Year 1, Issue 3


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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.

* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells

* Rigging Gaffer: Jeff Wells


What with a taste for ticking and tallying, one might think that Cuppers

would be the first to file their income taxes. After all, they're pretty

much the same thing, competing in the David Cup/McIlroy races and compiling

your W-2's. Both require an aptitude for mathematics, impenetrable

concentration, undying patience, and, most importantly, impeccable honor.

Really, the only difference between the two is that in order to file your

income taxes, you must buy a stamp. Since that means sacrificing valuable

birding time, there's little doubt but that your 1040 awaits, untouched, in

its own little corner of your desk in your study (or buried under overdue

library books on your kitchen counter). Now that you can no longer ignore

Uncle Sam's bony finger stabbing you in the back and have set aside an hour

or six to deduct, depreciate, and downright dig-in, The Cup 1.3, like an

Eastern Bluebird staking innocent claim to its favorite nesting site, has

taken up residence in your e-mail box. Of course, if you read it now, you

risk filing those income taxes a little late. Maybe more than a little

late. What to do?

We, the editors of The Cup, believe the answer is obvious. By filing late,

you'll face hefty late-filing fees, possible jail time, or worse, an

agonizing, shirt-off-your back audit. Fees, jail time, audits--sorry

tortures, indeed. But could anything be worse than waiting another day to

find out who's Kickin' Tail, or getting the scoop on the latest News, Cues,

and Blues? Can you really bear not knowing all about this month's Bird

Brain? Maybe--think of it!--your wisdom, insight, or amusing typos have

landed you prime time in this month's Cup Quotes!

Go ahead, indulge. Read on. Uncle Sam rules with an iron hand, but Dear

Tick holds the power of the pen...

@ @ @ @ @ @


@ @ @ @ @ @

WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Just when you thought everyone foolhardy

enough to step into the fierce and feisty David Cup ring had already done

so, along comes Tom Lathrop: "Sign me up for the David Cup. I plan to be in

the Ithaca area the next two weekends, and it will give me more incentive to

get out and do some birding. I don't expect to be competitive; I may well

finish last. But at least I'll get the newsletter!" Tom, welcome. (Heh,

heh, heh.)

TEA CUPPERS: James Barry extends warm thanks to all Cuppers who attended his

recent tea. We've been told by those who were there that his interpretation

of Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" was extraordinary, and that his lilting

oration on Tennyson's "The Dying Swan" brought tears to many eyes. Other

highlights, they're saying, include Ken Rosenberg's and Martha Fischer's

free-style rap duet of Bobby Burns' "On Scaring Some Waterfowl in Loch

Turit, a Wild Scene among the Hills of Oughtertyre," which climaxed to lap

dancing and the playing of a kazoo. But those of you memorizing poetry for

upcoming teas needn't bother. "This month I won't be able to have tea hours

in my dorm room," James tells us, "but I might be willing to hold a seance

in a week or two. Lately, I've been getting the glitches out of my spells.

Heck, I have to do something to get on the leader board."

T-SHIRT UPDATE: Hard as it is to believe, our Class A T-shirt designer has

temporarily halted David Cup progress for--can you believe it?--a paying

project! Although she promises to migrate back to us very soon, those of

you who have not yet committed yourselves (huh?) have a little more time to

do so. In case we haven't yet mentioned this, the one-of-a-kind 1996 David

Cup T-shirt is expected to become a valuable collectors' item. Even better,

they'll be sold at cost ($10 or less).

SAY IT AIN'T SO!: No doubt a disproportionate number of Cuppers were glued

to their junkboxes hoping to collect on sizable bets that the Syracuse

Orangemen would rule three-point land and then some during the NCAA

tournament. By now you know they lost in the finals. Nonetheless, it is

the general consensus that Orangeman John Wallace should be held up as an

example for all Cuppers. John refused a million-dollar offer to play in the

NBA, electing instead to finish his college education and valiantly remain

with his team. Similarly, certain hot-shot Cuppers have likewise been

tempted, and rumor has it, they've already caved: come May, the David Cup's

minuscule elite will be shunning the Basin for the big time to participate

in the notorious World Series of Birding, in New Jersey. There's good

reason to believe that the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology resorted to

promises of fame and fundraising success, and when that didn't work, agreed

to provide a team mascot--Rob Scott dressed up in a Sapsucker costume.

Although we do hope they win on the Big Day, it might be nice for the rest

of us to hear that during scouting week, they got lost in Hoboken.

FOR SALE: One (1) inflatable Ross' Goose (white phase), like new, used only

two weeks. Floats, and has accessory legs for propping in cornfields. Best

offer (or will trade for Hoary Redpoll decoy). Contact Ralph Paonessa.

BIRD CUP BLUES: Those of you who opted not to go hear the world-famous,

time-tested, hot swingin' jazz sounds of the Count Basie Band March 16 at

IPAC really missed out. Fortunately, some of you had taste enough to

attend. Cupper Jim Lowe was there, shuffling and scuffling, and scrounging

up this report: "I spotted a few local birders Trav'lin' Light to the Count

Basie concert, undoubtedly hoping to add to their lists 'Round Midnight.

Watching through Them There Eyes were Jeff and Allison Wells, John Confer,

Karen Allaben-Confer, and probably others. (Alright, O.K., You Win, I can't

think of any Basie tunes with birds in the titles.) The band was great and

the vocalist sure could Sing, Sing, Sing (not like Allison, of course)."

What's that? You only care about The Blues? Well, you snickering tickers,

who do you think put "Everyday (I Got the Blues)" on the map? Joe

Williams--and the Count Basie Band! Whose sizzling, swaying "One O' Clock

Jump" has become standard for any band with a horn section worth their

chops? The Count Basie Band's! We could go on and on, but if you weren't

there, well, that isn't where you were.

:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>


King Eider. Varied Thrush. Great Gray Owl. Yellow-billed Loon. These are

only a few of the spectacular birds Cuppers didn't find in the Basin in

March. But Gyrfalcon? Whoa! Golden Eagle? Hmmm. California Gull? Find

out for yourself.



Steve Kelling

Through March 31 a total of 127 species of birds have been identified in the

Cayuga Lake Basin. This is a one-month increase of around 20 species. The

first noteworthy sighting was the 24 RED-NECKED GREBES that were found by

Ken Rosenberg on Cayuga Lake off of Myers Point on March 10. This is

noteworthy due to the numbers. While lower than the numbers recorded in

1994 (>100), they still are significantly higher than last year's (2) and

are indicative (to me) of a harsh winter (great hindsight, eh?). It seems

the annual BIG PUSH of GOLDEN EAGLES occurred during the 2nd week of March.

South winds in early March brought a significant Golden Eagle movement

through the Basin--significant in that they are probably the highest daily

counts of Golden Eagles in the Northeast during the spring migration. The

one-day high was 11 on March 14. The YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD observed by

Sharon Skelly on March 24 near MNWR indicates that it is time to scan the

blackbird flocks. Sharon picked this adult male out of a flock of

blackbirds that she estimated to be 1.5 million! But by far the most

impressive find was the HOARY REDPOLL at Laura Stenzler's feeder. The

gracious openness of Laura and Tone (phonetic spelling of his name) allowed

many of us to sit in their nice warm house (I watched Oprah while others

waited in vain) and wait for the bird to arrive (which it did only 2 more

times C[K- I am learning]arl and I saw the bird on separate occasions).

What a finch year! If someone could just dig up a White-winged Crossbill,

we will have gotten all of the winter finches--something that I believe is

unheard of in the Basin. And Karl has a chance of seeing them all. And if

you are the first to guess what the winter finches are (there are 6 of them)

Jeff and Allison Wells will give you a gift (maybe a pencil!).

(Allison and Jeff: Oh.)

(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region III. He

teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and is the Basin's

top pencil pusher.)

100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100


100 CLUB

100 100 100 100 100 100 100

In any fledgling society, new traditions need to be established for those

oh-so-important rites of passage--bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings,

graduations. We, the editors of The Cup, have found that as Cuppers see

more and more birds in the Cayuga Lake Basin, they need some way to mark the

occasion, a way of saying, "Yeehaww!" To that end The Cup has instituted

the 100 CLUB, which will be our (and Club members') way of congratulating

Cuppers at an important milestone in their David Cup life. April finds a

few Cuppers with a foot through the clubhouse door. But they're not in

until they tell us:


KARL DAVID: Well, remember what happened to George Burns soon after he


Seriously, it feels good. It was the earliest I ever reached that mark, by

2 or 3 days. [Bird 100: Eastern Phoebe "The little olive-green tail-wagger

had 100' written across its T-shirt..."]

STEVE KELLING: I'd feel better if you gave out a prize; without prizes, it

feels rather like being at any number. [Bird 100: Swamp Sparrow]

TOM NIX: I think it's a small, and with April here, soon to be forgotten

milestone. As the tortoise proved to the hare, it's much better to be a

member of the 250 Club. [Bird 100: Ruddy Duck]

JEFF WELLS: It's like enjoying a frosty glass of iced tea on a hot summer

day. [Bird 100: Common Snipe]

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

AND THERE OFF! Kelling's out in front at the gate, but look, there's Hymes

picking up some Dryden Lake ducks, and there's Prentiss, they're neck and

neck, but wait, here comes David, he's got siskin, he's got

phoebe--Kelling's loosing steam--and look, here comes Wells on the inside

lane, he's rounding the turn with a kingfisher, a Fox Sparrow, oh, but look

at Nix, he's surging ahead with a slew of hawks, Kelling's not giving up,

he's not giving up, but Nix is really frothing at the bit, look at him go!

Northern Shoveler, Lesser Black-backed Gull--can you believe it, folks?

Wells and Hymes are gasping for air, they're slowing, they're slowing, but

look at David! He's moving in again--Green-winged Teal, he's got the Fox

Sparrow, but it's no use, Nix is pumped! He's really ticking up dust!

Ruddy Duck, Eastern Meadowlark--it's Nix, no, it's David, it's Nix, it's

David, they're thundering to the finish line, it'''s Nix by a

tail! He takes it with a woodcock! Oh, and look, David's going beyond a

handshake, ladies and gentlemen--what a guy!--he's giving Nix one last



106 Tom Nix 83 Steve Kelling

105 Karl David 80 Karl David

101 Steve Kelling 80 Tom Nix

100 Jeff Wells 78 Chris Hymes

99 Chris Hymes 78 Bard Prentiss

99 Bard Prentiss 78 Jeff Wells

96 Allison Wells 76 Allison Wells

95 Ralph Paonessa 75 Scott Mardis

94 Scott Mardis 71 Ken Rosenberg

92 Ken Rosenberg 68 Ralph Paonessa

89 Kevin McGowan 67 Kevin McGowan

84 Meena Haribal 64 Carol Bloomgarden

81 Martha Fischer 62 Meena Haribal

77 John Bower 58 Bill Evans

75 Kurt Fox 58 Kurt Fox

73 Rob Scott 54 Martha Fischer

70 Casey Sutton 54 Rob Scott

69 Jay McGowan 49 Michael Runge

68 Larry Springsteen 48 Pixie Senesac

65 Diane Tessaglia 47 Jay McGowan

64 Carol Bloomgarden 44 James Barry

57 Jim Lowe 42 Jim Lowe

51 Michael Runge 40 Casey Sutton

50 James Barry 39 Matt Medler

45 Matt Medler 37 Larry Springsteen

30 Dan Scheiman 28 Diane Tessaglia

24 Tom Lathrop 27 Dan Scheiman

8 Kristen Grotke


73 Allison Wells 51 Jeff Wells

73 Jeff Wells 44 Martha Fischer

69 Kevin McGowan 43 Allison Wells

64 John Bower 42 Ken Rosenberg

60 Larry Springsteen 42 Rob Scott

58 Martha Fischer 41 Scott Mardis

58 Ken Rosenberg 39 Kevin McGowan

58 Rob Scott 37 Jim Lowe

57 Scott Mardis 37 Tom Nix

49 Chris Hymes 36 Carol Bloomgarden

49 Jim Lowe 31 Michael Runge

47 Tom Nix 29 Bill Evans

46 Karl David 27 Casey Sutton

44 Casey Sutton 25 Jay McGowan

40 Jay McGowan 8 Diane Tessaglia

39 Ralph Paonessa

36 Carol Bloomgarden

34 Michael Runge

24 Matt Medler

21 Diane Tessaglia


Tom's list is NOT Steve's list with a few new birds tacked on. It's

actually more like Karl's list, which is closer to Steve's list except a

little longer. But of course Tom's is longer still, but only by one--he has

one more than Karl--but many more than Steve, who has many, many more than

some of us but not as many as Karl, and not as many as Tom, who has more

than everybody but not a lot more than Karl who has only one less than Tom

but more than Steve and the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue

Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Snow Goose, Ross' Goose, Canada Goose, Wood

Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail,

Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canvasback,

Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Common

Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted

Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier,

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk,

Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel,

Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, American Coot, Killdeer,

American Woodcock, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser

Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove,

Mourning Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Short-eared Owl,

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy

Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Horned

Lark, Tree Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven,

Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,

White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet,

Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, American Pipit,

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, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed

Cowbird, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, American

Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.

Total: 106



Add to Tom's list (above) the following species and you'll have the entire

list of birds seen in January, February, and March (unless, of course, one

of you haven't fessed up to finding that White-winged Crossbill):

Double-crested Cormorant, Oldsquaw, White-winged Scoter, Merlin, Greater

Yellowlegs, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed

Woodpecker,Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Hermit

Thrush, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow,

White-crowned Sparrow,Yellow-headed Blackbird, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch,

Hoary Redpoll

Total: 127




What better way to scope in the spring birding season 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, pole-vaulted, and otherwise made his/her way to the

top of the David Cup list. Despite Karl's scrappy pick-'em-ups around the

Lab of O, Tom's back for Kickin' Tail, Round II. Don't worry about Steve,

he's already recovered nicely. But that's another month...

THE CUP: Tom, you've done it again. Magnifant! How does it feel to be

Kickin' Tail for the second time?

NIX: First let me say that I tried to avoid this interview, being of mixed

emotions, since I'd love to be ahead each month but don't want to read my

own interview each issue, but you insisted. I'm ahead, but only barely; any

one of a number of people could have been in first place. I admit to being a

little surprised to be in the lead and I suspect that the bad weather may

have retarded migration a little, so that the high list might not be as high

as it could be.

THE CUP: Of course, we'll be careful not to ask you the same questions as

before--we know now that your favorite color is the red on a Eurasian

Wigeon's head (a color we enjoyed ourselves recently!) Where was your most

productive March birding location and what did you see there?

NIX: Mount Pleasant, with Golden Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern

Goshawk, and first TV, Common Raven, Great Blue Heron, and American Pipits.

THE CUP (this question submitted by guest co-interviewer Casey Sutton): What

the heck do you do for a living?

NIX: I work as a building inspector for the City of Ithaca, which hasn't

been a

very birdy job. I did see a Wood Duck in Six-mile Creek while on the job,

and (as one smirking Cupper pointed out on the Net) narrowly missed seeing

a Merlin over City Hall.

THE CUP: Amazing, then, that you've ever made Top Tail at all. People at

the Lab of O are pretty spoiled, when you think of it, with all those

feeders right outside their workplace. No use hissing over lost feathers,

though. If you could bird at only one place in the Basin in April, where

would it be?

NIX: I'd really like to see Steve's Eurasian Wigeon, so probably the

north end

of the lake, or Montezuma, remembering also that Coach Brinkley emphasized

that there are more rarities to be found among the water birds than among

the land birds.

THE CUP: We don't want to rub this in again, but having seen that wigeon for

ourselves, we do hope you'll make it up there. Of course, it took us two

trips to find it. Which makes us wonder, do your kids watch birds?

NIX: They enjoy the big colorful ones that stand still, like ducks, but

have no

interest in LBJs.

THE CUP: We can't blame them. What fun is there in watching a dead

president? No doubt you're already scheming to see certain birds in April.

What are they?

NIX: Well, the aforementioned wigeon. Of course, a couple of falcons,

Sharp-tailed Sparrow, King Rail (why not aim high?)

THE CUP: Here! Here!

NIX: And first warblers (Orange-crowned would be a lifer).

THE CUP (Sutton): Does your family follow your standings in the David

Cup race?

NIX: No.

THE CUP: Certainly it's a nerve-wracking ordeal, this whole David

Cup/McIlroy thing. (Sutton): Where did you get your most memorable cup of

coffee in March?

NIX: By far the worst, completely burnt, was from the convenience store near

Cayuga Lake State Park. I've enjoyed a couple of cold ones on the drive

around the lake, but Ithaca Bakery wins my allegiance.

THE CUP: What do you think the winning David Cup total will be?

NIX: 250 or 251. I doubt anyone will beat Ned and Adam's record.

THE CUP: Can we look forward to chatting with you again in the next issue?

NIX: ¿Quien sabe?

THE CUP: [Translated, that means "Does anyone else really stand a chance?"]

Good point. And we'll end with it.


?????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ???????????????????????


The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls, and

by scanning misdirected e-mail messages, 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 skywriting.

We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow March's PIONEER PRIZE upon Chris

Hymes. Chris went above and beyond the call of Cupper duty by virtually

adopting the Red Crossbills he and Bard Prentiss found last month at the

Dodge Road spruce grove. As a result of his faithfulness (which, we're

told, included him lullabying them at dusk), everyone who put in the effort

to see the crossbills was likely rewarded. To you, Chris, a coveted David

Cup Pioneer Pencil!




A Blue Note

I have to admit, when I read the first edition of the esteemed The Cup, I

wondered what the Bird Cup Blues was going to be about. Blues, huh? Must be

about them Eastern Bluebirds, or maybe Blue Jays, perhaps Indigo Buntings or

Blue Grosbeaks, I thought. Nope. Not even the Blue Darter or the Little Blue

Darter made its way in. So, I was baffled ...

... until I made my first trip of the year down into radio-range of Ithaca.

My programmed radio stations weren't coming in, so I hit the scan. I ended

up on the Saturday morning 93.5 radio show, Crossroads--The Blues!

I pulled into Myers Point and instead of turning down the radio (which was

sufficiently cranked) when I rolled down the window, I left it on. It was

then that I noticed them birds. They were tuned into the same radio

frequency I was! (Have any of you Lab of O acolytes studied this

phenomena?) The radio was belting out Etta James. The Common Goldeneye were

tossing their heads back, yelping "OOOh yeahs" and "Yoooowww!!" just as the

regular clientele do in The Haunt. I watched this display for minutes on

end. Perfect rhythm. One male would rally his head back, and the others in

the group, not to be outdone, matched him (silent) shout for shout. My

attention turned to the coots as the song ended and the next tune kicked in.

Mere coots? No way. These coots were strutting about, bobbing their heads to

John Lee Hooker as he wailed out the lyrics. Ice pickin'? Yeah, well that's

what those gulls were doing as Albert Collins wah-wah'ed his gee-tar.

Then it hit me like a black cat bone ... it must be something in the water

down there. I wonder what I need to blast out my window if I want to reel in

a Barrow's Goldeneye, some Bessie Smith? Sapphire? I think I'll try Koko


(Kurt Fox is a full-time birder, though he holds a daytime job as a


engineer at Eastman Kodak Co. to help pay for birding expeditions with

his wife Jeannine. He now travels to Ithaca regularly in order to fill

empty milk jugs with the blue waters of Cayuga Lake.)

(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




< <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

< <

< <

< < < <

Ever since The Cup first appeared long, long ago, Ken Rosenberg has been

begging us to let him write the Coach's Corner. Since he's no good at

center field, we decided to give him a chance at pitching. Turns out, he's

darned good at it--heck, he's even coined his own phrase ("pure transient"

should make Noah Webster all squinny-eyed with envy). But even if we hadn't

known beforehand that Ken would be a clever Coach, we'd still honor him.

Anyone who'll take a concussion or two for the sake of seeing a few good

birds (see The Cup 1.2) has "IMMORTALITY" emblazoned across his forehead.

COACH'S CORNER: As winter loosens its icy grip (or does it? Four inches of

snow as I write this on Easter Sunday), Cuppers are anxiously awaiting the

inexorable onslaught of spring migrants into the Cayuga Lake Basin --

dreaming of hitting that really big wave and turning the leader board upside

down. Indeed new species will be coming fast and furious, and every Basin

birder will have a chance to greatly increase her/his list and take a shot

at the leaders. Although all of us will be basking in the welcome spring

thaw and thoroughly enjoying each new avian arrival, we must not lose sight

of our ultimate objective -- as large a total year list as possible. This

objective requires a well-considered strategy, and some discipline. For

example, don't be lulled into lingering at that early wave of beautiful but

common warblers and vireos in Sapsucker Woods and pass up the dull little

Orange-crown that Ralph Paonessa finds at Myer's Point.

The most important element of a successful spring-migration strategy is

knowing which species are "pure transients" in the Basin and therefore must

be seen during the relatively short migration season. The vast majority of

spring arrivals and migrants also stay to breed somewhere in the Cayuga Lake

Basin; therefore most of these species are reliably found later in summer,

after the frenzy of migration dies down. Some, however, are heading for

breeding grounds far to our north and must be ticked as they pass through.

For many of these, we'll have a second chance in the fall, but some are more

easily found (or identified) in spring and should not be taken for granted.

A good way to start planning is by using the list of average spring arrival

dates compiled by Charlie Smith and rearranged in chronological order by

Dave Mellinger (posted on CayugaBirds 4/1/96). This list is an excellent

guide for what to expect on any given date, although many of the

sought-after rarities are omitted. Many of the earliest migrants are also

local breeders. Exceptions that you should make an effort to see in April

include raptors like Golden Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Goshawk

(rare breeder), Peregrine, and Merlin; other exceptions include uncommon

waterfowl (scoters, oldsquaw), Rusty Blackbird, and Fox Sparrow. Among the

earliest spring warblers, Palm and Orange-crowned are easily missed.

Rarities that should be looked for and chased in April include Eurasian

Wigeon (already found), Black-headed and Little Gull, Loggerhead Shrike,

Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

As migration gets into full swing in late April and early May, keep the

following species in mind that cannot be found later as breeders: Caspian

Tern, Bonaparte's Gull, White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrow, Cape-May,

Tennessee, Northern Parula, Golden-winged, Wilson's, Bay-breasted, and

Blackpoll warblers, Philadelphia Vireo, Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush,

and, a little later, Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers. In

addition, some uncommon shorebirds appear regularly in spring: Red Knot,

Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, and Whimbrel. Finally, a few species

that are rare breeders may be more reliable as spring migrants: Upland

Sandpiper, Whip-poor-will, Sora, Virginia Rail, Purple Martin, Cliff

Swallow, Pine Warbler, and Prairie Warbler.

Another point to keep in mind is that migrants rarely linger more than a day

or so and some stay in one place only a few hours. In winter you had the

luxury of trying five times for birds like Ross' Goose and Short-eared Owl,

but not anymore. If possible, chase birds immediately after they are

reported (and please, report your finds as quickly as possible so others may

chase your birds, too!).

Although the temptation will be there to forsake family and job to spend

every waking hour in the field, most of us must economize our birding time.

To efficiently cover the spring migration, keep your eye on the weather and

take advantage of the best conditions. On April days with warm south winds,

head for Mt. Pleasant on your lunch hour and check the lakeshores as often

as possible. Always watch the sky. On those cool, drizzly days in early

May, head for any patch of woods where migrants will concentrate -- Stewart

Park Golf Course, Sapsucker Woods, Mundy Wildflower Garden, and Monkey Run

are some local favorites, but even your own backyard may be productive.

(Hint: spruce groves seem to be particularly attractive to northern

migrants, such as Cape May, Tennessee, and Bay-breasted warblers). Try to

hit Montezuma Refuge during the last few days of April for peak waterfowl

flights, and a chance for rare shorebirds, gulls, terns, and rails. If you

can't get to Montezuma, try Dryden Lake. If you're goal is the prestigious

McIlroy Award, get out to the lighthouse at Stewart Park as often as

possible to spot those waterbirds on their way to Montezuma, and scour the

Cornell Plantations and Sapsucker Woods -- don't wait for Jeff and Steve to

post their morning totals.

Remember, too, that the game is still young. Don't be intimidated by the

early leaders' sprint from the gate. There's barely a species seen so far

that can't be picked up by the rest of us in the next few weeks or cleaned

up next fall or winter. We're all in this competition to maximize our

precious time in the field, to sharpen our skills, to better our

understanding of the common birds around us as well as the dream birds that

might cross our paths. So, get out there, find some good birds, write down

what you see, call or post your sightings to the communal lists, and send

your Kingbird report to Steve Kelling at the end of the season.

(Ken Rosenberg, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist of the Bird Population Studies

department at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and has recently

initiated a Cup sub-competition, The Bowl.)


mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm


Let it be known that the editors of The Cup came dang close to not running

McIlroy Musings this month. The interview started out with a snicker and

got digressively uglier. By the end, the air was so thick with malevolence

you couldn't penetrate it with a Kowa TSN-4. Nonetheless, the editors

decided to remain true to The Cup's faithful readers and run the nasty thing

but with this disclaimer: The following does not necessarily reflect the

views of The Cup, the editors of The Cup, advertisers in The Cup, or family

members thereof. The interviewee(s) is (are) solely responsible for the


ALLISON: So, you thought you could get away with it all these months. Well,

Baby, I caughtcha!

JEFF: I wasn't keeping anything from you--

ALLISON: What, leaving at the crack of dawn under the guise of getting to

work early? Didn't you think I knew what you were doing along the way?

JEFF: Aha! That's why you've been walking me to work. It wasn't out of

love, it was out of jealousy!

ALLISON: Yes, yes, it's true. Do you think I'm proud of that?

JEFF: Yes, I do. I think you've been enjoying this little game.

ALLISON: Me? What about you! Calling me on the phone to tell me what you

can see from your window over there at the Lab--

JEFF: Well, you don't exactly keep your eyes focused on the ground when

you're out jogging.

ALLISON: And it's a good thing I don't. I would never have caught you.

JEFF: You won't catch me again. Spring is here, and you know what that


ALLISON: It means I'll be leaving you behind. I need to be by myself. I'm

tired of sharing the McIlroy title with you.

JEFF: I guess we should feel fortunate to have shared the Big 73.

ALLISON: Perhaps we'll meet again at 100?

JEFF: Perhaps...did you here there's a Black Scoter off Stewart Park?

ALLISON: Really? Let's go!




Now that The Cup 1.1 and 1.2 have established why the David Cup and McIlroy

Award are aptly named, the question has no doubt been weighing heavily on

your mind: Who'll be the next Bird Brain of the Month?

Postulate no more. Our featured Bird Brain for The Cup 1.3 is none other

than Jeff Wells, the coeditor himself! Mind you, Jeff fluttered and

squawked in protest (the word "nepotism" flew around, as it did in creating

The Cup 1.2), but Allison, being coeditor--and more powerful still, his

wife--over-ruled his veto, in the interest of fellow Cuppers. Indeed, she

happens to know that Jeff's new job will be of interest to you, Gentle

Readers. You see, he's now the...nah, find out for yourselves:

Jeff Wells

He's coeditor of the prestigious newsletter, The Cup. You've seen his

impressive tick totals in the Pilgrims' Progress report--why, he's been the

McIlroy leader an unprecedented number of times! He's led bird trips for

the Cayuga Bird Club, and can even be seen from time to time filling the

feeders behind the Lab of O's green trailers. By now, you probably feel as

though you know him.

But you may not know that Jeff Wells was in elementary school when he made

his first tick: a Song Sparrow, near his family's home in the northern Maine

town of Masardis. "Unfortunately," he says, "we moved before I realized

that we had Gray Jays and Spruce Grouse in the backyard!" During those

young, formative years, Jeff's family frequently made the five-hour car ride

to their ancestral farmhouse overlooking the Sheepscot River in North

Edgecomb, nestled along Maine's central coast. Here, Jeff enjoyed taking

meticulous notes about his observations of nature. "I remember seeing what

I was pretty sure were Ruffed Grouse tracks in the snow," he says. "I

really wanted to see one, so I spent hours following them, and they led me

to an unsuspecting grouse, strutting around in the understory."

By the time he was in high school, Jeff had become an avid naturalist. So

when the family moved to the city of Bangor, he was soon an active member of

the Bangor Nature Club and the Penobscot Valley Audubon Society. It soon

became commonplace for he and several of the other spontaneous members of

the clubs to go racing off in zealous quests for birds. "They set the

example: Don't let anything stand between you and a life bird!"

After graduating from high school, Jeff pursued another of his lifelong

passions, jazz music. It was as a trumpet major in college (he studied with

Chuck Winfield, screech trumpet player for Blood, Sweat, and Tears!) that he

met his wife-to-be, Allison Childs, a jazz vocal major, a warm, kind,

loving, gentle person, and most importantly, a birder. After realizing his

primary reason for attending post-secondary school in the first place

(securing the woman of his dreams), Jeff decided to devote the remainder of

his formal education to ecology.

In 1988, Jeff came to Cornell for his master's, the focus of which was

reanalyzing an historic Ruffed Grouse study from the pre-computer 1930's.

He received his M.S. in 1992. Jeff went o to pursue his Ph.D. at Cornell

under Dr. Milo Richmond. His thesis investigated theories and practical

applications of biogeography and conservation, for which he used the Maine

state-endangered Grasshopper Sparrow population at the Kennebunk Plains, in

southern coastal Maine as a model. In May of 1995, he was paroled for good

behavior. "They tried to stop me at the last minute with a couple of figure

margins that were a sixteenth of an inch too small but I was too quick for


Over the years Jeff has worked in various capacities as a conservationist.

He spent one summer as a field assistant for a study of breeding birds in

various habitats in northern Maine, where he also served as bait for whining

hordes of blackflies. He's counted Piping Plovers and banded Least Terns

along the Maine coast, one of the rewards of which included being bombed by

angry terns. "I can still remember the unusual sensation of standing on a

beautiful beach with hot guano being slung full-speed into my face." For

three summers, Jeff was the primary field assistant for a project on the

Kennebunk Plains in southern coastal Maine, studying the effects of

herbicide treatment on this grassland habitat. His efforts were

instrumental in the purchase of the land as a state wildlife preserve. (It

was those summers at the Plains that led him to base his Ph.D. work there.)

Jeff has also done threatened/endangered species censusing work for The

Nature Conservancy and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

and has taught courses in wildlife management and wildlife ecology at


Jeff's first scientific investigation in avian ecology was initiated while

still an undergraduate, when he founded Dump Duck Day, a volunteer-based

study of the distribution and abundance of wintering gulls in Maine. "It

was inspired in part by the many romantic lunches Allison and I shared at

the Farmington Landfill between classes," he says. Dump Duck Day results

were published in the Journal of Field Ornithology. This affinity for gulls

explains, of course, why mere mention of the words "Niagara Falls" in

November promptly increases Jeff's blood pressure and causes him to salivate

with a ferocity not unlike the Niagara River itself.

Jeff has published many scientific papers and has received numerous awards,

though he forbids the writer to elaborate (the dastardly "N" word again).

He's also given uncountable talks at scientific meetings and at local bird

clubs throughout the northeast. He's led field trips for the Lab of O, the

Maine Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and other conservation


In 1994 , Jeff came to the Lab of O to work on a project for Partners in

Flight, assessing the conservation status of neotropical migratory birds in

the northeast U.S. After completing the project (during which he worked

closely with the Lab's Chief Scientist Ken Rosenberg), he became a research

associate at the Lab, his major responsibility being analyzing data that

many Cuppers no doubt collected, as Project FeederWatch participants.

This past March, Jeff became the New York State Coordinator for the

Important Bird Areas program, under the National Audubon Society. The goals

of the program are to identify critical bird breeding, migratory stop-over,

and feeding areas in New York State. The purpose of this identification

will be to develop conservation strategies that ensure the protection of

these key bird habitats. Sites will be identified by soliciting site

nominations from bird clubs (like the Cayuga Bird Club!), Audubon chapters,

and individuals, including, he hopes, some of our own Cuppers. Through an

enthusiastic agreement between the Lab of O and National Audubon, Jeff's

position is being housed at the Lab. This means that Cuppers will continue

to be forced to read The Cup, as it appears according to the whims of

Allison and Jeff.

When asked what his next goal in life is, Jeff had this to say: "I want to

take the McIlroy competition. I've got a corner on Sapsucker Woods, and

Stewart Park is just down the hill," he says. "However, my most valuable

asset for a McIlroy victory is also my worst liability: my wife. You see,

her next goal in life is the same as mine."




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,

like these...

(In The Cup 1.2, Dear Tick received from a troubled Cupper a particularly

difficult question that required a little hobnobbing. Since then, Dear Tick

has come through! The original query has been republished here:


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

the Basin.

--Still Sleepy in Ithaca

Dear Sleepy:

As you recall, your question was passed along to ABA president Greg Butcher.

Greg, probably fearing the loss of that Sora from his Illinois list, passed

the query off to Robert Pyle, ABA Listing Rules Committee Chair. Here's

what Pyle has to say:

"The pertinent rule states simply that the bird must be identified by

the lister him/herself either visually or audibly. Virtually all birders

would agree that birds observed with aid of binoculars or scope are

countable. For the audio analog, use of parabolic reflector and earphones

to enhance a distant bird call would also have to allow the bird to be

countable as heard, although some birders would have to think about this for

a bit...What about using your microphone to feed a bird call into a

telephone line, sent 1000 miles away, and listened to "live" in real time?

If these birds are to be countable, there must be a clear distinction

between these techniques and the photo image and recordings sent 1000 miles

away. If these are to be not countable, there must be a clear distinction

between these techniques and the binoculars and earphones."

How's that for restating the question? Since neither the ABA nor the David

Cup committee has the guts to draw a line in the sand, DEAR TICK will do the

drawing: No, Sleepy, you cannot count that siskin. I had a lousy cup of

coffee this morning.


If I remember correctly, Benjamin Franklin advised, "Moderation in all

things." Aren't Cuppers "flying" in the face of the considerable opinion of

America's beloved sage?

--Brainy Cup Benchwarmer

Dear Benchwarmer:

Typical of you brainy types, you've taken Ben's words out of context to suit

your own purposes, in this case, justifying why you're vital signs as an

honest-to-goodness Cup contender are weak. The quote in its entirety reads,

"Moderation in all things that may cause you to be struck by lightning."

Since the only kites Cuppers are interested in are Snail, Swallow-tailed,

and Mississippi, you needn't worry yourself. Now get off the bench and into

the game.


When I stopped near the Triangle Diner yesterday my dog and I both saw the

Short-eared Owl. Can pets sign up for the David Cup?

--Dogs' Best Friend

Dear Dog's Best Friend:

Did you have dinner at the Triangle? If "Spot" sat across from you at the

booth and asked for something other than a doggy bag, then by all means,

sign her up! But remember: your dog may already have more ticks than

you do.


If a phoebe called in the woods and I didn't hear it, was it really singing?

Can I count it for my David Cup/McIlroy lists?

--Philosophical in Sapsucker Woods

Dear Philosophical:

Of course you can. (Remember, send your check to my post office box, not my

home address.)


I submit that Ned Brinkley's suggestion that the selective birder can find

255 birds in the Basin with less than 200 days afield is the equivalent of

suggesting that a barefoot, scantily clad teenager can climb Mt. Everest

with no oxygen and a 100-lb. pack. S/he who accomplishes this is toying

with immortality.

--Doubtful in Ithaca

Dear Doubtful:

Sacrilege! And on sacred David Cup soil! I can only surmise that it is the

jealous residue of not being featured in Kickin' Tail. Sorry to further

embitter you, Doubtful, but in reference to your barefoot, scantily clad

teenager climbing Mt. Everest, the David Cup's own Bill Evans has already

accomplished such a feat--and with an expensive night call recorder in one

hand, a chaise lounge in the other, and a six pack of Rolling Rock clenched

between his teeth. You should consider trying it yourself, it may well

level your mountain of hostility.


If buttered toast always lands buttered side down, and a cat always lands on

its feet, what would happen if you tied a piece of buttered toast on a cat

and dropped it?

--Confused at Cornell

Dear Confused:

The real question here is, why would anyone tie a piece of buttered toast to

a cat? That's so cruel. Use Nuttala Hazelnut Spread, or better yet, a

cream-cheese-and-bagel combo. Otherwise, you're risking a visit from

the SPCA.

(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)

""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""

"Lately it has been really exciting seeing people get involved in seeing

many of the bird highlights that have occurred in the Cayuga Lake Basin.

The friendly competition of the David Cup and McIlroy Award has ignited a

fire in quite a few people in this area to get out and see birds."

--Steve Kelling

"Most of us who "bird," I think, bird not just to see but also to feel..but

we often don't share these emotions in public. It's been wonderful to read

about them and to experience vicariously."

--Barbara LeGendre

"Longspur, Oh, Longspur! I sing a song of Longspurs! Is there ever a sight

more satisfying than the one you've really worked for? After more trips to

King Ferry than I am willing to mention, Heather and I finally found a


Longspur among the field birds near King Ferry. Ah, yes."

--Scott Mardis

"I watched [the Short-eared Owl] for 10 minutes hoping it would do


other than swivel its head back and forth. It finally shifted in the tree

from a side view to straight on. Pretty neat."

--Larry Springsteen

"This morning, Bard Prentiss and I ran into each other at Dryden Lake."

--Chris Hymes

"While scanning across a loose group of gulls on the edge of the ice I saw

one that looked 'good'."

--Ken Rosenberg

"I surmised that the eagle had dived down to capture a snipe but had gotten

snarled in the mud and was then set upon by the brethren snipe."

--Ralph Paonessa

"On Sunday afternoon, in the trees at the middle of the commons, looking

down on the little padded children's play area, was a kestrel. I watched

for a while, and walked around to get better views, but at least while

I was there it didn't get any small dogs (or small children)."

--Mark Wilson

"These are my totals (without cheating and adding in either the Red-bellied

Woodpecker or the Brown-headed Cowbirds I saw today [April]."

--Diane Tessaglia

"Ha det bra! (Swedish/Norwegian for I'm going to catch you, Nix and


--Matt Medler

"Crows are good."

--Casey Sutton

"We watched [the Red Crossbills] hang upside down pulling out the seeds and

doing all sort of things."

--Meena Haribal

"As the eponymous honoree of the David Cup, I feel the weight of

obligation to

set an example ... so, in vain pursuit once again of the mythical Pine

Siskins on Dodge Rd.. Tuesday afternoon (only a "slight" detour on my way

home), I saw an Eastern Phoebe there for Cup bird #100...The feeling was

exactly like that of seeing an old friend again after a prolonged absence."

--Karl David

"Even though you haven't invited readers to vote for quotable quotes, if I

could I'd nominate Ned Brinkley's 'water is your friend' (from Coaches

Corner, The Cup 1.2). While it elegantly distills the powerful tick

strategy of concentrating one's Basin birding time near the lake, standing

alone it is sufficiently ambiguous that it becomes humorous. Moreover, in

the midst of a dissertation on birding the interior of NY State, I believe

Ned has managed to surreptitiously slide in an off-handed plug for pelagic


--David McDermitt

"I saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker fly into a nearby Sugar Maple. As I watched

the bird, it proceeded to fly to icicles that were hanging off the

branches. It

would reach down and lick/sip the droplets off the end of the

icicles...Realizing that there was no roof edges to create such an icicles,

I realized that this was not mere ice, but frozen sap from broken maple

branches ... sap-sicles ... or natures very own pop-sicles."

--Kurt Fox

"This AM on Dryden Lake, on about 2 acres of open water, I saw 49 Mallards,

11 Black Ducks, 20 Canada Geese, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Bufflehead, 5 Ring-necked

Ducks, 1 Hooded Merg., 1 Northern Shrike, 1 Great Blue Heron, 2 Song


6 Red-winged Blackbirds, and a good variety of winter regulars."

--Bard Prentiss

"Please note: the last 4 species I listed this AM as in about 2 acres

of open

water were in fact on land or in trees as is their habit. "

--Bard Prentiss

"Whasamatter Bard, afraid that the CayugaBirds harpies will pick on you for

your imprecision? Afraid to see your quote in the next The Cup?"

--Kevin McGowan

"I am humbled--nay, AWESTRUCK--that you have seen fit to bestow upon me

the honorific Pioneer Prize for those birds that I so happily located in the

month of February. I did not do this for any personal gain or glory, but

only as

my tiny contribution to the whole of Basin birding. Indeed, I take as my

model none other than Mother Theresa, and I think of her often while birding

(e.g., "Would Mother Theresa throw rocks at these gulls to get them to

move?") Still, almost one month has passed, and I have come to a painful

realization: there is no money involved in this award. (The beautiful David

Cup Pencil sits on my bureau, until I can get someone to sharpen it; I

treasure it. Truly.) Therefore, if space permits, please run this ad for

me in a future edition of The Cup."

--Ralph Paonessa

"No rufous 'tail, but on the way to look for the Red Crossbills had great

looks at a Cooper's Hawk and met up with a group of people watching the Red

Crossbills. They are wonderful, and if cooperative, can be easily seen from

the road."

--Rob Scott

"Rob, it's nice to know the crossbill watchers were wonderful,

cooperative and easily seen from the road. How about the crossbills?"

--Karl David

"Since I see I am on my way to fame, joining the ranks of the 10 lb.

chickadee reporters and the screech-owl-bathroom-habits reporters, let me

say that *both* the crossbills and the birdwatchers were wonderful. Ralph

let me look through his great Swarovski scope, and the birds sweetly came to

trees near the road for fantastic views in the early afternoon sun."

--Rob Scott

"I saw an Eastern Phoebe at 7:00am this chillllly Wednesday morning at Larch


--Martha Fischer

"Cut out the beef, vote Congress out, and enjoy the birds. Last one to 200

species is a rotten egg."

--Tom Nix

May Your Cup Runneth Over,

Allison and Jeff