Year 3, Issue 1


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

*    Editors: Allison Wells, Jeff Wells

*    Basin Bird Highlights: "Thoreau" Geo Kloppel

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

*    Composite Deposit, Stat's All: "Shot Gun" Kevin McGowan and

*    Jay "Beam Hill Me Up" Scotty

*    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

*    Underwater Cinamatographer: Jeff Wells



"Love ya!"  "You're special!" "Hey, Sweet Thing!"  What, you actually

thought The Cup would send you such saccharin little (belated) Valentine

sillies? You should know by now that The Cup would never pull itself

above the joyful revelry of slander, gossip, and venomous "slips" of the

tongue. It's not our job to be nice; it's our job to keep you snapping at

the heels in front of you, eyeing each other's totals, bickering,

snickering, tickering (okay, for your Karl...) and Northern Flickering.

Not only do we take our jobs seriously, but we take them with disdain and

disgruntlement; any sweet greetings from us gruff and grumpy Cup staffers

would be purely accidental and should in no way be held against us.


So read your "1998 Valentine's Edition," The Cup 3.1. But don't expect

any melt-in-your-mouth goo.


And (belated) Happy Valentine's Day.  Love ya!


                         @   @    @    @    @     @

                             NEWS, CUES, and BLUES

                           @   @    @    @     @     @


WELCOME TO THE DAVID CUP CLAN: Will anyone be able to one-up

Kevin McGowan's thrust for this year's Family Time Prize?  Highly unlikely,

considering he's successfully recruited HIS ENTIRE FAMILY for the 1998

David Cup race!  Says Kevin, "Oh, it's so exciting around the

McGowan-Kline household this month!!  I've got totals for all four

Cuppers!!  [Kevin and Jay, of course; wife Kim Kline of News, Cues, and

Blues fame in 2.11, and daughter Peri, age 6.]  Jay wants to enter Swift

[their cat!] into the competition too, as she became very interested in

birds after we got the stick-on window feeder for Christmas.  We don't

think she got Hoary Redpoll yet, but definitely she has Common." Don't

suppose that means you've got "catbird" on your list now?

      There's Cup-reader-cum-Cupper Ben Taft who has already caught onto

the best way to be a serious Cup contender: "I am a sophomore in the

College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell U, and I hope to sharpen my

mediocre but (hopefully) ever-increasing birding skills by participating

in the David Cup and drafting all of the outstanding birders in the

area." Forget it, Ben, you sound too nice to be a real threat.

      And this Jon Kloppel guy who's been posting to Cayugabirds of late.

Is he related to our own Geo Kloppel?  According to Jon, he's Geo's

brother. Isn't it obvious?  He signed up for the David Cup! "I

guess I am a novice birder who just got started this January when I

subscribed to Cayugabirds-L and found exciting hot tips and scintillating

info and banter!  However, as a child I did a great deal of birding in

Schuyler County with some expert birders, and so I have a global base of

understanding about what's what.  Anyway, it sounds inspiring and fun."

      Speaking of family, Pat Ria could give hubby Geo Kloppel a Cup for his

money.  Well, maybe not, but then again, who could?  By the looks of it,

though, she's heading for the Top Ten!  "I watch the birds that come to our

feeders," Pat said at the Cupper Supper.  "And I go birding quite a bit

with Geo.  I may as well just start counting what I see." We're rooting

for you, Pat!  Well, we hope you beat Matt Medler, at least.

      "I would like to sign up for the Cup, although I don't spend the

summer here." Spoken like a true Cupper: always ready with an excuse for a

poor showing.  Cornell student Matt Sarver already fits right in.  Good

luck, Matt, but now that you're in the David Cup, don't plan on graduating

for at least another ten years.

      Garry Chapin, you were the guy who came to the Cupper Supper with

Meena, right?  If not, oops! But it doesn't really matter, because you'll

definitely be coming to Cupper Supper '98, right?  Now that you're

officially a Cupper.  Just don't let Meena lead you on any wild

White-fronted Goose chases--unless she actually finds one and calls the

editors, of course.

      If we've said it once, we've said it a dozen times: Once a Cupper,

always a Cupper.  This year, it's Scott Mardis turn to prove us right:

"Why don't you guys count me in for this year's David Cup? I have no

chance at winning the competition, but I'd like to throw down the gauntlet

for all the other out-of-state Cuppers. Tell Ralph he is going to have to

do better than 52 in '98! Margaret of Mansfield probably has the best

positioning, but I'll give all I can for my fewer than 10 visits to the

Basin. Save some good birds for me!"  Welcome home, Scott! And don't worry,

the starlings and Rock Doves aren't going anywhere.

      Finally, not to be outdone by Swift McGowan, the Wells are pushing the

envelop on pet labor laws by signing up kitties Teddy and Mimi.  "It's not

fair," says Mimi (the bold one).  "Swift gets to go outside. Our only

chance at seeing birds is through the kitty tv, which is always tuned into

the Fire Escape Channel."  "Meow," agrees Teddy (the scaredy cat).  Swift,

you didn't actually see the white rump on that "Common" Redpoll, did you?


LIVING THE HIGHLIGHTS: Due to insubordinance ("No! I won't refuse

to make you another stinkin', lousy, cup of tea!" he said on more than one

occasion), we've been forced to fire Tom Nix from the Highlights Column.

Are you crazy? Of course, we're kidding!  Tom's columns were nothing

short of inspiring. But, sadly, his current responsibilities with "that

other job" (building inspector for the city of Ithaca) have precluded his

staying on another year as The Cup's Highlights writer. Tom's brilliant

writing, hawk-eyed attention to Cayugabirds posts, and, especially,

occasional jabs at fellow Cuppers will be greatly missed.

      Our only consolation is that stepping into the Highlights spotlight

will be Geo Kloppel.  That's right! Geo was this year's winner of the

Thoreau Award, in the Cupper's Choice Awards. And seeing as 99.9% of all

postings to Cayugabirds are his, he should have an easy job keeping track

of what's been seen each month in the Basin.  Geo, all of Cupland awaits

your column with great anticipation, and we here at Cup Headquarters

welcome you to the staff ! (Ha, ha, ha!)


LEADER LISTS: In anticipation for his upcoming move from the Basin

(in other words, he needs as much time as possible to get his totals up

there before moving away) in June, Karl David has stepped down from his

tour of duty as Leader's List and Composite Deposit compiler.  Father Karl

did a eagle-eyed job knit-picking through the lists of our monthly fearless

leaders; he won considerable admiration in particular for catching Steve

Kelling in his desperate attempt to cheat his way to David Cup victory in

December. Karl, we'll miss your hovering over that Composite Deposit like

a mama hawk guarding her young.

      But in true Cupper spirit, Kevin and Jay McGowan have picked up

where Karl has left off.  Of course, Kevin's ahead this month, and Jay won

for "most likely to succeed as David Cup Champ in 1998."  So hard can it

be for them? Plenty.  Just wait, you'll see.  Thanks, boys!


IN THE KNICKS OF TIME: The editors at The Cup give our Number 2

pro basketball team (Number One, of course, is the Celtics) a little face

time, and what do we get in return, from our own staffer Matt Medler?

"I let it slide the first time, but as the brother of a big Knicks fan, I

had to let you know that it's Knicks, not Nicks.  If you're going to live

in New York, you've got to know a little bit about New York State history.

A Knickerbocker was a name for a Dutch settler in the New Netherlands

(New York) colony in the 1600s.  The arena in Albany was called the

Knickerbocker Arena (quite the cool name, I think), until they sold out

recently and allowed Pepsi to buy the rights to the name.  Pepsi Arena is

the new (lame) name."  Matt, what are doing wasting your time writing for

The Cup? With knowledge like that, you could be writing for something

really exciting, like "Dutch Settlers' Weekly".


MATTING MISTAKES: To ensure he would in fact receive a healthy

dose of public humiliation, courtesy of The Cup , Matt Medler not only sent

in the above insubordinate remark (remember what happened to Tom

Nix, Matt? By the way, that's "Nix," not "Knicks") but also committed the

ultimate David Cup faux pas: he messed up a total, and an end-of-year total

at that!  "By the way," wrote Geo Kloppel when sending in January's tally,

"my total for 1997 was 211, not 207."  "Do you want us to draw and quarter

Matt? Or worse, we could run a correction," we wrote to Geo.  "Nah, don't

bother!  It doesn't even bring me _near_the 1997 Top Ten, and I don't care

anything about _previous_ years' standings anyway, I'm focused _entirely_

on 1998 (but be sure to give Matt a private roasting--it'll be good for

him!" Consider this your private roasting, Matt.


COUNT YOURSELF IN: Be part of birdwatching history!  Join the rest of

the nation on February 20, 21, and 22 as we all count birds for the Great

 98 Backyard Bird Count!  Great '98, the first of its kind, invites every

family and individual in the country to count the birds they see at their

bird feeders, backyards, local parks or other outdoor locations, as a way

to help scientists learn more about North American birds. Key to this

history-making event is that participants contribute their sightings

online, through a revolutionary Web site, BirdSource

<>, a joint project of Audubon and CLO.  In

turn, BirdSource will provide almost instantaneous feedback to participants

through graphics, animated maps, and regularly updated information

summaries.  "Watching the count results will be like watching election

returns from all across the country, right on your own computer screen,"

says CLO's Director (and Cupper!) John Fitzpatrick. "It's fun, it's easy to

participate in, and it's good for science. All you need is a love of the

outdoors and access to an online computer."  Mark your calendars, and keep

those feeders full!


BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Guess who came to Syracuse

and went with nary a word about it.  B.B. King!  Were Cuppers notified?

Were they told of this legend's awesome approach to Cupland and how

Cuppers had darned sure better get their tails up there to his concert?

(BB's no spring chicken, you know, he may not have many cock-a-doodle-doos

left in him.)  Who's responsible, huh?  Who's to blame for this

unforgivable oversight? Oh.  Um, we are. Er, sorry.


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

                                                              BASIN BIRD



                             Geo Kloppel



"How's this for a first-time effort?"

                                                    --Geo Kloppel


      1998 began with a harsh challenge from Mother Nature: deep snow

and frigid temperatures made birding on January 1st more difficult than

had been the case a couple of days earlier or would be again just a few

days later. But bold counters headed out anyway, with four-wheel drives,

snowshoes, skis, plenty of warm clothing, and clean slates for the new year.

      During the following days the two-foot snow pack melted completely

away, and so much muddy water flowed into the lake that summer

water-level was restored, illustrating the engineers' rationale for the

annual winter drain down. But the waterfowl seemed to desert the south end

of Cayuga Lake in response. Pieces of driftwood and rubbish floated

everywhere, bobbing up and down on the chop to tease the viewer with

imagined heads of the absconded ducks. I slogged out to Myers Point

through deep slush a day or two after the Xmas count, walking in the tracks

left by the counters' snowshoes, but found no birds at all on the water for

my effort. The geese, marsh ducks, gulls, and even swans were out gleaning

in the newly bared and sometimes submerged fields.

      Those who scanned gulls at the north end of the lake had good luck,

beginning with Catherine Sandell's appropriately "champagne-colored"

Kumlien's ICELAND GULL on the first day of the new year. More Icelands

turned up in the Seneca Falls area. A few MUTE SWANS continued the

overwintering trend that began in 1996, along with many Tundra Swans.

Later in the month one or more ICELAND GULLS shared Tompkins

County shores with an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.

      Among the less-numerous waterfowl species, PIED-BILLED GREBE

and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, which were both missed by the Ithaca

Christmas Count, turned up during the early stages of the thaw.




in fact, it might be better to list the few misses: neither RED-NECKED


the Basin via Cayugabirds-l in January. Those hoped-for long-shots BARROW'S

GOLDENEYE and KING EIDER didn't show.

      BALD EAGLES were seen at Tschache Marsh and along the lake. John Bower

found a MERLIN in the vicinity of lower Robert Treman State Park.

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were not hard to find, but NORTHERN HARRIERS were

scarce.  A SNOWY OWL was found again at the Savannah Mucklands, as was a

LONG-EARED OWL at Union Springs, by the McGowan team. A SNOWY OWL was

reported at Montezuma near the end of the month, leaving us to wonder if

the individual that was first found standing in the Mucklands during

December might have been in the Greater Montezuma area continuously since

then. Only one SHORT-EARED OWL was reported to Cayugabirds, a lakeside

fly-by seen by Tom Nix at Aurora. Then ,in the final minutes of the last

day of January, N SAW-WHET OWLS began to be heard in West Danby.

      NORTHERN SHRIKES were seen east of the Tompkins County Airport

and west of Trumbulls Corners. LAPLAND LONGSPURS were found

among the Snow Buntings in several locations. COMMON REDPOLLS were

widespread, and began descending to the feeders in the early days of

January, often joining the EVENING GROSBEAKS already there. WHITE-WINGED

CROSSBILLS were found at Summerhill State Forest, and PINE GROSBEAKS

continued there as well, also making an appearance near Mecklenburg. RED

CROSSBILLS and PINE SISKINS were reported from the Hammond Hill area. C

RAVENS showed up on Hammond Hill, at Hogs' Hole, and in Danby. Sandy

Podulka had a visit from RUSTY BLACKBIRDS. Half-hardy passerines found




(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows.  This may or may not explain

his "knack" for attracting unusual sounding birds--Whip-poor-will,

N Saw-whet Owl around his house.)


100      100      100      100      100      100      100       100



100      100       100      100       100       100       100       100



Sign on 100 Club:


"Looks like Kurt Fox was coo-coo after all."


200           200          200          200           200           200

                                     2     0    0

      200             200                            200           200


Sign on 200 Club door:


"200? In January? Righhht."


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


1998 DAVID CUP JANUARY TOTALS !!!!!!!!!!!!

Compiled by Matt Medler


78 Kevin McGowan

75 Jay McGowan

67 Geo Kloppel

66 Tom Nix

65 Stephen Davies

63 Karl David

54 Pat Lia

53 Bill Evans

48 Ken Rosenberg

48 John Fitzpatrick

46 Jon Kloppel

42 Gary Chapin

42 Bard Prentiss

41 Jeffrey Wells

40 Perri McGowan

36 Allison Wells

32 Jim Lowe

31 Margaret Barker

29 Anne Kendall

27 Matt Medler

26 Kim Kline

22 Anne James

21 Matt Sarver

21 Ben Taft

15 Cathy Heidenreich

10 Mimi "Catbird" Wells

10 Teddy "Catbird" Wells

  ? Swift "Catbird" McGowan

  ? Steve Kelling

  ? Caissa Willmer

Too embarrassed to divulge low total: Michael Runge

0  James "Way out of Basin" Barry*

0 Andy Farnsworth*

0 Kurt Fox*

0 Andy Leahy*

0 Scott Mardis*

0 Dave Mellinger*


*Currently living (or visiting) out-of-state but anticipate a return to

Basin during the 1998 David Cup year. This is where the REAL competition

lies. (Get it? "Lies"?)



Compiled by Matt Medler


53 Bill Evans

40 Stephen Davies

36 Jeff Wells

31 Karl David

30 Kevin McGowan

30 Allison Wells

29 Ken Rosenberg

26 Jim Lowe

19 Jay McGowan

19 Matt Medler

  2 Anne Kendall



Compiled by Bard Prentiss


51 Kevin McGowan

45 Jay McGowan

40 Bard Prentiss


Kevin McGowan's Lansing total:   46


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


By Margaret Launius


Say, uh, Margaret? Aren't you forgetting something?




By Kevin McGowan


Good thing I came out first!  I did a Kelling!  I made a couple of errors

in my tallying and missed a species. Here's what I had in January:


C Loon, P-b Grebe, H Grebe, G B Heron, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan,

S Goose, C Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black

Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, A Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, G Scaup,

L Scaup, C Goldeneye, Bufflehead, H Merganser, C Merganser, R Duck,

B Eagle, N Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed

Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, A Kestrel, Ring-necked Pheasant, R Grouse,

W Turkey, A Coot, Ring-billed Gull, H Gull, I Gull, G Black-backed Gull,

R Dove, M Dove, E Screech-Owl, SNOWY OWL, Long-eared Owl,

B Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, D Woodpecker, H Woodpecker,

N Flicker, P Woodpecker, H Lark, B Jay, A Crow, F Crow, C Raven,

Black-capped Chickadee, T Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch,

White-breasted Nuthatch, B Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, E Bluebird,

A Robin, N Mockingbird, C Waxwing, E Starling, Yellow-rumped

Warbler, N Cardinal, A Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow,

Dark-eyed Junco, L Longspur,S Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird,

H Finch, C Redpoll, HOARY REDPOLL, A Goldfinch, E Grosbeak,

House Sparrow





Since Kevin and Jay were late on the Composite Deposit scene,

Father Karl has generously agreed to put together this month's CD.

Be a sport, will you?  Help us play "Yes, This Was (or Was Not) Seen

in January" by responding to the questions marks accordingly.


D-c Cormorant, Brant, N Pintail (?), R-n Duck, W-w Scoter,

R-b Merganser (?), N Goshawk, Lesser B-b Gull (?), N S-w Owl

(Feb definitely ... Jan?), S-e Owl (ditto?), Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl,

N Shrike (Feb for sure ... Jan?), Carolina Wren, Winter Wren (?), Pine

Grosbeak, W-w Crossbill (in January?), Red Crossbill (?), Swamp Sparrow,

Song Sparrow, Purple finch, Pine siskin (?)



                               !   KICKIN' TAIL!  !



What better way to prove that being a cowinner in the David Cup wasn't

just a fluke 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, or family-timed

his/her way to the top of the David Cup list.


THE CUP: Hey, Big Guy, Mr.,er, Dr. David Cup 1997. Did you expect to

be on top at the beginning of  '98?


McGOWAN: No, not really.  I'm always a threat to be a contender for a top

spot, I guess, but usually only if no one is trying really hard.  The big

difference this year might be that I stayed in the country for the first

January of a David Cup competition.


THE CUP: Yes, but we hear you'll be leaving for a spot in February, and

that your son Jay is already scheming to plow ahead of you.  What a shame.

(Jay, where shall we bird first?) How hard did you have to work to get 79?


McGOWAN:  I didn't try all that hard.


THE CUP: Righhht.


McGOWAN:  We didn't target any species that were hanging around that

we could get easily later (1's or 2's in my rankings), only 3's or higher,

the seasonals and rarities.  You know, stuff like Snowy Owl, Iceland Gull,

Lapland Longspur, Pine Grosbeak (which we missed).


THE CUP: Pity.  Have you seen our totals, by the way?


McGOWAN:  We didn't even think to go after the Common Yellowthroat

or Gray Catbird.  We did, however, pick up a few unusual winter 1's and

2's.  Green-winged Teal and Ruddy Duck come to mind.


THE CUP: How much harder would you have had to have worked in order

to make the Big 100?


McGOWAN: It's a long way to 100.  It would have taken quite a bit of



THE CUP: You mean like actually leaving your house?


McGOWAN: Looking back at it, this might have been the year.  We

had a bunch of half-hearties around and all the winter finches and some

good ducks.  Sigh, I suppose it was a missed opportunity.


THE CUP: Aw, don't be so hard on yourself, Kev, you've got your family to

think about.  Wait a minute!  That's no excuse, since you forced them all

to enroll in the David Cup! Speaking of which, has this yielded some good

fortune yet in your quest for a repeat victory?


McGOWAN: I guess the Hoary Redpoll at the feeder could qualify.  We all

got killer looks at it.  Which was good, because Kim and Jay were my

biggest skeptics about that identification before they got to confirm it.

(Jay: "Well, IF it really WAS a Hoary Redpoll, then we had 26 species in

the yard this month."  Kim: "It seems awfully convenient that you found

this rare bird right at our own feeders.")


THE CUP: And then you paid them off with promises of a big "family

vacation" around the lake, right?


McGOWAN: We haven't made a big family outing to pad our lists yet, but

I'm hoping that will come later.


THE CUP:  Why isn't "Big Kitty", a.k.a., Skeezix,  signed up for the DC?


McGOWAN:   Although Skeezix is the big hunter, he showed little

interest in looking out the window after we began his confinement.


THE CUP: What you need is a good ol' fashioned fire escape, the kind that

gives a solid, resonating "BOOM" whenever the squirrels miss their target

(the sunflower feeder) and crash down onto the metal platform.  This'll

keep Skeezix on his paws.


McGOWAN: He had a little too much enthusiasm for hanging around the

feeders.  Swift, though, who has never caught a bird but is similarly

confined, really took a big interest in the stick-on window feeder I got

Jay for Christmas.  (I don't know when she will learn that she can't break

through the window and get those pesky birds.  First she tried the direct

approach, trying to smash her way through, then she thought that perhaps

being sneaky would work better.  Of course, it didn't.)  After we put the

window feeder up Swift seemed to realize that a whole BUNCH of birds

were coming into the yard to visit the other feeders.  For a couple of days

she stayed pretty much in the kitchen watching out the window.  That's

when we realized she could compete against Mira in the non-human

category (as long as John Bower and Bill Evans don't think to join).


THE CUP: We hear John Bower is wimping out all together, but don't tell



McGOWAN:  Skeezix still doesn't pay all that much attention to the

feeders, although the redpolls got him going a little. The chickadees at

the window didn't interest him, but he really seemed to want a redpoll.


THE CUP: Mimi and Teddy say they hear redpolls taste more like chocolate.

Good, quality chocolate, not that cheap stuff. Right now your shared

victory resides with cowinner Stephen Davies.  Come June, it'll be yours.

Can you describe for us the spot in your home where it will proudly sit?


McGOWAN: Well, the glass-fronted, lighted (UV shielded, of course)

display case is still on order.  I expect it will go in the living room so

that it will be the first thing guests notice when they walk in the door.


THE CUP: Just don't let Jay use it for target practice with those dangerous

Nerf darts. By the way, Teddy found one under the couch the other day. At

least, we think that's what it is.  It could be a really, really old ear of

corn. At this stage, who are you most concerned about?


McGOWAN: Well, despite the Cuppers' Choice victory by my son Jay, him

I don't worry about.  When he can drive, then I'll worry.


THE CUP: (Jay, what were those "free" dates again, in February?)


McGOWAN: Stephen Davies would be my biggest concern, but we know

he's leaving part way through the year.  Same with Karl. So, no problem.

(I'll be calling them first with all my rare sightings.)  I'm not sure

about Steve Kelling.  Two years at the runner-up position could either have

firmed up his resolve not to let anyone even near him this year, or it

could have killed his competitive spirit all together.  It's hard to judge

right now.


THE CUP: Um, have you seen his totals this month?


McGOWAN: I'll have to take a look at him after the big BirdSource

opening when he'll be a bit more human and see which way he's leaning.  But

I have to say that my biggest concern at the moment is GeoKloppel.  He has

the lean and hungry look.  And he's turning up at all the right places

seeing all the right birds.  He could be dangerous.


THE CUP: And watch those young upstarts, too. Newcomer Matt Sarver

obviously has too much time on his hands, despite being a Cornell student.

Or is it *because* he's a Cornell student?


McGOWAN:  I don't expect to repeat on top in 1998.  I have a bit too much

time planned out of the Basin this year.


THE CUP: Oh, we hear that lame excuse from you every year.  C'mon, fess

up, you know you want to.


McGOWAN: I can be dangerous, too, so time will tell.


THE CUP: Now, that's better.  But watch your back...




                             By Jay McGowan


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

world of birds. This month is Gull Month, because there are hardly any

other birds to look at! Answers next month.


1.  What is the largest gull in the world?

2.  What is the smallest gull in the world?

3.  Which gulls have dark heads in breeding plumage?

4.  Which gulls have white heads and dark bodies in breeding plumage?

5.  Which gulls have dark hoods and white bodies in non-breeding plumage?

6. Which gull besides Sabine's Gull has a black hood, forked tail, yellow

tip to the bill, a gray back, white triangles in the wings, and black


7.  What is the scientific name of the Sooty Gull?

8.  Which gulls have black backs in breeding plumage?

9.  What is the common name for Larus fuliginosus?

10.  Which two gulls in North America sometimes are pink?



1.  Which North American hawks are sexually dimorphic in plumage

(males and females look different)?  Hook-billed Kite, Northern Harrier,

Rough-legged Hawk, Osprey, American Kestrel, and Merlin.

2.  Which North American owls are sexually dimorphic in plumage?

Snowy Owl.

3.  Which North American hawks have only one word in their names?

Osprey, Merlin, and Gyrfalcon.

4.  Which North American hawks are also found in Europe?  Golden Eagle,

Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Osprey, Merlin,

Peregrine Falcon, and Gyrfalcon.

5.  Which North American hawk has a yellow bill?  Bald Eagle.

6.  Which North American forest hawk is becoming a common breeder in

cities and towns in North America, including Ithaca?  Cooper's Hawk.

7.  What is the largest hawk in the world?  Harpy Eagle.

8.  What is the "Mexican Eagle" on the Mexican flag?  Crested Caracara.

9.  Which North American raptor has spiny processes on its feet to help it

hold its prey?  Osprey, which eats slippery fish.

10.  Which North American hawk is a cooperative breeder?  Harris's Hawk.

Mississippi Kites occasionally have helpers at the nest.


Jay McGowan, age eleven, is home-schooled. Can't you tell? He actually

know something about birds!)



                     STAT'S ALL, FOLKS

                       By Karl David



      How big does a mixed Horned Lark/Snow Bunting flock have to be

for you to have a fifty-fifty chance of finding a Lapland Longspur in it?

Hurray, you say, after several months of columns of more anecdotal than

statistical content, the Father of the Madness finally returns to hard-core

number crunching! This is why you subscribed to The Cup in the first

place! [Editors make snide remarks in the background.] So hang on for

the ride.

      My question was motivated by the fact that the lark/bunting flock

hanging out near the Triangle Diner in King [not King's!] Ferry twice

failed to cough up a longspur for me in January. It's a good-sized flock of

50-75 birds. But, the only thing I got for my troubles was a "Was that you

standing by the side of the road staring our over the field?" from a couple

of Aurora acquaintances when I next saw them. That and some chilled

fingers and toes [cf. "Best-dressed Cupper Award," The Cup 2.12].

      The answer to my question depends, of course, on the relative

frequency of longspurs in such flocks (from here on in, "bird" refers only

to any of the three mentioned species). On an otherwise disappointing trip

to Point Peninsula once in search of wintering raptors, I remember running

into a pure longspur flock (about a dozen). I remember it because it's so

unusual. More typically, we have to scan a large flock carefully and hope

there's one or two mixed in. I have no idea what the true figure is, so

let's pretend one bird in a hundred is a longspur, and start calculating.

      First, if you find a 100-bird flock, are you guaranteed to find a

longspur? After all, 100 * 1/100 = 1, right? If you believe that, you also

believe you must get a head if you flip a coin twice [2 *   = 1]. The birds

don't travel around in flocks of exactly 100 with exactly 1 longspur in

each, just as heads and tails don't alternate when flipping coins.

Nevertheless, you would probably guess that in a flock this size, your

chances are better than even...and you'd be right. But, exactly how would

you calculate the odds?

      As usual, simplify the problem first: what if it's a 1-bird "flock"?

Duh, then the probability it's a longspur is 1/100. Okay, that's

simplifying it too much. How about a 2-bird flock? Now, we get a little

more insight in how to proceed. The trick is to pretend the birds are lined

up in a row and don't move (this is theory, not practice). Longspur

"success" is:

           Bird #1 is a longspur, Bird #2 is not

or        Bird #1 is not a longspur, Bird #2 is

or        Bird #1 is a longspur, Bird #2 is also


(Surely when you said you wanted a longspur, you didn't mean one and

ONLY one!).  The corresponding probabilities are


                  1/100 * 99/100 = 99/10000

                  99/100 * 1/100 = 99/10000

                   1/100 * 1/100 =  1/10000


and since these are three mutually exclusive events {only one can happen],

you add them up to get 199/10000 = .0199, i.e. a 1.99% chance of finding

a longspur in a 2-bird flock. Note that's already ever-so-slightly but

tellingly less than the "naive" guess of 2% obtained by just doubling the

probability on a single bird. That gap widens as flock size goes up.

      Perhaps you noticed something here: the omitted scenario is


               Bird #1 is not a longspur, Bird #2 is also not


which has probability 99/100 * 99/100 = 9801/10000. And now the "grey

poupon" insight hits you: this is the longspur "failure" scenario, and

since either success or failure is assured, and they're mutually exclusive,


               199/10000 + 9801/10000 = 1.


That is, you could have found the answer more simply as 1 - (99/100)^2.

"But of course!" [for TV ad familiarity, see "Contest Award Winners,"

op. cit.].

      Believe it or not, the leap from 2 to 100 is nothing: the probability

of finding (at least) one longspur in a 100-bird flock is, by (correct)


                    1 - (99/100)^100 = 0.6340


i.e. about 63%.


      So, we know the flock size for a 50% chance of a longspur will be less

than 100. Finding the exact size amounts to solving


                     1 - (99/100)^x = 0.5


for x; this is what logarithms were born for. Sparing you the details, it

comes out x = 68.9676. That is, a flock size of about 69 gives you a 50%

chance of finding a longspur ... always keeping in mind this is under the

assumption that 1% of the birds are longspurs.

      This is all too easy, you say ... what about the probability, alluded

to earlier, of there being one and ONLY one longspur in the flock?  This in

turn leads me to the happy realization that I can get another column out of

this next month!  You may say on the other hand, who would ever care

about one but only one longspur in the flock? Well, it's an intellectual

challenge, and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out other scenarios where

knowing the probability of an exact number might be important.  I'll leave

that to your imagination, until next month.


(Karl David is a mathematics professor at Wells College in Aurora, New

York, currently on sabbatical at Cornell. He is still trying to count the

vulture puppet he was given at the Cupper Supper on his 1998 DC list)




                          SCRAWL OF FAME


                          Your Scrawl Here


(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        <

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

                     <           <

                      <         <

                        < < < <


This month's Coach has no excuses: no newborns, no out-of-Basin business

trips.  Nothing but Cayuga Lake stretching out before him like the promise

of coming spring...


COACH WELLS: In some ways, the strategy for remaining competitive

in the David Cup/McIlroy competitions is the simplest in the first two

months. That's because there are only a few species around that will be

hard to get later in the year.  The most obvious birds in this category are

the winter finches--Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks,

both crossbills. Since these species generally show a two-year periodicity

to their invasions, more than likely you won't even be able to find these

species in the waning winter days of 1998.  Next time you see a posting

about their whereabouts, go out and get them!  Allison and I checked

Summerhill recently with no success--it looked as though there was not much

available for natural food in the area.  With luck, there may be an influx

of finches in our area again March and April, as they return north to their

breeding grounds though, so heads up!

      Other birds in the "see now" category include Northern Shrike, though

it seems as though everyone has already gone to see the now-famous Niemi

Road individual.  If you haven't, get out there!  You'll probably be able t

find it just by watching for its flock of human admirers parked along the

roadway.  It not, watch for a robin-sized bird perched horizontally at the

tippy-top of a tree or post.

      The various saw-whet owls tooting around the Basin will likely be

harder to get as the season progresses.  Get in touch with Geo Kloppel or

the Cup editors if you want more info on where and when to listen for their


      Rounding out those "hard to find" birds are one of my favorite groups,

the gulls.  Gulls regularly roost in the late afternoon, on the ice in

front of Stewart Park. Bring your scope and search through the many

grey-backed Herring and Ring-billeds for the tan or creamy white of an

Iceland or Glaucous.  Several immature Icelands have been noted there

recently. Look for the more gracefully rounded, pigeon-headed look of the

Iceland and hope for a massive, large-billed Glaucous Gull.  Remember that

in first-winter plumage, the Iceland will have an all-black bill and the

Glaucous' will be two-toned pink a the base and dark at the tip. Also check

the dark-backed gulls for a Lesser Black-backed.  It you spot a dark-backed

adult gull that appears lighter than a Great Black-backed Gull, check its

head.  Lesser Black-backed in winter plumage have heavily streaked head and

neck. Adult Great Black-backeds typically have only a little streaking on

the top of the head, with the head appearing otherwise very white.  Of

course, the yellow legs, when visible, on a Lesser Black-backed versus the

pink legs of a Great Black-backed are also an easy field mark.

      Of course, if you'd rather chase those first Killdeer and Red-winged

Blackbirds just to remind yourself that spring is on the way, don't le me

stop you!


(Jeff Wells is Director of Bird Conservation for National Audubon New

York. Lately, he can be seen whistling at trees, especially clusters of




mmmmmmmmmmmmmm    McILROY MUSINGS   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



Guess who's back! (But is he better than ever?)


THE CUP: Why, it's Bill! Bill Evans! What took you so long to get back



EVANS: Is that all the acknowledgment I get for smashing the January

McIlroy record?


THE CUP: Speaking of which, does John Bower know you're here?  How

should we break it to him?


EVANS: Bower is like one of those cheap light bulbs that burns bright for

few months then spits and sputters as it fades out of the picture.  In a

few years no one will remember him for his McIlroy total in 1997, but rumor

has it, the echos of his snoring during a 1987 night flight call outing at

Mount Pleasant can still be heard murmuring through the wooded hollows of

Tompkins County.


THE CUP: Is that what that noise is? We thought it was the planes taking

off at the airport.


EVANS: In this regard, the DEC will be disappointed if Bower leaves the

Basin as it was their one chance for attracting moose back into the area.


THE CUP: So, is this just a big tease, or are you really going for it this



EVANS: Hey, from what I can tell, everyone is moving out of town.  At

the rate things are going, even if I'm only in town for a few months I

still might win it!


THE CUP: Ah, but not the one person you need to keep your eye on

the most: this year's repeat winner, Allison Wells! Say, we want to thank

you for that "special award" you presented us with at the Cupper Supper.

We were so moved that we thought it would be nice if you shared with the

one-hundred thirty-odd Cup readers what it was the store clerk said to

you when you made your, er, "little" purchase on which to stick the

statuette [see The Cup 2.12].


EVANS:  Yes, but maybe the Cup audience would rather hear about how

[this portion of response censored.  Bill, The Cup is rated G!)


THE CUP: What do you expect to see in February, and how far will you go

to keep others (well, Allison and Davies, at least) from seeing the same?


THE CUP: Davies has left the competition mentally as he is moving to

San Francisco at the end of the summer.  Allison is looking pretty old and

haggard recently under the stress of her new job at the Lab and general

exhaustion after two years of editing The Cup.


THE CUP: At least when *you're* being interviewed!


EVANS: I'm not worried about either of these has-beens.  However,

Jeff Wells is another story.  Having been pummeled by his wife the last few

years, the boys down at the gym are starting to talk. I wouldn't be

surprised if he makes a push for the title.


THE CUP: Will you in fact be leaving town, Bill? In other words, when can

we expect your totals to drop off the face of the earth like they always

do? Really, it takes a lot of guts to step foot into the Basin again, after

blowing the comfy McLeads you've held in the past.


EVANS: I plan on keeping the lead through February and possibly even



THE CUP: Ooo! Scarey!


EVANS: I have applied for a job as a groundskeeper at the City Golf Course.

If I get the job, I expect I'll rain terror on McLand in 1998.


THE CUP: Haven't you heard? They gave that job to Tom Nix. That's

another reason why he's not doing the Highlights column this year. On the

other hand, we know of the perfect job for you, Bill, over on Seneca Lake...



                  BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH

                      By Caissa Willmer



This month's Bird Brain, a native down-easter, maintains that she has been

fascinated with birds for as long as she can remember. She certainly

compels the list waves with her enthusiasm and fascination, and it's about

time that she was featured in this column. She is, of course, Allison Cup

Co-editor Wells.

        "My earliest memories are of my nana's 'wild canaries' in Cooper's

Mills, Maine. There were always lots of relatives at her house when we were

there, and things were joyfully hectic, but when her 'wild canaries' came

to her bird feeders, right outside her kitchen window, she'd point them out

to everyone. The look on her face when she was watching them was magical.

Any guesses what those 'wild canaries' were? Hint: In breeding plumage,

the males are a glowing yellow with black wings and little black berets.

      "I was fortunate that in high school, my biology teacher, Mr. Miller,

offered (and still does--despite what Matt Medler would like to think, it

wasn't all *that* long ago!), an eco-ornithology class. In addition to

learning the biology of birds, we had to keep lists with dates, notes on

habitats, descriptions--if we reported unlikely birds like Gull-billed Tern

and Western Grebe, we had to write details of our sightings. Mr. Miller

was the NYSARC of Winthrop High School!  He rejected my report of

Gull-billed Tern, and rightly so.  On the other hand, he also rejected my

Western Grebe, even though he admitted my details were precise. That bird

was later confirmed by every birder with a vehicle that could handle the

mud road down to Indian Point in winter!  It reappeared every season for

about twelve years.

      "Mr. Miller also encouraged his students to go on the Augusta (Maine)

Christmas Bird Count, which a classmate of mine and I did and loved.

And we didn't even get extra credit."

        Allison won't admit to any great birding expertise, but she

explains, "I

established good habits from that eco-ornithology class. I love to read

field guides and species accounts, particularly when I'm driving (just

kidding). And I've learned from Jeff. The first time I went birding with

him (our first date was a birding trip), I was blown away. He's one of the

best birders I know, and I'm not just saying that so he'll do the laundry

next time! My favorite way to learn is just by watching birds, the way my

grandmother watched them, with respect and wonder."

        Asked how she managed to snag so appropriate a mate, Allison was

quick to respond, "I set up a mist-net in my parents' backyard, and lo and

behold, a Black-bearded Trumpeter flew into it!  Actually, we were both in

music school at the time.  I had a job in the evening monitoring the music

building, which basically meant sitting by the doors to make sure no one

walked out with a piano on their shoulders.  The concession machines were

there, so Jeff would wait until everyone else had taken their breaks and

wander out to strike up conversation with me.  It didn't take long for

birds to come up. I couldn't believe another person (around!) my age was

into birds, so when he said he had a telescope in his car, I said, 'Oh, are

you into astronomy?' Next thing I knew, we were on the Misery (Maine)

Christmas Bird Count, which is way up in northern Maine.

        "Talk about an adventure! The heater boxes in his little yellow

volkswagon bug were rusted out, so if you turned on the heaters, you got

carbon monoxide poisoning.  I questioned my sanity the moment I saw him

lean towards the windshield and breathe a peep hole in the frost so he

could 'see'--it was like cruising down the highway in a big, yellow bird

house! Fortunately, it was predawn, so we didn't cause any accidents.  I

wrote an essay about this that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor a

few years back.  Our birding adventures have given me much inspiration,

to say the least."

        It's also very interesting to find that Allison and Jeff are currently

working at the same place, too. I wondered what a basic 9-5 job might be

doing to her identity as a freelance writer and poet.

        "Nine-to-five? I wish! My therapist said that I now suffer

from an acute

case of Labofornithology syndrome, symptoms of which include frequent

relapses into trailerphobia. Steve Kelling is having a particularly bad

attack of this right now. He may not pull through. His hallucinations are

so real that he sterilizes his coffee mug every morning, convinced that

those little black beads at the bottom really are mouse droppings.

      "Seriously, I've always seen myself as a writer--of poetry, fiction,

and creative nonfiction (essays as well as articles).  As long as I'm

writing about something I find compelling, I'm blissful.  I'm enjoying

writing about birds and birding for BirdSource, at the Lab; my

'assignments' are interesting and vary from press releases to a whole range

of materials for the Web site. Working at the Lab has also given me the

opportunity to do some writing/editing for some of the other

citizen-science projects, too--Project FeederWatch, Birds of Forested

Landscapes, Cornell Nest Box Network, and Classroom FeederWatch.  So I

still feel like a freelancer, only I'm not currently scrambling for the

next project.  But for the record, let me tell you I have a story at

Birders' World right now (centered around gull-watching at Niagara,

co-authored with the most knowledgable gull-lover I know, Jeff), I'm do my

Ithaca Child stuff, and I just had a poem come out in a literary journal.

So my checks and balances continue to add up nicely."

        Then I asked my inevitable question: "How does birding affect/color

your day-to-day routine?"

        And she answered: "As for work, almost all of my writing projects are

centered around birds, even if I'm concentrating on poetry--birds are very

prevalent in my poems. As for my 'free' time, Jeff and I go around the lake

a couple of times each month, more when things are really promising.  This

doesn't seem like nearly enough to me.  And despite what some might think,

we're don't do this because we're list-crazy. When my parents were raising

my (four) brothers and me, we often went on drives along the coast or

around the countryside. They didn't go to look at birds specifically, they

enjoyed it, that's all.  Both my parents were working full-time, too.

Yankee ingenuity? Maybe, but the point is, if you enjoy something, you find

a way to make it work, even if you have five kids.  I love to go around the

lake for the same reasons my parents took us on those rides--for the simple

pleasure of visiting familiar places and discovering new ones, for the

great conversations we always have along the way, and because I love to

look at birds.

      "Also, we live near Sapsucker Woods.  This means that what to some is

a family outing is a walk to work for us. Then there's our fire escape..."

      Since she's in the David Cup, McIlroy, and Yard competitions, I

of course asked her about her various lists:

        "Despite what my David Cup persona (my evil twin?) would have

you think, I'm really not much of a  lister.'  I love to keep lists, but

mostly so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing things off them.

Bird lists don't work that way.  I keep a life list, which was

(pathetically) out of date until last December, when I finally caved under

Matt Medler's relentless harassment to update it--I guess he thought he had

more lifers than I do. Ha!  For many years, my life list and my North

American list were one and the same, until I became the vocalist for the

Ageless Jazz Band a few years back.  Since the band goes to Aruba every

year (this year, Jeff and I skipped over to Bonaire, too!), I've been

forced to add a new list to distinguish them, using high-tech,

state-of-the-art birding equipment: a pen, marking 'x' for lifer, a

checkmark for North America only.

      "I never kept a Basin list until this crazy David Cup thing, which, IF


was a jab at this columnist!] [yes, but a friendly one--you saw me smile,

didn't you, Caissa?] you'd know was the brain child of Bill Evans,

Karl David, Steve Kelling, Ken Rosenberg, and I think I can safely

implicate Kevin McGowan as well. I got a taste for it when Steve Kelling

and I had a friendly contest to see who could see more birds on our

birthdays (a week a part in September).  After that, I was hooked into the

David Cup. Jeff and I figured if we were all going to go that far, there

should be some vehicle for comparing our monthly totals (preferably in some

format that would allow me to change other Cuppers' scores according to my

whims), and The Cup was born.

      "Now, Kevin, er, certain of my pals enjoy calling me a 'chaser.'

Well, I am, but not necessarily for the 'tick.' If I haven't seen a shrike

this year, say, (by the way, Kevin, I have!), of course I'm going to try to

see it.  If you really love birds, how can you not?  I did that long before

the David Cup was a twinkle in Steve Kelling's eye, and  will continue to.

By the way, I don't keep a New York list."

        Allison balked at the idea of recounting some particularly

memorable birding adventures.

      "Thanks, Caissa.  You set me up nicely! But...I guess you're right.

      "This is too big a question for me. Honestly, it overwhelms me.

There are so many 'big' birding times in my life, yet so many 'little'

birding moments, too.  If I told you about one, I'd have to wonder why I

didn't tell you about this one and the next, and so on.  I love expounding

about them in context, though, so when the next Swallow-tailed Kite sweeps

into the Basin, remind me to tell you about the time on Monhegan Island

(Maine) that had Jeff  leaping over a table the size of a small car . . .



                              BIRD VERSE



                           "Shrike Limerick"


                               Karl David


                   On old Niemi Road there's a shrike

                   A good look at which we'd all like.

                   McGowan doth say

                   "I see it each day,"

                   For others it's always on strike.



                                   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...




I've been curious, but afraid to ask: What is up with the Mc-prefix on

some of the [Cayugabirds] posts?

                                      - Inquisitive in Ithaca


Dear Inquisitive:


Being an new comer, you obviously don't know about the McBeast.

The "Mc" prefix is given to tip off birders that the species posted was

seen in McIlroy territory (town of Ithaca) and therefore any efforts to see

said bird could result in a "pummeling" by this McBeast.  This mysterious

creature is said to roam the woods of Ithaca, commanded by the voices of

his masters (they sound a lot like night-migrating thrushes and warblers)

and has supposedly been spotted on the lighthouse jetty on foggy evenings

in spring and fall.  He looks a lot like Bill Evans, but don't worry, he's

really not dangerous.


(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at


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


"Sign me up for another year of fun!"

                                              --Anne Kendall


"I have no experience with anything but GH Owls, so my ear should be

considered untrained, but I heard something owl-like: It was a somewhat

high-pitched -- at or above middle C."

                                               --Ben Taft


"Yep, the brother thing is true.  But don't worry, we have no similarities

at all."

                                               --Jon Kloppel


"The Northern Shrike was still on Niemi Rd west of Hanshaw this morning."


                                               --Kevin McGowan


"Made my very first "search drive" for a bird - the N. shrike. No luck..."


                                                --Ann Mathieson


"Morning. Fourth visit to Neimi Rd. Sunny, beautiful. Grim: glassed

whole pond area, no luck...Proceed east to Hanshaw. Nothing. Go south...

Return once more to intersection. Dot in treetop 300 yards east of Hanshaw

along Neimi. Rather horizontal...big head...HEAVY bill!!! Zoom over, get

three-second confirming look before shrike dives down out of sight."


                                                  --John Greenly


"After 3 unsuccessful tries I finally found the shrike yesterday noon in

the spot Kevin saw it."

                                                  --Bard Prentiss


"I guess I paid my shrike dues. This morning I had a long look as the

Shrike hunted the ponds, using bird boxes for lookout perches."


                                                   --John Greenly


"Having just returned from my own  4th  unrewarded trip  to that location

I really guffawed at John's message!  All I've seen are cars of other

birders asking - have you seen it?  no.  Surely tomorrow..."


                                                   --Marie McRae


"Patricia and I found the Northern Shrike again this morning (Thursday)

just north-west of the experimental ponds, but no second Shrike along

Hanshaw Road. This afternoon I spoke with Matt Young, who lives very

close to  Shrike's Corners'."

                                                   --Geo Kloppel


"I couldn't find the meadowlark, but I did have a starling imitating one."


                                                   --Kevin J. McGowan


May Your Cup Runneth Over,


Allison and Jeff