Year 9, Issues 9-10

***************************************************************** *^^^^^^^ ^ ^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^ ^ ^ ^^^^^^^ * ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ * ^ ^^^^^ ^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^^^^ * ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ * ^ ^ ^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^ ^^^^ ^ *The Cup 9.9-9.10 September/October 2004 *The electronic publication of the David Cup, McIlroy and various *other birding competitions. * Editor-in-Chief: Jay McGowan * Highlights: Jay McGowan * House Interviewer: Mark Chao * Guest Interviewer: Matt Medler * Guest Columnist: Kevin McGowan * Bird Taste-Tester: Martin McGowan ****************************************************************** Welcome to The Cup! Well, once again, the Cup staff must apologize for the lateness of this edition. As always, unforeseen obstacles (life, people, etc.) cropped up and prevented us from publishing this installment sooner. On the other hand, maybe it's not all that late after all, in the grand scheme of things. I mean, life is ephemeral, and all things are transient, right? Or is it the other way around? But don't think about that. Think about this: The Cup 9.9/9.10. ---------------------------- <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> September, October 2004 David Cup Totals Scott continues to keep post a very respectable total, but time is running out. 248, 253 Jay McGowan 242, 249 Scott Haber 241, 245 Kevin McGowan 240, --- Steve Fast 233, 238 Mark Chao 232, --- Bruce Tracey 225, 232 Ken Rosenberg 224, 227 Bard Prentiss 224, --- Meena Haribal ---, 221 Jesse Ellis 211, 214 Lena Samsonenko ---, 213 Chris Tessaglia-Hymes 202, 207 Anne Marie Johnson 201, 206 Perri McGowan 181, 205 Mike Harvey ---, 205 Tim Lenz 191, 191?Pete Hosner 187, 187?Matt Medler 184, --- Erin Hewett 141, 143 Rachel Rosenberg 141, 143 Olivia Rosenberg 118, 120 Tringa (the Dog) McGowan ---, 118 Rafael Lizarralde 88, 91 Martin (the Cat) McGowan 74, --- Dan Lebbin Tim Lenz's 200th bird: Hudsonian Godwit Anne Marie Johnson's 200th bird: Pectoral Sandpiper Chris Tessaglia-Hymes' 200th bird: Black Tern Perri McGowan's 200th bird: Buff-breasted Sandpiper Jay McGowan's 250th bird: Greater White-fronted Goose September, October 2004 McIlroy Award (Ithaca) Totals Can Ken beat Tim Lenz's Ithaca record, set in 2003, of 211 species? Anything is possible. 195, 207 Ken Rosenberg 167, 168 Mark Chao ---, 168 Tim Lenz 151, 161 Jay McGowan 139, 149 Kevin McGowan September, October 2004 Evans Trophy (Dryden) Totals A Dryden record has been set this year, and Jay still has a few more things to get. 202, 210 Jay McGowan 181, 192 Kevin McGowan 182, --- Steve Fast 173, 177 Bard Prentiss ---, 141 Perri McGowan Jay McGowan's 200th Dryden bird: Gray-cheeked Thrush September, October 2004 Yard Totals 120, 124 McGowan/Kline Family, Dryden 119+++,119+++Steve Kelling, Caroline 105, --- Pixie Senesac 74, 76 Anne Marie Johnson, Caroline [EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve, are you out there? Do you still have a yard? Hello? Send in your totals.] September, October 2004 Lansing Competition Totals 165, 171 Mark Chao ---, 160 Kevin McGowan 144+,144+Bruce Tracey September or October 2004 Etna Challenge Totals [NOTE: This competition is temporarily suspended pending someone actually participating in it.] --------------------------------------------- CALLING ALL CUPPERS, PAST AND PRESENT: BASIN LIFE LISTS As many of you may remember, at the end of last year I asked for your total list of all the birds you had seen in the Cayuga Lake Basin in your lifetime. The results were quite interesting, so I am going to run the standings again this year. Possibly some of you have added a few Basin birds in the past year, so please, even if you do not usually send in your year totals, send me your life list for inclusion in this historic (and, needless to say, prestigious) list. --------------------------------------------- $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ BASIN COMPOSITE DEPOSIT Some of the many additions to the Basin list in September and October included two later shorebirds, Hudsonian Godwit and Buff-breasted Sandpiper; Parasitic Jaeger; Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow; the newly- split Cackling Goose; Greater White-fronted Goose; and the very unexpected (and first Basin record) Black Guillemot. A late addition was Sedge Wren, seen at the Marten Tract near Montezuma this spring. Here's the total list: Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, CACKLING GOOSE, Brant, G. W-F GOOSE, ROSS'S GOOSE, Snow Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Am. Black Duck, Gadwall, N. Pintail, Am. Wigeon, EURASIAN WIGEON, N. Shoveler, B-w Teal, G-w Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, R-n Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, L-t Duck, Surf Scoter, Black Scoter, W-w Scoter, C. Goldeneye, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, C. Merganser, R-b Merganser, Ruddy Duck, R-n Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, R-t Loon, PACIFIC LOON, C. Loon, P-b Grebe, Horned Grebe, R-n Grebe, EARED GREBE, D-c Cormorant, Am. Bittern, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, SNOWY EGRET, TRICOLORED HERON, CATTLE EGRET, Green Heron, B-c Night-Heron, GLOSSY IBIS, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, N. Harrier, S-s Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, N. Goshawk, R-s Hawk, B-w Hawk, R-t Hawk, R-l Hawk, Golden Eagle, Am. Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, C. Moorhen, Am. Coot, Virginia Rail, Sora, YELLOW RAIL, SANDHILL CRANE, B- b Plover, Am. Golden-Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, WILLET, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, WHIMBREL, Hudsonian Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, RED KNOT, Sanderling, Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, W-r Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, WESTERN SANDPIPER, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, RUFF, L-b Dowitcher, S-b Dowitcher, B-b Sandpiper, Am. Woodcock, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, R-n Phalarope, PARASITIC JAEGER, Bonaparte's Gull, R-b Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Lesser B-b Gull, Great B-b Gull, Caspian Tern, C. Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Tern, BLACK GUILLEMOT, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Y-b Cuckoo, B-b Cuckoo, S-e Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, N. S-w Owl, E. Screech-Owl, C. Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, R-t Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, R-h Woodpecker, R-b Woodpecker, Y-b Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, E. Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Y-b Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, E. Kingbird, N. Shrike, R-e Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, WHITE-EYED VIREO, Y-t Vireo, B-h Vireo, Blue Jay, C. Raven, Am. Crow, Fish Crow, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, N. R-w Swallow, Bank Swallow, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, B-c Chickadee, R-b Nuthatch, W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Winter Wren, SEDGE WREN, Marsh Wren, G-c Kinglet, R-c Kinglet, B-g Gnatcatcher, E. Bluebird, Am. Robin, Wood Thrush, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, G-c Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, N. Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Am. Pipit, BOHEMIAN WAXWING, Cedar Waxwing, N. Parula, O-c Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, B-w Warbler, G-w Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, C-s Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, B-t Blue Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Y-r Warbler, B-t Green Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, B-b Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, W-e Warbler, B-&-w Warbler, Am. Redstart, Ovenbird, N. Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, C. Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Hooded Warbler, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, Scarlet Tanager, N. Cardinal, R-b Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, DICKCISSEL, E. Towhee, Am. Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, Chipping Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW, Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, W-t Sparrow, W-c Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, D-e Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, E. Meadowlark, Bobolink, B-h Cowbird, R-w Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, C. Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill, W-w Crossbill, C. Redpoll, HOARY REDPOLL, Pine Siskin, Am. Goldfinch, House Sparrow. Total as of October: 268 ALSO SEEN BUT NOT COUNTABLE: Trumpeter Swan, Northern Bobwhite NOTABLE (BUT NOT COUNTABLE AS A SEPARATE SPECIES) SUBSPECIES: "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler, "Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco LEADER'S MISS LIST EURASIAN WIGEON, PACIFIC LOON, SNOWY EGRET, TRICOLORED HERON, YELLOW RAIL, WILLET, RUFF, PARASITIC JAEGER, N. S-w Owl, N. Shrike, WHITE-EYED VIREO, SEDGE WREN, BOHEMIAN WAXWING, Cape May Warbler, W-w Crossbill. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ --------------------------------------------- A NEW SPECIES FOR THE DAVID CUP by Kevin McGowan With the last supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds, published this year, a new species was created for the Basin list: Cackling Goose. The familiar Canada Goose was split into two species, with the larger form retaining the name Canada Goose, and the smaller one getting the name Cackling Goose. Just as the Ross's Goose is a small version of, and separate species from, the Snow Goose, so is the Cackling Goose a small version of the Canada Goose. (It actually makes the third species pair of large and small goose forms; the Greater White-fronted Goose has a mate in the Lesser White-fronted Goose of Siberia and Asia.) The original Canada Goose was divided into approximately 11 different subspecies (depending on your point of view), and the four smallest were put into Cackling Goose. Genetic evidence showed quite clearly that three of the four small forms were quite different from three of the large forms (all from the Pacific Coast). Unfortunately, the fourth small form and the smallest of the large forms (confusingly named the "Lesser" Canada Goose) were not included in the study, and their placement in the two species is largely just conjecture at the moment. The Cackling Goose we are most likely to encounter in New York is that fourth form, "Richardson's Goose." It is the palest of the small forms, and the most eastwardly breeding one. The other three, darker forms winter in the Pacific states, but Richardson's winters along the Gulf Coast of Texas. It has about the same distribution as Greater White-fronted Goose, and might be expected here with about the same frequency, several each year. How do you tell a Cackling Goose from a Canada Goose, besides size? And how little does a Canada Goose have to be to be a Cackling? Good questions, and unfortunately, not all that easily answered. The Canada Goose varies quite a bit in size, with some of the "Giant" forms being quite large, and some of the tundra-breeding ones being much smaller. Add to this the fact that some tundra geese raised in areas with poor vegetation are permanently dwarfed, being a quarter smaller than genetically identical geese raised in good conditions. So, a goose just being noticeably smaller than its companions probably isn't good enough to make it a Cackling. To be the new species it needs to be really smaller, somewhere along the lines of Mallard-sized. The bill will be short and triangular, the neck rather short, and the body will probably be differently colored than other geese with it, being warmer brown on the back. The very dark and distinctive forms from western Alaska are unlikely to show up here, and we can mostly expect the much paler "Richardson's" form, which is always going to be a little difficult to confirm. Some small Canada Geese are going to have to be shrugged off as intermediate birds of unknown species affinity. At this point, I'd say if you're in doubt, assume it's a small Canada Goose. Save the Cackling designation for something really tiny and distinctive. Already a few of these new little species have been found in the Basin. Just how common they will prove to be in the state remains to be seen. We can probably expect a few each year, but we won't know until we watch for them for a while. But, it's one more new species to add to your Basin list, and it's a good excuse to take another look at those large Canada Goose flocks clogging up the lake and spreading across the cornfields. I think it's fun to have a reason to take time out and look closer at some common birds that we otherwise tend to ignore. --------------------------------------------- SEDGE WRENS AT THE MARTEN TRACT?!? by Jay McGowan According to an article by Bonnie Parton in the Fall 2004 issue of Cattails (the newsletter of the Friends of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex) Sedge Wrens bred at Marten Tract this summer. Ms. Parton apparently obtained good looks at one individual and reports hearing three singing from one area of the meadow. Marten Tract is near Howland Island north of Montezuma proper. Despite the lost opportunity this year, it will certainly be worth checking out next year in case the birds return. Next time perhaps someone in the birding community will be told. --------------------------------------------- SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER 2004 BASIN HIGHLIGHTS by Jay McGowan -SEPTEMBER- OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS invaded the Basin for a few weeks this September. One was seen on Beam Hill in Dryden on September 1, another near Dryden Lake on the September 4, another at the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in Danby, and another in Mundy Wildflower Garden on September 6. On September 3 two appeared at Sapsucker Woods and at least one stayed until the 8th. Other birds at the Lab included at least three CAPE MAY WARBLERS around the pond on September 1, and a Merlin that haunted the snag over the pond at Sapsucker Woods for several weeks in September. Shorebird season peaked in September, with many interesting sightings as Montezuma. American Golden-Plovers were first seen on September 2. One September 9, two days before the Muckrace, many good shorebirds turned up at May's Point, including an adult HUDSONIAN GODWIT and an adult RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, first found by Matt Victoria. Later that evening, Kevin and Jay McGowan, accompanied by sometime-Muckracers Andrew and Noah Van Norstrand, discovered five juvenile RED KNOTS in a flooded field in the Savannah Mucklands, along with several American Golden-Plovers. Although the knots had gone, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found in this field the next day. The Montezuma Muckrace took place on September 11 (and the evening of the 10th). Almost 180 species were seen. The Cornell Birding Club team "Epops" (made up of Jesse Ellis, Erin Hewitt, Colby Neuman, and Ben Clock) placed first with 137 species. Some of the highlights included a very early Common Goldeneye and a partially-eclipse male EURASIAN WIGEON on the main pool; and a WESTERN SANDPIPER and an early juvenile Dunlin were among the shorebirds at May's Point. A few days later, on September 18, a juvenile Western Sandpiper was seen at May's Point. Common Nighthawks were seen in various locations in September, including Stewart Park and Montezuma, but only occasionally. A juvenile Common Moorhen spent a few days at the George Road wetlands in early September. On September 10, Ken Rosenberg found three American Golden-Plovers and the first BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER of the year, not at Montezuma, but in the plowed fields on Game Farm Road. The Buff- breasted subsequently relocated to a plowed field on Route 366, essentially on the Cornell campus. Another American Golden-Plover turned up on Mount Pleasant on September 22. While looking for this bird on the 24th, Kevin McGowan heard an early flyover LAPLAND LONGSPUR. On September 18, Ken Rosenberg saw an immature jaeger, very probably a PARASITIC JAEGER, on Cayuga Lake near Stewart Park. Earlier in the season, on August 31, Mark Chao observed three possible jaegers over Sapsucker Woods. -OCTOBER- On October 3, Ken Rosenberg found two NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROWS in the tall grass at Hog's Hole near Alan Treman State Park (at the south end of Cayuga Lake). One was refound the next day. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper continued to be seen at May's Point at Montezuma until October 10. Mark Chao found a juvenile HUDSONIAN GODWIT at Benning Marsh on October 16. On October 7 while conducting a shorebird survey at Montezuma, Jay McGowan, Cathie Sandell, and Jillian Liner found the year's first GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at Benning Marsh. Mike Harvey found a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW in a flock of Chipping Sparrows at the Cornell Plantations on October 9, and it was seen again on the 13th. On October 11 Mike heard a flyover DICKCISSEL from Bomax Road (off Warren Road in Lansing), and also found an "OREGON" DARK-EYED JUNCO, the northwestern subspecies of our common species. This bird was present along Bomax for several weeks. Two more American Golden-Plovers turned up at the George Road pond off Route 38 in Dryden (which had a fair amount of mudflat showing for much of October) on October 9, along with an American Bittern. One of the plovers stayed for several weeks and was last reported on October 27. A Long-billed Dowitcher showed up on the shore at George Road on October 15, and at least 12 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS and a probable BAIRD'S SANDPIPER were present on October 19. Bob McGuire found two CACKLING GEESE on Towpath Road near Montezuma. They were seen again and photographed the next day. Clearly much smaller than the surrounding Canadas, they appeared about half-size, with very small bills. This is the first record of Cackling Goose in the Basin since this diminutive Branta became a full species. On October 23, Paul Hurtado, Marcus Collins and Erin Stephens found a juvenile BLACK GUILLEMOT off Myers Point. It was relocated on October 27 in Aurora Bay, and finally seen again on the 30th. Many birders from all over the state journeyed to the east side of Cayuga Lake to see this bird, the rarest of the eastern acids in inland New York. Although it was difficult to get long looks, the bird was relatively cooperative for many. Also on October 30, a male EURASIAN WIGEON was found at Montezuma and a probable ROSS'S GOOSE was seen in a flock of Snow Geese in Aurora. A Ross's Goose was found in a flock of Snow Geese in King Ferry the next day. Just out of the Basin but still worthy of note were two independent reports of WOOD STORK, one near Weedsport on October 23 and the other in Warners on the 26th, both locations to the northeast of Montezuma area. On October 31, Tim Lenz found an AUDUBON'S WARBLER (the western subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler) near the swan pen at Stewart Park. --------------------------------------------- BYE-BYE BIRDERS by Kevin McGowan It is with a heavy heart that we announce the departure from the Land of the Cup of former editors and good friends Allison and Jeff Wells and Matt Medler. The Basin will be a poorer place for the loss. I still have a hard time admitting to myself that they are really gone, but it looks like I'm going to have to face facts and admit that we have lost these three good birders, good friends, and pillars of the local birding community. It seems fitting to say goodbye to Matt and the Wells's in the same article, because they shared so much in the early Matt years that Jeff and Allison even referred to him as their adopted birding son. Jeff and Allison came to Ithaca in the fall of 1989 when Jeff enrolled in the Ph.D. program in the Natural Resources Department at Cornell. At that time the local birding scene was solid, but nowhere near as exciting and high-powered as it is today. Jeff came in as one of those jolts of enthusiasm that we are fortunate to get from Cornell being the birder/ornithologist magnet that it is. He was super enthusiastic about just about everything, with ideas for scores of papers and articles about all kinds of things. He brought some gull expertise to the area, and helped spawn interest in teasing apart the fine details of difficult species that, up to that point, many were willing to just let slide. After his graduation we were all pleased that he didn't do the "normal" thing and get a job in some distant place, but instead stayed in town working at the Lab of Ornithology. Even later when he left the Lab to work for the National Audubon Society he didn't really leave the Lab, but stayed on in body while his spirit and soul worked elsewhere. (That's part of what makes their leaving so difficult to accept, because Jeff "left" before, but somehow managed to stay right here where we wanted him.) Jeff was always good for a few great birds each year. I remember the Ross's Goose at Stewart Park in 1990 that Jeff found because he paid a little more attention to things than most people. This was the first Basin record, one of the first in the state (the absolute first was in 1983), and preceded the explosion of records in the East by quite a bit. Quite an unexpected and exciting bird! Jeff's role as a team member of the Lab's World Series of Birding team, the Sapsuckers, was in many ways similar to his role in the local birding community. He consistently picked out birds from short chips as we drove by, or flitting glimpses of things that passed too quickly for most to notice. Jeff was truly one of the people responsible for raising local birding to a higher level. During the early years it was Jeff who was the most noticeable member of the couple. He was the one doing all the interesting birding, who was making all the local news. Allison appeared to be his shy (hah!), retiring (HAH!) bride, the poet who worked quietly at home while Jeff was out and about in public. Man, how stupid I must have been to have formed that opinion!! But, in my defense, Allison was not much of a figure on the early birding scene. It wasn't until Steve Kelling came up with the idea of creating the David Cup, the yearly competition to see the most species in the Cayuga Lake Basin, that Allison really came to be known for the powerful figure she really is. At the end of 1995 Steve recruited all the local birders into his competition for 1996, named for famed Basin lister Karl David. At some Sapsucker holiday function Allison announced that she was going to start a newsletter to keep track of the event, and wanted to recruit columnists to make it interesting. We had no idea how interesting it was going to be! Suddenly the real Allison came forth on the electronic pages of The Cup. Biting and cruel, but always witty, very funny, and somehow loving, The Cup had a winning style. From the first issue it was clear that this was not going to be a dry, "just the facts, ma'am" newsletter. No, indeed! This was going to be a fast- paced, in-your-face, gotta-have-it kind of newsletter. From the sparkling intro, to the acerbic leader interview, to the no nonsense "Dear Tick" advice column, this was something special. The first David Cup was a rousing success, with 37 participants, 15 of whom saw more than 200 species. Everyone involved had a wonderful time, and The Cup really set the mood for this serious but fun competition. The first Cupper Supper at Chez Wells was also an event to remember, with the walls covered with "Bird Hard: the movie" posters. I remember that I was recovering from an upper respiratory tract infection with a persistent cough. I only coughed when I ran or laughed. I was a total basket case that night, because I didn't stop laughing for hours. Quite apart from the wit and humor that Allison imparted to The Cup, she suddenly came into her own as a birding force to be reckoned with. Coming from essentially nowhere, she whupped her ornithologist and serious birder husband's behind for third place to his distant fifth, and won the coveted McIlroy trophy in a walk. Who knew what a competitor she was? Believe me, after that, no one ever underestimated Ms. Childs Wells again. Allison edited The Cup for four years, although the last year got a little rough. She got a real job with the Lab of Ornithology as its Director of Communications and Marketing, and as is true for most Cuppers who finally get real jobs, she had a hard time keeping up the Cup pace. After a few combined issues and the first Shot Glass abbreviated version, she handed over the ropes to Ben Fambrough and Matt Medler. Under their direction, and the subsequent editorship of Jay McGowan, The Cup continued to be a fine and biting publication. But, truth be told, no one does it quite like Allison. Like Mohammed Ali, not only was she glib and quick with a punch, she could take a hit better than anyone. (See the poems in The Cup 1.7, for example. Mmmph!) She was a conspicuous target, but she kept the barbs flying (in both directions). I'm afraid my son's writing style if forever warped by her touch. But it could be much worse; Allison brought just the right blend of humor, acid, and love to this truly community publication. Ah, and then there is Mr. Medler. The "adopted," if slightly beaten son of the Wells couple, Matt was a distant, distant "competitor" (or, perhaps, more properly, "participant") in the first Cup competition. He got serious the next year, but didn't finish in the top ten until 1999, when he tied for second. He still hasn't won the competition, but he became a stalwart member of the local birding community nonetheless. Matt came to Cornell as an undergraduate in 1992, and by his own admission at that time "was not even remotely interested in birds." But, with the influence of a roommate, somehow he became interested. His final year at Cornell he came under the wings of the Wells's, and with his participation in the first David Cup he got hooked. He started working for the Lab of Ornithology after graduation, and has been in and out of Ithaca (usually birding in some interesting, exotic place) for a number of years. He came back to Cornell to get a teaching degree, and currently is in Vermont, working for a teddy bear factory. (Hey, don't laugh! Well, go ahead and laugh for a bit; everyone has to.) It is his on-again, off-again Basin residency that keeps me hopeful he'll come back some day. After getting thoroughly captivated by birding, Matt became the go-to guy for the local birding community. He was the one who was out consistently, and the one who knew who was out birding on any given day. If you just saw a rare bird, and you could only make one phone call, that call had to be to Matt, who would be sure to get the word out. It was great to have such a person in the community. Matt also took a great interest in the history and community of birding in the area. Even now, in his distant teddy bear world, he can't help but be a part of the Ithaca birding scene. When I posted about Cave Swallows being at Stewart Park (and swiftly went out to see them), Matt called active Ithaca birders from Vermont to make sure they got the word and got out to see them. That is truly dedication to community. Jeff and Allison have returned to their childhood home of Maine, to be closer to family. Allison had her pick of jobs, and Jeff took his work with him. Matt is also off northeast, making a living in Vermont, but seems to still be looking back towards Cayuga Lake. I don't know if we can ever entice them back here, but I would love to try. I am very happy personally to have known them and been able to share time with them, and I know my family has too. The local Ithaca birding community has been touched, blessed, and forever transformed (for the better) by the contributions of Jeff, Allison, and Matt, and we thank you for all you've given us. Long may your birding adventures continue. --------------------------------------------- ============================================================== BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH By Matt Medler ============================================================== Although many active birders have already met him, we've decided to dust off an old Cup feature to introduce Mike Harvey, a freshman at Cornell University. While he was hesitant to be under the heat of the Cup spotlight, we decided that we better feature him now, because if he keeps birding as much as he has, he might not be back for his sophomore year. THE CUP: Welcome to The Cup! And for that matter, welcome to Cornell and Ithaca. How have your first few months at Cornell been? MIKE: Busy but exciting! THE CUP: What are you studying at Cornell? Is it true that you've declared a major in The Cup? MIKE: Hahaha, no, is it too late to switch majors? I'm actually currently a Biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. THE CUP: Come to think of it, we like the idea of a Cup major. It would be a multidisciplinary course of study, with classes in biology, meteorology, English, Latin, and statistics. Your grade would be based not just on papers and exams, but also on your Cup total. What do you think? MIKE: Excellent, but don't forget nutrition classes. Selecting the best granola bar for a mid-Muckrace snack or the greasiest hot dog on the way up to Montezuma can make or break a Basin birding trip. THE CUP: True, very true. Now we know why we were impressed with you- -you are already showing a birding wisdom beyond your years. THE CUP: Where do you call home (when you're not residing in your luxurious Lowrise 7 dorm room)? MIKE: I hail from the birding paradise that is the suburbs of southern New Hampshire. THE CUP: Well, it could be worse. You could be from New Jersey, like Scott Haber. THE CUP: Does that mean that you're from coastal New Hampshire? MIKE: Unfortunately, no, but it's only an hour's drive to that large body of water which land-locked Ithaca birders seem to regard with such mystery and perhaps a touch of jealousy? THE CUP: Jealousy? I can see that you have a lot to learn. What patch of land and water could possibly be better than the Cayuga Lake Basin? Rather than going to the coast to see things like murrelets, gannets, storm-petrels, and guillemots, we just wait for those birds to come to us. That's the kind of pull that the Basin has. MIKE: I feel I am gradually falling prey to such sentiments myself. Must...resist...the urge to become...a Cupper. Oh well, it seems I'm too far gone to be saved, if my participation in this interview is any indication. THE CUP: Good--now you're thinking like a Cupper. How did you first get interested in birding? MIKE: The old fashioned way, the birds themselves got me started. In fact, a Great Blue Heron spotted near my house when I was 7 was the very vector which infected me with this beloved birding virus. I started out slow, birding the woods around my house, until I started meeting other local birders (which can be a challenge in areas lacking the high birder to non-birder ratio of Ithaca!). Many thanks to all of them for their support, expertise, and of course rides. THE CUP: Speaking of rides, have you been able to score many free rides from fellow Cuppers, or does your rise up the Cup charts have them leaving you in their dust as they drive by you? MIKE: I actually have managed to maintain a supply of free rides by misleading potential drivers into thinking my list is much lower than it is. Thus, they bring me along thinking they have nothing to fear from an innocent little freshman. Fortunately for them, they are probably right. Despite my reported totals in this issue of the Cup, my list is actually at seven, so feel free to take me out without worrying about losing your lead! THE CUP: That's a very clever ploy, but I'm afraid that your ruse might be up already, Mike. When I initially came up with the idea of this interview, I thought we could discuss your chances of doing something that has never been done in the illustrious history of The Cup--arriving in the Basin in late August and cracking The 200 Club before the end of the calendar year. THE CUP: I thought that if you birded a lot, were the recipient of a number of rides to Montezuma, and got a bit lucky, you *might* hit 200 birds in mid-December. But, I was obviously wrong. Amazingly, by the end of October, in less than 75 days in the Basin, you've already seen more than 200 species of birds. What has been the secret to your success? MIKE: My progressing knowledge of the Cayuga Basin allows me to count numerous birds outside the Basin limits and then claim ignorance if I'm found out. I hear this has worked in the past. In addition, the aforementioned rides and my skewed sense of priorities (birding being number 1) have helped. THE CUP: What do you mean, "skewed sense of priorities?" Can there be any other priority besides birding? THE CUP: Obviously, you are also a very talented birder. Not just anybody can ride around on their bike and find Clay-colored Sparrow, Dickcissel, and an Oregon Junco all in one month. How did you become such a skilled birder between that first Great Blue Heron and your arrival at Cornell? MIKE: Ha, the birding was the easy part. The biking was tough! It always seemed to start raining when I was at the furthest possible point from my dorm. But what birding skill was involved can partially be attributed to various opportunities I have had in the past. I participated in Victor Emanuel Nature Tours' Camp Chiricahua in Arizona in 2001 and was on the Leica/American Birding Association Tropicbirds birding team that competed in the 2002 Great Texas Birding Classic. Aside from that, I have birded even more in New Hampshire than I have here, and have traveled to see birds whenever I could save up enough money for airfare. THE CUP: Can you tell readers a bit more about Camp Chiricahua? MIKE: Camp Chiricahua can be summed up in just one word: "the-best- time-a-young-birder-can-ever-have-exploring-Arizona-and-finding- southwestern-specialties-with-other-birders-their-age." THE CUP: Umm, I hate to tell you this, but that's actually 20 words. But let me get this straight--summer camp for you was a trip to one of the premier birding spots in North America? What ever happened to Camp Hiawatha, where the highlight is arts and crafts with Popsicle sticks? MIKE: Sadly, some of us young birders must sacrifice more traditional summer excursions in order to pursue our hobby. THE CUP: With your considerable birding experience at the tender age of 19, what do you think of the David Cup, and its little sister, the McIlroy Award? The last time that a young hotshot birder named Mike arrived in the Basin (Mike Andersen, in 2001), we found that he had some problems adjusting to "the finer points" of Basin birding. Have you had any problems adjusting to such a high level of birdwatching? MIKE: The number of experts around here is slightly intimidating, but in a very good way. They keep me honest and of course whatever tidbits of knowledge I can pick up from them are greatly appreciated. THE CUP: Do you see yourself as a potential player for either the Cup or the McIlroy Award next year? Competition between Tim and Ken in Ithaca could be fierce next year, and if Jay attends Cornell, he could be in a position to go for the first Cup three-peat. How do you see yourself stacking up against these guys? MIKE: I can't pretend to be on the same level of any of the Basin legends you speak of. Ken's experience, Tim's determination and skill, and Jay's knowledge will likely keep them out of my reach. While the variety of birds up the lake is impressive, I sort of like the idea of the McIlroy Award. Not having a car this fall, I enjoyed carefully covering local areas like Bomax Road, Game Farm Road, and Mundy Wildflower Garden. Getting to know the smaller selections of birds at local places is great and if you are fortunate enough to find something unusual at one of these spots it is all the more exciting. The McIlroy Award seems to be a sensible way to concentrate this interest in local birding. THE CUP: Whoa--you've been hanging out with Tim *way* too much already. THE CUP: And then there's Scott Haber. It seems like he never goes birding, but somehow he is on the verge of hitting a very big number (250) for the year. Do you know if he is counting museum specimens in his totals again? We caught him doing that once or twice during his rookie season. MIKE: Museum specimens aren't countable? THE CUP: No. And neither are dream birds. THE CUP: Well, it's been a pleasure chatting with you. Congratulations on your great fall, and on contributing to the Ithaca birding scene so early during your freshman year. Good luck next year in the David Cup...but don't get any ideas about topping my Big Year total! --------------------------------------------- !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! KICKIN' TAIL! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cup reporter Mark Chao caught up with McIlroy Award leader Ken Rosenberg on a still November morning at East Shore Park in Ithaca. Ken, an Ithaca resident, serves as Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a member of the Lab's World Series of Birding team, and like a few others in our community, is a birder of consummate skill and national renown. The interview begins as Ken points out a pair of beautiful alternate- plumage Long-tailed Ducks out on the lake. MARK: Finding birds involves a lot of different challenges: making the time, deciding where to go, seeing and hearing birds once you're there, identifying birds once you've found them. Luck is the big wild card. Which of these elements do you find most challenging and most important? KEN: Actually, luck can be largely eliminated as a factor. In the World Series of Birding, a lot of people think that luck plays a big role, but with us, planning and scouting eliminate about 98 percent of the luck in finding birds. I can't spend much time birding these days, so a lot of the challenge and the fun part for me is planning strategy. Where should I go to find target birds? What can I see today that I have a much lesser chance of seeing at other times of year? So today, my target species are Black Scoter, Snow Bunting, Pacific Loon, Western Kingbird, Cave Swallow MARK: How did you develop your birding skills? What factors were most important for you: sheer time in the field, focused study of books and skins, instruction from mentors? KEN: I've been doing this for 45 years, and I'd say that my skills are honed mostly by spending lots of time in the field. I have had a lot of mentors in that time, and have birded with many knowledgeable people, including Kenn Kaufman and others in Arizona, and Ted Parker in Louisiana and South America. I'm off the ID-Frontiers list now, but back when I was younger, people were really working out identification issues with jaegers, juvenile peeps, Thayer's Gulls, and others. Now, with all the birds that people are finding -- birds not previously recorded or considered very rare in a given region, like Cave Swallows on the east coast -- you wonder, were those things always around? [Tim Lenz and Mike Harvey arrive.] MARK: So now we have the three main contenders for next year's McIlroy Award here all together. MIKE: I'm not a contender. I don't have a car. MARK: Given all the birds that you've found on your walks and bike rides around campus this fall, you're a contender, Mike. Plus, Tim and I can drive you around. So, Ken, besides having a car, what advantages do you have over these guys, and what advantages do they have over you? MIKE: His advantage is that Tim and I don't see jaegers over the lake. KEN: I've been around for longer. I know some places that maybe they don't. But that also means that maybe they aren't as lazy and tainted as I am -- they might actually get up early, go looking in new places, and walk through fields finding new birds. You've also got to be able to chase a bird as soon as it's reported to be able to find it. I can't always do that. MARK: Why do KEN, TIM, and MIKE: PINE SISKINS! MARK: Huh? Where? [Mark looks up in time to see some birds with notched tails passing over.] MARK: What did you hear? I didn't hear any "krrrrip" calls. MIKE: That was the sound they were making. It was a variation of that. MARK: Oh. KEN: That's another skill to develop: the ability to talk and still hear and ID passing birds. That'll come in handy if a longspur comes by later MARK: OK, I'll try to KEN, TIM, and MIKE: SNOW BUNTING! [A bird passes over, whistling.] MARK: Snow Bunting! KEN: The European Starlings at Stewart Park are imitating the chip notes of Yellow-rumped Warblers and the flight calls of Snow Buntings. It's amazing -- in spring they imitate warblers, plus every shorebird in the book -- yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers TIM: Semipalmated Plovers KEN: Oh, yeah. They were doing that one a lot. MIKE: Once there was a Northern Mockingbird in New Hampshire that learned to imitate a Clapper Rail -- a species that hadn't been seen for five or ten years in the state. It drove a lot of us crazy. MARK: Ken, why do you compete for the McIlroy Award? Do you like the challenge of birding in a confined area? Or is it just a practical matter of not having the time to bird farther afield? KEN: Mostly, I just don't have the time to bird elsewhere. So if I am going to play the game, then I need to do it close to home. That means Ithaca. I do also like how the competition forces people to find great places -- often, places I would never otherwise think of visiting -- and bird them intensively. I must say that the competition itself makes it fun. It's what got me out birding every day at the end of last year. But it's different from other competitions where the goal is just to beat the other guy; with Tim and me last year, the first thing that we did upon finding a bird was to call each other, and really hope that he found the bird too. MARK: You're getting pretty close to the McIlroy record of 212, which Tim set last year. Do you think you can break it? KEN: I didn't think so, but I guess it's possible. I need to get lucky with some owls and other birds. MARK: Tim, how do you feel about that? [Tim grits his teeth and says nothing.] KEN: By the way, Jay has shattered my old Dryden record. I think that he's surpassed my total by four species (210 to 206), and it's still only November. MARK: Ken, let me enumerate some of your finds from this year: Short- eared Owl at the Equine Research Park; another Short-eared Owl at George Road in Dryden; a territorial Northern Parula and Hooded Warblers in late May at Robert Treman State Park; a Yellow-breasted Chat along the railroad tracks in south Ithaca; a Parasitic Jaeger above Stewart Park; a Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow at Hog Hole; and Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden-Plovers next to the Cornell campus. Whew let's pause to let all this sink in with our readers What would you say are your personal highlights among this year's amazing finds? KEN: It's most exciting for me when I predict that some rarity is going to show up, and then I go and find it. That's what happened this year and last year with Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow at Hog Hole. Also, this year I was with Hector Gomez de Silva, who is Mexico's top birder, and he really wanted to see that species for his life list. These days, I get more of a thrill out of finding life birds for others than just seeing the birds myself. MARK: That Yellow-breasted Chat was a life bird for Steve Fast, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper a lifer for me, and the American Golden-Plover a lifer for John Baur. KEN: The jaeger was nice, because I take pride in being a champion scanner. The Cerulean Warbler that you found on Sandbank Road was exciting because it's one of my favorite birds, and I had been looking for one in Ithaca. But I guess that the best moment was finding the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It's one of my favorite shorebirds. I was actually on my way to look for shorebirds at the new athletic fields along Game Farm Road, and happened across the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the golden-plovers in some plowed fields nearby. MARK: What are your most frustrating misses? TIM: [darkly] Lesser Yellowlegs KEN: Yes, Lesser Yellowlegs has been a nemesis species for McIlroy competitors these last couple of years. This year I missed some summer breeders and migrants, like Bay-breasted Warbler, as well as the Cape May Warblers and Prairie Warbler that you saw in Sapsucker Woods. MARK: Still, given your limited time afield, it's really remarkable how many species you've seen. KEN: Matt Medler challenges me on this, but I think that I'm the most efficient birder in the Basin, in terms of birds seen per hour spent birding. MARK: I've heard these discussions about birding efficiency. But my goal, at least this year, is just to maximize my enjoyment -- the more hours, the better. KEN: Hmph! No time for enjoyment. MARK: I sometimes see you and your daughters Rachel and Olivia out together, most recently at the Wells College boathouse, watching the Black Guillemot. Have you been taking any special measures to nurture your daughters' interest in birds? KEN: I pay them. Well, I'd get in trouble for doing that. We do have feeders, which they're into watching, and occasionally they have interest in seeing species, like the guillemot, to add to their Cup list. They really like the Cupper Supper and getting their certificates. But they don't very often "want to go birding." MARK: Your brother Gary is a guide and one of the most skilled birders in the country; your wife Anne James-Rosenberg is a bird professional too. What does it mean to you for so many of your loved ones to be bird-lovers too? KEN: Well, the irony is that my bird-loving wife doesn't always love it when I go birding, because time I spend looking for birds is time away from family. She does love birding TIM: Anne once found an Aztec Thrush, you know. KEN but at this point, birding isn't the most important thing for our family. TIM: You need to have more family picnics. KEN: That's right! That way we can have our quality time together, and I can still see birds like Golden Eagle and Ross's Goose. MARK: Really? KEN: Well, last year I saw a Golden Eagle and lots of Snow Geese on a picnic in our front yard, but no Ross's Goose. I did see Ross's Goose at the Equine Research Park this year on the same day I saw the Short- eared Owl. MARK: Could you explain your "Louisiana Christmas Bird Count" test for identifying Ross's Goose? KEN: Down there, where Ross's Goose is pretty common in winter, it's just a matter of looking at Snow Goose flocks in the sky and seeing a much smaller bird in there with them. Kevin gives me a hard time about this: "Oh, you can't do it by size, mister!" Of course, he might be technically right, but MARK: But what? [Ken pauses.] KEN: In any case, another thing is seeing more than one bird together. It's the same with Cackling Geese now. If you see two smaller geese together, staying with each other, then you have a pair of birds, and you can be more confident that they are really different from the others, unlike one individual aberrant bird in a flock. MARK: Well, we all probably need to be heading home, or heading off to look for more birds. Do you have any parting shots for your rivals here, Ken? KEN: You suck! No, really, I hope that you guys will take up the challenge next year. I will. MARK: Tim and Mike, what do you say? Are you going to compete? TIM: Yeah. MIKE: I guess so. MARK: It's on! --------------------------------------------- @#$$%#%$^!(*$)%^@>(#?@<$&%^@( DEAR TICK @#%$^!)$(%*&^>$*%?*%^#*%(*& Dear Tick, I noticed in the Pilgrim's Progress, several of the totals are left blank (presumably, the editor chooses to do this as a way to throw around his power. For example, I'm sure Allison Wells always sends in her totals in a timely manner, yet her totals are blank.) Can you tell my why the editor puts them in the list in random order? For example, Sam and Steve Kelling are listed ahead of Ms. Wells, and poor little Evan Wells is put last! Then there's Jeff Wells, who isn't on the list at all! I'd like to suggest that all names with blank totals be placed at the end of the list in reverse alphabetical order, or starting with Wells, which ever comes first. Would love your always wise response. "Total"ly Confused in Etna Dear "Total"ly, The blank spaces are based on a complex mathematical principle known as the "absence of information" theorem. Simply put, this means that if you don't send in your totals, you're probably going to get short- changed. Slacker. In order to provide a more complete answer, I corresponded with Cup editor Jay McGowan, who said that "Cuppers are ranked by their totals, with the highest totals for the month in question being at the top," and, "Couldn't you have figured that out by yourself?" When the question was clarified, however, Jay offered more insight into the situation. Apparently, when no totals are received, a line of question marks (???) or sometimes dashes (---) is inserted in place of them. This individual is then ranked on the list based on their last received number. Thus, if someone--let's call her Birder A--doesn't send in her totals for several months running, she will consequently fall far down on the list, even if her actual totals are much higher. However, she WILL remain ahead of all those individuals whose posted totals are LOWER than Birder A's last reported number. Thus, Steve Kelling remains ahead of Erin Hewett despite not sending in his totals, while Allison Wells remains below Tringa the Dog (who was very prompt.) Additionally, when a Cupper does not send in his or her totals for a exceedingly long time (say ten months, as in the case of Mr. Wells), that individual's name may be removed altogether to prevent him or her from falling undeservedly low in the standings, except in special cases when mild public humiliation is preferable. (On a completely unrelated note, did you notice that Martin the Cat was tied with the David Cup record holder last month?) Now, of course there are no stupid questions, but I just want you to know that yours comes pretty close. I hope this has cleared up you befuddled mind on one account at least. Now send in your totals so you don't have to worry about it! ---------------------------------------- "CUP...QUOTES" Sorry this is late... I thought Pete might post, but I guess he's not subscribed anymore... The list is not as it used to be. --Jesse Ellis I visited on Saturday, and again yesterday and today (oops, too much birding)... --Meena Haribal I wasn't going to recite my morning's adventures, but after Jay's and Mike's posts I decided to illustrate the apparent 6th sense they have about where and when to look for birds, as opposed to myself. --Steve Fast Late last night, some verses from a Victor Hugo poem surfaced from the depths of my memory. Demain, d s l'aube, l'heure o blanchit la campagne Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends. Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside is in pale light, I shall depart. You see, I know that you are waiting for me. I told my wife that this was a sign that I should go looking for HUGO this morning. She reacted with laughter but no direct expressions of doubt about my sanity. And so, at dawn, I departed. --Mark Chao There were some RING-BILLED GULLS at the lighthouse, and as I watched, one yawned, then another, then two more; then I yawned so decided to go elsewhere. --Steve Fast To me the added opportunity of allowing Ithaca birders to freeze their whatevers off on two days instead of one far outweighs the disadvantage of moving the Montezuma count by one or a few days. --Ken Rosenberg As some of you might know, I am no longer living in the Cayuga Lake Basin, having recently moved to Vermont. As a result, I have decided to pass along ownership of Cayugabirds-L to a resident of the Ithaca area. --Matt Medler WAHOOOOOOOO! The witch is dead!!!!!! --Martha Fischer Upon receiving a call from the redoubtable vicarious Basin birder Matt Medler, Anya Illes and I headed up to Myers to scan for the Guillemot, where we found the 11 Brant previously reported, and nothing else of interest. --Jesse Ellis "Medler, pick up your phone! We have the Black Guillemot at the Aurora Boat House." --Tim Lenz (and Mike Harvey) --------------------------------------------- May Your Cup Runneth Over, - Jay