Year 2, Issue 9
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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
* Evans Cup Compiler: "Bird Hard" Bard Prentiss
* The Yard Stick Compiler: Margaret "in Mansfield" Launius
* Bird Bits: Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" McGowan
* Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* Stunt Coordinator: Jeff Wells
Did you know that the new Miss America was crowned last month? We didn't
either until we read it in one of our rival publications (Newsweek).
Apparently, the event was a big deal this time around because it was the
first year two-piece bathing suits were allowed (next year, we hear
they'll let contestants' hair actually move.)
Ordinarily, we wouldn't give a hoot except it got us to thinking, why not
have a Miss David Cup contest? Just imagine it: Ken Rosenberg prancing
down the catwalk (presumably the lighthouse jetty) in a silk evening gown
teal green, naturally), and Bill Evans in that ground-breaking two-piece
tastefully accentuated by a certain pair of red suspenders.) Stephen
Davies could strut his stuff in his infamous stilettos. Oh, and think of
the talent part of the contest: Kevin McGowan swinging from lighthouse to
lighthouse on his repelling ropes with his "Miss Beam Hill" banner draped
across his chest, and Steve Kelling wading around the swan pen giving his
best Great Blue Heron imitation. And when Karl David gets that inevitable
question, "If you could do anything to make the world a better place, what
would it be?" imagine his answer: "I'd make all the world one big, happy
Basin, and everyone in it would be Cuppers."
Who, pray tell, would sponsor such an outrageous, downright ludicrous
event? Why, The Cup, of course! Who better than The Cup to bring you
John Bower's embarrassing trip-up during the McIlroy part of the
competition? Who but The Cup could describe the glorious crown slipping
off the fingers of Tom Nix and right into the hands of...? True, it
wouldn't be a live broadcast; on the other hand, the editors would be at
liberty to present the contest as they see it, as opposed to, say, the way
it really happened.
While our contestants are getting sized and fitted, we give you The Cup
2.9. May you find it a crowning achievement!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: It worked! The Montezuma Muckrace sucked
another birder into the muck of the David Cup. Andy Leahy, Mucker and
Cup reader from Syracuse, has this to say about diving Peregrine-style
into the competition: "Put me down for an even 90 birds. Maybe I can
storm through the door of the 100 Club before the year is done." No
small feat, you'll see, when you read his Scrawl of Fame this month. And
remember Kurt Fox, the DC's 1996 would-be Basin dweller from Rochester?
Well... "I finally made it into the Basin. I did try to see the Western
Kingbird, but it managed to escape our detection. I did pick up an
even dozen Basin birds. I think that a nice twelve birds will put me
*WAY* ahead of Ralph Paonessa, but just behind Taylor Kelling."
A "BIT" OF AN OVERSIGHT: How pathetic! For the last eight issues--ever
since he joined The Cup staff--Bird Bits quiz master Jay McGowan has been
faithfully sending in his column and yet we've left him off the masthead!
The look on Jay's face when he pleaded with us to tell him why--it was
worse than if he'd missed a Cattle Egret! Well, maybe not, but it was
enough to make us editors feel embarrassed, inept, rotten to the core,
and certain that somehow, it had to be Bill Evans' fault. To make it up
to you, Jay, we're officially endorsing you as a Top Ten candidate...as
long as this doesn't make Allison Number Eleven.
BARD HARD: While we're at it, we're going to go ahead and put the Evans'
compiler up there on the masthead, too (hey, if we can give credit to
Jeff for acting as Dolly Grip, Rigging Gaffer, and this time around,
Stunt Coordinator, it won't kill us to recognize Bard's hard work
collecting the Dryden totals--a gig he himself initiated, by the way.
Bard, don't worry, we won't tell anyone that you always give yourself an
extra couple of Dryden birds for your effort.
THE YARD STICK: Now, before we forget and then have to offer yet another
apology, we'd like to welcome Margaret "in Mansfield" Launius to The Cup
staff. Margaret is "stick"ing it to us all this month by taking over
the duties of Yard Stick Compiler, for those Cuppers who believe they
should get more than just a house and some land for paying all those
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE...THE BASIN: Kurt Fox is a screenwriter! Well, not
really, and you'll know why when you read the far-fetched sketch for his
latest screenplay (notably, the disastrous miscasting of the Wicked
Witch). "After a bad slice of pizza and howling winds woke me in the
middle of the night, I couldn't help but think of another Cayugabirder's
comments on how the Western Kingbird location looked like Kansas. As you
know, Kansas is the setting for 'The Wizard of Oz.' I fancied the thought
that 'The Wizard of Oz' could be re-made with Cayugabirders in leading
roles. Problem is, there are just too many Basin characters and not enough
in Oz, so some are not represented. These are who I think would get the
leading roles: Mira the Bird Dog as Toto; Sammy and Taylor Kelling as
Munchkins and starring Jay McGowan as Head Munchkin; Caissa Willmer as
Glenda the Good Witch, Ralph Paonessa's Rainbow-billed Barking Duck as
Horse of a Different Color; Meena Haribal as Dorothy; Steve Kelling as
The Tin Man (rusted, off in the far woods and out of the Basin--listen
closely--he squeaks 'oil. oil' or is it 'bird... bird'?); Stephen Davies
as The Scarecrow (sorry, Stephen, a Brit accent to the Scarecrow is
fitting); Ned Brinkley as The Wizard (at first I pictured Karl David
here, but Ned seems more magical/mystical and watches [his crystal ball]
from afar). But the three fitting-est matches were: Bard Prentiss as The
Lion; Allison Wells as The Wicked Witch of the West; Bill Evans as The
(evil/nasty) Apple Tree (can't you just see him chucking apples at us as
he is 'rooted' to the end of the jetty?)" The Cup offers this suggestion:
Kurt Fox as the Joker. Oh, but that's a different movie.
"INSIDE" INFORMATION: Did you know that Kevin McGowan was filmed this
summer for the television show "Inside Edition"? Of course you didn't,
because they never ran the segment! That's right, not only did they
shelve the piece, they shelved the reporter who did the story.
Presumably, they didn't want to tarnish their sensationalist image by
running a story that might actually improve their viewers' environmental
awareness. Better to play it safe and run with the latest proof that
Elvis lives. If only they knew, Elvis was a birder (he named
"Graceland" for Grace's Warbler, didn't you know? It was on "Inside
MANATEE NEWS: A few issues back, we stretched our birding theme and
ran a piece about development plans in Florida's Crystal River that would
further endanger the already endangered the West Indian Manatee. Some of
you asked for an update, so briefly, here's what's happened since you all
wrote your protest letters: the agencies who should have gotten involved
long ago finally have, and the casino ship was supposed to remain docked.
However, it still loads up with passengers and heads on out whenever it
can, defying court orders. (At one point, the ship's captain was arrested
upon arriving back to port.) Several times, the ship has gotten stranded
in the river during low tide, just as environmentalists predicted. (Ship
employees told passengers it was sabotage!) Finally, marine patrols
boats are keeping the ship in port, at least during the day. The case
will be heard in court in mid- October. If you'd like to be put on the
mailing list for up-to-the minute info about this critical situation,
CAFE AUDUBON: Does any other group of individuals drink more coffee
than Cuppers? No! So we thought you'd all want to know that this fall,
National Audubon is introducing Cafe Audubon, a certified shade grown
and organic premium coffee. All Cafe Audubon coffee is grown in the
traditional way--under the natural shade of the rainforest canopy without
the use of synthetic pesticides. Sadly, more and more coffee growers are
converting their farms to "sun" plantations, where rainforest is cut down
to make room for more coffee trees. This destroys vital habitat for
migratory songbirds, plus these "sun" farms require extensive use of
synthetic pesticides, pollute water sources, and cause erosion. So take
your mugs--and while your at it, take your coffee cups too--to local
retailers, coffee shops, restaurants, and hotels and tell them that shade
coffee is not only good for the environment, it's good for business.
And sales of Cafe Audubon will help fund National Audubon Society and
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center programs to protect wild birds and
their habitats. (No, John Bower, Jeff's salary is not generated by Cafe
Audubon. If it were, we'd have bought a full-page ad in this
publication--and sent you the bill!) For more info contact Sarah Comis
at National Audubon at 202-861-2242.
MEGAN UPDATE: Most papas are proud of their child's early steps, and
Cupper Michael Runge is no exception. Every "step"Megan takes towards
becoming a full-fledged birder just gets Michael beaming all over: "I'm
pretty sure Megan added American Goldfinch to her list this month-
-they've been frequenting the cosmos and sunflowers in our garden.
There are increasing signs of birding interest: she's learned to crawl,
and when I put her down in the middle of the lawn, she crawls toward the
garden where the goldfinches are. I'm sure it isn't the attractive
purple flowers that draw her." Nah. Cup Headquarters has cosmos growing
out on their lawn and we've yet to see a single baby crawling towards
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: The Crystal City Jazz Festival (in
Corning) was the place to be September 24th. All day. That's right!
All up and down Market Street, all day and into the evening the songs of
Antonio Carlos Jobim, Charlie Parker and other jazz greats were sizzling
out of bookstores, coffee houses, music stores, even jewelry stores! Live
musicians were everywhere, and don't worry, the Cupper-heavy Ithaca
Ageless Jazz Band was heating up Center Way stage at noon! Say nothing
of the Merlin that zoomed low over the open-jam stage late in the day.
Now that was some solo!
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BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By Tom Nix
In geology, a "basin" is the area drained by a river and its
tributaries. How to define the north end of the Cayuga Lake Basin, then,
becomes problematic since our "river" continues on from Mud Lock at the
north end of Lake Cayuga as the Seneca River, already carrying the
outflow of Seneca Lake, and on into Lake Ontario as the Oswego River
after picking up the outflow of Onondaga and Oneida Lakes.
The "official" Basin map of the David Cup comes from a Cornell
University Agricultural Experiment Station publication titled "The Flora
To the Cayuga Lake Basin, New York" by Karl Wiegand and Arthur Eames,
issued in 1926. The Basin they describe has its southern limits at clear
boundaries between the north flowing waters and the Susquehanna
watershed. In Wiegand and Eames' words, "At the northern end, where the
lake basin fades into the great Ontario plain, an arbitrary limit has
been established.....the somewhat independent region of the West Junius
ponds is included and several miles of territory to the north of
Montezuma are also added in order that the "Flora" may cover all of the
region between Cayuga Lake and the immediate drainage area of the Lake
The Junius ponds are described as containing several of the rarest
plants in the Basin, "and many of exceptional occurrence," and we can
surmise that this is the reason for their inclusion. The side by side
acidic and calcareous bogs of the Junius area are drained to the north by
Pond Brook, and it is this stream's intersection with the Clyde River, on
its way to Montezuma, that sets the western boundary of the north Basin.
North and somewhat east of this point Black Brook flows south out of
drumlin country into the Old Erie Canal and then into the Clyde, and it
was on the edge of the Black Brook drainage, and thus on the edge of DC
territory, that Bill Evans found this year's most exciting vagrant.
While it may be true that for an aspirant to Cup glory there is no
substitute for time spent in the field, time needs to be spent in the
right places. By now the common species are all ticked, migrant songbirds
have been glimpsed through the leaves on their way north and back south.
By now most Cuppers' cars can steer themselves up the east shore, slowly
around the loop at Myers Park, speeding up route 90 past King Ferry, to
the corral at MNWR. It was left to Bill to explore the region beyond,
where he found the Basin's 5th Western Kingbird, a bird normally found
west of the Mississippi, on the 24th. According to Kaufman, a few
vagrants reach the east coast every year and some of these evidently
winter in Florida.
September started off with Davies noting some nice southbound
warblers at the jetty and good numbers of Caspian Terns. Kelling, Wells,
and the McGowans found a Red-necked Phalarope and a Lesser Black-backed
Gull among the shorebirds at Mays Point. The Cup's premier hawk watcher,
Andy Farnsworth, found Merlin cruising downtown, and observed kettles of
Broadwings numbering in the hundreds at Mt Pleasant. Oh yes, Andy also
reported most of the possible hawk species at one time or another during
the month of September right from his own porch in the heart of McIlroy
territory. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was observed at the Lab of O on the
15th and on the 21st Meena Haribal found a Sanderling at Benning Marsh.
Early in the month Bill Evans reported a fine flock of 23 Golden
Plovers in the plowed fields near Peruville. A hit or miss bird at
Montezuma through this migration season, this flock provided an
opportunity to see a variety of plumages as the birds molted into basic
gray. And ever alert to what's up, Bill noted one of the only Evening
Grosbeaks seen in the Basin this year flying over the Lab of O at
midmonth. Like the spectacular dunks of the NBA's Dominique Wilkins, a
player known as the "Human Highlight Film," Bill's finds were in and of
themselves the cream of the September Cup highlights.
(Tom Nix is a Liberal Arts grad-turned-carpenter, now a Code Inspector
for the City of Ithaca. He followed the Wells, Matt Medler and Casey
Sutton part way up to the Western Kingbird sight--they recognized his
teal green van behind them. Thing is, when Matt waved, Tom had morphed
into some stranger...but at least he waved back.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
SIGN ON THE 100 CLUB DOOR: "No new members admitted this month.
And it's your own fault."
200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
[Sign on 200 Club door]: "WARNING: BILL EVANS INSIDE. Enter at
your own risk."
Bill Evans BIRD 200: Western Flycatcher (he thinks--and since he's the
one who found it, we'll give him the benefit of a doubt.)
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: Mt. Pleasant
Andy Farnsworth's BIRD 200: "I do not know off the top of my head.
Probably some warbler since my spring was pretty screwy."
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: His hand-crafted Aceto guitar
Anne Kendall-Cassella's BIRD 200: Short-billed Dowitcher
WHAT SHE GAVE TO GET IN: Her summer vacation in Belgrade, Maine
Bard Prentiss' BIRD 200: "I don't know what my 200th bird
was but it was a shore bird and it was at Mays Point or Benning Marsh."
WHAT HE GAVE TO GET IN: His hippymobile
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
by Matt Medler
Holy McGowans, Batman! Just a month after Stephen Davies assumed his
place on the David Cup throne, Jay and Kevin stormed the palace, with
Jay moving into fifth place to tie with Allison Wells, and Kevin
claiming the September crown.
1997 David Cup September Totals 1997 David Cup August Totals
231 Kevin McGowan 228 Stephen Davies
230 Steve Kelling 225 Tom Nix
229 Stephen Davies 222 Kevin McGowan
228 Tom Nix 222 Steve Kelling
227 Jay McGowan 221 Ken Rosenberg
227 Allison Wells 220 Allison Wells
224 Jeff Wells 219 Jeff Wells
223 Ken Rosenberg 217 Jay McGowan
217 John Greenly 210 John Greenly
217 Karl David 208 Chris Hymes
216 Matt Medler 207 Matt Medler
215 Chris Hymes 205 Karl David
210 Bard Prentiss 204 Meena Haribal
209 Meena Haribal 198 Anne Kendall Cassella
205 Andy Farnsworth 193 Bard Prentiss
202 Bill Evans 190 John Bower
201 Anne Kendall-Cassella 188 JR Crouse
199 JR Crouse 182 Bill Evans
198 John Bower 182 Chris Butler
187 Geo Kloppel 179 Martha Fischer
182 Chris Butler 175 Geo Kloppel
179 Martha Fischer 158 Michael Pitzrick
158 Michael Pitzrick 150 Marty Schlabach
150 Marty Schlabach 141 Margaret Launius
148 Margaret Launius 140 Anne James
140 Anne James 137 Jim Lowe
139 Jim Lowe 136 Michael Runge
136 Michael Runge 120 David McDermitt
125 David McDermitt 119+ Andy Farnsworth
111 Caissa Willmer 111 Caissa Willmer
106 James "One-day Wonder" Barry 90 Casey Sutton
92 Casey Sutton 68 Cathy Heidenreich
92 Andy Leahy 68 Diane Tessaglia
80 Cathy Heidenreich 67 Jane Sutton
68 Diane Tessaglia 64 Sarah Childs
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* 5 Ralph Paonessa
37 Taylor Kelling 0 Ned Brinkley
11 Kurt Fox
5 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Ned Brinkley*
EDITORS' NOTE: Matt Medler would like the record to show that
inclusion of James Barry's totals in last month's issue was an error
on behalf of the editors, who overrode his "omission." However, since
the editors have final say, we're going to go ahead and say the mistake
was his fault.
*Currently living out-of-state but anticipate or have made a temporary
return to Basin within the 1997 David Cup year. Will pay large sums of
money to any Cupper willing to trade totals with them.
1997 McIlroy September Totals 1997 McIlroy August Totals
193 Steve Kelling 191 Steve Kelling
190 Allison Wells 186 Allison Wells
187 Stephen Davies 185 Stephen Davies
180 Jeff Wells 178 Jeff Wells
172 John Bower 161 John Bower
156 JR Crouse 156 JR Crouse
154 Bill Evans 153 Kevin McGowan
154 Kevin McGowan 148 Martha Fischer
153 Andy Farnsworth 140 Karl David
148 Martha Fischer 139 Ken Rosenberg
144 Karl David 138 Matt Medler
140 Ken Rosenberg 136 Tom Nix
138 Matt Medler 130 Jay McGowan
136 Tom Nix 128 Bill Evans
130 Jay McGowan 122 Chris Butler
122 Chris Butler 116 Anne Kendall-Casella
116 Anne Kendall-Casella 115 Michael Runge
115 Michael Runge 111 Jim Lowe
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. Will pay large sums of
money to any Cupper willing to trade totals with them.
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 to
Ken Rosenberg, er, to the Cupper with the highest Dryden total.
195 Ken Rosenberg 191 Ken Rosenberg
186 Kevin McGowan 179 Bard Prentiss
186 Bard Prentiss 178 Kevin McGowan
178 Jay McGowan 170 Jay McGowan
127 Anne Kendall-Cassella 126 Anne Kendall-Cassella
117 Matt Medler 117 Matt Medler
Kevin McGowan's Lansing total: September: 152 August: 149
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
By Margaret Launius
A total of 10 Yardbirders got their totals in under the wire and with
short notice for this edition! Keep those totals coming to me, Margaret
Launius at email@example.com for next months tally!
129 John Bower, Enfield, NY
127 Kevin & Jay McGowan, Dryden, NY
102 John Greenly, Ludlowville, NY
75 Jim Kimball, Geneseo, NY
74 Margaret Launius, Mansfield, PA
72 Jeff and Allison Wells, Ithaca, NY
69 Sara Jane & Larry Hymes, Ithaca, NY
68 Darlene & John Morabito, Auburn, NY
67 Nari Mistry Family, Ithaca, NY
43 Cathy Heidenreich, Lyons, NY
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Karl David
Before giving you the new leader's list, recall that I had to make an
educated guess at Stephen Davies' list last month. I made two (2) errors.
For those of us who prize precision, we need to remove Sora and Acadian
Flycatcher from his list and replace them with Brant and Golden-winged
Now to Kevin's list. Not to brag, but with hotshot young son Jay pushing
him, Kevin's eventual emergence as King of the Hill (for now) was no
surprise to me! Here you have it:
C Loon, P-b, Horned & R-n grebes, D-c Cormorant, Am & Least bitterns,
G B Heron, Great & Cattle egrets, Green Heron, B-c Night-Heron, Tundra
& Mute swans, Snow & Canada geese, Wood Duck, G-w Teal, Am B Duck,
Mallard, N Pintail, B-w Teal, No Shoveler, Gadwall, Am Wigeon,
Canvasback, Redhead, R-n Duck, G & L scaup, Oldsquaw, W-w Scoter,
Com Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded, Com & R-b mergansers, Ruddy Duck, TV,
Osprey, Bald Eagle, N Harrier, S-s & Cooper's hawks, N Goshawk,
R-s, B-w, R-t & R-l hawks, Golden Eagle, Am Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine
Falcon, R-n Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Va Rail, Sora, Com
Moorhen, Am Coot, B-b, Am Golden & Semipalmated plovers, Killdeer,
Am Avocet, G & L yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted & Upland sandpipers,
R Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated, Least, W-r, Baird's & Pectoral
sandpipers, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, S-b & L-b dowitchers, Co Snipe, Am
Woodcock, R-n Phalarope, Bonaparte's, R-b, Herring, Thayer's, Iceland,
L B-b, Glaucous & G B-b gulls, Caspian, Forster's & Black terns, Rock &
Mourning doves, B-b Cuckoo, E Screech-Owl, G Horned, Barred, S-e &
N S-w owls, Co Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, R-t Hummingbird, B Kingfisher,
R-h & R-b woodpeckers, Y-b sapsucker, Downy & Hairy woodpeckers,
N Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian, Alder,
Willow & Least flycatchers, E Phoebe, G Crested Flycatcher, W & E
kingbirds, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree, N R-w, Bank, Cliff & Barn
swallows, Blue Jay, Am & Fish crows, Co 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, E Bluebird,
Veery, G-c, Swainson's, Hermit & Wood thrushes, Am Robin, G Catbird,
N Mockingbird, B Thrasher, Am Pipit, C Waxwing, Eur Starling, W-e, B-h,
Y-t, Warbling, Philadelphia & R-e vireos, B-w, G-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, Am Redstart (breaks the streak!),
Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, N & La waterthrushes, Mourning Warbler,
Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Wilson's & Canada warblers, Scarlet
Tanager, N Cardinal, R-b Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, E Towhee, Am 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, E Meadowlark, Y-h & Rusty blackbirds,
Com Grackle, B-h Cowbird, Orchard & Baltimore orioles, Purple & House
finches, Pine Siskin, Am Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
Kevin's total: 231
FATHER KARL'S COMPOSITE DEPOSIT
I promised Kevin I wouldn't draw undue attention to the incredibly
embarrassing bird he's still missing, so please don't read the
following list of birds seen only by others too carefully:
R-t Loon, Am White Pelican, Snowy Egret, G W-f & Ross's geese, Brant,
Eurasian Wigeon, Barrow's Goldeneye, Black Vulture, Western & B-b
sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing & Little gulls, COMMON TERN,
Y-b Cuckoo, Snowy & L-e owls, Whip-poor-will, O-s & Y-b flycatchers,
Northern Shrike, W-e & Ky warblers, Common Redpoll, Evening Grosbeak.
Grand Total: 257 species.
(Karl David teaches mathematics at Wells College in Aurora and is spending
a sabbatical year at Cornell. Rumor has it he owns stock in McDonald's.)
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove you use your fatherly influence over your highly
competitive son than by being featured in an interview exclusively for The
Cup? Kickin' Tail brings well deserved honor and recognition to the
Cupper who has glassed, scoped, scanned, driven, climbed, dug, crowed, or
otherwise made his/her way to the top of the David Cup list. There was
some speculation a few months back about dark-horse favorites, and guess
whose name didn't come up? This month's Kickin' Tail Leader Kevin
McGowan's! (Maybe this particular dark horse was misidentified as a
crow...with wing tags.)
THE CUP: "Here are our September totals. We're doing okay, despite my
perennial problems with fall." Kevin, your quote, sent in with your
totals, suggests you have no business Kickin' Tail this month or any
month in fall. How do you reconcile this inconsistency?
McGOWAN: I always have trouble in the fall. I think I run out of gas
after the excitement of spring migration and the effort of my research
through the summer. I can keep up the momentum for the shorebirds, but
those fall landbirds always elude me. I don't know how Bill Evans gets
THE CUP: They're the only birds around when he's actually in town.
McGOWAN: The same warblers you stopped paying attention to in the
summer now elicit exclamations of joy from the excited fall birders, but
THE CUP: What these birders are only excited about is the chance to
"clean up" the gazillion birds they missed in spring so they'll have a
respectable David Cup score when it's all said and done. Face it, who
are these "excited fall birders?" Bill Evans. Enough said.
McGOWAN: Spring migration is this flood after the drought of winter.
Fall is just a bit more excitement after all the singing stops.
THE CUP: What were some of the key birds that put you ahead?
McGOWAN: Fortunately, I got Lincoln's Sparrow in the spring (although
I've had a few this fall, too), and I did get Philadelphia Vireo this
fall, both of which I've been missing a lot lately. But I still missed
Olive-sided Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, two of my constant
THE CUP: Ouch.
McGOWAN: Orange-crowned Warbler and Connecticut are still to
make an appearance, but I haven't been trying very hard (but I have been
out there). I might point out that last year I had 232 species at the
end of September, almost exactly the same as this year. The big
difference is that I was in 6th place last year, behind the leader at
THE CUP: And you're bragging about this?
McGOWAN: Despite the fact that it seems like a duller year than last,
it really isn't. We've had nearly the same number of rarities this year
as last, and our combined total (as figured by Karl) is actually higher
this year. It's just that no one is putting in the huge effort of 1996
to see everything.
THE CUP: Haven't you seen Bill Evans lately? And Karl? He's got that
look again. Say nothing of your own son! (The pesky little...)
McGOWAN: I cannot compete for the really big year. I have a family and a
job, and despite my son's interest, I cannot spend the time in the field
that it takes for a really big year.
THE CUP: Kevin, don't go there. Don't be lured by the deadly bait of
excuse. You're doing fine, just fine. Now here, take your last pill.
Feeling better yet?
McGOWAN: This year things are a bit more manageable and I can compete.
THE CUP: 'at a boy, Kev! You know, Tom missed a fair number of rarities
these last few months--the avocet, the Cattle Egret, the Western Kingbird-
-provoking you to speculate that a bunch of us are pretty much even in
that arena now. You said that you believe the winner will therefore be
the person with the most "3"s, on your difficulty-rating scale. What do
you think are the most important birds this year that fit into that
category? More importantly, do you have them all?
McGOWAN: In my list of difficulty codes for Basin birds, the 3's are
those that are predictable each year but are difficult to find. Every
fierce competitor should have all of the 1's and 2's, but will probably
miss some 3's. (Incidently, if you get all of the predictable ones, you'll
come up with 237 species right there). Last year I predicted (correctly,
I might add) that the leaders would have most of the 3's and the
difference would be in the number of the harder 4's and 5's (those things
not seen every year). Karl had a couple of things that made the
difference, like American Avocet, Pine Grosbeak, and Hoary Redpoll.
THE CUP: Must you remind us?
McGOWAN: This year, we're all bunched up in the 4's and 5's sightings,
with no one having a clear edge. Tom had the best positioning, but he
has fallen down miserably in getting those late good birds. So, it set
me to thinking that perhaps the proportion of 3's seen will be the key.
Of those, only three have yet to be reported: Black Scoter, Surf Scoter,
and Connecticut Warbler. I am missing 9 that have been seen by others,
but several of those (Long-eared Owl, Northern Shrike, Brant, Red-
throated Loon) are still possible. A few, though, like Yellow-bellied
and Olive-sided Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoo are gone.
THE CUP: Good heavens! That doesn't mean Jay missed them, too, does
it? (Does it? Does it!)
McGOWAN: Of course, I still need to mop up my last #2: Common Tern.
THE CUP: How are you able to get quality birding time in AND keep your
persistent Cupper son behind you? What might it take for you to
"accidentally" forgot to take him birding with you in the next few months
(name your price!)
McGOWAN: Jay's excitement with birding and the time we have spent
together have definitely been the highlight of this otherwise difficult
year. Needless to say, we have been having a great time! Of course,
it's not all roses. There has been some added stress this year in having
to find these birds, not just for myself, but for my non-driving birding
buddy as well. When I walked up to Stephen Davies on the lighthouse
jetty and he told me he had an avocet, my first reaction was "Wow!
Where?" But the second one was "Shoot, I can't stay here and look at it,
I've got to go get Jay!"
THE CUP: Next time, call us and we'll go get him. (Ha, ha, ha.)
McGOWAN: It was a life bird for him; one we had missed down at
Jamaica Bay shortly before that. So, that added a couple of extra hours to
my day. And if you've ever looked at the face of an excited child trying
to hide the extreme disappointment of not being able to locate some odd
bird that was "just right there a second ago," you know that this isn't
something to take lightly.
THE CUP: Yes, we've seen that look on Matt Medler's face. Of course,
just as often, the look's on all our faces, since Matt is a notorious bad
luck charm. Just ask James Barry, the poor guy.
McGOWAN: Shoot, I'VE wanted to cry sometimes when we've missed something.
As you're aware, birding has built-in frustrations that can break
even adults. I had a good birding friend a number of years ago just
finally give up the sport completely after one too many disappointments.
THE CUP: I thought we agreed not to bring that up about Tom Nix?
McGOWAN: Jay and I have been extremely lucky this year finding rarities,
far more successful than I've ever been before. What would be the price
to leave him at home more often? You don't have enough money!
THE CUP: True, we're still waiting for some bottomless endowment. If it
happens to the Smithsonian, it's sure to happen to The Cup, you know?
Speaking of endowments, living on Beam Hill has been instrumental in your
Kickin' Tail this month--you must have suspected this would happen when
you bought your house. But how were you able to convince Kim that this
was where the family should settle?
McGOWAN: Living above Dryden Lake is good for birding and we've had
a nice bunch of birds on the hill, too. We looked at a lot of places
before deciding on this one. I can't say that being in the Basin was a
necessity, but it was a factor in the decisions (albeit way behind most
of the other, normal criteria).
THE CUP: Righhht.
McGOWAN: Kim was more flexible in this respect than I.
THE CUP: Any interesting new findings regarding your crow work? How
has it helped you in the DC this time around? You didn't "relocate" last
year's Marbled Godwit, we noticed.
McGOWAN: This was a crow season to forget. My mother's death in the
middle of it made it, by definition, the worst one ever. The crows
themselves were doing interesting things, including a bunch of tagged
ones becoming breeders (females usually wait 3 years before breeding,
males 5). But, except for the excitement of having a television crew
filming me once ("Inside Edition," anyone seen it?), it was mostly a down
THE CUP: Yeah, we saw it. There was that great scene with that woman in
the phone booth being attacked by all those angry birds--oh, wait. That
was a film by some hack named Hitchcock.
McGOWAN: As you can tell, it didn't help my Ithaca list much this year.
Other than Golden Eagles over Cayuga Heights (twice!), I didn't turn up
all that much. It still got me out and about, though, so some of the
regulars came quickly.
THE CUP: What was the last article you read?
McGOWAN: Peter Dodson's column in the American Paleontologist about
being a Christian and still being able to be a good scientist.
THE CUP: Sounds like a good article for that Cornell science professor-
-you know, the who walks into his classroom the first day and declares,
"There is no God"? It was good fodder for Allison's former writing
students--it always got them in a tizzy. What do you predict the winning
total will be, and will it be yours?
McGOWAN: Could be me. October might tell. I don't think we'll get out
of the low 240's this year, so let's go for 244. I should point out that
this is still a pretty impressive total, and especially impressive is
the number of people we have over 200 already. Last year a certain young
competitor got 208 species and felt almost embarrassed that he was so far
behind the leaders. I had to point out to him that NO ONE should be
ashamed of 208 species! That's an incredible total, especially for
someone who doesn't even drive yet. I think some people can be so caught
up in this amazing competition that they lose sight of reality.
THE CUP: What do you mean, "lose sight of reality?" The David Cup IS
By Jay McGowan
Welcome to Birdbits! Here is a chance to test your knowledge of the
world of birds. September is the peak of fall migration, so migration is
this month's theme. Answers next month (Or, if you pay me ten dollars,
I'll tell you them now.)
1. Which bird migrates the farthest?
2. Almost all birds that breed in North America winter in North or South
America or the Caribbean, but one land bird winters in Africa. What is it?
3. What falcon times its breeding so it coincides with fall migration so
that it can feed migrating birds to its young?
4. What South American bird periodically turns up in New York because it
gets turned around when trying to go home to Argentina from Venezuela?
5. What North American hawk has the longest migration?
6. What three relatively common New York birds breed in the southern
hemisphere and winter in New York in their winter and our summer?
7. Most of the spotted thrushes winter in Central and South America.
Which one winters in the U.S.?
8. What occasional visitor to the Basin breeds in the high arctic and
usually winters in the Great Plains but sometimes turns up at feeders here?
9. Which bird's name means "Wandering Thrush"?
10. What bird (besides Peregrine Falcon) has peregrinus in the name?
BONUS: Why do birds fly south for the winter?
ANSWERS TO LAST MONTH'S BIRDBITS:
1. How could you tell an American Golden-Plover from a Black-bellied
Plover if all you could see was their feet? Black-bellies have a very
small hallux (a hind toe) and Golden-Plovers don't. That means Black-
bellies have four toes and Golden-Plovers only have three on each foot.
2. Which North American shorebirds have black bellies in breeding
plumage? Northern Jacana, Eurasian Dotterel, Black-bellied Plover,
American Golden-Plover, Pacific Golden-Plover, Eurasian Golden-Plover,
Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, and Ruff (sometimes).
3. What is the scientific name for the Spoonbill Sandpiper?
4. Which of the peeps (the small sandpipers) have webbing between their
toes? Semipalmated Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper.
5. What shorebird is supposed to clean the teeth of crocodiles? The
Egyptian Plover of tropical Africa. It is not a real plover, but a
courser, a member of a family we don't have in North America.
6. Curlews' bills curve down. Godwits' bills curve up. Which shorebirds'
bills curve to the side? Wrybills. This odd shorebird lives only in New
Zealand. Its bill is adapted to extract prey from under rocks.
7. Flamingos have the longest legs relative to their size of any bird.
What is second? Stilts.
8. What North American shorebird has the longest bill? Long-billed Curlew
has the longest bill of the regularly occurring shorebirds, but the Far
Eastern Curlew that occasionally shows up in Alaska has an even longer
9. What is peculiar about the egg tooth of an American Woodcock chick?
Woodcock chicks have two egg teeth, the second of which is located on the
tip of the lower mandible.
10. What does Dromas ardeola eat? Dromas ardeola (the Crab Plover) eats
almost exclusively crabs. The Crab Plover is a large Black-and-White
shorebird with a very large bill and breeds on the India coastline of the
persian gulf and Arabian peninsula.
(Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. If he catches this month's
Kickin' Tail leader, he will likely be grounded.)
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
Only one person, Michael Runge, took a stab at the calculation I
outlined last month. At least, he was the only one willing to show it to
me. The method I proposed to calculate the probability of seeing at least
one each of the two bitterns, rails and cuckoos was the "brute force"
method of enumerating every case: the easiest to understand, but the most
tedious to carry out. Michael, with training in slick combinatorial
techniques, figured out a shortcut, as there generally is in such cases.
Such shortcuts are of tremendous practical value. They save time
and, when machines are involved, money. To compare, recall that in this
situation 6 probabilities had to be multiplied to get the probability of
each of the 27 distinct outcomes. Hence my method would require 5
multiplications (not 6 ...think about it!) for the probability of each of
the 27 cases, hence 27 X 5 =135 multiplications. The resulting 27 numbers
would then have to be added up to get the final probability, resulting in
a total of 135 + 26 = 161 operations.
By contrast, the shortcut Michael found required just 17
multiplications and 6 additions or subtractions [a clue as to how he did
it!], for a total of only 17 + 6 = 23 operations. That's just 23/161 = 14%
of the work for the other method! If you're curious how he did it, e-mail
me and I'll tell you. To throw some jargon your way, he used something
called the inclusion-exclusion principle. It's all done with Venn diagrams
of the appropriate sets, if you remember those from your school math daze.
To get back to the birds, it was practically a foregone conclusion
that after writing the article, I would see one of the missing birds. I
didn't think it would be the same day, but in fact it was: I saw an
American Bittern at Montezuma. Several days later, the Cayuga Bird Club
field trip I led there saw a Virginia Rail.
Oh, I forgot to tell you the probability Michael came up with: 85%.
So, that means in effect I have an 85% chance of seeing a cuckoo now,
thus completing the destined triumvirate, right? Wrong! We're now in the
exceedingly slippery and confusing realm of CONDITIONAL probability:
the probability of fulfilling some prophecy AFTER some of the events have
already happened (or not). For example, what's the probability of getting
10 consecutive heads on a repeated coin toss, IF you've already gotten 9
straight? That's (literally) a big "if"; the answer is 50%. This is
definitely not to be confused with the probability of getting 10 straight
heads, which is about one in a thousand. In our birding scenario, the
probability has already dropped to practically 0, since the likelihood of
seeing a cuckoo after October 1 is practically nil.
Next month: "The Triumph and Tragedy of Never-missed Birds on
Year Lists," or "Black-throated Blue Warbler, We Hardly Knew Ye."
(Did we mention Karl David is a mathematics professor?)
SCRAWL OF FAME
EDITORS' NOTE: We were fortunate to receive two exquisite Scrawls of
Fame this month, and since they're both timely, we're going to run them
both and say we didn't.
"Tails from the Old West"
by Karl David
As Kevin McGowan put it, the patch of habitat that the recent Western
Kingbird was found in looked just like a square mile of Kansas transported
to New York State. Luckily for us, a bit of Kansas avifauna also made itself
right at home there recently, and decided to stay for a while. This is its
story (at least from our point of view!).
Bill Evans is the most openly optimistic birder among us. Who hasn't
gone out with him and heard him exclaim at the outset, "It feels like
there's gotta be a rarity out there today!" Well, late this September, he
was finally as good as his word. Out checking his listening stations in the
far northwestern reaches of the Cayuga Lake Basin, he spotted a kingbird on
the wire. This was interesting because he hadn't seen one in about two
weeks. But when he stopped to look, he quickly realized this was more than
just a late Eastern Kingbird...it was a Western Kingbird...or at least one
of the several yellow-bellied western kingbirds. He got on his cell phone
and, working his way through a succession of unanswered phone numbers,
finally got Steve Kelling at the Lab of O and began describing the bird to
him as he was watching it. It soon became clear that it was indeed a
Western Kingbird. Steve posted it on Cayugabirds, setting several
interesting sets of wheels in motion.
Steve and wife Sue drove up the same evening and found it. Their report
indicated that the bird appeared to be within the Basin, an important
consideration for the David Cup competition. It seemed to be this revelation
that set off a slightly delayed reaction of chasing the bird. Your faithful
correspondent went up the evening of the next day, but was frustrated by a
fairly steady rain. A lone Syracuse birder was there too, but eventually gave
up. I was hungry so I drove the five miles or so to Lyons to stoke up [yes,
McDonald's ... I SWEAR I seldom eat there EXCEPT on birding junkets].
Then I returned, to find Jeff and Allison Wells back at the kingbird spot.
Their long faces indicated they'd had no luck either. The bird was probably a
one-day wonder, we decided. We were so disappointed, in fact, that we
killed the time by sourly speculating that the spot probably wasn't in the
Basin after all, from the lay of the land, and by wondering what Bill was
doing up there in the first place. Were he and Cathy Heidenreich, a
Cayugabirder from those parts, having a secret assignation, ostensibly to
look for a recently reported Whimbrel? It was a juicy rumor worth starting,
The next day I posted a message essentially saying "Don't bother, the
bird is gone." But Bill wasn't so easily convinced. The day after that,
knowing that Cathy Heidenreich was out of town and thus unlikely to
embarrass him by showing up, he decided to take Annette Finney up to look
for the bird. And darn if it wasn't right back at the same spot again! Some
guys (and girls, in this case) have all the luck.
Bill spread the word, and you knew that a lot of people would be out
looking for the bird the next day (Sunday). I was there by 10:30 A.M.,
cursing my bad meteorological luck. It wasn't raining this time, but it was
very windy. Still, that wind was from the south, so maybe the bird hadn't
left, but was hunkered down somewhere out of sight. Soon Tom Nix and
Bard Prentiss showed up, and we stood around until noon, with no luck.
Again we wondered whether this spot was really in the Basin anyway. What
a bunch of sore losers we are!
We dispersed, Tom and Bard heading one way, me another ... namely
right back to that infamous eating establishment in Lyons mentioned earlier.
Well greased, I returned to the scene of the crime ... what else to do on a
rather nice, if windy, Sunday? It was deja vu all over again ... there
were the long-faced Wellses again. The misery was more spread out this
time, though, as they had Matt Medler and Casey Sutton with them. We drove
a loop of roads to the south, since that was the direction in which the
bird had last been seen flying, but it was a desperation move, and we knew
it. One final commiseration session by our idling cars, and we headed back
for Ithaca, my car following theirs. But just as we were about to turn back
onto the highway south, their car stopped and turned around. What was up? I
almost kept going, but decided to follow them anyway. They turned onto a
road we hadn't traversed and stopped after about fifty yards. We were still
in sight of the original site, so I scanned the open fields and power lines
in that direction. Suddenly the others were all pouring out of their car
and pointing in the opposite direction, shouting "There it is! There it
is!" Not fifty feet from our cars was the Western Kingbird, peering down
at us from the telephone wires along the road.
This is what had happened: riding shotgun, Allison had spotted a distant
bird out of the corner of her eye just as Jeff was preparing to turn onto the
highway. The bird was flying back in the direction we'd come, and Allison
felt the profile was sufficiently close to a kingbird's to warrant one last
check. Who knows if the bird she saw actually was the bird on the wire, but
that hardly matters. Something called us back, and the story had an
incredibly happy ending. I was so excited I kissed Allison on the cheek,
and when we left she promised never to wash it again (right cheek, Allison,
in case you've already forgotten).
Of course, I felt awful for Tom and Bard. Leaving that morning, they had
in fact turned onto that very road, and scanned the area we found it in! What
rotten luck. But, as I'm sure they'd be the first to tell you, that's all
part of the game, and we all know next time the roles will probably be
It's hard to describe the welter of emotions I, and presumably the
others, felt while we watched this bird. A perfectly ho-hum experience in
say Kansas was transformed here into magic. We watched the bird, which
seemed almost to enjoy performing for us, sally forth to snatch two very fat,
juicy-looking bugs and bring them back to its perch. After beating them
against the wire, the bird appeared to toss them into the air before
swallowing them, like a show-off popping M&M's into his mouth [Sexist
choice of personal pronoun there? You make the call.].
And finally, speaking of conflicting emotions, consider the roller
coaster Kevin and Jay McGowan must have felt they were on as they drove up to
look for the bird later that day. En route, they first encountered Bard
Prentiss at a stop sign, learning from him that the bird hadn't been seen.
Nonetheless, they kept going, and in Aurora I spotted and hailed them,
having just posted the updated news from my office computer. So I was able
to give them the new location, and they were able to just drive right up to
(Karl David is...ah, never mind, you already know.)
Scrawl of Fame--cont'd
"On the Importance of Being Last"
By Andy Leahy
Let me just start by acknowledging--freely and openly, without shame,
without remorse--that my team came in Last Place at the first-ever
Montezuma Muckrace held way back on Sept. 6.
My teammates--all card-carrying members of the Onondaga Audubon
Society--blamed me exclusively. They said it was me and my--how shall I
say this?--relaxed approach to birding that took us out of the running.
Basically, by 9 a.m., I was accused of being "A 10-Bird Handicap." By the
time we turned in our list, they were laying a full 20 birds on my head.
Technically, I was captain of the group. I probably spent a whole hour
just putting the team together. Shanghaiing recruits, the endless phone
calls, the paperwork, travel coordination, etc. And yet all my pleas for
something as simple as a sit-down, diner-style food break were scoffed at.
"You didn't bring a lunch?"
I'm not actually bitter about the experience, though, because--see,
from the standpoint of spreading the contagion of birding--I think Last
Place is a very important place indeed. Let me explain.
One of my main jobs with Onondaga Audubon these past few years has
been coordinating the group's annual Birdathon, a third-Saturday-in-May
birding contest which you could say is kind of like New Jersey's World
Series of Birding, except Bush League. Or kind of like the David Cup,
except one day. According to the organization's oral history, the event has
gone on as a low-key Big Run since at least 1955, which I think is an
incredibly long time.
For most of those years, though, it never went beyond ten or twelve
teams consisting of the usual suspects. Now Onondaga Audubon's Big Run has
become a Birdathon--voluntarily encumbering itself with a fund-raising
element--and so there's been a much greater organizational incentive to
As it happens, that's been a tough process. There's a lot of theories
you could throw out for this, and I've heard them all. Time, time, who's
got time anymore? Not that many birders out there. Some folks are turned
off by competition. But if you really panned through all these lightweight
excuses and got down to one single nugget of truth, I think mainly it's
because people are afraid of coming in Last Place.
This very human fear, this terrific reluctance, this may not be a
recruitment problem for the Boston Marathon, but--for whatever reason--
the sport of birding suffers from it. If, in fact, the problem is truly
this simple, then the solution should be equally simple: Just arrange it
so Last Place comes in as low as possible every time.
I say there's a substantial legion of vicariously participating, casual
bird enthusiasts out there--following the monthly tally of The Cup, or
Onondaga Audubon's annual Birdathon round-up, or the Muckrace stats, or
what have you. And I say the last threads of these folks' resistance to
actually getting out there in person can be broken with nothing more than
absolutely terrible showings by at least one--preferably several--pioneers.
The worse, the better.
In fact, if anything, I'm ashamed my Onondaga Audubon team did as well
as it did in the Muckrace. If we just put in a little less time, a tad less
effort, I'm convinced we could have single-handedly doubled recruitment for
next Fall's event at Montezuma.
SHAMELESS PLUG: P.S --Onondaga Audubon's next Birdathon will be
held between midnight and midnight, Saturday, May 16, 1998--all within the
out-of-basin confines of Kingbird reporting Region 5. There is, however,
precedent for participation by Cuppers: Father Karl himself came aboard last
year and had "a ton of fun birding new areas with new people." Drop Leahy
a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
(Andy Leahy, formerly a newspaper reporter, is currently Veep for Onondaga
Audubon and makes a living as an abstractor in Syracuse, where he has a
house, a wife, and a 5-year-old girl who hates birding. He's working
on his second career as an advertising exec for birding competitions
(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 <
< < < <
Despite previous self-effacements that fall is not his most productive
bird-seeing time, this month's Coach is also Kickin' Tail. Although we'd like
to brag that it's merely the realization of a strong prediction (what, Kevin
McGowan? Kickin' Tail? In September? Ha! Ha...ha...um...) truth is, the
timing was just our good fortune--and yours. Here's why:
COACH MCGOWAN: October is the last gasp. This could be your last
chance to get new year birds. Unless you are missing some fairly easy stuff,
or something really neat turns up later, you won't add much after this. So,
that said, what are you going to do to make the most of it? First, on the
personal side: What are you missing? If you need a couple of shorebirds,
some are still to be found at Montezuma through the middle of the month.
But, be aware that many things (like Short-billed Dowitcher) are gone. Do
you need flycatchers (like me)? Fuhgettaboudit! They're history. Warblers?
Most are gone; the ones to look for now are Connecticut and Orange-
crowned. But, you'd better hurry. We've got only another week or so
before it's too late for them, too. Do you need sparrows? Better luck here.
Most expected sparrows are still around, along, probably, with some rarities
(like Nelson's Sharp-tailed, LeConte's, and Clay-colored). The bad news is
that they're so sneaky now you may never find them. I'll bet there's still a
Henslow's Sparrow in the Basin right now, but I'll also bet you don't find
it! Weedy fields are well worth walking through. There's lots of habitat
out there. Definitely make like the Steve's and check out Hog's Hole.
That's where the action will be. Patience, persistence, and pure out and
out luck are what you need to turn up a couple of neat sparrows at this point.
How about hawks? Are you still missing Broad-winged Hawk? Que
lastima! They're gone! But, if Golden Eagle is still a hole on your list,
this is the month for you. Go check out Mount Pleasant on days with north
winds. Red-tailed Hawk migration peaks this month, and Golden Eagles will
pass through, too. A whole lot of hawks will be going by this month, and a
very, very few might be something different. Pennsylvania just reported a
Swainson's Hawk flying by. Maybe it went over Mt. Pleasant first. We'll
never know these things unless you go up and check it out.
Do you need winter finches? Don't we all! It shows signs of being a
finch winter, but they're not here yet. A few Evening Grosbeaks have flown
over, and more are to be watched for. White-winged Crossbills are being
reported to our northeast (and even one at Hawk Mountain to our south), so
watch for them, especially at spruces with heavy cone loads. But they just
might wait a while before making their appearance, if they appear at all.
Same for siskins and redpolls. A few should show up soon, if they're
coming, but any bulk will be a bit later. Still, October is the month to
become aware of the possibilities. Longspurs will be seen before the end
of the month, if people look for them. Listen to the tapes of flight notes
of the finches and try to be out where you can hear these daytime migrants
flying over. And keep those thistle feeders filled!
Are you missing any waterfowl? If so, then the season for you is just
heating up. The Loon Watch is officially under way, and although few loons
have passed by yet, it's starting. Watch the last half of this month for
the first of the scoters, Oldsquaw, and Brant. Early morning at Taughannock
SP with Bob Meade is a great way to pick up interesting migrants. Or, head
down to Stewart Park and join the jolly junta on the jetty for gulls, loons,
and who knows what. (And the walk out to the lighthouse is one of the best
places to look for Orange-crowned and Connecticut warblers.)
So, play the odds and fill in your gaps. Give Montezuma a couple more
tries. Watch the lake, and take a couple of lunch breaks at Mt. Pleasant.
If you feel like a stroll, pick a nice weedy field. Go wander the festival
grounds at Hog's Hole. And don't take down your hummingbird feeders yet.
Any hummingbird that turns up this month is worth a close look. A few
western hummers are turning up at feeders in the east, so watch for
something different, especially something a bit rufous. I'm hoping for some
interesting feeder visitor this winter. Something like a Harris's Sparrow
or Varied Thrush. We haven't had anything like that for quite a while, so
we're due. Keep those feeders full and don't forget to watch them every now
and then. And get outside and bird! Let me repeat myself: get outside,
get outside! There seems to have been a lull in the action over the last
month, so we need to turn it up a notch. Those of you without a newborn
baby don't have acceptable excuses. Get out there and try to find
something. This can be the most beautiful time of the year in upstate New
York, so try to appreciate it. Either use your being outside as an excuse
to bird, or use your birding as an excuse to be outside. Remember, it only
gets darker and colder after this.
(Kevin McGowan is Associate Curator of Birds & Mammals at the Cornell
Vertebrate Collections. He does not have a newborn baby...)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Just when we were about to send a flailing fistful of questions off to
Steve Kelling for being in the lead--AGAIN--this month, The Cup's mailboxes
were AGAIN inundated with Frequently Asked Questions for our pitiful
runner-up, Allison Wells. Here are just the FAQs:
ANONYMOUS: Steve is so mild-mannered, hardly the competitive
type. How come he keeps winning every month?
WELLS: Don't let his generosity as a birder fool you. He's highly
competitive. Just ask his former high school football rivals, particularly
those with missing teeth.
ANONYMOUS: Do you think you'll be able to stay ahead of Stephen Davies?
WELLS: No problem. Stephen, you see, lives on the wrong side of Freese
Road--the Dryden side--so his great yard birds like Orchard Oriole are
useless to his McIlroy list. Also, although his superbly poetic prose
would lead you to believe his urgency to find birds at the jetty, I know
for a fact that he goes down there just to catch up on his sleep. I've set
up scope at Stewart Park and seen him leaning Rip van Winkle-style against
the lighthouse, his head nodding rhythmically up and down like he's some kind
of yes man for some Basin big wig (given his Bird Brain column, presumably
ANONYMOUS: Will your 200-bird McIlroy record be broken this year?
WELLS: Probably. I didn't work too hard towards the end of last year. I
really wanted to end on the magic number of 200 (which was, by the way,
Laughing Gull.) I wanted to be able to break my own record this year. I
thought it would look impressive. Had I known then what I know now,
though--that Steve Kelling was going to enter the McIlroy this year,
and with a vengeance I may have actually tried for things like McRuffed
Grouse and McHorned Lark. You can believe I tried this year, though I'm
still missing the McGrouse.
ANONYMOUS: Any bad McMisses this year?
WELLS: Grouse is definitely doable in Ithaca, just ask the Steves. And I'm
still missing Common Tern for both McIlroy and David Cup. Kevin and I are
going to drown our sorrows in his home brew for our most pathetic miss-to-
date. Anyone out there need to join us?
ANONYMOUS: What's been your favorite place to bird in McIlroy
territory this year (even though it hasn't helped you much)?
WELLS: My favorite McIlroy birding spot has always been Allen Treman
Park/Hog Hole. That quickly became one of Jeff's and my regular haunts
when we came to Cornell as grad students nine years ago (don't worry,
we're not STILL grad students!) Some among us plod out to the lighthouse
for their birding meditations, but being from Maine, when I go to a
lighthouse, I expect to smell salty air and see gannets and guillemots.
Allen Treman offers pretty much the same vantage point as the lighthouse,
plus you have the added chance of getting some incoming rare
sparrow -Dickcissel, Clay-colored--to light in the brush beside you. We've
had some fabulous birds there over the years--Ross's Goose (the Stewart
Park one a few years back was first seen off here), Laughing Gull,
Forster's Tern (both found on the breakwater from here) Short-eared Owl,
Sedge Wren, Connecticut Warbler, (Nelson's) Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Henslow's
Sparrow. Steve Kress had Red-headed Woodpecker there once. I love the walk
out--the spanse of field laying before you, with the vast reach of the lake
beyond. It's spiritual without the risk of boat exhaust causing you to
hallucinate something like, say, a jaegar. And there's always the sense
that the next step could flush up a Western Meadowlark. Of course, our car
getting busted into last year has tainted our affection for the place a
little (even though the cops caught the *$^%&%s.) Until a better excuse
comes along, I'll use that as my reason for why I haven't gone down there
as much this year. I'll also use that as my excuse for why I'm not ahead
ANONYMOUS: Who do you think will place higher in the McIlroy, Bill
Evans or John Bower?
WELLS: You can't keep letting your cowardice spook you out of the
Basin if you're going to score well; such is the case with Bill Evans. On
the other hand, you have to be able to identify more than Song Sparrows,
and I have it from a reliable source that John Bower does not fall into
this elite category of birders. If Michael Runge had had the guts to
actually enter his infant into the competition, I'd say she'd outpace both
ANONYMOUS: Aren't you getting sick of coming in second place every
WELLS: Aren't you getting sick of coming in behind me every month?
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
This month's bird brain has a Welsh lilt and a Welsh way with language
and image. He finds birding strongly connected to his general sense of
well being. "When I'm out birding and my senses are all tuned in to my
surroundings," he says, "I feel alive and in tune with myself." He's been
one of the most prolific contributors to the CayugaBirds ListServ, and one
suspects that birding is both a vocation and an avocation. He's Stephen
John Davies, currently a graduate student in the College of Veterinary
Science, and as he puts it, "I'm a vet by training but now I think of
myself as more of a biologist. I study parasites that cause diseases of
humans in the tropics ('those nasty guys that swim up your penis and make
you REALLY sick,' according to Bill Evans.)"
I plied Stephen with the usual questions, and it turns out
that he knows,
almost to the minute and the hour, when (and how) he got turned on to
"I started birding on 14th January, 1982. I was an avid (some say anal)
note-taker and record-keeper, even at the tender age of twelve, so I can
easily pinpoint the exact moment in time when this whole obsession got
started. It was a rather atypical child's Christmas in Wales--we were hit
by a severe winter storm on the 13th (coincidence?) and were snowbound
for several days at our family home high up on the mountains overlooking
Pontypridd. (By the way, did you know Pontypridd was also the birthplace
of world-renowned entertainer and fellow Welshman Tom Jones? He grew
up just down the street from me.) Anyway, to overcome the boredom, I
started feeding the birds in the back yard.I borrowed my dad's extremely
heavy and very fuzzy 10x50 binoculars and never looked back. My fate
was sealed when, after only four days of birding, I experienced the thrill
of finding a Brambling coming to breadcrumbs I'd strewn on the garage roof.
Not a particularly rare bird in Wales, but definitely a 'good' bird. It
sent my pulse racing and I've been birding feverishly ever since.
"I soon discovered the joys of birding Kenfig Pool and Dunes
National Nature Reserve (it was just a Local Nature Reserve in those days)
--THE local hotspot. This reserve hosted the UK's first Little Whimbrel
(closest extant relative of the mythical Eskimo Curlew) in the early
eighties, and while this bird occurred 'before my time,' the stories that
surrounded its discovery had a profound influence on me during my
formative birding years. To this day, the Numenius genus holds a special
place in my heart and I dream of encountering all of its members before my
time on this planet is up.
"Now many say Wales is not the hottest birding venue in the UK--and
they're right. We're not inundated with vagrants like such places as the
Scillies, Norfolk, or Shetland. But one thing we do have a lot of is gulls.
Welsh birders are, therefore, larophiles by default. I spent many a bleak
winter's day roaming the refuse tips and abandoned docklands of Cardiff on
my bike, scope strapped to my back. It was a dangerous environment, but
the prizes were immense--Little, Black-headed, Common, Lesser
Black-backed, Ring-billed, Bonapartes, Glaucous, Iceland, Yellow-legged--
they were all out there, and my young soulmates and I risked life and limb
in their pursuit. We froze in the icy winds that whistled in off the bay,
we were chased by dogs, threatened, shot at, etc., but I look on it now as a
kind of training period. It was a tough town, and we grew up fast into
tough, determined birders, ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead.
Little did I know that those experiences back then would equip me so well
for birding the David Cup?! (Incidentally, did you know that world-
renowned entertainer and fellow Welshperson Shirley Bassey grew up in
I asked to what extent birding colored his life, and he came back with...
"It's more a question of how does the rest of my life affect my
birding! I try not to let the day-to-day practicalities of earning a living
affect my birding too much. But inevitably, one ends up having to make
compromises. I initially trained as a vet, and managed to land a practice
in prime birding habitat--Norfolk, on the east coast of England, of all
places! I tried to capitalize on my position--calling the local RBAs every
hour on practice phones, racing off after this, that, and the other in my
practice-supplied Subaru on practice gas. I scored on some of the biggest
birds of the year--Lesser Crested Tern, Oriental Pratincole--but I soon
realized that working a 70-hour week and spending the rest of the time on
call was not compatible with spending real QT in the field. I needed a
change of direction, and a new continent to expand my life list. It soon
became clear what I needed-grad school at Cornell."
I asked him the inevitable questions about listing, and he said...
"I think all birders enjoy listing, even if they don't admit it. I enjoy
listing to an extent, and I've certainly kept more lists this year than at
any other time in recent years, thanks to the David Cup and McIlroy Award.
The lists closest to my heart are Life, British, and Western Palearctic and,
more recently, ABA area. I enjoy listing to the extent that it can improve
my birding. I feel my birding skills improve as I strive to familiarize
myself with a bigger and bigger selection of species. But the key word
here is 'familiarize.' Listing doesn't do you any good if the minute
you've seen one bird you're off in search of the next. You have to learn
the birds on your life list. I'm still trying to learn every detail about
the birds on mine, and I expect life isn't long enough to really 'get
there.' But trying to truly 'know' the birds you see every day is the best
way to prepare yourself for finding and identifying the unusual. And let's
face it, I think most birders would agree that the satisfaction of finding
a rare and exciting bird outweighs the satisfaction of a big list."
And true to his word, when I asked Stephen to speak about a memorable
birding experience in the Basin, his answer hinged on that question of
"I guess the event that most sticks in my mind is 18th September,
1996, when Bill Evans and I observed a jaeger on migration from the end of
the white lighthouse jetty. The bird was poorly seen--we were able to
determine very little about its plumage--and while we are both fairly
familiar with the three jaeger species and have some skua experience, we
were unable to identify the bird to species. We both felt that size and
jizz suggested Parasitic, the jaeger I am most familiar with from British
seawatches, where this species is common. Still, we could not be certain,
and we were happy to let the record slide. Despite the inconclusive nature
of this observation, however, it remains an outstanding experience in my
mind, and I think Bill will agree with me on this. The purposeful
progression of this bird down the east side of the lake was awesome and
inspirational. For me, this event was also significant for another reason.
Bill and I had been hammering the jetty pretty hard that fall, looking for
the real 'bad boy,' and I'd already learned a lot from Bill--he's a
phenomenal birder, and I doubt if anyone could fail to learn something from
him. I was particularly impressed with his eye for migration. In fact, it
was almost distressing to be around him--he was so in tune with what was
going on, he knew exactly what to look for and where to look for it. It
was like a sixth sense, like he could sense the birds moving overhead. He
was constantly scanning the skies, while I felt like my senses were
truncated, cut off at ground level. I definitely felt inspired by Bill, and
I resolved to improve, to stretch my senses to the maximum and tune in.
The appearance of the jaeger simply served to etch those sentiments in stone-
-it was like a 'road to Damascus' experience, an affirmation of what I was
thinking, of what I thought was the way forward, the way to improve."
I asked if he had some more birding tales to tell, and he said, "Plenty,
but I'm not sure if your readers would appreciate them! I don't feel I've
birded the U.S. long enough to be able to relate anything truly meaningful or
scandalous about the birding scene here. I guess everyone who's been to
Texas has a Brownsville dump (a.k.a. Mexican Crow Sanctuary) story to
tell, so here's mine: The day we were there, a howling gale was blasting up
from Mexico. It reminded me of Cardiff, but it was warmer and the trash
smelt different. I sat in our rented Camry, the wheels sinking in the mud
and fetid dust billowing in the open window (sorry Hertz). I scanned the
monumental piles of refuse for signs of life while Katherine, my girlfriend,
sat patiently in the passenger seat. I'd promised her an ice cream if she
agreed to spend a couple of hours at the landfill with me. (Birders visiting
Brownsville with significant others take note: the ice cream ploy
worked--Katherine is now my fianc .) Suddenly, a small-looking crow
soared into view some distance away, riding the stiff wind. It danced in and
out of the rubble, dodging the flying debris thrown up by the wind--a master
of its environment, like the Common Ravens we'd watched high up in
the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend days earlier. But the bird was a fair way
off--size and shape were hard to determine. Was this a Mexican Crow or a
Chihuahuan Raven? I had no experience with either species. I watched,
mesmerized, following through binoculars its every move. Then, suddenly,
and without warning, everything disappeared. The crow, the dust, the
refuse, the dump were all gone. It was as if a sudden snowstorm had
descended on the Rio Grande valley, which seemed unlikely. But the effect
was the same--total white-out. I squinted desperately through the white
haze, searching frantically for the crow. The stench intensified, and I
felt like I was suffocating, fighting for air. Finally, I lowered my
binocs--to find a white plastic garbage bag, with some interesting brown
stains on it, plastered up against my objective lenses and face. I forced
myself to remember the discipline I'd learned birding the Cardiff
docklands. I stifled the urge to puke, and I carefully peeled the bag off
my face. It
took me a few minutes to recover my composure and spit the bits of grit out
of my mouth, by which time the crow was long gone. Then we laughed.
And I'm glad to report all ended well. We set off in the direction of the
first crow sighting and after some more searching, we left the landfill
having enjoyed fine views of both Mexican Crow and Chihuahuan Raven.
And all for the price of an ice cream and a slap in the face by a grimy
plastic bag. Sounded like a good deal to me! If you're birding
Brownsville, the dump is a must. Ah, I can smell it still."
The man tells a good story, doesn't he? I would have liked to ply
him for more, but Allison and Jeff have to put some limits on the amount of
material we offer in The Cup. I will add his final words, however, because
Stephen Davies is not only a fine raconteur, he's a very gracious man as
"Thanks for listening to my garbled banter. And thanks to you and the
rest of The Cup team for continuing to supply the Basin birding community
with a first-rate source of news, views, scandal, and inspiration.
I can hardly make it from one edition of The Cup to the next."
And I, for one, would like to thank him in return for the liveliness and
substance of his "banter," not only here, but over the last year or more on
(Caissa Willmer is a senior staff writer for the Cornell Office of
Development. She's also theater critic for Ithaca Times. Her "nets" are
already strung in waiting for the next Bird Brain. [see Cup Quotes])
(your birdverse here)
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...
Someone said in a Coach's Corner that to succeed in this competition, you've
got to think like a bird. Well, maybe we should extend that to counting
like a bird, too--i.e., in base 8, since (most) birds have 8, not 10, toes.
I've done the math and my totals in base 8 are higher than anybody's in
base 10. Unless any of those ahead of me can correctly convert their totals
to base 8, I declare myself the leader.
--Not Behind the Eight Ball in Aurora
Dear Not Behind the Eight Ball:
You're teetering dangerously close to plagiarizing a statistics column I read
on a regular basis--I forget the name of the publication (seems like it has
the word "Cup" in the title) but it's astute, I assure you. Until you can
come up with a more original way to scam your way to David Cup victory, I'm
afraid you'll have to stick with the ticks you actually earn. Anything
else would be too debasing.
Way back during spring migration, I clearly remember kicking up a few
Solitary Vireos at the city cemetery, and I duly ticked them off on my DC
and MA lists. Then, a few days ago, I was birding the jetty when I kicked
up a couple more Solitary Vireos, but I understand that during their brief
breeding season further north, they mutated into a different species,
Blue-headed Vireo. I suppose I can also add this to my DC and MA lists
now, right? Having been extra-Basin for most of the month, I need all the
ticks I can get.
--Splitter in Ithaca
Of course you can add Blue-headed Vireo to your list. However, I have bad
news about the Solitary: it no longer exists. Sadly, it has gone the way
of the Rufous-sided Towhee, Slate-colored Junco, and numerous other ill-fated
species. On the other hand, if you're looking for a good two-for-one deal,
try aisle nine at Wegman's. Of course, some people would argue that
macaroni and birds are two totally different things. But hey, who are they
to argue with Yankee Doodle?
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"I'm in White Hall, on the Arts Quad [Cornell] this year, so this week I've
been in the habit of taking the 5-minute walk down to City Cemetery between
my 8:00 and 11:15 classes and seeing what's there. It's been warblerless,
but each time I see at least one good' bird...Today, it was an Olive-sided
Flycatcher...Cuppers may remember that, ironically, I missed Olive-sided
Flycatcher last year for the first time since I started birding the Basin.
Ironic because I achieved my highest total number of species ever last year."
"I didn't get my copy of The Cup. They are hilarious and I look forward to
reading them. Maybe in a few years when my daughter is in college and I
have loads of free time (and am a better birder), I think about competing
"Sadly, I did get The Cup and Bill Evans' regretably inflammatory comments.
Now I'm going to have to really kick his butt in the McIlroy competition."
"All the birders around Ithaca sure seem to have some great ideas for
contests and having fun birding! I'd love to see a copy of The Cup for fun,
ideas and information!"
"Yet another month with no change in numbers. Actually got out birding a
day. I was forced to. I led a bird club field trip. Maybe I will now get
back to more regular birding. And then again, maybe not. But I sure enjoy
reading The Cup. It's always a treat."
"We started in pouring rain, (we would have ditched it if Niaal, an Irish
birder new toCornell had not come with his scope) wondering whether we
should go or not. Once we left Ithaca, rain tapered and by the time we
reached MNWR it was quite dry though cloudy. In the western sky we did
see at times the sun's rays."
"My McIlroy is the same as last month, but I can't remember my exact
total (I lost the list) and my mom has done something with the previous
issues of The Cup. Can you please tell me my total? Thanks."
"Casey, you're grounded for losing your list AND my precious back issues
of The Cup!"
--Jane Sutton [words put into mouth by Cup editors]
"You people astound me! How do you find the time to be avian-savvy,
witty, diverse, AND then write about it all! The Cup's a WONDERFUL read.
"I heard my first screech owl of the year, in my yard last night, as the
moon rose over Mecklenburg."
--Nancy W Dickinson
"Last night I aimed my scope at the moon at 9pm and saw 63 birds fly in
front of it in half an hour! Broke my record for moon watching. Most of
the birds were little guys (sparrows and warblers?), about 10 appeared to
be thrushes, one was probably a hummer, but my favorite was a big, slow
flyer. I'd guess it was a green heron or bittern."
"Greatly enjoyed The Cup; always do! Many thanks!!!
"Guess what!? I saw a Whimbrel at Seneca Lake Park! I spent a LOT
of time getting all the info Kevin and Steve suggested I should try to note
when I see a new bird and was so proud of myself--then when I called one
of the local birders the first question he asked (I had my list ready!) was
did you get a picture?'!"
"I promised myself that on the very day after the latest Cup appeared, I
would net my next Bird Brain and have her/him cuffed, ringed, measured,
weighed, examined for fatty tissue, and whatall WEEKS in advance."
"Reading Allison's post about their adventure in finding the WK this
morning I feel a little better about our own mis-adventure last evening,
9/30. Inspired by earlier postings and still flush with the excitement of
adding the Sabine's Gull to my life list, I gently encouraged (read dragged)
my hubby off for the quick (4 hour) roundtrip up to see the WK.
Unfortunately, we did not relocate. Another intrepid birder (I think it
was Stephen Davies) was already there but also having no luck. We birded
all around the area from about 5:15 to 6:30. The local farmer came over
and chatted w/us and said they hadn't had this much excitement in a long
time! Another couple stopped by and told us they saw the bird right there
on that wire' yesterday afternoon. Heavy sigh! Oh well, arriving back
home at 9 pm, sans bird or dinner, I nominated us both for the Outstanding
Effort award and settled down to watch the incredible Yankee comeback.
Unfortunately, being a native Californian, I am not a Yankee Fan!"
"I have been suppressing my temptation to go and see this Western
Kingbird, but every time I see a posting (especially from fellow Cuppers) I
feel like going. So, now if someone is planning to go..."
"Three of us, Linda, Tina and myself, took a pilgrimage to Pilgrim's Port
road, off Klipple road for elusive Western King bird. We started from
Ithaca around four pm., reached Klipple area just when light was perfect,
lots of insects in the air. We scanned all wires, pylons and any twig
sticking out...We did not see the bird, but we did see someone who had
seen this bird on Monday evening. Unfortunately, we did not shake hands
with them therefore, so we can't count the bird."
"Here are our September totals. We're doing okay, despite my perennial
problems with fall. Jay is still breathing down my neck; even closer now!
A quick perusal of the overall list of 4's' and 5's' on my difficulty list
shows a rather tight bunch of contenders for the overall title (including
us). By this time last year I had figured it was Karl or Steve who would
win. This year, I don't know. Tom was of course the overall leader
throughout the year, but he has missed an unacceptable number of difficult
birds. I have had to guess on everyone else's lists, of course, but a bunch
of us have now caught up to him in overall rarities seen. In fact, we're so
tightly bunched in the rarities department now that, contrary to my usual
predictions, the winner might be the one who did best with the 3's'
(predictable every year, but difficult) instead of the harder ones. But,
you'd better keep on top of any October rarities!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff