Year 2, Issue 3
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Basin Bird Highlights: "Inspector" Tom Nix
* Composite Deposit, Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Bird Brain Writer: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* Production Accountant: Jeff Wells
They don't call it "March Madness" for nothin'! There was wind, there was snow,
there was sun, there was snow, there was rain, there was snow, there was warmth,
there was cold, there was snow...and televised college basketball. Seems if the
weather wasn't enough to keep Cuppers indoors, the Final Four showdown was (see
Karl David, Cup Quotes). In typical March Madness fashion, Cuppers found
themselves waiting not only for a
south wind but for the one that would cradle in the next magnificent Golden
Eagle. They were forced to ask themselves, would this foggy, rainy day drop
the Oldsquaw and scoters on Dryden Lake the way Coach Prentiss promised?
And what if Miles Simon and Mike Bibby have a bad game?
No need to ask mind-bending questions like these when it comes to The Cup,
and 2.3 is no exception. We'd never, ever let March Madness take control of
our good senses and distract us from the birding at hand. We're here
for you come rain, come shine, come snow--hey, how 'bout them Wildcats?
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: So the Gateway to David Cupland has slimmed
to single file this month. Doesn't matter, it's enough to scare the bins
off David McDermitt: one more contender poised to pass him en route to the
100 Club! And what rock 'em-sock 'em words of intimidation does this
month's rookie, Michael Pitzrick, have as he enters the ring? "I hereby
throw my hat into the David Cup competition. You have convinced me that
actually winning isn't the point anyway, so here I am. Thanks for your
efforts in energizing the Ithaca birding community!" Hmmph. Another
OSCAR-WORTHY PERFORMANCE: Hey, Cuppers! We made it to the Oscars! Well,
sort of. When Saul Zaentz, producer of the multi-nominated movie,
"The English Patient," was given special recognition at the Oscars in
March, he gave us a nod by joyfully announcing, "My Cup is full!" And
when "The English Patient" won for best picture he said--ready?--"My Cup
runneth over!" As he left the stage, we were pretty sure we heard him
utter, "These Oscars are for you, Cuppers!" It was either that or "Get this
over with, I want supper!"
SHOW US THE MONEY!: "Thanks again for leading the [Cayuga Bird Club] trip
and helping me with the Lesser Scaup. Here's payment/year bird seen. Feel
free to cash." That's taken from a card sent to us from Cupper David
McDermitt. Enclosed was a check for $50, which broke down this way:
"6 year birds x $5/bird + 1 lifer x $20/lifer." What Mr. McDermitt failed
to explain was why the check was a fake. Little did he know it's going to
cost him anyway, and a lot more than $50: If we can't count the check,
David, you can't count the birds.
SPLITTING FEATHERS: One very observant--and, obviously very
desperate--Cupper sent us this irresistible tidbit, posted to Cayugabirds-L
sometime in March by devoted Cup reader Laura Stenzler: "I won't bother
to post the list of birds I saw on my trip on Sunday (basically the same
wonderful birds), except to mention that at Stewart Park there were
30 Hooded Mergansers (2/3 male, 1/2 female)..." What our fair Cupper
wants to know is how birds that are 2/3 male and female would tally into
David Cup totals, since shouldn't such odd ducks be considered a separate
species? (We've passed that question on to Dear Tick.) But what the
editors want to know is what--and where--these mergansers have been eating.
TYING THE KNOT: No, not Red Knot, can't you get birds out of your
minds for two seconds? We're congratulating Cupping Couple Chris Hymes
and Diane Tessaglia on their recent engagement! The Big Day (no, we're not
talking New Jersey here) is set for December 20. "The planning is really
fun, I'm having a blast," says Diane. "I'm really excited about it. We've
been talking about it since September, so it's actually less of a surprise
to us than it will be to other Cuppers!" Best of luck, love birds!
TAKING STORK: Too bad Scott Mardis had to leave the Basin for Massachusetts,
since February 18 brought him (and wife Heather) a visit from a stork.
Here's what Scott has to report on his new nestling, Stover Clark Mardis:
"The baby is wonderful. Actually, he is stupendous, magnificent, etc. I am
just so in love with him. He is so cute and he grows and changes every day.
Both his smiles and his cries melt my heart. Of course, I don't get much
time for birding, a definite down-side. I've got maybe 40 birds in the
state so far this year. My best recent bird sighting was in eastern
Pennsylvania where I was en route to my Father-in-law's (for him to meet
Stover). Along the way we spotted two Black Vultures, which was the first
time I'd seen them anywhere but Florida and they were north of their
mapped ranges." You can take the boy (and his baby) out of the Basin, but
you can't take the birder out of the boy (and can only pray that the genes
are dominant in the baby.)
MEGAN UPDATE: And how did the Runge gosling treat her Cupper daddy
during the month of March? "Still not a stellar performance, but Megan
just wasn't ready to go out birding in the March weather. Yesterday
(April 2), however, I took her out on her first father-daughter birding
walk. Went to Sapsucker Woods, and I know for sure that she laid eyes on a
Canada Goose. So her life list is currently at 1. She loved the walk, so
this bodes well. I figure that with a rigorous training schedule, she will
be ready for May warbler migration, so I might be back in the game.
Meanwhile, I figure that Scott Mardis won't be a competitor until after
the warblers have passed. Congratulations to them! I have learned that
parenting is even better than birding [am I allowed to admit that?]"
I, SPIED: Laura Stenzler wasn't the only birder with a particularly
noteworthy Cayugabirds posting. How about this one by Cupper Anne
Kendall-Cassella: "On Friday I went around the lake in order to see the
waterfowl that I have been reported lately." A subliminal attempt to add a
new species--herself--to the Composite Deposit or a submission for "Best
Cayugabirds Typo" for next year's Cuppers' Choice Awards? A keeper,
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: That's right, we're adding "All
That Jazz" because our once-faithful bluesmen (namely, Ken Rosenberg,
Kevin McGowan and Rob Scott) aren't quite making the scene these days
(can you blame them? Reportedly, they haven't been able hear the high-
pitched ring of Black-and-white Warbler for the last eight months!)
Fortunately, the jazz heads among us are picking up the slack. I (Allison)
have this month's report, of the Woody Herman Big Band, March 22, at the
State Theatre: "Obviously, this band was vying for acceptance into the
David Cup. They knew Jeff was in the audience, they know he plays trumpet
...and they must have known he's a Cupper--they had not the standard four
but FIVE trumpets! (They didn't put their cup mutes to good use.) How about
this: They played, Blues for Red'. Obviously, they were referring to
Redhead. Duh. If that weren't enough, they broke into Wood Choppers'
Ball'--all but dedicated to Ken Rosenberg, and he wasn't even at the
concert! Lastly, was it a coincidence that this gig took place the same
day that Kevin McGowan found a Thayer's Gull at Stewart? I don't think
so. We expected them all to get Tom Nix's autograph, there in row six,
after the show, but perhaps they were too intimidated."
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By Tom Nix
"Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun,
but I have never been able to make out the numbers."
-anonymous middle-schooler quoted in Ann Landers
Numbers are what it's all about in the Cup race. The more the better,
but when have there ever been numbers like this past month? Huge rafts of
Snow Geese which, from a distance, seemed like detached bergs of Cayuga
Lake ice; the blizzards of Snow Geese descending, tens of thousands,
these sights were enough to make this lister rock back on his heels in awe,
to become again, in Dianne Ackerman's wonderful phrase, an "earth ecstatic".
With all these white geese around, one's mind naturally fills with
visions of striking it rich, separating out the prized miniature, the Ross'
Goose. "Surely," the intrepid Cupper thinks, eye glued to scope, "among all
those thousands there must be many Ross' Geese!" And although a Ross' was
in fact briefly sighted in the north of the Basin, to my knowledge it was
seen only by non-Cuppers. But, it occurs to me to ask, are the populations
of Ross' Goose burgeoning along with those of the Snow Goose? Maybe all
those hundred thousand just made it harder to pick out the little guy.
The lake produced other wonders this month, too. Returning puddlers
like the two teals, N Shovelers, the numbers of N Pintails, and great skeins
of scaup alighted in the shallow north end of the lake. One very lucky birder
discovered a Greater White-fronted Goose at Cayuga. Oldsquaw were
reported from numerous spots around the lake as well as in Dryden Lake
and the ephemeral George Road "pond," while the exceedingly dull alias
favored by the Politically Correct, Long-tailed Duck, was detected on the
Cayugabirds listserve. Very interesting to observe were the hundreds of
Horned Grebes, a few in breeding plumage, spotted off Myers Point late in
the month. Martha Fischer and Annette Finney turned up an early Greater
Yellowlegs in Salmon Creek. But most exciting and unexpected of all was the
very rare and unexpected Thayer's Gull Kevin McGowan turned up in a
howling gale at Stewart Park. Iceland and Lesser Black-backed Gulls crept
onto a few more McIlroy lists this month as well.
Andy Farnsworth's legendary eyes found Golden Eagle and N Goshawk
among the Red-shoulders and Red-tails as the spring hawk migration
commenced over Mt. Pleasant. At the end of the month, Osprey cruised into
town, being sighted at Mt. Pleasant, and the next day, at the north end of
the lake on their nests. Meanwhile, Steve Kelling has been pioneering a new
point of view from Sunset Park, showing just what can be done within the
confines of the McIlroy boundaries. McSteve has espied the tough Golden Eagle
and Common Raven from his lunchtime perch there.
Unlike those doomed, misguided February swallows, this month's
returning Tree Swallows found more seasonable weather, and company, as
warm fronts brought us a Woodcock and Common Snipe, Water Pipits, and
waves of sparrows: Song Sparrows by the barrow load, a few Fox Sparrows,
the first Savannahs and Vespers. Andy Farnsworth's 3/31 Palm warbler was a
last hurrah for the month and the Cup's first non Yellow-rumped Warbler
Last month in this column I opined that Purple Finches had declined in
numbers over the month, and an informal poll on Cayugabirds showed just
how limited my point of view is, as numerous respondents reported PUFIs at
their feeders (although I'm not sure an absence of negative responses means
I was totally wrong). This month I'll test another limb by declaring that
Ring-necked Pheasant, and I mean a real wild bird at least a few hundred
yards outside of the Game Farm pens, and better yet on the west side of the
lake, is going to be a surprisingly tough tick this year. Personally, I know
of only one sighting, actually a hearing, and it wasn't by me. Cuppers, prove
(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad turned carpenter, now a Code Inspector
for the City of Ithaca. He has been desperately trying to find out who the
"very lucky birder" is who saw the Greater White-fronted Goose.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Not everyone who'd hoped to make it into the 100 Club made it through the
doors. So to rub it in, we're again running our poll:
John Bower's BIRD 100: Red-breasted Nuthatch
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "Had I found that sneaky bird at
a more reasonable time (say in January!) my hundredth would have been
Short-eared Owl. Had I seen a shrike and a nuthatch in January my
hundredth would have been a Black-crowned Night-heron. Oh well, no
complaints. I like those little nuthatches, however common."
Stephen Davies' BIRD 100: Refused to respond to questionaire. (Of course,
he's in Wales...)
Steve Kelling's BIRD 100: Brown-headed Cowbird
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I was hoping for Golden Eagle."
Jay McGowan's BIRD 100: Northern Mockingbird (found in the blowing blizzard
near sundown of the 31st--fide KJM)
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I really wanted Bird 100 to
be Ruffed Grouse, but, oh, well."
Kevin McGowan's BIRD 100: Glaucous Gull
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I thought Glaucous Gull was pretty good."
Bard Prentiss:' BIRD 100: Eastern Phoebe or Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I guess I wasn't surprised
by phoebe but I'd have preferred a Surf Scoter, goshawk or R-t Loon."
Ken Rosenberg's BIRD 100: Fox Sparrow
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I was hoping it would be Fox Sparrow, because
I really like those little double-scratchers, although I
would have settled for Northern Wheatear."
Allison Wells' BIRD 100: Yellow-rumped Warbler
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I hoped AND thought it would
be Eastern Phoebe, which clocked in as Bird 101. But at least I made it in
a day or two before Jeff did."
Jeff Wells BIRD 100: Greater Yellowlegs
HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: "I thought it would be Northern Shoveler.
That turned out to be a nineties bird, so I won't complain."
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
"CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE"
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1997 DAVID CUP MARCH TOTALS FEBRUARY TOTALS
119 Tom Nix 101 Tom Nix
109 Kevin McGowan 91 Stephen Davies
108 Stephen Davies 89 Andy Farnsworth
105 Jeff Wells 87 Allison Wells
104 Steve Kelling 87 Jeff Wells
104 Allison Wells 82 Karl David
101 John Bower 81 Steve Kelling
101 Ken Rosenberg 78 Kevin McGowan
100 Jay McGowan 76 John Bower
100 Bard Prentiss 74 John Greenly
94 Karl David 72 Bard Prentiss
91 Anne Kendall-Cassella 72 Ken Rosenberg
90 Chris Hymes 71 Jay McGowan
89 JR Crouse 70 Anne Kendall-Cassella
89 Andy Farnsworth 69 JR Crouse
88 Martha Fischer 54 Martha Fischer
87 Meena Haribal 53 Chris Hymes
86 Matt Medler 51 David McDermitt
80 David McDermitt 50 Margaret Launius
75 Marty Schlabach 49 Bill Evans
73 Michael Pitzrick 45 Matt Medler
65 Chris Butler 40 Marty Schlabach
61 Rob Scott 40 Meena Haribal
60 Bill Evans 39 Chris Butler
57 Jim Lowe 39 Jim Lowe
56 Diane Tessaglia 37 Casey Sutton
50 Margaret Launius 37 Caissa Willmer
49 Anne James 32 Margaret Barker
49 Michael Runge 32 Anne James
49 Casey Sutton 31 Rob Scott
44 Caissa Willmer 26 Sam Kelling
42 Sam Kelling 26 Jane Sutton
37 Taylor Kelling 21 Taylor Kelling
37 Jane Sutton 19 Cathy Heidenreich
32 Margaret Barker 13 Dave Mellinger
25 Cathy Heidenreich 0 Ned Brinkley
13 Dave Mellinger 0 Sarah Childs
0 Ned Brinkley* 0 Ralph Paonessa
0 Sarah Childs* 0 Larry Springsteen
0 Larry Springsteen* 0 Mira the Bird Dog
0 Mira the Bird Dog*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate return to Basin within the
1997 David Cup year. They faithfully opted to submit their totals, but did
so in their sleep.
1997 McILROY MARCH TOTALS FEBRUARY TOTALS
97 Steve Kelling 74 Steve Kelling
91 Allison Wells 71 Allison Wells
90 Stephen Davies 68 Stephen Davies
89 Jeff Wells 67 John Bower
82 John Bower 66 Jeff Wells
79 Tom Nix 59 JR Crouse
78 JR Crouse 59 Tom Nix
74 Martha Fischer 51 Martha Fischer
73 Kevin McGowan 50 Ken Rosenberg
67 Ken Rosenberg 49 Bill Evans
60 Bill Evans 46 Karl David
57 Matt Medler 43 Kevin McGowan
51 Karl David 38 Matt Medler
51 Rob Scott 37 Casey Sutton
47 Anne Kendall-Cassella 33 Chris Butler
47 Jim Lowe 33 Jim Lowe
46 Michael Runge 31 Jay McGowan
42 Chris Butler 30 Michael Runge
40 Jay McGowan 27 Anne Kendall-Cassella
39 Casey Sutton 27 Rob Scott
34 Jane Sutton 26 Jane Sutton
13 Dave Mellinger 13 Dave Mellinger
0 Ned Brinkley* 0 Ned Brinkley
0 Sarah Childs* 0 Sarah Childs
0 Ralph Paonessa* 0 Ralph Paonessa
0 Larry Springsteen* 0 Larry Springsteen
0 Mira the Bird Dog* 0 Mira the Bird Dog
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipating return to McIlroy territory
sometime in the 1997 McIlroy year. They faithfully opted to submit
their totals, but did so in their sleep.
THE EVANS TROPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Introducing, the Evans Trophy! Named in honor of Dick Evans, long time
Cayuga Bird Club president, knowledgeable and generous Basin birder, and
friend missed by many, the Evans Trophy will be awarded to some lucky
birder whose list of Dryden birds tops all others. (In other words, it
was initiated by those Cuppers who foolishly bought homes outside of
McIlroy territory and need some way to justify it!) Herewith, compiler
Bard Prentiss' first round of participants:
Kevin McGowan- 91
Ken Rosenberg 89
Bard Prentiss 85
Jay McGowan - 75
Matthew Medler 49
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
Is he for real, or is he just the rabbit in this race? Last year, Tom
Nix led at the end of March also ... but it was the last time. This
year, only time will tell. But for now, here are 119 reasons to
congratulate Tom for his hard work:
Common Loon, P-b Grebe, Horned Grebe, R-n Grebe, D-c Cormorant, GB
Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, G W-f Goose, Snow Goose, Canada Goose,
Wood Duck, G-w Teal, Am Black Duck, Mallard, N Pintail, B-w Teal, N
Shoveler, Gadwall, Eu Wigeon, Am Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, R-n
Duck, G Scaup, L Scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter, Common Goldeneye,
Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, R-b Merganser,
Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, N
Harrier, S-s Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, R-s Hawk, R-t Hawk, R-l Hawk,
Golden Eagle, Am Kestrel, Merlin, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Am
Coot, Killdeer, G Yellowlegs, Common Snipe, Am Woodcock, R-b Gull,
Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Thayer's Gull, L B-b Gull, Glaucous Gull,
G B-b Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, E Screech-Owl, GH Owl, Barred
Owl, L-e Owl, S-e Owl, N S-w Owl, Belted Kingfisher, R-h Woodpecker,
R-b Woodpecker, Y-b Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, N
Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, E Phoebe, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow,
Blue Jay, Am Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven, B-c Chickadee, Tufted
Titmouse, R-b Nuthatch, W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren,
Winter Wren, G-c Kinglet, E Bluebird, Am Robin, Gray Catbird, N
Mockingbird, Am Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, N Shrike, Eu Starling, Y-r
Warbler, N Cardinal, Am Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Fox Sparrow,
Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, W-t Sparrow, D-e Junco, Lapland
Longspur, Snow Bunting, R-w Blackbird, E Meadowlark, Common Grackle,
B-h Cowbird, Purple Finch, House Finch, Am Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
For the second month in a row, Tom added one more bird to his list
(18) than the aggregate Basin added to its (17). Betcha won't do that
in April, Tom! But then again, he has been amazing, so who knows? Get
out there this month, gang, and don't make a liar of me!
The question will inevitably come up: how do I decide what sightings
to include or not include in this list? The answer is: I use my best
judgement. For example, I included Thayer's Gull above because
it was seen and well described by several observers. If the report is
ultimately rejected by the Basin Records Committee or NYSARC, we'll
have to reconsider. Several other reports of out-of-range or
out-of-season birds are not included below, because they were
single-observer sightings and did not include any documentation. If
such is forthcoming, they can be included later. If last year is any
indication, I think things will sort themselves out satisfactorily by
the end. Leaders dropped questionable birds, and accepted reports of
unusual sightings were included. I'm confident the same will be true
So, here's the list of birds to add to Tom's to get the whole picture
so far (running total: 138):
R-t Loon, B-c Night-Heron, Ross' Goose, N Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon,
R-n Pheasant, Bonaparte's Gull, Snowy Owl, R-c Kinglet, Palm
Warbler, E Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah
Sparrow, W-c Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin,
EDITORS' NOTE: The following birds were reported but as yet remain
unverified: Brant, Whip-poor-will.
(Karl David teaches mathematics to students at Wells College in Aurora.
Despite the fact that he has faithfully been churning out his columns for
The Cup, he's actually still hibernating.)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove that you're tougher then an ingrown toe nail than
by being featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup three months in a
row? Kickin' Tail brings well deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper
who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, dove into muck in
search of an American Bittern, and otherwise made his/her way to the
top of the David Cup list. Ladies and gentlemen, again, here's Tom Nix...
THE CUP: Hi, Tom, welcome to another round of "Answer this KT
Question"! 119 birds by March 31. Does this surprise you?
NIX: Well, no, it doesn't surprise me now, looking back, because of the
very early and mild spring we had early in March. It did surprise me at the
time, though, but only because I wasn't paying attention to the weather
THE CUP: What was Bird 119?
NIX: Water Pipit.
THE CUP: Really? Shame on you! You should have had that pre-100.
Tell us where and when you got it, if you're not too embarrassed.
NIX: I ran into the same wave of pipits noted by others across the
net at the time. I found about 30 of them at Stewart Park feeding on the
road and on the shoreline, during my lunch hour on the 31st.
THE CUP: Feeding on the road? That's almost as horrid as eating grits.
Where did you spend most of your birding time this month?
NIX: I have been trying to explore the northern regions of the Basin in my
travels, hoping to discover some new hotspot, but inevitably I spend a lot
of time circumnavigating the lake, and that was the most productive area
again in March. The lake, followed by Mt. Pleasant.
THE CUP: After reading Kurt Fox's Scrawl of Fame last month, which
"proves" 100 is possible in the Basin in January, what do you think, is he
brilliant or bonkers?
NIX: Oh, there's such a thin line.... I think Kurt proved that in a year
with an unusual number of lingerers, a birder with unlimited time, or
perhaps the ability to be in more than one place at a time, could come
close to hitting the century mark for the month. Some of Kurt's
suggestions: Bittern, Virginia Rail(!), Sora(!!) strike me as, well,
fanciful. But hey, I'm looking forward to Part 2 of his piece.
THE CUP: We payed him good money for it, I think you'll enjoy it. Now,
we know how you feel about trouncing the Steves these last few months.
How does it feel to be burying last year's champ, Karl David, the Father of
the Madness himself?
NIX: Please don't count Fra Madness out yet, he may just be sleeping, and
when he wakes up, look out!
THE CUP: Hey, who said anything about counting him out? Getting kind of
cocky, aren't you?
NIX: And for that matter don't be counting the Steves out either!
THE CUP: Your insecurity is really showing itself, Tom, you better hush
up before you collapse..
NIX: Davies just took a short vacation, that's all.
THE CUP: Yes, yes, we know!
NIX: And Kelling may show everyone up by winning the David Cup while birding
totally within the McIlroy boundaries, the way he is going.
THE CUP: Now you've really lost it. Let's change the subject. How did you
like the Woody Herman concert?
NIX: Great concert. Great hall. Great seats. Too bad there weren't more
THE CUP: If you could play any of those instruments (if you don't already),
what would it be?
NIX: If I could play an instrument, I'd like to play sax. There is
something about that sound that suggests extreme coolness.
THE CUP: Jeff may try to dock you a few birds for that. Still "sticking"
with the grits? (By the way, have you had a chance yet to say to someone,
"Kiss my grits!"?)
NIX: Well, I still believe in a good breakfast of course, but the grits are
getting old, and no, Allison, I haven't told anyone to kiss my grits. Sheez,
I thought this was supposed to be a non-contact sport!
THE CUP: Wait a minute, that question came in from Ken Rosenberg!
NIX: Now I'm thinking of going ethnic with huevos rancheros, maybe a
little western influence will bring good luck. You know, a stray
Black-throated Gray Warbler, or Cinnamon Teal or the like?
THE CUP: Or, not taking your own advice--staying with routine--could be
your downfall. Either way would bring hope for the rest of us. Thanks,
Tom. Maybe we'll "chat" with you next month?
NIX: Well, I seriously doubt it, given the competition, but we'll see.
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge
of the world of birds. The answers will be in next month's issue.
1. What is the favored prey of the Gyrfalcon?
2. What is the scientific name for the Eurasian Eagle-Owl?
3. Is the Screaming Piha a highly vocal hummingbird?
4. What kind of birds are in the genus Parus?
5. What is the common name for Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus?
6. How large an egg do kiwis lay?
7. Which is the only vulture that is not primarily a carnivore, and what
does it eat?
8. Which three birds have Wilson in their name?
9. What bird has the longest wingspan of all birds, and how long is it?
10. What kind of birds are in the order Procellariiformes?
(ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:)
1. Which American bird is called a "crow woodpecker": Lewis'
Woodpecker. This western woodpecker flies with rowing wingbeats like a
crow, and not with the bounding flight of most woodpeckers.
2. In Texas, which icterid nests with herons: The Boat-tailed Grackle.
3. What color are the eyes of an Anhinga: Scarlet to ruby-red.
4. What color are the underparts of breeding Golden Plovers: Completely
5. Which phalarope is restricted to the New World: Wilson's Phalarope.
6. With what do rosy-finches often line their nests: Ptarmigan feathers.
7. What is the scientific name for the Crimson-collared Tanager:
Phlogothraupis sanguinolenta. (Whew! What a mouthful!) This black and
red tanager is found in humid lowlands from southeastern Mexico down to
8. At normal walking pace, how many strides a minute does an Ostrich take:
9. What is the common name for Caprimulgus vociferus: Whip-poor-will.
10. What bird is sometimes called the Bearded Vulture: Lammergeier.
This large Old World vulture is found primarily in the mountains from Europe
through Asia, as well as in eastern and southern Africa. It is particularly
fond of the marrow in bones, which it obtains by dropping the bones onto
rocks from high in the air.
(Jay McGowan, age ten, is home-schooled. His favorite movie of the Star
Wars trilogy is "The Empire Strikes Back".)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
April can in fact be the cruelest month. Consider last year. At the
end of March, Scott Mardis and Kevin McGowan were buried deep in the
pack, in 7th and 11th places, 12 and 17 birds behind the leader, who then
as now was Tom Nix. But when the Battle of April was over, there were
Scott and Kevin atop the heap. And yours truly--just one bird behind Tom
at the beginning of the month--had fallen all the way to 8th place, 8 birds
off the pace. And Steve Kelling--well, who knows where he really was,
because who knows when he saw those infamous "recovered memory" birds! In
other words, it's still anybody's Cup at this point. In this game, it
could indeed be over some time before it's over, but not yet by any means.
Well, when I started this column, I knew I was writing for a tough
audience: people with brains, educated people, people with Ph.D.'s. Some
even employed! But I had no idea how tough until I was called for pulling a
fast one on you last month. You may recall, as if it were yesterday, my
discussion of Pileated Woodpecker sightings as forming an ideal example of
a Poisson distribution. Then I started talking about the "waiting time"
between sightings, neglecting to mention that the distribution of these is
not Poisson at all.
It was Michael Runge, one of those Natural Resource graduate students
with way too much time on their hands, who correctly pointed this out. To
clarify: the Poisson distribution is appropriate for the number of sightings
in a given time period; it will give you absurdly wacky results if you try to
use it for the distribution of times between sightings. To make that point,
Michael performed the "wrong" calculation and got a figure less than 0.01%
for my supposed probability of having failed to see a Pileated Woodpecker up
to that point in the year. Ouch!
In my estimate of the probability of not seeing a Pileated Woodpecker
for 66 days, I did however use a Poisson distribution table as follows:
assuming I saw them at the rate of one every 18 days, then since
66/18=3.67, I would be looking for the probability of seeing 0 when the mean
was 3.67. I got an interpolated table value between 2% and 3%; Michael
actually carried out the calculation and got a more precise figure, 2.45%.
However, my data is partially "memoryless": I start each year's wait on
January 1, rather than after the last sighting the previous year. For the sake
of argument, let's say I see Pileated Woodpeckers on average once every
30 days. To illustrate the difference the assumed distribution of sightings
makes, suppose I used another common distribution, the binomial
distribution. Now, seeing the bird on any given day would be likened to a
coin toss, except that the probability would not be 1/2, but 1/30. I still
have not seen my year Pileated Woodpecker as I write, and we're approaching
the 100-day mark for the year. The probability of not seeing one for 100 days
using this model would be 29/30 raised to the 100th power.
On the other hand, if I go with the Poisson distribution and perform
the same calculation, then since 100/30 = 3.33, I am asking for the
probability of not seeing any birds in a 100-day period, given that I
normally see 3.33. This is calculated as e = 2.718...to the -3.33 power.
The probabilities under the two models do come out differently, but
not by much. Using the binomial distribution, it's 3.37%; with the Poisson
distribution, 3.58%. Either way, we see my long wait is unusual, but not
Luckily here, the Poisson and binomial distributions give very similar
values when the probabilities are small (as 1/30 is) and the number of trials
is large (as 100 is). For probabilities closer to 1/2 and considerably fewer
trials, the values would have been markedly different. Which distribution is
the better one to use in such a case? Experience tells statisticians to go
with the Poisson.
Michael's Moral: when things get fishy, check your distribution!
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
A Basin Big January, Part II: Strategies"
(For Part 1: Surely You Jest?" see The Cup 2.2)
by Kurt Fox
Many of the strategies for a Big January are just large-scale versions of
a Big Day, but are on a lesser scale than a Big Year. Big Days require
all-day, take-no-prisoners sprinting endurance with precise planning
and scouting. Big Years require less thought, but more of a marathoner's
endurance to keep interest. Big Months fall in between the two. It requires
some of the precise planning of a Big Day, and some of the marathon
attitude with less of a commitment. Investigate, plan, scout, and try again
are common themes. The difference may be the rule of "no communication"
of a Big Day. It's hard not to talk for a month and give clues and, as The
Cup shows, sharing seems a much better way to play the game. This is vital!
For a Big January, the attitude of "I can find that <insert some plain
ordinary spring here> bird later in the year" must be dropped. Yes, you
*can* get a Red-winged Blackbird easily enough in May. But, to top 100
in a Big January, you gotta try for it in winter. You can NOT rest on your
laurels (or whatever else you rest on while watching bowl games) and say
that in the David Cup scheme of things, blackbirds are to be found later.
Confucius say, "The Master of many is the Master of none." A wise birder
was he. (I ponder: did Confucius eat rugalah and grits?) Also think of it
this way: with a big Big January lead in the David Cup, you can rest on your,
ahem, laurels, stay inside all February and still float as top dog.
Get connected. By subscribing to Cayugabirds, you've got a head start on
it. But let others know you are "going for it." A phone call from a friend
may say, "Drop that bowl of grits and come over now to see that towhee I've
been seeing at my feeder." Certainly beats reading about it in The Cup.
Why wait until the starting gun to test your reflexes? Warm up by doing
some preseason scouting. Half-hardies may be easier to find in December,
as re-finding a bird that has been 'tagged' is easier than stumbling across
a new one. If scouting wasn't so valuable, then why do the Sapsuckers
scout for a week before the World Series? Learn from the Big Guns. And,
take notes on pre-season hits and misses.
Start the at-home, in-the-dark, or in-the-cold-dead-of-winter
investigations (and keep notes!). Use Coach Brinkley's excellent suggestion:
"Read old Kingbirds." Memories fog, but typed-print endures. Note where the
oddball stuff has been seen in the past. I'd bet there is a more consistent
pattern to many of the winter noteworthies than you imagined. Keep notes on
each species. Also, take to heart Coach Brinkley's next bit of advice: look
at neighboring regions with similar habitat. Note what is being seen there
and when. It is quite exciting (!) to read about certain birds and sites,
find similar habitats on the home turf, and march out there and actually
find those birds--just ask Ned Brinkley about finding Bill Evan's predicted
Repeat, repeat, repeat. You get better as you go along. I believe some
birders in Rochester used to say that 100 in January by one birder is
impossible. Mike Davids and Dave Tetlow denounced that. After about 15
years of doing Big January's, they have racked over 160 different species
seen in January. Each year they get better. Last year, albeit a phenomenal
year, they closed in on 130 species! This year, Tetlow aborted efforts
because he thought that he might *only* squeak out 120. A new standard
is set. Don and Donna Traver have been doing it a while and with no "draft"
from Tetlow and Davids, managed 104 in this meager January. Getting 100
in the Basin every January may not be possible, but it can be achievable
and more achievable with every coming year.
Use those notes to plan. With more time in a month, certain spots can be
hit once, twice or more if the target isn't hit. Revisits can hurt you on Big
Days, but not as much in Big January. Use Nix's plan to track down the
CBC birds on the following day. But also to use your resources and remember
that there are two counts within the Basin on the same day. Contact the
Montezuma compiler for the goodies up there. Chaining yourself to a
lighthouse might make you a martyr, but try to hit a variety of habitats.
Coach Brinkley's suggestion of stick to the water is valid. The turnover
in winter may be not be as big, but there is turnover. Also, half-hardies
are often found near water, not necessarily migrant-funeling buffers or
attractants like Cayuga Lake, but those smaller, spring-fed or
late-freezing ones like Union Springs or Canoga. Who knows, perhaps those
Morehouse Bait Ponds that attract shorebirds on the east side of the lake
stay open all year and hide a snipe, Dunlin or Killdeer. Water is important,
but in winter, food is a major factor. Preseason scouting may not just entail
finding birds, but also food sources: pine crops, rose hips, unmowed hay
fields (mice and raptors), etc... plan to hit them a few times. Remember,
sometimes there is *nothing* more exciting than garbage dumps and freshly
Final Note: Mr. January has one thing right: "sticking to a ritual that
seems to work: same T-shirt" but is totally off-base with the snack food.
Have you ever heard of chumming for birds with rugelah??? Never! Buy
a big bale-sized bag of popcorn and start planning your next Big January.
(Kurt Fox is a Software Engineer at Eastman Kodak Company. Next year,
he will put his money where his column is and get 100 Basin birds in
(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 <
< < < <
What happens when your forget to ask someone to be Coach for the
upcoming issue of The Cup? Why, you get your spouse to write the column!
Of course, it helps if your spouse is not only a superb birder but also a
coeditor, so that he is morally obligated to oblige. It also helps if you
have something to hold over his head, like a fast-approaching Big Day
scouting trip to New Jersey again this year for the Sapsuckers...
COACH WELLS: Regarding birding, there are two thing to consider as we move
from April into May. First, there will be huge numbers of birds passing
over and through our area. Second, if you're like most of us, you have
limited time to be in the field. It follows, therefore, that we all want to
maximize our birding opportunities and minimize our time afield. For those
of you who live or work in or near Ithaca, here's my picks for spots with
the highest birding opportunity/time ratio.
It goes without saying that for waterbirds, Stewart Park is the best bang for
the buck. (Though if you live in Dryden, Dryden Lake is a better pick). Be
there first thing in the morning before the boats start moving around and
while the new bird arrivals are still resting up. As Bard noted in last
month's column, be there on rainy, overcast days to watch for downed Ruddy
Ducks, scoters, Oldsquaw, grebes, Caspian and Common Terns, Bonaparte's Gulls,
and whatever the unexpected rarity will be this season. Last year it was a
Marbled Godwit across the inlet on the golf course and in past years the park
has hosted species like Red Phalarope and Franklin's Gull. While you're at
the park, check the shrubby area behind the swan pond for migrant warblers,
ALLAN TREMAN STATE MARINE PARK
Now that the Octopus project is partly completed, the drive over to Allan
Treman can be pretty quick and painless. As you walk out to check the
breakwater, watch for sparrows (in spring, we've had Vesper, Grasshopper,
and Henslow's plus the more common species) and grassland species in the
field. Look carefully through the gulls on the breakwater for the unusual
gull, tern, or shorebird that can sometimes be found resting there (you may
need your scope). Also, make sure to check along the stream that runs into
the vestige marsh that is usually referred to as Hog Hole. Blue-gray
Gnatcatchers show up here pretty early, and it's great for Warbling and
Yellow-throated Vireos. Just about every warbler species has been seen
here at one time or another.
MUNDY WILDFLOWER GARDEN
Regular visits here could yield all the regular migrant warblers and
songbirds plus some surprises. Last year one of the few Golden-winged
Warblers that was recorded in the area occurred here. A White-eyed Vireo
was reported here a number of years back. Who knows what this year will
Just off Stewart Avenue in Ithaca, this cemetery became the gathering
place for most of the local birding crowd for a couple of weeks in late April
and May last year. This was because the site was discovered to be harboring
a remarkable diversity of warbler species. The strategy for birding the site
was to keep wandering around until you bumped into the loose warbler flock
that was also wandering the premises. If you were lucky, the birds would
also be singing, helping to pinpoint which species were there and where they
This site is too well known to say much about, but I have a couple of hints.
Don't forget to check the feeders behind the trailers for the odd sparrow.
Fox Sparrows have been there recently (week of April 7) and soon
White-crowneds and others will appear. The best warbler, vireo, and
songbird watching is usually along Wilson Trail North between the parking lot
and the back side of the pond (just beyond the T-bridge). Last spring this
section yielded an amazing array of species including Worm-eating Warbler,
Philadelphia Vireo, and Lincoln's Sparrow.
Turn onto Sandbank Road off of Rt. 13 just south of the Buttermilk Falls
entrance and take an immediate right into the parking lot beside the ball
fields. A sign will point out the path that will lead you around in a loop
(about 1 mile) and back to the ball fields at the base of a steep ridge.
This is a great spot for early migrant songbirds. Watch for sparrows in
the brushy areas along the first part of the trail, then listen for warblers
and vireos as you swing around nearer the ridge.
Good luck, and have fun!
(Jeff Wells is the New York State Important Bird Coordinator for National
Audubon. He recently discovered he is mechanically inclined by fixing the
door handle of the family's "antique" birdmobile Toyota Corolla.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Since Steve Kelling has opted to play hard ball (or is it hard bird?) by
trouncing his closest McCompetitor by six species for the month of March-
-and since that competitor happens to be an editor here at The Cup--your
sweet-talking newsletter has gone a little sour. But not because Allison is
one bit worried about losing her title. After all, May is just around the
corner, and you know what happens to Team Sapsucker Cuppers in May...
heh, heh, heh. Yeah, that's it. Uh-huh.
THE CUP: Let's get something out of the way right now, Steve. Did you
get the McBittern Martha Fischer's dog flushed up near the Lab recently?
KELLING: No, we missed the American Bittern.
THE CUP: Listen, it's okay to camp out at Stewart Park with your son,
that's legitimate family time. And Sunset Park, your other mainstay, well,
that's romantic so that's okay. But other than that, you're trespassing, so
what? You didn't get it? Oh.
KELLING: You see it was a long day for a three-year-old. First we
shifted the clocks ahead for daylight savings--it is my experience that
this simple act messes up a three-year-old more than about anything that
you can do.
THE CUP: You should see what it does to a thirtysomething-year-old man.
KELLING: Then it was at the end of the day--after a long preschool day at
Sam's new preschool where he refuses to take a nap. Usually he sleeps on
the drive home. So as others can attest, Sam was in rare form. What Sam
did was climbed up a mound of dirt AND HE MOONED THE BITTERN!!!
THE CUP: Good heavens!
KELLING: I /we heard something running away, which I am convinced
was the bittern, but never caught a glimpse of it. Tom Nix valiantly dove
into the muck after the disappearing bird but to no avail.
THE CUP: That'll help his credibility as a serious competitor in the David
KELLING: I got Sam's pants up in time to see a Hermit Thrush that Tom
kicked up. I made Sam run behind the car all the way home as penance.
THE CUP: Rightly so. Stephen Davies had to fly off to Wales in order to
recuperate from missing the Thayer's Gull last month. How have you dealt
with missing the McGlaucous, when you were there at Stewart Park but in
the wrong part?
KELLING: I considered sepuku--
THE CUP: Japanese food? Hmm.
KELLING: --but decided to jump off my roof instead. Here I failed
so I still go to Stewart Park each day and count the Ring-billed Gulls.
THE CUP: How do you maintain Sam's interest at Stewart Park morning
after morning (this question submitted on behalf of Michael Runge and
KELLING: Sam likes a routine, he always asks to go there. So first we
drive to Ithaca and turn onto Aurora Street. There he always ALWAYS sees
a picture of Yoda.
THE CUP: No, no, that's John Bower.
KELLING: From this point to almost the end of Aurora Street he asks me
questions about Star Wars, like why did Yoda die or why are the white guys
bad? When we drive by the falls at Fall Creek he ALWAYS comments
about how much water there is. He is ALWAYS the first to see the lake and
we ALWAYS have to go to the duck side (where the people feed the
Mallards). ALWAYS. He then sees how far he can wade into Cayuga Lake
while I try to count Ring-billed Gulls hoping for the glaucous and keep him
out of the lake.
THE CUP: This sounds just like when we went birding with Matt Medler.
KELLING: We do this five days a week.
THE CUP: How does Taylor squeeze in his birding time? Is there any
Cup rivalry yet between the bros?
KELLING: No, there is no rivalry. We usually all check the lake on our way
to Wegmans on Sunday morning.
THE CUP: And as Kevin McGowan told The Cup last year, there are some
great birds at the Wegman's parking lot. Speaking of Kevin, last year, his
Marbled Godwit was the McIlroy bird of the year. As the Basin's record
meister, what do you propose this spring's McBird will be?
KELLING: Kevin's Thayer's Gull.
THE CUP: Wow. You really are a trend meister. Why, the Thayer's has already
been seen! Well, our best to your new puppy, but you might break it to him
early that despite present appearances, you won't be bringing home the
McIlroy shoe, ah, trophy this year either.
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
I've been charmed since the first of this year by postings on the
CayugaBirds-L that go like this: "I was greeted this morning by two
Carolina Wrens at the corner of Vine and Worth streets. First they sang
their 'tea-kettle-tea-kettle' song, and then gave their 'pip-pip-pip' call."
A major portion of this bird brain's postings focus on bird sounds: the
"twittering," at one o'clock in the morning of an American Woodcock, who was
landing eccentrically on the rooftop of a lowrise; or the "high-pitched,
trilling ceeeeeeeeeee notes of Cedar Waxwings," and the "winnowing" of
Common Snipe. These sightings/hearings are almost always accompanied by
meticulous instructions as to how to get to the spot where the bird was heard.
This is someone, I thought, whose daily-and nightly-routine is governed
by the whereabouts of birds, but when I asked Christopher T. Hymes about
that, he demurred, admitting that last year--with the stimulus of the David
Cup--he'd gone out every chance he had to add to his list, but this year, he
says, "I have many more responsibilities, and most of my birding is done in
passing or on the internet."
His "passing" observations are clearly acute, and he admits, "I could be
in full conversation with someone outside and still be sharply aware that
there is a Cape May Warbler flitting around in a nearby bush, or that a
Rusty Blackbird is calling from a tall tree in the distance."
Many of the responsibilities that are inhibiting his birding are
volunteer activities for the birding community. He leads field trips for
Steve Kress's Spring Field Ornithology course; he is working with Diane
Tessaglia to computerize the Cayuga Lake Basin bird list that is posted at
the Laboratory of Ornithology and records the first sightings of species--by
date and observer--for each year. And he maintains the Finger Lakes Bird Line
on the Net for the Cayuga Bird Club and the Lab.
Chris is a Cornell undergraduate majoring in Natural Resources. He was
born in Ithaca in 1975 and has lived here ever since, with an occasional
sojourn elsewhere. "I really like Ithaca for its natural features and because
it is not a major city, but I would be happy anywhere that's forested and away
from a major city."
He says that he's been aware of birds ever since "I was 'this' high. I
used to listen to old bird records while going to sleep, which may be one
reason why I tend to be able to pick out birds and ID them by calls and
songs," but he maintains that he's only very recently become an "active
birder," traveling to places like Maine, Idaho, Washington, and Florida with
Diane, another stalwart of the David Cup. He added, as a bit of an aside,
that I might mention that he and Diane are becoming formally engaged. "We've
been dating since July 25, 1992! I guess it's about time we are finally
going to do this!" Diane is employed at the Lab and also works as a
freelance graphics design artist (Green Heron Graphics is the name of her
business.) Her work on the David Cup T-shirt last year is highly acclaimed.
As for birding in the Basin, Chris says, "Bard Prentiss and I are good
luck charms when birding together." Last year they often ran into each other
around 8:00am at Dryden Lake and walked the railroad bed for an hour or so.
"It almost became a ritual, and one April morning, we encountered an adult
male Merlin sitting atop a tall maple tree. Then, walking down the old
railroad bed, we approached the beaver meadow and were surprised to see all
three accipiters (Northern Goshawk, Cooper's, and Sharpy) sitting in one
tree--yes this really happened!--being harassed by a couple of Blue Jays. We
watched until the birds moved on, and after reaching the end of the trail, we
headed back. I said jokingly, 'Now all we have to see is a Golden Eagle,'
and, lo and behold--we did not come across a Golden Eagle--but were treated
to a 'white-belly' immature Bald Eagle perched in a tree at the southeast end
of the lake and being harassed by a Red-tailed Hawk! We couldn't believe it
"Another wonderful experience with Bard at Dryden Lake was the time
we came across an adult female Red-necked Phalarope in April. We
observed the bird for over 30 minutes, swimming around the opposite side of
the lake near the cattails. We made some phone calls, and a few people were
treated to views of this bird before it departed about three hours later. It
turns out this bird was one of the only spring records for the Cayuga Lake
I asked Chris if he was a lister, and he said he had been for a couple
of years, "especially last year with The Cup. This year, I am more relaxed.
I try not to pass off a bird because I have seen it already this year. I
still see Song Sparrows under the feeders and say, 'Wow, check out the three
Song Sparrows at the feeders!'
"I think there is a really big difference between listing and keeping a
list. I keep a list of the first date I see a bird each year--starting fresh
at the Christmas Bird Count. But even so, every time I hear a Purple Finch
sing, I pause (at least in thought) and listen. Even though I've heard them
many times, I pay attention to them and love the rich song! That goes for
many, many birds."
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for Development Communications at
Cornell's Office of Development. She was last year's runner-up for
the Thoreau Award, in the Cuppers' Choice Awards--and she wasn't yet a
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...
There's a fine article in the recent Birders' World on Clark's Nutcracker.
Great photos and very interesting text about the bird's food-caching
capabilities, including a sublingual pouch that the bird uses the way
squirrels use their cheeks, to pack in seeds from a particularly rich
source so that they can be transferred to cache sites for the winter. The
text was so informative and the pictures made the bird so familiar and so
memorable that I felt as though the bird had been brought right into my
backyard--if not my livingroom--and I wonder whether I can count it toward
the McIlroy Award?
--Nut-cracking On Aurora Street
Since your bird was within the pages of a magazine and came to your house
via the postal service, it must be considered a human-assisted vagrant,
which disqualifies it from your list. I'm very, very sorry. (Ha, ha, ha.)
Thank you for responding so quickly to my plea for advice. I seriously
considered your suggestion for a few seconds but dismissed it as too
extreme for an eternal optimist like myself besides being a total
non-option for a girl who has just added a lifer love bird to her list! And
you'll never guess what happened just two weeks ago, Tick! The love bird
in question came zoomin' into the house after his morning constitutional
yelling Quick, quick- there's some of those white things with the blue on
the ends of their wings flying over, come look, come look?!?' Ahh hope,
blessed hope- and a new yard bird to add to our list: Snow goose! He's a
keeper, Tick, no question!"
--Love Bird 1 (and 2), Lyons
Dear Love Bird:
You blew it. You could have gotten yourself a bonus bird for being the first
Cupper in Cupping history to thank me for my advice. But since you didn't
take that advice--your "thank you" was obviously just a palely disguised love
letter to Love Bird 2--you get nothing. Now quit with the mushy-gushies and
get back to the business of birding--before you drive yourself coo-coo.
We recently got an email from a Cupper who caught a Cayugabirds posting
regarding some peculiar Hooded Mergansers. These birds were apparently
2/3 male and female. This Cupper--and now we, too--are wondering if
such a bird would count as a fresh tick on David Cup/McIlroy lists, since
a 2/3 male, female merganser would be an odd duck indeed.
--Cupful of Questions at The Cup
Dear Cupful of Questions:
You people at The Cup are pathetic. You're editing one of the most
scientific of all birding journals, yet you obviously know nothing about the
history of Lophodytes cucullatus. If you did, you'd know that the reason
they're called Hooded Mergansers is because they do in fact wear hoods,
and not only hoods but also cloaks, which hide the fact that ALL Hooded
Mergansers are 2/3 male, female. Some of these cloaks are black and
white and some are duller and buffy. Despite common, mistaken belief that
these colors are a safe way to distinguish male and female, the color of a
given merganser depends only on which cloak--and hood--the bird puts on
after its morning coffee. Indeed, the odd Hooded Merganser is not a matter
of sex but the one who drinks tea rather than coffee.
P.S. Before you all write in about the math here, 2/3 + 1/2=1. That's final.
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at firstname.lastname@example.org)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Okay, so you didn't get woodcock in March. And phoebe will have to be an
April bird. So what? Send in your totals!"
--TICK tock reminder
"Well, it WAS a March bird for me, if that's any claim to fame."
"You are absolutely right! I didn't see the woodcock in March! In fact,
it's only one of the many birds that I completely missed! But that's okay.
I'm planning a surprise comeback later on this year! My David Cup total of
65 and the McIlroy total of 42 only serves to lull everyone into
unsuspecting complacency (is that a word?). Further details of my plot to
leap to the forefront of these competitions will have to wait pending
"Just in case you lost my numbers: DC = 101; MC = 67;
Michelle Pfeiffer = 49."
"Quite an effort was made by [Jay's] generous and big-hearted father to
get him to his final total. A great father, don't you think? Also, a
father who views the big picture and his own selfish goals, of course."
"Clever ploy... Leaving my name off the David Cup list for February so I
would fight back with a vengeance to get back on. It worked. I actually went
out birding this month. Twice, to be exact!"
"Well, another month has passed and here I am again, not ready or willing
but of necessity reporting my Cup totals for the month. I have six new
species to add bringing me up to a grand total of 25...At this rate, if I
can manage to see 25 new species every quarter from now on I may be able
to get into the 100 Club. It's a tough life when you're a beginning
birder...sigh...mother told me there'd be days like this after my intense
interest in birding was conceived at the age of 5 when I had the starring
role of baby bird in Are you my mother' by Dr. Seuss. (I even got to wear
a large yellow paper beak which covered my entire face except for my
eyes...only the red hair showed--which was why I was chosen in the first
place for the part although Mother was a blue bird...obviously that
kindergarten teacher needed a few ornithology lessons..."
"A fellow worker in the Library of Natural Sounds heard a
Whip-poor-will singing last night in Dryden at approximately 6:30 p.m."
"In case I'm not already known as The Boy Who Cried Goatsucker'..."
"At a nearby farm, there was a very large, active flock of Red-winged
Blackbirds. Watching their black across a cold, powder-blue sky was
pretty neat. So, to celebrate, I stopped at the nearby gas-n-gulp, munched
down a traditional, chocolate moonpie, washed that down with a sprite
from the fountain dispenser, and finally chased the sprite with a fair-sized
bag of Texas-style Fritos. Heck, it was already 10:30 a.m.!"
"Had a great day of waterfowling around Cayuga Lake with three friends
today...A few highlights include the screech owl in the box at Union
Springs...great looks at Common and Red-breasted Mergansers...Tundra
Swans...[and] an immature Bald Eagle flying low and then perched at
the south (I think) end of the loop around the main pool. We saw two adults
near a nest at. These beautiful birds, together with Ben & Jerry's Peace
Pops after lunch and Chariot pizza at the end of the day, made for a
"Later in the evening I went to Rafferty to look for Short-eared Owls. I met
with Jim Goodson and party. After waiting for almost an hour we were
blessed with the sight of an owl. At last after six tries between Jan and
March I managed to see Shorty. I have seen them almost 10 to 11 years
continuously. I thought this year I was going to miss them. Well, I was
destined to see them this year too."
"At almost every stop, the first bird I saw was a pipit and they seemed to be
feeding on earthworms driven up by the rain and stranded in snow (often in
parking lots of on road surfaces). In general the pipits were flighty."
"Heard an Eastern Phoebe this morning, singing from a tree in the K-lot
near Schoellkopf stadium. I watched it for a few moments. It apparently
didn't have a parking permit, because it quickly flew on."
"How about them Wildcats, eh? We fell asleep before the game started,
but knew they'd win anyway."
"A Northern Goshawk soared in over Warren Road, near where it intersects
"Allison, nice to know you saw a goshawk."
"Do I detect a touch of melancholy--or envy?"
"Mostly melancholy I hope! I miss Ithaca, Cornell, and a lot of the
folks there. I get decent birding in here but it's just not the same
as it was there...No morning trips to the city cemetery, Mundy, or
Beebe this Spring. No 2-3 hr birding lunches either!"
"I'm sending my DC and MA totals for March to you a little early
since I'm leaving town for two weeks today (off to the UK for my sister's
wedding, and to recuperate after missing the Thayer's Gull)."
"In addition to dancing in the twilight, American Woodcock also like to
dance in the moonlight (romantic birds that they are). Last year, when I
was in the Basin (sadly, I am not any longer), I would often find
the woodcock behind the house peenting away at 1 or 2 AM on bright
moonlit nights. It doesn't seem like they need much light but if they
have it, it's courtin' time."
"There were 13 Turkey Vultures in the roost tree at Myers yesterday
evening...In past years we've seen over 30 TV's rising from that area on
morning thermals, so I expect the tree to get more heavily loaded soon.
It's worth a look--all those big black blobs make a suitably lugubrious
sight against a darkening sky."
"I had two juncos bouncing around my backyard this morning--which is a
noteworthy phenomenon BECAUSE I haven't had ANY birds in my yard (let alone
at my feeders) for MONTHS, so I'm celebrating small blessings."
"This morning on the ground, under the feeders in Etna, there was a
single--very beautiful--Fox Sparrow."
"A friend and I went to Stewart Park for a quick scan of birds today
when...a huge bright white cloud lifted from the horizon. It veered right
and then left and up again, and then down and out of sight. We tore up East
Shore Drive, parked at Esty on the left, and ran to a clearing where, from
high up, we saw a diamond of white in the middle of green water...hundreds
of Snow Geese...It was a great look. The birds drifted out of the diamond
shape; our last view was of a ragged-looking white rectangle. Sky was clear
and bright blue. Green water. Bright white birds. You get the picture. This
would make a good painting."
"Our day on Saturday started with a call from a neighbor telling us that
his parents, who lived further south and east down the valley, had just
called to say that flocks of Snow Geese were going overhead. We stepped
outside, and by golly, within a few minutes a flock of ~40 geese that was
mostly snow's went over (first ever yardbird--and they were definitely in
our airspace! Yard Cup, here we come). After many flocks (some Canadas
and some mixed) went by, we got another excited call from our neighbor
--his parents had just seen a flock of ~500 Snow Geese! And sure enough,
about five or ten minutes later, what must have been the same flock flew by.
There were more geese later that afternoon, and a beautiful flock of Snow
Geese against a brilliant blue sky early Sunday morning. Our goose-filled
weekend didn't end until Sunday evening when a ragged flock of literally
>1000 geese flew over very high."
"There was an enormous amount of bird life, especially from Canoga
north and west. Here is a list and estimated numbers of what we saw. The
number of zeros following some of the birds is correct..."
"I've always been impressed at how early [Eastern Phoebes] get back, when
we often still have a week or two more of weather that's still more like
winter than spring."
"I would like to be on the mailing list and try out The Cup,
although I am not a Cupper, and my e-mail already runneth over!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff