Year 2, Issue 4
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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
* Location Manager: Jeff Wells
What did you do over "April vacation"--you know, that glorious week in
April that, when you were a grade schooler, gave you a taste of the
freedom to come, when school would let out in June? Your faithful Cup
editors thought we'd escape the eye-burning intensity of the David Cup by
high-tailing it to the Basin-free regions of Assateague/Chincoteague
National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. How naive
we were to think we'd find spring 600 miles south of Ithaca in April!
"Unseasonable rain and wind," "flood warnings" even "tornado watch"--the
local weatherpeople made the calls, and we found ourselves in the bullpen.
Sure, we had our share of Laughing Gulls, Northern Gannets, and Purple
Sandpipers, and the few Yellow-throated Warblers and White-eyed Vireos
whose songs were music to our desperate ears. But when you leave Ithaca
in April and head that far south, is it too much to ask for--sun, and Blue
Grosbeaks, Summer Tanagers and...and...well, we couldn't help wondering
what Karl David and Tom Nix were busy tracking in the good ol' Basin, not
to mention the goodies the Steves were McTicking while we were worrying if
our lodgings would be swept out to sea.
The good news (for us) is that our hotel remained intact and had a
fabulous hot tub, and (for you) it was easy to convince many of the species
we saw that the weather in Ithaca was no worse and most certainly better
than what they were suffering through there in North Carolina. In other
words, if we hadn't made the trip, City Cemetery would still be in
hibernation, and the McGowans' yard list would continue to be about as
fruitful as a day of birding in the Wegman's parking lot.
The least you can do to thank us for bringing back some pretty little
passerines is read The Cup 2.4. We're not demanding our money back, we're
not even asking for sympathy. We're just asking for a few minutes of your
time. (Otherwise, we'll FedEx a message to the [you guess the species]
urging them to stay away from the Basin after all...)
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: A "pacifying" welcome to Megan Runge, the
newest Cupper to coo her way into the David Cup...almost. (See "Megan
Update," below.) We at The Cup say she's in! But then again, we thought
astronaut extraordinaire Shannon Lucid was in, too...
KICKIN' TAIL?: "Ban him from the competition!" "Take away his McGlaucous
and McLesser Black-backed gulls!" "Make him bird in stilettos!" None of
these were complaints registered with The Cup, but they would have been if
Cup readers had been paying attention when bad-boy Cupper Stephen Davies
made the following March post: "Had a Solitary Vireo at Sapsucker Woods on
Sunday afternoon, and two Hermit Thurshes were along the road there
lunchtime today. Kicked up five Common Snipe from the pool on Freese Rd
this morning..." Stephen, no bird kicking allowed in the David Cup. We
don't want the SPCA getting involved. Besides, the birds might start
ENLIGHTENED UP: There's a story in the May-June issue of the Utne
Reader featuring America's 10 most enlightened towns, and guess who's #1.
We are! "We," meaning Ithaca. Not "we," meaning Cupville. You see, the
lead is some bit of graffiti from the men's room at the DeWitt Mall, yes,
that's right. With standards like those, is it any wonder they couldn't so
much as mention the best evidence of Ithaca's enlightenment--the David
Cup--anywhere in their story? In all fairness, maybe omission of those
two little words, "David Cup," was a completely innocent oversight. After
all, the author did write, "What's stunning about the place is the sheer
volume and quality of social innovation, pragmatic activism, spiritual
seeking, open debate, and homemade and imported cultural fun that goes on
here--in an atmosphere of robust local pride." Couldn't have described the
David Cup better ourselves!
LOST, AND FOUND!: If you were subscribed to The Cup last year, you
know that your faithful Cup editor's purse (Allison's, not Jeff's--he only
takes his with him to fine restaurants) was stolen last October when
someone broke into their car during a birding outing at their dear, dear
Allan Treman Park. Well, not only did the cops find the bums who did the
dirty deed, but recently a fisherman found the purse, long since believed to
be 750 feet deep in Cayuga Lake, or worse. Back came her sadly missed
family photos (don't keep anything of sentimental value in your purse!) in
salvagable condition, the earrings her mother had given her years back, even
Van Gogh's ear--okay, so it's really a sea-polished shell, but it fools some
people. The purse itself, however, had bit the dumpster, but then, that
happened long before it got stolen.
SAPPING IT UP: "It was a little before midnight, we were standing in
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge ready to begin another Big Day of
birding in New Jersey. The subs were packed (we repeatedly warned Kevin
to not eat anything that tasted like it had onions on it), the Little's
[faithful Cup readers] had fed us well, we had pretended to sleep a little:
the Sapsuckers from the Cornell Lab of O--again, John Fitpatrick, Jeff Wells,
Ken Rosenberg, Kevin McGowan and myself --were primed for another year in
the World Series of Birding.
"Our first bird was a Sora--I think. That first hour, we had a few
nocturnal migrants, some marsh birds--20 species in the first hour.
"Next was High Point State Forest in the northern most section of the
state, where it felt like March. Ken said the Winter Wren would sing at
5:15...it sang at 5:16 (poor scouting!!) We heard the C Ravens, got the
Northern Waterthrush, but Thumper (a.k.a., Jeff Wells) just could not get
the Ruffed Grouse to do its thing...even when he wore his magic thumping
"We zoomed out for some grassland birds. Ken said there was an
Orange-crowned Warbler in this spruce tree. There it was! Fitz picked
out a Merlin flying down the ridge. The pet pheasant (actually not really
a pet) was right where it was supposed to be. Jeff made this miraculus
turn-around on this steep muddy precipice. (We thought we were going to
be doing a Big Sit when we saw what he was attempting.) He made the
turn but we had to help him pry his fingers from the steering wheel.
"By 10:30 (or so) we had seen around 130 species of birds.
"On our drive south we picked up a Red-throated Loon, Broad-winged Hawk
and stopped at a location for Upland Sandpiper. There was a group of
birders already there. Fitz pops out of the car and greets the birders.
Literally five seconds after his greeting we hear a wolf whistle. We all
yelled Got it!' and were back in the car. The group of birders we were
leaving had a very perplexed look on their faces, to say the least.
"Down to Cumberland Co. It was my turn to lead the intrepid crew.
The Horned Larks were easy, the rest of the land birding was excruciating.
The wind was howling, it was cold, it was mid-afternoon. The prothonotary
would only chip; the Summer Tanager evaporated. We got the chat and Blue
Grosbeak but had to start cutting out stops. Our spirits were low. A Big
Day is like Tom Wait's emotional weather report: high tonight---and low
"At this point I figured I had been up for 36 hours.
"Spirits picked up at the Pectoral SP stop. But it was surreal. We
were picking out Pects, found a white-rumped and were deciding on a possible
western SP when all of a sudden the mud flats were invaded by ATVs! Kids
looking like SuperHeros with their riding costumes were screaming around
the mud flat. Shorebirds barely budged! Ken picked out a Reeve! The
SuperHeroes zoomed! Our spirits soared.
"We had to skip the Marbled Godwit--by now we were calling it Garbled
Modwit--and then Kevin took over. Out of a barren lake he found the Ruddy
Duck and the Buffleheads! Life was good.
"Hereford Inlet and Nummies Island were excellent--N Gannets, Royal
Terns and the like, a Whimbrel popped up its head to see what was
happening, and the heron colony provided us with glimpses of Cattle Egret.
We were off to Brig---with 197 species. (Jeff picked out the Tricolored
Heron as we were roaring up the Garden State at about a million miles an
"Brig is a nice place EXCEPT during the World Series. It is always
windy, it is big, and the light is always bad. (It was better than last
year when we almost saw Jeff blow off the dike.) We found Snow Goose,
Gadwall; Jeff picked out a N Pintail, Ken found the Peregrine...but the
Gull-billed Terns had disappeared.
From here we went up to Leeds Point, then down to South Cape May
Meadows in hopes of the Sedge Wren (in the howling wind) and I valiantly
tried to convince the team that they were looking at a Piping Plover (cages
are built around them when they are incubating). It was so dark we could
not see a thing. They would not count it. A little while later we heard
the call of an American Bittern! Our 205th bird.
"We turned in our score, yammered (you can't really talk at this point)
at the gathered masses, and went back to the motel, where Fitz pulled out
this brown liquid and made us drink a whole bunch of it, and went to bed.
"I am still not awake."
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Who's the latest bluesman to sell out to
the advertising world? Look for John Lee Hooker crusing in the back of an
Infinity convertible (driven by--sit down--fellow guitar slinger Robert
Cray.) At least Hooker chose the right color: teal blue. Next thing
you know, we'll be seeing Jim Lowe (Cupper of Ithaca Ageless Jazz Band
fame) sliding his big ol' trombone on a Harley.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By Tom Nix
I had been away from the Basin for a week or so in Florida at midmonth
and again late in the month birding scouting in New Jersey with Kelling and
Davies. Since I had been away so much I asked the Steves what they thought
the highlights of April were, and they both answered, "there weren't any."
And there it is, the theme for April: When will they get here? (They being
those tardy migrants, of course.) We had an early early spring followed by a
late late spring. Look at PABIRDS, a new listserv covering Pennsylvania bird
sightings. When the list owner opened the discussion with a call for warbler
sightings, most observers commented on the lateness of the season and
lamented the paucity of migrants. And while in New Jersey, nearly every
birder we met echoed these sentiments.
They were coming, though. While in Florida, in a Mangrove Cuckoo site
called Cockroach Bay, I witnessed a continuous northward stream of
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers flashing red, black, and white
over the mangrove islands along some avian interstate. Overhead cruised a
phalanx of Chimney Swifts, timing their arrival as the furnaces and boilers
of the northern winter quit the swift's nest sites. And of course the
migrants did begin arriving in fits and starts. By month's end the first
sightings had been posted; a week after I stood at Cockroach Bay, Ryan
Bakelaar saw a swift over campus. Black-throated Green, Black-and-white and
Palm warblers managed a minimal showing by the last days of April. The
waterthrushes had appeared, and McIlroy listers ticked a LA Waterthrush
that sang below Sunset Park. A particularly nice sighting was the Mt Pleasant
Upland Sandpiper that whistled wolf at Chris Hymes and friends.
Fox Sparrows made their all-too-brief spring swing through Ithaca, and a
lucky few heard their wonderful sweet song. Vesper Sparrows returned to
their fields. White-crowned Sparrows appeared at feeders. Tree Sparrows
departed, replaced by Chipping Sparrows. A thrasher here, first House Wren
Overall, though, pretty slow. A coupla big fish got away; the Glossy
Ibis glimpsed flying north from Montezuma, and Black Vultures circled South
Hill to be seen by John Bowers, but not refound. Mt. Pleasant watchers
found a trickle of raptor migrants, but unlike previous springs, there was
no single day this year when a dozen Golden Eagles passed overhead, and no
big warm fronts brought kettles of Broadwings. It was a slow April for
Cuppers. Ah, but May, now that's another story.
(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad turned carpenter, now a Code Inspector
for the City of Ithaca. He considered declaring City Cemetary a fire hazard
so that Cuppers could not tick innumerable warblers during his scouting trip
to New Jersey for the Sapsucker team, but he knew that life-threatening
situations are not enough to keep Cuppers out of any place.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
[Sign on 100 Club door: "BILL EVANS, KEEP OUT!"]
Chris Butler's BIRD 100: Red-shouldered Hawk
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "My hundredth bird was a Red-shouldered
Hawk--but only by a few seconds. Shortly after the Red-shoulder soared
overhead, Chris Hymes discovered an Upland Sandpiper sharing the field with
us. If only I hadn't looked up..."
JR Crouse's BIRD 100: Ruby-crowned Kinglet
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "Should have been GH Horned
Owl in Fuertes Nature Sanctuary!"
Karl David's BIRD 100: Blue-winged Teal
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I had hoped Common Snipe
would be #100. I was taking the SFO group down to the Freese Rd
ponds where they'd been reported by Steve Kelling earlier that morning.
Snipe turned out to be #101, seconds after the Blue-winged Teal."
Martha Fischer's BIRD 100: (Refused to respond to questionaire)
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE:
John Greenly's BIRD 100: Brown-headed Cowbird
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "Well, a sentimental favorite for 100th would
have been Fox Sparrow. What can I say, I just love the way they hop-kick
Meena Haribal's BIRD 100: Barn Swallow
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I love them. I hope they'll come back to my
porch for nesting again this year."
Chris Hymes BIRD 100: Ruby-crowned Kinglet
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I wish it had been the N Saw-whet Owl from
the north side of Mount Pleasant, that's for sure!"
Anne Kendall-Cassella's BIRD 100: Field Sparrow
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I guess I hoped it would be Golden-Crowned
Kinglet. I think that was bird #103, but I had been worrying about it for
months. I usually only see about one of those each year and it's the kind of
bird you can't afford to miss when you are going for a big year (I still
don't have Red-breasted Nuthatch either, but I'm not so worried about that
one). The Lincoln's Sparrow was wonderful! Especially because it was so
unexpected. A few more of those and I'll cruise into the 200 club."
[EDITORS' NOTE: Since Matt started working at the Library of Natural
Sounds, he's been able to convince himself that he's actually heard all
kinds of birds he's hoped to find in the Basin.]
Matt Medler's BIRD 100: Hoopoe
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: Hoopoe
Michael Pitzrack's BIRD 100: Red-necked Grebe
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "On April 22 I took a hike over at Thatcher's
Pinnacle. Bird 99 was a Broad-winged Hawk near the summit. I was just so
sure that I was going to hear a Wood Thrush, or perhaps a Hermit Thrush,
while I sat soaking in the view as evening approached. However, it was not
to be. I had to make do with a wonderful evening, a wonderful view, and
wonderful companionship. Too bad!"
Marty Schlabach's BIRD 100: Osprey
THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "Osprey is a bird with centurion qualities.
It feels so good to know the doors of the 100 Club didn't slam in my face."
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
"CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE"
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1997 DAVID CUP APRIL TOTALS 1997 MARCH TOTALS
138 Stephen Davies 119 Tom Nix
136 Kevin McGowan 109 Kevin McGowan
134 Bard Prentiss 108 Stephen Davies
132 Allison Wells 105 Jeff Wells
131 Tom Nix 104 Steve Kelling
130 Jay McGowan 104 Allison Wells
127 Ken Rosenberg 101 John Bower
125 Steve Kelling 101 Ken Rosenberg
123 Jeff Wells 100 Jay McGowan
118 Chris Hymes 100 Bard Prentis
116 Anne Kendall-Cassella 94 Karl David
116 Matt Medler 91 Anne Kendall-Cassella
115 Meena Haribal 90 Chris Hymes
114 JR Crouse 89 JR Crouse
113 Karl David 89 Andy Farnsworth
109 Martha Fischer 88 Martha Fischer
108 John Greenly 88 John Greenly
107 Marty Schlabach 87 Meena Haribal
106 Chris Butler 86 Matt Medler
103 Michale Pitzrack 80 David McDermitt
101 John Bower 75 Marty Schlabach
89 Andy Farnsworth 73 Michael Pitzrick
86 David McDermitt 65 Chris Butler
81 Margaret Launius 61 Rob Scott
78 Michale Runge 60 Bill Evans
75 Casey Sutton 57 Jim Lowe
71 Caissa Willmer 56 Diane Tessaglia
69 Jim Lowe 50 Margaret Launius
68 Dianet Tessaglia 49 Anne James
66 Anne James 49 Michael Runge
61 Rob Scott 49 Casey Sutton
60 Bill Evans 44 Caissa Willmer
50 Cathy Heidenreich 42 Sam Kelling
42 Sam Kelling 37 Taylor Kelling
37 Taylor Kelling 37 Jane Sutton
36 Jane Sutton 32 Margaret Barker
32 Margaret Barker 25 Cathy Heidenreich
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 anticipate return to Basin within the
1997 David Cup year. They faithfully sent in their totals because they
didn't realize their tallies are still at zero.
1997 McILROY APRIL TOTALS 1997 MARCH TOTALS
119 Allison Wells 97 Steve Kelling
118 Steve Kelling 91 Allison Wells
117 Stephen Davies 90 Stephen Davies
102 Jeff Wells 89 Jeff Wells
100 Kevin McGowan 82 John Bower
98 Ken Rosenberg 79 Tom Nix
97 Martha Fischer 78 JR Crouse
93 JR Crouse 74 Martha Fischer
90 Tom Nix 73 Kevin McGowan
86 Matt Medler 67 Ken Rosenberg
83 Chris Butler 60 Bill Evans
82 John Bower 57 Matt Medler
81 Jay McGowan 51 Karl David
71 Karl David 51 Rob Scott
70 Anne Kendall-Cassella 47 Anne Kendall-Cassella
60 Bill Evans 47 Jim Lowe
60 Michael Runge 46 Michael Runge
56 Jim Lowe 42 Chris Butler
54 Casey Sutton 40 Jay McGowan
51 Rob Scott 39 Casey Sutton
36 Jane Sutton 34 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 sent in their totals
because they didn't realize their tallies were still stranded at zero.
THE EVANS TROPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Herewith, compiler Bard Prentiss' second round presentation of the Dryden
124 Bard Prentiss
118 Kevin McGowan
118 Ken Rosenberg
110 Jay McGowan
76 Matthew Medler
74 Anne Kendall-Casella
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
History repeats itself, as Tom Nix burns out in April and is replaced by
a new leader. The king is dead; long live the king! Here's Stephen's list:
C Loon,PB Grebe,H Grebe,RN Grebe,DC Cormorant,A Bittern, GB Heron,Tundra
Swan,Mute Swan,Snow Goose,Canada Goose,Wood Duck,GW Teal,A Black Duck,
Mallard,N Pintail,BW Teal,N Shoveler,Gadwall,E Wigeon,A Wigeon, Canvasback,
Redhead,RN Duck,G Scaup,L Scaup,Oldsquaw,WW Scoter,C Goldeneye,Bufflehead,
H Merganser,C Merganser,RB Merganser, Ruddy Duck, TurkeyVulture, Osprey,Bald
Eagle,N Harrier,Sharp-shinned Hawk,Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Broad-winged Hawk,Red-tailed Hawk,Rough-legged Hawk,A Kestrel,RN Pheasant,
Ruffed Grouse,Wild Turkey,C Moorhen,A Coot,Killdeer,GYellowlegs,
L Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper,C Snipe,A Woodcock,Bonaparte's Gull,
Ring-billed Gull,Herring Gull,Iceland Gull,LBB Gull,Glaucous Gull,GBB
Gull,Caspian Tern,Rock Dove, Mourning Dove,E Screech-Owl,GH Owl,Barred Owl,
LE Owl,SE Owl,N Saw-whet Owl,B Kingfisher,RH Woodpecker,RB Woodpecker,
YB Sapsucker,Downy Woodpecker,Hairy Woodpecker,N Flicker,Pileated Woodpecker,
E Phoebe,H Lark,Tree Swallow,NRW Swallow,Barn Swallow,Blue Jay,A Crow,
Fish Crow,C Raven,BC Chickadee,T Titmouse,RB Nuthatch,WB Nuthatch,Brown
Creeper,Carolina Wren,House Wren,Winter Wren,GC Kinglet,RC Kinglet,
BG Gnatcatcher,E Bluebird,Hermit Thrush,A Robin,N Mockingbird,Brown Thrasher,
A Pipit,C Waxwing,E Starling,Solitary Vireo,YR Warbler,BT Green Warbler,Pine
Warbler,N Waterthrush,L Waterthrush,N Cardinal,E Towhee,A Tree Sparrow,
Chipping Sparrow,Field Sparrow,Vesper Sparrow,Savannah Sparrow,Fox Sparrow,
Song Sparrow,SwampSparrow,WT Sparrow,WC Sparrow,DE Junco,L Longspur,
S Bunting, RW Blackbird,E Meadowlark,Rusty Blackbird,C Grackle,BH Cowbird,
Purple Finch,House Finch,A Goldfinch,H Sparrow.
Total: 138 species
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
Add the following species for the complete list as of April 30:
Red-throated Loon, American White Pelican, Green Heron, Black-crowned
Night-Heron, Greater White-fronted Goose, Ross' Goose, Barrow's Goldeneye,
Black Vulture, Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon,
Sora, Solitary Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Laughing
Gull, Thayer's Gull, Snowy Owl, Chimney Swift, Purple Martin, Bank Swallow,
Cliff Swallow, Gray Catbird, Northern Shrike, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler,
Black-and-white Warbler, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak.
Grand total: 169
(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora. In another
month or so, he will be unrecognizable due to his playing late-night, early-
morning David Cup catch-up.)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove that Tom Nix is not unstopable than by being
featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup, even if it's your fist
time ever? Kickin' Tail brings well deserved honor and recognition to the
Cupper who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, jolly-gooded
and otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list. Ladies and
gentlemen, introducing Stephen Davies...
THE CUP: Congratulations on your victory this month, Stephen. May we
ask you a few questions?
DAVIES: Fire away. This is even more exciting than being interviewed by
GQ or Cosmopolitan.
THE CUP: So that WAS you on the cover of GQ after all! Did you ever
in your wildest dreams think you'd topple the mighty Tom Nix as Kickin'
DAVIES: Never in a million years. Tom's razor-sharp with a gift for
sniffing out the unusual and exciting. Look at what he already has under his
belt this year--Barrow's Goldeneye, Greater Whitefront to name just two.
THE CUP: You needn't remind us--we missed them, you see.
DAVIES: I was very surprised to find I'd squeaked into pole position this
month, and I'm sure it had a lot to do with Tom's extracurricular activities
in Florida and NJ. Now he's back, so we better watch out.
THE CUP: That's what he'd have us believe. You spend a lot of
time at Stewart Park, yet you frequently post sightings from Sapsucker
Woods. How do you decide when to bird where?
DAVIES: In general it's pretty random. Stewart Park excites me because it
feels like almost anything can show up there, as demonstrated by Kevin's
Thayers Gull back in March (nnargh)--
THE CUP: But didn't you see that? It was magnificent, just fabulous...oh.
DAVIES: --so checking it out on a daily basis is really compulsive. But
most of the time it's populated by a bunch of starlings and a few mutant
Mallards, so I try to hit a few other places just to keep sane.
THE CUP: Yes, Steve Kelling should try that. Or maybe it's already too late
for him. How much time do you spend birding each day, on average?
DAVIES: I try to fit in a couple of hours before work, and maybe a bit over
lunch hour, and sometimes a few hours before dusk, too. Then after dinner
it's time to look for owls, etc. Spending QT in the field is very important
and I try not to let life get in the way.
THE CUP: Very important for a vet student like yourself. Speaking of
studying hard, we understand you took a few days to scout in New Jersey for
the Sapsuckers' Big Day. Did you wake up with night sweats, wondering
what you were missing back in the Basin?
DAVIES: Not really. The times I woke up in a cold sweat, it was usually
because I knew it would soon be 4am and Steve Kelling would be whisking
us off to the local Wawa for a breakfast of Tastykakes.
THE CUP: Wow. That's gotta be up there with Tom's grits. How does
birding in the Basin compare to birding in Wales?
DAVIES: Birding Wales is a lot of fun. Katherine and I had a blast there
last month. We caught up with some cool stuff--Red Kite, Ring Ouzel--
THE CUP: Okay, that's enough.
DAVIES: --Dipper, Chough.
THE CUP: Sounds more like something you'd serve with tea.
DAVIES: We spent one night on one of the seabird islands and got
breeding Puffin, Razorbill, Common Murre
THE CUP: Yeah, yeah.
DAVIES: Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Fulmar
THE CUP: Look, we get the picture, all right?
DAVIES: Then after dark, the 130,000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters return
to their burrows and fill the air with their spooky calls--kuu kuu KUU
kuu...kuu kuu KUU kuu...
THE CUP: Heck, we get that around here...in Martha Fischer's dreams.
DAVIES: Birding the Basin is great, too, of course, but it's good to have a
change of scene once in a while.
THE CUP: Just let's not talk about the editors' Outer Banks trip, okay?
Now, since this is your first time as Kickin' Tail leader, we're obligated
to ask: What's your favorite color--or, rather, colour?
DAVIES: Oh, I think it must be grey...er, gray. A couple of shades darker
than Herring or Ring-billed, but preferably not as dark as Great Black-backed.
THE CUP: That's Ithaca's team color, you know. But then it's Brittain's,
too, isn't it? Do you feel a lot of pressure to do well in the David Cup and
McIlroy competitions because of your first name?
DAVIES: You bet. It's like having "Kaufman" or "Sibley" for your last name.
THE CUP: Before we sign off, we at The Cup send our regards to your
sister. We understand she got married recently (and that you had the gall
to leave the Basin to attend it.) We assume you told her to take some
binoculars with her on her honeymoon?
DAVIES: She and her husband went to Portugal for a week, great for all
kinds of cool birds (Scops Owl, Black Wheatear, Azure-winged Magpie), so
naturally I suggested they take binocs, a scope and preferably a tape
player and MagLite too.
THE CUP: And she took your suggestion?
DAVIES: She told me they had other plans. Can you believe it?
THE CUP: Gasp! Well, thanks, Stephen, it's been fun.
DAVIES: I love reading The Cup every month. You guys do a really
great job. Thanks.
THE CUP: Come on, now, flattery will get you nowhere. On second
thought, this is The Cup...
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. Which is the smallest North American wood warbler?
2. Which is the only eastern North American warbler that nests in tree
3. Which American wood warbler is the commonest (but still rare) vagrant
4. Which North American wood warbler has the highest pitched song?
5. Which three North American warblers typically wag their tails?
6. Which is the largest North American wood warbler?
7. Which four North American warblers have yellow rumps?
8. Which eight North American warblers have orange or reddish caps?
9. Which warblers have black throats?
10. What is the common name for Granetellus venestus?
ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:
1. What is the favored prey of the Gyrfalcon? Ptarmigans.
2. What is the scientific name for the Eurasian Eagle-Owl? Bubo bubo.
3. Is the Screaming Piha a highly vocal hummingbird? No, it is a noisy
South American Cotinga.
4. What kind of birds are in the genus Parus? Chickadees and titmice.
5. What is the common name for Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus?
Yellow-headed Blackbird. "Xantho" means yellow, and "Cephalus" means
6. How large an egg do kiwis lay? Huge! Kiwis lay the largest egg
relative to its body size of all birds. The chicken-sized Kiwi lays an egg
nearly the same size as an emu, the second largest living bird.
7. Which is the only vulture that is not primarily a carnivore, and what
does it eat? The Palm-nut Vulture. These strange vultures live in tropical
Africa. They eat palm-nuts sometimes plants and fish.
8. Which three birds have Wilson in their name? Actually there are four
birds with wilson in their name: Wilson's Phalarope, Wilson's Plover,
Wilson's Storm-Petrel, and Wilson's Warbler. All are named after Alexander
Wilson, the "father of North American ornithology."
9. What bird has the longest wingspan of all birds, and how long is it? The
Wandering Albatross. With their wings outspread, an adult wandering
albatross can reach twelve feet!
10. What kind of birds are in the order Procellariiformes? The tube-noses:
Shearwaters, albatrosses, petrels and storm-petrels.
(Jay McGowan, age ten, is home-schooled. He jealously guarded the family
fortune--the birdfeeder--during his father Kevin's scouting/Big Day trip for
World Series of Birding.)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
How retarded has the spring passerine migration been this year? Rational,
analytic types like John Confer and Ken Rosenberg have cautioned us to be
wary of sentiments like "I've never seen such a poor migration before," or
the perennial cry, "Where are all the birds?" Memory romanticizes the past.
Let's look at some data instead.
First, let's acknowledge that the end of April totals are consistently going
to be the least stable indicator of any of the twelve months as to how the
year is going to shape up. It's completely an artifact of the calendar.
Either a major migrant wave or two comes through before April 30 or it
doesn't. This year it most emphatically did not.
