Year 2, Issue 7


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* The unofficial publication of the David Cup/McIlroy competition.

*   Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells

*   Summer Intern: Sarah Childs

*   Basin Bird Highlights: "Inspector" Tom Nix

*   Composite Deposit, Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David

*   Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer

*   Wardrobe Coordinator: Sarah Childs

*   Non-Cupper Personal Assistant to Ms. Wells: Darrell Childs

*   Foley Supervisor: Jeff Wells



Another July, over and done, and with it, another independence day.  No,

we're not talking about some high-flying movie from last summer,

and we're not talking about the celebration of the birth of our fine

country, either.  We're talking about the David Cup's own founding

fathers--or Father, as the case may be.


Whether or not you've realized it, since signing up for the David Cup,

everyday for you has been independence day!  You're brave, free-thinking,

persistent--and a little rebellious--all qualities admirably demonstrated

by our would-be Cupper forefathers (is it any wonder our national symbol

is a bird?) but best illustrated by former president Karl David.*


So, to all of you, Happy Independence Day--yesterday, today, tomorrow,

and ever after.  To celebrate, we've sent off, not fireworks, but

something a little more exhilarating, colorful, and yes, dangerous:

another edition of The Cup! Go ahead, throw that tea in the harbor,

crack the Liberty Bell, but read The Cup 2.7...or face charges of



(*Karl David was president of the Cayuga Bird Club, not the United

States of America.)


                         @   @    @    @    @     @

                            NEWS, CUES, and BLUES

                           @   @    @    @     @     @


BYE-BYE BIRDER: Sarah Childs, our trusty Summer Intern, has Cupped

and gone.  We at The Cup thank her for her help tallying totals, for

writing witty bits of wisdom to replace the filler the editors

ordinarily resort to, for teaching her brother Darrell how to make a

tuna sandwich, and, most importantly, for restoring our faith that in

every Gen X songster is a Cupper just waiting to hatch.  (Consider

these titles that came to us courtesy of Sarah's CD player: "Fly," by

Sugar Ray; Live's "Turn My Head";  "Fuel My Fire," by Prodigy; "Not an

Addict," by Kay's Choice; Matchbox 20's "Push"--Bill Evans' personal

favorite; Republica's "Drop Dead Gorgeous"--particularly apt in light of

last month's misguided Kentucky Warbler; and our vote for the #1 Gen X

Cupper band--ready?--Mundy!) Sarah leaves us with these parting words

about her summertime stint: "It was a good summer.  I'm especially glad

that I got to see the avocet, especially since some Cuppers didn't.

I'm glad that my younger brother looked at it through the telescope,

too, without too much embarrassing protest.  He just might turn into a

Cupper one of these days.  See you next summer!"


CRAB-HAPPY: The Cup 2.5 reported on the crash of shorebird numbers due

to over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay and implored you

all to join us in writing to New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Apparently her cup ranneth over with letters from concerned Cuppers

(okay, and maybe from others as well.)  Whitman has made the following

proposal: The taking of horseshoe crabs shall be limited to Tuesdays

and Thursdays in May and June, in only back-bay areas, with a 100-crab

daily limit per crabber (still seems high, doesn't it?) The crabs may be

harvested only by hand, and licenses will be limited to only those

crabbers who have held permits for at least two years previous.

Delaware Bay hosts the second-largest concentration of migratory

shorebirds in North America--probably the most important stop on the

highly threatened eastern migratory flyway. Applause to Governor Whitman,

and to all of you who wrote letters, may a Red Knot alight at Myer's

Point in your honor...after the guy who walks his dog there every

morning has come and gone.


STOP THAT SHIP!: Don't put your pencils down just yet!  We at The

Cup have received word that a private developer has purchased an old

yacht club along Florida's Crystal River with plans to turn it into a

restaurant and marina.  He also intends to lease space to a 100-foot

casino ship that will run four trips daily.  This will destroy

critical habitat for the federally endangered West Indian Manatee.

Other plans include two more ships to cruise into Kings Bay--a manatee

winter sanctuary.  To voice your opposition to this stupidity, uh, lack

of good judgement, write to:  Governor Lawton Chiles, The Capitol,

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001 email:

http://www.eog.state.fl,us/cgi-win/mailform.exe.  Or write to Marine

Fisheries Commission, Mr. George R. McElvy,  PO Box 520, Crystal River,

FL  34423-0520; or how about Carol Browner, Environmental Protection

Agency, email:; or even Bruce Babbitt, Secretary

of the Interior Bruce_Babbitt@IOS.DOI.GOV. For more info email:  Now, we know manatees are not birds, but hey, birds,

manatees, humans--we're all one big ecofamily, right?


TALK RADIO: While we're on the subject of national issues, I (Allison),

under humble protest from The Cup's coeditor, must tell you that our own

Jeff Wells was interviewed for "The Environment Show," which airs on

PBS stations throughout the country (though not on ours--phooey!)

Jeff's NYS Important Bird Areas program ( under National Audubon),

was featured for its proactive approach to conservation--identifying

lands that meet IBA criteria and working with other concerned groups

statewide to develop smart management plans.  His 6-minute segment

aired July 26, but you can access it on the Web at


MUCKING THINGS UP: Among those IBA's is Montezuma NWR.  What better way

to celebrate that than to put together a team for the 1st Annual

Montezuma Muckrace! The object of the Muckrace is for each team to

identify as many bird species as possible in a 24-hour period (midnight

to midnight, Saturday, September 6th) within the boundaries of

the Northern Montezuma Wetland Complex.  The event is sponsored by

Owasco Valley Audubon, USFWS, National Audubon Society of NYS,

Cornell Lab of O, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. Teams must

consist of three or more birders. Minimum registration fee, er,

donation for affiliated teams is $100 ($50 for unaffiliated teams.) ALL

monies raised will go directly to a bird-related project within the

Complex. Currently, a Purple Martin house, a bluebird trail and

additional Wood Duck boxes are being planned for the refuge.  Also, a

new tract of recently acquired agricultural land is slated to be seeded

to encourage grassland birds.  Prizes include memberships to the RTPI,

and the  Lab of O, framed Peterson prints, the new Stokes CD of Eastern

Bird Sounds (by Lang Elliot), gift certificates, bird houses and more.

For a complete set of rules and boundaries or to register your team,

contact: Owasco Valley Audubon, Bill Grow, President, 2342 Kijowski

Road Auburn, NY 13021.


RUMOR HAS IT: Just think what participating in the Muckrace will do

not only for the good of Montezuma but also for your David Cup totals!

Think hard, because the rumors you've been hearing are true: fabulous

prizes will in fact be awarded this year to David Cup Top Ten finishers!

What exactly will these prizes be? Shiny new Ford Explorers?  Well, no.

But consider the prestige factor, not to mention press releases, photo

ops, interviews with national publications...maybe.


MEGAN UPDATE: How did Megan "Puffin" Runge fare during the month of

July? Here's what Daddy Michael has for us: "As for my excuse, er,

report this month...Megan and I did manage to get out and see

the avocet.  Megan, now at 6 months and 27 inches, seemed to enjoy her

first trip out to the end of the white lighthouse jetty, although the

pebbles were more interesting than the scenery and the birds.  I can't

say that she was able to tick off the avocet, as it certainly didn't meet

the Five-foot Rule.  However, she did keep saying, "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah,"

which is her word for avocet, so I thought maybe she wanted to swim over

to the other jetty to see it.  But since in the last issue 'Dear Tick'

questioned her qualifications as a puffin, she's lost a little confidence

in the long-distance swimming events.  Alas."


BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Guess who was in Dundee on July 21?

Koko Taylor, a leading lady--if not THE leading lady--of the blues!

Guess who wasn't there to hear her?  Any of you!  Jim Lowe and the

Wells had an IAJB gig that day, but, Ken Rosenberg, what's your excuse?

And you, Kevin McGowan? Listen, you all get another chance, she'll be

performing on August 16 in Norwich. Although the Wells have an IAJB gig

that afternoon, we're hoping her performance will take place in the

evening, maybe giving us time to catch it.  Anyone besides Ken interested

in joining us? E-mail (or call us) and hopefully we'll have more details

(where, how much, etc.) by then.


:>  :>  :>  :>  :> :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>  :>

                          BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS

                               By Tom Nix


      Imagine. It is dark. In the east ahead the sky is lightening, and

the features of the forested land below, so unlike the flat high plains

of your home, are becoming more distinct. You, having flown all night

(for you are indeed a bird) are weary and would love to find a mudflat,

a tidal marsh, or a beach for a rest, and some muddy water to sieve for

those crustaceans you so love. Your low, arrow-like flight has brought

you fifteen hundred miles from home, and in nearly the opposite

direction from the normal fall flight of your kind. Most of them leave

the continent's interior to drift toward the Gulf of California or to

Central America and the Caribbean. To be sure, there have been a few of

the old ones who found their way to the big eastern ocean, and even

fewer who returned to tell of it. But wait! The land is changing below;

you cross long narrow bands of water. You choose one band, a large one,

searching along the near shore for a beach. There is none. You try the

next band, even bigger. Only high cliffs and houses, forests right down

to the water. Desperately tired, you turn south, and at the end of the

water there is a human city, to be avoided for sure. Yet you are dead

tired, and you must land to rest for a while, so you choose the

only available refuge, a long and very low breakwater with a curious

red light at the end. So mesmerizing, that red light; so tired, your

wings. You close your eyes.....

      Imagine. You have been coming to Stewart Park religiously nearly

every morning all year. Sure you have turned up some good birds, and

your McIlroy list rivals the best David Cup lists, but you have yet to

find that big one...a real Good Bird. You get out of the car and give

a cursory scan with the bins. Just the usual. Set up the ol' Swarovski

to check out the distant ones. Pan right to left: Mallards, Mallards,

Mallards. Check out the light house jetty, and there it is: Unmistakable

silhouette--upturned bill; long, thick neck, long legs. Your heart rate

jumps as you zoom in to 60X and you whisper to yourself: Avocet. Avocet!!

      And I wonder, did Steve Kelling (and Stephen Davies) jump up and

down when he saw that avocet in mid-month? A short pumping of the fist?

What a Great Bird!  Many other shorebirds, some making far longer

journeys than an avocet, began moving in July. Kevin and Jay McGowan

counted another McIlroy coup with a Baird's Sandpiper at the Stewart

Park lakeside. This uncommon shorebird would make a Cupper's day at

Montezuma, let alone in the C.O. Ithaca. Montezuma later on that is,

when they (I hope, I hope) lower the water levels in Mays Point. With

high water levels at the Basin's best shorebird spot, birders had to

make do with patiently waiting for Spring Pool's largely hidden waders

to show themselves or don hard hats to visit the construction sight at

the bridge in the middle of the mucklands. Intrepid Cuppers Davies and

David led the length-of-the-lake charge to see the first returning Least

Sandpipers and such species as Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper,

Short-billed Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpiper, both yellowlegs and Sanderling.

Looking at that sorry mudflat out in the middle of all those beans and

corn, or seeing the peeps queued up on the lighthouse jetty, one realizes

just how little habitat for shorebirds there is around here--just tiny

dots on a great, big map. One realizes again just how important Montezuma

really is.

     The Steves, both lovers of the pale and gray (or grey?), were

disseminating reports of Bonaparte's Gulls and Forster's Terns, while

just about anyone who took the time could see dozens of Caspian Terns at

the south end of the lake. John Greenly and Father Karl strove to outdo

each other with Myers tern sightings, scoring both Common and Forster's.

Ring-billed numbers soared, and a trio of Great Egrets summered just off

the Thruway at MNWR. Ralph Paonessa, who also travels some pretty

remarkable distances, returned to the Basin long enough to rustle up a

pair of Uppies in the underbirded Seneca Airport area.

      Not much to report toward the last half of the checklist. Chris

Hymes reported Acadian Flycatcher on Howland Island, but that's about

all. Now is the time to grab your folding stool and spend some serious

time scoping out the shorebirds, maybe salute them as they cruise by on

their amazing journey. And then when we're done we can rest our weary,

scope-burned eyes on the soothing drab green of those confusing fall warblers.


100      100      100      100      100      100       100       100

                             100 CLUB

100      100       100       100       100       100       100     100


[Sign on 100 Club door:] "Please sign this petition to have the

100 Club moved down to the lighthouse jetty--Bill Evans."


Geo Kloppel's BIRD 100: "I have no idea what #100 might have been,

that was back in May, when I could still see the birds without the

enumerated checkmarks!"

HOPED OR THOUGHT IT WOULD BE: Excused from answering this

portion of questionnaire (see quote above.)


200         200          200          200           200           200

                                2     0    0

      200          200                            200           200


Due to the recent influx, however slight, of new members, former

contractor extraordinaire Tom Nix built an addition onto the 200 Club.

Unfortunately, when we said, "How 'bout a nice office, for member

registration?" he thought we said, "closet, for members misbehavin'."

So there's more room, but not a lot--you better get yourself in here

before it reaches full capacity!  (By the way, that closet?  It's full.)


John Greenly's BIRD 200: Forster's Tern

"That makes up for my cowbird 100th!"

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: His state-of-the-art pocket Cup calculator


Chris Hymes' BIRD 200: Lesser Yellowlegs

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: His season pass to Howland Island


Steve Kelling's BIRD 200: Semipalmated Sandpiper

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: The shorebirds he stole from Myer's Point


Jeff Wells' BIRD 200: Lesser Yellowlegs

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: His blue mug for drinking vanilla almond tea


<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>




219 Tom Nix                            213 Tom Nix

215 Stephen Davies                     211 Stephen Davies

211 Kevin McGowan                      206 Ken Rosenberg

210 Ken Rosenberg                      204 Kevin McGowan

209 Steve Kelling                      202 Jay McGowan

209 Allison Wells                      202 Allison Wells

208 Jay McGowan                        199 Chris Hymes

205 John Greenly                       198 John Greenly

204 Jeff Wells                         197 Jeff Wells

202 Chris Hymes                        194 Steve Kelling

198 Karl David                         189 Karl David

195 Matt Medler                        189 Bard Prentiss

189 Bard Prentiss                      188 JR Crouse

188 JR Crouse                          187 Meena Haribal

187 Anne Kendall-Cassella              187 Matt Medler

187 Meena Haribal                      186 Anne Kendall-Cassella

181 John Bower                         167 John Bower

169 Bill Evans                         158 Michael Pitzrick

159 Geo Kloppel                        150 Bill Evans

158 Michael Pitzrick                   150 Marty Schlabach

150 Marty Schlabach                    124 Jim Lowe

137 Jim Lowe                           123 Michael Runge

135 Margaret Launius                   122 Margaret Launius

130 Michael Runge                      120 David McDermitt

120 David McDermitt                    115 Anne James

115 Anne James                         109 Martha Fischer

109 Martha Fischer                     106 Chris Butler

106 Chris Butler                       102 Caissa Willmer

104 Caissa Willmer                      89 Andy Farnsworth

  89 Andy Farnsworth                     85 Casey Sutton

  85 Casey Sutton                        68 Cathy Heidenreich

  68 Cathy Heidenreich                   68 Diane Tessaglia

  68 Diane Tessaglia                     67 Jane Sutton

  67 Jane Sutton                         61 Rob Scott

  64 Sarah Childs                        59 Dave Mellinger

  61 Rob Scott                           46 Larry Springsteen

  59 Dave Mellinger                      42 Sam Kelling

  46 Larry Springsteen                   40 Mira the Bird Dog

  42 Sam Kelling                         37 Taylor Kelling

  40 Mira the Bird Dog                    0 Ned Brinkley

  37 Taylor Kelling                       0 Sarah Childs

   5 Ralph Paonessa*                      0 Ralph Paonessa

   0 Ned Brinkley*


*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate or have made a temporary

return to Basin within the 1997 David Cup year.  They sent in their

totals because it's in the script.




184 Steve Kelling                     182 Steve Kelling

182 Allison Wells                     179 Allison Wells

175 Stephen Davies                    173 Stephen Davies

174 Jeff Wells                        172 Jeff Wells

157 John Bower                        156 JR Crouse

156 JR Crouse                         152 John Bower

152 Kevin McGowan                     147 Kevin McGowan

136 Tom Nix                           136 Tom Nix

130 Jay McGowan                       134 Ken Rosenberg

130 Matt Medler                       128 Jay McGowan

129 Karl David                        127 Matt Medler

116 Anne Kendall-Cassella             123 Karl David

115 Michael Runge                     114 Anne Kendall-Cassella

111 Bill Evans                        107 Michael Runge

110 Jim Lowe                          106 Jim Lowe

  97 Martha Fischer                     97 Martha Fischer

  83 Chris Butler                       94 Bill Evans

  70 Casey Sutton                       83 Chris Butler

  66 Jane Sutton                        70 Casey Sutton

  57 Dave Mellinger                     66 Jane Sutton

  51 Rob Scott                          57 Dave Mellinger

  50 Sarah Childs                       51 Rob Scott

  46 Larry Springsteen                  46 Larry Springsteen

  40 Mira the Bird Dog                  40 Mira the Bird Dog

   0 Ned Brinkley*                       0 Ned Brinkley

   0 Ralph Paonessa*                     0 Sarah Childs


*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate or have made a temporary

return to Basin during the 1997 David Cup year.  They sent in their

totals because it's in the script.


THE EVANS TROPHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Named in honor of the late Dick Evans--beloved local birder, esteemed

Cayuga Bird Club president, and friend to many--the Evans Trophy will be

awarded for the highest Dryden total...even if Ken Rosenberg wins from

his bathroom window.


188  Ken Rosenberg

178  Bard Prentiss

171  Kevin McGowan

165  Jay McGowan

126  Anne Kendall-Cassella

108  Matthew Medler


Kevin McGowan's Lansing total:   JULY: 149   JUNE: 147




By Karl David


Six Nix additions to his June list were enough to keep him on top of

the heap, but don't look back, Tom...the pack is bunching up behind

you! Here's the list of 219 birds to take aim at:


Common Loon, P-b, Horned & R-n grebes, D-c Cormorant, American &

Least bitterns, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Tundra &

Mute swans, Greater W-f, Snow & Canada geese, Wood Duck, G-w Teal,

American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal,

Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Eurasian & American wigeons, Canvasback,

Redhead, R-n Duck, Greater & Lesser scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter,

Common & Barrow's goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded, Common & R-b

mergansers, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern

Harrier, S-s & Cooper's hawks, Northern Goshawk, R-s, R-t & R-l

hawks, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, R-n Pheasant, Ruffed

Grouse, Wild Turkey, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, American

Coot, Killdeer, Greater & Lesser yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted &

Upland sandpipers, Sanderling, Semipalmated, Least & Pectoral

sandpipers, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, S-b Dowitcher, Common Snipe,

American Woodcock, Bonaparte's, R-b, Herring, Iceland, Lesser B-b,

Glaucous, Great B-b & Thayer's gulls, Caspian, Common & Black terns,

Rock & Mourning doves, B-b Cuckoo,  Eastern Screech-, Great Horned,

Barred, L-e, S-e and Northern S-w owls, Common Nighthawk,

Whip-poor-will, Chimney Swift, R-t Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher,

R-h & R-b woodpeckers, Y-b Sapsucker, Downy & Hairy woodpeckers,

Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian,

Alder, Willow & Least flycatchers, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested

Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree,

Northern R-w, Bank, Cliff & Barn swallows, Blue Jay, American & Fish

crows, Common Raven, B-c Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, R-b & W-b

nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Carolina, House, Winter, Sedge & Marsh

wrens, G-c & R-c Kinglets, B-g Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Veery,

G-c, Swainson's, Hermit & Wood thrushes, American Robin, Gray

Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, American Pipit, Cedar

Waxwing, Northern Shrike, European Starling, B-h, Y-t, Warbling,

Philadelphia & R-e vireos, B-w, Tennessee & Nashville warblers,

Northern Parula, Yellow, C-s, Magnolia, Cape May, B-t Blue, Y-r, B-t

Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Prairie, Palm, B-b, Blackpoll, Cerulean &

B-and-w Warblers, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird,

Northern & Louisiana waterthrushes, Mourning Warbler, Common

Yellowthroat, Hooded, Wilson's & Canada warblers, Scarlet Tanager,

Northern Cardinal, R-b Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee,

American Tree, Chipping, Field, Vesper, Savannah, Grasshopper,

Henslow's, Fox, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, W-t & W-c Sparrows, D-e

Junco, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Bobolink, R-w Blackbird,

Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, B-h Cowbird,

Orchard & Baltimore orioles, Purple & House finches, American

Goldfinch, House Sparrow.





Five species (all shorebirds) were added to the overall list in July,

bringing the grand total for the year to 247:


R-t Loon, American White Pelican, Cattle & Snowy egrets, B-c

Night-Heron, Ross' Goose, Brant, Black Vulture, B-w Hawk, Peregrine

Falcon, American Avocet, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone,

Baird's Sandpiper, Laughing & Little gulls, Forster's Tern, Y-b

Cuckoo, Snowy Owl, O-s & Y-b flycatchers, W-e Vireo, G-w, W-e &

Kentucky warblers, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak.


(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora. It was ESP,

not prior knowledge, that led him to the jetty on the avocet morning of

July 24. Oh, and some rumor about a McGowan McBaird's Sandpiper. )



                            !   KICKIN' TAIL!  !



What better way to prove you're still being scoped out as a serious David

Cup contender than by being featured in an interview exclusively for

The Cup, even though you only came in second?  Kickin' Tail brings well

deserved honor and recognition to the Cupper who has glassed, scoped,

scanned, driven, climbed, dug, jettied, or otherwise made his/her way to

the top of the David Cup least once.  You remember Stephen

Davies, don't you, from April's Kickin' Tail interview?  Here's a

little something to jar your memory:


THE CUP: Hi, Stephen.  You've probably heard by now that Tom Nix

is the REAL Kickin' Tailer this month...again.  But his picture fell off

the mantel in the 200 Club and smashed to bits (whether or not this

was an accident has yet to be determined.)


DAVIES: It wasn't me, it was Ken Rosenberg.  I saw him reclining suavely

against the mantle, large G&T in one hand, long, smouldering Cuban

Special Export in the other.  Made it look like an accident but...


THE CUP: What?  How awful!  Why, we had no idea he was a stogie

puffer! Anyway, we didn't dare face Tom, so we're turning to you, our

only other 1997 KT leader, for the interview. (We'll wind you up with a

few questions but feel free to take off whenever you like.)


DAVIES: Hold it right there.  I won't be taking anything off or dancing

on the tables in the 200 Club just yet--still plenty of time left in DC

'97, you know.


THE CUP: No, no, we want you to save that for the Cupper Supper.

Stephen, for months now we've all been anticipating your retoppling of

Tom Nix, yet that hasn't happened.  What's holding you back? Are you

afraid of success?


DAVIES:  Well, you know me.  Shy, retiring, reserved.


THE CUP: That's what you'd have us think.


DAVIES: Actually, truth is, Tom has put in an unbeatable performance

so far.  I guess we're all waiting to see if he will sustain the

intensity through to the end of the year.  It will be very exciting if

he does.


THE CUP: Alright, enough with the obligatory nice guy talk.  Go on,

rip into him, you know you want to.


DAVIES: He must stand a chance of setting a new Basin record, with so

many fine birds on his DC '97 list?


THE CUP: Ouch.  That was a low blow.  Speaking of leaders, you were

were the first, or among the first, to see the avocet the morning of

July 24.  Would you describe for us what that was like, walking out to

the jetty (for the umpteenth time), setting up scope and finally seeing

something worth breathing in all that boat exhaust for?


DAVIES: The jetty is an unpredictable kind of place and I always feel a

certain amount of anticipation as I make the trek out.  Guess that's one

reason why I'm addicted to this interface of sky, water and concrete.


THE CUP: How romantic!


DAVIES: It's a kinda spiritual experience, man.


THE CUP: Or too much boat exhaust.


DAVIES: In many respects, the jetty birding experience is symbolic of

all birding endeavors: you put in the effort and sometimes something

speaks to your soul at the end.


THE CUP: Just think of how many more birds you might see if you

weren't out there meditating.


DAVIES: As I recall, 24 July was a calm, overcast, foreboding type of

morning, kinda made you feel like something unexpected might

materialize.  That day it happened to be an avocet.  Not really a

thunderbolt from on high, but definitely a sign.  By the way, that was a

very fine 'twitcher's walk' you, Jeff and Karl were doing as I passed

you on my way back.


THE CUP: That was you?  We all thought it was one of the monks of

Santo Domingo (albeit in a rippin' leather jacket.) Have you heard yet

whether or not Tom Nix saw the avocet?


DAVIES: I assume he did.


THE CUP: [This just in: Tom Nix did NOT see the avocet.  Repeat: He

did NOT see the avocet. (Poor Tom.)]


DAVIES: The bird sort of cheapened itself by sticking around all day.


THE CUP: Yes, John Bower even got it, can you believe it? So, what kind

of binoculars do you use, and did you buy them with the money the

Sapsuckers paid you for scouting for their Big Day?


DAVIES: I have a beat-up old pair of Swifts, which have been a faithful

and thoroughly dependable companion for 15 years, having survived

numerous drops, soakings and other mishaps.  I'm very attached to

them, emotionally and physically.  Sadly, I think they are on their last

legs so I may need to retire them soon.


THE CUP: Perhaps a David Cup Hall of Fame is in order?


DAVIES: My scope is a Kowa, again the poor man's version. Payment

for scouting came in the form of lots of birding, good company and

Tastykakes--not readily exchangeable for new optics.


THE CUP: Perhaps not.  Are you missing any should-haves? (Don't tell

anybody, but we've heard that Jeff Wells is missing Prairie Warbler.



DAVIES: Acadian Flycatcher springs to mind.  Golden Eagle and

goshawk are painfully absent from my DC list, too.  This is just

between you and me, right?


THE CUP: Of course. How many times this year have you seen Bill

Evans out on the jetty?  Does he share his coffee with you?


DAVIES: Bill is just getting back into jetty mode in preparation for

fall migration.  I'm looking forward to communing and braving the waves

with him on a regular basis over the next few months.


THE CUP: Aside from pushing Bill into an oncoming roller, what's your

strategy for getting back to the top?  Do you anticipate stonkers [see

Scrawl of Fame, this issue] to play a part in this? (By the way, is it

true that the way the Queen of England actually decides whether or not

someone is worthy of knighthood depends on the number of stonkers

they've found?)


DAVIES: Fall is the most unpredictable, and to my mind, the most

exciting time of year.  I suspect the Basin may yield a few more

stonkers before the year is up and these birds will probably be the

major factor in determining who will come out on top at the end of

the year.  I'm planning on trying to get out as much as I can, keeping

abreast of the common stuff and seeing what else I can kick up, er, I

mean dig up.  As far as knighthood is concerned, I thought everybody

knew that KBE stood for Knighted Birder Extraordinaire?


THE CUP: We do now. Thank you, Stephen, you've been gracious. Do

you feel used?


DAVIES:  Horribly--and I love it.  Smoke me a kipper--I'll be back

for breakfast!




                             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.  What color are the lores of a breeding Snowy Egret?

2.  Which bird digs the longest burrow, and what is the length of the

longest burrow on record?

3.  Which bird seeks blood on which to feed, and how does it obtain it?

4.  Which hummingbird occurs the farthest south?

5.  What is the scientific name of the Blue-throated Starfrontlet (a


6.  What is the only bird in the genus Mniotilta?

7.  The American Ornithologists' Union recently split the genus Parus

into six genera. What is the new genus of the Black-capped Chickadee,

and other chickadees?

8.  What local bird insists upon using snake skin in its nest?

9.  What is the common name for Lamprotornis nitens?

10. Song Sparrows and House Sparrows are both called sparrows, but are

not related. Which one is really a sparrow, and what is the other one?




1. Which North American cuckoo likes to eat snakes?  The Greater

Roadrunner. These large cuckoos live on the southwest part of the U.S.,

and down into Mexico.

2. Which North American bird builds the biggest nest, and how big is it?

The Bald Eagle builds the largest nest.  One pair of eagles were said to

build a nest over ten feet across weighing almost two tons!  Eagles

generally add on to the nest a bit every year, and usually use only one

nest, so their nests get to be pretty big.

3. Which bird has the longest scientific name, and what is it?  The

Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher.  This brown and gray bird has 35 letters in

its scientific name and lives in South America.  Its scientific name is

Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus (and I thought Corvus

brachyrhynchos was long!)  It is sometimes put in the genus

Empidonomus, but even then it has 32 letters, and is still the longest

scientific bird name anywhere.

4. Which is the smallest North American swift, and how much does

it weigh? Vaux's Swift weighs only 17 grams (0.6 oz.).

5. What is the common name for Sialia currucoides?  Mountain Bluebird.

6. Why are the birds in the genus Indicator called honeyguides?  Because

these relatives of the woodpecker lead large mammals, including people, to

bee hives.   They hope the mammal will open up the hive for honey, and

they will get to eat the honey comb and bee larvae.

7. What is the largest falcon?  The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon.  A

female weighs about 4.6 lbs and is 22 inches long from head to tail.

8. Which bird that breeds in New York is polyandrous (one female has

several mates, and defends the territory, and the male sit on the eggs

and take care of the young)?  Spotted Sandpiper.

9. Which bird has the longest bill, and how long is it?  The male

Australian White Pelican. Its bill length may reach 19 inches (48.3 cm).

10. Which two North American wood-warblers walk, not hop, on the

ground? The Connecticut Warbler and the Ovenbird.  These secretive

warblers walk on the ground, which not many other North American

warblers do.


(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. He and his family recently

adopted a kitten they named Swift.  It is yet to be determined whether

Jay or Swift is the better birder.)



                     STAT'S ALL, FOLKS

                       By Karl David



      You may not believe it, but this inveterate lister actually made do

with a rather makeshift life list until this year, when he sprung for

the Fifth Edition (1996) of the ABA Checklist, incorporating the most

recent taxonomic changes (three Scrub-Jays at Kevin's bribing, etc.).

Checking off all the species I've seen, and writing in the place and

date, was a powerful, but pleasant, exercise in recovered memories.

      Until I got the checklist, I didn't know too much about the

"birding code" that the ABA Checklist Committee supplies to every bird

on the list. This is an integer from 1 to 6 which indicates, in the

Committee's opinion, how easy or difficult the bird is to observe. The

higher the number, the harder to find. Thus, Chimney Swift is a "Code-1

Bird," whereas Great Auk is Code 6. Not only officially extinct birds

are Code 6, by the way; birds last seen in the ABA area over 100 years

ago have also been given this designation (Bumblebee Hummingbird, for

example, was last seen in Ramsey Canyon, AZ, in 1896, as this

wonderfully information-packed checklist informs me). I can think of

one historical loose end here, though: if you look at the final edition

of Peterson's eastern guide, you see an inset of King Vulture,

reportedly seen for the first and only time in Florida around 1730 by

(I believe) William (John?) Bartram. King Vulture, however, doesn't

even appear on the checklist. Does anyone know the history behind this?

      Okay, where do the statistics come in? Well, I thought I'd see how

my list broke down by way of how many birds I'd seen in each

category. Intrigued by the result, I then went back to the checklist

and classified all the birds in it by code. The results:


Code       1        2       3      4       5     6     total

Me        407      52      17      6       2     0      484

Not-me     61      98      40     77     134    12      422

Total     468     150      57     83     136    12      906


      Some observations: First,  my data, for Codes 2 through 5, almost

perfectly fits an inverse exponential curve (a.k.a. "exponential decay.")

This is so because the number recorded for each of these codes is

almost exactly one-third of the number for the preceding code.  Of

course, Code 1 provides a definite "outlier," i.e., exception, to this

trend. Second, notice that the total distribution is far different. For

Codes 1 through 3, it is still roughly inverse exponential, but then

the numbers go up again for 4 and 5. Why are there so many Code 5 birds,

and why have I seen so few of them?

      A good analogy, in my humble opinion, is the list Sports

Illustrated printed years ago of all of the baseball pitcher Nolan

Ryan's strikeout victims, on the occasion of his setting the all-time

strikeout record. Not only were they all listed, but the number of

times he struck each of them out was also given. Furthermore, the

list was ordered with his most frequent strikeout victim first, and

those he'd struck out only once last. So, which number of strikeouts

had the most victims associated with it? One, of course, by an

overwhelming margin. Most major leaguers have relatively brief careers.

And when you find out that Code 5 birds mostly comprise the accidentals,

which pretty much means birds with total records comfortably in the

single digits, it's not at all surprising there are so many of them.

Out there on the Aleutian Islands, or just north of the border,

Mexico-way, they're being added to the list at the rate of two or three

a year ... definitely THE growth category on the ABA Checklist.

      Why I have so few Code 5 birds is of course easily explainable.

People with little money, or little time, or a fear of flying, do not

have very many Code 5 birds ... and I fit two of those three categories.

For the record, my Code 5 birds are Western Reef-Heron and Whiskered


      Thinking about all this, I realized something else. Have you ever

noticed that the Mexican specialties mostly turn up in Texas or

Arizona? Duh, look at a map. Surprise! They have the longest borders

with Mexico. But ... New Mexico and California still have a

substantial Mexican interface, yet my impression is that, especially

in the case of California, not very many southern rarities show up

there. If my impression is correct, why is that?

      For me personally, the most discouraging number in my chart is 61:

the number of Code 1 birds I haven't seen. I would have sworn, before I

undertook this exercise, that there would have been far more. I've

only gone on four western birding junkets, and three of those were in

the winter. How could there be so few easy birds left?

      So what do I think is my "best" bird, now that I've studied the

codes? Both my Code 5 birds were reported birds I chased, of course.

For Code 4, they're all either chasers or seabirds seen on pelagic

trips, so they weren't unexpected. Now, on one memorable trip I did

happen to be the first person on the boat to spot the White-tailed

Tropicbird, but within seconds everybody was on it, so that's not

quite satisfying enough. We have to dip down to Code 3 to find my

favorite: Yellow Rail. Almost everything about this bird was "right":

it was totally unexpected, and I found it myself ... a fall migrant

flushed near the edge of a goldenrod and teasel patch on the fringes

of the Pyramid Mall back in 1990. I said "almost" perfect, because

unfortunately no one else saw it, though a group of us formed a conga

line through the patch hoping, in vain of course, to put it back up.

      The 1996 ABA Checklist is a moment frozen in time in the history of

North American birding. As I write, Basin "wayward son" Ned Brinkley

and others are working hard at adding new species, such as Fea's

Petrel, to the next edition. I can't wait!


(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)



                            SCRAWL OF FAME


                           "A 'Stoinking' Mess"


                            by Stephen Davies


On the morning of July 24th, the editors' adopted "kid brother" was

overheard--again--dropping the word, "stoinker," as in, "That avocet's

a real stoinker!"  Since Matt (Medler) takes great pleasure in

"casually" mentioning that this is a little something he picked up in

Europe, we, in a shameless lash of sibling rivalry, asked resident

Brit Cupper Stephen Davies for the definitive word on this whole

stoinking mess:


"I think the word Matt is referring to is 'stonker,' but I can

understand how he might have thought it was pronounced 'stoinker' had

he, say, spent too much time hanging around with Scandinavian birders

(easily identified by the fact that they always go by the name of Lars

or Klaus). So, if you were birding at Falsterbo, Sweden, you might

overhear someone saying, '*%#@$&* Franklinsmas!!  Vot ein stoinkker!!!'

Whereas if you were birding at Cley on the English east coast, you

might overhear 'Bleedin' 'eck gov!  Cop a load of that Franklin's Gull!

Wot a stonker!!'  Then seconds later, you would be deafened by the sound

of hundreds of pagers all going off simultaneously as the nation is

informed that a Franklin's Gull has just been discovered in Norfolk.

'Stonker,' or 'stonking,' is usually used to describe something

excellent, big or obvious--or all three.  Thus, it could be said that

Tom Nix has a stonking DC '97 list, by virtue of the fact that it is

bigger than everybody else's.  A Franklin's Gull would definitely be a

stonker on account of its rarity.  A Great Black-headed Gull would be a

stonker because it is both big and rare.   Field marks can also be

stonking.  For example, 'Look at the stonking white tips to the retrices

on that Pallas Grasshopper Warbler!'"


Thanks, Stephen.  You're a real stonker!


(Stephen Davies is in the vet school at Cornell University.  He is

currently devising a plan to make "Birding the Lighthouse Jetty 101"

part of his required curriculum.)


If you have an opinion--or insider information--about the art, science,

and/or esthetics of birding or birding-related topics, write it up for

the Scrawl of Fame.)





                      <  COACH'S CORNER        <

                     <           <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

                     <           <

                      <         <

                        < < < <


He edits the Kingbird Region III.  He's concocted a website where

birders can register their Basin records


He's even devised his own shorebird timeline--and he shares it, even,

on his website!  To top it all off, he's now working at the Lab of

Ornithology.  Who better than Steve Kelling to serve as Coach during the

shorebirdy month of August?  Pay attention...and polish up your scope.


COACH KELLING: One of the most exciting birding events of August

is the annual draw down of May's Point Pool at the Montezuma National

Wildlife Refuge and the subsequent use of the mudflats by migrating

shorebirds.  On a given day in mid- to late-August, over 15 species of

shorebirds can be observed at May's Point Pool.  But first a little


      Prior to the mid-70's the Main Pool at MNWR was drawn down so

that the entire Main Pool was a large mud flat.  Walter Benning (yes,

the same guy whose name you see on the sign at Benning Marsh) had noted

that tremendous numbers of shorebirds used this mudflat.  For example,

on several occasions he estimated that there were over 2000

Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding on the mudflat.  The best place for

shorebirding was from the tower at the Main Pool.  During the mid-70's,

Purple Loosestrife (a very invasive ornamental shrub) began to envelop

the refuge.  It was noted that loosestrife needed barren mudflats

to germinate its seeds. Furthermore, once the seed germinated it was

practically impossible to get rid of.  So the staff at MNWR had to stop

their practice of annually drawing down the mudflats.  Purple

Loosestrife releases its seeds in early August, so it is not until

mid-August that water levels can be lowered at the refuge, without suffering

the consequences of having a fresh crop of Purple Loosestrife.  This is

why there is so much water at MNWR through mid-August. Thanks to

recently retired refuge manager Gene Hocutt, a program was begun at the

refuge that would at least provide habitat for migrating shorebirds

beginning in mid-August and extending through November. Gene initiated

the annual draw down at Mays Point Pool.  Consequently during the peak

of shorebird migration over 1000 individuals can be observed at May's

Point Pool on any given day.  This by far is the greatest influx of

shorebirds that could be observed at any one location in New York State

away from Long Island.

      The best time to see shorebirds at the Montezuma refuge is during

the last week of August and the first two weeks of September. It is at

this time that up to 18 species of shorebirds have been seen there at

one time. Yellowlegs, predominately Lesser, and Semipalmated Sandpipers

are the most common birds at this time, but also look for high numbers of

Pectoral Sandpipers and a few Baird's Sandpipers.

      The place to be at the refuge is at May's Point Pool.  Since the

corral at May's Point pool provides a southeast view of the mud flats,

don't go there in the morning on a sunny day.  Shorebird viewing is

always at a bit of a distance at May's Point (you will need a scope)

and distant shorebird profiles while looking into the sun is not very

enjoyable.  So go in the afternoon.  I like to get there around 3 PM.

Then the light conditions are optimal and one can spend a pleasant

several hours watching the activities of the mudflats.

      Benning Marsh, when conditions are right, provides some good

close-up shorebirding.  Unfortunately, you cannot get out of your car

at Benning, but with a good window mount in the car you can get some

great views of shorebirds.

      While shorebirding, always keep your eyes out for other birds.

Peregrine Falcons and Merlin always seem to appear when shorebird

numbers are high. Waterfowl begin to come in numbers and you might be

able to spot a Eurasian Wigeon or some such.  And the swallow numbers

are extraordinary. Late  August and September is the best time to bird

at Montezuma.  The more you are able to get up there, the more you'll

agree that the refuge is the best place to bird in New York State

outside of Long Island.


(Steve Kelling works is a computer specialist at the Cornell Laboratory

of Ornithology.  Rumor has it he recently lost prime McIlroy real estate

near the top of the Cornell Theory Center.)



mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm    McILROY MUSINGS   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



"What?  John Bower's being featured in this month's McIlroy Musings?

But he's nowhere near the top of the heap!"  We know, we know, but...


THE CUP: Hi, John, nice of you to join us this month, even though

you're not exactly kickin' Mctail.  Sometimes, you just gotta rearrange

the furniture, you know?  You walk into the house and there's that same

darned chair again, staring you in the face.  We at The Cup would never

toss fearless leader Steve Kelling into the dumpster, but, we're

not against moving him to the other side of the room for a bit, you

know what we mean?  And since you're a one-time leader, and you've been

gone so long.  You started out with so much promise, then, nothing.

Nadda. Fizz. Hush. Where's John-John. Like, that must be SO embarrassing

for you.  How have you been dealing with this?


BOWER: I thought my record-breaking January total would land corporate

sponsors like those Sapsuckers have.  But when Swarovski and Kowa

failed to come through, I knew I was sunk.  There's just no way to pick

off Baird Sandpipers on the jetty without corporate-sponsored optics!

Since then, dear editors, to be honest, I have taken to drinking.


THE CUP: You mean those were your empties in the Lab of O mailroom?

We thought they were Matt Medler's. How have things been between you

and Bill Evans since your fall from McIlroy grace?


BOWER: I'd be lying if I said things aren't a little stressed between

Bill and me. Last fall Bill spent every waking hour at the end of the

lighthouse jetty to sneak above my McIlroy total.  As I (the

responsible type) drove up Route 13 to the Lab of O each morning, I'd

look down there and think they'd added a second lighthouse to the jetty.

But when I checked it out one very foggy morning--the second lighthouse

turned out to be Bill in his oversized red overalls.


THE CUP: Those are some big overalls!


BOWER: The morning I visited him was so foggy you couldn't even see

the water from the jetty, but did that stop Bill?  No way!  Peering up

through his bins into the thick fog, he called off "Pomarine Jaeger"

and "Surf Scoter" and others at a rapid clip.  A desperate man with a

dedicated imagination, how could I possibly stay ahead of him?  Anyway,

every time I see Bill nowadays he laughs this macabre laugh--reminds

me of "Friday the 13th" or something--sounds like he's gearing up for

a repeat performance.


THE CUP: He's talking again, you know, about a "making a big push."


BOWER: This year I've vowed to match Bill's hard working imagination

with hard work of my own. I can tell you (strictly off the record of

course) that come December 31 his total will be a woeful eyesore

compared to mine.


THE CUP: If not, you can blame it on your Song Sparrow research, like

you've been doing all along.  Come on, tell us all about it, you'll

feel better.


BOWER: I study the patterns of communication that occur in a

neighborhood of Song Sparrows when two males are having a territorial

fight.  I put eight microphones around the periphery of a nine-acre

field in Brooktondale, which allows me to simultaneously record the

singing of all 14 male Song Sparrows living in the field.  The short of

it is that before two males duke it out they usually sing a lot (trying

to psych each other out, I suppose.)


THE CUP: Sounds like a certain two Cuppers, let's call them "JB" and



BOWER: The cool thing is that the other Song Sparrows in the

neighborhood often start singing more just before and during the

ensuing battle.  The whole thing reminds me a middle school playground

brawl--two kids talking trash to each other, escalating to a fight,

while everyone else stands around yelling, "Fight! Fight! Fight!"


THE CUP: Yeah, a middle school playground.  Or the David Cup.

They're really the same thing, anyway.  How exactly has this research

interfered with your McIlroy quest? You know, grad studenthood

actually helps other Cuppers (see Stephen Davies, Pilgrim's Progress.)


BOWER:  I realized early on that entering grad school is a great

strategy for winning the David/McIlroy competitions.  One has great

scheduling flexibility  and is required by the grad school to spend a

lot of time procrastinating before completing thesis work--a perfect

set up for birding.  What I didn't realize was that this only works if

you study something other than birds.  You see, someone like Stephen

Davies, who peers through a microscope for a decade or so before

throwing together his little black book, can do his microbe watching at

night.  But me, I'm stuck in the same damned field every morning for

the three most critical months of the year.


THE CUP: (Sniffle, sniffle.) Hanky, please.


BOWER:  My field is in David territory, and I've seen some great birds

there--Prothonotary Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Golden Eagle--but still,

it is only one field!  I haven't told my wife yet, but I am considering

a second Ph.D. in something more amenable to birding, like History of



THE CUP: Is it true you've been sitting on a McHooded Warbler most

of the season? Surely this has elicited  threats from Allison Wells,

who, we understand, does not have a McHooded.)


BOWER: Mr. McHooded showed up in early July.  I heard him singing

almost every day for a month, but have not heard him since the beginning

of August.  It's been great to have him around, though I suspect that he

has not been having much fun.


THE CUP: Sounds like some male bonding is in order for the two of you.

Why don't the two of you rent a movie?  Maybe "Fly Away Home." We've

never seen it, but...


BOWER: As for Ms. Wells, what does she need, a personal invitation

sent by registered mail?


THE CUP: Well...yes.


BOWER: I posted the bird several times on Cayugabirds!


THE CUP: You're a lowdown, dirty liar!


BOWER: I suspect that after that Peregrine flew by her window while

she was doing aerobics in the living room she wouldn't stoop so low as

to drive to the southern edge of town to chase a McHooded.  She'd

probably prefer that her McHooded show up while she's taking a bath

or something.


THE CUP: Hey, she's the reigning McIlroy champion, she's entitled

to a little coddling.


BOWER:  By the way, has anyone ever studied the oxygen stress on

the reliability of bird sightings?


THE CUP: Yes, oxygen stress has been shown to heighten one's awareness

of his/her environment, much the way a cold glass of sangria will.

Now, enough of the sour grapes.  Let's say you save face in the McIlroy

and place in the top half of the pack.  What about the David Cup? Might

you finish in the Top Ten?  (Surely you've heard the rumor, about

fabulous prizes...?)


BOWER:  On December 31, I will be king of the David/McIlroy world!

(Or maybe not).  I did hear that to follow up on last year's Hollywood

theme our humble editors have arranged to give each top Cupper a late

night owl prowl with a famous Hollywood kittycat (tomcat as the case may

be).  Is this true?


THE CUP: A lot of it depends on our budget, so if you'll kindly get out

your checkbook...



                   BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH

                     with Caissa Willmer



      The bird brain I grilled this month is not, it turns out, a Cupper

after all, but she is a regular and insightful contributor to the

CayugaBirds. She suffers tyro birders, with embarrassingly basic

questions, gladly--at least she has suffered my queries like a true

teacher, taking pains to instruct me gently and fully.

      She's Sandy Podulka, and when I asked her, "Who are you

professionally?" she answered: "I always get stuck on tax forms and

other forms, as to what to put in that blank for 叢rofession.'  Sometimes

I put 礎iologist' (that's when I think they don't know what

"ornithologist" means, like on the Federal and State Tax forms).

Sometimes I put 素ield biologist' or 奏eacher.' (禅eacher' is for when

they won't know what 'biologist' means.)  But I suppose what I really am

is an environmental educator. I really want to be a bridge between

science and the public.  So, I seem to have the perfect job, in the

education department of the Lab of O, where I work on the home-study

course and help field questions from the public.  I taught conservation

at TC3 as an adjunct for about eight years, but haven't done that the

last year or so."

      [CW: Here I began plying Sandy with the standard catalogue of

Bird Brain questions.]

      "I've been in love with nature since I was old enough to walk.

Birds were just one part of the natural world I loved, and I remember

being thrilled the first time an Indigo Bunting showed up in 僧y' field.

But butterflies and moths were really my main interest. I spent most

waking hours collecting, pinning, and displaying them.

      "It wasn't until college, when I took a summer course from Bill

Dilger here at Cornell, that I became really entranced with birds,

especially their songs.  I was NOT a morning person.  And this class

met every morning for these stupid bird walks at about 5 am.  I couldn't

believe I had to get up in the dark!  I would show up in long underwear

and my down coat, since it was so cold that early, and then felt really

silly as I walked back to my dorm room around noon, when everyone else

was in shorts and T-shirts.  But, at 5 am, the birds were singing, and

I had no clue who went with the different songs. I suddenly had to know

them all, 5 am became a magical time, and I was hooked for life.

      "I have a home office with big windows looking over a swamp, and

some people think that  I just sit  home all day, watching the birds in

our yard.  But it's not really true. Also, since we have microphones

outside to bring in the bird songs, and since they're hooked up to our

only stereo system, my husband claims he never is allowed to hear the

news in the morning any more.  This is also not true.  He did miss all

world events between late March and late June, but I consented to some

'nonbird' time once all the windows were open in July.

      "I used to be an avid lister. But now I have this silly idea of

turning half an acre of solid clay and rock into flower gardens, and

that doesn't leave a lot of time for running all over to see different

birds. I do keep a life list and a yard list--though I sometimes have

trouble remembering which birds are on my life list (that's not the

only thing I have trouble remembering), but have sort of given up the

year list.  I tend not to run after rarities--mostly because I'm lazy,

but partly because I'd rather go see them where they belong.  I get the

impression sometimes that people think because I'm not in the David Cup,

I don't like listing.  That's really not true. It's more that I'm a sore

loser, so I know I'll only get frustrated.  I find listing fun, exciting,

and a perfectly fine sport.

      "Some listers--call them 'lister-only's'--I think of more as

athletes than as naturalists or scientists. (These are the folks to which

a seen bird is simply a trophy.)  And that's fine, for what it is.

Birding, though, to me includes getting involved with the birds--learning

their habits, habitats, behavior, song, and so on.  It also usually

involves sharing that interest with other people. And, at best (in my

opinion), it includes getting involved in the conservation issues

surrounding birds. I don't think keeping lists, no matter how insanely

or intently (you top 10 competitors in the David Cup, that means YOU),

necessarily precludes the other types of involvement with birds.

      "My own birding passions center around two very different things:

my yard and the tropics.  Living in a house that is somewhat like a

huge bird blind overlooking a swamp and open areas, surrounded by forest,

has given me a great opportunity to watch bird behavior in comfort.

Probably the most fun sights have involved Wild Turkeys.  In spring, we

have displaying males in the yard most days, and we've even seen them

get into a circle facing each other, and then jump toward each other and

straight up--with a great deal of noise. Last week a female brought 10

newborn fluffballs to our feeder--the first time we've had any younger

than 奏eenagers.'  But perhaps the most interesting turkey sight was

watching a juvenile Gray Fox (we had a family in the yard one year)

encounter a mom with teenage turklets.  They each alternately advanced

and retreated, and neither knew quite what to do.

      "As to the tropics, I suppose the most memorable experience was

in the Peruvian Amazon, watching hundreds of parrots and macaws come to

a clay lick. Watching the sky and trees fill with color, and hearing the

din of squawks was breathtaking--even from our distant observation site

across the river.

[CW: Here I interjected the usual plea for some biographical information.]

      "I grew up in Fayetteville--near Syracuse, NY--before the

Fayetteville Mall was there-and studied Wildlife Biology at Cornell. Then

I went to the U. of Maryland at College Park, where I earned an M.S. in

Animal Behavior, studying the song repertoires of Song Sparrows. I hated

the Washington D.C. area (I would have liked it better if I'd had more

time and money to spend at the good ethnic restaurants--now it's a fun

place to visit).  My commute there was 30 minutes that all looked like

Route 13 in Ithaca by the car dealers.  So, I headed back to Ithaca as

soon as possible, and worked as a technician for Steve Emlen at Cornell,

looking at social behavior of White-fronted Bee-eaters.  The birds were

in Africa, but unfortunately I wasn't.  That was fun and interesting for

a while, but I was missing the 'education' part of my goal, so I went to

work at the Cayuga Nature Center as Office Manager.  Not really doing

educating, but at least I was close to it.  From there, I headed to

teaching at TC3, and a part-time job at the Lab of O, first in Bird

Population Studies (data analysis) and now in Education."

      [Another CW interjection: When we were corresponding in May, you

were reluctant to commit yourself to the birdbrain interrogation because

of all the spring birding you anticipated doing.  Please, let us know

how your spring birding turned out this year.]

      "OK, let me tell you about my spring birding. We planted a huge

flower garden and vegie garden, and put in seven large shrubs (down

from about 120 last year) and a bunch of tiny shrubs in our new rock

garden.  Also, I led field trips for Steve Kress's Spring Field

Ornithology. That course is my birding savior: it forces me to leave

the yard and go birding without guilt.

      "We had fantastic warbler days on our property.  Maybe it was luck,

or maybe I paid closer attention to the birds and weather, but we were

treated to a number of fallouts in the woods within five minutes of our

house.  We have had 25 species of warblers so far this year, including

Cape May and Mourning, which we've never seen before.  We had one

amazing day with 20 species!  Most of the views were close-up and

eye-level, and even my husband had trouble leaving to go to work.

      "The other notable spring event was that 'our' Canada Goose pair

finally had a successful nesting--the first since we arrived in 1993-

-raising two young in our yard.  We also had two Baltimore Oriole nests

near the house, and that kept the adults coming to our orange halves

(along with Hairy Woodpeckers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks) up to

about three weeks ago.  My theory that they only eat oranges during

migration was destroyed.


(Caissa Willmer is Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of

Development. She's also theater critic for Ithaca Times.  She may or

may not be daydreaming about American Avocets during staff meetings. )



                        BIRD VERSE



                   (your birdverse here)



                          DEAR TICK



Because birders suffer so many unique trials and tribulations, The Cup

has graciously provided Cuppers with a kind, sensitive and intuitive

columnist, Dear Tick, to answer even the most profound questions, like





Last night I dreamed that I was looking through a barely-adequate scope

at a rich assortment of sandpipers, but instead of striving to discern

those trifling fieldmarks that separate them, in my dream I found I was

just shooting them! I understand that the fathers of ornithology carried

fowling pieces rather than Swarovskis, but I felt a strange certainty

that my intent was not to ID those little birds, it was something more

sinister...(I remember noticing that my tripod's legs terminate in

slender skewers, and I also searched my dream-pockets for matches,

though I do not smoke.) The dream was so shocking that I sat bolt

upright in bed!

      Reassuring myself that it was just a meaningless dream, I laid back

in the dark, and mentally reviewed shorebird fieldmarks to calm myself.

Coming at length to the longed-for "Western" Sandpiper, I caught myself

sniffing at an imagined scent of mesquite-smoke and Tabasco-drippings in

the room.

      I've been a vegetarian for 32 of my 46 years, having concluded long

ago that observing animals was simply more engaging than killing and

eating them (_the_ sizzling interest among my rustic schoolmates way-

back-then). But I'm _not_ some naive "fuzzy-syndrome" or "peaceable-

kingdom" type. Birding adds a wild-quarry savor to vegetarian life, but

I have never lambasted carnivorous naturalists, nor affected airs of

greater holiness merely because the smoke of burnt offerings does not

cling to _my_ robes.

      You can't imagine how disturbing this dream was! I was in such a

stew, I couldn't get back to sleep afterward, so I went downstairs to

raid the fridge. Nothing was there but tofu-dogs, boiled rice and salad

greens! Am I going mad ?

                       --Urgently Need A Spiedie Reply in W. Danby


Dear Urgently in Need of a Spiedie:


How completely and utterly repulsive!  What kind of monster are you?

Only the basest, most deprived sort of person would even consider

putting Tabasco sauce on shorebirds.  Tabasco should be reserved for

large Larids, mergansers and loons.  Shorebirds require a more sensitive

touch--a lemon-basil-poppyseed vinagrette with capers, perhaps, served

with a nice white wine.




I've been reading about the American Avocet that's been disporting

her/himself around the breakwater and the light house. I wasn't able to

get myself out there, though. But I have a fairly intimate acquaintance

with American Avocets--I get to spend a day or so each December

scanning Bolinas Bay in California, where lots of them winter. Seeing

that I can picture the bird in brilliant detail, and I can definitely

visualize what one would look like out by the Cayuga Lake lighthouse,

can I count that for my David Cup list?

                            --Visionary on North Aurora Street

Dear Visionary:


Did you read my reply to The Eviscerator in last month's column?  If

so, you should be acutely aware that feelings of intimacy with a bird

are suggestive of deeper, more serious problems--for the bird, that is.

The last one (Kentucky Warbler) that was the focus of a Cupper's

feelings of intimacy got the warm fuzzies all right--the poor shell of a

bird was stuffed, and I don't mean with a smorgasbord of spiders and

caterpillars. Talk about padding your totals! These avocets, do you

know them inside and out?  Don't let your relationship with them

amount to little more than fluff.  Take heart and save face謡ait, cut

that--oh, shoot--no, no, don't!  I guess what I mean is, don't open this

thing up any further.




The other night I woke up in a cold sweat. I realized I had had a

premonition in my dreams of the passage of Hurricane Ned through

central New York later this season. In my dream, I found a moribund

Fea's Petrel at Long Point State Park. I was faced with a terrible

dilemma: The competitive Cupper in me told me to run to a phone and

try to get others on the bird before it expired. The sensitive nature

lover in me told me to take the bird down to the Vet School in hopes

they could save it. But it got worse. Having just read the two-part

article on the soft-plumaged petrel complex in "Birding," I knew the

bird wasn't even on the official ABA checklist yet. Can we count it,

just in case I am proven to be clairvoyant?

                                --Terror Drama Victim in Aurora

Dear Terror:


If you're really clairvoyant, you'd know that you don't stand a chance

of winning.  I suggest you stop focusing on dream birds and try

counting something a little more sensible--sheep, for example.


(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at


             """""""""       CUP QUOTES      """"""""


"I still don't know much about the flight speed of an unladen African

swallow, but I did make an interesting observation on the way to work

this morning.  I happened to look out my window as I was driving along

Ferguson Road and noticed a hummingbird flying along directly parallel

to my route of travel.  It flew with me for the better part of a housing

lot or so, and was going slightly faster than I was.  I looked at the

speedometer, and I was going just a hair over 30 mph."


                                         --Kevin McGowan


"I wouldn't be surprised if Kevin blazed ahead of the field ...

he seems extremely active. A little father-son competitiveness?

Someone should tell Kevin not to worry...he's still the alpha male in

the family, I think."

                                           --Karl David


"I headed north through the Basin yesterday...At the Savannah Mucklands,

[there were numerous] L Yellowlegs, L Sandpipers, Killdeer, and

Spotted and Solitary  Sandpipers, along with a somewhat manic Yellow

Cropduster who seemed to enjoy terrifying the shorebirds and traffic;

right out of 選ndependence Day' (選'm baaaaack!').  I looked diligently

for Buff-breasted Sandpiper along the edges, and listened for

Rainbow-billed Barking Duck, but found neither."


                                          --Ralph Paonessa


"Too bad I don't have a huge telescope that would help me spot Basin

birds from here!  And because I don't, my July totals are the same as

those of June.  Maybe I'll do better in August."


                                        --JR Crouse [from Gowanda, NY]


"Once a couple evening visits to the swim club area failed to produce

the thrasher, I went this morning. Stepping into the bushes to pick a

few blackcaps caused quite a commotion among the catbirds, grackles,

jays...I watched for a while ...wandered down by the volleyball net,

and suddenly it appeared!...Then at 111 Burdick Hill there was a

completely unexpected N I made a three-mimid sweep

without even trying :-)"

                                        --Geo Kloppel


"At Myers Point this morning (Fri 7/25) were one Sanderling and one

Least Sandpiper."

                                        --Karl David


"Darn, Karl scooped me again! I can confirm the Sanderling and Least

this morning at Myers."

                                        --John Greenly


"We went up to Myer's and saw...two Sanderlings (beating Karl's

first-of-year report by a day--sorry, Father!)"


                                        --Allison Wells


"Sorry to tell you that Jay and I had two Sanderlings on the lighthouse

jetty 21 June."

                                        --Kevin McGowan


"One of my July birds was a gaspin' Caspian--they DO look as

though they're gasping for air, sometimes, as they gawp with those

outrageous bills."

                                        --Caissa Willmer


"Today there were eleven Caspian Terns on the breakwater at Stewart

Park. These were life birds for me, and I was very impressed by their

striking colors, especially in flight."

                                         --Michael Thomas


"No new Ithaca birds for July. I did pick up a number of new lifers,

however, in a nice long bicycle tour of southwest Colorado and

southeast Utah."

                                         --Mike Pitzrick


"No visits to the Basin in July (did Bill Evans have something to do

with this? Enquiring minds want to know), so nothing new to report."


                                         --Dave Mellinger


"I was actually able to get to the Basin 2x's in July and with the help

of Chris Hymes' great directions to Sedge Wren site and Howland WMA

added 13 birds to my Cup total! The Sedge Wren was a life bird."


                                        --Margaret in Mansfield


"The arrival of both American Avocet and Baird's Sandpiper in the

Cayuga Lake Basin certainly has brought to the forefront that the fall

shorebird migration is occurring...Some of the shorebirds that Tim

Gallagher photographed on their nesting grounds in Churchill, Manitoba

this past June almost beat him back to Ithaca.  I am exaggerating of

course, but not by much."

                                         --Steve Kelling


"Well, there was no avocet visible from Stewart Park between 12:15 and

12:45 today (even with my super scope), but there *were* 30 Caspian

Terns and one Common Tern.  Lots of boats as well."


                                         --Laura Stenzler


"I would like a copy of the David Cup report.... The teasers were just

too good."

                                         --John van Niel


"Should we run Anne [Kendall-Cassella]'s quote?"


                                         --Allison Wells

"Sure. Why not?"

                                         --Jeff Wells


"Well, it might appear too self-congratulatory.  People might, you

know, talk."

                                        --Allison Wells


"Of course they will, but that's how you keep your name in the press.

It's an old trick celebrities use.  This will be right up there with

Liz Taylor letting her hair go silver and Elvis coming back from the

dead again."

                                        --Jeff Wells

"In that case..."

                              --Allison Wells (with stars in her eyes)


"The latest version of The Cup was outstanding!  I always enjoy it,

but I found this one especially scintillating.  Beyond the rapier-like

wit of the publication, you are performing a real service to the birding

community by documenting in one place the monthly sightings in the Basin.

This is truly a contribution!!"

                                       --Anne Kendall-Cassella

"Who's Ken Rosenberg?"

                                       --Darrell Childs


May Your Cup Runneth Over,


Allison and Jeff