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

nice guy. 


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,

either way.


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

me wrong.


(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 CLUB

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 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>




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




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.







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

this year.


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,

Evening Grosbeak. 


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

people there.


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?




 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

western Panama.

 8.  At normal walking pace, how many strides a minute does an Ostrich take:

About eighty.

 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 = 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

astoundingly so.

     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

Y-b Chat.

     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

spread manure!


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

January...right, Kurt?)


   (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,

sparrows, etc.



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.



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

were located. 



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

Ken Rosenberg).


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



                         Chris Hymes


     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




                                   DEAR TICK



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


Dear Nut-cracking:


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


                       """""""""       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."


                                            --David  McDermitt


"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

further investigation."

                                             --Chris Butler


"Just in case you lost my numbers:  DC = 101; MC = 67;

Michelle Pfeiffer = 49."

                                             --Ken Rosenberg


"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."


                                            --Kevin McGowan


"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!"

                                             --Diane Tessaglia


"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..."


                                             --Cathy Heidenreich


"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." 


                                              --Matt Medler


"In case I'm not already known as  The Boy Who Cried Goatsucker'..."


                                               --Matt Medler


"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.!"


                                                --David McDermitt


"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

delightful Saturday!"

                                                 --Annette Finney


"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."

                                                --Meena Haribal


"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."


                                               --Andy Farnsworth


"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."


                                               --Marty Schlabach


"How about them Wildcats, eh? We fell asleep before the game started,

but knew they'd win anyway."

                                               --Karl David


"A Northern Goshawk soared in over Warren Road, near where it intersects

with Hanshaw."

                                                --Allison Wells


"Allison, nice to know you saw a goshawk."

                                                --Larry Springsteen


"Do I detect a touch of melancholy--or envy?"

                                                 --Allison Wells


"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!"


                                                 --Larry Springsteen


"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)."


                                                 --Stephen Davies


"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."

                                                  --Scott Mardis


"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."

                                                 --John Greenly


"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."


                                                  --Caissa Willmer


"This morning on the ground, under the feeders in Etna, there was a

single--very beautiful--Fox Sparrow."

                                                  --Chris Hymes


"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."

                                               --Margaret Barker


"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."

                                                   --Bill Podulka


"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..."


                                                   --Steve Kelling


"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."

                                                   --Russ Charif


"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!"


                                                   --Nari Mistry

May Your Cup Runneth Over,

Allison and Jeff