Year 1, Issue 8
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Editorial Assistants: Sarah Childs, Justin Childs
* Boom Operator: Jeff Wells
* Makeup Artist: Sarah Childs
* Scene Design: Justin Childs
We, Allison and Jeff, were leisurely motoring the highways back to Ithaca
after attending Jeff's brother Andrew's wedding on the Maine coast. As one
might expect, we chatted happily about the newly married little lovebirds
and how nice it was to see family again and our dearest Maine. As we pulled
onto the Mass Turnpike, though, I (Allison) realized that our topics had
taken a stomach-churning turn, that we'd left behind our light-hearted
banter and moved on to matters of drastic importance, matters of honor and
deep-seated personal goals, matters that would impact our future in big, big
ways. The upcoming presidential elections? Ozone depletion? No, the World
Series of Birding! I kid you not! Three months after--or, if you're on the
Sapsucker team, nine months before--the Big Day, we're weighing the costs
and benefits of the team skipping Great Swamp, retallying species likely to
be found at Brigantine, debating where in the Garden State to put nest boxes
in order to ensure a tickable Sapsucker screech-owl. Yes, somewhere along
the way, Jeff had tossed out the tanager, and I'd swallowed it, bill, feet,
Don't let this happen to you! Read The Cup 1.8! With the 1997 World Series
"just around the corner," you're at risk: should a Sapsucker see you looking
idle, you too could find yourself tossed about in the unforgiving sea of Big
Day conversation. Quicksand, it is: once you're in there's no getting back
out. You could lose you're job. You could be distracted from major ticks
for the David Cup/McIlroy races! Save yourself! Look busy, look really,
really busy. Read this issue of The Cup...while you still have a chance.
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME (BACK) TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: A wholesome American Welcome Back to
Matt Medler, former Cornell student Cupper and one of The Cup's major gossip
informants. Sadly, Medler, who left the Basin last spring (for of all
places, Sweden!) was forced to work soon after his foremost reason for
traipsing overseas--to go birding--was found out by his employer. The real
shocker to Medler, though, was when he realized--egadz!--he was the only
Cupper over there! It took him mere months to high-tail it back into Cup
territory where he belongs. He brought with him this report on his truancy
experience: "When I arrived home recently, I was happy to find the May copy
of The Cup on my parents' computer. I was dismayed, though, by the vicious
lies which I read in that rag of a newsletter, claiming that I had gone to
Sweden to birdwatch. I'll have the editors (whoever they might be) know
that my sole purpose in traveling to Sweden was to work on two legitimate
research projects, and that I focused all of my energies on the Great Reed
Warbler and the birds that we ringed up in Lapland. At no time was I
distracted by other birds in the surrounding area...OK, maybe I did spend a
little time birding. Alright! I spent quite a bit of time admiring the
Swedish avifauna, but only after completing all work duties. I'll be
spending about a week in Ithaca to do some field and lab work with Dennis
Hasselquist, the 'sucker' who sent me to Sweden this summer." Need we
BIRDERS WELCOME: That's not exactly what the banner hanging
on the side of the Union Springs Express Mart says (currently, it reads,
"Anglers Welcome," and it bears a giant Pabst Blue Ribbon image to prove
it). We birders are still awaiting our day of reckoning, but by saving our
receipts when we buy stuff on our way to and from Montezuma (remember
the "Scrawl of Fame" in the last issue?), we're that much closer to that
glorious dawn! Who knows? Maybe when the politicians and business
owners realize what a junk food-friendly flock birders really are, they'll
expand Montezuma to encompass all of the Cayuga Lake Basin. Better yet,
we just might get our own banner!
ROAD "HOG": Allison and Jeff were pulling out of Stewart Park
recently when they noticed the license plate on the vehicle in front of
that read, "Hog 1". Naturally, they assumed this was a reference to their
faithful Hog's Hole (a McIlroy stronghold). Then they saw the face: the
weather-beaten skin, the scruffy hair and stubble, the bloodshot,
demon-crazed eyes. Karl David! they thought, and nearly honked the horn.
At the last second they remembered, no, Karl drives a white sporty number,
not a reckless Dodge 4 x 4. The long and the short of it: if you see this
vehicle, don't toot. There are in fact other crazed, sleep-depraved wildmen
in the world other than Karl, and they may not be nearly as nice as he is.
And remember to use your turn signal.
INDECENT EXPOSURE?: We've been tipped off again: Chris Hymes isn't the only
David Cup scientist making ground-breaking discoveries in bird behavior.
Cupper Kurt Fox posted this research recoup on Cayugabirds-L on August 20:
"All in all, I saw 13 species of shorebirds...Other decent birds seen were
immature Black-crowned Night-herons, Common Nighthawk, Osprey...and Great
Egrets." Although it is certainly remarkable that Kurt was able to
distinguish "decent" birds, we can't help wonder why he didn't make note of
the "indecent" birds as well. What made them indecent, anyway? Vulgar
vocalizations/gestures? Unpaid bills? Or maybe when Kurt peered through
his scope he saw two Buff-breasts?
TAKE REFUGE: Floats carrying giant paper mache' shorebirds! A fifty-piece
marching band playing the calls of herons, egrets, and bitterns! Rob Scott
pecking away at a gigantic Tootsie Roll "tree" in his Sapsucker costume!
Well, not at THIS year's National Refuge Week at Montezuma, but the schedule
they've lined up for the big celebration is impressive nonetheless. Now to
be serious for a moment: go to as many of these events as possible! Bring
your friends, your family, your bird club! We birders need to follow the
lead of hunters, anglers, and other nature-oriented entities that
wield considerable political power by unifying ourselves and proving that
our voices--indeed, our ideals--should be taken seriously. Stand up and be
counted! Be present at one or more of these events:
Saturday, October 5
--9:00am, Guided Bird Tour led by John Van Niel, Professor of
Resource Conservation at Finger Lakes Community College
--1:00pm, National Audubon Society's dedication of
Montezuma NWR as an Important Bird Area. Speakers
include John Fitzpatrick (Director of Lab of O);
Frank Dunstan (Acting Commissioner, NYS Dept. of Environmental.
Conservation), representatives from MNWR and sportsmen's
groups; local politicians and members of the media.
--4:00pm, Shorebird Enthusiasts Get-together at May's Point Pool
Sunday, October 6
--9:00am, Guided Bird Tour led by Mary Dreiling (Onondaga
--10:00am-3:00pm, Wildlife Observations, volunteers from
Audubon chapters and bird clubs at refuge birding hotspots to
show visitors wildlife and answer questions. Cuppers Tom Nix and
Karl David are helping out. If you'd like to volunteer too,
Tuesday, October 8
--7:30pm, Ghosts and Ghoulies: Creatures of the Night
(Visitors Center, given by Steve Kress of National Audubon
Saturday, October 12
--10:00-12:00pm, Beginning Birders Workshop (Visitors Center),
given by Cupper Ken Rosenberg (Lab of O)
Sunday, October 13
--8:30pm, Guided Bird Tour, lead by Sue Adair (Onondaga Audubon)
SPIES T: "I've relocated the Buff-breasted Sandpiper." The finder was Tom
Nix. He was one of many birders at Montezuma that evening in August,
including more than a few Cuppers. Tom was the only one wearing his David
Cup T. Any questions?
BYE-BYE BIRDERS?: Temporary Cuppers Sarah Childs and her cousin Justin
(remember? Niece and nephew to Allison and Jeff Wells?) have gravely
disappointed their auntie and uncle by letting school interfere with their
David Cup responsibilities. Yes, they skulked back to Maine just as the
shorebirds were returning to Montezuma ("Just for that, there'll be no
Buff-breasted Sandpiper for you," Uncle Jeff was overheard saying). But
look for their updated totals in the November edition of The Cup, as the
words "family time" get heavy rotation during Thanksgiving. As for other
fled Cuppers: Matt Medler tried to escape the madness of the David Cup
birding scene and look where it got him. Chris Hymes, following Medler's
ludicrous example, likewise attempted to use an employment situation (he's
hawkwatching downstate until November and getting paid for it!) Upon
hearing the news and rumors of his withdrawal from the David Cup, he was
immediately harassed by Cuppers far and wide and is now cooing this tune: "I
guess you are right, [when I'm in town] I may still keep my eye out for the
occasional Swallow-tailed Kite, or perhaps Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flying
around the airport area near Route 13. Maybe also that one White-tailed
Sea-Eagle passing over Beam Hill this migration. I will still be in the
competition, but no more chasing birds or searching for new ones!" Now,
Larry Springsteen's had his priorities in the right place all along. He
didn't even try to leave, even though he's finished his Ph.D.
(congratulations, Larry!) and is moving to Connecticut (that's state, not
Hill). He offers these pseudo parting words: "I will always be a Cup
participant! Even if 'the powers that be' don't give me a special
dispensation making certain areas of CT within the McIlroy boundaries, I am
still determined to break 200. Of course, if I don't, I'll just have to
lose a lot of sleep and then try again next year." You see, the David Cup
is like the Hotel California: you can checklist any time you like, but you
can never leave.
BIRD CUP BLUES: Blues? Haven't you heard? The shorebirds are back at
Montezuma! There's no such things as "the blues" anymore!
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
"I'm back in the highlights again..." Okay, so Steve Winwood really sings
"high life" not "highlights." Anyway, "high life" works, too, now that the
shorebirds are back. That's something to sing about!
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
One of the best shorebird months in recent memory was had during August in
the Cayuga Lake Basin. Beginning mid-month, when the draw down of Mays
Point Pool occurred, shorebirds flocked to that location. Over 20 species
were observed, with numbers approaching 1000 individuals! Of particular
interest were the observation of several BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, an
uncommon migrant through the region. Late August brought the beginning of
the fall migration for other birds also. CASPIAN TERNS were numerous around
Stewart Park, where a MERLIN continues to hang around. The nocturnal
migration of passerines was slow, with no real major movements, just a
steady trickle. VEERIES in particular were heard.
(Steve Kelling is the field notes editor for the Kingbird, Region 3. He
teaches Cornell undergraduates the mysteries of physics and often sits on
the fence...at the Montezuma corral.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Apparently, our directions to the "nearest" Rochester Wegman's helped. Tom
Lathrop is here, he made it to the 100 Club! Hey, Jim! Kurt! Diane! Yo,
Rob--c'mon, everybody, wake up! Well, Tom, instead of dragging Matt Medler
in with you, maybe you should have brought along something useful.
Fireworks, maybe. But now that you're here you may as well tell us...
How does it feel to be in the 100 Club: "..." Tom? Tom!? Never mind, he's
still trying to catch his breath.
Bird 100: Greater Yellowlegs
And Matt? How about you?: "Aoidn lksdfjll alnd jskein dkdj fdkoie Sweden!"
Bird 100: Nashville Warbler
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Expect the cops to crash the place pretty darned soon. Things are way out
of hand here! Two new 200 Clubbers in one month? The place has GOT to be
beyond legal capacity. And what with another minor sneaking in, we could
lose our liquor license! (Casey's already sampled the wine, and the McGowan
kid's been over at the bar prattling on about hops and bitters since he got
here last month!) If this keeps up, we just might have to start a whole new
club, the 249er's Club! Hmm. Something to think about...
Casey Sutton: Taught the entire Winston Court neighborhood how to beat their
chests like a booming Ruffed Grouse. Then shot them all with a squirt gun.
Bird 200: Baird's Sandpiper
Meena Haribal: Jumped the Stewart Park swan pen, hopped on the back of one
of the Mute Swans, and sang "Fly Me to the Moon".
Bird 200: "It was, no, make that, wait a minute..."
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
You've probably noticed in past issues of The Cup that the Pilgrims'
Progress tied tallies were resolved safely and politely (e.g., "Haribal"
comes before "Sutton"). Well, we at The Cup like to shake things up now and
again. For that reason and that reason only (there's no ego involved here,
no shameless abuse of editorial power, nothing of the sort), we're going to,
shall we say, turn things around?
1996 DAVID CUP AUGUST TOTALS 1996 DC JULY TOTALS
237 Allison Wells 231 Karl David
237 Karl David 230 Allison Wells
237 Steve Kelling 227 Tom Nix
234 Tom Nix 224 Steve Kelling
232 Jeff Wells 224 Jeff Wells
230 Bard Prentiss 221 Bard Prentiss
227 Kevin McGowan 220 Kevin McGowan
223 Ken Rosenberg 215 Scott Mardis
219 Ralph Paonessa 214 Ken Rosenberg
215 Scott Mardis 212 Chris Hymes
212 Chris Hymes 212 Ralph Paonessa
208 Jay McGowan 201 Jay McGowan
205 Meena Haribal 191 Meena Haribal
202 Casey Sutton 191 Casey Sutton
196 Bill Evans 185 Bill Evans
182 Anne James 182 Anne James
176 John Bower 176 John Bower
173 Larry Springsteen 173 Larry Springsteen
168 Martha Fischer 168 Martha Fischer
164 Kurt Fox 154 Michael Runge
164 Michael Runge 153 Diane Tessaglia
156 Rob Scott 152 Kurt Fox
153 Diane Tessaglia 152 Rob Scott
134 Matt Medler 124 Jim Lowe
125 Jim Lowe 105 Dan Scheiman
105 Tom Lathrop 93 Tom Lathrop
105 Dan Scheiman 77 Sarah Childs
82 Sarah Childs 34 Justin Childs
50 Justin Childs
35 Cathy Heidenreich
EDITORS' NOTE: Some totals still include Trumpeter Swan; others still do not
(Karl's, Steve's, Allison's, Jeff's). Knowing that a timely decision about
the swans would give the illusion of efficiency and attention to details,
the David Cup committee unanimously decided (by default) to put off
addressing the matter. Better luck next issue.
1996 McILROY AWARD AUGUST TOTALS 1996 JULY TOTALS
187 Allison Wells 185 Allison Wells
177 Jeff Wells 172 Jeff Wells
171 Kevin McGowan 171 Kevin McGowan
162 Ken Rosenberg 159 Ken Rosenberg
155 John Bower 155 John Bower
153 Larry Springsteen 153 Larry Springsteen
149 Scott Mardis 149 Scott Mardis
149 Karl David 148 Jay McGowan
148 Jay McGowan 144 Karl David
142 Tom Nix 142 Tom Nix
133 Casey Sutton 133 Casey Sutton
132 Martha Fischer 132 Martha Fischer
131 Chris Hymes 131 Chris Hymes
131 Rob Scott 128 Rob Scott
129 Bill Evans 111 Jim Lowe
113 Jim Lowe 111 Michael Runge
113 Michael Runge 105 Bill Evans
55 Diane Tessaglia 55 Diane Tessaglia
50 Sarah Childs 42 Sarah Childs
35 Justin Childs 27 Justin Childs
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
Who'd have guessed that a math professor, a writer, and a physics
connoisseur would have anything in common? Here's more than a few
C. Loon, P-b Grebe, H. Grebe, R-n Grebe, D-c Cormorant,
L. Bittern, G. B. Heron, G. Egret, G. Heron, B-c. Night-Heron, Tundra
Swan, M. Swan, S. Goose, Brant, C. Goose, W. Duck, G-w Teal,
A. Black Duck, Mallard, N. Pintail, B-w Teal, N. Shoveler, Gadwall,
E. Wigeon, A. Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, R-n Duck, G. Scaup,
L. Scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter, C. Goldeneye, Bufflehead,
H. Merganser, C. Merganser, R-b Merganser, Ruddy Duck, T. Vulture,
Osprey, B. Eagle, N. Harrier, S-s Hawk, C. Hawk, N. Goshawk, R-s Hawk,
B-w Hawk, R-t Hawk, R-l Hawk, G. Eagle, A. Kestrel, R-n Pheasant, R.
Grouse, W. Turkey, V. Rail, Sora, C. Moorhen, A. Coot, B-b Plover, L. G.
Plover, S. Plover, Killdeer, G. Yellowlegs, L. Yellowlegs, Solitary
Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, R.
Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped
Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin,
Stilt Sandpiper, B-b Sandpiper, S-b Dowitcher, C. Snipe, A. Woodcock,
W. Phalarope, Little Gull, B.Gull, R-b Gull, H. Gull, Iceland Gull,
G. B-b Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Black Tern, R. Dove, M. Dove,
B-b Cuckoo, Y-b Cuckoo, E. Screech-Owl, G. H. Owl, S-e Owl, N. S-w Owl,
C. Nighthawk, C. Swift, R-t Hummingbird, B. Kingfisher, Red-headed
Woodpecker, R-b Woodpecker, Y-b Sapsucker, D. Woodpecker, H. Woodpecker, N.
Flicker, P. Woodpecker, E. Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher,
Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, E. Phoebe, G. C. Flycatcher, E.
Kingbird, H. Lark, P. Martin, T. Swallow, N. R-w Swallow, Bank Swallow, C.
Swallow, Barn Swallow, B. Jay, A. Crow, F. Crow,
C. Raven, B-c Chickadee, T. Titmouse, R-b Nuthatch, W-b Nuthatch,
B. Creeper, C. Wren, H. Wren, W. Wren, M. Wren, G-c Kinglet, R-c Kinglet,
B-g Gnatcatcher, E. Bluebird, Veery, G-c Thrush, S. Thrush, H. Thrush,
W. Thrush, A. Robin, G. Catbird, N. Mockingbird, B. Thrasher, A. Pipit,
Bohemian Waxwing, C. Waxwing, N. Shrike, E. Starling, S. Vireo,
Y-t Vireo, W. Vireo, R-e Vireo, B-w Warbler, G-w Warbler, T. Warbler,
N. Warbler, N. Parula, Yellow Warbler, C-s Warbler, Magnolia Warbler,
C. M. Warbler, B-t Blue Warbler, Y-r Warbler, B-t Green Warbler,
Blackburnian Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler,
B-b Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, B-a-w Warbler,
A. Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, N.
Waterthrush, L. Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, C. Yellowthroat, Hooded
Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Sc.
Tanager, N. Cardinal, R-b Grosbeak, I. Bunting, E. Towhee, A. T. Sparrow, C.
Sparrow, Field Sparrow, V. Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, G. Sparrow, Henslow's
Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow,
Swamp Sparrow, W-t Sparrow, W-c Sparrow, D-e Junco, Lapland
Longspur, Snow Bunting, Bobolink, R-w Blackbird, E. Meadowlark,
R. Blackbird, C. Grackle, B-h Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, N. Oriole,
P. Finch, H. Finch, R. Crossbill, C. Redpoll, P. Siskin, A. Goldfinch,
E. Grosbeak, House Sparrow
FOR ALLISON'S LIST ADD: Surf Scoter, Laughing Gull, Glaucous Gull,
Forster's Tern, Barred Owl, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied
Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo
FOR KARL'S LIST ADD: A. Bittern, Y-c Night-Heron, Merlin, A. Avocet, L. B-b
Gull, Forster's Tern, Pine Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll
FOR STEVE'S LIST ADD: Ross' Goose, Surf Scoter, Glaucous Gull, L. B-b Gull,
Barred Owl, Whip-poor-will, Philadelphia Vireo, Hoary Redpoll,
Total: 237 species + Trumpeter Swan
Add to the Leader's Lists (above) the following species and you'll have the
entire list of birds seen in January, February, March, April, May, June,
July, and August:
Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-headed Blackbird
Total: 251 species (+ Trumpeter Swan)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to bid farewell to summer than by being featured in an
interview exclusively for The Cup? KICKIN' TAIL brings well-deserved honor
and recognition to the Cupper(s) who has (have) glassed, scoped, scanned,
driven, climbed, dug, tar-and-feathered and otherwise made his/her (their)
way to the top of the David Cup list.
Okay, both Wells and David are Kickin' Tail this month. Whoop-ti. Big
surprise. Snore, snore. But Steve Kelling? He placed a pitiful fourth
last month. What'd he do, ride Karl's and/or Allison's coat tails? He did
try to grab onto Allison's but she wasn't wearing a coat. And Karl, well,
he wasn't wearing anything at all. So Kelling pulled out all the stoppers by
carefully scrutinizing his (Kelling's) list. To his great joy (and everyone
else's sorrow) he found that he'd miscounted--for the last few months!
Brown-headed Cowbird--how could he overlook such an omnipresent force?
Eastern Phoebe--did he think that was his Uncle Albert calling to Aunt
"Phoebe" all summer out by the barn? Although many suspect fowl play, the
fact remains, Kelling's Kickin' Tail this month, and the editors have had to
do some fancy maneuvering to accommodate the gushers of three Old Faithfuls.
To show your appreciation, over the next month, make a point to NOT tie with
anyone who looks like they may be Kickin' Tail, okay? And send chocolate.
THE CUP: Steve, let's start with you, since you're the closest of the three
to being a Kickin' Tail rookie. Tell us, how'd you do it?
KELLING: By going out birdwatching.
THE CUP: Oh, really! I guess that's where you part company with the other
two leaders. I understand they sat on their duffers recounting their lists,
that that's how they made fame this month. Allison, is this true?
WELLS: Yes, it's true, but it didn't do any good. I couldn't squeeze in
even one more bird. And, I was sorry to learn, I hadn't miscounted (in my
THE CUP: Karl, was this your strategy as well?
DAVID: I put on the brakes so Steve and Allison could
catch me, because who wants to have to read the same stuff two
months in a row?
THE CUP: Not even your beloved Elaine!
DAVID: In fact, I'm hoping adoption of the Nix drafting
strategy (see The Cup 1.7) will put off another interview with
me until The Cup 1.12.
THE CUP: So does this mean you're all still employed?
KELLING: Yes. But only because I forgot 5 species (BH Cowbird, C Grackle, E
Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and RN Pheasant) and I miscounted by one.
THE CUP: Good thing. Otherwise, to catch up you'd have had to put in too
many early mornings and would have gotten yourself fired like Karl did,
DAVID: I teach at 8:10 in the morning, a time when
almost no one under the age of 35 is truly awake. Thus I'm not
surprised that I've never had reason to suspect that any student has
ever noticed that a cardboard cut-out of me has been delivering
calculus lectures at that hour for the last four years. The closest
any of them ever come on their course evaluations is "seems to have
stock responses to questions." This frees me up to spend the morning
at Montezuma. Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out how to make
this tactic work for meetings, but when I do, look out.
THE CUP: How about you, Allison. Standing in the unemployment line?
WELLS: My boss is very reasonable about my squeezing in a little
birding during my work time. For example, as a writer, I have to go to the
post office (on Warren Road, the closest PO) several days during
the week to mail manuscripts, buy stamps, and so forth. My boss knows
that Myers Point is practically right there. She knows that cruising out
for a quicky survey or swinging down by Stewart Park to
follow up reports of a Merlin are excellent for freeing the mind so that
I'll be more productive when I get back to my computer. My boss knows, too,
that a little extra birding time now and again will made up, sometimes at
agonizing hours. I am, you see, my boss, so I know that my boss is well
aware of all this.
THE CUP: I see. And since this "refresher time" resulted in a few more
this year, which one was your favorite?
WELLS: The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was certainly gorgeous, and I love golden
plovers--they have this sort of naive look about them, sort of like I do
THE CUP: No comment. And you boys?
KELLING: Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Karl and Bill's find at MNWR is, to me at
least, the most mysterious, exotic and beautiful of all North American
DAVID: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, because just about
everybody else got to see it, too.
THE CUP: Oh, spare us the propaganda!
DAVID: I must admit, there's a little bit of bitterness associated with
this bird as well: When Bill Evans and I found it, it became my third year
bird for the day, and I thought my lead was good for several more weeks,
at least while I watched everybody else scramble to catch up. We see how
well that worked.
THE CUP: Certainly it was hard sharing the glory with not one but
two other Cuppers. Do you have any drastic measure planned to ensure
this won't happen again?
KELLING: No, I like the tie.
THE CUP: How very sweet (WIMP!). Karl, how about you, any plans?
DAVID: Yes. I'll spend another umpteen hours calling in vain for Barred
and miss Olive-sided Flycatcher for the year for the first time ever. That
will tuck me comfortably in just behind the leaders [see Nix drafting
strategy from Coach's Corner, The Cup 1.7] until the final sprint.
WELLS: I'll stick with my usual plan and that is to follow the advice of my
Coaches. The "family time" thing works well in my family, too, since my
spouse, you all know, is in the David Cup as well. He still thinks he's
going to win, by the way.
THE CUP: Since you've already shared with us in previous Kickin' Tail
interviews with The Cup what your favorite color is, can you tell us instead
what you're favorite flavor of ice cream is?
DAVID: Just plain vanilla, thank you. Though I'm thinking of giving
carrot cake, which I tried once and hated, another try. Maybe it'll improve
my night vision enough that I can finally get that danged white whale, I
mean Barred Owl.
WELLS: It used to be mint chocolate chip until I read in the last issue of
The Cup all the trouble that flavor caused [see News, Cues, and Blues, The
Cup 1.7]. Now I've switched to chocolate peanut butter. Calories aside, it
KELLING: I don't have a favorite. It is a mood swing type of thing.
THE CUP: What do you predict your total will be at the end of next month,
and what will you give other Cuppers if you're wrong?
KELLING: 245, and a small piece of hard candy.
THE CUP: Perhaps Lifesavers would be appropriate. Karl, how about you?
DAVID: At the end of September? 246. If that's high, I'm out of the
competition and who cares what I'm willing to give everyone. If it's low,
I'll probably be leader again and I'll give everyone my backside to take
WELLS: 246, because that's what Karl chose and I don't want to give the
impression that I'm backing down. Regardless of whether I'm too high, too
low, or right on, I'll give every other Cupper what I've been giving them
all along: the chance to place higher than me!
THE CUP: Thank you all. You have made this issue The Cup worth reading.
And if you believe that, there's a Roseate Spoonbill down at the swan pen at
Stewart Park even as we speak...
???????????????????????? PIONEER PRIZE ??????????????????????????????
The editors of The Cup, through statistically significant birding polls and
by gathering clues left in the mud at various birding hotspots, 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 ghostwriting.
We, the editors of The Cup, hereby bestow August's Pioneer Prize to Tom
Yes, yes, we know it was Karl David and Bill Evans who first found the
Buff-breasted Sandpipers and Wilson's Phalaropes at Montezuma, but keep in
mind that Karl had August--and the rest of the summer--off (he is, need you
be reminded, a college professor--a seasonal job) and Bill needs absolutely
no sleep these days, what with night migration coming into its own again.
That Bill and Karl find goodies is not only expected, it's demanded of them.
Tom, on the other hand, poor Tom. He has a killer nine-to-fiver and must
squeeze in his finds in his "spare time". Moreover, the joy he brought to
countless downtrodden birders that moment at Montezuma in the encroaching
darkness when he sweetly announced, "I've relocated the Buff-breasted
Sandpiper," well, you just had to be there. Most importantly, he's been
wearing his David Cup T-shirt. Tom, to you a prestigious, teal BLUE David
: >: > : > : > : > : > : > : >
: >: > : > : > : > : > : > : >
PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE
Maybe he went overboard in his savoring of his last month of freedom, ah,
summer vacation and forgot about his responsibilities here at The Cup.
Maybe during his summer break he lost his knack to produce scholarly yet
witty pieces of literature. Maybe he became a slouch and figured no one
would notice. Maybe he just plain doesn't care anymore...
(Casey Sutton, who initiated and, well, used to write this column [on his
own] is now a seventh grader at DeWitt Middle School. One more slip-up like
this, punk, and your so-called column will come bin to bin with oblivion.)
SCRAWL OF FAME
Kurt Fox's recent discovery of "decent" (and therefore by default,
"indecent") birds was not only brilliant, it was timely. Case in point:
Jeff and I were at Montezuma the other night, admiring the audacity of two
Hudsonian Godwits parading around their obnoxious bills, when a Peregrine
Falcon swung by for some take-out at May's Pool. There was a scattering of
peeps (most, we assumed, had either already joined the Peregrine for lunch
or else had fled for less intimidating feeding grounds--La Guardia Airport,
perhaps.) Okay, we know the Peregrine needs to eat (it puts in a harder
day's work then, say, Ken Rosenberg), but when we (Jeff and I and a nice
lady also there at the corral) saw the B52 honing in on the paper airplane
piloted by the Semipalmated Sandpiper, we couldn't help but root for the
The Semi went down in a matter of seconds--there was a spray of water on the
far side of the pool, then a desperate flutter of little wings. "Get up!
Hurry up! Get out of there!" we three yelled to the peep, eschewing the
propriety expected of birders, Cuppers in particular. The Peregrine wheeled
around--we could see the slick and deadly bullet sliding into the
chamber--but a nanosecond before pulling the trigger, the falcon veered off,
leaving us quite certain that it had sensed our distress and opted to place
his order later, when there was no one around to take offense at his meal
preparations . Of course we felt sorry for the hungry bird, so we gestured
a thanks--a "decent" bird if we've ever met one--and cheered the sandpiper.
BAM!--it was too late. A Great Blue Heron--yes, a Great Blue Heron!--put
the hammer down on the poor little peep before any of us could cry,
"Cannibal!" Worse, as the Semi struggled, perhaps slightly wounded and
certainly tired from it's tete-a-tete with the Peregrine, the heron tweezed
it into its bill then flung it repeatedly this way and that. The peep
fluttered and squirmed as the heron tried in vein to swallow its cousin
whole. The heron, need I point out, was behaving "indecently," to say the
In the end, the sandpiper lost the battle and the war, and the heron was
forced to leave its bounty for some lucky gull. But where, I can't help but
wonder, does all this leave Jeff and me (and that nice lady there with us at
the corral)? Seeing that heron jabbing and tossing the pathetic peep was
more than a little disturbing. Yet we watched. We watched through our
binoculars, moaning and groaning over the grotesque scene. And when we
couldn't see the details well enough--Is the heron actually stabbing the
sandpiper, or just picking it up in its mandibles?--we turned our scopes
upon the sorry plight.
The "decent" Peregrine Falcon. The "indecent" Great Blue Heron. Which bird
were we? Maybe we're better off not knowing.
(Allison Wells is a writer and editor. She doesn't mind scrounging up fill
for "Scrawl of Fame" when Kevin McGowan says he'll write something for the
column and then forgets. But she'd prefer not to.)
(In other words, we have not been inundated with submissions, folks. This
is your chance to show your intelligence, wit, vanity, and to prove that you
have nothing better to do. If you have an opinion about the art, science,
and/or esthetics of birding or birding-related topics, write it up for the
Scrawl of Fame.)
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
With night migration upon us, who has crept out of the woodwork? Bill
Evans, of course. Bill, you see, is a connoisseur of things that go
"brewzzn" in the night. What does this have to do with you? What does
anything Bill says here have to do with you? Read on. You may be surprised
(some of you more than others...)
COACH EVANS: Birders of all sorts pass through the Cayuga Lake Basin. We
observe birds through the window of our tiny little minds but have at our
access an aggregate of observations from the past--"Five Nation" Native
American lore, Kingbird records, and if we dig, unpublished modern avian
records and local here say. This, of course, leads to two primary principles
involved in big year competition: 1) Tiny minds working together can accrue
more species. 2) Past avian occurrence patterns can be mined for big year
rewards. These principles have been amply discussed by the other coaches. I
echo them because they are still important factors down the road to December
An example of principle #1: Ned Brinkley's solo 245 total in the Cayuga Lake
Basin in 1991 (he all but took the year off from his Ph.D.) compared with
Ned's and Adam Byrne's 254, Karl David's 245, and my 241 in the legendary
1992 big year. Ned may well have spent more time in the field in 1991, but
the group effort in 1992 propelled all us to new big year highs. Tom Nix's
bicycle "drafting" is a great analogy (The Cup 1.7).
An example of principle #2: Studying birdlore from 50+ years ago seems
unlikely to be productive for current big year competitions due to the
inevitable changes through time (but who today checks the middle of Cayuga
Lake for flocks of Red Phalaropes, anyway?). However, Steve Kelling heard
of Dick Fischer's (retired Cornell Prof. Emeritus of Envir. Cons.) sightings
during the 1950's and 1960's of Bohemian Waxwings in the Mt. Pleasant area.
Steve knew that 1996 was a Bohemian invasion year by listening to hotline
reports across the Northeast, and by following up on Fischer's clue he
scored for us all! There may be other old secrets to birding the C. Basin
that have become lost to modern knowledge--like an old field north of Seneca
Falls where the hissy screech of the Barn Owl can be heard on a quiet summer
night. When Greg Butcher (now Executive Director of the American Birding
Association) was still director of Bird Population Studies at the Lab of
Ornithology, he told me that he felt there was secret knowledge of bird
distribution in the C. Basin that one had to sort of be initiated into.
Of course, one needs to carefully sift through the reality of past records.
I was having beers recently with former Federation of New York Bird Clubs
President Charlie Smith and embellishing to him my disgruntledness
concerning the inaccuracy of a recent report in Audubon's "Field Notes" (the
quarterly continent-wide summary of bird observations) stating Worm-eating
Warblers were on the increase in our area. The report was based on the few
recent sightings in the C. Basin, but the fact is, no one ever checked those
sites for Worm-eaters before and we don't have a clue what's going on with
this species in our region. Charlie's response was something on the order
of "for all practical purposes, many Kingbird reports must be regarded as
One also must evaluate the credibility of the others involved in the
competition. An intrinsic factor in big year competition is that one can't
compete successfully without chasing the good sightings of others. This is
where the team work involved can push the competition to really high season
tallies. Though if you are fooled into chasing every reported rarity, you
can waste valuable time and loose your morale. As the drama of the big year
unfolds, the mill of credibility is constantly at work crushing infirm
sightings. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale string of rarities reported by
an overzealous birder. For example, one individual's reports in the early
1990's of Brewer's Blackbird, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and Sedge Wren,
though they may in fact have been valid, became generally regarded as
symptomatic rebound sightings because of the way they closely followed other
well-documented reports of these species. On the other hand, though Raven
is now a regularly reported species (and indeed nests) in the C. Basin,
previous Kingbird editors were dubious of raven reports identified by voice
in the mid-1980's, sighting the likely confusion with juvenile Am. Crow
vocalizations. The rash of "anecdotal" raven reports
in the mid-1980's may, in fact, have been the vanguard of reality!
It is generally advisable to spend as much time as possible birding with
others, rather than alone. Not only must one evaluate the credibility of
others, but one must maintain one's own standing. Even the best of birders
can fall victim. Andy Farnsworth reported 262 in the 1992 competition, and
though it may have been a valid season total, it was largely not accepted by
the birding pack that year. Andy was relatively new on the scene and
typically birded alone. It was inevitable that many of his sightings were
not seen by the others and the credibility of his reported total suffered
the political consequences.
I heard a story about a competition for the all-time Colorado list record.
The group of leaders had been involved with the competition for many years,
and apparently the race had become rather bitter. One man called in a false
report to the hotline to lead one of the other competitors astray (an 80+
year old man). The old guy went on the long trek to find the nonexistent
rarity and nearly died from heat exhaustion. We in the David Cup, at least
at present, have not reached such devious levels of competition. Indeed, we
are in the infancy of big year competition in the C. Basin and we are still
relatively innocent, kind, and sharing. So far there has been little reason
to be otherwise. Up until this month just about anyone still had a chance
to win, but now, each passing day of September whittles away at that
possibility. In fact, by the time this issue of The Cup comes to press, the
sprint toward the finish line will be well underway. As we head into fall
there will be fewer and fewer new species to find in order to make up
ground. It is at this stage of the competition that the inner game can be
so important, and, there are other ways to pick up ground in the competition
than by seeing new year birds.
For example, as the competition heats up, rare sightings made by just one
individual can come under increasing scrutiny. Even sightings from earlier
in the season can come under attack. Cracks of doubt exist in many
sightings. When such doubts are brought to consciousness, the pressure can
cause the crack to expand like an infected wound. Jaeger-like pursuit of
such sightings can test their strength and may force the weakened birder to
ultimately disgorge the sighting all together, enabling the others to pick
up ground in the competition. Pack politics is especially productive in
such a hunt. We witnessed Steve Kelling's Kentucky Warbler disgorgal early
in the season. Jeff and Allison Wells recently fended off Kevin McGowan's
stoop upon their Whip-poor-will report (regarding whether it was in the C.
Basin or not) and Ken Rosenberg swiftly eluded my playful dive on his
Whimbrel (concerning whether he eliminated the possibility of several Asian
In general, as the scores in the competition start to settle, the
jockeying and inner game will increase. For Curtis Marantz, a visiting
researcher at the Lab last spring, his inner game was to blatantly pronounce
that if he were involved he would win without a question! From the ranks of
birders involved with the competition, we will hear various "amount of time
spent in the field" arguments. Birders with families start to play the
"time with the family" card, Sapsuckers incessantly stress the time they
missed in spring migration. Purists point of that it's the quality that
counts and finding a cool bird on your own is better than chasing one down.
But the reality of the competition is that the higher number wins. The trick
is to navigate through the morass of whining, set your sites on the birder
ahead of you, and kick their ass down the stretch!
Each big year is like a fine wine with a flavor all its own, composed of
each birder's sequence of species sightings, the shared great birds, and the
various dramas of the competition. December 31st will soon be upon us.
Imagine finding yourself one or two birds behind your nemesis. As you head
out the door to Lettie Cook Forest to search for Pine Grosbeak, Black-backed
Woodpecker and Boreal Chickadee in bitter windchills, your rival gloats over
an omelette and hot chocolate at Andy's Third Street Cafe. You may regret
not making that extra trip to Montezuma or Allan Treman State Park in
Now, for anyone that needs Gray-cheeked Thrush, let me know. I will be
leading a trip to Mount Pleasant to hear their night flight calls sometime
in the last week of September.
(Bill Evans is a Research Associate at the Lab of O. He can be see in the
early morning--not too early--paying homage to the lighthouse jetty god.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Ode to Allison*
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of they happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
(*An excerpt. NOTE: This poem is known to lesser audiences as
"Ode to A Nightingale." John Keats, a would-be Cupper, resides permanently
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
Since its maiden voyage back in early February, references to, Cup quotes
by, and other subtle slip-ins regarding one Ned Brinkley have been turning
up in the pages of The Cup. Many Cup readers were not "in the scene" when
Ned WAS the scene and thus have been showering us with e-mail messages to
the likes of "Ned Brinkley? You mean the news guy from '60 Minutes'?" and
"Who is this Ned of whom you speak?" Ned, a play-by-play fan of the David
Cup/McIlroy races and devoted reader of The Cup, has graciously agreed to be
this month's Bird Brain (thereby subliminally establishing that he should be
crowned, "Wayward Son of the Madness).
Now, you'll all no doubt recall that Ned has a way with words [see Coach's
Corner, The Cup 1.2], so we thought that rather than cut, splice, and rewire
the way we usually do in this column, we'd let Ned speak for himself.
WE SAID: How long in fact have you been a birder, Ned? How did you first
get interested? Can you remember the moment you knew there was no turning
back, that you were hooked?
HE SAID: My first birding experience was unforgettable: I was kidnapped, or
so it felt at first, by older (60-70 year-old) women who were both birders
and botanists, at five in the morning and taken into the Dismal Swamp in
southeastern Virginia on an early May morning, right around my sixth
birthday. We went in at Jericho Ditch, now one of the stellar points of
entry into what is now the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge --
but what was then just lumber company property. That would have been May
1971, and the trip leader was David Hughes, one of the only other males on
the trip. I
have been a disciple of that swamp ever since, its smells, its juniper
its amphibian choruses, its raucous gangs of Barred Owls, its migrant flocks
in spring. The sense of home that I have there is overwhelming, and I have
never missed a spring there. Anyhow, on that particular field trip, I
remember the incredible frustration of not being able to see all the birds
called out that I had studied in my small-format Golden Guide and in the
musty old copy of the Peterson guide: Black-and-white Warbler, Prairie
Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler (this one seemed
especially incredible to me), Ruby-throated Hummingbird. These were only
inches away at times, but I didn't yet know how to look. I was always (and
continue to be) easily frustrated with learning what appear to be simple
skills, and I recall vowing to myself then and there that I would learn
birds as I got older (and more able to control where I went) and would also
work to help other people to learn to see them. By fits and starts, I've
made good to myself on that vow born of frustration.
But those women also gave me a gift (most have long since passed on, but I
birded with some of them well into my twenties), and that was the
encouragement to develop an unabashedly aesthetic relationship with the
out-of-doors generally, and in particular with its inhabitants like
plants. Make no mistake, these "ladies" as they were called back then (many
were unmarried or widowed) were no creampuffs: they went through bogs on
their hands and knees with magnifying lenses and wrote papers
species of moss for the state of Virginia. The one consolation of that
morning in 1971 was seeing one of the last Dwarf Trillium in bloom for the
season, an endangered species that is common in a few secret spots in the
Swamp. That I could see. And their reverence for it -- not because it was
rare, but because it had "spirit" -- was really infectious. I wish every
school-age child could have such gentle, and such intellectually powerful,
mentors at an early age. The tone of these forays was always hyberbolic:
every picnic was "the most wonderful," every sunrise "the most disarming"
they had ever seen. Life became richer and more wonderful as it continued.
The victuals they ate for lunch in the forest were all new to me: liverwurst
sandwiches, cucumber slices, turkey pate. Their conversations never
me, but somehow they managed to discuss just how they had kicked
such-and-such corporate polluter's ass in court -- but with such delicacy.
They exploited their society's consistent underestimation of their worth and
acumen (as mere "little old ladies in tennis shoes") to their advantage. If
the male establishment never took their threats seriously, BOOOM, here was
the new Endangered Species Act and other legislation. And they had 'em by
the rubber parts, overnight! (But in more delicate language to be sure.
Nevertheless, the look in their eyes during such exchanges always hinted
particular kind of glee in the victory: "gotcha, bastard!") They worked
tirelessly to build the National Audubon Society, and I think in fact those
fancy Broadway offices and those fat salaries at NAS were brokered on the
stooped backs of these early crusaders. Whenever I feel angry or impatient
or frustrated, I always have the memory of these women to recenter me, to
make me laugh at myself and see the big picture. So birding has never been
merely about birds for me -- birding was the only conceivable way that I
small child could be admitted without hesitation or condescension into the
company of adults who saw the world more as I did: frogs, snakes, birds, and
flowers were simply incredible -- an ancient, shamanistic relation to a
planet felt to be, well, magical. Most children are born with this sense,
but it is taken away from them instead of developed.
WE SAID: What do you do for a living, and what on earth does this have to do
with birds and birding?
HE SAID: Right now I teach Germanic languages, cultural studies, comparative
literature and film in a Department of German. It's okay but mostly it's a
grind like any other job that keeps you out of the field. However, being at
a University is good because you can do Interlibrary Loan to get bird
articles. I expect to be fired in 2000, when I'm up for tenure. But that's
part of the plan. My colleagues are colossal weenies.
WE SAID: What brought you to Ithaca, and how long did you bird in the Basin?
HE SAID: To be honest, I think it was all the nifty stuff I got from the Lab
of O. as a kid. I wrote the Lab in pencil when I was about 10 and got all
this cool stuff in the mail, including a very supportive, personal letter
and a 45-rpm record with a long version of the only tape-recording of
Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I still listen to that, during big thunderstorms.
birding was small; some of the birds were more abundant then, but you always
felt, I suppose, like one of the second-century Christians when you met
another birder -- it was always such a thrill, no matter how bizarre the
person was (and back then, birders as a whole seemed to me to be a lot more
eccentric than the birders of the 1980s and 1990s). Everyone simply knew
everyone else who birded within a 250-mile radius or so, or at least had
the name in print. Anyhow, I came to grad school there in Comparative
Literature because I got a five-year fellowship from the Mellon foundation
and because I thought cold long winters (and the boreal avifauna) would be
great. After seven winters up there, I think I like the climate of Virginia
better, but oh how I miss the birding community in Ithaca. Nothing like it
exists anywhere else, as far as I can tell -- not in California, not in Cape
May, exactly. I hear English birders have jazz nights and pub nights, so
maybe it's a little like southern England.
WE SAID: Do you think birding kept you from getting your graduate degree
earlier than you would have otherwise, and if so, isn't this a good thing?
HE SAID: I had to struggle with this a lot. I had sworn off hardcore
birding up there during coursework. And I might have succeeded in staying
on the wagon had it not been for one roguish, long-haired student who
stumbled into my "Nature and the North American Narrative" seminar in
January of 1990. That being Adam Michael Byrne. I often have students
relate the most embarrassing event of their lives on the first day, to break
the ice a bit, and I always tell them something about myself. Byrne and I
both used birding stories (the same ones -- about being kidded by fellow
students, "looking for Buff-breasted Mattress-Thrashers" sort of jokes, but
others more venomous as well). And so it began. Byrne says: "Come on, you
gotta get Dickcissel on your Basin list for the year, and I'm going with
Dorothy McIlroy and Dick Evans to chase one at Taughannock Falls State Park
after class." Thus began the precipitous decline of my sanity and the
resurrection of competitive birding in my twenties. (Mind you, I was still
driving down to Virginia for every new state bird, 8-12 hours one way...) A
Basin list? It seemed absurd. It seemed provincial. It... well,... it had
a nice ring to it, kinda...
WE SAID: You were part of the pre-David Cup "competitions" and general Basin
birding scene. In what ways has making the competition "official" changed
the scene from your point of view?
HE SAID: All positive changes. Much more democratic in spreading the word
on the tougher species, much more systematically connected (as long as
you've got the computer!), and much more invigorated overall--even as a
Spectator Sport from down here! I love the quotes from everyone in The Cup
-- no one seems to give a hoot where they are in the standings (except Karl
of course, but then Karl has the honor of his Cup to defend!), but the
synergy of all these people participating makes my head spin. Look at how
much more has been learned about warbler distribution in the Basin (and its
borders) in this decade alone. Good golly -- who knew in 1987, when I moved
up there, that the Basin had such strong populations of Mourning and
much less Worm-eating Warblers? I don't think I ever really discovered much
up there -- usually just took advice on birding from Bill Evans and then
tried it (hawk watches, lake watches, etc.) till I dropped from exhaustion.
Bill's prophetic powers seemed limitless then, and I don't see any reason to
change that evaluation now, after a few more years' experience birding
south. The lessons may have seemed simple -- "Read everything, know the
habitat selection and migratory window of every species, and follow
to the logical conclusions, and you'll find the bird" -- but the effect was
often mind-blowing: those early days with 8-10 Golden Eagles over Mount
Pleasant always come to mind. Miracles at Varna, NY. I'll always be
grateful for that kind of mentoring in particular.
WE SAID: About your much-talked about 254 Basin year total. How did your Big
Year come into being? How did you talk Adam Byrne into joining the madness
with you? What was Karl David's shifty-eyed roll in this?
HE SAID: To be honest, I can't even remember there ever being a really
Official Decision. It was really just mutual goading and baiting among
Adam, Karl, Bill, and myself, during a year in which we were all trying to
see as many new Basin birds as we could. I had really given up on it by the
Adam and Karl continued to cajole. It was the first of October or so, and
I'd been really too busy to do long drives during the early part of the
semester, and I thought I'd been skunked on a lot of stuff. One last burst
up to Montezuma, though, produced Merlin, Baird's Sandpiper, Red-necked
Phalarope, and something else (forgotten!) -- and that reinvigorated the
all over again. Karl was the scorekeeper and main gadfly in the entire
event, and Bill and Adam were just as ebullient, just as insane, both with
fiendish grins and maniacal Boris-and-Natasha laughs to keep the sport going
for twelve months. No chase was too absurd or too ill-timed to be
Looking back on it, I have to say that it was more about the human
relationships than the birds per se -- though seeing a variety of birds was
wonderful. It was about acumen, stamina, extremity, credibility,
recklessness, but mostly about fellowship. It wasn't entirely pretextual,
no, but it was a chance to be in constant communion with three excellent
fellow-travelers. I might regret the compromise of other human
relationships in that year, but I would do the same thing again -- any day.
WE SAID: For those who hadn't subscribed yet when you were the Coach for The
Cup, what was required of you time wise in getting that magnificent 254?
HE SAID: As Coach David said recently, "I'm in deep denial. Can we change
the subject?" There weren't many days in the year that I wasn't
afield. I kept
track but can't find those notes -- it was over 310 days afield for some
length of time I believe. Mostly that meant just a quick drive to Stewart
Park or to Myers Point or to a little migrant spot. But I think I went
'round the lake about 40 times or more. Most trips produced only the
expected species. Thank Allah I drove a Toyota Corolla then.
WE SAID: What's it like to watch this thing unfold from your post in
HE SAID: Heaven and hell. I love the melee, the fracas, the melange -- what
word am I looking for? I love the way you guys support each other and laugh
with each other -- and a real spirit of competition always has this
affection at base. But currently I have no one to bird with down here,
except when I drive to the coast (three hours away), and birding solo just
isn't the same. I saw a Connecticut Warbler and a Kentucky Warbler this
morning in the same patch of Jewelweed on Afton Mountain (24 August). Both
are really good finds, and their migration windows don't overlap much. Like
many people, I have a real love of Oporornis warblers. But there was no one
to share them with, and that diminished the moment (ah... even though the
Conn. Warbler was #293 for the year in VA). I remember moments like that in
the first few years I started leading field trips for the Cayuga Bird Club,
with Sue Seely, Kevin
McGowan, Gladys Birdsall, Linda Clougherty, Barbara LeGendre and Bob Meade,
the Witmans, Warren Currier and Dick Evans (God rest their hearty souls),
Marty Schlabach, the Ords, Nancy Ruffing, J. J. O'Malley, and so many others
-- when the Lawrence's Warbler popped out into the bush with the Cape May,
or the Virginia Rail scolded on the railroad track, the triple rainbow at
Montezuma, endless memories -- and the expressions of true wonder of those
friends magnified the moment beyond anything I could write here. These are
the things that solder souls together across time and space. For some
reason, the Finger Lakes area is blessed with an abundance of good karma
like this. And an overabundance of truly smelly puns.
WE SAID: What's the rarest bird you saw in the Basin (rare for the
HE SAID: Hmmm. I don't know. On face value (number of records), I suppose
a Mississippi Kite over Potters Falls off Rte 79 while sunbathing. But that
is a familiar species from home and is expanding north rapidly, more or less
an expected vagrant. I found a number of Thayer's Gulls in the Basin, but
they're also expected. A Harris's Sparrow was just outside the Basin at
Groton, still the only one I've seen. My favorite solo vagrant was a flock
of King Eiders seen from the Mount Pleasant watch -- or maybe a Red
Phalarope just off O'Malley's Restaurant in Sheldrake; the best communal
moment had to be listening to Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows singing one
rainy night in April at the Cayuga Marsh, with most of the Club. Biggest
disappointment: I never saw a jaeger or a Sabine's Gull in October.
WE SAID: Where else in the world have you birded? Where would you like to
HE SAID: I've birded east and central Africa, Antarctica, Argentina,
Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Guatemala, western Europe, Iceland, and lots
in the Gulf Stream off North Carolina. Next May and June I'll be birding
the Aleutians one by one from a ship, then over to the Commander and Kurile
Islands. I'd most like to bird Greenland next, during fall migration if
possible. I like
islands a lot.
WE SAID: Do you come back to Ithaca much now that you're living in Virginia?
If so, might we talk you into becoming a Temporary Cupper?
HE SAID: My Cup possibilities are limited -- hey, that's not what I meant,
wiseguys. But I may pass through for a Thanksgiving reunion with Dorothy
Crumb and Jean Skelly and crowd up at Buffalo (gull mania time...). I'd
love to sit around that greasy spoon near Stewart Park, have a coffee and
catch up with everyone.
WE SAID: Thank you, Ned, it's been a pleasure. But really, you should skip
the greasy spoon.
(Ned Brinkley teaches Germanic literature and other courses at the
University of Virginia. According to the American Birding Association,
Brinkley is the Big Day record holder for Germany and also for Iceland,
although he is better known for dubbing Karl David "Father of the Madness".)
Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations, The Cup has
graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and intuitive columnist,
Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions, like these...
During the Olympics, NBC was criticized for broadcasting taped events
as though they were live. This brings up the oft-recognized problem with
heard-only birds: how do you know you weren't listening to someone
else playing a tape? But here's a new objection. It has to do with
the fact that light travels at, well, the speed of light, whereas
sound crawls along at a pathetic 700+ mph. That means that that
Barred Owl you heard half a mile away may well have just cooked its
very last meal for you all and been instantly killed (by lightning,
for example) before the sound ever reaches you! How about that?
--Plausibly Live in Aurora
Dear Plausibly Live:
Let's assume, since some postings on Cayugabirds-L suggest it to be true,
that there is life on other planets. Let's say that these life forms find
Cuppers a pitiful lot (not a real stretch, is it?) and because they feel
them, are following the David Cup/McIlroy races from their living rooms
away. Following your "logic," you're dead. How about that?
Lately I've read so many posts about all the great shorebirds
up at Montezuma NWR. Well, I went up to do some bird watching and
there was hardly anything around besides a few ducks and geese. Is
this what people mean by "Montezuma's Revenge"?
--Disappointed in Seneca Falls
My friend, if you had "Montezuma's Revenge," you wouldn't be writing me for
verification. Perhaps a trip to Mexico would be in order.
I was talking with some other Cuppers recently and it
occurred to us that Wal-Mart and other stores offer special
deals like "Buy two get one free". I wish the David Cup
committee would agree to a similar offer, maybe a "find two,
tick one free"?
--Wheeling and Dealing in
Dear Wheeling and Dealing:
Don't you read the papers? Wal-Mart has been banned from Ithaca soil. The
same could very well happen to the David Cup if you keep pushing this "deal"
thing. Be careful with your wishes. They just might come true.
I am typing this for my dog who is a Cupper. She is pretty
ticked off that a fellow "Cupper" stole her shorebird joke (the
one with the "Ruff!" punch line) and then posted it to Cayugabirds-L
without so much as an acknowledgment, much less a thank you. Since
she's the nonviolent type, she was wondering if you could "get" the
joke stealing "Cupper" the next time you see him. Two suggestions
she has are a) biting him, and b) tinkling on his foot. Thanks, Tick,
--Timmy and Lassie in Lansing
P.S. Keep those ticks on the Basin list and out of your fur.
Tell Lassie she's barking up the wrong advice columnist.
I've got enough trouble keeping Sleepy in Ithaca and now some
goon from Aurora under control. By the way, I don't have a
problem with ticks in my fur. They do, however, get under my skin.
I lost my year list. Can I still play?
--Organizationally Impaired in
Of course you can still play. What difference does a list make? As I
understand it, the leading three Cup totals are merely "best guesses," based
more on what the beholders felt they deserved, rather than on what they
actually saw. If you're so disorganized as to have lost your list, chances
because you're spending most of your time birding. Go ahead, give it your
best guess. And don't forget to include those rarities you were entitled to
see but somehow missed. I'm looking forward to reading your Kickin' Tail
interview next month!
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup, care of Jeff's e-mail.)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Hejsan! I'm back from my stay in Sweden, and I thought I'd say hi to you,
the dynamic David Cup duo. I sent you a message from Sweden in mid-July,
with my May total (better late than never) and a desperate plea for a paper
copy of the latest Cup..."
"You've done it again with a great Cup! I can't wait to show it to my
beloved Elaine so she can read all the neat stuff you wrote about me!"
"I finally figured out that my REAL problem was that there IS NO Wegman's on
St. Paul Boulevard!" [see "100 Club," The Cup 1.7]
"I happen to have inside information that Karl David is now the proud owner
of a top-of-the-line spotting scope. To think of all the great birds
Karl's been finding without a scope, with this new set of glass he should
be truly dangerous!"
"Do you believe I left our scope at the house in CT? I've
probably shot myself in the foot for late summer shorebirding,
"Finally got my copy of 'Birds of the Cayuga Lake Basin' and what luck--our
house falls nicely into the upper north west corner of the map!"
"Unless I can count birds from Arizona, Costa Rica and Panama I am afraid my
total is the same as it was last month."
"Scan the orange part of the sky, out over the loosestrife!"
(at Montezuma NWR,8/24)
"There must be ten's of thousands, maybe a million swallows up there!"
(at Montezuma NWR, 8/24)
"You mean that's not smoke, those are all swallows?"
(at Montezuma NWR, 8/24)
"We'll have to count them by logarithms!"
(at Montezuma NWR, 8/24)
"I'm glad they're on our side!"
(at Montezuma NWR, 8/24)
"How do they keep from smashing into each other without an air traffic
(at Montezuma NWR, 8/24)
"Haven't had much time for birding, but I did get pulled over and
questioned by some befuddled cops who couldn't tell I wasn't a
hoodlum but a moth collector. What else would I be doing at 3 am except
for owling or nighthawking?"
"It's too bad that you didn't get my message from Sweden. I was hoping to
make the Cup Quotes section with a few of my witty comments. Oh, well. I
also included my totals for May, which I'm happy to say are higher than some
peoples' July totals. I was at 132 when I left, with #100 being a Nashville
Warbler (or was it Big Bird?). I might have to take Dennis, my Swedish
friend, to Montezuma when I'm in town so that we, oops, I mean he, can see
some new birds."
"[My total] includes Trumpeter Swan, but does not include Rainbow-billed
"I added not a bird to my Mctotal of 142."
"I was in Idaho/Washington most of August. I did, however,
see a Ring-necked Pheasant sometime in August on Lower Creek Road, but I
can't remember when, and now I can't seem to find my year list. Does this
mean I have to start over again?!"
"Quiet, peaceful, listening to the soft sounds of the quiet gurgling waters.
Oh yes, how romantic... Saturday, I took my wife to our new favorite place,
the Batavia Waste Water Treatment Plant."
"On a canoe trip along the canal next to Montezuma, we saw one
Common Nighthawk flutter by. The sighting occurred around
8:00 pm, at the same time that the swallows were gathering for
their evening drinking and bathing fest."
"Nice to meet [Jeff] and Allison and Casey Sutton and to clear up my
misapprehension about the last. I had assumed he was your [the Wells']
son and that in some sort of Southern fashion, you always called him by
his first and middle names--like Willie-Mae or Billy-Joel--but I have been
"Hey, let's go to Myer's Point...Do they have chocolate peanut butter at
Purity ice cream place in Lansing?"
"Alright! I saw a bird Sarah didn't!"
(cousin to Sarah)
"After our chance meeting at Montezuma Saturday, I left with a heavy
heart. My conscience was burdened with the obvious hurt in Jeff's voice
when he spoke about his plan to save our receipts to demonstrate the
financial impact by us birders around Important Bird Areas, and then he
realized I hadn't even read The Cup carefully enough to learn about this
proposal (was that a tear in his eye, or just the reflection of a
I know not). And so it was that I removed my issue of The Cup 1.7 from
it's pigskin pouch, lighted a candle, and tried to atone for my careless
initial perusal. Next time I shall be more careful as I read through it
diagraming the sentences. But wait! What trickery is this?! Try though I
might, I can
find no discussion of this avieconomic master plan in yon Cup. Do my eyes
fail me? (In which case perhaps I just haven't *seen* Eskimo Curlew but
it's been there all along, and I can rest easier.) Or have you sent me
Wild White-fronted Goose Chase (and an emotional House-Finch-Flight
Roller Coaster Ride as well)?"
"I thoroughly enjoyed your belated Scrawl of Fame article. I think
you did a wonderful job helping folks become more aware of some of the
consequences of management that goes on at Montezuma and with the Northern
Montezuma project in general. It's easy to see some of the
wildlife in terms of management that goes on, but it often is less clear to
realize that their are consequences to communities as far away as Union
Springs and even Ithaca, Rochester, and Syracuse. For example, I'll often
fill my gas tank in Ithaca before embarking on a trip to Montezuma. I don't
think that is simply $$ I'd spend anyway on gas because I do most of my
local commuting on my bicycle. Its $$ that I can attribute directly to my
birding activities, and it benefits a business here in Ithaca even though
the activity itself occurs at Montezuma."
"How true about the Union Springs Store! I estimate that from 1987-1993, I
stopped there 300 times, spending an average of $5.50 or so. Sixteen
dollars on drinks, chips, gas, etc!"
"Talking about good Samaritans, I lost my binoculars case three weeks
ago in Connecticut Hill. I did go again two days later to look for it but
did not find. So if any birder found it, would you let me know?
If not, I need to buy one. So can anybody direct me how I can get one?
Or is there anyone who has lost their binoculars?"
"It happens I'm up at Wells on this fine Sunday afternoon, ostensibly to
prepare myself for the onslaught of students tomorrow...I will almost
certainly end up at Montezuma in the evening (after all, as you so well
pointed out, I'm already halfway there!)"
"A fine male N.Harrier floated across E. Shore Drive up near Water
Wagon Road this morning as I was driving along. That's the first I've seen
this (gulp--is it really almost?) fall."
"Roll your windows down so we can hear Sedge Wren."
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff