Year 1, Issue 2
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Errand Boy: Jeff Wells
So. You've survived the first months of David Cup/McIlroy competition. Now
you're feeling invincible, like you could swim the frigid waters of Cayuga
Lake, leap Mt. Pleasant in a single bound. Instead, you've opted for
something a little more challenging: facing the sad, sad reality of where
your lists have limped in for February's Pilgrims' Progress report. Harder
still is the intense pressure you'll certainly feel after you've read this
issue: You'll have had not one but two Cup-fuls of expert birding advice and
less-than-subtle hints about where to find what. In short, by devoting
these few minutes to reading the latest issue of The Cup, the only
acceptable excuse you'll have for not scoping up and zooming in for some
excellent Basin birding is if you're in Manitoba, flushing some Willow
Ptarmigan down into the Basin for the rest of us.
That said, we want to emphasize that you shouldn't, under any circumstances,
let fellow Cuppers (including the insensitive editors of The Cup) bully you
into spending more time in the field than you can afford. Birding is
important for all kinds of noble reasons, but everyone knows that family,
job, school, and televised college basketball should be given a little
consideration, too. Besides, the David Cup is meant to be a fun, friendly
competition, not a cut-throat, birder-eat-birder bloodfest. All steps must
be taken to keep it that way. Anyone not abiding by such guidelines will be
dealt with accordingly. Let it be known that the committee has already
issued warnings to two of the David Cup's finest, one of whom flung himself
off the icy bluff at Sheldrake in a desperate attempt to scare off a
Red-necked Grebe before his birding partner (and chief competitor) could see
it; another time, said chief competitor spied a Lapland Longspur at a Center
Road field, mist-netted it, and painted it to look like Snow Bunting, to
keep Bird #__ off his pal's David Cup list. We'll tolerate no more of this
kind of foolishness. However, we do encourage you to bird as much (or as
little) as fits into the pattern of your life, and to have a grand and
glorious time doing it. Remember: It's doesn't matter if you win or lose,
or how you play the game, as long as you're in the David Cup/McIlroy race.
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
REGARDING THE CUP 1.1: Our mailbox was overrun with words of enthusiasm,
songs of praise, and deafening applause for The Cup 1.1. We, the editors,
spent many gleeful hours gloating over this positive feedback and were
tempted to horde it all for ourselves. But alas, we were paid good money to
publicly thank everyone who contributed to The Cup's maiden voyage. Okay,
seriously now, thanks to those of you who sacrificed precious birding time
to write columns and submit to probing interviews. Thanks also to those of
you who took the time to write us those words of encouragement. And to
those of you who bravely sent in your monthly totals, a special thanks. By
doing so you make the David Cup/McIlroy race that much more exciting and
interesting for everyone, yourselves included, we hope. Finally, it's to
all Cuppers that we dedicate our new Back o' the Book. Without you, we
wouldn't have the fun of putting together The Cup. But don't get too
comfortable; we're still asking you to coo soothingly into the ears of those
who remain quivering-behind-the-scenes Cuppers. Tell them how good it feels
to just come out with it, to just say yes, my totals are important, I won't
let the team down. I'm okay, you're okay. The power of positive thinking.
Chicken soup for the soul...
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: The editors, seized with joy over exquisite
birding quotes by one Larry Springsteen, have coaxed him into the David Cup
competition, despite the fact that he must leave us for Connecticut before
the end of the year. Let's hope he--or dang it, somebody--finds a Great
Grey Owl before his departure. We also extend a friendly hand to Carol
Bloomgarden who actually signed up long ago but had temporarily slipped
through the jagged David Cup cracks. Welcome back, Carol, but no, you don't
get a bonus bird for your troubles, since it's all Steve's fault. A special
welcome to Kristen Grotke (age 4 ½) for throwing her feather into the David
Cup wind. We hope such bravery will inspire Sam Kelling (age almost 3) to
do the same.
TEA AND...RUGALAH?: It is our understanding that James Barry will be hosting
a formal tea for all David Cup participants, to be held in the austere
surroundings of his Cornell dorm room. He will be reading selections from
Keats, Browning, and Stephen King. Let him know if you'll be interested in
T-SHIRT UPDATE: Since our previous update, the demand for David Cup T-shirts
has skyrocketed. Those of you who know a good deal (and soon-to-be
priceless collectors' item) when you come across one will be glad to know
that the T-shirt committee has nearly completed its task. We refuse to
release details at this time, however (suffice to say it is truly splendid.)
Instead, we will hold an "unveiling" for those of you whose discerning aural
palette have as yet kept you from embracing true David Cup spirit by blindly
committing, so that you can make up your mind once and for all (albeit with
four testy T-shirt committee members and quite possibly a Doberman pinscher
snorting over your shoulder.)
BIRD CUP BLUES: Birding and the blues. They go together like tea and
rugalah. Fish and chips. Regis and Kathy Lee. Beavis and Butthead. We've
got an insider's report from esteemed Cayuga Bird Club president Rob Scott
to prove it: "I see the woods have ears... I was in fact looking for fellow
Cuppers at the show but couldn't ID any through the bottom of my pint of
Rolling Rock. Here's what happened, since you missed it...
"Given the tremendous number of accipiters we've observed in downtown
Ithaca recently, Hillary and I were scouting the area down near the Green
Street mini-mart, hoping to find a Northern Goshawk hunting small dogs near
the Commons (if there are so many Cooper's and Sharpies around, why not a
Gos?) Frustrated, cold, and with a list totaling four species, we staggered
into the Haunt, where we delighted in half-price drinks and some twisted
strands of Louisiana blues. C.J. Chenier alit onstage with his accordion
blazing faster than wrensong, and was accompanied by a band of equal
intensity. Most notable was his sideman who'd taken a few lessons from our
local band, the Flickers, swaddling himself in melodic downspout pipe, which
he drummed on incessantly and rhythmically. The band launched into "On the
Bayou" and then into the old classic, "Prothonotary Stomp". They followed
this with "Hawkwatch Blues," featuring CJ's patented "owl prowl growl." I
left the show, my head buzzing with visions of golden slippered Snowy Egrets
holding big hurricane glasses and eating crawfish..."
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
It's late at night, you're about to stretch out on your sofa with a cup of
ginger peach tea, your favorite Count Basie CD playing softly in the
background. The phone rings: It's your mother, in Gary, Indiana. She
informs you all is well--your dad got the promotion, your nephew has
recently taken his first step, and your Great Uncle Henry won the
million-dollar Lotto Indiana. You express obligatory excitement, then
prepare to say goodbye when the real reason your mother has called rears its
ugly head: "So, what were the birding highlights for the Cayuga Lake Basin
this month?" she asks. Panic overtakes you--your mind races, you experience
a sudden shortness of breath--as the consequences for not staying as in
touch with the CLB birding scene as you should have squeezes in on you. You
sense your life collapsing around you--you're a vole caught in the deadly
grasp of a Rough-legged Hawk--when suddenly, mercifully, you spy your latest
copy of The Cup. You scan trendmaster Steve Kelling's monthly column, Basin
Bird Highlights, and immediately your mind relaxes, your heartbeat returns
to its natural rhythm, and most importantly, your mother is impressed as you
drop phrases like "By far the most exciting February find was the Basin's
second-ever Ross' Goose" and "Other highlights include the finding of Red
Crossbills." You sip your tea. The sassy sound of a saxophone crescendos
and decrescendos in the background. Life is good.
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By far the most exciting February find was the Basin's second-ever Ross'
Goose, first reported by Ralph Paonessa on the east side of the lake. Ralph
did a super job of getting the word out, locating the bird again on the west
side of the lake, and making sure that all had permission to see it.
Thanks, Ralph! Other highlights include the finding of Red Crossbills on
Dodge Road by Chris Hymes and Bard Prentiss. Again timely reporting and
cautionary advice on private property made the chase after these birds
eventful in a positive way. Rob Scott's find of a first winter Glaucous
Gull early in the month initiated a flurry of activity around the lake,
which also turned up an adult Glaucous Gull. But for me, the most
spectacular bird seen in Februrary was the rufous-morph Red-tailed Hawk
first identified by Kevin and Jay McGowan at the pheasant farm. This western
Red-tailed Hawk is certainly at least as, or even more, uncommon in the east
than Ross' Goose. The end of February ushered in the first of the returning
migrants including Killdeer, blackbirds, and American Robins. Waterfowl
(including newly arrived Wood Ducks) also began pouring into the Basin
towards the end of the month, providing excellent viewing opportunities
around the lake which will extend well into March.
(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region III. He
teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and appreciates the
necessary sacrifices made by his fellow birders [see Kelling, Cup Quotes].)
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Oh, the fickle throne of the David Cup. One month, Tom Nix is wearing
victory's dazzling robe; the next, it's Steve Kelling who's proudly
bejeweled with the crown of success, and poor Tom is left to schlep and
slide in the muck of Steve's slippery footprints with the rest of us. And
who's to say that come April, Steve won't be face-down in the awful mire as
any one of us who have marched quietly but diligently in this valiant army
overthrow his reign as the David Cup's February dictator? But then again,
March might well leave us with the terrifying sound of Steve's sinister
cackling as he finds himself lording over the rest of us again. Or maybe
not. It's up to you. Until then...
1996 DAVID CUP FEBRUARY TOTALS 1996 DAVID CUP JANUARY TOTALS
83 Steve Kelling 76 Tom Nix
80 Karl David 69 Steve Kelling
80 Tom Nix 67 Karl David
78 Chris Hymes 65 Scott Mardis
78 Jeff Wells 64 Bard Prentiss
78 Bard Prentiss 61 Chris Hymes
76 Allison Wells 61 Jeff Wells
75 Scott Mardis 59 Ken Rosenberg
71 Ken Rosenberg 51 Allison Wells
68 Ralph Paonessa 47 Martha Fischer
67 Kevin McGowan 47 Pixie Senesac
64 Carol Bloomgarden 45 Meena Hariba
62 Meena Haribal 43 James Barry
58 Bill Evans 42 Kevin McGowan
58 Kurt Fox 39 Michael Runge
54 Rob Scott 38 Matt Medler
49 Michael Runge 37 Ralph Paonessa
48 Pixie Senesac 36 Jim Lowe
47 Jay McGowan 35 Rob Scott
44 James Barry 32 Bill Evans
42 Jim Lowe 31 Kurt Fox
40 Casey Sutton 30 Jay McGowan
39 Matt Medler 17 Casey Sutton
37 Larry Springsteen 14 David Haskell
28 Diane Tessaglia 4 Diane Tessaglia
27 Dan Scheiman
8 Kristen Grotke
1996 McILROY AWARD FEBRUARY TOTALS JANUARY TOTALS
51 Jeff Wells 44 Jeff Wells
44 Martha Fischer 31 Jim Lowe
43 Allison Wells 28 Michael Runge
42 Ken Rosenberg 28 Allison Wells
42 Rob Scott 25 Rob Scott
41 Scott Mardis 17 Casey Sutton
39 Kevin McGowan
37 Jim Lowe
37 Tom Nix
36 Carol Bloomgarden
31 Michael Runge
29 Bill Evans
27 Casey Sutton
25 Jay McGowan
8 Diane Tessaglia
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Steve's list is NOT Tom's list recycled with a few new birds tacked on. Oh,
no. This is STEVE'S list. Can you figure out how they're different?
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue
Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Snow Goose, Ross' Goose, Canada Goose,
American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon,
Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common
Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle,
Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk,
Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Wild
Turkey, American Coot, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull,
Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern
Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Belted
Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker,
Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Blue Jay, American Crow,
Fish Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,
White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American
Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, European
Starling, Northern Shrike, Northern Cardinal, American Tree Sparrow, Song
Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow
Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll,
Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.
An overwhelming number of you--okay, three of you--requested that The Cup
run a composite list of all birds seen during the David Cup/McIlroy race to
date. Although we're embarrassed that we didn't come up with this ingenious
idea ourselves, we're going for it just the same. So, add to Steve's list
(above) the following species and you'll have the entire list of birds seen
in January and February:
Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Ring-necked Pheasant, Killdeer, Short-eared Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,
Common Raven, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush,
Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Pine
Grosbeak, Purple Finch
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to impress your friends and frustrate you enemies than by
being featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup? KICKIN' TAIL brings
well-deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper who has glassed, scoped,
scanned, driven, climbed, dug, danced, and otherwise made his/her way to the
top of the David Cup list. February's leader is Steve Kelling, who you no
doubt remember was "kicked around," shall we say, by Tom Nix in last month's
KICKIN' TAIL interview. Has Steve answered Tom's vicious attack with the
gnashing teeth of revenge, or has he taken a more genteel approach? You
THE CUP: Tom gave you quite a thrashing last month. How does it feel to
have met his February total and raised him three? Which birds pulled
KELLING: There is a group of us, including you, Jeff (but not Allison
because even when sick you need to chase birds) and certainly including
Tom, who are really dead even. "Dead even" means that you have seen all the
"good birds." So far, those "good birds" have been Red-necked Grebe, Ross'
Goose, both white-winged gulls, the owls, and the winter finches. I believe
went ahead of Tom on a robin and a Red-winged Blackbird.
THE CUP: So, according to your theory, both Jeff and Allison are actually
ahead of you, because neither have seen much in the way of owls. They'll
be thrilled to know this. Meanwhile, let's move on to the topic of
sophisticated birding technique. What's yours?
KELLING: When Tom and I go birding, we usually have the proper good-luck
T-shirts on and good-luck food to eat. Here is a special tip for all those
chasers: Find a fellow birding enthusiast, put on all the T-shirts you own
(at once) and go to the Ithaca Bakery and buy all of the breads that they
sell with names that you can't pronounce...like Flowcotula and Rutabaga, and
Bobolonga and stuff like that. Drive around the lake eating all this stuff
and stopping at likely spots. If you don't see anything at a stop, take off
the T-shirt and throw out the food you were eating. Repeat this process
until successful. Then NEVER wash the shirt and ALWAYS eat that food. I
think Tom has lucky underwear also but you have to ask him about that.
THE CUP: Interesting. Jeff tried that technique for the McIlroy race and it
seems to have worked for him, too. What about your overall strategy for
KELLING: That would be my almost-three-year-old son Sammy. Each morning
before I take him to preschool, I ask him what bird he wants to see. We
usually get what he mentions. For example, he said "blackbirds" last week,
and we walked out of the house into a flock of Redwings.
THE CUP: Amazing!
KELLING: He mentioned Crossbills and we saw them by the side of the road.
THE CUP: Wow!
KELLING: But the best was yesterday. He wanted to see a Red-tailed Hawk and
we saw the rufous-morph Red-tail.
THE CUP: Did you have a specific number of species you were aiming for this
KELLING: In 1992 or 93, Adam Byrne saw 200 species of birds by May 1. Last
year I saw 195. I would like to try to hit 200 species by May. I figure
I'm two birds ahead of last year at this point.
THE CUP: We already agreed we wouldn't bring up your leaving the Basin in
May, a particularly painful subject for you, we understand. Let's talk
optics. What kind of binoculars do you use?
KELLING: Bausch and Lomb Elites 10x.
THE CUP: Scope?
KELLING: Swarovski HD 20x60.
THE CUP: More importantly, what kind of vehicle do you drive and do you
think that it has had an effect on where you are in the David Cup standings?
KELLING: Either a 1986 Ford F-150 (when I might have to drive) or a 1995
Windstar (when I know I won't have to drive.)
THE CUP: I guess that answers the second part of the question, too. Okay,
Kelling, let's cut to the chase. What's the REAL reason you're in this
KELLING: Since I'm making the winning trophy, I thought I would enter.
THE CUP: Sure, we've heard that before. Is it true that you didn't send in
your McIlroy total because you thought The Cup's own Jeff Wells might be
behind you so, in return for The Cup giving you the Highlights column you
lobbied for, you agreed to let Cup readers think he won?
KELLING: Yes, I admit it is true. I needed to give him something.
THE CUP: There's also a rumor going around (spread by Tom?) that you spent
at least one day this month birding outside the Basin. Is this true?
KELLING: I sleep outside the Basin. That way, when I enter it I'm
completely refreshed and have tremendous confidence. Right, Ralph?
THE CUP: If you could be any one of the David Cup birds seen so far, what
would it be and why?
KELLING: This question is too personal and I am a private person. My
THE CUP: Well, then, tell us your favorite color.
KELLING: The purplish-black iridescent color of the Common Grackle. I
diffraction pattern created when oil is mixed with water is beautiful and
the grackle comes close to this.
THE CUP: What has been your most exhilarating David Cup moment so far?
KELLING: Answering these questions.
THE CUP: Really? Too bad, because your 15 minutes of fame just expired.
Maybe you'll get another 15 minutes next month?
THE CUP: This is the first time I have been first and probably the last
????????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ??????????????????????????
The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls and
by hiring Special Agents Muldor and Scully have determined that recognition
is in order for the Cupper who has braved wind, rain, ice, and snow in a
quest for new David Cup birds for us all to enjoy. Equally weighty in this
award category is prompt notification to other Cuppers of said sightings, be
it via e-mail, phone line, dramatic hand signals, or homing pigeons.
We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow February's PIONEER PRIZE upon
Ralph Paonessa, finder of the Ross' Goose. Ralph went to great lengths to
give explicit directions so that Cuppers and the general birding public
wouldn't get frantic scoping the innumerable non-Ross'-Goose-productive
fields around Romulus. He also took it upon himself to acquire permission
from landowners so birders could access the land. Steve said it eloquently
in the Highlights column when he said, "Thanks, Ralph!" Your David Cup
Pioneer Pencil awaits you.
SCRAWL OF FAME
In Defense of "Listing"
"Listing is a perfectly valid sport or recreation, and the best listers
usually make good naturalists and conservationists. It can be not only a
skillful game, but also a science, an art, an esthetic experience, a
healthful recreation, a philosophical pursuit--or just a bore--depending on
--Roger Tory Peterson, from Where to Find Birds in New York
The scenario is as common as crows: You're out scoping for the newly posted
Eurasian Wigeon when up walks a fellow scoper. When you find the bird you
are awestruck by its beauty--the rusty-red head, the creamy yellow
forehead--and the very idea of its presence on Cayuga Lake makes you glad to
be alive. Alas, you must high-tail it to work and as you fold up the legs
of your tripod you casually ask your fellow birder what his total is for the
David Cup. "Oh, I'm not a lister," he sniffs with an air of moral
superiority, "I watch birds because I enjoy them."
Such comments seem intended to make us feel ashamed to be involved in a
competition that revolves around how many birds we see in a year. Certainly
many of us would in fact like to win this competition. And why not? The
David Cup is a sporting event, after all. Golfers like to win. Tennis
players like to win. So do basketball players, distance runners, and heck,
even Scrabble players. But is that the only reason they participate, to
win? Of course not. They participate--arguably, first and
foremost--because they enjoy the sport, the challenge it represents to their
abilities (in the David Cup, abilities includes strategically squeezing in
time in the field, particularly when this seems impossible!) not only as
compared to their "opponents" but perhaps especially to themselves. Yet it
is doubtful that you'll find postings on the Internet indicting the practice
of keeping track of RBI's, ERA's, and other more traditional, highly
publicized sporting statistics. Translate that same kind of record-keeping
to the listing of birds and, well, watch out.
Yes, there are some birders who will do anything to see a new bird merely so
that they can tick it off on a checklist (thankfully, we have yet to meet
anyone like that.) Sometimes, though, those who break the limb or spook the
bird off the nest are photographers, eager non-listers, or naive beginners
who haven't yet realized the consequences of their actions. However, some
would have us think that keeping lists, particularly for competitions such
as the David Cup, encourages this sort of behavior, or in the very least,
does little to discourage it. Such thinking is misguided.
The truth is, birding competitions can have immense benefits to the
conservation of birds and their habitats. We've seen this to be true even
in the short time the David Cup/McIlroy races have been going on. Cuppers
have been at the forefront of talking to and informing landowners of the
significance of the habitats found on their lands. At places like Stewart
Park and Allan Treman Park, the presence of people with binoculars strapped
around their necks or peering into scopes raises public awareness of the
importance of such areas to wildlife. These kinds of actions are important
steps in building a strong constituency of people--birders and non-birders
alike--who will support conservation efforts. We have also seen that it's
our very own Cuppers who are issuing reminders about what is appropriate and
inappropriate to post on the potentially dangerous (though mostly
beneficial) tool of the Internet regarding bird sightings. Finally,
competitions like the David Cup encourage people to go birding. A good many
of us joined the race not to win but because we recognize that sometimes we
need a little push to get us off the couch (or out from behind the desk) and
into the Great Outdoors. Knowing that the network of people who are the
David Cup are rooting for you to come and see those stunning crossbills, to
discover again and again the delightful song of the Winter Wren, makes it
that much easier--and rewarding--to put in the effort.
Those who still aren't convinced that the "lister" can thrill at the beauty
and behavior of birds as much as any "non-lister" or who still perceive the
David Cup as nothing more than so much ticker tape need only read Ned
Brinkley's wonderful memoir/Coach's Corner in this issue, or peruse the Cup
Quotes, which captures in participants' own words the essence of all aspects
of birding. Or better yet, talk to anyone who has signed up.
To finish the scenario: You stride off towards the office, the image of the
wigeon still swimming in your head, and nod, "Yeah, me too."
Allison and Jeff
(If you have an opinion about the art, science, and/or esthetics of birding
or birding-related topics, write it up for consideration for Scrawl of
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
In exchange for tickets to the upcoming Count Basie Band concert at IPAC,
March 13 at 8pm, the editors of The Cup have agreed to run the COACH'S
CORNER again. Valiantly taking up the whistle as coach for March to early
April is the one, the only Ned Brinkley. Though having migrated permanently
to Virginia a few years ago, Ned birded the Cayuga Lake Basin inside-out,
upside-down, round and round, during his seven-year stop-over here. Coach
Brinkley does a superb job here not only of coaching how to bird the Basin
over the next month but also of motivating the team into action,
particularly with his vivid descriptions of his Mt. Pleasant observations.
If you don't agree, we'll refund your subscription.
COACH BRINKLEY: Thanks to Allison and Jeff for the opportunity to take up
the pen on the extremely serious subject of New York birding competitions,
and in particular, on the even graver subject: the David Cup/McIlroy race.
So, there is now a tangible Holy Grail, named in honor of the Father of this
Madness. And there are those of you who think 260 is possible, without
stretching Basin boundaries? Or without quitting your job and living in a
trailer along River Road south of Montezuma? I saw that Diane T. reports
four species for January in the previous Cup. She may well be the only sane
one among you.
For my seven years up there, I blamed myself for never really finding that
ONE GREAT BIRD in the Basin. Oh, sure, a White-tailed Eagle flies over
Derby Hill, the Spotted Redshank was tethered to floating garbage in
Brooklyn, and California Gulls at Niagara were like shooting fish in a
barrel. But I think by now we've proven it (certainly with all the hours at
the loon watch, we know it): vagrants are few and far between in the
interior. Gradually, I realized that it was small increments--finding the
unusual "good" bird as opposed to the nearly impossible "great" bird--in the
Basin that made the difference: Yellow-throated Warbler and Little Gull on a
foggy fallout morning at Long Point, a slew of Red-necked Grebes one spring
(when the previous year, in searching 200 hundred hours, I found none), a
Yellow-breasted Chat right about where Bill Evans predicted one would be.
Finding vagrants on the California coast is trivial--any one of us could do
it half-stoned, I mean, half-asleep. On the east coast, it's a bit more
difficult, though still a matter of little effort. But in the Basin, I
found it very tough. If you don't enjoy bird behavior or just the esthetics
of the dawn chorus, I think competitive birding in the Basin would be
extremely frustrating. Indeed, the birds themselves save it, and so does
the good company up there. Nowhere (that I have visited) is such a critical
mass of knowledgeable people SO AGREEABLE and SO FRIENDLY. I don't think I
left that area with anything but fond memories of just about everyone
reading this. I miss the people there more than the birding haunts.
But enough nostalgia. About this coaching thing. I would like to begin by
expanding on Coach McGowan's strategy and approach. A few ground rules.
--Read old Kingbird issues, as far back as you can get them. The really old
ones have a lot of great specifics that the new ones don't. Devour them.
--Read adjacent regional reports, not just Region III. Figure out exactly
when birds arrive and depart, and find them as they arrive--don't hope for
late birds. And don't put anything off. Kevin is right to say that the
person who chases the American Goldfinch in January is a fool, but sometimes
(as he says) the robins hold the Varied Thrush. If you have unlimited time
and money, then just knocking around can be great.
--There are about 20 times more possibilities for water-associated oddballs
than landbirds. Your annual dickey bird total will vary very little from
year to year, but your pre-doves species will be full of holes each year.
That means, keep your butt on that lake and at Montezuma as much as you
possibly can. Kelling and Co. have proven that most of the shorebirds are
regular, and David has demonstrated that daily junkets to Myer's Point, even
in early June, can turn up Red Knot, Whimbrel, and others. Even if you have
only a half-hour or less, the water is your friend.
--Take little mental breaks. Go to a movie. Live dangerously. But don't,
under any circumstances, leave the Basin during migration. For 255 birds or
more, you can't really leave then. Too much is at stake.
I feel pretty silly giving advice to a crowd that has clearly surpassed, in
overall knowledge, anything I was able to assimilate and discover in seven
years. A Ross' Goose was found at Canoga! I whined endlessly about the
Snows being too distant at Montezuma to find a Ross', and this is the second
record since I left in 1994. My strategy, nonetheless, was as Kevin
suggested: time in the field. Reconstructing my big year, which was 254, I
find that I spent some part of 310 days birding, even though 50 or so of
those were on the golf course or were Myer's Point quickies. (Ah, the
advantages of being a complete disaster as a Humanities grad student.) With
selective birding, anyone could surpass that list with perhaps 200 or less
Concentrate on only birds that you can't count on in December: all finches,
owls, northern rarities, blackbird and waterfowl vagrants, odd fish-divers.
If I may be so bold, stand for as many vigils at Mt. Pleasant as possible.
It was there that I saw Clay-colored Sparrow, a flock of King Eiders,
migrating American Golden Plover, Western Kingbird (in spring!), Swainson's
Hawk, and in one narrow window in spring, display flights of the following:
Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, Northern Goshawk, Red-tail, Red-shouldered,
American Kestrel, and Golden Eagle (the latter obviously not a local nester
but just goofing off.) The Cooper's and Northern Goshawk displays were
breathtaking, butterfly synchronous movements that I had never seen before.
I don't know anyone who isn't moved by sights such as these, and they help
pass the duller hours there. I recall watching a Golden Eagle attacking a
groundhog in the field, then running away as the groundhog charged it. I
remember the intensity of the lemon-yellow eyes of the adult male Northern
Harrier hammering the plastic owl repeatedly on the Big Tree in the field.
The talons were nearly as lemon yellow. I remember Adam Byrne's face after
he'd seen a tremendous push of raptors, including two Peregrines harassing
an adult female Gos. And I remember him picking out a migrating Short-eared
Owl at an impossible height and distance on a March day. A lot moves in
March--a very underrated month, birdwise. A warm day in March is a good
time to wait for a Black Vulture up there. I remember the extraordinary
sandwiches made by Karl's indefatigably generous Elaine--pumpernickel with
turkey, mustard, Boston lettuce, sprouts, and thinly sliced red
onion--appearing out of nowhere for everyone at the watch that day.
In March through early June, the busting of butt will make all the
difference. A great spring for the very active birder will set a pace that
probably can't be broken with the shorebird migration of summer and fall or
with clean-up birding for dickeys in fall. How does one go about it? Most
vagrants, other than those powerful, high-altitude migrants (Sabine's Gull,
jaegers, etc.) and "true" rarities brought from the far west (Varied Thrush)
or Gulf Stream (Black-capped Petrel) are annual in small numbers, but you
don't want to spend 30 hours scanning for them. You don't have much time in
March. Blackbirds, for example, move through the southern Basin in a few
days and linger in the northeastern Basin only a week or two at most.
Knowing how to search among thousands of birds can cut your time way down.
Take Brewer's Blackbird. Did you know that, in flocks of Redwings, they are
easily picked out by virtue of their foraging behavior? Redwings hug the
ground, parallel to it, whereas Brewer's like to tower erect, strutting.
Also in those flocks are the cursed Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Look for
them. The rule for rarities: assume they're in there. Until you begin to
go blind looking for a few hours, don't give up. Resist the temptation to
"string" that can set in after mounting frustration, libidinal cramps, and
no "good" birds for weeks. Reputations are as delicate as spider webs and
as entangling as well: it's easy to lose credibility, and it's tough to win
Resist the temptation also to have the first of the year for common birds.
It makes no difference when you get your Louisiana Waterthrush. Watch the
weather. You want to mate with every southerly breeze that breaks through
into the Basin. The best weather will be the combination of rain and fog
(especially fog) that interrupts a nocturnal flight right around your
latitude. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, bust butt. Go
to your favorite local spots if you can't take the morning off: the
wildflower gardens at the Plantations, the fish ponds, Stewart Park. On a
day like this, I looked up out my windshield at a Yellow-throated Warbler
five feet above the car and found a Little Gull at Long Point minutes later.
If you can take the day off, go nuts. The birds will be trying to get
organized after their disoriented advent, and bird movement often means more
How outrageous should your thinking be? How can you motivate yourself to
get out and do it? Well, just think GREEN. I mean envy. Rochester has had
a White-winged Tern, which has also nested due north of us. Do you really
want to leave it to someone else to find that species at Montezuma? NEVER!
Get your butt out of bed and find that beauty yourself, hovering delicately
with a few Black Terns over an insect hatch in the western quarter of the
wildlife drive or feeding at Tschache Pool. Then boldly go and get your
Prothonotary Warbler. What a day that would be! Celebrate! Beer, burgers,
and fries all around!
Remember: if you lose your sanity, you forfeit the David Cup! It might be
worth your while to anticipate the following birds: Good luck to you all!
RED-NECKED GREBE: Along with those three scoter flavors, watch for southerly
winds combined with crappy visibility in mid-March through the end of April.
Then head to Dean's Cove, or Aurora, or Canoga, or Taughannock, or all of
the above and do a lot of scanning. Throw in Oldsquaw, Little Gull, and
maybe a damn Red Phalarope!
EARED GREBE: These birds show a real tendency toward more sheltered areas.
Look among the Horneds between Myer's and Long Point and in Aurora Bay, but
spend a lot of time at 65x looking at birds in the main pool at MNWR, March
NORTHERN GOSHAWK: Could be tough in a low-cycle year, but spending all
possible lunch hours in March and April on Mt. Pleasant will guarantee one,
I think. Occasionally hunts at Lettie Cook through April and can be heard
calling in there.
GYRFALCON: March is still a good time. Try the northwestern Basin. They
have to eat waterfowl, so look for areas with a lot of food south of
Waterloo and Seneca Falls. Great birding up there, so you won't be bored.
Same goes for the unbirded north Basin.
(Ned Brinkley is an assistant professor of Germanic languages at the
University of Virginia. He leads pelagic trips off the North Carolina coast
and dreams often of eating turkey on pumpernickel while watching hawks at
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
The David Cup leader isn't the only one who deserves a little fame. Noooo,
indeed. The fact that the McIlroy territory represents considerably less
acreage and variety of habitats would suggest that a little more weight
(i.e., interview space) should be given to the McIlroy leader. However,
since that leader this month is The Cup's own Jeff Wells, we were afraid
you'd all cry nepotism and boycott this publication. Therefore, we'll keep
it short, but not so sweet.
THE CUP (Allison): I understand you're married, have two cats, and your
living room is a disaster. How have you been able to shirk these
responsibilities in order to participate in not only the David Cup but also
the McIlroy race?
WELLS: Well, you obviously didn't know this but my wife is a birder, and she
joined both competitions, too, though she's trailing far behind me in both.
Thankfully, my cats also are birders (albeit window birders), and as for the
livingroom, let's just say it's lived in.
THE CUP: I bet your wife would say your pushing it.
WELLS: I suspect so.
THE CUP: Why did you sign up for the McIlroy, anyway? Why not concentrate
on just the David Cup?
WELLS: Mainly because I think I stand a chance at coming in somewhere in the
top 10 or so, since I have the luxury of being able to walk to work through
Sapsucker Woods. I also was lucky enough to have Stewart Park as part of my
area for the Christmas Bird Count, which gave me an excellent start on the
waterfowl, so I had to sign up. Of course, that advantage is quickly
disappearing as the ice melts on the lake and the ducks move back in and
everyone else gets them, too. One thing I find particularly compelling
about the McIlroy Award is that it encourages people to bird right in Ithaca
where many of us live and/or work. This is especially nice when you have
very limited time and can't run up the lake for who-knows-what. It's also a
nice way to honor someone (Dorothy McIlroy) who's done a lot for Cayuga Lake
THE CUP: As I understand it, there's been a lot of squawking from David Cup
participants when they're asked why they haven't sent in their McIlroy
totals. The most common grunt seems to be that it's too hard to keep track
of both or that there's not enough time to keep two lists. How do you
WELLS: I've got to say that it is extremely difficult. I have two pieces of
paper that have Cayuga Lake Basin checklists printed on them, one for the
David Cup, one for McIlroy. I write the date of my first sighting of each
species in the space beside the species name, and after the species name I
write the location. When I see new species I add the number to the running
tally I keep in pencil on the back. I do this for both lists and find it is
quite hard for me to fit it into my busy schedule since it normally takes
about five minutes per week for me to keep up.
THE CUP: Do you find that it takes more birding time to be in both races?
WELLS: Since I love to go out and look at birds, I don't find that being in
either competition takes any more time than I would want to devote even if
there were no competition. However, the competition heightens my awareness
of what's around me so that I see birds, behaviors, and beauty that I might
THE CUP: What are the rewards for being the McIlroy leader?
WELLS: I get free Snapple and chocolate bars at all the convenience stores
THE CUP: For some reason I don't believe you. What's your favorite McIlroy
WELLS: My two favorite spots are Sapsucker Woods and Allan Treman State
Marine Park (Hogs Hole). It won't be long before Sapsucker Woods is hopping
with activity, and walking through it daily has made me appreciate it more
then ever before. Allan Treman has been one of my most beloved hang-outs
since my wife and I arrived in Ithaca in 1988. I've seen things like
Short-eared Owl, Sedge Wren, Connecticut Warbler, and Nelson's Sharp-tailed
Sparrow there. I think that it's one of the least appreciated but best
birding spots in town.
THE CUP: Yes, I bird there quite often with my husband. What's been your
most memorable McIlroy experience so far this year?
WELLS: On the Christmas Bird Count (Jan. 1), I was trudging through the snow
under the power lines near Sapsucker Woods. I had come down with a pretty
bad cold and felt lousy but was repeating over and over to myself the
importance of the Count for monitoring bird populations, and science, and
conservation, etc., etc. As I was wallowing in my self-pity, I looked up to
see some ducks flying over. Of course, the only ducks that fly over
Sapsucker Woods in the winter are Mallards and Black Ducks, right? I
assumed that these would be more of the same. Still, I picked up my
binoculars for a look and was surprised to see two very white-bodied
ducks with long necks and brown heads--Northern Pintails, a species
that's always scarce in winter in the region and almost never occurs
at Sapsucker Woods. It was a pleasant and very unexpected surprise and
still leaves me wondering what the heck they were doing out there. There
was also the cold, rainy day my wife and I were scoping the gulls from along
the railroad tracks, up a ways from Stewart Park. We got chilled and wet,
but we saw the Iceland Gull and found an adult Glaucous--in the same view!
THE CUP: How romantic! How do you plan to stay ahead next month?
WELLS: I'm going to walk to work as often as possible and maybe squeeze in
an early morning or early evening stop at Stewart Park. I'd like to find a
good hawk-watching spot somewhere within the town limits, too.
Unfortunately, I'll be gone a lot of the month, and I'll really have to
scramble to keep up with the competition. Hopefully, all those student
competitors will be too busy studying to check out Beebe Lake and Mundy
THE CUP: What advice do you have for Cupper's who are considering dipping
their toes into McIlroy bay?
WELLS: Stay out! There's only room for one of us in this here town. Watch
your back. Eat spinach. Don't leave anything on your plate. Take vitamin
C and echinacea root extract. Stay away from red meat. Exercise
THE CUP: Do you take your own advice?
WELLS: Sure. Just ask my wife.
THE CUP: I will.
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
When famed ornithologist Arthur Allen was teaching his students about birds,
Dorothy McIlroy was there. When renowned bird and wildlife artist Louis
Agassiz Fuertes gave a talk on his Abyssinian adventures, Dorothy was there.
And she was there in the early years of Ithaca's Christmas Bird Count, and
for the birth of what is now known as the Cornell Laboratory of
Ornithology's Monday Night Seminar Series. In fact, Dorothy McIlroy was not
only present during the making of Ithaca's fascinating birding history, she
was an active participant in it.
Mention to Dorothy her contributions to Ithaca birding, though, and she
graciously shrugs them off. "I don't think I've done much more than some of
the other people," she says, then adds with a chuckle, "Of course, I go back
longer--I'm surprised anybody still knows who I am!"
Local birders, in fact, often refer to Dorothy, who is approaching 90, as
"Ithaca's First Lady of Birding." For many years, she was Region III editor
for The Kingbird. She's also been a coordinator for the New York State
Breeding Bird Atlas. Perhaps most Ithaca birders know Dorothy for her work
on the guidebook, Birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin. Published in 1974 and
revised by Dorothy and Charlie Smith in 1993, the manual remains invaluable
to birders by providing directions to and descriptions of the best birding
areas in the Cayuga Lake Basin.
Every bit as remarkable as Dorothy's contributions are her unique
experiences as a lifelong birder. Taken under the wing of Peter Paul
Kellogg, who with Arthur Allen pioneered bird song recording, and then by
Arthur Allen himself, her memories offer an fascinating, insider's view of
the Ithaca birding scene's early years.
Dorothy was a fifth grader living in Rochester, New York, when she first
discovered her interest in birds. Captivated by pictures she saw in a
magazine her mother received as a teacher at the Rochester School for the
Deaf, she began exploring her backyard in search of these beautiful
creatures. One of her favorite areas was a swamp not far from her home. "I
spent all of my free time over there," she says. "I borrowed my mother's
mother-of-pearl and gold opera glasses so I could see the birds. I'm amazed
now that she trusted me with them, but I never dropped them." It was around
that time that her father gave her a Chester Reed bird guide, the same
checklist-size guide used by Roger Tory Peterson in his youth.
In high school, Dorothy was the first girl in her high school to have taken
every math course offered. It was this peculiarity that caught the
attention of one of her classmates, who had returned to high school to take
some courses he needed in order to get into Cornell University. While
there, Dorothy remembers, "He wanted to get acquainted with that `weird
girl' who was taking advanced math." That classmate was none other than
Peter Paul Kellogg.
Dorothy says it was Kellogg who taught her that it was possible to identify
birds by their songs. "We were studying at my house when he said, `Oh,
listen to your oriole singing out there.'" Kellogg encouraged Dorothy to
come to Ithaca for Dr. Arthur Allen's summer school course in ornithology,
which she did several summers while a math and physics major at the
University of Rochester.
Allen's class also included early morning bird walks twice a week at what
have remained--since the 1920's, when Dorothy was taking the course--Ithaca
birding mainstays, among them Sapsucker Woods and Stewart Park. "The street
cars weren't running that early in the morning, and there was no such thing
as buses then. So we left campus at 5am to get to Stewart Park by 5:30." A
challenge, she admits, but it was during that class, with help from the new
Bausch & Lomb 6 x 30 binoculars her dad gave her, that everything came
together for her as a birder.
Though Dorothy married soon after college, her professional ambitions
remained. "I'd been promised a place on the staff of [what was then known
as] the ornithology department [at Cornell] if I could get my doctorate. I
thought, `Oh, that'll be easy.'" She and her husband moved to Newburgh, New
York, where he'd been hired as an electrical engineer. The plan was that
Dorothy would take graduate courses at nearby Vassar College. But the stock
market crashed that same fall, and though her husband was able to keep his
job, a pay cut made it impossible for Dorothy to pursue her education.
"But," she says triumphantly, "I've kept up birding as a hobby all these
In 1952, the couple moved back to Ithaca, and Dorothy was immediately swept
back into the Ithaca birding scene. "Doc Allen took me in like an old lost
friend," she recalls fondly.
She has seen many changes over the years in the Ithaca birding scene.
In Allen's time, the Christmas Bird Count was by Allen's invitation only,
and of course, Dorothy was among those asked to participate. "Doc's
grad students always came back for that count, it was really quite a thing,"
she says. After the count, the troupe returned to Allen's for dinner, the
report session, then a talk. "The best speaker was Fuertes," she says.
"He had bird skins and monkey skins--he stuck his hand in and made the
monkey skin talk. Oh, it was just fascinating."
Allen also made sure she was invited to what has become the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology's Monday night seminars. At that time they took place in a
room at the top floor of Fernow Hall and were not posted to the general
public. "The speakers were always Allen's students, talking about their
research projects," she says, "and they were really grilled afterwards,
with our questions."
Many of the places Dorothy birded back then are no longer the habitats they
once were. Stewart Park is one example. "There used to be a wonderful elm
woods down there, full of migrating warblers in the spring." Sadly,
Disease killed most of the trees, and the rest, she says, were destroyed by
severe storms. And, she adds, "I was always very disappointed when they
chopped up the cattails. We lost our rails and our marsh wrens." She
remembers taking pictures of Least Bitterns in the cattails that used to
line the front of Stewart Park.
Perhaps the most dramatic change of all, says Dorothy, is in the sport and
science of birding itself. "It's just mushroomed. In the early days, I used
to say I should carry a camera with me, I got so many stares while I was
walking around with my binoculars, looking at trees. Now, it seems to be
Although she says she's never been much for keeping lists, many local
birders consider her perhaps the Basin's most diligent record keeper.
"Having been brought up by Doc Allen on the importance of keeping good
records, I was real fussy. You don't just say, `Oh, yes,' and write it
down. If it's something unusual, you get all the details." Among the index
cards she used to keep her own detailed sightings are some pretty
exceptional records: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Harlequin Duck, Tri-colored
Heron. "I was so excited whenever I found a new bird that I'd go to the
nearest phone and call somebody else and say, `Come on down and corroborate
this sighting.'" Dorothy is pleased whenever local birders find new birds
but says, "I don't bother to chase much anymore. I let other people do the
It's not surprising that Dorothy has passed on her love of birds and birding
to her children and grandchildren. "My son kids me by saying, `We had to
take up birding, in self-defense!' And now his kids are saying that about
him," she laughs.
It's with fondness--and a little pride--that Dorothy recalls an incident
that has always stayed with her since her days as an Arthur Allen protégé:
"I'd just found a rail, I forget which kind, down where Allan Treman Park is
now, when over came another birder. He was a know-it-all grad student, and
when I told him about the rail he told me no, there wouldn't be any of those
here. Out came a Sora, and he gave me a see-I-told-you-so look. Then out
came that rail. He looked at me and said, `I'm going to give up birding.'
It's a good thing he didn't. I won't say who it was, but he went on to
become a very well-known ornithologist."
Such is the life of a woman revered by so many birders who have made their
mark in the birding world. Dorothy, too, has made quite a mark, and
fortunately for local birders, she's made it right here in Ithaca, New York.
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations--and now with
the added strain of intense competition brought on by the David Cup/McIlroy
Award--The Cup has graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and
intuitive columnist, Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions,
Has anybody developed a list of team colors and maybe names? You know, like
Kelling Cardinal (team color would be red, of course) ? I'm not a
participant but I'm thinking of starting a booster club for whichever team
wears the colors I like.
--Colorful at Cornell
Team colors are out of the question. Sure, they're well and good for those
whose team names would mean safe, bright colors--Kelling Cardinal, Tessaglia
Tanager. But what about Fischer Pheasant? And Runge Ruffed Grouse? They
could easily get their fingers blown off by some hunter who mistakes them
for giant birds--there have, you know, been confirmed reports of giant birds
in the Basin (see Tessaglia, Cup Quotes.) So, no, the committee has ruled
against team names/colors. It's just too dangerous.
I have a grand total of 20something birds on my list. Do I win?
--20something in Ithaca
Yes, you win, but not the David Cup. You win the honor and respect of your
Cupping colleagues for posting your February total. That in itself is worth
more than bringing home some macho trophy (I hear it's being made by Steve
Kelling, anyway.) You've proven yourself a sensitive, conscientious 90s
kind of guy. Give yourself a hug.
The other day, I was talking over the phone to my friend--let's call her
Sandy. As we were talking, she told me she could see a Pine Siskin at her
feeder. Now, I do not have this bird yet on my David Cup list, so
naturally, I was quite excited. I asked Sandy to put the phone receiver up
to her stereo speakers, which she has hooked to microphones outside her
house. If I had been able to hear the siskin via her sound system over the
phone, could I have counted the bird for my David Cup list? Her house is in
--Still Sleepy in Ithaca
P.S. I already have Pine Siskin on my dream list, but that was last year.
Dear Still Sleepy:
Don't get me started on dream birds again!
About your question. I admit it's a real stinger to my ego--I could not
answer it. I consulted esteemed members of the David Cup committee, but
they were all useless because there is as yet no ABA (American Birding
Association) ruling on this. Thus I went right to the top and forwarded
your question to Dr. Greg Butcher, the ABA president himself. Here's what
he had to say:
"I will forward your question to Bob Pyle, Chair of our Listing Rules
Committee. I have a Sora in Illinois, based on its appearance on Soldier
Field during live telecast of a New York Giants-Chicago Bears pre-season
football game, complete with commentary by John Madden."
So, Sleepy, when I get my official ABA ruling, I'll run it in The Cup.
Meanwhile, stop stirring up trouble. As for Dr. Butcher's Sora, I'd rule
against it, since it was only a pre-season game.
I know that seeing a species or hearing it lets you count it for the David
Cup. What about direct evidence, like finding a feather, finding a small
bird impaled on a barbed wire fence, finding a new or recently abandoned
nest, etc.? For example, I heard crows mobbing and saw feathers floating
down from a tree. I spoke with crow expert Kevin McGowan who said that this
is consistent with Great Horned Owl predation. You might think I'm trying to
pad my list--let me assure you I'm not. Personally, I want to see or hear
one of these owls, but I'm curious enough to ask.
--Curious at Cornell
You're right, I do think you're trying to pad your list, but you're not the
only one (see Sleepy in Ithaca, Cup 1.1 & 1.2.) Now, the committee has
ruled that "direct evidence" can only lead to more uncertainty. What if the
alleged crow had plucked out its own feathers, as part of a confused mating
ritual? This would explain the mobbing you heard, too. What if what you
saw floating down from the sky weren't crow feathers at all but filthy
snowflakes? So much for your Great Horned Owl! By the way, have you
considered that you may be bad luck for the birds that you're trying to see?
If you continue to see more dead ones than live ones, perhaps you should
consider taking up competitive backgammon or some other hobby so there'll be
some birds left for the rest of us.
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)
"""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Just in time for the changing of the guard. A Great Horned Owl taking over
the field as the Red-tails are leaving off. "
"My feet are freezing."
"I don't think anybody else has seen [the screech owl] except me and a few
undergrads I forced to stop and look at it."
"Don't forget Sunday, March 3. Tom Nix will lead the Cayuga Bird Club on a
full day field trip around Cayuga Lake. Tom was the leader for January in
the David Cup."
--Basin Bird Alert
"Like the rabbit' in a distance race, I was used up early only to be left
ignominiously panting along the track with a stitch in my side."
"We discovered two Horned Larks battling it out. Wings flapping, breast to
breast, these two birds went skyward about 25 feet. After descending and
rising a few more times, we saw a puff of loose feather dispersing with the
"My feet are REALLY freezing."
"Knowing a sacrifice needed to be made, Ken stuck his head into the path of
"When I got to the lake at Vineyard Road, it was largely goose-free."
"A lesson about timing: Tom found the Ross' Goose at about 5:30. I was at
Vineyard Road around 3:45 and I saw a grand total of five Canada Geese."
"I increasingly came to believe that the birds were right there in front of
me among the mud clumps and mowed-down corn stalks. But I couldn't see
them, no matter how hard I stared. Worse yet, I thought they were laughing
at me. After I'd drive away, they'd run around, stand on each others'
shoulders, perform aerial somersaults. As soon as I'd return, they'd freeze
in place, stifling giggles. I became morose. I avoided cornfields."
"While walking across Cornell's arts quad early Friday morning, I heard a
Red-tail call very close by. I looked up to see...a very gifted starling.
The bird went on to [imitate] a Blue Jay, then a Carolina Wren, then a gull,
and finally another Red-tail. Spring has finally sprung for this bird."
"Yesterday I thought I had my first Red-winged Blackbirds and Common
Grackles flying over, but then I realized that I also was hearing a talented
"[Chris Hymes] found several small owl pellets on the ground, presumably
from an Eastern Screech-Owl...Inside one of those pellets was a pink band,
and a leg fragment with a USFWS band over a lavender band. It turns out
that [that banded bird] was a Black-capped Chickadee...weighing 10.9
"The chickadee must have been feeding by the airport, where in the past,
Cornell dumped all of its radioactive waste."
"My feet are REALLY, REALLY freezing."
"Thanks to the extra day in February, I was able to add a whopping one bird
to my David Cup list."
"Wow, February is over already?"
:] :] :] :] :] :] :] :] :]
BACK O' THE BOOK
:] :] :] :] :] :] :] :] :]
What critics are saying...
"All Cayuga_Birders who have not enrolled in the David Cup/McIlroy
competition should do so immediately. Receiving the first issue of The Cup
makes it all worthwhile."
--Diane Tessaglia, Cupper, author, "James and the Giant
"The Cup is a masterpiece."
--Bard Prentiss, Cupper, Basin bird telephone talk show host
"My cup runneth over! What an astounding accomplishment. I'm elated to be
here at the beginning of what, I'm sure, will one day become one of
birding's most celebrated monthlies."
--Rob Scott, Cupper and legendary blues critic whose essays
include the Pulitzer Prize winner, "Birding Your Blues Away"
"The first issue of The Cup was excellent. Congratulations on a very
creative and informative production!"
--Ralph Paonessa, Cupper, famed pioneer, discoverer of Goose
"Fantastic job on The Cup! I'd like to order a T-shirt!"
--Dave McDermitt, world-renowned T-shirt connoisseur
"Congratulations on a magnificent job putting together the first Cup! I was
still reading it even after my lunch hour was over."
--Karl David, Cupper and producer, "Father of This Madness"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff