Year 2, Issue 6
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* The unofficial electronic publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.
* Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells
* Summer Intern: Sarah Childs
* Non-Cupper Personal Assistant to Ms. Wells: Darrell Childs
* Basin Bird Highlights: Matt "The Temp" Medler
* Composite Deposit, Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* Set Dressmaker: Sarah Childs
* On-site Manicurist: Jeff Wells
No doubt the end of June, into July, found you quivering on the couch, watching
the 1997 Wimbledon tennis showdown (was that Stephen Davies sitting courtside
at the Sampras-Becker match?) It was all so exciting, wasn't it? Topspins
and backspins, dropshots and hotshots, forehands and backhands, tie breakers
and breakpoints, not to mention Sampras' 122 mile-per-hour serve. Yes,
there was a good deal of zip and zap all over the courts.
But compared to a certain other top-of-the-line tournament, didn't you find
the whole Wimbledon whirlwind a bit, well, slap-happy?
When it comes to the David Cup, nothing compares to the David Cup, not even
the Granddaddy of all Tennis match-ups! Talk about aces, how about Barrow's
Goldeneye and White-fronted Goose! Faults? Step over the Basin line and
you'll have more than some persnickety line judge to deal with. Heck, those
fields so beloved by Henslow's and Grasshopper sparrows make the grass
courts in merry olde England about as challenging as wading the kiddie pool at
And bringing it to you live--well, sort of--is not some watered-down television
network, it's The Cup! No advertisements, no commentator-bias, just the
rock 'em, sock 'em ruckus in all it's uncensored, kickin' a__, ah, kickin' tail
glory. Go on, grab your pretzels and a cold one, and tune into The Cup 2.6!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: A complimentary copy of The Cup 2.5 brought one
more wayfaring birder into the fold of the David Cup. Geo Kloppel, whose
Cayugabirds posting is so prolific, romantic, witty, sensitive, generous--in
short, all things David Cup--has this to say about his recent conversion: "Good
grief! How did I ever manage without 'The Cup'? Only recently I was naively
decrying those 'petrol-swilling Basin-rangers who blithely compromise our
environment by laying down countless thousands of birding miles each year on
sensitive local roadways!' But now I have read my complimentary issue, and in
less than 24 hours, I've reworked my budget to include an extra $150/month for
gas to speed me to Basin hotspots. The Swarovski's in the mail. Heaven help me,
there's no sanctuary from such an obsession! I'll be playing catch-up for the
balance of '97!" Be it a curse or a blessing, Geo, you're one of us now.
Also, a warm welcome back to last year's summer intern for The Cup,
Sarah Childs. Sarah, you'll all remember, is the editors' fourteen-year-old
niece from Maine. She will be putting on her intern galoshes this summer as
well (lest she find herself rooting through her auntie's flower garden for
grubs while her auntie and uncle gorge on eggplant-almond enchiladas), and not
a moment too soon. Why, without her, the Pilgrim's Progress would probably
read more like a "Pilgrim's Digress"--and the phone bill would not be nearly so big.
How does it feel to be back in the running, Sarah? "It feels good. Almost as
good as taking a quick dip in Taughannock Lake on a hot day." We welcome her
brother Darrell, age 12, to the Basin as well, even though he's more into
computer games and playing with cat Mimi than birding. At least he's happy to
attend to his dear auntie's needs--bringing the fan into the study, refilling
her glass with ice cubes and cranberry juice--while she slaves away on The Cup.
For that, Darrell, you will not have to sleep out on the fire escape after all.
BYE-BYE BIRDER: On behalf of all Cuppers, we bid a fond farewell to Rob
Scott and JR Crouse. Rob moved to New York City in June--New York City?!--
in search of, what, Rob, Rock Doves? Sadly, Rob leaves us with totals that
should have been significantly higher for the simple reason that he worked at
the Lab of O (albeit not in Ken Rosenberg's infamous green trailer.) When JR
Crouse began the season, he gave last year's McIlroy champion hope that she'd have
Some real competition this time around. Well, JR's gone but not out of the running
yet: "Hello from the western part of New York State! Becky and I moved to
Gowanda, NY, on July 1. Please keep sending us The Cup! Hopefully I will have
some new numbers by the end of August and September, since I hope to make a
trip or two to Montezuma. I want to make 200!" (For the rest of the story, see
this issue's Bird Brain.) Rob, JR, may the birds be with you.
NEWSWEEK-WORTHY: Newsweek magazine recently noted that June 14thmarked the
25th anniversary of the banning of the use of DDT (meaning, in the U.S.;
they failed to mention that it's still sold to other nations.) They pointed
out that since the (U.S.) ban, Bald Eagles have increased to 5,000 pairs (up
from fewer than 500 pairs in 1963), Peregrines have leapt to 993 pairs (up from
39 breeding pairs in 1975), and Osprey pairs have risen to 14,246 (up from
8,000 in 1981.) Of course, we birders already knew this, right? So perhaps the
real news here is that Newsweek really does read those interest polls they send
out with their renewal solicitations...although "birding" is still a write-in.
REACHING A "PLATEAU": There's hope for the next generation! As niece Sarah
was listening to her Nirvana (you know, the rock band) Unplugged in New York
tape, her auntie overheard some mention of birds whine out through the
speakers. The name of the song? "Plateau," said Sarah, pointing out that it
was originally done by the Meat Puppets (uh-huh). "Nothin' on the top, but a
bucket and a mop and an illustrated book about birds," Sarah sang in her best
Kurt Cobain. So what if the connection between a bucket and a mop and a bird
book is a stretch? What matters here is that today's teens know there
are such things as bird books...or for that matter, birds.
RAVEN MAD: David Cup badboy Stephen Davies is apparently mending his ways. A
few months back, The Cup received a report about his "kicking up" some Common
Snipe. Recently, this post from Davies in June was brought to our attention:
"...Later in the day, I put up a family of 5 Common Ravens from a roadkill on
Station Road in West Danby." How Davies knew these birds needed a place to
stay was not disclosed, and we can only assume he made them breakfast as well.
MEGAN UPDATE: This month's excuse, uh, note from Michael Runge: "Ok, look, I
didn't even go on a single birdwatching trip, at least not one that was
designed to be a birdwatching trip. So I only added one bird to my totals this
month (a mere 0.82% increase). Though Megan only added one bird to her life
list this month (Ring-billed Gull), that represents a 25% increase (now at a
total of 5). So, she wins. While birding was not a June theme, Megan did go
swimming for the first time (at Cass Park), where she acted like a puffin, sort
of. Can I count that?" We'll see what Dear Tick has to say...
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Sarah's first report of the summer serves a
double role: it solves the old "what'll we run in the BCB and ATJ section this
issue?" predicament while answering the questions many of you have been
asking as to the Cupping ambitions of Casey Sutton: "Unbeknownst to many, the
Ithaca Ageless Jazz Band wasn't the only thing hot on the night of Saturday,
June 12 for Taughannock Park concert. Cayuga Lake was hosting a federal
Travesty on the part of Cupper Casey Sutton. Casey's totals have been suspiciously
Low compared to last year and, with the help of special DCPD (David Cup Police
Department for you laypeople out there) spies, we have found that, to our
dismay, Casey is in the league with people malevolently anti-birding. Top secret DCPD
special forces (me) found that on that night in June, he was, instead of doing
something worthwhile such as dancing to the music of the great band playing
there, or marveling the flight of the all-too-common Ring-billed Gulls, he was turning
his nose up at a family of Mallard ducks with my stubborn non-Cupper brother
Darrell Childs. Tsk, tsk, Casey. 'No ducks inside, outside, or around the
swimming area!' he yelled from the lifeguard chair. The DCPD are keeping a
close watch on you now. By the way, the Ageless Jazz Band will be playing on
the Commons this Thursday, starting at 7pm. All Cuppers and Cup subscribers should
come and have fun!"
Cuppers will also be interested to know that the Budweiser Blues Fest will
be taking place this weekend at various locations in Syracuse. Among the
featured performers is Kenny Neil (sp?), whom our own "Kenny" Rosenberg
reviewed favorably last year in The Cup after attending his Ithaca gig. Also
performing will be The Nighthawks--with a name like that, they gotta be good.
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By (substitute) Matt Medler
I'm still not exactly sure how I got roped into this (my Colombian
friend suggests that it's because I talk too much), but I have been "asked"
by the Editors to write the Basin Highlights for the month of June. I have
found over the past few years that what I consider to be a highlight is
often of little interest to the experts, so this column might better be
called, "Sightings which Matt found interesting when he checked his
On that note, the most exciting "sighting" of the month for me was not
a sighting at all, but rather a singing Whip-poor-will which Tom Nix heard
very briefly at some ungodly hour near the famous undisclosed location on the
east side of Cayuga Lake. This brings to mind two questions: did Tom
really hear a Whip-poor-will, or did he just imagine one in his sleep-deprived
state, and what in the world was he doing in the middle of a field in King
Ferry at four in the morning? No comment on that first question, but the
likely answer to the second one is that Tom was out listening for singing
Henslow's Sparrows. Yes, after much anticipation, Henslow's Sparrows were
finally heard in at least two different places-the famous undisclosed location,
and along Burdick Hill Road. Joining the Henslow's at one spot were three
singing Sedge Wrens, birds which are probably highlights in everybody's eyes
(and ears). And, rounding out grassland birds of interest, eight Upland
Sandpipers were seen and heard near the Seneca Co. Airport, and another group
of Uppies were raising a ruckus near Carol Bloomgarden's house on Wood Road.
A bird which definitely was not a highlight on my list was the White-eyed
Vireo, which Kevin McGowan first heard while driving along Sapsucker Woods
Road. I've been told that there was an impromptu parade of Lab staffers down
the road to see and/or hear this bird, but alas, I was not one of the
marchers. On another sad note, a report came in this past month of a dead Kentucky
Warbler, which made its way to our area before dying in May. On to happier news...
June brought numerous reports of nestlings and fledglings, and, for
better or worse, the use of the word "turdling." Among the more notable
nesters this year are the Armitage Road Prothonotary Warblers, seen carrying
food to their nest cavity. There were also reports of breeding Acadian
Flycatchers at Salmon Creek and Howland Island, with the latter site being a
popular spot for numerous Yellow-billed Cuckoos.
Moving crazily from cuckoos to loons, a number of juvenile Common Loons
were spotted along Aurora Bay, raising questions about the possibility of
nesting in the area. Other notables seen along the lake: a beautiful Ruddy
Turnstone found by J.R. Crouse at Myers Point, and a Forster's Tern at Stewart
Park which provided a challenge for even some expert Cuppers.
Christmas came in June for some Cuppers, as they participated in Ithaca's
June Christmas Bird Count. Kevin and Jay McGowan must have been good recently,
because Santa delivered a nice Golden-winged Warbler to their count area. Not
everybody was so fortunate-I hear those naughty editors found nothing but
coal. That's all for June!
(Matt Medler works at the Lab of Ornithology's Library of Natural Sounds. His
subbing for this column clinched his place as the editors' adopted
kid brother--although currently, he's been grounded for that last remark.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
[Sign on 100 Club door: "Dear Cup Editors: Just finished reading your ever
excellent The Cup newsletter but was dismayed to find I was not included in
the 100 Club - and I even responded to the questionnaire!--Margaret in
[Note stuck to sign on 100 Club door with ABC gum: "Somehow, this has to be
Bill Evans' fault."]
Bill Evans' BIRD 100: "I have no idea--the last time I had 60 and now that
I've recounted I have 150!"
HE THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: Refused to respond to this portion of
Margaret Launius' BIRD 100 (seen in May): House Wren
SHE THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "It was at Sapsucker Woods Wilson Trail!
Casey Sutton had posted a message on the white board so I knew it was a-coming!
Hoped it would be an Indigo Bunting or Scarlet Tanager! Still, love those
David McDermitt's BIRD 100: Yellow Warbler
HE THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "Painted Bunting"
Caissa Willmer's BIRD 100: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
SHE THOUGHT OR HOPED IT WOULD BE: "I only just inched into the 100 Club, with
102. I have still not seen a number of common locals and assumed that my 100dth
would be a Belted Kingfisher, but it turned out to be a female [non]
Ruby-throated Hummingbird at my very own feeder. What bliss!"
200 200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Joining last month's gentlemen 200 Clubbers this time around are a few
rowdies- -Ken Rosenberg, the McGowan boys. Fortunately, goody-goody Allison
Wells also made it in. Hopefully, she'll be able to keep them in line, or at
least keep them from spilling the brandy.
Kevin McGowan's BIRD 200: Prothonotary Warbler
"[ Prothonotary Warbler] was pretty satisfying, and about what I hoped."
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: his nose harp, but he hopes to be able to buy it
back in time for a performance at this year's Cupper Supper
Jay McGowan''s BIRD 200: Forster's Tern.
"He hoped it would be an Ornate Hawk-Eagle, but tried unsuccessfully for
Worm-eating Warbler as the 200th, so there was some hope there, too. He
hopes he beat Allison for the month, or at least tied her."--KJ
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: his still-life reptilian pet menagerie
Ken Rosenberg's BIRD 200: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.
"I thought it would be Sora or Common Nighthawk at Tschache Pool on the evening
of May 31st, but got rained out."
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: wife Anne James' secret recipe for the best sangria
this side of Spain
Allison Wells' BIRD 100: Forster's Tern
"I'm very honored to have shared Bird 200 with Jay McGowan. I only wish he'd
called 200 good enough..."
WHAT SHE GAVE TO GET IN: Jeff's Maynard Ferguson t-shirt
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1997 DAVID CUP JUNE TOTALS MAY TOTALS
213 Tom Nix 207 Tom Nix
211 Stephen Davies 201 Stephen Davies
206 Ken Rosenberg 199 Ken Rosenberg
204 Kevin McGowan 192 Allison Wells
202 Jay McGowan 191 Chris Hymes
202 Allison Wells 186 Bard Prentiss
199 Chris Hymes 185 Meena Haribal
198 John Greenly 185 Jeff Wells
197 Jeff Wells 182 Kevin McGowan
194 Steve Kelling 181 Anne Kendall-Cassella
189 Karl David 178 Karl David
189 Brad Prentiss 177 John Greenly
188 JR Crouse 175 JR Crouse
187 Meena Haribal 169 Matt Medler
187 Matt Medler 166 John Bower
186 Anne Kendall-Cassella 147 Michael Pitzrick
167 John Bower 137 Marty Schlabach
158 Michael Pitzrick 122 Margaret Launius
150 Bill Evans 122 Michael Runge
150 Marty Schlabach 116 Jim Lowe
124 Jim Lowe 109 Martha Fischer
123 Michael Runge 106 Chris Butler
122 Margaret Launius 101 Anne James
120 David McDermitt 96 Caissa Willmer
115 Anne James 89 Andy Farnsworth
109 Martha Fischer 86 David McDermitt
106 Chris Butler 85 Casey Sutton
102 Caissa Willmer 68 Diane Tessaglia
89 Andy Farnsworth 64 Jane Sutton
85 Casey Sutton 61 Rob Scott
68 Cathy Heidenreich 60 Bill Evans
68 Diane Tessaglia 58 Cathy Heidenreich
67 Jane Sutton 46 Larry Springsteen
61 Rob Scott 42 Sam Kelling
59 Dave Mellinger 40 Mira the Bird Dog
46 Larry Springsten 37 Taylor Kelling
42 Sam Kelling 32 Margaret Barker
37 Taylor Kelling 13 Dave Mellinger
32 Margaret Barker 0 Ned Brinkley*
0 Ned Brinkley 0 Sarah Childs*
0 Sarah Childs 0 Ralph Paonessa*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate at least temporary return to
Basin within the 1997 David Cup year. They faithfully sent in their totals--
even those certain few who are looking like they may never make it back to
1997 McILROY JUNE TOTALS MAY TOTALS
182 Steve Kelling 178 Steve Kelling
179 Allison Wells 174 Allison Wells
173 Stephen Davies 170 Stephen Davies
172 Jeff Wells 163 Jeff Wells
156 JR Crouse 150 JR Crouse
152 John Bower 149 John Bower
147 Kevin McGowan 136 Kevin McGowan
136 Tom Nix 135 Tom Nix
134 Ken Rosenberg 132 Ken Rosenberg
128 Jay McGowan 123 Matt Medler
127 Matt Medler 119 Karl David
123 Karl David 112 Anne Kendall-Cassella
114 Anne Kendall-Cassella 106 Michael Runge
107 Michael Runge 102 Jim Lowe
106 Jim Lowe 102 Jay McGowan
97 Martha Fischer 97 Martha Fischer
94 Bill Evans 83 Chris Butler
83 Chris Butler 70 Casey Sutton
70 Casey Sutton 63 Jane Sutton
66 Jane Sutton 60 Bill Evans
57 Dave Mellinger 51 Rob Scott
51 Rob Scott 46 Larry Springsteen*
46 Larry Springsteen 40 Mira the Bird Dog*
40 Mira the Bird Dog 13 Dave Mellinger*
0 Ned Brinkley 0 Ned Brinkley*
0 Sarah Childs 0 Sarah Childs*
0 Ralph Paonessa 0 Ralph Paonessa*
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipating return to McIlroy territory
sometime in the 1997 McIlroy year. They faithfully sent in their totals--even
those certain few who are looking like they may never make it back to
THE EVANS TROPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Named in honor of the late Dick Evans--beloved local birder, Cayuga Bird
Club president, and friend to many--the Evans Trophy will be awarded for the
highest Dryden total...or to the highest bidder.
188 Ken Rosenberg
171 Kevin McGowan
178 Bard Prentiss
165 Jay McGowan
126 Anne Kendall-Cassella
108 Matthew Medler
Like the ball rising in Time Square on New Year's Eve, The Cup has been
enjoying watching Kevin McGowan's Lansing total rise and thought our
readers' might, too. JUNE: 147
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
Tom really is a nice guy, but you might be interested to know that he
still managed to tick off the following 213 birds by the end of June:
Common Loon, P-b Grebe, Horned Grebe, R-n Grebe, D-c Cormorant, American
Bittern, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute
Swan, Greater W-f Goose, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged
Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, B-w Teal, Northern
Shoveler, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, R-n
Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter, Common Goldeneye,
Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, R-b
Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, S-s Hawk,
Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, R-s Hawk, R-t Hawk, R-l Hawk, Golden Eagle,
American Kestrel, Merlin, R-n Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Virginia
Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs,
Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Semipalmated
Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Common Snipe, American Woodcock,
Bonaparte's Gull, R-b Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser B-b Gull,
Glaucous Gull, Great B-b Gull, Thayer's Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Black
Tern, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl,
L-e Owl, S-e Owl, Northern S-w Owl, Common Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will,
R-t Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, R-h Woodpecker, R-b Woodpecker, Y-b
Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker,
Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Least
Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Horned
Lark, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern R-w Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff
Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven, B-c
Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, R-b Nuthatch, W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina
Wren, House Wren, Winter Wren, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, G-c Kinglet, R-c
B-g Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Veery, G-c Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit
Thrush, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown
Thrasher, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Shrike, European Starling,
Solitary Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, R-e
Vireo, B-w Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula,
Yellow Warbler, C-s Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, B-t Blue
Warbler, B-t Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Pine Warbler,
Palm Warbler, B-b Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, B-and-w
American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush,
Louisiana Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler,
Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, R-b
Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping
Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow,
Henslow's Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow,
W-t Sparrow, W-c Sparrow, D-e Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Bobolink,
R-w Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, B-h
Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, House Finch, American
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
The following 29 species are still on speaking terms with Tom, bringing the
cumulative total for the year to 242:
R-t Loon, American White Pelican, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret,
B-c Night-Heron, Ross' Goose, Brant, Black Vulture, B-w Hawk, Peregrine Falcon,
Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper,
Laughing Gull, Little Gull, Forster's Tern, B-b Cuckoo, Y-b Cuckoo, Snowy Owl,
O-s Flycatcher, Y-b Flycatcher, W-e Vireo, G-w Warbler, W-e Warbler, Kentucky
Warbler, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak.
(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora. You're probably
all wondering: no, he did not get the Swainson's Hawk reported in Massachusetts
recently, even though he and the hawk were there at the same time.)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove you can hot-dog it down to Arizona for some major
"family time" birding and still kick a mean tail than by being featured in an
interview exclusively for The Cup? Kickin' Tail brings well deserved honor
and recognition to the Cupper who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven,
climbed, dug, out-of-Basin birded and otherwise made his/her way to the top
of the David Cup list.
THE CUP: [Knock, knock, knock]
NIX: Huh, what, did someone call? I still feel a little groggy after all that
driving and haven't been getting enough sleep at work.
THE CUP: Tom, are you back? It's The Cup again, here to collect on your debt to
your fellow Cuppers and Cup subscribers.
NIX: Oh, hi, Allison! Yeah, I'm back. I hope that those questions aren't KT?
Surely somebody else is in the lead?
THE CUP: You've heard of the crazy, hazy, lazy days of summer (with emphasis
on lazy)? You wouldn't know, though, since you spent most of the month out
west. How did birding in Arizona compare to Basin birding? Must have been
dull out there, huh?
NIX: As you know, Arizona is quite a bit larger than the Basin.
THE CUP: Since when?
NIX: We're comparing apples and oranges, or maybe, huckleberries and
watermelons. We traveled through a number of different ecozones, from tundra to
barren desert and while we didn't stay long anywhere, I was able to sample a
few different habitats. I picked up about 40 lifers, the most memorable of
which was an Elegant Trogon in Cave Creek Canyon.
THE CUP: Boring.
NIX: Or was it the Gray Hawk and Rose-throated Becard at the Patagonia
THE CUP: Ho-hum.
NIX: Or the hummingbirds in Portal...
THE CUP: Tom, what's the matter? Are you okay?
NIX: Oh, sorry, I was drifting off into Dreamland...
THE CUP: Hopefully you brought some of those goodies back with you to be
released in someone's house. You know, that worked with Kentucky Warbler--if
it had survived, Cuppers would have scrambled off to count it. Seems it was
Marty Schlabach who had it smuggled in. But now we're straying. How does
your Basin birding experience this year compare to last year?
NIX: As has been well documented in these "pages," Cuppers as a group have been
off from last year's pace, beginning with a winter devoid of finches and
continuing on through the foreshortened spring migration. I have been well
off my last year's pace as well.
THE CUP: But Tom, you're five for six.
NIX: I have missed a number of spring migrants, and worse, dipped on two tries
for the Worm-eating Warbler. I had reached 222 last June 14, and still ended
the month seven behind you, Allison.
THE CUP: Ha, ha, ha, ha.
NIX: Maybe we should turn the question around and find out why you are
*so* far off your '96 run?
THE CUP: Er, um, uhh, what was your favorite BASIN birding experience this
past June? Did you get the White-eyed Vireo? (Of course we only ask this
because we know you didn't.)
NIX: No, dang it, I missed the vireo-- it didn't show up on the weekend.
But on the weekend of the seventh and eighth, I was up at the Sedge Wren
spot at about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, heard the wren and Henslow's Sparrows, and
then incredibly, a Whip-poor-will, and was back home by about 10am.
The next day
Steve Kelling and I were at the wrensite again before daylight, and then did
a Breeding Bird Census route. It was a blast. Steve commented that he and I
to spend a lot of sleep-deprived time birding together--but the hours just
dawn are my favorite time of day.
THE CUP: Ours, too. It's just that we at The Cup spend ours sleeping. Now
that the first six months of the 1997 DC have come and gone, who do you think
are the real threats to your 1997 David Cup victory? (Any stabs at this
point at what the winning total will be?)
NIX: Obviously Stephen Davies is going for it with youthful (from my vantage
point) enthusiasm, stamina and skills honed twitching American Vagrants in
the Scilly Isles, and Ken Rosenberg has a distinct advantage in being able
to see Dryden Lake from his bathroom window.
THE CUP: Yes, he has a "Bowl" as well as a "Cup"--thankfully, not a matching
NIX: All that previously wasted time can now be spent watching for passing
phalaropes. I think that there are a lot of birds remaining to be seen in the
second half, probably a few neat surprises, and maybe some early winter
finches to make up for last year. I see a winning total in the mid-240's.
THE CUP: And I see John Greenly eying it greedily. Check out his totals from
the last few months! He may be the long-shot favorite. Say, now that The
Cup Headquarters is hosting one teen and one pre-teen for a few weeks, tell
us how you kept your teenagers entertained while you were off birding in AZ?
NIX: My teenagers, being teenagers, did that teenager thing, namely, sleep way
late, even while camping. So I could get out early and still be back in
time to rustle up some breakfast for the guys. And, when they are awake,
they like to put on the headphones and listen to their music, shutting out
the adult world whenever possible.
THE CUP: Presumably they're listening to jazz, or blues. Did you find out who
the Lucy in Lucy's Warbler is?
NIX: No, Lucy stood me up, but I did meet up with Virginia (Anderson) and
THE CUP: Uh-huh. Well, Tom, it's been fun. Maybe next month if you're ahead,
we'll get creative and try a different approach. But that could be dangerous...
NIX: Whaddyamean "if"? Whaddyamean "could be"?
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge of the
world of birds. Answers next month (or, if you pay me ten dollars, I'll tell
you them now.)
1. Which North American cuckoo likes to eat snakes?
2. Which North American bird builds the biggest nest, and how big is it?
3. Which bird has the longest scientific name, and what is it?
4. Which is the smallest North American swift, and how much does it weigh?
5. What is the common name for Sialia currucoides?
6. Why are the birds in the genus Indicator called honeyguides?
7. What is the largest falcon?
8. Which bird that breeds in New York is polyandrous (one female has
several mates, and defends the territory, and the males sit on the eggs and
take care of the young)?
9. Which bird has the longest bill, and how long is it?
10. Which two North American wood-warblers walk, not hop, on the ground?
ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:
1. Which hummingbird has the longest bill and how long is it? The
Sword-billed Hummingbird. This unique hummingbird can be found in the Andes
from Venezuela to Bolivia. The female's bill may grow up to over four and a
half inches long, slightly longer than the body! Males are slightly smaller.
2. Which American bird once was called "Wilson's Thrush?" The Veery.
3. What is the common name for "Streptopelia chinensis?" Spotted Dove.
4. What is the favored prey of Wilson's Plovers? Fiddler Crabs.
5. Which is often cited as the most aerial bird? The Sooty Tern. Some
Authorities indicate the terns may remain airborne from 3 to 10 years,
depending on when breeding commences. Feeding birds pick food from the
surface of the water while hovering, and undoubtedly doze on the wing, but
sightings of resting terns on the ground are becoming increasingly common.
6. Does the male Indian Peacock have the longest tail of any bird? No. The
long trailing feathers that exceed five feet (1.5 m) in length in adult
males are not tail feathers, but rather lower back feathers that merely
appear to be tail feathers.
7. What is the scientific name for the Eurasian Hoopoe? Upupa epops
8. Where is the largest colony of Emperor Penguins located, and how many
birds occupy the rookery? Coulman Island in the Ross Sea where 27,900 chicks
were counted in late 1990. The nearby Cape Washington colony is nearly as
large with about 24,000 chicks in 1990.
9. What do Peregrine Falcons living in large cities prey on most? Rock
Doves. In most large cities Rock Doves are plentiful, and that is the
easiest prey for the falcons.
10. Where do Marbled Murrelets place their nests? You might expect these
cousins of puffins and guillemots to nest on cliffs or in rocks, but
actually they nest high up in large trees.
(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. His feet get cold when he wears
sandals...even in summer.)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
My longest-ever wait for Pileated Woodpecker finally ended on June
12, when I heard and then saw one on Hammond Hill. Using the
rough-and-ready assumptions mentioned in a previous column, the
probability of having to wait this long to see the first one of the
year is 0.45%, i.e., odds of over 200 to 1. Not exactly lottery-
winning odds, but noteworthy. Of course, my assumptions were
seat-of-the-pants and perhaps, in light of this outcome, somewhat
In statistics, the uniqueness of an event is all in the way you look
at it. Often people pounce on the unusual and pronounce it
astounding. Another way to look at this story is to realize the
Pileated Woodpecker is just one of 200+ species we encounter every
year. What would be far more unusual is if one saw them all, or didn't
have to wait unusually long for any of them. To illustrate, let's
simplify and assume there are 100 species observable from January 1
on, and for each one we had a date such that first observing it after
that date had a 1% chance of happening. What is the probability you
wouldn't have to wait this long for ANY of the 100 species?
Think of it like this: to each species, I randomly assign a number
between 1 and 100, and your guessing that number is the same as
first observing it in that final "one-percent window." What is the probability
you don't guess any of the numbers correctly? Well, for each species,
that probability is 0.99; since you're making this guess independently 100
times, the multiplicative principle says the probability is 0.99 multiplied by
itself 100 times. That rounds off to 0.37. That is, you have only a 37%
chance of seeing all 100 species before the magic late date. So the odds
are better than fifty-fifty SOME species will be unusually late, or never
found. You just have no idea which one it will be. To have predicted it
would be Pileated Woodpecker IN ADVANCE would perhaps call for
the clairvoyance claims to be reviewed.
Even restricting the observations to Pileated Woodpecker only, this
late occurrence looks less remarkable when viewed in the context of
my overall record-keeping in the Basin. This is my 13th year, so
coming in on the near side of the 1% date all 13 years has a
likelihood of .99 to the 13th power, which is .88. Thus the
likelihood of being this late in at least one of thirteen years is already
12% ... not so remarkable.
Well, if I hadn't finally seen that blasted woodpecker this month, I
was going to write a column on the American Birding Association's
"Birding Code" number. That's the number between 1 and 6 that the ABA
assigns to each species depending on the degree of difficulty in finding it.
The easiest birds are the 1's [e.g., Chimney Swift]; the hardest, the 6's
[e.g., Labrador Duck]. What I plan to do next month is compare the
distribution of these numbers on my own life list with their
distribution on the overall ABA Checklist. There are some nice
conclusions to be drawn concerning individual vs. overall observer
effort in this comparison.
But, if I gave it away now, I'd have to think of something else to
write about next month ... so I'll let you think about it until then!
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
"The Tanager Quest"
by Dave Mellinger
I could say this trip to Ithaca was for visiting my girlfriend, Debbie.
At least, that's the story she heard. Or I could say that it was for finishing
up some papers. Sounds good, eh? Just crank out a manuscript to justify flying
all that way. Or I could even say that it was for going to a conference-
-hopefully, the accounting department will buy that line.
But no. Clued-in people know that I came to Ithaca to work on my David
Cup list. Since only birds that I hear count towards my list, it is critical
to come to Ithaca as many times as possible in the spring and early summer.
of course, is when match-making is happening and the birds are out there
away. I may well come back to Ithaca this fall for any of the reasons listed
above, but NOW is the time for adding to a Cup list.
This time, the bird of choice is Scarlet Tanager. I've been daydreaming
about Scarlet Tanagers for weeks now, thinking how nice they are to hear
(and see), and I just want the joy of finding one, not to mention the
of adding it to my Cup list.
How to find a Scarlet Tanager? Cayuga Heights seems like a good place
to hear one. All those tall old trees--it should be perfect habitat. A
downtown up to Sunset Park turns up Cedar Waxwings, a flicker, a
a beautiful Indigo Bunting...but no Scarlet Tanager.
Okay, there has to be Scarlet Tanagers at the Lab of O. Jeff Wells surely
knows. "Yes, right back there," he says, "by the trail fork at the picnic
shelter." Off I go. Red-eyed Vireos are everywhere, a Great Crested
calls away, a reddish bird glimpsed near the picnic shelter turns out to be
a Hermit Thrush sings back near the evergreens...but no Scarlet Tanager.
Another trip around the woods a day later, with Bill Evans' ears along
for assistance (oh, yes, and Bill himself too), reveals a beautiful Veery,
orioles singing from the trees by the pond, a pewee...but no Scarlet Tanager.
Maybe Stewart Park has Scarlet Tanagers. Several hours of rollerblading
around, interrupted by stops to listen into the woods for birds, adds Fish
Crow and mockingbird to my Cup list.... but no Scarlet Tanager.
I'm desperate. Departure time looms and Scarlet Tanager is still not
on my Cup list. Time to relax the effort to find birds only in McIlroy
territory, and to venture up the lake in the quest.
The morning of my departure, Bill Evans and Debbie and I go canoeing
near Montezuma, down a winding stream in perfect Scarlet Tanager habitat.
We drift along in the dense, tall forest, hearing Red-eyed Vireos, a Wood
a House Wren, robins by the handful...but no Scarlet Tanager.
Then, near the end of the trip, THERE IT IS! That distinctive
robin-with-a-sore-throat song is coming out of the trees just downstream! We
float down, and it's unmistakable now. At last! A Scarlet Tanager for my Cup
list. Hooray! When I climb on the plane in a few hours, I can return home
with a peaceful heart, knowing that one of my favorite birds has made it
onto my Cup list. That's terrific, because I'm out of time now; and next time I
visit Ithaca they will have stopped singing, so my chance of hearing one
Debbie shares my joy, happy to experience her first Scarlet Tanager song.
But Bill has a troubled look. "Didn't you know?" he says. "This creek drains
Owasco Lake. It isn't in the Cayuga Lake Basin."
P.S. I did enjoy the tanager, of course, even if it was geographically
P.S.S. Remember! You can't really count a bird if you merely see it.
(Seeing the madness that spread throughout the Ithaca area last year, Dave
Mellinger decided to escape to California at the start of this year. He now
lives near Monterey and studies sounds of harbor seals and migrating birds.
His favorite nature sound is the song of the Wood Thrush. His least favorite
is Bill Evans cackling, "Ha, ha, ha-ha-ha.")
(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 <
< < < <
Need a reason to get off the couch--or rather, out of the swimming pool--and go
birding in July? Two words: Ned Brinkley! The Basin Big Year record-holder
to mention the holder of Big Year records the world over) is back as Coach for
The Cup! Who but Ned can make even remote possibilities like Roseate Spoonbill
seem, well, possible? Who but Ned knows what's been seen in what continent
the last few days and why? Oh, and the gossip (guess who's going to be a papa?)
Hang on, you're in for another wild ride!
COACH BRINKLEY: July is one of the nicest months to bird the Basin, in my
opinion as a Dixie-born birder. First of all, it is actually warm enough to go
outside. This is the season for southerners drifting north, as well
as the first
arctic nesters coming back south. Moreover, if you're running low on new
birds, you can usually find a gamebird breeder to sell you a Northern Bobwhite,
which you can release somewhere and tick off. Adam Byrne once saw one running
around the quad near Mann Library on the Cornell campus. Tick.
But seriously, it goes without saying that if you want to See All That You
Can See, you must now work very hard on your Missing Nesting Species.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo was often a nemesis for me. Low, dense vegetation near
water seemed good but nowhere was reliable over more than 2-3 year periods.
I used to play tapes for them (perish the thought!) but often got little
The TC Airport ponds used to be okay, and some areas in the far southwestern
Basin and southeastern Basin were good (also for migrants). These
birds seem to
be tied to the tent caterpillars. You might also just wait to get a flyover in
August or early September from Mt. Pleasant at night (also good for the
and for Upland Sandpiper calling, all of which you might be missing
Orchard Oriole can be tricky, but the lakeside communities on the west
shore, not just Sheldrake, should produce one. No? Then drive roads of the
western central Basin, listening for their syncopated song around little
of houses with large shade trees (and hopefully a pond or two), or around any
group of old orchard trees (apples) near cattle groves and watering holes. This
is tedious but important work.
Certainly things like King Rail and Common Moorhen have nested in the
past, but you must content yourself with the hope of stumbling across one,
maybe at MNWR or the north end of the lake. The tough warblers
Kentucky, Worm-eating) have been much more reliably seen south and west of
the Basin lately, but keep hiking the glorious southern boundaries of the
at Conn Hill and elsewhere. The lower elevations are often given short
the higher elevations have those enchanting Appalachian-affinity species.
streamside sites at lower elevations in addition--in the early succession stuff
for things like White-eyed Vireo. (I never did see the latter in the Basin.)
For Yellow-throated Warbler, check any pond area (though I suppose one was
a good distance from water two years ago...)
One of the most frustrating things for me while birding there in the late
1980s and early 1990s was that Mays Point Pool was almost NEVER drawn down
in time in order for the parade of shorebirds to stay a while on their way
southward or southeastward--one often had to wait until late August or later to
see any good flats out there. One hopes this has changed. (Shorebirds were,
all, gamebirds at one time--now that they are not, only the woodcock seems to
rank as a species worthy of "management" for the Feds.) Even if there is not
much in the way of stopover migrant habitat, I remember a fun thing to do
peek around the edges (never, never in trespass, of course) of the old Storage
Pool, known now as Tschache Pool, on the other side of the road. Even 5-6
of edge would often hold Baird's Sandpiper in July, and by the month's end,
Wilson's Phalarope also became a reasonable hope.
Even a little habitat here goes a long way, and it's advisable to get here
early in the morning, bird around other spots, then come back and hang
around (get a group together, shell peanuts, gossip, work on field marks and
vocalizations of common species), as the shorebirds really can change
the course of a few hours here, even in July. Your shorebird list will be
longest if you spend massive amounts of time in this little area; if you
field marks (things like Long-billed Dowitcher undoubtedly come through the
in July); and if you own a $2000 Questar--the birds often look like specks here
in July at Mays Point, if there are any around at all. The looks here can be
very tough, especially in the early morning if it's a sunny day. Foul weather
probably puts down more migrants anyhow, so try it up there following a
night of thunderstorms in the northern Basin (yes, you will need to get the
Channel, or at least watch the websites for local weather like a hawk).
The north end of the main refuge loop should be checked also, even if it's
only moist. Ruffs in breeding plumage are in Delaware as we speak--need one
say more? And, of course, Andy Farnsworth has shown us that those huge plowed
potato fields known as the Savannah Mucklands, just north of MNWR, can be a
goldmine for shorebirds during rainy episodes--he found both Whimbrel and
Buff-breasted Sandpiper there in one day. Reason enough to take a scope and
hard there, even when conditions are less dramatic. Persistence. Likewise,
checking those little bait ponds at Canoga can turn up a bird or two--many
goodies in the past, though one must be diligent and lucky here.
There are many shorebirds on the move in July, as we know from last July's
Coach's Corner, so I won't list them all out here. Baird's is the obvious
first target, and Sanderling will have been missed by many in the spring, so
that's perhaps number two (if not number one). After that, dates of arrival
seem hodge-podge from my notes. It's obviously on the very early side to be
looking for Dunlin and Western Sandpiper, but the odd bird does turn up.
Curlew Sandpiper is another bird I could never figure out; surely they
should pass through in July (we have had up to 6 on a flat in NC in July)--
just a water-level problem? (Later in August and September, the juveniles
might be passed off as Dunlin, but July birds should be more obviously
different.) Go down your shorebird list, then look at Steve Kelling's
compilation of shorebird arrival dates, departure dates, peak counts, etc.,
in the latest Kingbird. If in doubt, drop Steve a note about where to look
for your toughest species (vagrants aside). I'm sure he and others will
share this stuff freely. Don't sneeze at possibilities like adult Red-necked
Stints in July--they look like miniature Sanderlings in alternate plumage,
with peach-red heads and little pin-pricks of bills. They are, after all,
coming from Siberia, and the records from the interior of the continent are
slowly increasing. Remember to have your Lars Jonsson guide to the Birds of
Europe in your backpack at all times. Don't blow a stint in breeding plumage
--look carefully at the head and covert pattern and take great notes.
July would also be the time that this vicinity might eventually produce a
White-winged Tern. Heaven knows people have strained at some Black Terns
here, but they are never all that numerous. Plant thyself in the MNWR tower
and look for the ghostly white basic-plumaged bird among the Blacks in the
distance. Stay for a long time. Seen or heard your Least Bittern yet? 'Tis
the season. Try the southeast corner of the main loop (scan reed edge along
the drive--with binoculars) and try the marsh at the north end of the lake
(Cayuga Marsh). Father Karl used to get them by canoeing out there (boat
launches available on both sides of the lake). One could do a lot less
interesting things in July.
I just heard from Adam Byrne that he and his [now expectant!] wife Jan
saw their first Basin Prothonotary Warblers with Bill Evans up at Armitage
Road the other day -- a coincidental meeting, and felicitous!). Canoeing
would seem a nice way to find more POWAs in the extended northern Basin.
I believe some have done this in recent years; the more the merrier. This
area, with its flat agricultural lands and beautiful riparian canal habitat,
has always screamed "Mississippi Kite" to me. One just made it up to Quoddy
Head park in Maine a few days ago (this being a km from NB!), and we
now have them nesting in southernmost AND northernmost VA (and likely s. NJ,
summer perhaps also c. PA) -- global warming will undoubtedly keep them coming
northward more and more. Look for areas of dragonflies, focus on vulture
cloud edges, whatever gets you that razor-sharp focus on your bins, and just
keep scanning, scanning, scanning. The silhouette can look remarkably
at times. Also keep a watchful eye out for postnesting Black Vulture (one just
made it up to the Maritimes of Canada the other day). Scan these stretches
in the north Basin as much as patience will allow. A billowy, warm day with
of TUVUs in the sky is just the thing (there is a nice vulture roost in the
trees around small freshwater ponds east of MNWR--worth checking here
for vagrant herons, as well as immigrant Black Vultures).
Did someone mention herons? There's a whole list of things that might
drift up from the south. I really have no idea what is most likely on that
never having had much luck with that group. I suppose Glossy Ibis and Little
Blue and Snowy are slightly more likely than Tricolored, which is more likely
than Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and there are a number of birds, such as
White-faced Ibis and Neotropic Cormorant, that have made it to MN and
should be kept in mind. Scanning is meaningful, again, as things like Wood
Stork and Am. White Pelican can be identified at vast, vast
distances, and these
are birds that begin to show up in late summer. These BWBs (Big Wandering
Birds) are once-in-a-lifetime events, perhaps, in the interior in central NYS,
but scanning is a skill that should be honed, no matter where you are. If you
and your birding buddies shelling peanuts at the Mucklands should happen to
spy a Roseate Spoonbill ahead of some Ugly Gulf Moisture one day, what
more need one ask of the day?
I'm sure I have forgotten a whole host of possibilities, but this is as
much as I can recall, without having much at my disposal. Remember that
butterflies and dragonflies and herps beckon as well (have you seen Northern
Red Salamander on Conn Hill yet? Is your life complete if not??), and these
things can seduce you, along with wildflowers, nearly as well as any bird, if
you just take the first couple of steps. The middle of the day is brimming
with possibilities in this respect, so "birding" should never be "slow," once
the bug bites you beyond birds...
Happy July 4 from central VA, where the temps nearly hit 100, along with
the humidity, and it felt GREAT!
(Ned Brinkley is an assistant professor of Germanic languages at the
University of Virginia and the Basin's Wayward Son. He has been heard singing
Verdi to rails in New Jersey.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Steve Kelling has done it again. ($*%&#*%&$*^%#$^&$!)
THE CUP: You edged up a measly three birds in June (enough, of course, to keep
Allison Wells from another 15 minutes of fame). What were these three species?
KELLING: I can only remember two: Caspian Tern and Prairie Warbler (my
notes are at home.) The Caspian was a predicted fall migrant. The Prairie
was a bird on territory that Martha found on the June Count.
THE CUP: Martha, you traitor! Actually, Steve you're forgiven (okay,
you too, Martha), since you've been giving Cuppers and all other
subscribers to Cayugabirds some great historical info when unusual species
are posted. How do you spill that stuff out so quickly? (And more
importantly, how do you find time to indulge in your data base and at the
same time maintain your McIlroy lead?)
KELLING: Actually I think that I am beginning to sink. Maintain? Nah. I
have a series of databases for birds from 1994 through 1997.
THE CUP: Databases, schmatterbases.
KELLING: Most of the records are from BasinBirds and other on-line
reports. I have another database of all "interesting records to me" birds
that I gleaned from reading all of the Kingbirds for Region 3. Since the
databases are relational (to a degree) I can simply type in a name and out
comes a bunch of dates. I put the databases together this past winter when
there was not much happening birdwise.
THE CUP: In that case, we can only imagine what you'll accomplish in July...
KELLING: Someday soon (I hope) I will have these databases on-line and
anyone can query them from my web-site. After all, this really (for the most
part) is CayugaBirders data and they should be privy. It is just a
THE CUP: You ain't kidding. Where in the Basin will we find you birding in
KELLING: In the Basin? In July? I am leaving the Basin to bird in July.
THE CUP: Wimp. (Can we come?)
KELLING: Water levels are high at MNWR so there are no shorebirds to speak
of. I'll check out Stewart Park daily on my way in. But last week I went up to
the Racqueete Lake area of the Adirondacks and found Bicknell's Thrush on
Blue Mountain and Black-backed Woodpecker, etc. at Ferds Bog. This
weekend I am heading up to Cape Vincent so I'll probably go down to Perch
River Wildlife Management Area. For the final weekend I am thinking about
Delaware and shorebirding. The last week in August...that is when things will
start to heat up in the Basin.
THE CUP: In August? Haven't you checked your thermometer the least few days?
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
Writing this column is the proverbial piece of cake-suet cake, perhaps
because David Cup birders are so fluent, so eager to share their excitement in
birding, and have such a fine command of the language. Which is to say, I don't
actually write this column; I send out a few simple questions, and the
subject of the e-interview takes over and writes the column for me.
This month I sent those questions to J. R. Crouse (who is really
Dennis G. Crouse Jr.) because I had gotten quite a bit of pleasure from his
postings to the list, and then, one rainy weekend afternoon, J.R. and his
wife Becky were on the bridge on Armitage Road where I had ventured, too.
They showed me the marvelous Prothonotary Warbler and talked of their
xperiences in Haiti, where they had been working to improve the lives of rural
But I started with the obvious question: "When did you start
birding, and what was it that first got you interested in birds?" And J.R.
"I became interested in birding sometime during my high school years.
I think a couple of events perked my interest. First of all, one winter
our bird feeder had some birds I had never seen before. So, I got
interested in finding out what they were. I discovered we had Common
Redpolls, Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks that year. That was exciting!
Another thing I remember that really got me into birding was attending a few of
the annual Audubon pilgrimages to Allegheny State Park each June. Some
really good birders were there. They pointed out so many birds that I had no
idea could ever be found. That was exciting, too. So, I was hooked."
Then, in answering "To what extent does birding color your life?" I
could almost hear him exclaim:
"You ought to ask my wife's opinion on this one. She thinks I'm
possessed because I seem to always want to spend every free moment birding
or reading something about birds. I always downplay her statements about my
'habit' by comparing myself to the likes of some of the list leaders. When
she realizes how mild my addiction is compared to the sad case of the
others, she lets me off the hook.
"Most weekday mornings before coming in to school, I like to walk
around Beebe Lake, Comstock Knoll or Mundy Wildflower Garden. I have it
worked out so my wife can drop me off in that vicinity on her way to work.
It's been a good way to start the day and, I must add, boost my McIlroy list
total. Sometimes I try and get out after school, too. Earlier in the year,
I made almost daily trips in the late afternoon to Stewart Park. Now, I try
and get my wife to go on walks, since the weather is better. If we decide to
go out for a walk, I always consult my copy of Birding in the Cayuga Basin in
choosing a place to go. Mundy Wildflower Garden has been especially good to me.
"Birding has been a great source of fun and enjoyment. I think the
greatest benefit of birding to me has been a sharper and deepened awareness
of the environment around me. Some people say you need to stop and smell
the roses. Well, yes, but stop and look at the birds, too. I need to say,
though, that birding has almost been my downfall. My project paper has
suffered because I spent too many mornings in Mundy and not in my office. But,
we all know what's more important, right? The paper will get done somehow."
When asked about listing, J.R. remarked, "I probably could be
considered an avid lister. Besides the Cup lists, I have a life list, a
Cayuga Basin list, a NY list, a Cattaraugus County, NY list (that's where I
am from) and I have a list of all the state license plates I've seen in
Ithaca in the last year. I only need Mississippi (Hawaii is here, can you
believe it!?). I should keep better lists, though. I know some people
could go back to 1985 and tell you what birds they saw when and where.
That's probably more important than any life list."
Then, questioned about his time in Haiti: "I was in Haiti from 1989
to 1995 working on agricultural development concerns as a volunteer with
the Free Methodist Church. While there, I saw several dozens of different
birds, even though I never made any special effort to go out birding. I
always felt awkward walking around with a pair of binoculars. That
situation always drew too much attention and maybe, suspicion. So, I
birded without binoculars as best as I could. I did use binoculars around
my house and on some occasions when I was with people who I knew. There
are some neat birds in Haiti, believe it or not. Around my house we had
some winter warblers like American Redstart, Black-throated Blue, and Black
and White. They came every winter, picking at the bugs caught in cobwebs
around the windows. There were two kinds of hummingbirds; one would come
to our feeder. The most beautiful birds I saw there were the Blue-hooded
Euphonia and the Broad-billed Tody.
"I'll never forget the time in Haiti when a young fellow showed up at
my door with a Blue-winged Teal in hand. The fellow came from the
Artibonite Plain, about 20 miles away, where they grow rice. He said
someone else had caught the bird, but they got nervous when they discovered
the bird had a metal leg band with the words Washington, D.C. on it. They
thought this bird belonged to the Americans, and they would get in trouble
if they kept the bird (to eat). So, this young guy set out looking for the
nearest American, and he found me. He wouldn't give me his name, but I did
persuade him to pose for a picture, assuring him that he wasn't in
trouble. I tried to explain the leg bend, but the point was lost. The
young man only wanted to get out of there. I gave him some money to
compensate for the bus fares and I suppose the duck. I kept the duck about a
week, but it wouldn't eat, and so it died. I sent the tag ID in to the
address on the band and got a word back about six weeks later that the bird
had been banded in Eastern Canada about two years previous."
And finally, when asked for a bit of biographical information: "I
grew up in Gowanda, a small town in western New York. I did my undergraduate
studies here at Cornell in Animal Science. I discovered the City Cemetery
during those years! Later on I spent a year in South Carolina and another year
in Florida. I heard Chuck-will's Widow a lot in SC! After six plus years in
Haiti trying to facilitate agricultural development, I decided I wanted to come
back to Cornell for a Master of Professional Studies degree in the field of
International Agriculture and Rural Development. I started in the fall of 1995
and expect to finish a few months from now. My project paper focuses on
creating a new platform for dialogue regarding what things the Free Methodist
Church can do to strengthen rural development in Haiti (particularly as
by the Haitian church leaders themselves). My wife and I hope to return to
sometime in 1998. Until then, as of July 1, we will be living back in my
hometown where I plan to do a lot of birding in my free time. I hope to
come back to this area from time to time so as to add to my David and
McIlroy lists. I'd like to get into the 200 Club."
(Caissa Willmer is Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of Development.
She's also theater critic for Ithaca Times. She never complains when her
paycheck from The Cup is late.)
We at The Cup thought we should run another of Sarah Childs' poems, so that
she doesn't resort to scribbling them out on the side of their office
building...and because they are so nice.
High on a mountain top, flying in the air,
Out back of my house; I see him there.
Or up in the trees that have a heavenly breeze
He sings his song that will make you freeze
And listen through the brush.
But still it is a hush, hush, hush.
Nothing interferes with his song that whistles,
His eyes shining like a silver nickel.
(Sarah Childs is currently visiting her auntie and uncle, The Cup editors.
She's will be a freshman this fall at Winthrop [Maine] High School. She has
memorized all but one or two of the tunes her auntie sings with the Ithaca
Ageless Jazz Band--no kidding!)
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...
While I generally consider your guidance an invaluable service to the
birding community, I'm afraid you goofed last issue in your response
to 'Reflective Near Varna'. You remember, the question was whether a
bird identified only by its image, seen reflected in Fall Creek, could
nonetheless be counted. You replied negatively. Well, please think again!
If reflected images are not to be admissible, half the birds in last
year's lists will have to be retroactively disallowed, and the results
of the Cup Competition repudiated, because so many were identified with the
indispensable assistance of telescopes and binoculars. These instruments
present images to the viewer that are reflected off the diagonal faces
of their internal prisms, which are incorporated partly for the convenience
of all those who wish to view their birds in the same orientation that
they present to the naked eye. Scopes without prisms, such as astronomical
instruments, invert the images. If we must revert to prismless optics, we'll
all be reduced to standing on our heads! I can live with that, but imagine
the kooky public image it will present of our favorite pastime, which
already suffers from a perception that it's the province of obsessive-
Dear Visibly Concerned:
Are you familiar with the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy? If you aren't,
read the literature (and I don't mean your stuffy old physics texts, I'm
talking serious news publications--New York Times, Time Magazine, The National
Enquirer) then take this to heart: if nobody asks you whether or not you're
prismless optics, let them assume you are. Should a fellow Cupper come
upon you while you're scoping out Buff-breasted Sandpipers at May's Point
Pool and inquire as to why you're not standing upside down, tell them it's
because you don't want your Cupping success to go to your head.
While birding was not a June theme, [my daughter] did go swimming for the first
time (at Cass Park), where she acted like a puffin, sort of. Can I count that?
--Puffin' at Cass Park
That depends. Does she have a big orange bill and webbed feet? If so, count
her. But the next time you take your daughter swimming, be sure to let other
Cuppers know where you're going or you may find yourself ostrichized.
Recently, a fresh specimen of a Kentucky Warbler was brought to the Lab of
Ornithology. I was lucky enough to see the bird (resting peacefully in a
plastic bag) at the Lab trailers (which are in the Town of Dryden), and
later I was even luckier to have the chance to become intimately familiar
with this individual while skinning it at the Cornell Vertebrates
Collection (Town of Lansing). Since the bird was originally found in
Ithaca, my question is, which town list(s) can I count it on?
--The Eviscerator in
Some of your language is cause for alarm. "Resting peacefully," "intimately
familiar." This kind of talk suggests to me that you suffer from separation
anxiety, perhaps stemming from the trauma of learning at too young an age that
your best friend was only imaginary. You have experienced a transference,
albeit delayed, displacing the tender feelings you were unexpectedly kept from
expressing to your imaginary friend as a youngster onto this new "friend."
This in itself is not a bad thing, it's just that if you're this
your new friends, how will preserve your old friends, particularly should they
get under your skin? Get help, then we'll talk lists. Meanwhile, I commend
you for coming to me with your predicament. It took guts.
Where'd the shorebirds go off to this year?
--Mystified at Myers
Steve Kelling took them to his farm in Caroline. By the way, I hear he makes
a scrumptious "chicken" soup.
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"Jay and I had a pretty good day today in Lansing doing the summer bird
count. All of those people who laughed at us for being in the 'Land of
Yellow Warblers and Red-winged Blackbirds' will be sorry when they hear
what we had!"
"I had a pretty good day birding the Caroline section of the
Ithaca Christmas Bird Count circle yesterday, although I was surprised
by some of the misses. I ended the day with 91 species but was most
surprised to NOT run into any Black-throated Blue Warblers...Probably the
most enjoyable part of the day was yesterday evening on Bald Hill. There
was a Hermit Thrush chorus (I had 9 singing) that was spectacular."
"I had a great day counting birds as well, but I also missed Black-throated
Blue on Hurd Rd. at the spot I can usually always count on finding at least
one. I also did not find Canada Warbler or Scarlet Tanager, although when I
walked up Hurd Road yesterday, I heard the tanager right where I expected it
to be on Saturday."
"As preliminary reports trickle in, it seems that counting went very well in
the Hammond Hill/ Dryden area on Saturday, too. I walked a big loop
around Beam Hill in the morning and found a singing Acadian Flycatcher,
6 Hooded Warblers, 5 Mourning Warblers, and 8 Canada Warblers, as well
as 16 Black-throated Blues (maybe that's where they all were)."
"Highlights for us included Grasshopper Sparrow on West King Rd...
Another highlight was Prairie Warbler, a lifer for Stephan [Hames]. We
got killer looks at it. It was a very fun day."
"Yesterday afternoon there was a Caspian Tern fishing off the end of the
bar at Myers...There was a row of grounded gulls on the gravel, apparently
taking no notice of the tern, but when it suddenly dove and came up with a
nice fish, all the gulls lifted off in hot pursuit to steal the morsel away.
There ensued an astonishing display of extreme aerobatic maneuvers
during which the tern first tried to swallow the fish the wrong way around,
then coughed it up, flipped it around and finally swallowed it properly, all
the while attacked from all sides by screaming gulls. What a way to make a
"Last evening around sunset, a male Indigo Bunting showed up at Sunset
Park in Cayuga Heights. So did I, and I got to hear and see him...An
aesthetics question: How many birds both sound and look beautiful?
My favorite-sounding birds, Wood Thrush and Song Sparrow, are not much
to look at, and the best-looking birds like Cedar Waxwing aren't especially
noticeable in song. For me, Indigo Bunting scores both visually and aurally,
as does Northern Cardinal. Beauty is so personal -- do you have any other
nominees for both sounding and looking good?"
"Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch. Just a
bit lower in terms of quality of song (but not visual appearance)
are the Scarlet Tanager and the Yellow Warbler. Personally I like
both the looks and the song of the Barn Swallow, but that may be
because I grew up with them nesting on our porch and in our barn."
"He's a subtle bird, but as handsome as a bridegroom in morning clothes
with a rufous cummerbund, and oh, my, can he summon ecstasy in his
song--the Grey Catbird."
"Does anyone know the average flight speed of a Barn Swallow?"
"Is that an African swallow or a European swallow? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)"
"Hey, that's from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail!'"
"Went to look for Sedge Wren, I did have wonderful display of this loud
guy. At least I could add one more bird to my last month's David Cup total.
Besides these I also had lots of Savannah Sparrows (carrying food in its
beak), Bobolinks sitting lazily on bushes and chatting with their neighbors,
R-w Blackbirds, a pair of Harriers, Red-tailed hawk, Kestrel, Wood Thrush,
and Barn Swallows (well, I got answer for this puzzle, I don't seem to have
seen Monty Python movies; I will make it a point to see some.)"
"I just heard and saw a hooded warbler in our woods for the second time in a
week. Perhaps he took the same flight as the white-eyed vireo."
"Today, Thursday 7/3, Carol & Ron Schmitt and I heard and saw the
Sedge Wren at the undisclosed basin location. Yahoo!"
"Yeah!! I made the 100 Club with a great day trip to the Basin w/my
friend Jenny. I started off with 81 birds from April and ended the day
w/109. Another day trip w/my Mom (from California, of The Cup interview
fame!) and Jenny on 5/28 for a beautiful day of birding yielded a total
of 123 birds for the Basin to date. Got just about everything except
the Prothonotary which had gone to sleep by the time we found the site.
Ran into Chris and Dianne at Tschatche and they gave us great directions
and crackers for my Mom (we hadn't fed her yet since lunch and it was
now 8:00pm! Anyway, I got a lifer nighthawk (& Tom Nix), the Brewster's
Warbler, a male Cerulean, etc. Beautiful weather as well."
(should have been in the last
"I spent so much time this month watching the tree swallows version of
'Leave it to Beaver' that I was only able to add 10 to my list..."
"Tell Jane Sutton she's history!"
--Bill Evans (see Bird Brain, The Cup 2.5)
"Please pass The Cup along to me, thanks!"
"Okay, okay... Please sign me up for your newsletter. Inquiring minds want
"I'll need the shore birds to take me over 200."
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff