Year 2, Issue 8


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

*    Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells

*    Basin Bird Highlights: "Inspector" Tom Nix

*    Pilgrim's Progress Compiler: "Stoinking" Matt Medler

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

*    Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer

*    Location Manager: Jeff Wells



It was life or death this past month for your faithful Cup editors!

Well...sort of. We were on our way out to our favorite migrant trap,

Monhegan Island, eleven miles off the Maine coast.  The rain had finally

stopped, but the wind continued, whipping up whitecaps even in Port Clyde

harbor.  But ah, heck, we'd made this trip many times, under rougher

conditions, like the time in mid-winter when we'd squeezed between the

mail bags on the Laura B for an Ivory Gull and the eight-mile stretch of

wild and choppy open Atlantic had us wondering if we might see the shores

of Antarctica any moment (and Jeff  "jettisoned" his corn muffin over the

side of the boat).  Oh, and there was our honeymoon voyage out, just

after a hurricane had gusted up the coast, leaving monstrous rollers in

its wake (and Jeff  "jettisoned" his blueberry muffin over the side of

the boat.)


All was fine for the first few miles: Great Cormorants gawked at us from

the tiny rocky islands; Northern Gannets zipped nearby; Black Guillemots

bobbed here and there. Then, WHAM! A rogue wave leapt up over the

Elizabeth Ann and plowed broadside into your helpless editors, who soon

after found themselves doing some serious soul searching ("Can you

imagine if we'd been swept overboard and drowned?  Wow. What a waste of

a perfectly good pair of Swarovskis.") 


You'll be relieved to know that everything but our hiking boots dried out

as we birded the island.  And as we picked upYellow-headed Blackbird

(lifer for Allison), Lark Sparrow, Dickcissel, and an assortment of more

common migrants, we couldn't help but think, "Hey, birding Monhegan, the

David Cup--they're really the same thing."  No, really. Take the boat

ride out: you got your serious birders, and you got those that are along

just for the ride.  There's the migrants: you got your lifers, but mostly

you got your seen 'ems.  Finally, there's the island itself, which is

really just the Basin in the wrong place.  And, like the Basin, wandering

outside the boundaries could mean the end of you.


Monhegan has a vessel to usher passengers around the deep, unpredictable

waters, and so does the David Cup--and it's every bit as dangerous and

stomach-churning as the Elizabeth Ann or even the Laura B: It's The Cup!

(Difference is, we won't soak your only pair of hiking boots.)  So hop

aboard The Cup 2.8...but leave your muffins at the dock.


                     @   @    @    @    @     @

                       NEWS, CUES, and BLUES

                         @   @    @    @     @     @


RETURN MIGRATION: Remember James Barry, the raucous former Cornell

student who bravely soared into David Cup waters early last year? Well,

he's now in grad school out in California studying--no, not birds, can

you believe it?  Insects!  For a few glorious days, though, he was back

in Cupland, lending his eyes to the third-placing Goatsuckers team, for

the Montezuma Muckrace.  So he had no excuse not to send his totals to

The Cup, and send them he did...okay, Matt Medler stole them from him.

Just the same, we are pleased to include him in the Pilgrim's Progress

report, and we hope that the next time he returns to the Basin, he'll

host one of those high teas he became so famous for last year.  James,

pass the crumpets!


WELCOME MATT: We at The Cup, in another shameless attempt to get out of

doing as much work as possible (to free us up for more birding, of

course), have finally accepted Matt Medler's begs and pleads to become a

regular staffer here.  Matt has bravely taken on perhaps the single most

important responsibility at The Cup: reworking the Pilgrim's Progress

totals so that the Wells' scores will be presented in the best possible

light. Not only that but he'll also be expected to keep up the popular

tradition of leaving a Cupper or two off the list from time to time.

Continue sending your totals to us, however; some of our best Cup Quotes

come from the excuses, uh, explanations you send with your totals.


JUN-HO!: Last issue, The Cup's irreplaceable summer intern, niece Sarah

Childs, had left the nest and gone back to Maine.  This time around,

Allison's personal assistant, Darrell Childs, has fledged as well.

Although Darrell rebelled against the ways of older sister Sarah by

refusing to join the David Cup (and you wondered why he was sleeping out

on the fire escape every night) he did, like his sister before him, leave

us with hope that Generation Next is really just a bird-brained bunch of

Cupper wannabes.  You see, Darrell may not know a sparrow from a

sparrow-hawk, but he knows his Sony Playstation (uh, that's a video game

system.).  Among his favorite games: Road Rash II, where one of the

characters, Jun, is a Cupper! Okay, maybe not a Cupper, but Jun's

character description lists one of her hobbies as "bird watching."  No

kidding! Thanks, Darrell.  Now be a dove, will you, and fetch your aunty

another cup of tea?


"BLUR"RED VISION: Leave it to Basin bad boy Stephen Davies to ruffle

feathers again.  And we aren't talking about his self-incriminating

"accidental" post to Cayugabirds that was meant as a private email

(you remember, "I picked up a new pair of Dr Martens, which I'm hoping

will help me kick up some interesting stuff this fall"--not exactly what

we mean by "Kickin' Tail Leader." )  If that weren't bad enough, consider

this email he sent to the editors: "I was glad to see that music forms

other than jazz received some recognition in the last Cup.  So I thought

you might be interested in the following, which comes from rockin' London

bad boys 'Blur':

                         ‘I feed the pigeons

                         Sometimes I feed the sparrows too

                         It gives me a sense of enormous well-being

                         And then I'm happy for the rest of the day

                         Safe in the knowledge there will always be

                         A bit of my heart devoted to it.'


No wonder this CD was sold out all over Ithaca this summer (niece/intern

Sarah Childs was so desperate to track one down she nearly cracked.)

By the way, Stephen, The Cup likes rock, too--particularly Rock Wren,

Rock Ptarmigan, Rock Sandpiper, and Cock of the Rock.)


MUCKING AROUND: In an attempt to downplay the fact that the

Sapsuckers (sans Cupper Ken Rosenberg) did not take first place in the

Montezuma Muckrace last weekend (they came in second, with 114), let's

say the Cayuga Bird Club team, Bard's Sandpipers, took top honors and

leave it at that.  Okay, so we'll mention that they found 119 species

within the Refuge. True, we should give them space for an acceptance

speech: "We started at midnight but by four in the morning we were

feeling pretty disillusioned because we had only found three species,"

said team member and Cupper phenom Tom Nix.  "When dawn hit, though,

things starting picking up and we already had about 90 species by noon."

Okay, Sapsucker coeditor Jeff  says, Enough about that! Besides, the

real winner here is the Refuge and the species who use it (including us

birders!)  The event raised $850 (including  a $25 donation from The

Cup--no need to wonder anymore where your subscription money goes) to go

towards conservation projects within the Refuge, including a Purple

Martin nestbox.  Did we mention the Sapsuckers didn't take first place?


PUTTING A "CAWKAH" IN IT: After last month's Scrawl of Fame piece

by Stephen Davies, "A Stoinking Mess," you've probably  been wondering,

what's North America's answer to this European term, "stonker"? Well, we

at The Cup, always eager to do what we can to ensure our readers are

the most knowledgeable individuals ever to hold early morning birding

vigils on a lighthouse jetty, did some in-depth research (we called the

Psychic Friends Network.) Although our sources made ground-breaking

predictions ("Mallards will be seen this week at Stewart Park" "the

Sapsuckers will not take first place in the Muckrace") they were unable

to hone in on any NA terms for "stonker." (Matt Medler, boldly again

flaunting his worldliness, tossed around the term "mamita" (see Cup

Quotes, this issue), a little something he picked up from a visiting

Colombian LNS coworker.  However, we at The Cup vetoed this on two

grounds: 1) He's got the wrong continent (Matt, Colombia is in SOUTH

America 2) "mamita" is Spanish for "mother" (what does that say about

our fathers, particularly Father Karl?)  Leave it to a Mainiac to solve

the problem.  It was Allison's dad who, after a lobster dinner during the

editors' recent visit to Maine, announced with the same kind of

satisfaction a birder effuses when s/he has just seen a fabulous bird,

"Wow, that lobstah was a cawkah."  (Translated from the Maine, that's

"Wow, that lobster was a corker.") From what your trusty editors have

been able to gather, this term relates to the times when a certain

beverage was home-made. If the batch was bad, it was discarded; if it

was exquisite, you corked it. Rather than let it fall out of use, we are

officially including the term "corker" in the Cuppers' Dictionary.  (The

Maine pronunciation will be listed first, but either one is acceptable.)


LAW OF THE LAND: On September 8, Governor George Pataki signed

into law the New York State Bird Conservation Area Program Bill.  This

historic piece of legislation will allow the Department of Environmental

Conservation Commissioner, the NYS Parks Commissioner, and the

Secretary of State to designate lands under their jurisdiction that are

important for bird conservation.  The criteria used to designate lands

were adapted from the New York Important Bird Areas criteria.  What will

this mean for Cuppers? According to our own Jeff Wells, who also happens

to be New York's Important Bird Area Coordinator,  "The management of

state lands that support significant abundance and diversity of birds

will be reviewed by a special committee to ensure that these areas remain

good for birds."  And that means, presumably, birders as well.


MEGAN UPDATE: It would appear that Mike Runge is becoming more

and more threatened by his infant's birding progress, so much so that

this past month he took her abroad (i.e., safely out of the Basin.)  But

at least that didn't keep her from picking up a few lifers some of you

probably don't even have: "Unwilling to count introduced species, Megan

insisted that we travel to Ireland so she could see an English Sparrow.

(There was a secondary goal of seeing her grandmother, I should add.)

She picked up a few other life birds, most of which were pretty hard to

miss, like the four Mute cygnets two feet away, and the European Robins

picking up the crumbs of bread that dropped from her hands.  She also

ticked off her first corvid, Jackdaw.  Meanwhile, Dad was able to pick

up a few pelagic treats, including Manx and Greater shearwaters, and

European Storm-petrel.  However, Megan had a major miss this month in

her very own backyard.  She was sitting in her stroller watching dad work

in the garden when a Willow Flycatcher landed in the small apple tree two

feet away and at eye level. It flitted back and forth from that perch to

another on the other side of the garden for about three minutes but Meg

was too intent on watching dad toil to bother with this flitty little

bird.  There is some concern being voiced within the family that she is

not showing the enthusiasm for birding that one would expect of a seven

month old."  Sure, Michael. You mean relief, don't you?


BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Okay, so we didn't make it

to Koko. Neither did you.  But at least Allison can stake this claim to

fame: On Saturday morning, August 23, during WVBR's "Crossroads" blues

show, she heard those fateful words, "Be caller number three on the

listener line and you'll win yourself the Jonny Lang CD." Guess who was

caller number three? Allison has this to say: "While I was calling, they

were playing that Ledbelly song, ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?'  I

heard that tune all summer, the Nirvana Unplugged version of it anyway,

so there was really no question that I would win. The real suspense was

in seeing who among my fellow Cuppers would call to congratulate me.

Ken Rosenberg was on the line in no time!  Of course, in return, I had

to wish him a happy birthday..."  As for the CD, Allison says she's

never heard such gut-wrenching moaning and groaning coming from a

teenager before...except when Jane [Sutton] asks [son] Casey to take out

the garbage.


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


                          BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS

                                By Tom Nix


    The month began with an inkling of the impending land bird migration.

Kevin McGowan, looking to jumpstart his challenge of yours truly, was

noticing changes in his Beam Hill warbler species mix, and John Greenly

was noting early singing of E Screech-owls at his Ludlowville homestead.

Matt Medler and the Wells' were taking the temperature of shorebird

migration at Mays Point and noting the influx of numbers of Purple

Martin. All in all, a pretty typical August, with nothing special

happening. Then Kevin noted a Pine Siskin at his feeder in Dryden on the

eleventh, an early taste of things to come?

     My good friend and fellow state lister Steve Kelling has said that

while his desire to chase further additions to his state list may have

dwindled, he would still travel to chase a Cattle Egret, because they are

currently declining in the state. The need to travel vanished when, on

the twelfth, Stephen Davies posted the following electrifying post:

"Around 7:30 this morning I had a CATTLE EGRET, in breeding plumage,

sitting on the breakwater off the white lighthouse jetty.  I watched the

bird for 5 min as it sat amongst the gulls.  It then flew toward the east

shore of the lake, before cutting back toward Stewart Park. I lost sight

of it as it descended into the treetops around the swan pen. I guess it

may be roosting in the swan pen area and may still be around." Indeed the

bird was still around, and Steve and many other Cuppers ticked it not

only for their David Cup list, but Mcticked it as well.

    An interesting bird, this Cattle Egret. You won't find it listed in

Bent's classic Life Histories, published in 1926. At that time, and until

the 1940's it was unknown in North America, having crossed from Africa to

South America in the late 1800's. It has since spread over most of the

continent following deforestation and the cattle industry. The first

report in New York was in 1954, and by the 70's it was a locally common

spring visitor. There are a few breeding records from Long Island. The

young birds are great wanderers, dispersing great distances, even

thousands of miles, in all directions. One wonders where Stephen's bird

went to, as it had left Cupland by evening, not to be seen again.

    Meanwhile, shorebird variety and numbers increased. At midmonth we

had reports of such notable species as Black-bellied Plover and Baird's

Sandpipers at Montezuma, and five Western Sandpipers at Father Karl's

private Aurora farmpond. Short-billed Dows were in as well as Stilt and

White-rumped Sandpipers. Kelling, Davies and Rosenberg discovered a

Wilson's Phalarope on the twentieth that lingered into the following

weekend, so that working stiffs might still find it. Black-crowned

Night-herons finally came out into the open, and the twilight skies over

Mays Point filled with blackbirds and swallows by the tens of thousands

and the occasional passing Common Nighthawk.

    Toward the end of the month land bird migration finally picked up,

providing a diversion from MNWR and shorebird-induced scope-eye. Those

confusing fall warblers arrived - a Blue-wing at Newman Woods on the 21st,

followed by the flock of migrants that Jeff and Allison Wells discovered

there on the 24th, a flock that included a Wilson's Warbler. Carrying on

the Rosenbergian tradition of birding while presumably at work, Steve

Kelling observed a Philly Vireo waiting for a phone call at the Lab of O

feeders. Leave it to the lab to make such advancements in feeder

technology as telephones for the birds. Olive-sided Flycatchers reached

the region, signaling an end to flycatcher migration, with one being

tagged by Andy Farnsworth from his new aerie on Cascadilla gorge. Meena

Haribal reported a good flock of young and adult warblers from Conn Hill.

   A really nice sighting was Stephen Davies' seven (!) Common

Nighthawks, only to be surpassed a few days later by the 14 (!!) reported

on the Birdline flying over the north end of the city. Just like the old

days, when nighthawks lived on city rooftops. Birders with an ear to the

sky noted Veerys by the score among the seeps and zips passing overhead.

   But back to Montezuma, where some pretty good birds were found in the

last days of the month. Geo Kloppel had a Ruddy Turnstone in Benning

Marsh. Long-billed Dowitchers showed up in Mays Point, testing Cupper's

ID skills. The annual appearance of the shorebird hunting Peregrine Falcon

thrilled all assembled. Things got even better when young guns Matt

Medler, Chris Butler and Dan Scheiman scooped the old folks by finding two

Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the grass at Benning. And, on the last day of

the month, the late-surging McGowans scored big with a Yellow-headed

Blackbird at Benning. Only Stephen Davies had the good sense to be

following the McGowans closely around the auto tour loop. Kevin's posted

description indicated just how well they saw the bird, even getting down

to describing the color of the poor defenseless bird's privates. What a

way to end the month! What a way to take the lead in the David Cup!


(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad-turned-carpenter, now a Code Inspector

for the City of Ithaca. He was spotted recently at an Ithaca Ageless Jazz

Band gig on the Commons--in his David Cup t-shirt!  Unfortunately,

he did not pick up a sax...or a Merlin, either.)



100      100      100      100      100      100      100       100 

                                  100 CLUB

100      100       100      100       100       100       100       100   


[Overheard inside the 100 Club:] "Bill, what are you doing with that

black magic marker?  Come on, now, they just painted the lighthouse, it

looks so pretty. [Sigh.] Guess now it'll be black, white, and read all



James Barry's BIRD 100: Yellow-billed Cuckoo

(fide Matt Medler, who also fides that James would have objected to us

running his total had he not made it into the 100 Club.)


Andy Farnsworth's BIRD 100: Refused to response to questionnaire


200           200          200          200           200           200

                                    2     0    0

     200             200                            200           200


[Overheard inside the 200 Club]: "Did you see what Bill Evans scribbled on

that nice white lighthouse?  Just for that, we probably shouldn't let

him in."

"Yeah. For that reason and the fact that John Bower's the one

‘subsidizing' the new spa for the Club." 


Karl David's BIRD 200: Baird's Sandpiper

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: The Lang Elliot/Stokes CD he won for being

on the winning Muckrace team


Matt Medler's BIRD 200: American Avocet

WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: Basin bird tours in his "trusty" Reliant


Meena Haribals' BIRD 200: Semipalmated Plover

WHAT SHE GAVE TO GET IN: All the birds she's seen in her native India


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


by Matt Medler


You knew it was going to happen.  It was only a matter of when.  Stephen

Davies, that undeniable force, has wrested control of the David Cup away

from Tom Nix.  The next question is:  does Nix have the heart, the grit,

the desire, to win it back?




228 Stephen Davies                      219 Tom Nix

225 Tom Nix                             215 Stephen Davies

222 Kevin McGowan                       211 Kevin McGowan

222 Steve Kelling                       210 Ken Rosenberg

221 Ken Rosenberg                       209 Steve Kelling

220 Allison Wells                   209 Allison Wells

219 Jeff Wells                       208 Jay McGowan

217 Jay McGowan                      205 John Greenly

210 John Greenly                     204 Jeff Wells

208 Chris Hymes                      202 Chris Hymes

207 Matt Medler                      198 Karl David

205 Karl David                       195 Matt Medler

204 Meena Haribal                   189 Bard Prentiss

198 Anne Kendall Cassella                 188 JR Crouse

193 Bard Prentiss                   187 Anne Kendall Cassella

190 John Bower                       187 Meena Haribal

188 JR Crouse                               181 John Bower

182 Bill Evans                       169 Bill Evans

182 Chris Butler                     160 Chris Butler

179 Martha Fischer                         159 Geo Kloppel

175 Geo Kloppel                      158 Michael Pitzrick

158 Michael Pitzrick                       150 Marty Schlabach

150 Marty Schlabach                        137 Jim Lowe

141 Margaret Launius                       135 Margaret Launius

140 Anne James                       130 Michael Runge

137 Jim Lowe                                120 David McDermitt

136 Michael Runge                   115 Anne James

120 David McDermitt                        109 Martha Fischer

119+ Andy Farnsworth                       104 Caissa Willmer

111 Caissa Willmer                       89 Andy Farnsworth

 90 Casey Sutton                         85 Casey Sutton

 68 Cathy Heidenreich                    68 Cathy Heidenreich

 68 Diane Tessaglia                      68 Diane Tessaglia

 67 Jane Sutton                          67 Jane Sutton

 64 Sarah Childs                         64 Sarah Childs

 61 Rob Scott                            61 Rob Scott

 59 Dave Mellinger*                      59 Dave Mellinger

 46 Larry Springsteen*                   46 Larry Springsteen

 42 Sam Kelling*                         42 Sam Kelling

 40 Mira the Bird Dog*                   40 Mira the Bird Dog

 37 Taylor Kelling*                          37 Taylor Kelling

  5 Ralph Paonessa*                        5 Ralph Paonessa

  0 Ned Brinkley*                          0 Ned Brinkley


(EDITOR'S NOTE:  Matt Medler has done an outstanding job in his maiden

voyage as Pilgrim's Progress compiler, most notably by omitting a

Cupper--his pal, James Barry, no less!  Good job, Matt. However,

the editors are going to override you this time around because James was

valiantly in the Muckrace, but we're too tired to redo the list.  So,

as a result, James gets is own space: 


104 James Barry*


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

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

their totals because they just wanted to, that's all.


We all know a certain somebody wants this one real bad. And yet, Kelling

actually pulled away from her even more this month.  And what about Davies

coming up on the outside?  Does the British Bad Boy have a shot at the

first-ever David Cup/McIlroy Award double?





191 Steve Kelling                   184 Steve Kelling

186 Allison Wells                   182 Allison Wells

185 Stephen Davies                  175 Stephen Davies

178 Jeff Wells                      174 Jeff Wells

161 John Bower                      157 John Bower

156 JR Crouse                       156 JR Crouse

153 Kevin McGowan                   152 Kevin McGowan

148 Martha Fischer                  136 Tom Nix

140 Karl David                      130 Jay McGowan

139 Ken Rosenberg                   130 Matt Medler

138 Matt Medler                     129 Karl David

136 Tom Nix                         116 Anne Kendall-Cassella

130 Jay McGowan                     115 Michael Runge

128 Bill Evans                      111 Bill Evans

122 Chris Butler                    110 Jim Lowe

116 Anne Kendall-Casella             97 Martha Fischer

115 Michael Runge                    83 Chris Butler

111 Jim Lowe                         70 Casey Sutton

70 Casey Sutton                      66 Jane Sutton

66 Jane Sutton                       57 Dave Mellinger

57 Dave Mellinger*                   51 Rob Scott

51 Rob Scott                         50 Sarah Childs

50 Sarah Childs*                     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 Ralph Paonessa*


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

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

their totals because they just wanted to, that's all.


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...if Ken Rosenberg has anything to say about it.


191 Ken Rosenberg               188 Ken Rosenberg

179 Bard Prentiss               178 Bard Prentiss

178 Kevin McGowan               171 Kevin McGowan

170 Jay McGowan                 165 Jay McGowan

126 Anne Kendall-Cassella       126 Anne Kendall-Cassella

108 Matt Medler                 108 Matt Medler


Kevin McGowan's Lansing total:   AUGUST: 149     JULY: 149      


THE YARD STICK ----------------------------

As the 2nd Annual David Cup ticks toward conclusion, some of you

non-Basin dwellers (i.e., David Cup cowards) have been asking us, "What

happened to the Yard List competition?" Well, we don't know.  Maybe the

compiler (Cup Reader Rick Bonney's daughter Jesse) got grounded for

tallying at the dinner table?  Maybe she just plain forgot?  We'll try to

find out.  Meanwhile, start running your numbers. Presumably for

inspiration to you all, the McGowan family sent their 1997 Yard List total

along with their other tallies. Despite all their hard work in adding it

up, we're going to go ahead and run it anyway.


McGowan Family Yard List Total: 117




By Karl David


The evening news reported the other night that Scottish voters were voting

on a referendum concerning increased home rule. Dang if the guy the camera

showed stuffing a ballot box didn't look a lot like ... Stephen Davies!

And I thought Davies was a Welsh name. Stephen, you may have some

explaining to do when you get back.


You also might have a few words to say about your Leader's List, since

your absence from the country has forced me to GUESS at it. Using a few

choice clues, let's see how close I get. Corrections, if any are needed

he said in his hubris, will appear in the next Cup.


C Loon, P-b, H & R-n grebes, D-c Cormorant, A & L bitterns, Great Blue

Heron, G & C egrets, Green Heron, B-c Night-Heron, Tundra & Mute

swans, S & C geese, W Duck, G-w Teal, A Black Duck, Mallard,

N Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, E & A wigeons,

Canvasback, Redhead, R-n Duck, G & L scaups, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter,

C Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded, Common & R-b mergansers, Ruddy

Duck, T Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, N Harrier, S-s & C's hawks,

R-s, B-w, R-t & R-l hawks, A Kestrel, Merlin, P Falcon, R-n Pheasant,

R Grouse, W Turkey, V Rail, Sora, C Moorhen, A Coot, A Golden-Plover,

S Plover, Killdeer, A Avocet [wild guess!], G & L yellowlegs, Solitary,

Spotted & Upland sandpipers, R Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated,

Least, White-rumped, Baird's & Pectoral sandpipers, Dunlin, Stilt

Sandpiper, S-b & L-b dowitchers, C Snipe, A Woodcock, W Phalarope,

Bonaparte's, R-b, Herring, Iceland, Lesser B-b, Glaucous & Great B-b

gulls, Caspian, Common, Forster's & Black terns, R & M Doves, B-b &

Y-b cuckoos, E Screech-Owl, G Horned, Barred, L-e, S-e & N Saw-whet

owls, C Nighthawk, C Swift, R-t Hummingbird, B Kingfisher, R-h &

R-b woodpeckers, Y-b Sapsucker, D & H woodpeckers, Northern Flicker,

P Woodpecker, O-s Flycatcher, E Wood-Pewee, Y-b, Acadian, Alder,

Willow & Least flycatchers, E Phoebe, G Crested Flycatcher, E Kingbird,

H Lark, all six swallows, B Jay, A & F crows, C Raven, B-c Chickadee,

Tufted Titmouse, R-b & W-b nuthatches, BCreeper, Carolina, House,

Winter, Sedge & Marsh wrens, G-c & R-c kinglets, B-g Gnatcatcher,

E Bluebird, Veery, G-c, Swainson's, Hermit & Wood thrushes, A Robin,

G Catbird, N Mockingbird, BThrasher, A Pipit, C Waxwing, E Starling,

Blue-headed, Y-t, W & R-e vireos, B-winged, Tennessee & Nashville

warblers, N Parula, Yellow, C-sided, Magnolia, C May, B-t Blue,

Y-rumped, B-t Green, Blackburnian, Pine, Prairie, Palm, B-breasted,

Blackpoll, Cerulean & B-and-w warblers, A Redstart, Prothonotary

Warbler, Ovenbird, N & L waterthrushes, Mourning Warbler, C Yellowthroat,

Hooded, Wilson's & Canada warblers, Sc Tanager, N Cardinal, R-b Grosbeak,

I Bunting, E Towhee, A Tree, Chipping, Field, Vesper, Savannah,

Grasshopper, Henslow's, Fox, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, W-throated &

W-crowned sparrows, D-e Junco, L Longspur, S Bunting, Bobolink,

R-w Blackbird, E Meadowlark, Y-h & Rusty blackbirds, C Grackle,

B-h Cowbird, Orchard & Baltimore orioles, P & H finches, A Goldfinch,

House Sparrow.


Total: 228





Stephen creeps up to the 90% plateau [i.e. the leader has now seen

almost 90% of the total number of species seen], but he'll have to nab a

few of the following birds to get there:


R-t Loon, A White Pelican, Snowy Egret, G W-f & Ross' geese, Brant,

Barrow's Goldeneye, Black Vulture, N Goshawk, Golden Eagle, B-bellied

Plover, Western Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, R-n Phalarope,

Laughing, Little & Thayer's gulls, Snowy Owl, Whip-poor-will, N Shrike,

W-e & Philadelphia vireos, Golden-winged, Worm-eating & Kentucky

warblers, C Redpoll, P Siskin, E Grosbeak.


Grand Total: 256 [last year's final total: 268]


(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora and is spending

a sabbatical year at Cornell.  Look for him giving his math lessons down

on the lighthouse jetty.)



                            !   KICKIN' TAIL!  !



What better way to prove you ain't Father of the Madness for nothin' than

by being featured in an interview exclusively for The Cup, even though you

haven't placed first yet this year?  Kickin' Tail brings well deserved

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

driven, climbed, dug, Fathered, or otherwise made his/her way to the top

of the David Cup list...last year, anyway.  With our official Kickin'

Tail leader presumably having tea with the queen, we tapped 1996 David

Cup King Karl David for 15 minutes of fame this time around.  You remember

Karl, don't you?  Fast car?  Bloodshot eyes?  Checkmark-motion hand spasms?


THE CUP:  Knock, knock, Karl. Bet you didn't expect to find The Cup's

Kickin' Tail interviewers at your door this month, huh?  But, well, the

real Kickin' Tail Leader, Stephen Davies, fled to Scotland this week for a

bit.  Apparently, he was afraid Tom Nix might come after him with

a two-by-four (but don't tell anyone.) Karl, for the last eight months,

everybody's been wondering:  WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!  You, the man who last

year was birding in his sleep!


DAVID:  To turn your phrase around: I must be sleeping during my

birding. I've been out a fair amount, but the numbers just aren't there.

I cut some corners here and there.


THE CUP: Though apparently, not enough classes this time around.


DAVID:  I didn't try for Worm-eating Warbler, for example, and there

were no serious bittern/rail heroics like last year's multiple walks over

the Cayuga railroad tracks until I got the Least. I'm about where I am

during "normal" years. But the curse of the David Cup is ...what used to

be normal is now also-ran.


THE CUP: Tell us about it!  So how is Beloved Elaine taking the idea

that her man has not Kicked Tail yet this year?  Oh, the look of love on

her face last year at the Cupper Supper, when you "drank" from the Cup



DAVID:  You should see her face these days...'cause I sure don't, not

since early August, when she left for Wisconsin and her new job trying to

convince the wholesome farmers' sons and daughters at Carthage College

that plants are sexy.


THE CUP: How tough can that be?


DAVID:  I told her they're losers compared to birds, but she's stubborn.

I'll be going out to see her during fall break...and hope for a Swainson's

Hawk or something migrating down the west side of Lake Michigan. That'd be

worth five or so year birds for the Cup (no offense).


THE CUP: With an attitude like that, no wonder you're not Kickin' Tail.

Actually, though, you've made significant inroads recently and may even be

in the Top Ten as we speak.  What has pulled you up, besides shorebirds

(since most everyone else is getting shorebirds, too, now.)


DAVID: Well, I've patched up a few embarrassing gaps from the spring,

like American Bittern (the same day I wrote Stat's All for this month!),

Common Nighthawk, Barred Owl. I still don't have Broad-winged Hawk,

goshawk, grouse, raven, Rusty Blackbird, Fox Sparrow...Not to make

the people immediately ahead of me (Matt Medler, for instance?) nervous,

of course.


THE CUP: Speaking of Matt, you know, don't you, that he has his sights set

on you?


DAVID:  To quote my favorite philosopher, Bertie Wooster: He's young,

he'll learn.


THE CUP: Bertie, pronounced "Birdie," we presume? As for Matt, he's still

driving that Reliant, so you should be safe.  What was the latest CD in

your CD player?


DAVID: The complete piano music of Leonard Bernstein, because it's the

last one I bought. I bought it because some of the pieces entitled

"Anniversaries" are actually easy enough for me to play (two of them so



THE CUP: More talent to display at the next Cupper Supper!  Of course,

you'd have to bring your own piano...


DAVID:  I wanted to hear what a real pianist made them sound like.

Anyone who can get a hold of the out-of-print Seven Anniversaries for me,

by the way, will be treated to a free something-or-other, bird- or



THE CUP: Forget it.  Real Cuppers only listen to blues and jazz. (Say,

have you heard Maurice Andre's Vivaldi trumpet  What

are your thoughts about the performances of our previous Leaders?


DAVID: Both Nix and Davies know I'm a tough act to follow. Well, a

tough old coot, at any rate. Stephen has the ebullience of youth on his

side, and those good Welsh genes. Tom...well, he was my Muckrace partner,

after all, and that's a bonding experience not lightly cast aside. I have

to favor him, for that reason alone.


THE CUP: Not to mention that as a code inspector, he could declare your

house unsafe and force you to buy a new one, maybe outside the Basin.

Meanwhile, what's your strategy for the rest of the year? How will being

based at Cornell for your sabbatical compare to your birding, uh, teaching

at Wells College--halfway to Montezuma?


DAVID: The problem with a sabbatical leave is you have to explain to your

colleagues afterwards what you did.


THE CUP: That's asking a bit much.


DAVID:  "Engineering the greatest come-from-behind performance in David

Cup history" won't impress them.


THE CUP: But that's Nobel Prize territory!


DAVID:  I actually have to do professional improvement things during my

year at Cornell. And, I have to face the prospect of finding a new job if

my beloved Elaine and I decide to stake our future in Wisconsin.


THE CUP: What?  But Wisconsin's out of the Basin! Besides, you're our

Father, leaving us would be child abandonment, punishable by law...


DAVID: My goal remains modest this year: just finish in the Top Ten,

and just ahead of Matt Medler.


THE CUP: Any parting words for our Kickin' Tail leader before we say



DAVID: You could tell him the lighthouse jetty sure is lonely without him,

though that Parasitic Jaeger I saw there the other day almost makes up for

his absence ...  




                           By Jay McGowan


Welcome to Birdbits!  Here is a chance to test your knowledge of  the

world of birds. August is the month for shorebirds, so this month's

Birdbits is dedicated to shorebirds. Answers next month (or, if you pay

me ten dollars, I'll tell you them now.)


1.  How could you tell an American Golden-Plover from a Black-bellied

Plover if all you could see was their feet?           

2.  Which North American shorebirds have black bellies in breeding


3.  What is the scientific name for the Spoonbill Sandpiper?

4.  Which of the peeps (the small sandpipers) have webbing between their


5.  What shorebird is supposed to clean the teeth of crocodiles?

6.  Curlews' bills curve down. Godwits' bills curve up. Which shorebirds'

bills curve to the side?

7.  Flamingos have the longest legs relative to their size of any bird.

What is second?

8.  What North American shorebird has the longest bill?

9.  What is peculiar about the egg tooth of an American Woodcock chick?

10.  What does Dromas ardeola eat?




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

probably said yellow, but the high breeding male Snowy Egret's lores are

actually red.

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

longest burrow on record?  The Rhinoceros Auklet. The record burrow was

26 feet (7.9 m) in length.

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

blood? The Galapagos Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch pokes a small hole in

the base of a developing flight feather of a Masked or Red-footed Booby

to obtain the blood.

4. Which hummingbird occurs the farthest south?  The Green-backed

Firecrown breeds as far south as the Straits of Magellan.

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

Coeligena helianthea.

6. What is the only bird in the genus Mniotilta?  The Black-and-White


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?  Poecile.

8. What local bird insists upon using snake skin in it's nest?  The

Great-crested Flycatcher. All birds in the genus Myiarchus use snake skin.

If they cannot find it they will use plastic or cellophane.

9. What is the common name for Lamprotornis nitens?  The Red-shouldered

Glossy-Starling. These glossy green-blue starlings live in central and

south Africa.

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?

Most Americans would say that Song Sparrows are the real sparrows and

that House Sparrows are weaver-finches, but actually Song Sparrows are

really buntings and House Sparrows are the real sparrows, having been

named first.  The real sparrows (family Passeridae) are closely related to

the weavers in the family Ploceidae, and are sometimes included in that



(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. It is expected that he will be

the one who ultimately repairs the MIR Space Station.)



                STAT'S ALL, FOLKS

                   By Karl David



     I hope people aren't getting tired of me always using my own data for

this column, but the path of least resistance leads right to it--it's the

only easily accessible data I have. And for illustrative purposes, it's as

good as any other data.

     I suspect that many working statisticians' first love was probability.

They earn their bread doing something useful for their clients (maybe!),

but they got into this applied science by falling in love with the "pure"

art form of probability. This month I'm going to try to convince you that

calculating complicated-looking probabilities (at least in theory) is not

as arcane and baffling as it may seem.

     There are really only two things you can do when you're combining

several probabilities--add them or multiply them. You know you've made a

mistake if you come out with a number not between 0 and 1. Once you

figure out when to multiply and when to add, that won't happen, but you

could still be wrong. Now you probably forgot to account for one or more

cases, or counted some cases more than once, or both.

     When do you multiply? Well, remember fractions decrease when you

multiply them together. And when do probabilities go down? When you're

asking for the probability of a succession of events, each with its own

probability. Being rich, famous and handsome is less likely than just being

rich, or just being handsome, or just being famous. So, you multiply those

three probabilities together.

     And when do you add? Fractions increase when you add them together.

And probabilities increase when you're asking if any of several distinct

situations are likely. To use a shopworn example, a die toss can come up

even in any one of three ways, each having probability 1/6. So adding

those three gives ½ for the probability of being even ... greater than the

probability of any particular even number.

     To illustrate, consider the probabilities of seeing the usually

occurring bitterns, rails and cuckoos in the Basin in a given year. Of

course, you can't find these numbers written down anywhere! The best I can

do is use the proportion of the number of times I've had them to the total

number of years of observation (12). For the six birds in question, these

turn out to be:


                             American Bittern:        11/12

                             Least Bittern:            7/12

                             Virginia Rail:           10/12

                             Sora:                     6/12

                             Black-billed Cuckoo:     11/12

                             Yellow-billed Cuckoo :    7/12


Of course, as estimates of probabilities, these need to be taken with

lethal doses of salt. For example, for a 12/12 bird like Wilson's

Phalarope, using this principle means I can never miss it! But alas, I'm

on the verge of doing so this year. Again, I use these numbers for

illustrative purposes only.

     Now, let me reveal to you the shocking fact that so far this year,

I haven't seen any bitterns, rails or cuckoos! Based on the assigned

probabilities, how likely is that to happen? That's easy! I have to miss

all six birds, which is a lot harder to do than just missing any one. So,

I need to multiply together the six probabilities of missing the birds,

which is found in each case by subtracting the probability of finding the

bird from one [either finding or not finding a bird exhausts all the

possibilities]. So, the answer is 1x5x2x6x1x5 divided by

12x12x12x12x12x12...a number so ridiculously small it might as well be

zero.  Oh, well.

     Let's finish with a harder-looking example. What's the probability I

see at least one each of bitterns, rails and cuckoos? Though tedious to

carry out, this is straightforward in principle. I just write down all the

possible ways this can happen. For example, if I see both bitterns, Sora,

and both cuckoos, I'm in. Or, I could see Least Bittern, both rails, and

Black-billed Cuckoo. Only one of these cases is going to occur. So, I

figure out the probability of each case. The first one mentioned, for

example, would come out 11x7x2x6x11x7 divided by 12x12x12x12x12x12 [2

because I miss Virginia Rail in this scenario]. Then I add up the

probabilities of all these "success" stories, and bingo, I have the number

I want!

     The tricky part here is making sure you get all the cases. If you

want to try your hand at this, I'll give you the answer: there are 27, 2

of which I wrote down in the previous paragraph. To succeed at this, you

need a plan for organizing the cases so that you don't skip any, or

inadvertently write one down twice. Here's a hint: you'll see either

6,5,4 or 3 birds if you're going to get at least one of each of the three

types. In the case of 5 out of 6, index your work by the missing bird. For

4 out of 6, realize one of the three types will have to have both birds,

while each of the other two has one, etc. Good luck!


P.S. Luckily for me, I don't have my calculator with me, so I'm not

going to calculate the probability!


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




                         SCRAWL OF FAME


                      "It's All in the Details"


                          By Kevin McGowan


     I have a couple of comments to make regarding Karl's fine "Stat's

All, Folks" from last month.  He asked a couple of questions that I can

answer, and brought up a point that could use some clarification.  I don't

really want to take on the role of "Answer Man," and unlike Dr. Science,

I'm not sure I know more than you do (but I might).  I do, however, know

a few things, and I am happy to share them.

     First, regarding the King Vulture that Peterson includes but the ABA

doesn't.  William Bartram visited Florida in the 1770's.  Although

primarily a botanist, Bartram recorded many observations of birds (he

collected the plants.)  The names he used were quite different from those

used today, but most of the birds are identifiable, either by the names or

the brief descriptions he wrote.  He described two vultures: the Carrion

Crow (pretty clearly a Black Vulture) and the "Painted Vulture, Vutur

sacra."  The latter had some characteristics of the Central and South

American King Vulture, but differed in having a white tail and "a large

portion of the stomach hanging down on the breast, in the likeness of a

sack or half wallet" (quoted in Howell, 1932, Florida Bird Life).  No

bird quite like this exists.  Some people have accepted the King Vulture

interpretation while others conclude that it might be an imaginary bird

based on some tale told to him by others.  The American Ornithologists'

Union no longer accepts the King Vulture theory, suggesting that it was a

Crested Caracara.  Two King Vultures have been seen in Florida in recent

times (1958 & 1989), but they were both known to be escapees from

captivity (Robertson & Woolfenden, 1992, Florida Bird Species:  An

annotated list.)

     Karl pondered the occurrence of Mexican species in the southwestern

US, with many seen in Arizona and Texas but relatively few in California

and New Mexico.  To understand this situation, first look at a

physiographic map of Mexico.  What you'll see is that Mexico contacts the

US in a couple of different zones:  mesquite grasslands, desert (of

several types), and pine-oak forest (read:  mountains).  The interesting

bird action is outside the deserts, especially in the mountains.

California gets mostly the desert part, but also some chaparral.  But

even that connects to Baja California, an arid peninsula rather

depauperate of birds  (as islands and peninsulas usually are).

Southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and to a lesser extent,

western Texas make contact with the mountainous zone. Mexico has two long

lines of mountains extending from the US border down into the middle of

the country (where they connect in a horseshoe pattern), and many species

work their way up these to points in Arizona and Texas but not into the

deserts in between.  The mountains have a great many interesting species,

only a handful of which make their way up to where the ABA can count them.

So, Texas is good because it has a huge border with Mexico with a variety

of habitats. Arizona is good because it has the strongest mountain

connection.  California is bad because it is cut off by desert, and New

Mexico is bad....Well, why is New Mexico bad?

     Some people would say it isn't!  In fact, the same main mountain

system that gets into Arizona makes it into the corner of New Mexico.  The

seeming lack of interesting Mexican birds in New Mexico may be entirely

the result of the smaller number of people birding these areas.  In fact,

a number of people have come to just this conclusion recently and have

been birding harder in New Mexico.  They are finding just about what they

expected to find, and the New Mexico list is growing.

     Karl's revery started by his acquisition of the newest ABA Checklist,

incorporating "the most recent taxonomic changes."  Actually, it doesn't.

For those who don't know, the American Ornithologists' Union maintains a

Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (the Checklist Committee)

that creates The AOU Check-list of North American Birds.  They update it

regularly with supplements published in The Auk, the official scientific

journal of the AOU.  This is THE official list of North American birds.

The checklist itself has scientific names (old ones as well as the current

ones), and habitat and distribution information.  The Checklist contains

all species for which there is a published record of occurrence within the

Checklist area (which now includes all of Central America as well as

Hawaii).  The main list contains those species documented with either a

specimen or an unequivocally identifiable photograph.  (A recording of a

diagnostic vocalization would be okay, but none are represented this way,

at least up to 1983.)  Because the AOU is a scientific organization, such

conservatism is appropriate.  In science the watchwords are "repeatable

and verifiable."  Only if there is some way for someone else to make an

independent assessment is the record accepted.  Besides the main list (the

countable ones), it includes in the appendices lists of species with

reasonable sight records; a "hypothetical" list of species with

tantalizing but not quite sufficient descriptions; a list of forms of

doubtful identity or of hybrid origin that have been given names; and a

list of species deliberately introduced or escaped from captivity that

have not become established.  The ABA list is close, but not identical, to

the AOU main list.  Birding is a sport and not necessarily a science, so

the criteria used to accept things is less stringent.  Good written

documentation is sufficient to add species to the ABA list.  Also, some

disagreement has existed in the past about what was established or not.

     So, as to "the most recent taxonomic changes"...  The three

Scrub-Jays are old news!  They were split in 1995.  The most recent

Supplement to the AOU Checklist was just published in the July 1997 issue

of the Auk.  Although an official document, and the first published

occurrence of many changes, the last supplement is merely an abstract of

what to expect in the soon-to-be-published (November 1997?) 7th edition of

the Checklist.  Hold onto your hats, because things are going to change.

If you don't care about scientific names, Central America, who is related

to whom, or in what order you list the birds, then very little will affect

you.  If you do, then expect some surprises.  Actually, for the birds of

New York, and especially the Cayuga Lake Basin come little changes.  You

should list Turkey Vulture right after Wood Stork instead of with the

hawks.  The order of the ducks changes around a bit.  "Ross'" (as in Gull

and Goose) now becomes "Ross's", and "Harris'" (as in Sparrow) becomes

"Harris's" (I'll bet you were spelling it that way anyway, weren't you?)

But the only really noticeable one is that the Solitary Vireo has been

split into three different species:  the Blue-headed Vireo (the one we have

here), Plumbeous Vireo (Rocky Mountains), and Cassin's Vireo (West Coast).

If you bird out West you'll want to watch the (ex)Plain Titmice for the

new Oak and Juniper Titmice.  Oh, also, the Marbled Murrelet has been

split into the Marbled and the Long-billed murrelets.  It's the Siberian

Long-billed that occasionally turns up in eastern North America, as it did

in New York a couple of years ago.  Also, the order of the Passerines (the

song birds) will change to put the vireos, shrikes, and crows together

right after the flycatchers, and a bunch of things get moved around near

the tanagers and finches, but I haven't internalized all of that yet

myself, so I'll put it off for later.  Once the big book comes out,

though, I'll be a stickler for detail!


(Kevin McGowan is Associate Curator of Birds & Mammals at the Cornell

Vertebrate Collections.  He was approached by the producers of the

"The X-files" to appear as "Answer Man," but he declined. )


(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        <

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

                    <           < 

                     <         <

                       < < < <


For a while the editors feared the Coach for this issue had abandoned his

team. But in the end, he couldn't resist the opportunity to win over

Cuppers that might vote to accept his membership into the 200 Club.  Who

is this 200-Clubber wannabe?  Why, it's Mr. Nightowl himself, Bill Evans!

Or you could call him Mr. Migration, we suppose.  Or you should just call

him Coach Evans...


COACH EVANS: Fall migration is the home stretch in the David and

McIlroy Cup competitions, and the long-awaited period from mid-September

through mid-October is when some of our region's premier species can be

found.  Even if one is well behind the leaders in Cup competition, finding

a rarity can rev the engine of inner satisfaction to realms of victory.

Though species are equally weighted in the competition, a qualitative

difference in their value exists.  In fact, there is a ranking to the

ticks not formally recognized by the competition but one that is valid and

in a sense superior (i.e., it's the quality of the tick that counts!).

For example, finding your own bird is better than seeing a "chased bird."

No doubt, the personal experience of finding the regionally rare American

Avocet on the jetty would rank higher than rushing to see the bird after

finding out about it from another birder.  Another example is Dave

Russell's adult Sabine's Gull in Elmira.  This was such an outstanding

bird for our region that it seriously impacted the Cup competition--

birders left the Basin to see this improbable avian event.  [As I write

this text, Chris Hymes comes in and tells me he didn't drive down to see

the Sabine's Gull because he figured he would see one another time.  I'll

try to educate the greenhorn but youth rarely listens to experience.  I

have my own life as proof--a not chased Fork-tailed Flycatcher near

Rochester a few years back].  The Sabine's Gull was part of the Cup

competition in a strange and twisted way--sort of like the principle of

Manifest Destiny, the rules of the game are in a state of constant flux

and evolution.  By Cup rules, I can't tick the Sabine's Gull but the

quality of the Sabine's experience seeps in osmosis-like and affects my

status as I speak to Hymes.  I pummel the guy in my mind. I feel bad

afterwards but I blame this on my association with academia in recent

years. "Eat and be eaten," a Sufi sage once said!

      The gist here is that say, for example, at the beginning of this

year someone told you had a choice of coming in second in the David Cup or

finding your own Sabine's Gull in Elmira like Dave Russell did. What would

you choose?  For me there is no question, I would have taken the gull

experience just like I took the jaeger last year!  Of course, Cup

bureaucrats might say that swinging this unofficial sword of quality is

the kind of psychological tactic Coach Evans must wage when his Cup totals

are so far off the pace of the leaders.  The truth is out there!

      Below are species that top my list of rarities to be found in the

Cayuga Lake Basin during the mid-September through mid-October period

along with strategies for finding them:


1) Dickcissels are on the move late-September through mid-October, and

though they migrate at night, they are prone to continuing their migration

in the morning.  Cayuga Lake acts as a catcher's mit for diurnal-migrant

songbirds in fall migration (robins, jays, waxwings, etc.).  As the

eastern lake shore curves southeastward, many southbound birds don't want

to cross the lake for fear of being picked off by a merlin or sharpy so

they fly along the shore and round the lake's south end, flying over the

Ithaca City Golf Course and Stewart Park.  Listening for the distinctive

call note of the Dickcissel (example on the new Stokes audio field guide)

at these locations or along the eastern Cayuga Lake shoreline in the

morning hours during favorable migration weather could very well yield a



2) LeConte's Sparrow is a potential fall migrant through the Cayuga Lake

Basin.  Typically, they select upland hayfields with long grass as

stopover sites.  For example, the extensive fields where Chris Hymes

directed us to a Sedge Wren this past summer is excellent LeConte's

habitat.  The best time to check this habitat for a migrant LeConte's is

during the first week or so of October.  One strategy might be to get a

line of birders (each birder standing maybe 20 yards apart) and sweep

through fields of this long grass habitat listening for the thin,

high-pitched, down-slurred contact call of LeConte's (also on Stoke's audio

guide).  Pishing is often successful to bring this species up into view.

If enough acreage is covered, I wouldn't be surprised if another rarity

turned up--a Yellow Rail!  Both these species are probably regular fall

migrants through the Cayuga Lake Basin but their habitat rarely gets



3) Connecticut Warbler is one of the most savored fall migrant wood

warblers passing through the Cayuga Lake Basin, and it is well known that

mid-September is the peak time for finding them.  Local wisdom tells us

to search patches of Jewel Weed for this gem of a skulker.  Yet a few

years ago I spoke with Paul Kerlinger, then director of the Cape May Bird

Observatory.  He said that for years at Cape May, their banding operations

captured very few Connecticuts and they didn't understand why because the

species was seen regularly in morning flight at the Higbee dike migration

count.  Then one year they put some nets across hedgerows and banded over

50 Connecticuts in three weeks, by far their highest season total.  Maybe

we would have better luck finding this species if we checked hedgerows

with Jewel Weed.  A few years back Annette Finney found a Connecticut

Warbler along Rothermich Road in just such a location.  The bird remained

in the same area (200 sq. ft.) for three days.


Keep digging!


(Bill Evans is a Lab Associate at the Laboratory of Ornithology.  He was

a contestant in a wet t-shirt concert recently in Elmira, but the winner

was a Sabine's Gull.)



mmmmmmmmmmmmmm    McILROY MUSINGS   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



"This time you've gone too far!" That's what your defenseless coeditor

Allison Wells was accosted with in the Lab of O parking lot soon after the

last issue of The Cup came out.  And who was it that spoke with such

ferocity, such venom--such whining and pleading for equal time to offset

the public attack of John Bower in the last McIlroy Musings?  Yes, it was

Coach Evans!  Seeings as there's still much knowledge to be gleaned from

Bill regarding the night migration that's happening even as we write, we

thought it best to stay on his good side and grant him his "request."


THE CUP: So, Bill, how does it feel to be here, even though you don't

deserve it?  (You know, at least Bower had come out ahead ONCE, albeit

back in January when everyone but him was out of town.)


EVANS: Let's face it, I'm here for only one reason:  To pay back Bower

(that lying scum) for his remarks last month.


THE CUP: Ouch!  Indeed, since we all know that Allison Wells is going to

blow past Steve Kelling and take the McTrophy again this year, the real

McCompetition is between you and Bower.  Any thoughts on how you're

going to take him?


EVANS:  As with last year, all I have to do is get close to Bower in the

competition and he'll choke.  You'll soon start hearing his characteristic

whining that he must spend more time at home, or else there'll be the

incessant PhD excuses.


THE CUP: You mean that sound was John Bower?  We thought  it was

cats mating.


EVANS:  Last year that's all I heard around the Bioacoustics Lab. "Oh,

I'm not really taking this seriously," he'd scoff with true academic

snobbery. It's well known that Bower chose Song Sparrow for his doctorate

thesis because that was the only species he could identify with confidence.


THE CUP: We had no idea!


EVANS: The only reason he can even identify them is because their numbers

are so great, his chances of correctly guessing are pretty good!


THE CUP: Yah, but at least he admits it...doesn't he?   So Bill, how and

when did you discover the joys of birding the lighthouse jetty?


EVANS:  Birding at the jetty goes way back before I came to the Basin.

Ned Brinkely was the one who initiated the recent wave of lighthouse

birding. Ned started a regular Friday afternoon outing at the lighthouse.


THE CUP: How come we're not surprised?


EVANS:  Sometimes there would be a dozen people out there.


THE CUP: So that's why the place was always strewn with beer cans and

Ring-Ding wrappers.


EVANS: It was a lot of fun.  However, since I am in preparation of a

three-volume epic on the history of birding the Ithaca lighthouse jetty, I

will refrain from further comments at this time.


THE CUP: We'll look forward to reading excerpts in The National Enquirer.

And it will include a chapter entitled, "The Ghost of Ned Brinkley" won't

it?  Say, is Ned the one who gave you those infamous big red overalls?


EVANS: Regarding the overalls, if Kevin McGowan can pick off a Baird's

Sandpiper on the jetty from Stewart Park, one would think others could

see that my overalls are dark brown, not red. I got them from REI in 1985.


THE CUP: Made from garbage, we suppose, like those sneakers you had that

fell apart.  How does this year's McScore and strategy compare to last

year for you?


EVANS:  Pretty much the same.  I draft in the back of the pack until

the home stretch.  As the others burn out from exhaustion, I am fresh as

the morning and sprint past them to the finish.


THE CUP: Hope that means you've been putting in some quality time on

the treadmill, because your sprint right now is looking like a 10K run.

Meanwhile, you've done a pretty good job of following the David Cup rule

of share and share alike, by spilling your night-migration expertise.

Still, there have been grumblings that you've really only given crumbs

from your hardy loaf. Do you have any plans to feed the hungry paupers

some bigger slices.  You know, CDs, guided night tours, brain transplants?


EVANS:  I don't know if even a brain transplant would help some folks in

this competition.


THE CUP: Now, don't be so hard on yourself. [See Pilgrim's Progress.]


EVANS:  All I can say here is that I will be leading another night flight

call listening adventure up on Mount Pleasant in the third week of

September for Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrush.


THE CUP: We'll take it.  By the way, another arch rival of yours, Jane

Sutton, was mysteriously tipped off about this interview and sent along

these sentiments--you probably recognize them, they're lyrics from your

theme song, "Push," by Matchbox 20:  "I'm a little bit angry, well, this

ain't over, no, not here...I wanna push you around, I will, I will, I

wanna push you down, I will, I will..."


EVANS:  Jane's Cup scores are so low they are just barely on the edge of

my perception. She is like the mythical unicorn--I keep hearing about her

but I'm never really certain she exists! 


THE CUP: Perhaps her court papers, charging you with slander, would be

proof enough?   By the way, have you in fact made your "big push" yet?

How will we know when this has taken place?


EVANS:  You'll know when you hear the loud moose-like moan from John

Bower (LNS# 2473) as I surpass him in the McIlroy Cup down the stretch

with one migration period tied behind my back. By the way, I will be

playing a rare archival cut of Bower snoring at the upcoming 2nd annual

Wide World of Sound seminar at the Lab of O this February. John came up

to listen to migrants on Mount Pleasant with me back in early August 1987.

After he was through groveling around with some woman he found up there,

he promptly fell asleep.


THE CUP: Was that when the Barn Owl went over?


EVANS: There was a good migration that night but the tape was dominated

by his bull frog-like snoring. I will be performing spectrographic

analysis on his snores at the seminar--coffee and cookies will be served.


THE CUP:  Both John Bower and Stephen Davies sent along inquiries

regarding some graffiti down on the northside of the lighthouse [see Cup

Quotes, this issue.]  Apparently, it reads, "Evans Rules!"  Did you write



EVANS:  I think it is only proper that now again we remember one of our

fallen peers, Dick Evans.  Dick was the President of the Cayuga Bird Club

back in the late 1980s and his steadfast guidance and wry sense of humor

laid the foundation for the early pre-Cup Big Year competitions.  I'm sure

whoever wrote the graffiti on the lighthouse had this in mind.


THE CUP: Of course you did...



                      BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH             

                          By Caissa Willmer



                            Matt Medler


     We've got a charming and delightful Bird Brain this month: Matt

Medler of list and Lab of O fame. He thinks of himself as a novice birder,

but his skills are growing at a phenomenal rate--under the close and

careful tutelage of Jeff and Allison Wells--and his enthusiasm is more

than infectious. I plied him with the standard opening question: When did

you start birding, and what was it that first got you interested in birds?

     "I started birding just over four years ago, so I'm still fairly new

at the whole game.  When I came to Cornell as an undergraduate five years

ago, I was not even remotely interested in birds.  But, as luck would have

it, James Barry was my roommate freshman year.  Here was a guy who had

goofy-looking bird shirts, liked to listen to bird song tapes, and talked

about going to a place called Sapsucker Woods.  What a weirdo!  Somehow

James talked me into going to Sapsucker Woods during finals week, and

although I didn't even birdwatch on that first trip, I really enjoyed our

visit, and I remember thinking that maybe birdwatching wasn't so bad after

all.  When James and I did go birdwatching for the first time later that

summer, I enjoyed the places we went, and I was amazed by the beauty and

diversity of the birds we saw. I've been watching birds ever since.

     [CW] Next Q:To what extent does birding color your life--i.e., your

daily routine?

     "I'm at a stage in my life where I don't have many responsibilities,

so I don't have much of a daily routine.  I don't own a house, I don't

have any pets, and I don't have a girlfriend [sigh], so the only real

commitment I have is my job.  I work from 8:30 to 5, but other than that,

any time is available for birding.  If I want to drive up to Montezuma

after work, or if I want to get up early and go down to the lighthouse, I

do it.  However, I haven't reached the advanced stage of addiction where

birding is part of my daily schedule.  I'm not sure I'll ever reach that


     [CW] So, what does birding mean to you?

     "Birding used to mean ignoring my school work and going out with

James Barry in my trusty Reliant station wagon, hoping to track down some

‘rarity' that Steve Kelling had seen.  In many cases, the birds were rare

only for us, and in most cases, we didn't have any luck seeing them.  So

in those days, bird outings with James were often more about the

camaraderie than the birds (since we weren't seeing many).  My birding

skills are a bit more refined now, but the people element is still a big

part of birding for me.  I don't enjoy going birding alone nearly as much

as I enjoy it when I'm with somebody else.  At the risk of sounding corny,

I enjoy sharing birds with fellow birders, whether they be seasoned

veterans or beginners.

     [CW] Well, then are you an avid lister?

     "I have a really difficult time with the word ‘lister,' and whether I

am a lister or not.  When I think of the word lister, I think of a

twitcher--someone who chases down rare birds and seems to value adding the

bird to his/her list as much as actually experiencing the bird.  I would

say that I'm not that type of lister, although this damn David Cup

competition has made me twitch once or twice recently.  Perhaps the better

question would be ‘Do I keep a list?'  The answer to that would be yes.

The big list for me is my lifelist.  All other lists, such as North

American lists, state lists, Basin lists, town lists, and yard lists, seem

a bit silly to me.  I could figure out how many birds I've seen in New York

State, or in the Basin, and I generally know when I'm seeing a new Basin

bird or state bird, but what's the big deal (especially when a list

involves political boundaries)?  Oh--did I mention David Cup and McIlroy

lists?  Those are probably the silliest lists of all.

     "Of course, I know exactly how many birds I have on my David Cup list

this year, because I decided to make a strong effort to hit 200.  After the

madness ends this year, though, I will probably seem a bit listless.  Did

this clear things up at all?  Probably not.

     [CW] Would you describe two or three of your most memorable

birding experiences?

     "One of my first great birding experiences was when James Barry and I

went to Montezuma for the first time with our own binoculars, but since

that experience involves our getting yelled at by a refuge volunteer, I

think I'll pass on the details.  We were totally innocent!  I swear!

     "Another truly memorable birding outing was when James and I went to

Ferd's Bog for our first (and only) time.  However, the highlight of that

trip was not Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, or the three-toed woodpeckers

(none of which we saw), but rather my ending up waist-high in Ferd's Bog

muck, so I'd prefer not to describe that experience.  I'm sure that James,

however, would be more than happy to tell his version of the trip.

     "For those who are starting to feel bad for me (no tears, Allison!), I

do have at least one birding story with a happy ending.  I spent two weeks

last summer in Lapland, where I ringed birds with some Swedish friends from

Lund University.  One morning, the non-birder in the group mentioned that

she had seen an owl outside of her window as she went to bed the previous

night.  She described the bird well, and we decided it was a Hökuggla--Hawk

Owl!  So that night, a group of us walked down the road a ways in the hope

of seeing the owl.  After quite some time, we saw the silhouette of the

bird fly across the mountain, at quite some distance.  That was nice, but I

was hoping to see the bird better.  We waited a while longer, in the hope

of another appearance.  Gradually, the group began to thin out, until just

a young Swede, Karl-Martin, and I were left. We waited and waited, but

still there was no sign of the owl.  A huge full moon was now visible, and

Karl-Martin told me how he had seen a Hawk Owl last year, flying across a

full moon.  We were having no such luck, but we were reluctant to give up.

We walked the road again, and waited.  Still no owl.  Finally, we decided

to head back to the cabins.  On the short walk back, we heard a strange

sound.  What was that?  I don't know.  What sound do Hawk Owls make?

Strange sounds.  We decided we should wait five more minutes, and finally,

we were rewarded.  The Hawk Owl appeared, flying right past us, with the

full moon behind it.  We ran up to the reindeer pen where it was headed,

and it proceeded to put on a show for us.  It sat on a large post, and then

would swoop down to the ground, eventually returning to its lookout.  It

stayed in the area for over 15 minutes, allowing us to admire it from close

range.  Finally, as a last hurrah, it flew right over me, maybe 20 feet

above my head, and headed up the mountainside.  It was a truly magical


     [CW] OK, then, who are you professionally?

     "According to my official Cornell title, I am Media Assistant V at the

Library of Natural Sounds.  I'm not entirely sure what that means, so I

usually say that I'm a curatorial technician at LNS.  I started working at

LNS seven months ago, along with Martha Fischer, to tackle the sizable

backlog of Neotropical recordings which has accumulated there over the past

20+ years.  Our primary responsibilities are to copy original field

recordings, splice these LNS cuts into the working collection, and enter

recordists' data into our new LNS data entry program.  I don't always have

a big smile on my face when I'm entering data, but otherwise, I'm very

happy with my job so far.  It's great-I get to do bird work all day long,

and I get paid!"

     [CW] Would you give us a bit of biographical background?

     "I am a lifelong New Yorker, although I have spent time in three

relatively different parts of the state (none of which include New York

City).  When I was growing up, I spent the school year at my family's home

in Glenville, a suburb of beautiful Schenectady.  As soon as summer rolled

around, we would go up to our camp (or ‘summer palace,' as James Barry

refers to it) in Willsboro, where the Adirondacks meet Lake Champlain.

After spending most of the past five years in Ithaca (and with plans to

spend at least the next year and a half here), Central New York is starting

to feel like home.

     "Unlike many birders, who spent their childhoods looking at birds and

other creatures, I spent most of my youth playing sports, and I still enjoy

playing basketball, tennis, frisbee, and even golf.  If anybody's ever

looking for a little friendly competition in any of these sports, just let

me know.

     "Finally, some people might have gotten the impression that I've spent

some time in Scandinavia.  Actually, that's not true.  I made the whole

thing up. The stories about being an exchange student in Norway in the

summer of 1991, and working in Sweden last summer for three months?

Blatantly false.  And the rumor that I speak Swedish?  Ja! I know about as

much Swedish as the chef from the Muppet Show.

     [CW] What else would you like to talk about? (That's bird-related,

of course!)

     "I think that's all for now."


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

Development. She's also theater critic for Ithaca Times. Although she will

not admit it, she pays her Bird Brain interviewees with backstage passes to

Tony-nominated Broadway shows. )



                             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 these...




My VCR quit working last week. I traced the problem to a little rubber

drive-tire that had worn out, which turned out to be unavailable

anywhere. I didn't care too much about that, until I realized that I was

going to have to spend the dusk-hours looking out for Common Nighthawks

and Whip-Poor-Wills. I was forced to chuck an old plumbing fixture into the

South Bend and turn out a bronze die with which I punched a replacement

tire out of an old tractor inner-tube to get the VCR back on line. Whew!

Now I can bird on Thurs evenings again, but I can't figure out whether I

did it because I _have_ to see those birds, or because I'd rather put my

money into a scope than into a new VCR, or I just _couldn't_ miss another

episode of "XENA."  If it breaks down again before next Thursday's

broadcast, and I go birding anyway, will you tell me what happens to the

Warrior Princess?


                             --Heroic Plumber at the South Bend


Dear Heroic Plumber:


Boy, did you miss an episode! She went on this crazy Montezuma Muckrace

thing, birding around the Refuge for 24-hours straight.  Oh, the battles

she fought!  Fatigue, hunger, not to mention those confusing fall warblers

and then...oh, wait.  You said Xena.  I thought you said Meena.  Nevermind.




This past month, I went on Darien Lake's new $10 million monstercoaster,

the Mind Eraser.  The ride held up to its name: as soon as I got off the

ride I realized I couldn't remember a single bird on my David Cup list. Can

I still be in the competition?

                                 --Eraserhead in Sapsucker Woods

Dear Eraserhead:


Remembering the birds that are on your David Cup list is not important.

Seeing or hearing them isn't all that big a deal, either.  Heck, you don't

even have to like birds to be in the David Cup.  As a matter of fact, it's

preferable (to the birds) that you don't. Liking them too much can lead to

separation anxiety, and as you know from recent Dear Tick columns, this can

make them feel very uncomfortable. Don't worry about your list unless

you're a contender for the trophy.  Till then, regarding your monthly

totals, just make something up.  That's what everybody else does.




Let's say I went down to see that Sabine's Gull in Elmira, which is,

currently, out of the Basin.  Let's say this same individual bird flies

into the Basin and I don't see it.  Even though I didn't see it in Basin

territory, shouldn't I be able to count it for my list anyway, given the

chain of events?


                                      --Gull-lover Twist in Ithaca


Dear Gull-lover Twist:


Let's say you kiss your mother.  Let's say your mother goes on to win the

Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and as Ed McMahon gives her the

big payday, she gives him a big smackeroo.  Would you go around telling

everyone you kissed Ed McMahon?



(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at


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


"Registered mail for Allison Wells:  Ms. Wells, there was a breeding

plumage male Hooded Warbler skulking around near my driveway at

9:00 this morning." [See McIlroy Musings, The Cup 2.7]


                                                  --John Bower


"A leisurely 31st spent birding made up a bit for our absence of nearly

half the month.  We're still missing a bunch of rather common things (well,

okay, not that common, but findable anyway), but have had a nice measure

of good luck to balance."

                                          --Kevin and Jay McGowan


"A Merlin was coursing around Joe's Restaurant when I drove by the

intersection of Buffalo and Meadow Street at about 6PM on Thursday night.

Obviously seeking pasta question."


                                           --Andy Farnsworth


"I met up with Bill Evans this morning out at the white lighthouse, in

the hopes of a good movement of birds early this morning.  There were no

real ‘mamitas,' but it was a nice morning to be down on the water."


                                           --Matt Medler


"Well, I made a trip to MNWR for phalaropes (which I am dying to see or

rather living to see.)"

                                           --Meena Haribal


"Okay, so I didn't get any new birds the past two months-- so what!

Big deal! It's not as if I feel guilty or inferior or anything (Arrgghh!

The shame, the agony, the defeat, mercy, mercy, mercy!)"


                                            --Cathy Heidenreich


"Okay, your ad on Cayugabirds sold me.  Please subscribe me to The Cup.


                                             --Mark Landon


[In the middle of the night...]

"Jeff, listen! Screech-owl!  Oh, nevermind, it's Teddy [the Wells' cat]

snoring here beside me."

                                              --Allison Wells


"David Cup Total:182   (Must...reach...200...)

McIlroy Cup Total:      122   (Must...beat...birding dog...)"


                                               --Chris Butler


"Last evening at dusk I witnessed...the rising of a Great Horned Owl

from its roost in our spruce grove to a commanding perch on spruce-top.

I was quite close to it and even though it was silhouetted against the last

glow of sunset, could see a lot of detail...After a few minutes it flew

past me to the hedgerow. Amazingly large, and truly silent. Maybe common,

but a real ‘wow' just the same."

                                                --Nancy Dickinson


"I really appreciate the carpenter bees in my siding. We share the same

love for morning sun on the porch in June, and we both fear the

depredations of woodpeckers! They won't raise the value of my home in the

eyes of real-estate appraisers, but they make it a much more appealing

residence to me."

                                                --Geo Kloppel


"Maybe it is an attempt by the city of brotherly love for forgiveness, but

today while waiting for a phone call a very bright plumaged Philadelphia

Vireo appeared at the bird feeders at the Lab. of O."


                                                --Steve Kelling


"Please send me this strangely advertised document to enlighten our

amateur birding."

                                               --Watt W. Webb


"Come on, come on, show me your butt--not you, Jeff, the [White-rumped]


                                                --Matt Medler


"‘Kevin McGowan wrote:  Bill was disappointed with the Friday flight,

and expects the next cold front to usher in a big flight night.'  This

reminds me of a certain frigid Thanksgiving morning at the Taughannock

loon watch, where the gathered minions were promised either

(a) a massive loon flight, or (b) a swan dive by Bill Evans off the

jetty into the lake. After much debate, we decided that four loons did

not really qualify as ‘massive.' But to my knowledge, no one has yet heard

The Big Splash. (Sometimes, late at night, I put on headphones and yearn

to hear the sounds of the night. And sometimes, I hear a low, growing

chorus, in tempo not unlike the slowly accelerating drumming of a Ruffed

Grouse, but vaguely human. Straining, I hear voices: ‘Bill ... Bill ...

Bill ... Bill Bill Bill BillBillBillBILLBILLBILL B I L L ! ! !' And then

--silence, like the rippled waters of a cool, inviting lake.)"


                                                --Ralph Paonessa


"Not much down on the jetty today--not even a Bill Evans.  I had to make

do with the sound of the telegraph cable being rapped by the wind against

one of its supporting metal posts - an, even rhythmic bill,bill,bill,

bill,bill,bill,bill, bill,bill,bill,bill,bill,bill...' Oh, and while we're

on the subject, any idea who scrawled the words 'Evans Rules' in black ink

on the pristine white paintwork of the jetty lighthouse?"

                                                 --Stephen Davies


"[In the interview with Bill Evans] you might ask him about the graffiti on

the north side of the lighthouse--it say's ‘Evans Rules.'"


                                                 --John Bower


"Okay, I'll bite and take a look at The Cup as I keep seeing references to

The Cup on the list serve and would like to satisfy my curiosity."


                                                --Catherine Sandell


"Tonight looks to be a great night to hear the calls of birds in night

migration. I will be up at the Mount Pleasant Observatory at 9PM with

recording gear if anyone wants to join me for a good listen."


                                                --Bill Evans


"Myers had no shorebirds this morning, but there's always the

drive home!"

                                               --Karl David


May Your Cup Runneth Over,


Allison and Jeff