no owls
on the way there. When I awoke in Lars' house on Judd Falls Road the
next morning, the first bird I heard was the crow. So, it's my first
bird for both the David Cup and the McIlroy Award. I'll bet Kevin
(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.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The Ithaca Champion has moved!
Now Etna's the place where she grooves.
Bill Evans' a-grin
'cause he thinks now he'll win
But his McThreats remain a big snooze.
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
This month's Bird Brain took my list of rather banal e-mail questions,
considered them, and then wrote a beautifully integrated little essay that
required almost no effort from me at all. He is John Greenly,
and he's perfectly capable of speaking for himself, viz.:
I began to think of myself as a birder about 25 years ago when
some friends took me to a cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., called Mt. Auburn
cemetery--a classic green-oasis-in-the-city sort of place. It
was at peak migrant time, and I think we saw twenty or so species of
warblers that morning. I still remember the great looks at the birds, and
also the slightly wacky scene of birders popping up from behind headstones,
peering at birds and each other through their binocs.
This was obviously a crowd I could fit in with!
After that I lived in New Hampshire for a few years. Although I
accumulated a good yard bird list and began haphazardly to mark my
bird book when I saw new birds for the first time, I was then and
still am most captivated by close observation of any bird, no matter
how common. I always taught the chickadees, nuthatches, and downys to take
seeds from my hand and discovered great delights like the very faint,
constant singsong conversations of Red-breasted Nuthatches
that you can't possibly hear unless they are sitting on your hand or head.
One of my favorite memories from those years was cross-country skiing,
carefully and quietly, right up to a couple of Pine Grosbeaks sitting in a
shrub, and spending several minutes looking at them
eye-to-eye, within arm's reach. (I thought that was a great feat
until I found out how naturally tame they are.)
I did a lot of sailing on the Maine coast during those years,
usually in late summer and fall, and some of my most magical memories
of birds come from landing on islands where the birds of that year
had no experience with humans and were terrifically curious and fearless.
There were also the exhausted migrants that landed on the boat--one warbler
took an hour-long nap in the frizzy hair of a very patient woman crew
member, and another went into the cabin and caught all the (many)
mosquitoes that had stowed away in our last harbor.
I've been in the basin now for nearly twenty years (I'm a physicist,
do research at Cornell), but when I first got here, I
missed New England so much that it took quite awhile before I started
to pay attention to the great richness of bird life we have here.
Sandy Podulka was responsible for getting me to open my eyes and
ears to Basin birding. Sandy, and George Eickwort whom we lost to a
tragic accident a few years back, were my first Basin birding
buddies. Now my wife, Katrina, is an enthusiastic and sharp-eyed birder,
and my three-year-old son, Tony, is using his toy
binocs the right way around with great glee. (Watch out, Cuppers,
when Tony and I really grow into a team like Kevin and Jay!!) Other than
with my family, almost all of my birding nowadays is done on
my way between Ludlowville and campus (frequent scans at Myers and
along the lake shore road), along Salmon Creek, and on walks at lunchtime
near campus--Mundy, the cemetery, etc. This was more successful than I ever
would have imagined last year, and I had way
more species for my Cup total than I anticipated. This year by comparison
is a disaster--far fewer migrants appeared in my easy,
nearby birding places.I'm way behind last year, and I'm curious to
see how much of the deficit I will pick up through the rest
of the year.
The Cup and the conversations on Cayugabirds-L are really good
for me. It's a very nice way of maintaining and focusing attention
on the grand cycle of the ebb and flow of life through the basin in
a year and, as with the comparison of this year with last, it gives
me a perspective that goes beyond one year to begin to see the
richness of variation in the cycle, too.
I'm not at all in the same league of birding skills as many of
our Cup leaders, and I learn a lot from their postings. I really
wish I had more opportunity to go birding with some of them, but my
work is way too consuming these days--I haven't had my beloved sailboat in
the lake in four years, and I barely eke out time to keep alive my other
great love, music (I'm sort of a semi-pro clarinet player--used
to play with Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Binghamton Symphony, etc,
still do things at Cornell and IC now and then, keep in shape by
playing in the concert band that does some Thursday evening Commons
concerts in the summer)
I'm really not a "lister." When I go on trips, I often make a list of
what I saw at the end of the day, and the list stays in my pocket
or somewhere until I lose it--but it is fun to make the list, remembering
the circumstances of the sightings. I have had a chance
to do some birding in far-off places, like Costa Rica and Europe. Certainly
my wildest birding adventure was a hiking trip in the Altai mountains
between Siberia and Mongolia, with five Russian and German colleagues and
friends. That was a fascinating, but frustrating and humbling trip,
birdingwise. I saw probably a hundred new species, but had no adequate
field guide, and when I got home and tried to figure things out from the
notes I made, I did very poorly and gained a
great respect for field naturalists of the past who had no handy
books to help with instant ID's. (Of course, they did use shotguns a lot,
too.) My most vivid memory of that trip is of a Demoiselle
Crane walking daintily along a sandbar in a milky-blue glacial river. The
most frustrating day of that trip was when we passed through a boreal
forest just full of unrecognized birdsong, and my Russian
friends wouldn't let me lag behind to seek them out, because they
said there might be "bad men" (bandits?) in that forest....
In this country, my other favorite birding places so far are
the Pacific Northwest, especially Puget Sound, and the SW,
particularly New Mexico, where work takes me several times a year. I never
go anywhere without at least my pocket-size binocs, and often my briefcase
and a spotting scope are my "business-trip" luggage. Birding is really a
part of my daily routine, and is one of my most treasured and indispensable
ways of keeping a sense of connection with the tremendous pulse of life
through the days and years, a sense that
seems to me completely necessary to the living of a sane life.
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of
Development and theater critic for the Ithaca Times.)
Your bird verse here
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations, The
Cup has graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and
intuitive columnist, Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions,
Since I have been living out of my truck for the past three months
and driving all over the country, it seems my yard is the North
American continent. So, what is the definition of "yard" in this
>list? I plan on continuing my nomadic existence for a while but it doesn't
seem fair to the others in the "competition."
--Basin Nomad of North America
Dear Basin Nomad:
This sounds suspiciously like the voice of the Great Silverback, Bill
Evans. Perhaps it his attempt to regain control over the group of birders
he naively perceives as a family group over which he rules. Pound your
chest all you want, Bill, but until you quit monkeying
around and stay put for more than a week at a time, you'll have to
keep aping success and will never know what it's like to be Top Banana.
A statistician friend of mine named Rick Cleary, a professor at St.
Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont, on leave at Cornell was
having dinner with [a certain fellow Cupper]. Rick had
never heard of the David Cup, so [certain someone] filled him in.
This morning he left his '98 David Cup list in my mailbox. Here's his list:
("Let me know if I win," he added at the bottom.) Does it qualify as
a legitimate entry? He does have the right wacky sense of humor to be
a David Cupper.
--A "Friend"ly Inquirer at Cornell
Dear "Friend"ly Inquirer:
It would, except that he didn't specify which species he saw. For example,
by "Pigeon" he might mean Scaley-naped Pigeon, and since he didn't post
this rarity to Cayugabirds, he would have to be omitted
from the guest list to upcoming blues gigs, or worse, the next high
tea, as dictated in the Cup bylaws. What kind of Cupper could live
with him/herself after that? No, better to keep the whole thing hush-hush
than to risk him having broken a cardinal rule. Besides, five birds isn't
exactly something to crow about.
I'm teaching calculus this summer at a prestigious local university
and this morning a House Sparrow flew into the classroom. I don't
think the issue of a group entry in the competition has ever come up, but
if you can use your influence with the editors to allow it, I'd
like to enter my entire class with a total of 1 species.
P.S. I hope I'm not giving away too much, but I'd like to point out
that this would also be a McIlroy bird.
> --Still trying to leave the Basin in Aurora
P.P.S. That is, I'm still in Aurora (metaphorically) trying to leave
the Basin, not literally trying to relocate the entire Basin there.
Dear Still Trying:
That depends. Did they all pass the class? You can't be a flunky
and be in the David Cup, you have to be able to calculate correctly.
Oh, wait a minute. We let Steve Kelling in. In that case, if they
all identified the bird as a House Sparrow and could give its
scientific name, they're in.
Did Matt Medler ever get that date with Melissa?
--Wondering about "'za" situation in Sapsucker Woods
You must be referring to Matt's considerable faux pas to Cayugabirds, the
details of which I will, mercifully, not divulge again here (but
if you really want to read it, Steve Pantle has a copy in his
permanent file, to be used for the express purpose of blackmailing Mr.
Medler as some future opportunity presents itself). If you recall,
however, the subject heading of Matt's post read simply, "'za"
(that's cool people's way of saying "pizza"). In other words, Matt
was not really interested in a date with Melissa; rather, he was
looking to satisfy his craving for pizza, er, 'za. (Witness Bill
Evans' quote, included in Cup Quotes, below.)
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at firstname.lastname@example.org)
> """"""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"I told Matt he should add a bird to his total for every comment
"There were over 100 Bank Swallows at the Ithaca Lighthouse
Jetty in the early evening of July 7th. Also there were
several empty boxes of pizza (strange). Who would carry pizza
all the way out to the end of the jetty?"
"Yes, this message is actually intended for the listserve..."
--Matt Medler [still blushing from previous post]
"I finally made it out to Myer's Point today at about 1:30 and was
rewarded with three beautiful Caspian Terns with their tangerine bills.
These were my first and it was hard to break my gaze away."
"Yesterday I investigated the chirping coming from our oriole nest,
and saw three fluffy yellow fledglings lined up on the branch above
the nest. Downy Woodpeckers were feeding three younguns at the suet feeder
all weekend. I never had suet out in June before! Also, my 'immature male'
Purple Finch now has a very purple companion!"
"I've lost count of my numerous failed attempts to find rails this
year at Montezuma or anywhere, but the latest was at Tschache Marsh
just last night, where I did see an American Bittern make a short
flight at about 8:45. A Great Horned Owl perched for a minute or two
in the big dead tree beside the tower as darkness came on. I stood or
walked up and down on the dike far into the night, fanning off hordes
of hungry mosquitos, without any more excitement beyond a brief marsh-wide
moorhen canticle. At last I was rewarded, at 4:05 am this morning, by a
Virginia Rail calling from the marsh well west of the tower."
"On Sunday, Jim Goodson and I turned up a singing Bobwhite in Texas
Hollow (just west of the Basin, near the western terminus of 79).
Still a neat bird, even if it is introduced (right?) This is a beautiful
spot; we didn't have too much time to explore, but we found
a pond, a bog, and tons of nice habitat. A nice change from my
typical Myers/Salmon Creek/Rafferty Rd/ Montezuma/ Armitage Rd. loop."
"Last evening, Matt Young found an American Avocet at Myer's Point...
Only Bard and Gina Prentiss got out there in time to see the bird."
-- Ken Rosenberg
"Sorry you guys missed the avocet..."
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff