Year 5, Issue 8
"Just a little drink from your loving cup,
Just a little drink and I fall down drunk."
-The Rolling Stones
Welcome to the unofficial newsletter of the David Cup birding competition. We are so close to the end now I can almost taste it. Although the Christmas count may be on the minds of most local birders including the leaders of McIlroy and the David Cup competitions who are, incidentally, CBC area leaders, the excitement of David Cup observers fills the air with palpable anticipation: can anyone make the last minute push needed to steal a McIlroy victory from the guru? How close will Geo get to the magic number 254? How many recounts will Allison demand? Will Cup editors act as both counters and the Electoral College when handling the votes from the upcoming Cupper Survey? Can Medler be trusted not to tamper with the ballots? And what s up with the Cupper Supper? In the mood for Indian Cuisine? Well, I can answer at least one of the questions: I am in the mood for Indian Cuisine. Fortunately Meena has agreed to host the Cupper Supper at her new home on February 11th. Bring a dish to pass. We ll be sure to announce details as the day approaches.
Another upstart: scan down the November totals and the first thing that catches the eye is that new name again. Newcomer Bruce Robertson has been kickin some tail it seems. The young man from Seattle joined the fray in September when he submitted a Basin total for August. Back then he listed only 179. By October he had crept up to eleventh place listing 219. We re not sure what happened, but Bruce did not improve his totals for November. Imagine one of his bosses, Cuppers Rosenberg or Wells, warding off possible embarrassment by giving Bruce enough work to keep him from the playing field. Whatever the case, Bruce is already planning for a competitive run next year. He ll be around into July and perhaps longer, if he stays for graduate school. So watch for him to place strongly through spring migration and breeding season. And by the way, Allison, he s specifically mentioned a McIlroy attempt.
Looking for a holiday gift for that someone special? How about a book of poetry with plenty of good old bird content? Our literary critic has some suggestions for you in his column this month.
By Matt Sarver
It s that time of year again. Gift-giving time. Gift-receiving time. Gift-returning time. You can rationalize all you want about the beauty and selflessness of holiday gift exchanges; but the truth is, you usually don t get what you want. Nobody does. In one of my nobler efforts to better the holiday fate of the thousands of poetic birders of the David Cup (not to mention their friends and families), I thought I would provide a few ideas for great books that any naturalist writer would enjoy. So whether you re looking for the perfect gift for that uncle that nobody talks about, subliminally etching your wish list on the brain of your significant other, or wondering what to spend your post-holiday Barnes and Noble credit on, you needn't leave your computer screen. (But please put some pants on before reading the rest of this article.)
If you don t know who Robert Frost is, you ve lived in a cave for several decades. It might be a good idea to check for bears before turning off the light. Despite his careful attention to form, rhyme and meter (which somehow has become a bad thing to many people), Frost is able to convey an incredible amount in many of his poems. The stark beauty of his verse, and the dark sagacity that shapes his view of nature are gifts easily overlooked by many readers who have succumbed to Frost s clich d place in modern poetry. The best thing about Frost is that his works have been so extensively published that a nice edition of his complete poems can be had at a reasonable price (~$15 softcover, ~$30 hardcover).
Leaves of Grass is perhaps the best book of poetry that has been written in English since Shakespeare s sonnets. Though Whitman is not really a nature poet, his use of nature is so masterful and highly symbolic (e.g. "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom d") that I decided to include him on this list. If you haven t read Whitman, I command you to do so immediately. If you have, do yourself a favor and pick this book up again. He is a uniquely expansive, yet corporeal poet who has defined the path of poetry in this century. A hardcover edition of Leaves of Grass can be had for $8-20.
Louise Gluck also falls into the "not really a nature poet" category, but images from nature are essential to her writing. Meadowlands and The Wild Iris are incredible books, both selling for around $10 paperback and $20 hardback. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993. I consider Gluck to be one of the best of the contemporary romantics. Here is the last stanza of "April":
your lives are the bird's flight
which begins and ends in stillness
which begins and ends, in form echoing
this arc from the white birch
to the apple tree.
This is stuff you've just got to read for yourself. But remember guys: you aren t allowed to cry, so cut up some onions while reading this, and make sure you re playing that video of your favorite sports team losing the championship. That way, you've got two excuses.
J.D. McClatchy, noted poet, critic and editor, has recently edited a collection entitled On Wings of Song: Poems about Birds. This book is a steal at $10 for the 256-page hardcover edition. I haven t seen it, but it would certainly be worth a look.
Born in New South Wales, this Australian poet s first book of verse is entirely about birds. Published in 1940, Australian Bird Poems was the first of a long series of collections, including Birds: Poems by Judith Wright (1962) and the recent Magpie Summer (1991). Wright has won many awards, including several honorary doctorates and the Queen s Medal for poetry. Besides being a gifted poet, Wright has been a longtime advocate for conservation. For a biographical and critical look, check out Jennifer Strauss s Judith Wright (Oxford, paperback, $22) or Shirley Wright s Flame and Shadow: A Study of Judith Wright s Poetry. Magpie Summer will run you about $8 in paperback, while some of her earlier titles are out-of-print and will be harder to find.
The most nature-oriented poet of the beat generation, Gary Snyder grew up in the Pacific Northwest, attending Reed College and then Berkley. He studied Chinese and Japanese language and culture and became deeply involved in Zen Buddhism. The serenity of his religious studies and his years working on fire-towers and logging operations in the forests of the northwest have given him an austere but peaceful and humble voice. Snyder is the best poet I have read at expressing the respect we owe to nature, and his poems are at once majestic and humbling. He has published around fifteen books of poetry, and has won the Pulitzer Prize and the John Hay Award for nature writing. Snyder has been teaching at UC-Davis since 1985. His Pulitzer-winning Turtle Island (1974) runs $8 paperback, while his extraordinary collection of essays, The Practice of the Wild, will cost around $12 paperback, as will his monumental book-length poem Mountains and Rivers Without End.
Henry David Thoreau
Okay, he s not known as a poet, but this is a no-brainer. Right, Geo? Walden will cost you anywhere from $2-11 in paperback, and $7-25 in hardback. The Maine Woods, Thoreau s other best-known book, can be bought separately, or in a combined volume with Walden and other writings. A lesser-known but worthwhile publication is Faith in a Seed, available in hardcover from Island Press for $30. This volume contains Thoreau s scientific treatise, Dispersion of Seeds, along with fragments of other late manuscripts. For hardcore Thoreau readers, HD s journals are available in hardback for $65-75 per volume from Princeton Press.
Though I haven t read it, I was intrigued to find The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture, by Lawrence Buell on the Barnes and Noble web site for $18. It sounds like an interesting read. Another critical work worth checking out is the volume on Thoreau from the Modern Critical Views Series, edited by renowned literary critic Harold Bloom. It will cost you about $35 in hardcover. If the original Thoreau s books are too steep for your price range, the wit and wisdom of Geo Kloppel, the David Cup's very own Thoreau, is available at no charge via his many posts to Cayugabirds!
Bird-writing On the Web
Check out some decent bird poems from the Black Hills Audubon Society at:
Happy holidays, everyone!
The Cup Talks to Bill
The dim lights shine golden through their pint glasses of Hefe-Weisen, the slivers of lemon like yellow crescent moons in a frothy sea, as Evans and Fambrough stroll down the hall from Cup headquarters into the recently finish Kloppel Library.
The Cup: [Fambrough pauses in front of a monstrous file cabinet] and this is where we have meticulously cross-referenced all of Geo s posts. And here [two velvet armchairs and a samovar centered on the oriental rugs] we shall relax and do the interview. Have a seat, please.
Evans: What s in that locked box in the corner?
The Cup: A list of names, people black-listed by the list czar. Even I don t know who s on the list.
Evans: And the dusty shoe box by the file cabinet? I hate to ask.
The Cup: Rosenberg s posts. I ll give you a tour after the interview. So, Bill, here you are with a few weeks left and an apparent lead in the McIlroy. Must be feeling pretty excited. How do you feel?
Evans: You know, it was really interesting to observe the transition in my outlook on the competition. Being in the lead, or in contention for the lead, has its own energy that starts to grow in you. What was one day the image gentlemanly participation, the next day became that of a raptor swooping under, rolling over, and degutting prey (Allison and Kevin) on the fly.
Fambrough: Cool image. You know you re kind of the story of the year. Of course, Geo stands a chance of breaking the basin record, which, if he does, will be the story of the year. But no one has been able to touch him. McIlroy is another matter entirely. You re sort of the come-from-behind kid.
Evans: Ben, all I know is that I was just going along having a normal year. After missing spring migration as usual, I never really considered being in the running. Up until mid-July my list consisted of everything I d seen on the Xmas Count and the June Count. I enjoy getting out on the jetty for fall migrants though and in August I start paying attention to birds I ve missed in McIlroy really just going through the motions to be a part of the fun. I keep a stealth McIlroy Life list that I work on each year. Even though Allison has been pummeling me in the yearly McIlroy list my ego compensates for this by pummeling her (at least in my mind) in the grander competition of the McIlroy Life list. It s analogous to the powerful feeling a kid gets squashing ants.
The Cup: Ha! Allison the ant?
Evans: By a twist of fate and a good fall on the jetty, I found myself in the lead when the November totals came out. Once you start to take it seriously; it becomes a temporary component of your ego. Your allocation of attention begins to shift. You mold your moments around possibility and the idle cracks in your day take on a new life. For example, time waiting for the traffic light to turn green becomes an opportunity. Still in need of Cooper s Hawk for the year, I now look at a red stoplight as a gift, something that I am fortunate to experience, but cruising through town on rte. 13 on all greens is bad luck. Similarly, doing laundry at Pete s down near the Octopus - you have your 30 minutes on the wash cycle to get over to Allen Treman to scan the jetty and Hog Hole. If you don t finish covering the area you still have the 40 minutes of your dry cycle to clean up. When I used to compete in the David Cup, I pulled the same routine at the seedy Laundromat in Varna. In that case you buzz up to Mt. Pleasant for a stretch of hawkwatching. The problem may come if you get distracted and forget about your laundry. I lost a load of underwear and T-shirts duirng one shift at the hawkwatch. Someone stole it right out of the wash cycle!
The Cup: Now how does that work into the karma scheme? When did you notice that you stood a chance?
Evans: Back in August I was still below 100 and began to think I might be able to pull off a gambit of sorts. I noticed that there wasn t any really pace in the McIlroy competition this year. It seemed Butler s strong start had arrested any efforts from others in the field. So, even missing spring migration I might be able to catch up to the pack and out kick everyone down the stretch. I thought a few countermeasures against Allison wouldn t hurt though and you ll notice that it was in August that she started to slip off the pace. Coincidentally that is when I strategically gave her the Best of Barry Manilow 10 CD set. I heard from Jeff later that he caught her trying to play one of the CDs backwards - you know, like the Beatles White Album thing.
The Cup: Ah, subtle tricks of the trade! I ll have to remember that angle. But throwing rocks and shouting still works. At least it did for the euro-widget. So, with Allison busy at the CD player, you were ready to out tick the rest?
Evans: With Allison out of the picture, the competition in the McIlroy appeared to deflate even more. When the Cup totals were posted on Sept 21 (see below), McGowan looked around and probably figured he had it in the bag. Butler had a ten bird lead but was now helplessly out of the Basin. Son Jay (A.K.A. Agent Orange) was ten birds back and dependent on Dad for travel. Also, with school having started, there was no chance that Agent Orange would be able to mount a clandestine assault from the homestead while Dad was at work during the day. Williams and Rosenberg were 12 birds back, but McGowan knew Williams was struggling with the semester and if anything would focus on the David Cup action. Rosenberg, working on another strong year in the Dryden competition, would not likely divert attention to the McIlroy.
The Cup: That s right. Ya know, it takes some time discerning and identifying those blurs on the horizon that Ken calls yard/Dryden flyovers. So you were positioned to make the push past Kevin in October?
Evans: I put in a pretty good effort in October with numerous jetty trips, and when the Cup Editor s computer died, the October Cup was delayed until November 17th [Fambrough groans and bows his head]. This was a fortuitous break for me. You can see below that I jumped to the lead with 156 and McGowan didn t even see me pass him. Realizing I had too much momentum to catch him, McGowan s will faded. The Evans gambit had apparently worked.
153 Chris Butler
145 Kevin McGowan
134 Jay McGowan
132 Ken Rosenberg
132 Matt Williams
122 Allison Wells
110 Jim Lowe
110 Jeff Wells
99 Bill Evans
156 Bill Evans (129)
154 Kevin McGowan (150)
153 Chris Butler
144 Jay McGowan (141)
143 Matt Williams (140)
140 Allison Wells (130)
138 Ken Rosenberg (133)
117 Jim Lowe (113)
110 Jeff Wells
The Cup: You are clearly in the midst of the greatest comeback in the McIlory of all time. But you know, in spite of your dedication to the jetty and Hog s Hole, I have to think that your knowledge of flight note calls has to be key. I mean, with as much as you re out of the basin, it must a terrific advantage to be able to visit the IC parking lot and tick off Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blues and Bobolinks for McIlroy during a good north wind one fall night.
Evans: Well besides the Buff-breasted Sandpiper I picked off at the IC parking lot one night, I tallied no night flight call species. Actually, this whole night flight call thing is a scam I used to use to pick up chicks. Now it has become an excuse to travel the country to build my life list.
The Cup: Ah! Medler, Williams, are you getting this? Learn from the master. I heard you were out west. Would you mind telling our readers a little about you trip out west? You told me you got three lifers.
Evans: Tropical Kingbird in south Texas, Northern Pygmy Owl in New Mexico, Smith s Longspur in Oklahoma, and Great Gray Owl in Minnesota. People are surprised about the Great Gray considering I grew up in Minnesota. But I grew up in the farm belt in southern Minnesota, and Great Grays are as rare there as they are in Ithaca. I could have easily chased an RBA report but the species had a mystique for me and I always wanted to find my own bird. Found three different individuals on my trip as Minnesota is in the midst of an invasion year.
The Cup: What do you know about the bead makers in Taos?
Evans: It s one of the spiritual vortex towns where Our Lady of Guadalupe rules. She was apparently this spiritual incarnation that unified the Nativos and Spaniards a long way back. Anyway, there is this great cultural diversity there that brings together ancient lines of bead work from many traditions. I have a friend who is apprenticing there.
The Cup: I think we re still in awe of your Sabine s gull prediction. Too bad you didn t find it yourself, but you must have felt mighty rewarded.
Evans: I have to admit that whole incident got overblown. A friend from Minnesota called to tell me they had a flock of 26 Sabines near Duluth a modern day record high number for the state. Above average reports had been noted on RBAs from other states around the Great Lakes. Any nerd who checks the listservs and RBAs could have made a Sabines prediction for the Basin this past fall. Thanks to Meena and Chris, a lot of us were lucky to see one. I wonder how many actually came through though?
The Cup: What birds can you still expect to tick for McIlroy?
Evans: At this point I still need Great Horned and Barred owl; Iceland Gull and Glaucous gull are also possibilities. Then, of course, there are the annual nemesis trio of Ruffed Grouse, Ringed-necked Pheasant, and Turkey. Being out of town in November, I missed Oldsquaw and Horned Grebe, but those are still a remote possibility.
The Cup: You also missed a riveting discussing of bird names on cayugabirds, you lucky guy. When will your flight note audio project be released?
Evans: Hope to have something out in March. By the way, I was just kidding about ticking off Buff-breasted at IC. I was up there with Sarver and Williams in late August listening to a pretty good flight when we heard a shorebird vocalized. It sounded sort of like a Pectoral but I don t think that s what it was.
The Cup: So you didn t tick Buff-breasted. When the recount is underway there won t be a dimpled chad by that species name? Where, besides Hog s Hole and the Jetty/Jetty woods, would you say are the key places for ticking McIlroy birds?
Evans: Well, seeing how while birding those areas last week, I missed the Laughing Gull, Stewart Park has to be mentioned. For some reason I don t bird there much. I foolishly think I can cover Stewart Park from the Jetty. The Plantations, of course, is one of the most reliable spots for migrants. There always seems to be a small flock of warblers there even on the slowest of days.
The Cup: Well, Bill, we really appreciate your time. Good luck to you! Your confidence level seems high for taking the McIlroy.
Evans: I never count my eggs until they re hatched Ben. The Alison may still have a trick up her sleeve, and ever since McGowan broke his White-winged Scoter jinx back in the mid-1990s he s been one of the most consistent producers of rarities in the basin. If I do win though you can bet there will be a mighty celebration at the Cupper Supper. Ithaca journal reporters, reading the writing on the wall, have already started working on the story. One headline they are considering for January 1st is: "SHE-BEAST TOPPLED IN MCILROY!"
On the Move in December
By Matt Young
The owl winter has materialized as hoped for back in October. Owls continue to be the story from the upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the northeast. Early sightings have broken records in Minnesota. Here are the Minnesota totals as of Nov. 30th:
"The number of GREAT GRAY OWLS reported so far this season in NE Minn. now stands at 42. Since last week's Birding Report, at least 19 individuals were seen, of which 13 had not been reported previously."
"The NORTHERN HAWK OWL total for the season is now 23 individuals, with 14 reported since last week's Birding Report."
"The only new report of BOREAL OWLS was of 5 additional individuals banded in Duluth late last week, which brings the season total to 34 reported individuals. Oddly enough, however, there were no new SNOWY OWLS reported this week, so that the season total remains at 13, although it is assumed there is at least one still present in the Duluth-Superior harbor area."
Quite the report, it almost makes me want to live there...Maybe someday! Anyway, Owls are making a move towards the northeast as well. In the northeast, SNOWY OWLS have stolen the show. Here in the Cayuga Lake Basin (or Chickadee basin depending who you're talking to) there have been at least 3 different birds, and possibly upwards to 5 different individuals, all found at the north end. The reports have come from the Mucklands and the edge of the ice at the north end of the lake. SNOWY OWLS have also been reported from across the east, from Maine to Virginia, with many sightings in each state. As for the other owls, reports have been few, but there are signs that better times could be coming. In northern New Hampshire (Whitefield Airport) two, possibly three, different NORTHERN HAWK OWLS have been reported in the same area. In this same area a GRAY PHASE GYRFACLON AND A SNOWY OWL have been seen as well.. What's so special about this place? Oh, well!! NORTHERN HAWK OWLS HAVE been also reported in Ontario not far from NY. Speaking of Ontario reports, yesterday, the 16 of December, the closest GREAT GRAY OWL was reported in Ottawa. It appears that BOREAL OWL reports have died down for now. There were a couple of birds reported in southern Maine and a one-day wonder bird in Boston in late October. This isn't too surprising considering their extremely shy and retiring nature. You never know though, it could still happen. And let s not forget about SHORT-EARED OWLS. In the basin SHORT-EARED OWLS can be seen in the Mucklands, at Rafferty Road and probably the Seneca Falls Airport. So look forward to January and February reports from nearer home. The best areas for these rare owls are probably the St. Lawrence and Champlain Valley's. I know Matt Victoria's looking for some company on such a trip.
Just a quick note about other irruptive raptors: ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS appear to be scattered evenly across NY. Not the numbers that were seen last year, but they are around. Moreover, GYRFALCONS have been reported in NJ, NH, Penn. and Mass. The one at Plum Island Mass. has been reliably seen for nearly a month now.
On to my beloved finches. Well, my sources continue to tell me there are good numbers in the Adirondacks of RED CROSSBILLS, WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, PINE SISKINS, PURPLE FINCHES and AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES. So I advise all to try to do a north country CBC this winter. Here, closer to home, it has been quiet. In wilder areas PURPLE FINCHES continue to be seen from places like Summerhill, NY. AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES and lone PINE SISKINS have also been reported in wilder areas during the month of December in the basin. It's starting to look like COMMON REDPOLLS will have a NY flight this year. In the past two weeks there have been at least 5 separate reports of small flocks of 20-30 REDPOLLS from across northern and central NY. My sources have also informed me that a few EVENING GROSBEAKS have been seen recently up in northern NY. The winter finch distribution throughout the northeast is similar to what it is NY. Across the northeast finches seem to be staying in wilder areas to feed on the abundant natural food crop. Overall we have a good finch flight across the northeast. Only thing is you might have to snow shoe to find them.
Two other species that show irruptive tendencies are the BOHEMIAN WAXWING and NORTHERN SHRIKE. So far this season NORTHERN SHRIKES have been much harder to find compared to last. This seems to be the general trend across the northeast and the entire lower 48 states. Last year was a record flight year for Northern Shrikes. As for BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, flocks have been widely scattered across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont where they are now found annually. This year in NY there have been reports of pairs from Saranac Lake, Buffalo and Albany.
In the mid-section of the country Owls and Finches have been moderately reported throughout. Other irruptive types such as TOWNSEND SOLITAIRES and VARIED THRUSHES have been reported in the upper Midwest as well. Out west the finch, jay and chickadee flight continues. As stated before in past columns, CASSIN'S FINCHES, ROSY FINCHES, EVENING GROSBEAKS, STELLAR'S JAYS and MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES have really irrupted "in a big way baby."
So, as you can tell, the east is experiencing a significant flight of owls, and the west, a significant flight of finches and other irruptive passerines. At least we have something to keep us busy here in the northeast unlike two winters ago when owls and finches were almost completely absent from the entire region.
Good luck, do a Christmas bird count or two, and enjoy the birds and the Holiday Season.
Next New Basin Birds, Part Five
By Matt Medler
"The Next New Basin Birds" is an idea taken directly from a series of articles in Birding called "The Next New ABA Birds," in which regional experts have been predicting what species they feel will be the next new birds added to the ABA list. In July, I assembled my own panel of experts to prognosticate on what new species we might add to the Cayuga Lake Basin Checklist in the coming years. Once I received all lists, I assigned point values to each pick, with a top pick (most likely) receiving 10 points, and a 10th place pick receiving one point. Thus, the maximum score that a bird can receive is 80 points. To date, the following eight species of birds have been profiled in The Cup:
10. Boreal Owl
9. Pacific Loon
8. Pomarine Jaeger
7. California Gull
6. Eurasian Collared-Dove
5. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
4. Mississippi Kite
3. Cave Swallow
We continue now with the two top vote-getters, the final birds of the series.
Great Cormorant (6 votes, 47 points)
This species breeds in North America from the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Qu bec south to Maine, and can be found wintering regularly from its breeding range in Canada south along the Atlantic coast to South Carolina (AOU 1998). It can also be found breeding across much of Eurasia, where it is known simply as Cormorant, as well as New Guinea, New Zealand, and Australia (AOU 1998). Interestingly, in the New World Great Cormorants are found along coastal waters, nesting mainly on cliffs, whereas in the Old World, they nest in trees along lakes and rivers (AOU 1998).
Until recently, Great Cormorant was considered strictly a coastal species in New York State (Bull 1974). It was not until 1969, when an adult was illegally shot (sound familiar, cormorant fans?) on the Hudson River that there was a satisfactory record away from the coast (Bull 1974). The first inland record away from the Hudson came four years later, when an adult bird was found at Oswego Harbor in May 1973 (Levine 1998). For at least the past four years, Great Cormorant has become annual at Oswego Harbor during the winter (Bill Purcell, pers. com.). Gerard Phillips, one of the premier birders in New York State, found an adult Great Cormorant at the harbor on November 13, 1997, and the bird stayed until some time in January 1998; two birds, an adult and an immature, were seen from November 1998 through March 1999; during the winter of 1999-2000, an adult was first seen in late November and was later joined in January by an immature bird; and finally, this winter, an adult bird was first observed on November 16 (Bill Purcell, pers. com.). Earlier this year, on May 20, Gerard Phillips also picked an adult Great Cormorant in breeding plumage out of a flock of Double-crested Cormorants passing Derby Hill (Bill Purcell, pers. com.).
With so many recent records of Great Cormorant so tantalizingly close to the north end of Cayuga Lake, most of the members of my panel could not resist putting this species near the top of their lists. Tom Nix summed up the feeling on Great Cormorant perfectly: "I just keep thinking about how close Oswego Harbor is to here, and how we see so many Double-cresteds coming through." As the cormorant flies, Oswego looks to be no more than 40 miles from the north end of Cayuga Lake, or about 80 miles from the Ithaca Lighthouse Jetty, which is my personal choice for the first sighting of this species in the Basin. Double-crested Cormorants become quite scarce on Cayuga Lake by late fall, so if you see any cormorant on the lake during the winter months, be sure to check it out carefully and not pass it off as "just a cormorant." Your diligence could pay off with a Great reward.
***A special thanks to Bill Purcell for his quick and thorough response to my request for recent Great Cormorant sightings at Oswego Harbor.
And finally, the number one pick for the title of "Next New Basin Bird"
Tufted Duck (7 votes, 64 points)
Interestingly, this landslide choice as the bird most likely to be the next addition to the Cayuga Lake Basin checklist is the only member of the Top 10 that does not breed in North America. Tufted Ducks breed from Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, and Scandinavia eastward across Europe and Asia to Sakhalin Island, and south to central Europe, Syria, northern Mongolia, and Japan (AOU 1998). The species winters from Iceland, the British Isles, southern Scandinavia, and Japan south to northern Africa, Arabia, India, the Malay peninsula, eastern China, and the Philippines (AOU 1988).
As is the case with any species of "out of place" waterfowl, early reports of Tufted Duck in North America were met with some skepticism, since this species is popular with many waterfowl collectors. In Birds of New York State, Bull wrote, " it is virtually impossible to be certain whether New York State occurrences of this species are genuine wild birds that wandered from Europe or escapes from confinement" (Bull 1974). The earliest state record that Bull appears to accept is one from Sputen Duyvil during the winter of 1955-1956, and he mentions a number of other records during the 1960s from the same area in or near northern Bronx County (Bull 1974). The first upstate record of Tufted Duck came from Oswego County, in April 1971. Since that time, there have been upstate records from Saratoga County (Nov-Dec 1991), Jefferson County (April 1995), and Monroe County (December 1995) (Levine 1998). As a pattern of sightings from late fall to early spring has developed over the past forty years or so, it has become obvious that the timing of these sightings coincides strongly with the pattern of movement found in Tufted Ducks in the Old World (Toochin 1998). This, of course, supports the hope/belief of birdwatchers that many of the sightings of Tufted Duck in North America are of natural vagrants.
With multiple records of Tufted Duck from the shores of Lake Ontario, combined with the fact that the species is now seen annually along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts to New Jersey, this bird seems like at least a likely possibility to show up in the Cayuga Lake Basin. But, some of you might be wondering why it was such an overwhelming choice as the top pick for "Next New Basin Bird." After all, it received votes from seven of our eight panelists (Tom Nix, what were you thinking?) and tallied 64 of a possible 80 points. When Tufted Duck is seen in North America, it is usually in the company of other members of its genus (Aythya), especially Greater and Lesser Scaup. Over the past few years, the south end of Cayuga Lake has hosted enormous numbers of wintering Aythya ducks- Redhead, Canvasback, both scaup, and to a lesser extent, Ring-necked Ducks. Often visible from the Hog Hole area, this huge raft of divers has been estimated by some (such as Matt Young) to have upwards of 5,000 individuals! Mr. Young describes this bird as "overdue," and Bill Evans goes a step further, saying that Tufted Duck "likely has been here but no one really digs for it." Oh, we've dug for it, Bill, but we just haven't found it yet. As this series comes to a close, I'll leave you with this final thought- "There must be a Tufted Duck in there!"
Toochin, Mike. Possible Anywhere: Tufted Duck. Birding, Vol. XXX, No. 5, 370-383.
Finally, here is the list of species that did not make the Top 10 list profiled in The Cup, but which did receive one or more votes (listed in order of highest to lowest point total):
Great Gray Owl
By Matt Williams
With the onset of November, the basin's winter birds became significantly more abundant. Good sized flocks of Tree Sparrows, Juncos and Snow Buntings were reported and when that happens, it' a safe bet that birding trips will require substantially more clothing for the next few months.
Northern Shrikes, while somewhat less common this year, were reported in Dryden from Neimi Rd. (11/3), Livermore Extension (11/6), and Etna Rd. 11/26. Also in Dryden, a flock of 30 American Pipits was reported from Mt. Pleasant on 11/3. Summerhill didn't produce any Shikes this month, but on the 3rd a Northern Goshawk was seen and then next day (11/4), a Golden Eagle was seen soaring over. Other fairly common birds at Summerhill this month included Purple Finch, Common Raven and Red-breasted Nuthatch. 2 Rough-Legged Hawks were also seen here on the 4th and many others soon returned to their usual winter basin haunts.
Brant were unusually common this fall and for those who missed the ones at Stewart Park, some remained at Myers Point, at least until the 8th when 7 were reported. There was also one Brant at Dryden Lake on the 5th, associating with Black Ducks. Myers also started to gather some winter waterfowl with 2 Pied-billed Grebes and 2 Lesser Scaup reported on the 6th. Myers also saw the last of the shorebird migration this year with 2 Black-bellied Plovers on the 11th. The next day (11/12), there were 2 male White-winged Scoters seen in a flock of Bufflehead, off the point.
Apparently this was a good month for Raptors. There was a Peregrine Falcon at Montezuma on the 12th.This gave November all three of (what I consider to be) this year's toughest David Cup raptors.
November is Loon watch time and the Taughannock count took place this year. I don't have the totals but they are probably on a bulletin board at the lab. On the 15th, Dryden had its own 1-day Evans Cup/Yard List Loon Watch and Ken Rosenberg Counted 810 Loons, 2 of which were conveniently Red-throated. Another good yard bird was Ben Fambrough's Pine Siskin on the 17th in West Danby.
And finally after being teased with Snowies on Lake Ontario, Gerard Phillips found the year bird for the basin in the Savannah Mucklands on the 17th. Oddly, a Snowy was reported from Summerhill on the same day. And all of this while our editor was warm at home doing a little feederwatching.
On the 18th, there was an Eastern Meadowlark, just across the street from the new Long Point Winery. The Snowy was seen again in the Mucklands and there was suggestion that there may have been 2, judging by the various sightings. 2 Short-eared Owls were seen at Rafferty Rd. on the 18th an one was seen on the 24th.
There was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the McGowan's Dryden Feeder on the 19th. Meena was unsuccessfully chasing the Snowy at this time and had an imm. Golden Eagle soaring past East Road, above the muck. That same evening, Gerard Phillips pulled out 3 Ross's Geese from flocks of Snow Geese in the Mucklands. The birding commotion in the Mucks turned up 3 Short-eared Owls and a Northern Shrike on the 27th. Another Golden Eagle was seen over the Visitors Center on the 27th as well. On the 29th another Ross's Goose was seen and 2, but probably 3 Snowys were present in the Mucklands. Also, a flyover Lapland Longspur and a Short-eared Owl.
Back in (almost) downtown Ithaca, a Chipping Sparrow was seen at a feeder after the first substantial snowfall on the 30th. Also on the 30th, the calurus race, rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk was seen at the Game Farm for the 5th year in a row. This area should be "thick" with Red-tails throughout the winter months ahead.
November 2000 David Cup Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
"...churning and burning they yearn for The Cup..." (Cake)
250 Geo Kloppel
244 Ben Fambrough
238 Tom Nix
238 Chris Tessaglia-Hymes
235 Matt Williams
232 Kevin McGowan
231 Meena Haribal
231 Jay McGowan
230 Matt Young
230 Matt Medler
227 Ken Rosenberg
219 Bruce Robertson
210 Chris Butler
210 Bard Prentiss
207 Allison Wells
195 Jeff Wells
182 Melanie Uhlir
177 Catherine Sandell
167 Nancy Dickinson
167 Anne Kendall
165 John Fitzpatrick
151 Marty Schlabach
129 Jim Lowe
130 Tringa the Dog
122 Jon Kloppel
108* Niall Hatch
87 Perri McGowan
86 Swift the Cat
* = One-day total
November 2000 McIlroy Award Totals
160 Bill Evans
154 Kevin McGowan
153 Chris Butler
145 Matt Williams
144 Jay McGowan
133 Ken Rosenberg
130 Allison Wells
117 Jim Lowe
110 Jeff Wells
November 2000 Evans Trophy Totals
197 Ken Rosenberg
181 Bard Prentiss
176 Kevin McGowan
174 Jay McGowan
140 Ken Rosenberg
130 John Fitzpatrick
126 McGowan/Kline Family
108 Geo Kloppel and Pat Lia
99 Nancy Dickinson
68 Tom Fredericks and family
68 Jeff and Allison Wells
66 Melanie Uhlir
40 Melanie Uhlir
26 Allison Wells
164 Matt Williams
146 Kevin McGowan
Now that I've got an obligtory sighting out of the way, let me suggest that we can discuss shrikes Saturday night. In fact, I'd like to invite anyone to come and talk birds between sets when my band plays The Nines in Collegetown in Ithaca this Saturday night, November 4th 10:00 untill 1:00am.
-Ben Fambrough, who hopes the list czar will not throw bagels at him Saturday night.
The highlight of the day by far was a long, crippling close look (20) of an ADULT NORTHERN GOSHAWK about halfway between Lick St. and Salt Rd on the seasonal use Rd.(Hoag Rd). What a great looking raptor!!!!
Low and behold, it was a lumbering ADULT GOLDEN EAGLE desperately trying to gain altitude to continue its' trip south. Over the next 15 minutes we watched the GOLDEN EAGLE AT a very accommodating distance and height as it tried to read the right updraft that would provide the needed boost. Over this time it was continually being harassed by a RAVEN AND a NORTHERN HARRIER. Finally, the bird gained the right kick in the butt, bowed, tucked, and off it flew at very reasonably height directly over our heads and to the South. What an enormous bird!!!!!
-Matt Young !!!!!
I suspect that getting up before 9:00 would have been a good idea if I wanted to see more, but, well, I love my sleep.
I got myself out of bed early this morning and made the 2 hour trek to MNWR to be there at 8:00 this morning. What fun! I usually bird alone, so it's nice to get out with people who like birds! Most of my friends think I'm nutty.
The ruling admits no challenge. Your forbearance has been an unmerited gift, and by your continued grace I will endeavor to renew a depleted resolve to muffle the offending view.
-Geo Kloppel [Editor s Note: This sad post was Geo s last on cayugabirds, with the recent exception of his call as Area 6 leader for CBC counters and a November 20th confirmation of the Muckland Ross s Geese. I for one sincerely hope his resolve weakens. After all, what would Cup Quotes be without his extraordinary verbal skill?]
Knowing it was a loon day, I was not surprised to see the flotilla winging south over my house at 8 am. Between 8 and 8:45, though, I counted 810 LOONS - by far my highest count away from Cayuga Lake. They were on a trajectory that differed from past flights I have seen there -- coming more out of the due-north-to northeast, rather than the northwest flight that loons (and also many gulls) take in an obvious path from Cayuga Lake. The flight was quite compressed, with several groups of 100+ birds passing together and merely a trickle of singles and small groups after 8:30.
I picked out 2 clear RED-THROATED LOONS (obviously smaller and quicker wingbeats than their companions) and several other smallish-looking possibles.
I speculate that these birds may have originated a bit further east than our traditional Loon-Watch flight, perhaps heading down Owasco Lake and then down the Dryden Valley towards Whitney Point Reservoir, etc.
While checking my e-mail this morning (Sunday, 19Nov00) (Hooray! The Cup is here!), I glanced out at the feeders and saw a male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER in the feeder trees. He approached the suet where the Downy had been feeding, but declined to try it. Instead he pecked at the trunk of the tree a couple of times, then grabbed a large red rose-hip from the rose intertwined with the tree, and flew off. It was just a hair too fast to get a photo.
As I was driving on east road, I found a Red-tailed hawk getting flushed by a large bird. It was an eagle, though actually it was not do anything to red-tail, but it was flying low over golden rod field and slowly circling to rise in the air. Initially I did not care much for it thinking it is an immature Bald Eagle. But as it came closer to me I could see dihedral in its wing. That gave me a shock and I pulled my car to stop. I got out with binoculars. By that time it was about 300 yards away from me. I could clearly see its white mirror patches on the wings and white and black tail. It kept slowly closing on me and circling as it moved. It had pale Yellowish head (more of Steppe Eagle's head). My mental picture went back to my first immature Golden Eagle I had seen sitting on a tree in the middle of a rocky river bed in Madhmeshwar, with a pale yellowish head. As it took to flight we had watched its white wing spots and tail band. I knew my current bird is also an imm. Golden Eagle. Then it struck to me what earlier from Muckland I had watched was indeed this eagle. It quite leisurely circled in front of me several times. Slowly it started gaining height. I watched it till it became a speck in my binocular view, as I was watching this there came another bird almost at the same height but was easily gliding without a wing beat. Suddenly my interest turned this bird, so I followed it for some time but soon it became invisible. I tried to relocate my Golden Eagle again, but it was already invisible. It seems at that height there was right thermal and bird must have sailed over towards Ithaca. I was wondering where this bird would have been when it reached Ithaca latitude. Was it possible to see this bird from Mt Pleasant? It was so very high, may be even it passed right over my head, I may not have been able to spot it. Well, I thought this was worth Five Snowy Owls.
Editor in Chief and Food and Beverage Director: Ben Fambrough
Senior and Contributing Editor: Matt Medler
Highlights Editor: Matt Williams
Literary Critic: Matt Sarver
Big Picture Columnist: Matt Young
Editor Emeritus: Allison Wells