The evidence: last year the co-leaders, Mardis & McGowan, ended the month
at 153. *Ten* Cuppers were over 140; this year, not a one. 'Nuff said? If
still unconvinced, consider my personal breakdown for year birds in the
first half of the month vs. the second half. In 1996, that worked out to
11-29; in 1997, a miserable 12-7!
The Composite Deposit comparison, because of the Law of Large Numbers,
should be closer. With Purple Martin and Cliff Swallow logging in on the
very last day of the month, for example, we still got all six swallows.
But I doubt that was true for any individual birder this year, whereas it
was true for me and probably quite a few others last year. Indeed, we still
managed a grand total of 168 species this year, vs. 179 in 1996. Not a huge
difference, but still a noticeable one.
Another way to look at this: we think of warblers as the indicators
nonpareil of the passerine migration. How did they do? By April 30,
1996, we had 18 species; by the same date this year, only 8.
To conclude, I selected four impossible-to-miss-when-they-get-here species
and give you three sets of personal data for each: the range of their
arrival times for 1985-96, the median for the same period, and this year's
Range Median 1997
Chimney Swift April 20 - May 2 April 27 May 5
House Wren April 19 - May 3 April 28 May 4
Yellow Warbler April 25 - May 6 April 30 May 4
C. Yellowthroat April 27 - May 11 May 7 May 3
The last example shows that even in a bad year, something is likely to
turn up earlier than usual. Are you surprised by the lateness of the
CYellowthroat data, by the way? After all, this is one of our hardiest
warblers, occasionally showing up on Christmas Counts. But that doesn't
seem to translate into making it an especially early arrival. I would
hazard a guess that 8 to 10 warbler species arrive earlier: Yellow-rumped
Warbler, obviously, but also both waterthrushes, Ovenbird, Black-and-white
Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, etc.
Perhaps I'll explore that avenue in a future column. Stay tuned!
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
"A Medley of Matt"
by Chris Butler
I'm a freshman birder and I have a problem. (scattered applause from
the crowd). Please, please, no applause. Just throw money. Where was I?
Oh, yes. My problem. I'm afraid that I don't have a car. Well, actually, I
DO have a car. It's a very nice white Dodge Stratus that I'm quite proud of.
Unfortunately, I left it in Oregon. This tends to make driving it around the
Cayuga Lake Basin a little difficult.
As you can imagine, not possessing a vehicle gets rather frustrating.
"Wow!" I'll say. "There's a Red-billed Barking Duck at Montezuma! If I start
walking at 8:00 this morning I should get there by 10:00am tomorrow
morning." However, now that I've reached the ripe old age of 18, I'm not
feeling as frisky as I used to. There are mornings when I just don't feel
like walking around Cayuga Lake.
This is how I decided I needed to find someone to chauffeur me around.
At first I tried to get some of the other undergrad birders to drive me
around. "Oh, sure," they'd promise. "I can go birding with you on Saturday.
We'll hit Myer's Point, Scipio, and Montezuma. Not a problem!" But then,
that Friday night, they'd call me. "I'm sorry, Chris," they'd whine into the
phone. "But my history teacher just assigned us five papers over the
weekend, I have four calculus problem sets due, a chemistry lab to make up,
and seven parties to attend. I'm afraid that I'm just not going to be able
to take you birding tomorrow. You understand, don't you?" Being the nice
guy that I am, I just smiled, nodded, and said, "That's okay. Another time,
perhaps." Then I sent them a computer virus through e-mail and crashed
their hard drive.
Anyway, this all changed when I bumped into Matt Medler. He and Dan
Scheiman (a good friend of mine) had known each other for years. After Matt
got his job at the Lab of O., they decided to celebrate by going birding. We
drove out to Irish Settlement Road to look for the Snow Buntings that had
been reported. They would have been Life Birds for all of us. When we got
out there, though, there were no Snow Buntings to be found. As we stood
around the car, scanning the fields and inhaling the heady aroma of manure,
Matt began to gripe. "I knew this was going to happen. James and I chased
these birds lots of times but we never saw them. Grr! We might as well go."
Refusing to hop into the car, I took one last scan around as far as I could
see...and found a flock of about 200 buntings so far away that we had to
take the speed of light into account to determine where they actually were.
We raced over to them as fast as Matt could drive and got excellent looks.
High fives all around!
Then we went out to Allan Treman Park to look at the waterbirds. Not a
whole lot was on the lake--a few Common Mergansers and Mallards. I found
a Common Loon pretty far out, which we all admired for a bit. Dan asked
what we were looking for and I told him as I scanned, "There were
White-winged Scoters seen here earlier and... here they are now!" Two very
nice scoters landed in my scope, enabling us to admire them. (Well, actually
they landed in the field of view of my scope, but you get the point.) They
were lifers for Dan and David Cup birds for Matt and I.
It was at this point that Matt told me that I was his good luck charm. I
shrugged modestly and didn't comment. I wasn't about to disabuse him of his
absurd notion. After all, he'd taken me out birding! Actually, at that
moment I was feeling pretty good. I tried walking on water on the way home,
but discovered it only works well when the water is frozen.
Anyway, since then, Matt has taken me out birding nearly every weekend.
It's been a blast! Red-headed Woodpecker, Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Upland Sandpiper--we found them all. No problem.
Oh, sure, Matt does have a few quirks. His car, for instance, provides
us with hours of entertainment. There's no better way to warm yourself
during a cold winter's day than by standing in front of the steam pouring
from underneath the hood. The clutch does grind a bit now and then when he's
shifting, sometimes even in tempo with the U2 tape he's playing. We also had
a private bet as to when the tail pipe would fall off. But, hey, any car with
99,000 miles on it will show a little wear and tear. Fortunately, the brakes
Matt himself is a riot to ride with. "Wait," he'll say. "I think that I
recognize this road!" So we'll turn down another dead end. Or he'll assure
me, "Yeah, the place we want to go is right over there," and wave his hand
vaguely towards some distant hillside or two. Then he'll mutter to himself
about getting a map. I must say, though, that we always get to the place
we're looking for (even if it takes a couple of hours longer than it should).
His ability to park with his tires only half an inch from the edge of a gully
usually leaves me speechless with amazement.
In the end, however, I am forced to admit that Matt is a remarkable
individual. For one thing, he's willing to share his M&M's with me. On a
more serious note, his willingness to take a lowly freshman birder out
birding on a regular basis is truly amazing. I have been birding for thirteen
years and have traveled to Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean in pursuit of
birds. In that time, I haven't met ANYONE as generous with his time (or
his knowledge) as Matt. I feel privileged and honored to have met him.
Any words that I can write to express my gratitude seem somehow inadequate.
The best that I can do is to simply say, "Thanks, Matt."
(Chris Butler is a freshman at Cornell. This Scrawl of Fame is doubling as
his final essay for English 101.)
(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 <
< < < <
Why on earth would The Cup ask--nay, even allow--Karl David to be Coach,
given his, well, underachievement these last few months in the David
Cup--which, we might add, is named for him? You see, some horses need a
great big carrot to get them into a gallop. Karl is one of those horses--and
May is a one heck of a carrot. At lease it was for him last year, so if he
keeps up this "tradition," you'll soon find yourself nibbling at his mulch
COACH DAVID: When Allison asked me to be coach of the month this month, she
intimated that the extraordinary migrational dud that late April delivered
[see "Stat's All, Folks" for confirmation] had demoralized the lead pack.
There they were at the end of March, all well ahead of last year's pace,
looking forward to a sensational April. And there they were at the end of
April, most still missing Purple Martin and Yellow Warbler. Now, all of a
sudden, it's catch up time.
Well, Allison picked the perfect coach to get you motivated again. Having
been in this year-list business for a dozen years now, I know just what you
should do: go for more year birds in May than ever before. In fact, try to set
a standard you may never equal again! It may be a while, after all, before
Purple Martins and Yellow Warblers don't show up in numbers before May.
Last year, I had 75 year birds in May, the best I've ever done. And I was at
145 at the end of April, well ahead of this year's pace. I see little reason
why this year's trendsetters shouldn't get 80 or even 90 new birds in May.
I said "little reason" because there's always one big variable in May:
shorebirds. Will there be mud at Montezuma? we ask nervously. If so, we
should be OK. Not reassuring, though, is the state of the prime back-up
area, Myers Point. It's been regraded and is now a fisherman's hangout,
with precious little habitat for shorebirds or loafing gulls and terns. But
again, we should consider that a challenge. Basin birders are an incredibly
creative bunch. Somebody always comes through: Nix turns up eight species of
shorebirds at the Seyboldt Rd ponds, or Evans, in the days when he roamed
the western frontier alone, wills habitat on one of those nameless, lonesome
county roads in the northwest Basin.
And remember this: the Leader's List at the end of April last year bore
little resemblance to that at the end of May. The relentless jockeying for
position turned everything around. However, the end of May was a different
story. The top ten then were also the top ten at the end, with one
exception: Ralph Paonessa replaced Chris Hymes. The most positions anybody
changed was five, Ken Rosenberg moving up from 9th to 4th in a still
underappreciated feat for a self-described "officewindow birder."
So, go reread Coach J. Wells' advice for last May; there's little I can add
you don't already know. It's still wide open at this point, but maybe for
the last time. Whoever puts in the most time should be the leader come
May 31...with a little bit of luck, of course. Attach that lucky rabbits' foot
to your rearview mirror, and get out there!
[Editors' Note: If you don't have last year's May Coach's Corner
(The Cup 1.4) shame on you! However, we will email the column to you
upon request...okay, free of charge.]
(See "Composite Deposite" for Father Karl's byline, then email him and
ask for his blessing. You may need it, in order to out tally him this month.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Stephen Davies isn't the only one blowing down last month's leaders' house of
cards. The Cup's own Allison Wells is back! To make up for lost time in the
spotlight (and because coeditor Jeff skipped town for the World Series of
Birding and Jay McGowan has yet to fine-tune the technique of email at
home), your faithful Cup editor will be interviewed by her most devout
THE CUP (Allison): 'Bout time you got here, lady. What took you so long?
WELLS (Allison): I'd have been here a lot sooner if it hadn't been for that
pesky Steve Kelling. By the way, did you hear they banished him from City
Cemetary? Something about him interferring with those poor frisbee players.
THE CUP: They need a little break, they work hard partying and stuff. What
bird was the deciding factor that put you that one notch above Kelling?
WELLS: I'd have to guess it was Brown Thrasher on April 30, which I
wouldn't have gotten without Jeff riding shotgun on our way to
Collegetown Bagels. "Brown Thrasher!" he belted out as we cruised past the
Ithaca Swim Club. I've been in love with him ever since.
THE CUP: Does it bother you at all that Bard Prentiss has more birds on
his Dryden list then you have on your McIlroy list?
WELLS: No, because birding in Dryden is much less challenging. What
do you have? You have Dryden Lake. Let's say a volcano erupts underneath
it. There'd be nowhere else in Dryden to bird and those Evans Cup lists
would collapse like the Sapsuckers after a week of World Series birding.
THE CUP: Well, there's the McGowans' feeders. Do you have some McIlroy
birds this year that you missed last year?
WELLS: Yes--Long-eared Owl, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark all come to
mind. I got Cerulean Warbler this morning.
THE CUP: Right, when you should have been getting The Cup out.
WELLS: Eh-hem. On the other hand, last year's winter finches are
conspicuously absent from my McList. I also had both Iceland and Glaucous
gulls last year on my McList; I have neither this year. Yet. Can you believe I
don't have Iceland even on my David Cup list?
THE CUP: That's pathetic. After getting a lot of votes for "Most Likely
to McSucceed in 1997" in the Cuppers' Choice Awards, do you feel any
pressure to win?
WELLS: Yes, but I'm going to try anyway.
THE CUP: See you next month, then?
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
I sent out a timid request to Margaret Launius (a.k.a., Margaret in
Mansfield), asking whether she would consider being e-interviewed as the
April Bird Brain of the Month, and her response was warmly enthusiastic,
and I will let her speak for herself:
Margaret "in Mansfield" Launius: First let me say how honored I am to
be chosen as the Bird Brain of the Month! I plan to put a copy of this
interview in my professional portfolio for promotion to Full Professor in
1998! I am sure such national attention will put me over-the-top in that
I began birding (about seven years ago) after visiting some friends
for brunch and delighting in their bird feeder activity. At that time I
couldn't tell a chickadee from a Cooper's Hawk! I ran right out and
bought our first hanging feeder and within about two hours, we had lovely
golden finches! Since then, my husband Bruce and I have added numerous
feeders, a little pond, and several nest boxes on our property. And I
can tell a Sharpie from a Cooper's and have seen all the North American
chickadees except the Mexican one!
I should mention that my mother, who until her recent reduction in
sight was an avid bird watcher, gave me plenty of opportunities to
become enamoured of the sport while I was in graduate school. She lived
with us in Baton Rouge, LA, for five years and helped run the household
and would often point out the birds she was seeing from our window and
yard and nearby pond. I was not impressed. She delights in poking fun
at me, now that I am an even more avid birder than she, and our common
joke is that I am still trying for my first sighting of a Painted Bunting
(unsuccessful in trips to both Florida and Arizona), while she had tried to
show me one outside her bedroom window feeding on the seed she threw
out there! I missed alot of great birds in LA!
But now, every morning and early evening, I try to spend a little time
watching the feeders to see what is hanging around. On weekends I can
spend considerable time just watching the bird activity, especially about
now with all the increased migratory visitors and nesters arriving on their
territory. Also, since discovering birding magazines like WildBird (the one
that really got us started on "birding" rather than just feeding), Birder's
World, etc., we plan all our travels around birding destinations. We go
every spring to Cape May for the shorebirds (my favorites) and fall for the
hawks (Bruce's favorites). Most recently, I returned from a spring break
trip to SE Arizona where my sister (also an avid birder) and I added over
40 birds to our life lists and had a great visit as well!
I guess you could say birding has become a way of maintaining my
always tenuous grip on my sanity! My life, especially work-wise, is so
chaotic, demanding, people-oriented, and energy-consuming that I relish
being utterly captivated by something so very natural. As a social scientist
(someone who studies and works with people for a living), I love being
able to simply appreciate birds, for their beauty, cleverness, and
adaptibility; I could never enjoy "studying birds" because that makes it
seem too much like "work." So I don't do feederwatches, research projects,
etc. I guess I am a "bird appreciator"!
During those long and dreary winter months, I enjoy listening to my
Birding By Ear CD's and have really increased my enjoyment and
identification skills. And in the spring and summer, I love to watch the
antics of the mating birds, the nests of our phoebes, bluebirds, Barn and
Tree swallows, RW Blackbirds, robins, grosbeaks, towhees, cardinals,
hummers, House Wrens, etc., and the newly fledged young feeding up for
the long migration south.
Birding also gets me outdoors - we go on frequent hikes, walk gardens
and woods, tour NWR's, etc. in search of birds so that we have discovered
many new and wonderful places in nature.
Over the years, I have become an avid lister though not so compulsive as
some I know! I do maintain a yard list, a spring migration list, life, state,
county, and major trip lists. Bruce leaves all that obsessive/compulsive
stuff to me, so he gets to enjoy the birds while I spend numerous hours in
front of the computer maintaining these lists!
Actually, I began listing after the purchase of the Birders Diary book
from the Lab of O. bookstore (I bought the book for my mother and sister as
well, and they also began keeping lists.) I now use Thayer's Birding
Software program for Diary and Birds of North America, which I like alot.
I also have the Peterson's Multimedia CD for the Birds of North
America and enjoy that as well. Before a trip, I can create a quiz of birds I
am likely to add to my life list and practice identifying them as well as
One of my most memorable birding experiences was our first birding
trip. We had read about Cape May in WildBird and I was desperate to see a
Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage. We toured the Forsythe (Brigantine)
NWR in May, and I was amazed and delighted at all the different birds we
saw--terns, herons, shorebirds, gulls, ibises, etc. Right away, we saw a
small flock of Ruddy Turnstones doing their thing, and they were every bit
as beautiful as the photos I had seen. Seeing the American Oystercatchers at
Stone Harbor (right where they were supposed to be!) was an incredible thrill.
I had never seen anything like them, and they are still one of my favorite
birds. There is nothing to compare with the thrills of going from beginning
birder to intermediate birder.
Another memorable moment occurred at our yard. Bruce had built the
first of many bluebird boxes and put about three at different spots around
our grassy "field." We had never seen a bluebird up to this time. One
March morning around 11am as we were leaving the house I spied an unfamiliar
bird on the wire near the yard. Grabbing our binos, we saw a beautiful male
Eastern Bluebird!! I don't think I have ever been as excited about a bird
sighting! That spring a pair nested in one of the boxes and raised four
young. They have been with us ever since.
Finally, I always mark the beginning of our becoming "avid birders" as
opposed to backyard bird-watchers with a winter trip to the Brig and
Cape May. We were driving through a snow squall on the auto loop at the
Brig when I spotted a small flock of birds foraging at the roadside. I was
certain they were "snowbirds"--our first sighting of Snow Buntings. We
jumped out of the car into what was now a mini-blizzard and tried
desperately to get a better look at the quickly-moving group! We returned
to the car half frozen, wet, and admittedly feeling just a little crazy!
This really was an insane way of behaving when you thought about it! I said
to Bruce, "I think we've just earned our winter birding merit badges!" and
we both knew we were hooked for life on this new pursuit, and that it wasn't
really a rational one!
When I discovered the Cayugabird list while exploring bird sites on
the Net, I was so excited to find a local list that I read it everyday for
about two weeks. Then I realized I couldn't "talk back" (and you know that
would just not do!!), so I e-mailed Bonnie Glickman to ask for help in
subscribing. The rest, as they say, is history. The more I became involved
in the list, the more I wanted to explore all the neat areas I was reading
about. We made almost monthly trips to MNWR for the past few years, but I
really didn't know much about the Ithaca area. Being involved in the list has
led to my discovering many new birding areas within reasonable communting
distance. In addition to several life shorebirds last October, I got my
Red-headed Woodpecker on Nations Road, thanks to Kurt Fox and the list--also
our Eastern Screech-owl at Union Springs. I decided to join the hunt for
the David Cup to further motivate me to get out and bird the area more
often. I also enjoy chatting with all the birders in the area, and I learn
so much from the ornithologists we are so fortunate to have. I had a
wonderful time at the Cupper Supper and enjoyed being able to put faces with
the names I had been communicating with for the past several months. There
really isn't anything like this list for my area. I now enjoy the Geneseo
list as well and wish I had much more time to bird that area as well.
[And finally, in answer to the question, "Who are you?"-]: I am a
Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor at Mansfield University, PA.
In addition to my teaching and consulting activities, I have a small private
practice. I have special interests in psychological assessment, gender, and
neuropsychology. My other non-professional hobby is crocheting, which I
taught myself this past summer! We are a small university, and I am in fact
known by many as the bird lady, and many of my collegeaues would
certainly endorse your choice of me as the "Bird Brain of the Month!"
(Caissa Willmer is Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of Development.
She's also theatre critic for Ithaca Times. Fortunately for her, she was
wearing a Matt Medler mask when she snuck into the Cornell experimental
ponds to see the Red-necked Grebe, but that's only one reason why Matt's
mug shot hangs on the "Most Wanted" wall in the office of Cornell Campus
Allison Wells has an MFA in poetry, but that's not why The Cup is
publishing a couple of poems this issue. And the fact that they were written
by her niece, Sarah Childs, had nothing to do with it, either. That that
niece is a also a Cupper, well...
Evil as a tornado
The Merlin circles, eyeing its prey.
Calmly, it waits
For the right time to strike.
It swoops lower,
Scaring its prey back into hiding
Like people into a storm cellar.
Coldly, the Merlin strikes, then snatches up the victim
Carrying it back to its nest,
Above the forest
Like a tornado carrying a house.
After eating its fill,
The Merlin whirls off, ready to kill again...
It was a bird
sitting in a tree,
its beak was black and its tiny eyes
were looking right at me.
He was so blue I couldn't bear
to see him fly away.
And now I'm hoping for a day
when he will come and stay.
(Sarah Childs is a Cupper who lives in Winthrop, ME. An eighth grader
and published poet, she anticipates "moving in" with her Auntie and
Uncle Cupper again this summer, at least long enough for her to make it
into the 100 Club.)
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...
In the last issue, Tom Nix quoted from an Anne Landers column in his
Basin Bird Highlights. Doesn't that tick you off?
--Quotation Remarks in Ithaca
Tom Nix was the Kickin' Tail leader for three months in a row. Since the
last issue of The Cup, he's fallen to fifth place. Coincidence? You decide.
What happens if you accidentally count a non-McIlroy David Cup bird as a
--Wandering and Wondering in Winston Court
Dear Wandering and Wondering:
A rather severe punishment is inflicted upon you at an unexpected time
and place by a secretive group sometimes referred to simply as "The men
in black." Fortunately, I am only aware of one Cupper who has had an
encounter with these watchdogs. I won't say who it is, but have you
ever wondered what happened to Ralph Paonessa?
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"This morning I encountered a small flock of Water Pippits huddled on the
roadside near the corner of Dodge Road and Stevenson Road. They were
obviously very cold and taking advantage of the sunlight and the road edge.
They kept coming back after each passing car, so they may still be there
until it warms up."
"This afternoon my pup flushed out a Hermit Thrush in our back woods. He
offered great views as he didn't seem inclined to leave his cozy thicket."
"Monday afternoon, there was a Hermit Thrush at Sapsucker Woods, on
the Hoyt-Pileated Trail. Just thought I'd give the location, to shake
you out of your complacency (you thought you knew the names of all
the trails, didn't you?) There was little else around--Ruby-crowned Kinglet
and Yellow-rumped Warbler on the Wilson Trail. At least I got out! Maybe I
can get back in the top ten of the Cup for April."
"I stopped by Stewart Park this am looking for the Bonapartes Gulls
that Steve reported, and sure 'nuff, there they were. Cool birds! Unlike
the Lesser Black-backed (which I never did find) they are easy to pick out."
"I received a written report of a Laughing Gull, breeding plumage, seen
by Prof. Dick McNeil and Pat Haines at Stewart Park on Sunday (4/20)
evening. The bird was feeding on handouts and was observed at very close
range. The bird was not there at 7:15 on Monday....when I was."
"Looking up, I spotted a single Common Snipe flying over the road. I
watched it make several large circuits over the road and marsh and power
cut, occasionally doubling-back on its route. My first impression of the bird
is as a hybrid of hummingbird (for its bill) X Killdeer (tail) X kingfisher
(general GISS) X Chimney Swift (for the way its wings flutter).
"We can usually predict when [bluebirds] will show up--we say it looks like
a 'bluebird day'!"
"Saturday, April 12, a Sapsucker, presumably the McYellow-bellied
variety, was drumming in the trees along Forest Home Drive north of Mann
Library. I never actually saw the bird, but listened intently as it tested
various more or less resonant branches with its staccato drumming."
"It was a great morning to be up [Connecticut Hill] sound recording, or
just walking around."
"I drove through the open gate at the experimental ponds with my binoculars
around my neck to make me appear like 'authorized personnel only,' and on
the long, large pond at the back I saw something grebe-like and was
disappointed; it was so much like a Pied-billed Grebe (which, of course, it
was); and then at the furthest end of the pond was quite another grebish
something--the Red-necked one, truly. Interesting how, in comparison, the
pied-billed is a little commoner, the red-breasted an aristocrat, with that
haughty set of its neck and the regal shape of its head and patterning around
its face. Had I had a scope, I would not have intruded so brazenly (she doth
protest too much), but having only field glasses . . . !"
"The woodcock display was fabulous. We arrived in the upper fields along
Irish Hill Road in time to watch a stunning sunset. We eventually counted
at least five male woodcock performing breeding displays. The students
were awestruck. When it got too dark to see anymore, and when everyone
was starting to get cold, we started heading back to camp, still surrounded
by a chorus of "beenzh, beenzh," only to look up and see comet Hale-Bopp
appearing in the heavens."
"As the students focused on the birds, the birds proceeded to get closer to
one another and we were treated (?) to the sight of the two making more
Turkey Vultures. The tryst occurred in broad daylight, and several of the
students seemed a little sheepish at our bird voyeurism. Now I can add
TV's to my list of birds caught in the act!"
"Why be sheepish? A few of us even make a living watching birds do their
thing. But considering my stipend, I must admit that it's a modest living.
Nonetheless, it seems to me that anyone who hasn't gotten to see a pair of
field sparrows carrying nest material and chattering in pre-copulatory
display, with a good copulation following (lots of chattering, of course),
is just missing out."
"Initially I thought that House Sparrows were chasing away Field
Sparrows, but I realised the fight was between two male House Sparrows,
I don't know if they thought the Field Sparrows to be lipsticked females and
were fighting over them."
"Yesterday afternoon as my husband and I were watching many Chipping
Sparrows, Song Sparrows, juncos, and chickadees grab a late afternoon
snack, they suddenly all disappeared very quickly. We suspected something
in the air might have caused their disappearance, and sure enough a
Sharp-shinned Hawk descended to our feeder to find a snack for himself.
However, this time he was not quick enough, as all his potential "meals" had
'flown the coop.'"
--Sara Jane Hymes
"This afternoon I saw another Golden Eagle in Cayuga Heights. I was
able to stop my car and get the eagle in view with my spotting scope before
it soared away to the east. Now I need to see one in Dryden, not Cayuga
Heights again. ;)"
"[Matt Medler and I] went to Dryden Lake to check out the bird scene.
There were five Pied-billed Grebes, a nice Horned Grebe in breeding
plumage, and twenty or so Bufflehead. Three Rusty Blackbirds landed in a
tree in front of us. There was also a garrulous old man walking along.
...After fifteen minutes of smiling and nodding, Matt and I tried to escape
back to the car but the garrulous old man followed us along with a constant
stream of conversation about being a construction worker and snapping
turtles, most of which escaped us. I had visions of this old man following
us around Dryden Lake chattering incessantly all the way, but eventually he bid
us farewell. He wasn't a bad birder either. He pointed out an Osprey over
the lake. It was actually a Ring-billed Gull, but I could easily see how the
two could be mistaken. I had no idea that Dryden Lake had such colorful
inhabitants...That's what I like about birding. You find something different
"Following a tip from Kevin McGowan, I found two Louisiana Waterthrush
singing along Kline Rd near the Ithaca High School...Be careful, a
policeman stopped me and said I looked suspicious. I explained to him I
was looking for a Louisiana Waterthrush--he asked me for ID. Geesh,
doesn't everybody ride around looking for birds?"
"Getting ready for the trip to Cape May this year, Jeff? Allison, will you go
or will you use it to pull even farther ahead of Jeff in the David Cup?"
"I've finally figured out how to re-subscribe to this list after postponing
during the winter holidays, so I will resume my postings--mostly again
of birds seen out my various windows."
"I was admiring a chickadee from about two feet away, when it flew at me,
fluttered around my head for a minute and then it landed on my hair:-) It
stayed for a few seconds, then fluttered some more before coming to rest on
my backpack:-) Stayed a minute and then flew back into the tree. Really
"This morning around 8am I was sitting in my car at Stewart Park,
enjoying a hot cup of java while watching a pair of Bonapartes Gulls float
up and down the lakefront. Shortly thereafter, the Kellingmobile pull up
alongside - a sure sign that something unusual might happen. As I glanced
over toward Steve's car, a large Wild Turkey flew into view and landed
among the Mallards at the lake edge. I pointed it out to Steve (he usually
points things out to me), who judged it to be a first year tom. I'm
switching to decaf."
"With the passerine migration this retarded, everyone, even Tom, should have
an easy goal within reach: see more year birds in May this year than last."
"Seems strange to be heading into May without a Spotted Sandpiper and
only three warblers!
"This morning at Dryden Lake there were several Green-winged and
Blue-winged Teal, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, and a number of other ducks.
A lone Common Loon let out a few plaintive wails. What a wondrous time
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff