Year 1, Issue 4
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Key Grip: Jeff Wells
Why bother? That's what you're thinking, isn't it? When you signed up to
receive The Cup you no doubt expected it to arrive in a timely fashion.
That's not too much to ask, yet here we are almost halfway through the month
of May and The Cup 1.4 has only now perched in your e-mail box. The Coach's
Corner--you've lost a good portion of the month's migration, what good is a
coach now? Kickin' Tail--huh! April's leader's totals are toast.
Pilgrim's Progress--there's been plenty of progress since, indeed!
Give you one good reason to read on? How's this: pity. Not pity for me,
having wrangled this unruly beast into publishable form near
single-handedly. No, read it out of pity for the Sapsuckers, that same
flock of hot-shot birders that soared out of the Basin for birdy-er pastures
in New Jersey (under the guise of a fundraiser for the Lab of
Ornithology--participating in the World Series of Birding.) While the Big
Boys were off enjoying fabulous looks at Summer Tanagers and Blue Grosbeaks,
the faithful stayed behind--and now our David Cup and McIlroy lists make
theirs look like a day of birding the railroad station in Hoboken. Even as
I type, they're out scrambling for a fraction of the warblers the rest of us
have become pals with in City Cemetery. You could spend the time required
to read this issue of The Cup out birding and pummel the Sapsuckers into
the ground for good. Instead, pity the poor fools. Kick up your heels and
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: There's been talk that in Ken Rosenberg's
absence during the World Series of Birding, his wife, Ann James, put in some
serious Cup time and made substantial gains on his totals. There's only one
problem: she's not yet a Cupper. Please, go out of your way to gently prod
Ann (and when she's not looking, give her a good, hard shove) into the David
T-SHIRT UPDATE: The countdown has begun! Another day or two and Cuppers
will be the best dressed people in the Basin. Our spiffy David Cup T's are
expected any day! As part of an in-depth publicity study, our marketing
committee is asking you to do one more thing: When you notice someone
wearing their David Cup T, let us know who, when, where, and any interesting
behavioral observations and other noteworthy particulars. Don't worry about
letting them know you're spying on them. They'll find out about it soon
enough--and so will everyone else--in the pages of The Cup.
SUCKING UP: This just in, from on-the-scene reporter Jeff Wells: "You've all
read about the Sapsuckers exploits on CayugaBirds so I won't go into detail.
Let me say though, that the World Series for the Sapsucker's was a day of
incredible contrasts. We began during the early morning hours of Saturday
listening to hundreds of nocturnal migrants pass over in the warm sky. By
8:00 in the morning we were picking out warbler songs in a beautiful hemlock
swamp amidst the sound of someone getting violently sick. We thought the
day was over when the policeman pulled us over after we made that wrong turn
into Pennsylvania and were relieved when all he did was give us directions
to Cape May--a ticket would have meant disqualification. The Kentucky
Warblers, Prothonotary Warblers, Summer Tanagers, and Blue Grosbeaks came so
easily for us in the late afternoon that we were dismayed at how low the
list was at the next tally. As we raced up to Brigantine for the last bit
of daylight, our spirits soared again when we realized that we'd forgotten
to check 12 species off on the list! Then our nerves frayed as we saw an
intimidating line of dark thunderheads moving south as we raced north; we
hit bottom again when we pulled into Brigantine accompanied by the sound of
thunder and torrential downpours. Every species came hard during that last
45 minutes as we struggled to peer through the rain and darkening skys. But
by the time we were done and had heard a Chuck-will's Widow between the rain
showers, our spirits were high and we had set a new Sapsucker World Series
of Birding Big Day record."
TICKED OFF: This past April, when Dateline NBC wanted a warm human-interest
story featuring an advice columnist that would satiate the minds of curious
viewers, who did they interview? Dear Tick? No! Ann Landers! That's
right, rather than take a chance on a guest who wouldn't sugar-coat tough
answers, Jane Pauley and friends took the safe road and showcased a
tooty-fruity, our sources tell us. If you feel moved to write NBC in
protest, far be it from the editors of The Cup to discourage you.
Meanwhile, Dear Tick has this to say: "Fooey!"
I NEED MY SPACE--AND YOURS, TOO: Don't think for a minute that the chilly
winds of winter have left us. Oh, no. Jeff and Allison Wells found out the
hard way that nippy billows are still very much with us. On a sunny Sunday
afternoon in April, upon returning to their car after scouring Allan Treman
Park in their quest for a LeConte's Sparrow, they found a little something
slapped to their windshield. It read, "There are hundreds of parking spaces
open here this morning. Why, oh, why did you choose to park RIGHT NEXT to
my car? You are SO STRANGE." Brrrr.
IT'S CUP TIME: This month, Cuppers got ripped off not once (see TICKED OFF,
above) but twice. The T-shirt committee no sooner finalized decisions about
the David Cup T-shirt design when we get word from our inside sources that
the Stanley Cup has crashed our creativity. "It's Cup Time"--the very
slogan that graces the David Cup T is now being plastered all over the bube
tube. If only we'd known! This blatant plagiarism wouldn't be so bad if it
were being used to promote a toe-twistin', nail-gnawin', brain bashin',
rootin'-tootin' free-for-all--in short, an event as exciting and dangerous
as the David Cup. But the Stanley Cup? Ho-hum. Rumors are flying that the
NHL will be selling T-shirts, too. What's next, Stanley Cup pencils?
MIRA, MIRA: A watch dog group has been monitoring The Cup and filed a
complaint against the David Cup committee with the SPCA. They claim that
our failure to formally invite animals into the David Cup is nothing short
of cruelty. To prove that we are in fact PC, we invited Larry Springsteen's
dog Mira to submit her totals for the David Cup and McIlroy races. As of
April 30, here are Mira's totals: 53 David Cup, 21 McIlroy. Although not a
bird dog per say, should anyone doubt Mira's birding abilities, Larry offers
this proof: "To test Mira, I randomly opened the field guide and stuck my
finger on one of the plates. I happened to hit the bottom of a sandpiper
page. She said, 'Ruff.' I turned the guide so I could see it and she was
right! She can't read, so I know she didn't cheat. The second example is
from one Sunday morning at my Gramma's in St. Lawrence County. While
walking, we flushed a pair of grouse. I asked, 'Did you see that partridge,
Mira?' As a native northern New Yorker, I grew up with that name, but it's
unfamiliar to Mira. She gave me a strange look and 'corrected' me. She
said, "Ruffed," and I'm satisfied she knows her birds."
UNO'S WHAT TO DO?: What is a Cupper to do when attempts to beckon John James
Audubon, Arthur Allen and other avian guides from the immaterial world to
help you win the David Cup/McIlroy competitions never, shall we say, flesh
out? Drown your sorrows in a pot of tea? Wallow the hours away to thumpin'
blues at The Haunt? Not if you're James Barry. James has taken to
immersing himself in marathon rounds of UNO, at the expense of classes,
sleep, and--gasp!--birding. If he suddenly begins posting sightings of
Swallow-tailed Kites and Lark Sparrows (noting that they can be easily seen
from his dorm window), don't go running. It's just his way of luring
Cuppers away from the competitions--and into the fiery hell of his UNO
BIRD CUP BLUES: "We didn't give a damn who liked what we were doing. We
were just having a good time playing together." Karl David thumbing his
nose at bird listing debates taking place on the Internet? Not a bad guess,
but in fact these are the words of Mr. Slowhand himself, Eric Clapton (who,
as evidenced by his association with a group called The Yardbirds, would
certainly be a Cupper if he lived in the Basin.) Clapton is, of course,
referring here to his experience with Cream, famous for their take on the
Robert Johnson classic, "Crossroads". You see, the PBS blues special that
aired in April (during which that irresistible quote was made) was the
closest the editors (and all other Cuppers?) came to an honest-to-goodness
blues-night-out this month. So when Jimi Hendrix's manager had this to say
about the man who could take you from the Mississippi Delta to Venus, we
could only imagine it was Ann talking about her beloved Ken and his bins:
"First thing he did in the morning was put on his guitar (binoculars). He'd
be frying an egg with his guitar (binoculars) around his neck. He took his
(binoculars) everywhere with him, he even took it (them) with him to the
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
:> Ralph Paonessa windsurfing off Myer's Point for Black Tern. Kevin
McGowan swinging tree to tree high over Ithaca in his harness (or was that a
saddle?) in a desperate attempt to see one more McIlroy bird. These are
only a few of the highlights seen this past month--oh. They're telling me
this is supposed to be a Basin BIRD Highlights column, not a Basin BIRD
BRAIN Highlights column. Forgive me, I'm new at this. And with my
full-time staff, including trendmaster Steve Kelling himself scudding the
Basin...anyway, here I go.
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
Steve Kelling, ah, make that Allison Wells
Although we've all been anxious to say goodbye to winter, we weren't against
keeping our winter "guests" on a while longer, and they were apparently
happy to stay. Common Redpolls remained with us until almost mid-month,
and Pine Siskins were still being reported late in April. A Northern Shrike
joined Steve Kelling and his son Sam for breakfast (albeit it stayed outside
their kitchen window) on April 10th, making it the last report for the
species of the season. Evening Grosbeaks, like the redpolls, were more
plentiful than usual this year and at this writing remain in strong numbers,
feeding in Box Elders around Diane Tessaglia's yard in Etna. As for
rarities, a Eurasion Wigeon was found by Steve Kelling at the north end of
Cayuga Lake; it or another individual showed up a few days later at
Montezuma, and good looks were had by many Cuppers. Karl David made a few
lucky Cuppers happy by finding a Little Gull on the morning of April 24th;
that evening, it was relocated by Scott Mardis at the north end of the lake
amid 1500 or so Bonaparte's Gulls. It was still in the area five days later,
when Steve Kelling found it in Varick. For much of the month, Dryden Lake
was the place to be, with White-winged Scoters, Red-necked and Horned
Grebes, Oldsquaw, and Ruddy Ducks taking advantage of the open water to rest
before continuing north. The last few days of April dizzied many Cuppers
with a generous gift of warblers. City Cemetery hosted a number of species,
including Prairie. In short, April's scale of wintery birds in the beginning
of the month tipped to spring in the end.
(Allison Childs Wells is a writer and editor, and has been a Lecturer in
Writing at Cornell University. She coedits The Cup in her "free time"
because her dreams of editing a magazine on the life cycle of the sand flea
have yet to be realized.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
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,
our (and Club members') way of congratulating Cuppers at an important
milestone in their David Cup life. May 1 finds many more Cuppers with a
foot through the clubhouse door. But they're not officially in until they
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN THE 100 CLUB?
John Bower: "It is a great honor to share this club with some of the biggest
bird brains in the business!" Bird 100: I don't know!
Martha Fischer: "I feel behind." Bird 100: Black-throated Green Warbler
Meena Haribal: (Refused to respond to questionnaire) Bird 100: Northern
Chris Hymes: (Refused to respond to questionnaire) Bird 100: Either Ruddy
Duck, Oldsquaw, or White-winged Scoter
Scott Mardis: "There's a club? Why didn't anyone tell me? How many
have I missed?" Bird 100: Osprey
Jay McGowan: "No difference." (Kevin: "I think he's saving his excitement
for the 200 Club." Bird 100: Common Moorhen
Kevin McGowan: "Wonderful, like I've finally made it into the top group at
last. (Or was
that just gas?)" Bird 100: Tree Swallow
Ralph Paonessa: "Good." Bird 100: Hmmm.
Bard Prentiss: "I haven't thought about how it feels but I'll let you know
when I do." Bird 100: Common Raven
Pixie Senesac: "I have made it into the David 100 Club, but I am ashamed to
say I cannot be
exact in the identification of my 100th winged warrior. It was either a
Greater Yellowlegs or a Barn Swallow. Now, of course, the Yellowlegs has
more glamour, but my bread & butter (or soon to be) is with the swallow
Larry Springsteen: "Okay, I guess. Was I supposed to celebrate in some
Casey Sutton: "It is a great honor to be a member of this prestigious club."
Bird 100: Common Raven
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
What follows is a lie. You'd never know it to look at this list, but Kevin
McGowan is no longer a threat. Ken Rosenberg? Bumped off the stage. Steve
Kelling? A has-been. Jeff Wells? Washed up. And all because of some
perfectly legitimate, wildly successful fundraiser for the Cornell
Laboratory of Ornithology. Maybe, just maybe they'll put in some serious
overtime and claw their way back to the top of the pack. More than likely,
next month they'll all be admiring the soles of your hiking boots. But for
now, their moment of glory...
1996 DAVID CUP APRIL TOTALS 1996 DAVID CUP MARCH TOTALS
153 Scott Mardis 106 Tom Nix
153 Kevin McGowan 105 Karl David
152 Tom Nix 101 Steve Kelling
151 Ken Rosenberg 100 Jeff Wells
149 Allison Wells 99 Chris Hymes
148 Steve Kelling 99 Bard Prentiss
146 Bard Prentiss 96 Allison Wells
145 Karl David 95 Ralph Paonessa
143 Jeff Wells 94 Scott Mardis
140 Chris Hymes 92 Ken Rosenberg
129 Jay McGowan 89 Kevin McGowan
119 Meena Haribal 84 Meena Haribal
115 John Bower 81 Martha Fischer
114 Pixie Senesac 77 John Bower
112 Ralph Paonessa 75 Kurt Fox
112 Casey Sutton 73 Rob Scott
110 Martha Fischer 70 Casey Sutton
107 Larry Springsteen 69 Jay McGowan
94 Rob Scott 68 Larry Springsteen
88 Diane Tessaglia 65 Diane Tessaglia
86 Michael Runge 64 Carol Bloomgarden
80 Jim Lowe 57 Jim Lowe
80 Matt Medler 51 Michael Runge
71 James Barry 50 James Barry
63 Dan Scheiman 45 Matt Medler
49 Tom Lathrop 30 Dan Scheiman
24 Tom Lathrop
1996 McILROY AWARD APRIL TOTALS MARCH TOTALS
126 Kevin McGowan 73 Allison Wells
124 Allison Wells 73 Jeff Wells
119 Jeff Wells 69 Kevin McGowan
111 Ken Rosenberg 64 John Bower
109 Scott Mardis 60 Larry Springsteen
97 Jay McGowan 58 Martha Fischer
95 John Bower 58 Ken Rosenberg
93 Larry Springsteen 58 Rob Scott
91 Tom Nix 57 Scott Mardis
88 Martha Fischer 49 Chris Hymes
84 Casey Sutton 49 Jim Lowe
78 Chris Hymes 47 Tom Nix
74 Rob Scott 46 Karl David
72 Jim Lowe 44 Casey Sutton
70 Karl David 40 Jay McGowan
56 Michael Runge 39 Ralph Paonessa
42 Matt Medler 36 Carol Bloomgarden
28 Diane Tessaglia 34 Michael Runge
24 Matt Medler
21 Diane Tessaglia
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Kevin and Scott weren't against sharing...
Common Loon , Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe,
Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Mute Swan, Snow
Goose, Ross's 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, Oldsquaw, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Common
Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted
Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier,
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle,
American Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, American Coot, Killdeer,
Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Snipe,
American Woodcock, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland
Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Rock
Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern
Owl, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker,
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern
Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Horned Lark, Purple Martin,
Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay,
American Crow, Fish Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse,
Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren,
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern
Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar
Waxwing, Northern Shrike, European Starling, Solitary Vireo, Nashville
Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green
Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white
Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Cardinal,
Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper
Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated
Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Red-winged
Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird,
Purple Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin,
American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow
But Kevin drew the line at...
Merlin, Ring-necked Pheasant, Common Moorhen, Greater Yellowlegs, Glaucous
Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Carolina Wren, Gray Catbird, Brown
Thrasher, American Pipit, Yellow-throated Vireo, Northern Parula,
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Baltimore Oriole
But Scott rallied to a tie with...
American Bittern, Tundra Swan, Eurasian Wigeon, Little Gull, Great Horned
Owl, Least Flycatcher, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Winter Wren, Hermit
Thrush, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler,
Prairie Warbler, Common Yellowthroat
Both leaders had: 153 species
Add to Kevin and Scott's lists (above) the following species and you'll have
the entire list of birds seen in January, February, March, and April:
Black Tern, Barred Owl, Eastern Kingbird, Common Raven, American Redstart,
Ovenbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, White-crowned Sparrow, Yellow-headed
Blackbird, Pine Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to quiet speculation about whether or not you're a serious
David Cup competitor 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, parasailed,
and otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.
Now, you'd think that with my spouse out of town for 11 days, Cuppers would
take it easy on me, especially since you're all well aware that I rely on
him as Errand Boy, Rigging Gaffer, (see masthead, previous issues of The
Cup), and now as Key Grip as well. He also likes to think of himself as
Coeditor. But all that's up in the air because of the blasted World Series
of Birding--he's useless to me now, and Kevin McGowan and Scott Mardis have
gone and made things worse by ticking in with a tie for April's David Cup
leadership position. Juggling two Kickin' Tail interviews is not for the
tired and true, so I don't mind saying I'm particularly proud of the
remarkable patience and objectivity I've shown in order to showcase the
insights of our awe-inspiring leaders (the miserable little...)
THE CUP: Congratulations! But tell us, is it a little--just a tad,
maybe?--less satisfying to have to share the prestigious Kickin' Tail title?
McGOWAN: I'm just happy to be here. Scott has been a crazy man lately,
running all over the Basin. Sure, it might have been more satisfying to
have seen one more bird, but I'm happy to be sharing with him.
MARDIS: First of all, it's an honor to share it with someone as good as
Kevin. Plus, if you focus on who you're tied with, you miss the important
part which is that Steve, Tom, Bard, Karl, Allison, Jeff, Chris, Ralph,
Meena, Ken, etc. all ended the month with fewer birds. That is hardly
something to be whining in your beer about. And since I don't expect I'll
be getting this interview a second time, I think I'll savor it as though I
weren't sharing it with Kevin.
THE CUP: Is it true that Tom Nix bribed you to haul tail because, like the
Friends, he's worried that overexposure will cause a Nix backlash?
MARDIS: Why are you picking on Tom?
THE CUP: Aaah, quit being such a goody-goody. This isn't Ladies Home
Journal you're interviewing with, it's The Cup. We pick on everybody.
MARDIS: He's a great benefactor (oops, I mean friend). Actually, looking at
the leader board, I'd say if I didn't have a chance of winning, I'd root for
Tom. The top 10 is packed with professional ornithologists which we can't
root for (it's like rooting for professionals at the Olympics). Karl,
already has the Cup named after him--can't root for him. Steve is on The
Sapsuckers and has accepted binoculars--clearly a violation of the well
known code of ethics for amateur birders-- can't root for him. Certainly
of those who have held the top spot, Tom has got to be the home-town
He represents America.
THE CUP: Can you confirm the rumors, then, Kevin?
McGOWAN: Well, he always is pushing this rugalaca stuff. No, no, Tom is
much too much the sportsman ever to play games with the games.
THE CUP: Yes, an exemplary Cupper indeed. What was the most spectacular
bird you saw in April?
McGOWAN: Okay, my bias is going to show a bit here, but the most
spectacular bird I saw was a crow's egg that turned into a baby crow in my
hands (80 feet up).
THE CUP: Wow! What an experience. And a timely one, too. [see Egghead,
Dear Tick, this issue.] But as the renowned Crow Man of Ithaca, hasn't this
happened to you before?
McGOWAN: I've never actually seen a crow hatch before; I'm always there
while the egg is pipping or after they're out.
THE CUP: Interesting.
McGOWAN: Now, if you're after more mundane kinds of spectacular, then I'd
have to go with Golden Eagle. I've waited a long time to see a Golden in
THE CUP: Scott, how about you?
MARDIS: The Golden Eagle I saw from my deck.
THE CUP: Both your totals are respectable, but they're more than a little
shy of the 200-by-May 1 Steve Kelling was shooting for back in February.
Do you think he was totally off his rocker with those kinds of expectations?
McGOWAN: No, not really. Adam Byrne had 200 species by the first of May
the year he and Ned set their record, so that was what Steve was after. I
think that must have been a special year; we were nowhere near getting
kind of numbers. Despite what Ken keeps saying, things are behind for a lot
of birds this year.
MARDIS: Yes, it is rumored that Adam Byrne accomplished just such a thing a
couple of years ago so I suppose it is possible. But maybe only by using
something like year-end accounting procedures where January sales are
accounted in December to get year-end sales up. Independently I would have
to say, yes, Steve is off his rocker (but it is a very nice rocker).
THE CUP: Allison joyously sent Jeff and Ken into momentary spasms with fresh
claims of a second Hoary Redpoll, this one at her and Jeff's feeder. Did
you pull off any good April Fool's Day bird scams yourselves?
McGOWAN: No, I spent most of 1 April on airplanes and in airports, so I
didn't get much chance to do anything. (And, I might add, that it was
probably because I was gone that last week in March that you got the better
of me for the McIlroy lead last month.)
THE CUP: Nah, that was too sizable a lead. And besides, we spent a few days
out of town, too (though on the day of our return we picked up three or
four--yes, exactly four, ha, ha--new birds at Dryden Lake.) Scott, how
about it, are you a funny man?
MARDIS: I don't like April Fool's Day jokes. Last year, Steve nearly sent
me into a painful depression with his long, tall tale about finding
Dickcissel, Brewer's Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Little Gull, and a
blue phase Ross' Goose all on the same day. And no, I don't like
THE CUP: But wasn't that you who came to our door last October 31 in a
Sapsucker costume? Oh, no, that was Rob Scott. By the way, speaking of
scams, are you aware that angry Cuppers are uniting to have you thrown out
of the David Cup/McIlroy races? Apparently, they've caught wind that your
wife, also a birder, has been tipping you off about McIlroy thrashers and so
forth. Is there any chance you could lure her into signing up? That might
save you from expulsion.
MARDIS: Expel me? Hey, that thrasher information was freely shared. And if
my wife signed up, I'd have to worry about losing to her (so would you).
THE CUP: Ooh, you are a cut-throat. No wonder you're Kickin' Tail this
MARDIS: And there would also be all sorts of familial strife. We don't have
to remind the editors of The Cup about that, do we?
THE CUP: Oh, er, well, um, er...Let's move along, shall we? What were the
key factors that pushed you to the top?
MARDIS: I saw lots of birds. That helped. What was more important was that
there were lots of different kinds. Actually, the two most important things
were 1) luck and 2) the shameless chasing of all the birds everyone else was
McGOWAN: I spend a lot of time in the field working with crows at this time
of the year, so I can get a lot of the common things as they arrive. Also
important is Jay's current enthusiasm for birding and Perri's (my
4-year-old) tolerance for occasional weekend road trips to Montezuma.
THE CUP: It angers me just thinking about this, Kevin, but our readers want
to know. It's circulating that when Jay (for those of you who may not know,
Kevin's son Jay is nine years old) begs you to take him birding, you take
him to places like the Wegman's parking lot, so he won't catch his Big Daddy
in the David Cup/McIlroy races. I don't suppose you'd admit to this in
McGOWAN: Hey, we've seen some great birds at Wegmans!
THE CUP: Riiiiight. What's your favorite color?
McGOWAN: Purple, like the beautiful iridescence on the back of a Fish Crow
in the sunlight.
THE CUP: I should have known. And yours, Scott?
MARDIS: The chiffon yellow on the breast of a Philadelphia Vireo.
THE CUP: How poetic. If you could own only one nonbird-related CD for the
rest of your life, what would it be?
MARDIS: Arthur Rubinstein's recording of Chopin's Ballades and Scherzos.
THE CUP: Yeah, I like that steamy salsa sound, too. And those thumping bass
lines, and that sexy Spanish wail--oh. I thought you said Ruben Blades.
McGOWAN: Hard to say. Perhaps an Alligator Records compilation of
THE CUP: A true Cupper! What bird(s) are you most looking forward to seeing
over the next month?
McGOWAN: A couple of things: Bobolinks because they mean "May" to me and I
think they're pretty neat birds; Blackpoll Warbler because it always comes
back on my birthday (the 18th).
THE CUP: Cuppers, take note!
McGOWAN: And Mourning Warbler because they come at the end of the month and
are my favorite warbler.
THE CUP: Scott?
MARDIS: The one I can't predict ahead of time. Of those that I can at least
hope for I would have said Cape May Warbler, but I already saw that.
Eliminating that, I'll say Sora. I've never seen one and I hope to.
THE CUP: Kevin, back in January you placed 14th and your words, "I'm not
worried" (The Cup
1.1, Coach's Corner) sent a glimmer of hope throughout Cupland. Any words
of advice for those Cuppers who still only half-believe themselves when they
meditate on that famous mantra, "I THINK I can, I THINK I can"?
McGOWAN: Keep working at it. We've got lots of birds yet to see. It's just
a statistical blip that I'm in first at this point. I've been outside a lot
this last month and a lot of things are arriving every day. There's a long
way to go until the end. At this juncture it's almost impossible to tell
who's really in the best position to win.
THE CUP: Thanks, Kevin.
McGOWAN: I'm doing okay, but I'm missing some important birds. As I
pointed out in the first issue of The Cup, the winner is going to emerge in
THE CUP: Hey, let's not go too far--
McGOWAN: There's plenty of time to get Common Yellowthroat.
THE CUP: Really, we don't want to be too encouraging--
McGOWAN: I'm not worrying about any birds of difficulty code 1 or 2 (see my
offer for difficulty rankings in The Cup 1.1), but only 3's, 4's, and 5's.
So far, I've missed 3 of 4 "5's" (poor), seen 3 of 5 "4's" (not bad), but
have been successful in finding 21 of 24 "3's" (good).
I figure you've got to see all the 1's and 2's and 95% of the 3's, and the
difference will be in the 4's and 5's.
THE CUP: Come on, now, we can't afford to be TOO helpful--
McGOWAN: Only about 8 species are irretrievably gone at this point in
THE CUP: You just had to throw that in, didn't you. Well, nonetheless, thank
you for gracing the pages of The Cup.
McGOWAN: Thanks, it's a pleasure to be able to participate in at least one
fascinating and scintillating interviews (even if it's only to pull down the
THE CUP: Thanks to you, too, Scott.
MARDIS: For what it's worth...
????????????????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE
The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls, and
by running bird-song-encoded information through the Lab of O's
sophisticated computer program CANARY, 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 tears of joy.
We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow April's PIONEER PRIZE upon Karl
David, finder of a Little Gull. True, Steve Kelling certainly deserves
recognition for locating a beautiful Eurasian Wigeon. And Scott Mardis wins
applause for relocating Karl's gull. But that's kind of like regurgitating
into the gizzards of hungry Cuppers. And Steve broke curfew and left the
Basin during key
migration (just think of what we all missed because he wasn't here
for us.) Most importantly, Karl had to get up early to find that Little
and he didn't even have any coffee. So to you, Karl David, a personalized,
shiny new teal-green David Cup Pencil!
SCRAWL OF FAME
(by Casey Sutton)
It makes me mad that the committee who decides on bird names changed the
name of Rufous-sided Towhee to Eastern Towhee. I know that they changed the
because Rufous-sided Towhee is two different species now. But why do the
birders in the west get a nice descriptive name for their towhee, Spotted
Towhee, when we get stuck with the name Eastern Towhee. It doesn't say
anything about what the bird looks like at all, the way Spotted Towhee does.
I think they
should leave our towhee name Rufous-sided Towhee, and they could still call
the other one Spotted Towhee. If I didn't know that Eastern Towhee is such
a pretty bird, I sure wouldn't be dying to get out and see one. It sounds
like a boring bird. I think changing the name like that, especially to
something so boring,
is like stealing from the bird. I think the committee should change our
towhee's name back to Rufous-sided Towhee.
(Casey Sutton is a sixth grader at DeWitt Middle School. He's been a
serious birder for about a year now, and he knows all the starting centers
in the NBA. Casey is eagle-eyed when it comes to finding the best gas
prices in town.)
(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 <
< < < <
With so many Basin Big Wigs out of the Basin during production of The
I thought about throwing the Coach's Corner out the window this month to
lighten my load enough to catch the latest episode of Seinfeld, but with the
threat of birder rebellion hovering on the horizon I thought better of it.
Upon his return from the Garden State, I gave Jeff an ultimatum: write the
column or I strip your name off the film credits. Knowing that being fired
as Coeditor of The Cup could destroy future job prospects--not to mention
his marriage--Jeff took pen in hand. I can only trust that his aim is true.
Should you feel that his advice here was purposely misguiding (say, to throw
you off while he plays catch-up with the rest of the Sapsuckers), please,
let me know
and I'll file for divorce.
COACH'S CORNER: The month of May always conjures up images of warblers
dripping from newly-leaved trees. And rippling alongside them are vireos,
flycatchers, sparrows, and many other birds. Fortunately, those of us in
the Basin are
blessed with a great diversity of breeding species, and the majority of
migrants that arrive in May can also be found all summer. So in the
unlikely event that you didn't get down to City Cemetery on the last day of
April to see Black-throated Blue Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler, you don't
need to start sweating yet. They'll be around for a while.
There is, however, a subset of migrants that you need to think more about.
These are the species that breed to our north and pass briefly through the
Basin. The fall may bring another opportunity for seeing most of these
northern breeders, but if you wait until then you'll miss their beautiful
plumages and songs. This list includes Bay-breasted, Cape May, Blackpoll,
and Wilson's Warblers, Philadelphia Vireo, Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied
Flycatchers, Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Lincoln's Sparrow.
The first and most obvious piece of advice for finding these species is to
learn their songs. Blackpoll Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher songs are
learn and hard to confuse with other species. Bay-breasted and Cape May
Warbler songs are quite similar to each other and can be described as higher
of a Black-and-white Warbler-type song. Wilson's Warbler is a
not-too-striking loose two-parted trill. Listen carefully for the "killick"
call of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher or for its soft "chuwee,"--a bit like
the call of a Semipalmated Plover for you sound aficionados. You're
unlikely to hear
migrating thrushes singing but listen in particular for the "whit" note of
the Swainson's Thrush. Finally, when looking through sparrow flocks, keep
your ears tuned for the buzzy call notes of Lincoln's Sparrow.
A second category of migratory song birds to look for in May are the
southern overshoots. By that I mean species that breed primarily south of
the Basin but annually or almost annually appear here in the spring. This
would include s
pecies like White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Kentucky Warbler,
Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak. The only ways to
increase your very small odds of seeing any of these species is to spend
of time in the best spots for migrants and to learn their songs. Of
we'll all hope that someone else will find one and we'll all be able to run
over and see it immediately. Places like Mundy Wildflower Garden, Sapsucker
Woods, Dryden Lake, and Monkey Run are all good spots to look. There are
also a number of species that we think of as more southerly that breed in
small numbers in the Basin. These species include Prothonotary Warbler,
Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Orchard Oriole. Since they do
breed here I'll leave them to next month's coach.
Coach Brinkley gave the sage advice in an earlier column to spend as
as possible scoping the lake on foul weather days. This same advice holds
true well into May, when terns, gulls, shorebirds, and even sea ducks like
are still moving north. Who knows what you might find? At the time of this
writing a number of interesting species have been found including Laughing
Gull and Forster's Tern. Watch for Franklin's Gull and in the shorebird
category Piping Plover, American Avocet, and Willet. Ruddy Turnstones,
though not rare, may be easier seen in spring than in fall. The difficulty
of May is that under certain bad weather conditions you can also have
"fall-outs" of landbirds, so
you have to decide whether to scope the lake or walk the woods. Landbird
fall-outs usually happen when it is clear with southerly winds to the
a frontline is stalled over our area. The birds migrate north but are
and "fall-out" at the front line. Such a fall-out can be especially
when migrants have been prevented from moving north because of weather
conditions for an extended period of time.
I'll finish by mentioning one last category of southerly overshoots:
May is an ideal month for seeing the bitterns and herons that breed in the
Basin, it is also an excellent time to look for southern herons. These
include Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, and
though not a heron, Glossy Ibis. Last year a Tricolored Heron showed up at
Myer's Point in mid-May. Montezuema is another obvious spot to keep your
eyes open for these species.
Finally, as other coach's have reminded us all: time in the field.
key to a great month, and May is one of the best!
(Jeff Wells is New York State Important Bird Areas Coordinator for the
National Audubon Society and is housed at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
When he dances the jitterbug, he hardly ever trips his partner.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
After the big blow-up Jeff and I had last month--and in public, no less!--I
really thought the McIlroy victory was all mine this month. I was sure
after the dozen roses Jeff sent me, and the romantic dinner he prepared for
me, and love songs he serenaded me with from the parking lot, that he'd
place the McIlroy ring on my finger as well. But I guess while we were busy
making up, Kevin McGowan was doing a little making up of his own.
THE CUP: I won't lie, I'm still smarting from you snatching my projected
victory away from me.
McGOWAN: Yeah, I guess, what with a perfunctory e-mail interview, even
share a building part of the week. Afraid to look me in the eye?
THE CUP: It's for your own safety that I'm using the e-mail. This way,
you'll still have your eyes--I spared them only because of your
research. Research, I want everyone to know, that got you an awful lot of
McIlroy birds. By the way, that's cheating, isn't it?
McGOWAN: No more so than having feeders outside your office window or
part-time and going birding during the day. Hey, you have to pay attention
wherever you are.
THE CUP: Yeah, you're right, you're all a bunch of cheaters. The least
do now is share the spoils. Where was your most productive McIlroy
territory (i.e., where is your favorite crow nest)?
McGOWAN: Cayuga Heights has been pretty good to me. I've gotten a lot of
there while scouting crow nests. Stewart Park and the Newman Golf Course
(American AND Fish Crow nests) are vital, of course.
THE CUP: What McIlroy bird are you most proud of?
McGOWAN: Oh, Forster's Tern, I guess. I've only gotten a handful of
difficult city birds, like Snow Bunting and American Pipit. Nothing as good
alleged Common Raven.
THE CUP: Yeow! And I thought I was smarting--you're a real lemon tart!
Aside from my precious (and obviously much coveted) raven, what do you
being the toughest McIlroy birds to get?
McGOWAN: Shorebirds. The town of Ithaca has the lakeside, lots of woods
and even some open fields, but almost no shorebird habitat.
THE CUP: It just so happens I got a tip from another Cupper about a pretty
reliable location where McIlroy racers can pick up a few. But after that
little nasty, don't ask me to share it with you! Speaking of nasties, any
those Cuppers who aren't birder enough to sign up for both competitions?
(Please, no profanity--your son may be reading this.)
McGOWAN: Slackers. How much extra effort does it take to keep track?
They're just afraid of losing face by not being on top. SOMEBODY has to
make up the middle and the bottom. I've always admired people who aren't
afraid to look foolish now and then.
THE CUP: How does it feel to be leading both races? What are the
this happening next month? (Be assured that this question is asked
a chance for the rest of us to cackle--we all know you're skipping out of
the Basin for the Big Day!)
McGOWAN: Big Day, big deal. Unless you can come up with a Ruff or
something again that won't stay put, I'm not scared of you. Remember, this
is a distance race, not a sprint.
THE CUP: How 'bout Laughing Gull? Whoops! That belongs in next month's
issue. You were saying?
McGOWAN: It feels just marvelous to be on top, even if it's just for this
month. Steve has already promised me a good posterior view for the rest of
the year in the David Cup, and he'll probably be good to his word.
THE CUP: I seem to recall a similar warning--oh, but that was to Jeff.
Obviously Steve's well aware that he's no match for Jeff's better half.
you, on the other hand, I don't like these crow research/McIlroy birding
expeditions, not one bit.
McGOWAN: I've got a couple of other out of town trips planned, and I don't
think I can keep up the momentum for the whole race.
THE CUP: Good to hear you finally admit it.
McGOWAN: But I'll be there playing anyway.
THE CUP: On the other hand, is it true that if you win, it's McGowan's
home-brewed brewskies for all McIlroy participants?
McGOWAN: If I can find a supplier for ingredients (Summer Meadow
if I can spare some birding time in the fall to brew, maybe.
THE CUP: Did you hear that, Cuppers? I can attest that Kevin's home brew is
great--almost worth throwing the competition for. In the mean time (really,
no pun intended--really) thanks a lot for rubbing it in, ah, that is,
sharing your insights with us.
McGOWAN: The pleasure is all mine. (Isn't it?)
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
He's not just a Cayuga Bird Club member, he's also the president!
Yes, our Bird Brain this month is Rob Scott. Rob comes to us care of The
Haunt and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, where he recently began
working as corporate and foundation fundraiser, with a smidgin of world wide
web authoring thrown in. You see, Rob is one of those rare, multifaceted
individuals. In addition to his work at the Lab, Rob can grind with the
best of 'em down at The Haunt. And then there's Rob Scott, poet-at-large,
who puts Robert Frost to
shame with quotes like this...
"It is their beauty, their aloofness, and their sheer other-worldliness,"
says Rob, when asked what it is about birds that motivates him to take to
the field. "These small creatures travel great distances under their own
power, navigate by the stars and the earth's magnetic field, and have
impeccable solar calendars. I'm in awe of them, and they help me find a
connection to the
world I don't get through my computer terminal."
Rob's earliest introduction to the miracle of flight, however, was not as a
birdwatcher but as an Air Force brat in Grand Forks, North Dakota. "I
at an early age, to identify the various 'gashawks' that SAC flew out of
bases in North Dakota, Illinois, and Ohio."
Rob was a student at Cornell when he first became interested in birds. "My
golf game had become very frustrating. I was looking for a way to spend
outdoors without tension and teeth-gnashing. Since I hadn't seen an
even a birdie on the course in a while, I thought I'd better find
to reach those goals." With greens fees and having to buy a dozen
every week taking its toll on him, Rob turned in his clubs and took up a
pair of binoculars. "A friend took me to Ferd's Bog," he recalls. "I saw an
Olive-sided Flycatcher catch a dragonfly, and I was hooked!"
Most of Rob's birding is relegated to Saturday mornings. "My
less-than-die-hard birding schedule is reflected in my pathetic Cup
standing," says Rob morosely, although, like a good Cupper, he admits to
trying to squeeze in a few hours here and there during the week, which
includes what he calls "car-birding." "This
is good for honing gizz identifications. Besides, you get such short
60 mph that you don't have time to second-guess your id's. It's much less
stressful that way."
Although he may not spend as much time in the field as some of our other
Bird Brains, Rob has a fine treasure chest of birding memories, and a good
many of these have been close to home. In addition to the aforementioned
Olive-sided Flycatcher, he says, "I remember a particular day in Montour
Falls when I had close-up looks at Golden- and Blue-winged Warblers; good
warbler days in Letchworth State Park; an Indigo Bunting framed in sunlight
near Ithaca Falls." And, he points out, when traveling, there's always the
joy of finding new birds
on his own--a family of Florida Scrub Jays near Jupiter, Florida, and a
Prairie Falcon soaring at eye-level at Crater Lake National Park. The image
first Merlin is also sharp in his mind ("a bullet cruising the brush at
Assateague.") "And," he adds, "I've had very good birding on trips to the
Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, where Palila was my 'best bird, but Fairy
was my favorite."
Rob's been birding around the Basin since 1987. In 1994, he moved from Lodi
to Ithaca (we suspect, upon hearing early whispers of an impending David
now can bird around his home without being outside of the Basin. He says it
was by "accident," though, that he became involved with the Cayuga Bird
"Cupper extraordinaire Steve Kelling and I 'met' through the computer list,
BIRDCHAT, and did a presentation to the club on birding on the internet.
When Karl wanted to step down as president, my arm was twisted to become
president, a decision which was made in haste with the assurance that I
would merely be a figurehead!" Although such assurances have apparently
fallen through, Rob admits that there are rewards, among them, "free parking
spaces at the Lab, access to
the executive washroom, a good health plan with dental insurance, and the
admiration of my peers. Ahhh, but seriously, the real reward is in the
at the end of each meeting. Yum!"
Among Rob's other distinguishable contributions to local birding is
Cayugabirds-L, which keeps on-line birders abreast of recent sightings and
bird-related events. "Steve Kelling and I hashed out the original idea. We
thought, why correspond with a bunch of birdhead yahoos across the country
[BIRDCHAT] when we've got a critical mass of birdheads right here in our own
backyard? Plus, I thought the mailing list would be a good place to exhibit
my birding prowess and encyclopedic knowledge of things avian. Boy, was I
Having become an employee of the Lab of Ornithology has greatly helped Rob
boost his standings in the David Cup/McIlroy competitions. "While I am not
allowed to go birding and be paid for it, I do sneak some in on the side
here and there.
The Lab buys sunflower seed for a big feeder outside my window, so when
busy 'composing a letter' I can rack up birds for *both* my David Cup and
McIlroy Award lists."
Although most of Rob's time at the Lab is spent raising money for the Lab's
programs, he recently put in considerable effort behind-the-scenes for the
Sapsuckers and their World Series of Birding success. In a last minute
show of audacity (or perhaps to pat himself on the back as a successful
fundraiser?) Rob offers this little multiple choice quiz: "I am glad to see
that you made a generous pledge to the event, Allison. I can only assume
one of the following: a. You don't think Jeff's a very good birder, and
thus you won't have to pony up too much after the event, or b. You are
trying to give Jeff extra encouragement
to stay in New Jersey while you pick up Cape May, Bay-breasted,
and Prairie Warblers, solidifying your lead over him in the cup/award
Do I really need to answer to that?
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations--and with the
added strain of intense competition brought on by the David Cup/McIlroy
-The Cup has graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and
intuitive columnist, Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions,
In basketball, points can be awarded even if the ball doesn't go into the
basket. It's called offensive interference, or goaltending. If a Cupper
uses subterfuge to keep another Cupper from seeing a bird, shouldn't the
victim be allowed to count it? Let me give you an example: At 7:56am on a
fine, spring morning with southerly breezes, a leading Cup competitor--let's
call him Tim Knox--is walking up the steps of Ithaca City Hall when he spots
a Golden Eagle flying over, headed northeast. He remembers that one of his
competitors (me) still needs Golden Eagle and is planning to spend the
morning at Mt. Pleasant. Saying that reporting to work on time can wait
until tomorrow, Knox turns
around, gets in his car and races to Mt. Pleasant, setting up his scope just
in time to identify a speck approaching from the southwest. When I ask him
he has he says "Oh, nothing, just a red-tail." After I give him my
is a good bird" lecture, he proceeds to engage me in a protracted
conversation concerning the recent AOU splits. Our conversation grows quite
spirited as we wonder, for example, if we'll have to put an asterisk next to
a new record by virtue of the recent split, like Bicknell's Thrush...deep
stuff like that. Meanwhile, Knox has surreptitiously snuck a look at the
sky while I was expostulating, and he sees his bird--which is in truth a
Golden Eagle--pass by directly overhead. By the time we're done, the bird
is gone. Shouldn't I be awarded the bird because of Knox' foul play?
--Eagle-eyed in Aurora
I've reviewed the tape in slo-mo and see no evidence of foul play here.
Now, if you had had the bird in your scope and Knox shoved his hand in front
of it, that would be goaltending. As it is, I think Knox's clever Cup
strategy deserves a Swallow-tailed Kite.
Can you be standing in the Basin and see a bird outside of the Basin and
it? After all, high-flying birds might not really be considered IN the
Basin. What about if you're standing outside the Ithaca town line and see a
bird flying inside the town line? Can you count it for the McIlroy? Is it
birds seen from within the boundaries or birds seen that are inside the
boundaries? I mean, I don't think we have to go very far here to think
about where Ken Rosenberg is seeing things for "The Bowl" now, do we? And
speaking of that, can you flush birds into the Basin to count them? What
about seeing footprints of birds?
You know the bird passed by recently, so therefore are confirmed
"occurrences." How about if you shoot a bird outside the Basin then bring
it in while it's
still breathing? Is mouth-to-mouth until you get inside the boundaries
Dear Serious and Son:
What Cuppers won't do to eek out a tick! I hate to say it--I'd rather dock
you for being greedy--but while the bird MUST be within the territory in
the Cupper him/herself does not. On the other hand, if you are in the
territory in question but the bird is not, you're out of luck. However,
it's my understanding that some particularly desperate Cuppers meet
regularly each week
to devise ways to entice birds into the two boundaries. It sounds like you
could use this support group; contact Eagle-eyed in Aurora. As for
footprints, let's say you find what you think are Ruffed Grouse tracks. In
fact, they could be the trappings of, for instance, a crow. They're wiley
critters, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they were out to exact
revenge by misleading a certain Cupper who likes to play Crow Sheriff by
"deputizing" the poor birds
with little colored "badges." Now, by "shooting" I assume you mean
photographing the birds. Photos of birds don't count, whether you're in
Basin or on the moon. Finally, giving mouth-to-mouth will do nothing for
your list, and probably little for the bird, but would surely make you a
Are you aware that this contest discriminates against canine Cuppers?
of the really good birding spots are off limits to dogs! Somehow, this
be your fault.
--Ticked Off at Mundy
Dear Ticked Off:
Sit down, relax, take a deep breath, and channel your aggression where it
belongs--back at your Great Aunt Sora for cutting you out of her
than at me.
There. Now let's talk.
I assure you that Dear Tick would like nothing better than to open Sapsucker
Woods, Mundy Wild Flower Gardens, and Stewart Park to our dog-eared
compatriots. After all, what's more important, humans being able to see
spectacular congregations of gorgeous warblers and rare migrants, or our
having the freedom to leave their mark, shall we say, wherever they darn
well please? I'm on your side, Ticked Off (with a name like that, you can't
be all bad), but if I pull strings and let you take your dog into hot David
Cup/McIlroy tick-it outlets, Steve Kelling will be whining for me to let him
bird Mundy on
the back of his elephant to alleviate "warbler neck." Can you imagine the
crap I'd have to put up with if I let him do that? So, I'll have to keep
the bars on the doors that keep your dog out. Too bad. She coulda been a
An astute Cupper recently published an article in a birding magazine,
pondering the question of whether or not a birder should be able to tick off
species if they didn't in fact see the bird itself but rather only the egg,
sitting in a nest easily recognizable. His article raised more
it answered--he wimped out and said we should start an "egg list." Since
this could have serious repercussions for the David Cup, I'm hoping that
you, Dear Tick, will set the record straight on the issue of counting eggs
How many times have you gone into a restaurant, other than JB's BBQ Chicken
and Other Birds (see Cup Quotes, this issue), and ordered two House
Sparrows, sunny side up? When was the last time Betty Crocker instructed
you to combine sugar, vanilla, and a Brown-headed Cowbird, slightly
scrambled? The day that old
debate, "Which came first, the eagle or the egg?" is put asunder is the day
I'll give the cracked idea of counting eggs for the David Cup/McIlroy lists
This "McIlroy boundary is a state of mind" stuff just confuses the heck out
of me. I need some practical answers. Does the bird need to be within the
boundaries or do I when I see it? Or do we both have to be? Suppose I'm at
Myer's Point doing the loon watch in November and I see a Red-throated Loon
flying south. If I keep watching it until it's a small speck in the
distance that crosses into the McIlroy area, then will it "count"? Do the
birds on display in Fernow Hall count? They don't look too healthy, but...
Finally, should I not worry about all this since the race is rigged anyway?
--In Need of Answers in Ithaca
Dear In Need:
You're "McIlroy boundary is a state of mind" reference is taken from the
on-Internet dispute that tried to disguise itself as serious Cup
(see Cup Quotes, this issue). Well, if you read between the lines you'll
realize that this little debate had nothing whatever to do with David
Cup/McIlroy boundary issues. In fact, it becomes rather obvious that the
quarrelsome duo are in fact siblings separated at birth, vying for their
mother's attention. Ignore their pleas for a Mommy's soothing voice.
Concerning the stuffed birds in Fernow Hall, I'd say go ahead and count
it weren't for City Cemetery this past month. That place has given
bad rap. Birders should be out beating the bushes, stumbling into
quicksand, collapsing under the ruthless weight of thirst and exhaustion.
That's what birding's all about. Adventure! Not lounging around in a
cemetery, oohing and ahhing over birds that might as well be wearing
sandwich boards saying, "HERE I AM!" If you'd all been out birding the way
birding was intended, then I'd say give yourself a break, there's a lovely
Common Tern in Fernow Hall. Instead, I strongly suggest you set the example
for these sissy-pants Cuppers: Throw on your backpack, buy yourself an
inflatable rubber mattress, and paddle yourself into the cold waters of true
I keep reading posts from people who want to know the McIlroy boundaries
those complaining about where they are. I personally had figured that the
McIlroy territory would (and should) be pretty flexible. I assume that by
the time of the Loon Watch it will include Taughanock Park--how else will
the Red-throated Loons and other exciting year-end birds be able to be
counted for both the David Cup and McIlroy races? To be perfectly honest, I
expect the McIlroy area to be sort of like "The Blob" and consume most of
the Cayuga Lake Basin--excluding key areas like Montezuma and Dryden Lake so
those who spend an inordinate amount of time there will be shut out of the
McIlroy competition. My question, Tick, is, will the birds I've already
seen in David Cup territory that eventually becomes McIlroy territory be
"grandfathered" in as McIlroy birds?
--Fingers Crossed and Pen Ready in
And by the way, that's Dear Tick to you.
Yesterday I was walking down the street when I felt something wet hit my
head. I looked up, but it was a cloudy day, so I didn't see anything. I
removed the sticky goo from my hair and had it analyzed by a lab. They
determined that it was Golden Eagle droppings. Can I count Golden Eagle?
--Still Eagle-eyed in
I've checked with my sources and they're telling me that this
or may not recall--on April Fool's Day, and you, my friend, are the fool.
Apparently, this Tim Knox fellow of whom you earlier spoke not only had a
magnificent view of a "passing" Golden Eagle, he was able to catch its
air-mail delivery as well--on the tip of his tongue, no less! I'm told that
on top of the building (or was it a tree?) under which you were walking and
the goo right on top of your unsuspecting pate. Really, though, you should
consider yourself lucky. Although this mess was over your head, at least
Knox isn't rubbing your face in it...
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"This afternoon, at the Canoga Bait ponds on the west side of Cayuga Lake
I had the rare pleasure of seeing all 6 swallows in one place at one time:
1 Cliff, 1 Bank, and 3 Purple Martins plus numerous Barn, Rough-winged, and
Tree Swallows. As an added bonus, kind of a super-swallow, one Black Tern
was also skimming the ponds."
"Congratulations on another fine issue of The Cup! You have
again, insight not only into birding, but into the vexatious lives of
I indeed was about to finish (i.e., start) my income taxes today.
find myself scouring the lists for birds I missed, devouring Herr
Rosenberg's exhortative treatise, and polishing the objective of my new
Swarovski while wondering still if I can write it off on my returns (perhaps
Form 6765, "Credit for Increasing Research Activities"?). Your only
oversight was not including in The Cup a copy of Form 4868, "Application for
Extension of Time to File." But I assume I can pick one up at Montezuma (it
IS, after all, a*National* Wildlife Refuge).
"[We saw] our famous Eastern Screech-owl in the Wood Duck box at Union
"Tim [Dillon] was very forthcoming (like a good Cupper should be even
am not sure if he is [a Cupper]) and started to tell me he saw a
Black-throated Green Warbler. So I asked him where. At this point Martha
[Fischer] started yelling 'Don't tell him! Don't tell him!' and then started
singing Wagner Opera..."
"Seeing the [Canada Goose] on the nest was interesting, if not enchanting."
"For those who are listing for the McIlroy Award (can we call them
there's a perky pair of Pied-billed Grebes on the inlet at Stewart Park.
"My David Cup total for the year is 49. Not too impressive, except that one
of the species is Eurasian Wigeon. So I don't feel too bad."
"Scott and I observed not two but four Vesper Sparrows behind the airport
in Ithaca. They were with the flock of Savannah Sparrows and were
congregating in the mud along the road side. Our best views were when they
flocked in front of the barn door next to the equine research center. None
of our field guide pictures do these birds justice!"
"Thanks for the sparrows."
"Friday, 18:00 at the new shorebird habitat south of 13 at the airport
runway, I found one of Scott's Solitary Sandpipers and also had 3 Lesser
Yellowlegs. Unfortunately an hour later only the solitary Solitary could be
found. (Incidently, ...this little piece of real estate is "officially" in
the McIlroy area.)
"I've been studying birder behavior a bit and have concluded that the
McIlroy boundary is a state of mind...This principle also seems to apply to
Cup: the boundary was extended ever so slightly to include the house of one
good birder in the area."
"I take great exception to Dave Mellinger's insinuation that the McIlroy
boundary 'slid' up the hill from the actual town line to, and past, my
house. I am well aware that the town line exists within 100 feet of my
house (lower taxes in Enfield) and I am happy to report that my dog Tucker
and I always have taken
great care to chase (throwing rocks at them if necessary) birds we see
side of the line to the other side before counting them on my McIlroy Cup
list...If Dr. Mellinger can not refrain from making such false accusations
I shall be forced to tell everyone that he once invited attendees at a
lecture to throw dead song sparrows at the speaker if the talk was not to
"Yes, and I now broaden the invitation from those attendees to all birders
in the Cayuga Lake Basin. I know a great supply of dead Song Sparrows,
along with dead Bald Eagles, dead Merlins, dead American Pipits, and so on.
For some reason, they all look like they've been hit by rocks and chewed by
a dog. Just take a look out there by the Ithaca-Enfield line, right next to
"JB's Barbecued Chicken and Other Birds."
"Are there no bounds to Dr. Mellinger's shame? I set the record
last time: I never killed them, only stunned them. Then, Tucker would carry
them across the creek and gently place them on a branch of the ecologically
appropriate species of tree or bush and point at them till I could get a
look and make my McIlroy identification. While Dr. Mellinger's wild
accusations fall far from the mark, he does make a good point that all
Cuppers are invited
to my house for a JB's town line BYOB (bring your own bird) BBQ party. Date
will be announced later."
"When I arrived at 1 pm, the sunny skies, warm temps, and southerly winds
held promise. However, Karl David, the only other birder there, mentioned
he hadn't seen much. Karl's probably still there."
"Two Pine Siskins joined the finch parade at our feeders."
"I'm embarrassed to say I still haven't seen...a number of birds I have
excuse for missing."
"In the morning I was at Stewart Park scanning for ducks when I heard a
Song Sparrow singing behind me from the infield. It was in fact a Vesper
one of the relatively uncommon 'McIlroy' race. In the afternoon I was on
Pleasant...I saw a little brown job fly in front of me and give a rather
phoebe-like chip as it flew to the same tree and landed. It was another
Vesper Sparrow, but of the nominate 'David' race."
"Living in downtown Ithaca, I don't get all the great siskins and redpolls
at my feeder. However, on hot summer nights when I'm barbequing, I am
serenaded by the twitter and flutter of those cigars with wings. That's my
vision of summer. So it was with supreme delight that I saw my first
Chimney Swift yesterday afternoon."
"Yesterday, we had three Northern Waterthrushes on territory, singing,
land in Brooktondale. This morning, a Brown Thrasher is happily tossing
leaves in the yard. He (she?) will be even happier when (s)he discovers our
newly neatened up wood chips in the gardens--a favorite pasttime last year
was tossing them onto the lawn."
"I propose: The McGowan Cup."
"I swear I didn't put Larry up to this!"
As the weather would predict, Dryden Lake was covered with waterbirds again
this morning...I counted: 2 Common Loons, 10+ Horned Grebes, 1 Red-necked
3 D-CR. Cormorants, 22 Oldsquaw 7 White-winged Scoters, 50+ Bufflehead, 10
Ring-necked Ducks, 2 Lesser Scaup, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Ruddy Ducks,
2 Blue-Winged Teal, 1 Bonaparte's Gulls, large flock of Tree and Barn
Swallows. All this in a blinding snow shower!
"I live where it is gray."
"[My list] would have been higher, but ... my dog ate it! Yeah. My dog.
That's it. My neighbor's dog. I don't have a dog, but my neighbor does ...
hungry dog. Yeah ..."
"Last one to Dryden Lake is a rotten egg!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff
An egregious error of ommission occurred in the last issue of THE CUP.
Namely, the Scrawl of Fame column that I slaved over long into the night was
left out. Of course, since it was I myself that committed this sad sin (I
almost lost my editorship), then it is I who must also rectify it. And
Ralph, sorry for making you feel guilty for not remembering what my Scrawl
of Fame column was about and
thanks for rereading THE CUP to look for it and point out that it wasn't
Here, in its entirety, is the missing Scrawl of Fame (for you collectors of
THE CUP, this column should appear between Casey's Call and Coach's Corner).
P.S. If you want a new clean corrected copy of THE CUP let us know or do a
cut-and-paste job and send it back to yourself.
SCRAWL OF FAME
On a recent trip to Montezuma, Allison and I stopped yet again at the Nite
N' Day convenience store in Union Springs for gasoline, drinks, and this
time, sandwiches, too. As we pulled out and continued on, we remarked at
what a staple that store has become on our Montezuma excursions. We
couldn't help wondering how much money had we spent in the little town of
Union Springs in the last year, and the year before that and the year before
that, going back to our arrival in Ithaca in 1988. Hundreds? No, we had
probably deposited thousands of dollars there and in other towns, in the
name of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Our ponderings continued: how
much money do birders as a whole who travel to Montezuma from everywhere
spend in various nearby communities during the course of a year? We
resolved to at least find out our total; since then we have been asking for
receipts every time we spend money during a trip to the refuge. At the end
of the year, we will tally them up and send this tally along to all
interested parties. By that I mean the politicians who influence what
happens with Montezuma, and the business owners who influence the
politicians. We regret that we did not start doing this years ago.
For some reason, birders, unlike hunters and other groups, have been slow in
recognizing the fact that we can and do wield economic power. If businesses
gain a reasonable economic benefit from having a national wildlife refuge
(or other special natural area) nearby, business owners will be supportive
of issues that benefit the refuge. We as a birding community are incredibly
fortunate that this large wetland complex, Montezuma NWR, has become part of
the public domain to be managed for wildlife. Refuge and state biologists
estimate that over ½ million waterfowl pass through the Montezuma complex
every fall and that Cerulean Warbler (a species of Special Concern) pairs
number in the hundreds on the refuge and on nearby state Department of
Environmental Conservation lands. Steve Kelling has shown that Montezuma is
almost unrivaled in upstate New York for its abundance and diversity of
shorebirds. The fact that the area has continued to support such massive
abundance and diversity of birds is testament to the ongoing work of a large
number of people including employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ducks Unlimited, The
Nature Conservancy, and many others. These groups have joined into a
cooperative project called the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Project. The
project hopes to one day have as many as 30,000+ acres in the area managed
for wetland- associated birds and other wildlife.
Unfortunately there are many in the local communities that oppose these
plans, specifically because they fear the loss of tax revenues and the
specter of increased local tax rates. If, on the other hand, local
businesses were to see real or potential economic gain from encouraging the
protection and management of their lands for wildlife, they would certainly
be far more likely to become supportive.
That's how we Cuppers can help. First, if you are planning on making a
purchase of gas, food, etc., on your next Montezuma trip, make those
purchases in the small towns nearby whenever possible. When you make your
purchases, let them know that you are a birder by wearing your binoculars
into the establishment, perhaps even make some small-talk about the great
birds you've been seeing. Second, wherever you make a purchase on your next
Montezuma foray, get a receipt and keep track of how much money you spend.
Later in the year (maybe December), we'll ask you to send in your tally
(anonymously, if you prefer). We will send a summary to U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service personnel at the refuge as well as to the area businesses
as a way to show the real and potential economic benefits of protecting the
wildlife resources in and around Montezuma. Thanks, in advance.
(Jeff Wells, Ph.D., is the New York State Important Bird Area Coordinator
for National Audubon and is stationed at the Lab of Ornithology. His
favorite purchase at the Union Springs Nice n' Easy convenience store is
Lemon Iced Tea Snapple, plus or minus a tuna sub, hold the onions. Please.)
If you have an opinion about the art, science, and/or esthetics of
birding-related topics, write it up for the Scrawl of Fame.