Year 6 Issue 1
"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. Here we go folks. What excites you most about rolling into the New Year? Holiday festivities? Visits from family members? New socks and sweaters? If you're anything like me, none of the above engenders such sharp focus and animated activity as (trumpet fanfare) the blank checklist, the unmolested sheet of possibilities waiting for those very first and dear ticks. You've tallied your 2000 checklist and retired it. Wiping the slate clean, starting fresh and eager gives each species renewed value. The thrill of the hunt gets us out watching so many birds, both common and rare. It's a good time to get excited about finding a Song Sparrow. Furthermore, we're on a level playing field again. Anyone can get out and fight the good fight for January without the burden of catching up to others. I can think of no better way to begin the New Year than the Ithaca Circle's Christmas Bird Count. Not only does it allow one to start the year with a bang; it provides an excellent list of target birds. Chances are that if it made the Christmas Count list, you can turn up the bird. So far this year it seems like lots of people are out and about, some new names and surprisingly (and delightfully) some veterans we don't hear from very regularly. If one sets one's mind to it, hitting 80 for January isn't that much of a stretch. Posting 90 may be somewhat more difficult, but not at all out of the question. The question is whether anyone can hit 100, a barrier yet to be broken. Without the winter finches, it's a near impossibility. However, as we know so well in the world of birding, there are no limits to what might happen. The darn things got wings! And they move! Just think: you, too, can see Lapland Longspurs, Snowy Owls, an Eared Grebe, Barrow's Goldeneye, Iceland or Glaucous Gull and who knows what else. I look forward to the January totals. They should reveal some interesting play for the early lead. Will Nix top the list as he usually does? Will newcomers invert the normal hierarchy? We'll just have to wait and see. In the mean time, I strongly recommend you make your move now! And, more importantly, have a blast!
CUPPER QUIZ AND SURVEY RESULTS
Which birds from the Basin list reverse their genera and species names to name each other? Pete Hosner was one of many respondents with the correct answer: Eastern Screech-Owl Otus asio and Long-eared Owl Asio otus. For having his correct answer selected at random from all the correct answers we received, Pete will be awarded the first, limited edition recording by LNS recording artist Matthew Medler, a delightful collection of House Sparrow call notes from the Wegman's parking lot, seventy minutes in all of the charming and soothing notes from these Basin beauties. Send me a check for twenty bucks, Pete, and the CD is on the way.
Your votes count! Or not! HA! This year's results resemble that of the national election for Pres. of the USA. The results were excruciatingly close. Moreover, it seems that everyone used a different ballot form, most of which were incomplete. However, I have simplified the recount process tremendously by acting not only as the local Election Board, but also as the Attorney General and Electoral College. I myself cast the deciding vote in more than one category! I didn't go so far as holding ballots up to the light. I mean, what is the point of such inflated pretense?
BIRD OF THE YEAR: Sabine's Gull wins by a decent margin. However, one bird deserves honorable mention having received several votes: Western Meadlowlark. As Tom Nix writes: Although Thayer's Gull and Sabine's Gull are probably the least often observed of this year's Basin birds, and thus each might be considered Bird of the Year, they are after all, only gulls. The Western Meadowlark was rare, an identification challenge, attractive both visually and aurally, long-staying, and best of all, was discovered through a feat of exceptional birding skill. It gets my vote.
BIRDER OF THE YEAR: Geo Kloppel wins with as great a margin as he did the David Cup. Good going Geo.
THOREAU AWARD: Geo wins again followed closely by surprise candidate Matt Young! Apparently there is more than one way to skin a cat. Several folks have been delighted with his off-the-cuff, enthusiastic style. To quote Mr. Young, "!!!!!!!!!!!" ROSENBERG AWARD for slow (late) posts to Cayugabirds: Ken, lots of us are still waiting for you to post the jaeger. You won by only a small margin over John "remind me what Cayugabirds is again" Fitzpatrick.
QUICKDRAW: Fambrough wins! Ah, the beauty of power. Tough luck, Hymes. Although perhaps the award should go to Meena who received multiple votes in multiple categories including Birder of the Year. Quoting Nix again: Meena posts sightings from her office as they happen - can't get much faster than that!
BIG FIZZ: Nearly unanimous: Ms. Wells, have you anything to say for yourself?
BEST-DRESSED CUPPER: One of our new categories. The results show that there are several well-dressed Cuppers (at least we are all within a similar standard). Votes came in for many folks. The winner is Jim Lowe! Why? Because as the voter writes: Jim Lowe never lets a coat cramp his style.
BIRD EVANGELIST: Now don't go getting all up in arms. After all, it's not as though we're electing the president or anything. It's true: many votes came in for Chris Hymes. McGowan got at least one. But the winner is (more trumpet fanfare, really loud this time) The Cup editors for providing month after month of good sound birding advice, letting you know what's been seen, what to look for and where to look, as well as providing many articles about our virtuous sport. Hooray for us! MOST LIKELY TO WIN THE 2001 DAVID CUP: Newcomer Bob Fogg wins. (Who is this guy?!) The pressure is on, Bob.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN THE 2001 MCILROY TROPHY: Guru Bill Evans wins by a nose over McGowan, although Evans himself thinks Meena is the one to watch.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN THE 2001 EVANS TROPHY: the only category sweep goes to none other than Ken Rosenberg. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
NEWS YOU CAN USE (OR NOT)
Are you hungry for the Cupper Supper? We are too. However, true to the purity of Cupper form and organization, there's a slight snag in the planning process. Our announcements are on hold. We promise a Shot Glass of information as soon as the details are certain.
THE CUP TALKS TO THE 2000 DAVID CUP CHAMPION GEO KLOPPEL
THE CUP: Geo you had a fantastic year. You came very close to the record of 254. What was your total again? Around 249 or so? KLOPPEL: Rumors that I had abandoned the chase before the year properly ended were scarcely exaggerated. My hobo grandfather taught me always to leave a little of my dinner uneaten, as seed for the next meal. But I did rouse briefly for a trip to Stewart Park to see Steve's Laughing Gull, which terminated my year-list at 251.
THE CUP: That's right. Not too bad for an old long hair such as yourself.
KLOPPEL: It was a freakin' trip, man.
THE CUP: So far this year you've been pretty quiet. Is this the Wells strategy of secret birding and hiding totals designed to look like a grand comeback when you reveal your totals and activities?
KLOPPEL: Not that, exactly. If my personal enjoyment was the only consideration, I could play the DC game for years on end. But the looming threat of global climate change, mounting pressures to drill for new oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a tanker spill in the Galapagos, rolling blackouts in California, and the inauguration of a well-oiled Republican as president have conspired to convince me that this would not be a good year in which to repeat the 10,000 birding miles I drove in the year 2000. I know, for some folks 10K is no big deal, and I wouldn't presume to prescribe a cut-back for anyone besides myself, but it's the right thing for me. I'll still find myself driving a few thousand birding miles, no doubt, but more of the total will be for direct conservation purposes like the Atlas effort.
THE CUP: A grand sacrifice indeed. I admire you and Evans for your personal political action. At least none of us are tooling around in V-8s.What bird do you consider your greatest find of 2000?
KLOPPEL: Mostly I chased other people's birds. Some of them were pretty cool birds, but I was on the lookout for them, so there was little shock of discovery. In my own mind, my best find was the completely unexpected Whimbrel at Myers Point. I was so anxious to prevent it from flying away before other observers arrived, that it was hard to take my eyes off it. I even overlooked the Forster's and Common Terns out on the buoys. Thanks to Curtis Marantz, I did see them eventually, but the event shows up my oblivious nature. I'm a dreamer, and it requires a continuous effort to project my awareness out into the field. If it hadn't been for the whole DC crew constantly pointing out birds, I wouldn't have much to show for the year. THE CUP: Yes, but that's true for all of us. As you point out, acting collectively we generate the fabulous totals. Which birds, if any, were lifers?
KLOPPEL: For sure I had lifers, including Barrow's Goldeneye (remember I persistently refused the bird at Geneva because I was saving my first Barrow's for the Cayuga Basin), Little Gull, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Sandhill Crane (recent DC activities excepted, I have traveled very little for the purpose of acquiring birds), Sedge Wren, maybe one or two more. THE CUP: Any misses that you feel like you should have gotten?
KLOPPEL: Not at all. It would be most ungrateful to dwell on the misses after such a gratifying year. Luck plays a significant part in the listing game; it's a jinx to dilute appreciation for a great season with regrets for a few misses.
THE CUP: If it's true, that you're not going to try and hold onto the Cup for a second year, will you come by and chat with us from time to time? You could be the Daniel Schorr of The Cup.
KLOPPEL: You can always try me.
THE CUP: Will the Cup (trophy by Kelling) grace a place of prominence in your home or will you gaze upon it fondly in your workshop?
KLOPPEL: I'll have to check it out. If it won't harmonize with the existing decor, there are alternative uses for the peculiar vessel, as I indicated several years ago in this very column.
THE CUP: Like what? Changing the oil of your Volvo? Spittoon? I suppose there are some less heinous uses. Paperweight. Vessel for spare change and keys. What comes to mind as one of your most memorable moments of 2000?
KLOPPEL: One evening in mid-August I went to visit my daughter, who was living in Ithaca at the time. Her fiance Luis had replicated an astounding salsa attributed to a friend who operates a little taqueria in Sonora called "Los Valles". The recipe incorporates tiny, bright red spherical peppers called "chiltepin"...
THE CUP: Moments of birding in the Basin, I mean.
KLOPPEL: Ah, of course. For a six-pack of Corona, I might be able to dredge something up. Come to think of it, one moment does stand out as emblematic of the intersection of my personal luck with the David Cup effort. That's the chance meeting Patricia and I had with the crowd admiring last winter's Eared Grebe just off the Wells College boathouse. It reminded me of the stellar 1998 assembly on the dike at MNWR to view Gerard's Curlew Sandpiper.
THE CUP: Yeah that was particularly cool for me, too. First time of turning up a really good bird. Do you have a strategy for covering your atlas blocks this year?
KLOPPEL: Last year I was atlasing on the fly, anxious to get a good first-year handle on my large territory, birding a lot by ear and repeating my routes to obtain as many easy "S" records as I could. This year I'll be much more at leisure to enjoy my mostly-out of Basin atlas area, to linger and explore the wild and beautiful 70 square miles. I expect to get many more confirmations as well as fill in many of the gaps. I plan to do more bicycle mileage. THE CUP: What do you make of the rumors about Jeff doing a big push this month?
KLOPPEL: It's not easy to picture any of the old-timers getting too excited about going all the way, but low expectations can make an effective screen, as George dubya has undoubtedly learned.
THE CUP: Speaking of Basin veterans and not political thieves, do you think Nix is up to his wily ways?
KLOPPEL: Senor Enero es siempre el mas astuto.
THE CUP: Cayugabirds-l subscribers may have noticed the reemergence of Kelling and Allison Wells on the list. What do you make of this? Sleeping giants awake? Sense of community responsibility finally soaks into their foggy brains? Slight reduction of workload allowing for brief moments of real pleasure?
KLOPPEL: If I thought that answering one way or another would galvanize the spirit of cut-throat competition, I might give it a shot. It's way too early to make predictions for top contenders, but it IS safe to say that once you've given a few years over to other priorities, a return to strenuous contention is a pretty unlikely development. You have to fight the internal morale battle as well as chase the birds, and your own history weighs you down.
THE CUP: I don't know, I may be wrong, but I detect revitalization afoot. Of course, things will be much clearer when January totals come out. By the way, what are you bringing to the Cupper Supper?
KLOPPEL: I have a little bottle of dried chiltepin... ...might inspire the next champion.
THE CUP: Yes, I do like spicy food! Here at HQ we're looking forward to an uncertain future. However, the year sure has had an exciting start. We hope to see you make some waves now and again. Here's to you, Geo, for having the highest winning total in years.
ON THE MOVE--JANUARY
By Matt Young
Incredible winter birding continues throughout northern New York and other parts of the Northeast. This winter is really turning out to be something special. Owls and finches are both represented in good numbers, with higher-than-average diversity. If anyone has yet to visit the North Country, then you really need to put aside the project that is awaiting completion and head north instead. The project can wait. Tell your boss it will be OK. When was the last year that you had Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl, Snowy Owl, breeding White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Evening Grosbeaks, and Purple Finches--with a few Redpolls, Red Crossbills, and Pine Grosbeaks thrown in--near and within the N.Y. borders? A winter like this only comes by every 10-15+ years. So get out and enjoy it.
The winter invasion of owls continues and appears to be getting better. There are now 2 Northern Hawk Owls in upstate New York. The Bloomingdale Bog bird has been seen reliably for a month now. A second bird has been confirmed in Clinton County (near exit 39 off Rt. 87) as of yesterday, January 21st. On Amherst Island, the following owls have been seen in the past two weeks: 4 BOREAL OWLS, 6 SNOWY OWLS, 5 SAW-WHET OWLS, 10-15 LONG-EARED OWLS, 10+ SHORT-EARED OWLS, many GREAT HORNED OWLS, 1 BARRED OWL, and 1 NORTHERN HAWK OWL. 1 GREAT GRAY OWL was seen a couple of weeks ago. Great Gray, Boreal, and Hawk Owls have also been reported in Kingston, just a 30-minute trip from Amherst Island. Experts believe that with the abundance of Great Gray Owls just to the north, it's just a matter of time before they, too, become numerous. My good buddy Mike Peterson tells me there are as many as 4 or 5 Boreal Owls and Northern Hawk Owls just across the border in Montreal, as well. SNOWY OWLS are also still being seen throughout New York State and the rest of the Northeast in impressive numbers. Close to home, at least two SNOWY OWLS have been reported from the ice edge on the north end of Cayuga Lake.
PURPLE FINCHES, abundant in spots to our north, are being reported in Basin areas in the best numbers in ten years. Enough with the Basin--not that you couldn't turn up one of these northern owls, but chances are better to the north. It seems like it's just a matter of time before a Great Gray or Boreal Owl turns up on our side of the Canada/N.Y. border. Even more tantalizing is the fact that NORTHERN HAWK OWL, EVENING GROSBEAK (hard to find this year), PURPLE FINCH, PINE SISKIN, and breeding WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS can all be seen in or near Bloomingdale Bog with little effort. In order to maximize a trip north be sure to hit the "Bog" (off County Rt. 55 near Saranac Lake).
As for the finches: Yes, there have been better years, but not much better. How often do WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS breed in New York State? Every 5-15 years. Right now, White-winged Crossbills are as common as Chickadees in the North Country. It's something that you need to witness to believe, although it's not like the legendary '85 irruption, when WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and two different types of RED CROSSBILLS were breeding throughout the state at the same time.
What's making the current finch year even more interesting is that WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS are starting to show signs of heading our way. They are now breeding in Norway Spruce plantations in two different spots near Oneonta. In 1985 and 1990, White-winged Crossbills moved out of the Adirondacks and started breeding in Norway Spruce plantations across the Appalachian Plateau from nearly Ithaca to Oneonta in March and April. Over the next month or two, it might be worth checking your local State Forest that has a predominance of planted Norway spruce for breeding White-winged Crossbills.
It also looks like it's going to be a PINE SISKIN breeding year in New York State. This is quite uncommon, happening only every 5-10 years. On my North Country visit last week, I saw a few pairs chasing each other in full song. And on January 21st, there was a report of a pair of SISKINS in full song way out in the southwestern part of the state near Allegany State Park. So far, there have been no more than 10-15 reports of breeding RED CROSSBILLS statewide, whereas WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS are being found in nearly all of the upstate boreal zones. REDPOLL, PINE GROSBEAK, and BOHEMIAN WAXWING reports have been hard to come by, although individual BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS and PINE GROSBEAKS have been seen along the Chubb River near Saranac Lake in recent weeks. A single BOHEMIAN WAXWING was spotted near Oswego Harbor within the last two weeks. Small REDPOLL flocks have been seen near Newcomb (North Country), Watkins Glen, and in the western parts of the state.
GYRFALCONS are still being reported in spots throughout the Northeast–in recent weeks birds have been seen in the Champlain Valley (on the Vermont side), New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and other locales. I just received a report that there was a one-day wonder GYRFALCON near Tupper Lake Marsh in the past couple of weeks. NORTHERN SHRIKE reports are down from last year, but they are not impossible to find, especially north of the thruway. It appears to be an average ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK year in the Northeast. Notably, it does appear that a slightly higher percentage of dark morphs are being reported than in years past.
As for the west . . . Ahhh, who cares. The same continues: CASSIN'S FINCHES, EVENING GROSBEAKS, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES, ROSY FINCHES, RED CROSSBILLS and various others are being seen in irruptive zones. Head north before you miss the owl and finch winter--we probably won't see another like this for at least 10-15+ years.
DECEMBER HIGHLIGHTS and THE YEAR IN REVIEW
By Matt Williams
The final month of 2000 provided many Cuppers with the opportunity to add a few more species to their yearly total. It also is the month where one must "clean-up" their list by adding whatever remaining species they should have had already but just had bad luck in the previous 11 months.
Snowy Owl was definitely a clean-up bird for some and a lifer for quite a few if they didn't make it up in November. Oddly, the Snowys seemed to be a bit more elusive once December rolled around and snow coated the dark soil of the Savannah Mucklands. One Snowy was seen there on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 7th, while 2 birds were found during the monthly count on the 3rd. On the 8th, 1 Snowy was seen on the ice south of Cayuga Lake State Park (CLSP). At this same location, 2 birds were seen the next day (9th). On the 10th, 2 birds were seen in the Mucklands. The next day (11th), a group of "old fogies" couldn't find any in the Muck but they did have two on the ice. The 1 remaining Mucklands bird was last reported on the 17th. WHEN WAS THE LAST ONE SEEN? The Snowys provided a very nice reason to go up and around the lake in December. Many people did this and found quite a few nice birds. On the 5th, one such trip produced a Bonaparte's Gull near the northern ice edge, an Iceland Gull at VanCleef Lake as well as a late Blue-winged Teal off of Cayuga Lake SP (CLSP). The reliable dark morph Rough-legged Hawk near the Long Point Winery was also seen.
On the 6th, Bob Fogg turned up a Eurasian Wigeon with a dozen Americans at that very productive spot south of CLSP. It was seen early the next day but later attempts failed. One such attempt on the 8th did, however, find the Eared Grebe that was present last Jan. and Feb. and is apparently wintering there again. An outing the next day (10th) had the Eared Grebe in Aurora and a Common Raven at Monkey Run North.
Gulls at the north end included a 1st year Iceland and adult Lesser Black-backed near the landfill on the 9th and another Lesser Black-backed on the ice on the 10th. On the 11th, a Nelson's (Glaucous x Herring) Gull was found in addition to 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the Landfill. Van Cleef Lake had the 1st winter Iceland Gull again on the 11th.
Back in McIlroy territory there were 2 Fish Crows (a fairly uncommon bird this year) seen at Treman Marina on the 11th and 2 Ravens above Ithaca College on the 12th. An Evans Cup Lapland Longspur was seen with 10 Snow Buntings and 10 Horned Larks on the 15th and reported by guess who on the 18th. The next exciting bird to hit town was a Laughing Gull that Steve Kelling and others found while eating lunch at Stewart Park on the 17th.
On another clean-up trip to the north on the 17th, Meena Haribal had 2 Red-throated Loons from Parker Rd. in Canoga and Snow Geese (but no Snowy Owls) in the Mucklands. The Neimi/Hanshaw Rd. Northern Shrike was present on the 17th and another was reported that same day on Hurd Rd. in Freeville. On the 18th, the Laughing Gull was gone, but there was a Lesser Black-backed and 4 Bonaparte's Gulls with the other gulls at Stewart Park.
On the 22nd an Eastern Towhee was reported at a feeder in Dryden. On the 24th, a Peregrine Falcon was seen eating a Rock Dove near the intersection of Levanna and Brick Church Rd. NE of Aurora.
On the 24th, another Bonaparte's Gull was seen on the Stewart Park ice and on the 25th, a gift-wrapped Northern Shrike made a brief appearance at a Dryden feeder. At a nearby feeder in Dryden, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was present for at least a week after Christmas.
On the 29th, reports from Matt Young from the Summerhill area included a Lapland Longspur, Northern Goshawk (along Atwood Rd.) and a Pileated Woodpecker. While unsuccessfully chasing the Goshawk (Is that possible?…dangerous?) the next day (30th), Ben Fambrough had a Northern Shrike in that same location.
And now the other months:
The first birding event of 2000 was The Ithaca Christmas Bird Count. Highlights from the count included Long Eared Owl, Lapland Longspurs and our "Calurus" or rufous morph Red-tail conveniently returned for those who missed it last year. January continued on with mostly the usual species until…an Eared Grebe! Ben Fambrough, who had just recently been informed of the value of stopping at Aurora Bay found this western specialty among some Horned Grebes. In addition to many Cuppers, a pair of White-winged Scoters also spent much of January at this location.
February was another spectacular birding month, if you like cold, wind, snow and ice. Apparently, the huge raft of divers that is present annually at Hog's Hole didn't mind the weather. Once again, an Oldsquaw (Long-tailed Duck) was found amidst the sea of Aythya by one who calls himself, simply, Andre. Ben Fambrough and Matt Williams then found a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye near the north end's ice edge. These birds, like the grebe, brought nearly everyone with a scope up the lake. Many were lucky enough to sort these incessantly diving birds out from the jumble of Commons, but unlike the grebe, many others who tried were not as fortunate. All this birding activity spurred additional sightings, such as the Thayer's Gull that Ken "eagle eye" Rosenberg, "Mighty" Matt Young, Tom "New York" Nix and others found near the beautiful Seneca Meadows Landfill. In addition, much to this highlight compiler's delight, Williams and Sarver relocated the Eared Grebe from the southern cliffs high above Aurora. With all the lake activity, the land/air sightings could get overshadowed, but here they are anyway. On the irruption front, most noteworthy were the two Hoary Redpoll sightings: one by Ken "Dr. Latepost" Rosenberg and one by John "Sled-run" Fitzpatrick.
March's first quality sightings included numerous Golden Eagles. One was spotted first and identified (correctly) by Van Remsen from LSU. Geo Kloppel had one over his home in West Danby. If there were any trend here, I'd say that early March might have been a good time to find a Golden Eagle overhead.
The Bohemian Waxwing that Meena "a dream come true!" Haribal found at Cornell didn't linger for very long. The Cons. of Birds group came through with another good sighting of a Red-throated Loon at Myers. Chris Tessaglia-Hymes found a flock of Lapland Longspurs again this year while trespassing in the Mucklands.
This month, I have decided to start with one of my first arrivals for the month. Conveniently, this not-so-humble idea falls quite nicely into the chronological trend that was developed in the last cup. To those who still may think that I was fooling, I personally assure you that Matt Williams did indeed see an American Bittern on the first. Montezuma continued to be a focal point for good birds with a Cattle Egret found by Donna Jean Darling. The action was brought back to Ithaca with the adult summer Little Gull found by Steve Kelling then another 2nd winter — summer transition Little Gull that caused a bit of confusion, but was eventually cleared up by Chris Tessaglia-Hymes.
Ben Fambrough enjoyed dancing Sandhill Cranes on Easter Sunday and a Whip-poor-will was heard and seen by Paul Feeny in Cayuga Heights.
Worm-eating Warblers were found in West Danby and Henslow's Sparrows were first heard on Burdick Hill Rd. in Lansing. The first Cape May Warbler was seen at the lab and Mundy had its fair share of migrants including Northern Parula and Bay-breasted. In addition to birds, a new birding location was revealed to us by Christopher Tessaglia-Hymes. His "secret location" at the Hawthorne orchard off of Mitchell St. provided wonderful looks at Blackpoll, Cape May, Magnolia, Wilson's, Tennessee and Bay-breasted along with many others. Thanks Chris!
Besides warblers, the Lab of O hosted a few Lincoln's. Then, on the 17th, the impossible occurred. Nobody let a certain Bicknell's Thrush know that he was not supposed to migrate through Ithaca, let alone behind the trailers of a skeptical Lab of Ornithology. A throng of observers went out, tape was played with no luck. Finally, partway through Ken's message, Steve Kelling returned to say that he had heard the bird sing a "perfect Bicknell's song". The Lab of O also hosted a number of other interesting migrants including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Philadelphia Vireo.
A former Basin breeder made an appearance on Armitage Road. Chris Butler found an adult Loggerhead Shrike that hung around until Angus Wilson (NYSARC) and Andy Guthrie visited from downstate and scared it off. Another formerly fairly abundant Basin breeder, Red-headed Woodpecker, appeared to be making a comeback in 2000. There were at least 4 birds reported. Two were on Howland Island, one at the fish ladder in Ithaca and one on Middaugh Rd. in Brooktondale. An American White Pelican (probably the one known as One-eyed Jack) left Massachusetts in late May. Presumably the same bird was spotted soaring over Freeville on the 28th and was last reported at Braddock Bay a few days later. Many shorebirds turned up in various locations, but Geo's Whimbrel on "the spit" at Myer's was definitely the highlight. Finally, the last shorebird and last overall highlight of the month came to us from a flooded field in Savannah when Tom Nix found a male Wilson's Phalarope.
The first development was Mr. Young's Long-eared Owl that he had while covering his atlas blocks up at Summerhill State Forest on the 6th. This time he heard it well enough to be certain. Another exciting possible breeder was the Bay-breasted Warbler that Meena Haribal found on Connecticut Hill.
Acadian Flycatchers continued to haunt us, just outside the Basin boundaries. While the "traditional" spots at Salmon Creek had not produced any, Chris Tessaglia-Hymes found one along a tributary on the opposite (west) side of the creek. Subsequent outings noted at least two birds along the stream.
A few days after inquiring about the mysterious disappearance of Fish Crows in the Ithaca area, Kevin McGowan heard a singing Sedge Wren along Freese Rd. One more Sedge Wren was found the next day by Kevin and Jay in the same field and almost certainly another individual was heard at midnight from the "Henslow's Sparrow spot" along Burdick Hill Rd.
Despite the summertime blues that many were feeling, Matt Young recovered a bit of the winter irruption's coolness by finding a Pine Siskin feeding with goldfinches at Summer Hill.
May's was once again a shorebird paradise, as far as upstate shorebirding goes. Willie D'Anna and Gerard Phillips saw a Wilson's Phalarope. Red-necked Phalaropes were seen. Matts Victoria, Young, Sarver, Medler and Williams (yup, all 5) along with the Cornell Birdwatching Club and a few other non-Matts got looks at the year's first Golden Plover and Buff-Breasted Sandpiper. Both Baird's and White-rumped Sandpipers were present almost consistently in the last third of the month. With flyovers from Peregrines, Merlins and Nighthawks, and the Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons, May's was (and still is) the place to be birding.
There was also a third-hand report of a flyover Red Crossbill that John Fitzpatrick had over his yard sometime in the last week of August, probably just in time for the call for David Cup totals.
May's Point Mayhem:
A Forster's Tern, 2 Ruddy Turnstones, an American Golden Plover and a Baird's Sandpiper were reported from May's Point. On the sixth, there were 2 Baird's and 3 Goldens. A "fair few" (30+) White-rumped Sandpipers as well as a Baird's and a Ruddy Turnstone were seen on the seventh. The first fall Dunlin and 2 Merlins made an appearance, along with 3 Goldens and a Black-bellied Plover.
South of Montezuma:
A migrant flock containing a Philadelphia Vireo and a Black and White Warbler (they did pass through, Meena) were seen behind the trailer park at the Lab of O. At Summerhill (Guess who?), a Pine Siskin was seen feeding in a small flock of Goldfinches. Blackpoll, Tennessee and Mourning were reported at Mundy and a McIlroy Merlin and a Common Tern reported from the jetty. Disproving all superstition, Wednesday the 13th turned out to be one of the most interesting birding days of the month. Bill started the day like any other at the jetty and had a Forster's Tern and a White-winged Scoter. On this same day, at the McGowan's Dryden feeder, there was a lone female Evening Grosbeak. Although the day was good, that's not to say that nothing bizarre happened. All morning, lab staffers neglected to even put binoculars on a kingbird in the lab's dead snag, assuming it was an Eastern. Finally, that afternoon, Chris Tessaglia-Hymes finally checked and noticed that it was indeed a Western Kingbird. He must have had a rabbit's foot and a 4-leaf clover with him. Matts Young and Williams did a little evening jetty birding and had Common, Forester's and Caspian Terns. In addition, they had two distant Phalaropes. These birds had been seen and identified earlier as Red-necked by Kevin McGowan who would never have believed the 2 Matts had he not seen them himself. Chris may have been lucky to find the Kingbird, but all the planets were lined up for Matt Young today. Not only was he in town by chance when the WEKI (see above) showed up, he also found a Whip-poor-will after hearing Barred Owl, Swainson's and Grey Cheeked Thrushes up on Mt. Pleasant.
The Muckrace was later that week, and while it was covered in a previous issue of The Cup, here are a few of the top sightings: Least Bittern in the Main Pool, Connecticut Warbler on Esker Brook Trail and 2 Sandhill Cranes along Carncross Rd. While there was a Dickcissel seen in Caroline, heading toward the Basin, it was not until the 22nd that the David Cup champion took Billy E.'s advice and heard a single Dickcissel flying over Center Rd. The jetty had a Palm Warbler and singing Winter Wrens and a Peregrine Falcon.
The month started off with the Sparrow Area count on the first. Cape May, Palm and Orange Crowned Warblers were seen in addition to what were probably some of the last Indigo Buntings and Scarlet Tanagers in the Basin. There was a lingering resident Hooded Warbler in Dryden, reported (ironically) by Ken Rosenberg. Bill was out at the Jetty and had a Brant, a Peregrine and 2 Dunlin to boost his McIlroy total. (I wonder if he ever got Osprey?).
The bird of the month came in on the 7th, when some unfortunate folks were out of town. Meena Haribal had a Sabine's Gull off of Stewart Park. This bird had been discussed as a possibility and every Jetty Watcher had his/her eyes peeled. Finally it arrived, for the morning at least. Anyone who chased this bird as soon as they heard probably saw it. Ken Rosenberg, while getting some video footage may have been the last person to see the Basin Sabine's Gull. No, he didn't scare it off himself, but instead had a little help from a certain Jaeger sp. that appeared in his field of view while watching the gull. How do I know this? From talking to Ken, of course. You can't expect him to post a sighting like a Jaeger. It's a dirt bird, if you live in the Arctic Circle!!! Oh, by the way, Ken also had an imm. Goshawk interrupt a duel between a Peregrine Falcon and Cooper's Hawk on Purvis Rd. in Dryden on the same day.
At the Loon Watch, Geo had a handful of female/juv. Black Scoters, 1 Common Loon and 44 Brant. Bob Fogg saw a Long-tailed Duck off of Stewart Park. In addition, several observers witnessed a Red-Necked Grebe and a flock of Black Scoters. Estimates ranged from 50 to 200 to 1000! There were most likely several flocks that came together at the south end to produce the high total.
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 associating with Black Ducks. The next day there were 2 male White-winged Scoters seen in a flock of Bufflehead, off the point.
And finally after being teased with Snowies on Lake Ontario, Gerard Phillips found the year bird for the Basin in the Savannah Mucklands. Oddly, a Snowy was reported from Summerhill on the same day.
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. A Golden Eagle was seen over the Visitors Center. And later, another Ross's Goose was seen and two, but probably three, Snowys were present in the Mucklands.
"...churning and burning they yearn for The Cup..." (Cake)
2000 David Cup Totals
251 Geo Kloppel
245 Ben Fambrough
239 Tom Nix
238 Chris Tessaglia-Hymes
237 Matt Williams
234 Matt Young
233 Ken Rosenberg
232 Kevin McGowan
231 Meena Haribal
231 Jay McGowan
230 Matt Medler
219 Bruce Robertson
210 Chris Butler
210 Bard Prentiss
207 Allison Wells
195 Jeff Wells
193 Melanie Uhlir
187 John Fitzpatrick
177 Catherine Sandell
168 Bill Evans
167 Nancy Dickinson
167 Anne Kendall
152 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
2000 McIlroy Award Totals
168 Bill Evans
156 Kevin McGowan
153 Chris Butler
146 Jay McGowan
146 Matt Williams
141 Ken Rosenberg
130 Allison Wells
117 Jim Lowe
110 Jeff Wells
2000 Evans Trophy Totals
201 Ken Rosenberg
181 Bard Prentiss
176 Kevin McGowan
174 Jay McGowan
148 Ken Rosenberg
145 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
166 Matt Williams
146 Kevin McGowan
Basin Photo List (ooh! The competition is pretty tough in this category. Do aerial photos count?)
191 Kevin and Jay McGowan
*%&$(#**%&% DEAR TICK $(%&#@)*#)*
Even though the Ithaca Yacht Club isn't technically in Ithaca, because it's the "Ithaca" club and says so in its name, I can count the Eared Grebe on my McIlroy, right?
--Getting Grebey in Dryden
That all depends. Are you a member of the yacht club? Since you're a birder, presumably not since birders are poor. If on the off chance you ARE a member, this still wouldn't help you, because the yacht club is closed for the season. To get the grebe, you would have had to trespass - you're lucky you weren't arrested! Just so you know, the only thing that could feel worse than that is seeing those flashing blue lights come speeding up from behind you to give your team a (disqualifying) speeding ticket during the World Series of Birding in Jersey, right Dr. Rosenberg?
The month of December was characterized by an odd combination of factors: the hiatus of Geo, a large amount of informative posts from Rosenberg (a last ditch effort to throw off votes for the Slowhand award?) and much lively discussion. For a really nice, steady look at a Rusty Blackbird, come over to the main observation room at the lab right now. There is a Rusty perched up behind the feeder.
In a rare (these days) extended birding trip, I headed on Saturday (9th) to the northern corners of The Basin with Steve Kelling (even rarer) and the McGowan boys. Along the east side of the lake, we saw 3 different N. MOCKINGBIRDS, sev. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, and N. HARRIERS. Near the entrance to Long Point State Park, we had a nice winter flock with 5-6 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, 2-3 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, and a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. The EARED GREBE was fairly easy off Aurora boat dock -- we got some digital "photos" and video.
We spent a long time cruising and scanning the Mucklands and COULD NOT find a single Snowy Owl -- saw one distant SHORT-EARED OWL and a flock of SNOW BUNTINGS (30+). A flock of 50+ AM TREE SPARROWS flushed out of a weedy field as we zig-zagged down towards the Seneca Landfill.
We found a large roost of gulls in the fields across Rt 414 from the landfill -- many gulls were dropping out of the sky, and others were constatnly leaving, indicating a high amount of turnover. We picked out 3 adult LESSER-BLACKED GULLS and an interesting individual that we believe was a hybrid GLAUCOUS-X-HERRING GULL -- the so-called "NELSON'S GULL." The bird was probably a second-year, slighlty larger than nearby Herrings, with a noticeable large pink bill with a sharp black tip. The upperparts were mottled with gray (adult Herring mantle shade) and whitish; the wing coverts were largely white, forming a contrasty white "panel" on the folded wing; but the wing-tips were dark. We got some decent images and video of this bird too, which hopefully Kevin will be able to post on his website.
In the town of Seneca Falls, at the lake (name?), there was another large concentration of gulls, and we picked out a darkish first-winter ICELAND GULL.
We finished the afternoon along the upper west shore of Cayuga Lake, between Parker Rd. (Canoga) and Cayuga Lake State Park. Spectacular numbers of waterfowl and gulls are congregating in this area, and one could (should) spend an entire day working the massive, mobile flocks. At one point, something spooked the birds out of the far northwest corner of the open water -- hundreds of CANVASBACK, REDHEADS, GREATER SCAUP, MALLARDS, AND BLACK DUCKS, as well as thousands of CANADA GEESE, and 50+ TUNDRA SWANS. In the flocks that were visible on the water, we counted at least 50 AMERICAN WIGEON in scattered goups, but alas, no rusty-headed cousin. Also, at least 2 N. PINTAIL, 1 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, sev. RING-NECKED DUCKS, and a lone female HOODED MERGANSER. Further offshore, lines of GOLDENEYE drifted and dove, waiting to be searched for Barrow's, and thousands of gulls gathered on the ice-edge, but we ran out of time...
Finally, thank you to whoever tipped us off about the SNOWY OWLS further north on the ice -- we had driven right past them. At least 2 of these hapless owls were most easily located by their entourage of contrasting crows, undoubtedly taunting them from a barely safe distance.
Not a bad day for a bunch of old fogies (except for Jay of course).
As Mr. Medler kindly pointed out below...I seem to have developed an alternative common name for Eastern Bluebird. Sorry! (Sarver) >3+ AMERICAN BLUEBIRDS at communal roost in sycamore cavity
"Hey Fruitcake. Is that a new species? Thanks for the thorough trip report. I was curious how many House Sparrows you guys saw, but you forgot to say how many starlings you had. And what about those cute little chickadees?"
Matts Sarver and Medler
Today, Sunday 12/17, Sam and I went to Stewart Park to eat our lunch. At 12:45 we spotted an adult Laughing Gull on the ice edge. We watched it preen for about 10 minutes. Then as the first wind gusts of the oncoming front blew in the gull flew closer, landing about 20 yards in front of us. After a minute or 2 it again flew off and disappeared over Fuertes Woods. We could not relocate the gull on the golf course.
At the risk of taking even more abuse from various Matts, I am belatedly reporting a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR on Purvis Rd., south of Dryden on Friday, Dec 15th. This bird was in a small flock of about 10 SNOW BUNTINGS and 10 HORNED LARKS (thus violating the Karl David ratio rule) that conveniently landed on the road next to my car for a fine view. Of course, the fields were snow-covered on Friday, so who knows where the weird weekend weather blew these birds.
I failed to find any interesting gulls at Stewart Park over the last two days, but I did find two RICHARDSON'S GEESE, or at least two tiny forms of Canada Goose there yesterday morning (Tuesday, 19 Dec 2000). These two geese are very small, but otherwise they look just like "regular" Canada Geese. I took some photos, and will eventually put something up on my website, but probably not until next year.
If you look for these guys be aware that Canada Geese do vary a lot in body size, and the posture and position can make an incredible difference in apparent size of a goose. If you want to see a "smaller" goose in a flock, you can easily find one. Whether the little individual will stay little if you keep watching it is another matter. The two little geese I saw were about half the body size of the other geese (not much bigger than a Mallard), and had tiny, triangular bills. If the little goose you find doesn't have a markedly different bill shape from all the other Canada's, it's not a Richardsons.
Good snowy-afternoon all, We are lucky enough to have an EASTERN TOWHEE at our feeders today. I guess the bird is not so lucky, foraging for sunflower seeds in the 6" of snow which are on the ground, but he (its a male) seems to be successfully opening the seeds and chowing down. Perhaps he'll stay for the Christmas Count!
Atwood Rd: While driving north on Atwood Rd., which parallels the north end of Fall Creek, I spotted a large perched raptor in the tallest tree overlooking the Fall Creek floodplain about 1/4 mile south of where Atwood Rd. turns to the west. Again, for the 3rd or 4th time in a little over 6 weeks I spotted an ADULT NORTHERN GOSHAWK(great count bird). The beauty of this bird always leaves me in awe. Again, it was great looks. It flew north towards the headwaters of Fall Creek after about 10 minutes. Just before the GOSHAWK flew, a bird nearby gave some alarm calls. Just after the GOSHAWK FLEW, the alarmed species flew into the same tree, and low and behold, it was a MALE PILEATED WOODPECKER(good count bird). All this in 10 minutes. As for the Goshawk, I have a feeling that this bird could be a breeder at this location. I've been wrong before, but, if I were you Geo and Ben, I'd give this one a shot.-You still have two days!!!!!!!!! This is probably a different bird than the one a had been seeing near the seasonal use Rd a good 4-5 miles away.
Editor-in-Chief and Food and Beverage Director: Ben Fambrough
Senior and Contributing Editor: Matt Medler
Highlights Editor: Matt Williams
Literary Critic: Matt Sarver, on temporary leave
Big Picture Columnist: Matt Young
Editor Emeritus: Allison Wells