Year 3, Issue 9
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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
* Leader's List, Composite Deposit: "Thoreau" Geo Kloppel
* Evans Cup Compiler: "Bird Hard" Bard Prentiss
* The Yard Stick Compiler: Casey "Sapsucker Woods" Sutton
* Bird Bits: Jay "Beam Hill Me Up, Scotty" McGowan
* Stat's All: Karl "Father of the Madness" David
* Bird Brain Correspondent: "Downtown" Caissa Willmer
* Ant Trainer: Jeff Wells
Stand up if you've seen 25% of this year's Basin rarities to
date. If you've seen 50%, remain standing. Continue to stand if
you've got 67.9918% of the Basin's wayward birdies on your list. If you've
75%, keep standing. Ready? If you've got 100%--ALL--of the
rare Basin birds ticked off, remain on your feet. Now turn and
walk out that door--and don't come back!
Sure, you're thinking the editors are just upset because they
had to spend every waking hour working on The Cup when they could
have been out seeking a Western Kingbird. After all, why else
would they not have gone off after the Nelson's Sharp-tailed
Sparrow, just because it wasn't in Etna? Phooey! They were
selflessly breaking our backs for you on The Cup.
Bad luck is all. But you needn't fear this run will affect you
and YOUR Basin birding. Proof of your good fortune: Another issue
of The Cup has just landed in your email box! Okay, so it COULD be
a foreshadow of bad things to come. But try to enjoy The Cup 3.9
anyway. We worked so hard on it!
@ @ @ @ @ @
NEWS, CUES, and BLUES
@ @ @ @ @ @
IBA SEEIN' YA: It's out! It's out! After much sweat and toil--and
an all nighter or two--the New York State Important Bird Areas book
has arrived! The Cup's own would-be editor Jeff Wells, Director of
Bird Conservation for National Audubon of New York, is the proud
papa, with help from all of you who submitted nominations and/or
served on IBA committees, or made him tea during the wee hours.
If you'd like a copy of this handsome book describing the who,
what, when, where, and why of New York State's IBA's, contact Jeff
at (607) 254-2441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $15 each.
TAKING STORK: Jeff ain't the only proud parent this month. Chris
and Diane Tessaglia-Hymes received their own little bundle of joy
in Alita Carol. Mom and Dad have become quite the night- owls with Alita's
schedule, sleeping for three hours at a time throughout
the night. Congratulations, Chris and Diane--and Alita! May the
birds be with you.
BIRD CUP BLUES AND ALL THAT JAZZ: "With the various discussions
that have gone on on CayugaBirds, I don't think this is that inappropriate.
How does Buddy Guy change the sound of his guitar
in the middle of his lead in Damn right I got the Blues!'--Steve
"Steve, Are you perhaps a bit distracted? I'm sure Buddy
wouldn't want anyone to know exactly how he does this, but if you
have been in his presence you know that he is a wizard. Do you
really want to demystify this? Remember what happened to Dorothy
when she unraveled the mysteries of the wizard, being transported
back to Kansas of all Godforsaken places! And all her marvelous dreamworld
dissolved into ordinary reality and the struggle of
growing wheat for the gluttonous industrialists of the Great
Lakes. This is all very comforting for a simple little girl of
the fifties, but we are different animals, Steve. There is so
little of beauty that is human. If it tickles the auditory nerve,
makes your spine tingle, confirms for you that we are all one
and there is beauty in us, then leave it at that. When it no
longer baffles you, it will no longer do it for you."--Jon W.
"What are you guys talking about???! and who is Guy Buddy?
or Buddy Guy? or Guddy Buy? or whatever 'is name is???????"--Martha Fischer
"I did my damnedest to find SOME connection between the birds and
Steve's Buddy Guy query, and got absolutely nothing, until it dawned
on me that Bill Evans' survey must be the link: after all, Buddy is
a stratocasting tower of devastating impact."--Geo Kloppel
"BUDDY GUY, clearly an acronym for: Bird Until Death Departed, Yippie!
God Understand whY. Just don't play this backwards."--Bill
"You need a connection, Geo, WHAT ABOUT THE BIRD CUP BLUES COLUMN IN
THE CUP! Fie on you!!"--Allison Wells
:> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :> :>
BASIN BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
By several criteria September's biggest find was the group of
three AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS at Montezuma. These giants strayed
uncommonly far from their usual Mississippi Valley migration route,
and then settled in at May's Point for an improbably long stay, so
long that anyone even slightly motivated had plenty of opportunity
to cast off all misapprehensions about which of the many matters competing
for attention were truly WORTHY of it, and head up to the Refuge to view
them. A solitary pelican would be attraction enough,
but these visitors are sojourning as a threesome, so they also gave
the Basin-bound rare glimpses of the cooperative fishing
methods which family groups of these synchronized swimmers employ
on their breeding lakes in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Rainy
Once reduced by pesticide amplification to the point of endangerment,
American White Pelicans made an early and impressive
come-back. A breeding colony on Lavalee Lake in the remote
northwestern corner of Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan,
is said to receive 10,000 migrants each spring from the Gulf coast. Sharing
the heart of the breeding ranges of Double-crested
Cormorants and Red-necked Grebes, the pelicans normally head
south in the fall like the first, but casually straggle eastward in
imitation of the second. The Lake of the Woods colony perhaps holds
the breeders nearest to us. For them travel to our region is just a matter
of riding the autumn cold fronts out of the northwest down
the Great Lakes drainage instead of following the Mississippi. And
why not? Go where the fishing's good.
The Montezuma pelicans seemed to be in no hurry to move on:
day after day they could be seen rhythmically dipping their
capacious buckets in unison into the lowered waters at May's Point
Pool, perhaps finding the thousands of carp confined in the shallows there
just too wonderful to fly away from. As one Refuge staffer
told me with a grin, "They're WELCOME to all the carp they can eat,
and they can stay as long as they like to eat 'em!"
Carp are often viewed as a management problem because of their impact
on water-quality. A neighbor of mine once made the mistake of dumping a few
carp (goldfish) into his pond. They multiplied greatly there and stirred up
the bottom continually, thereby turning the pond into a carp-friendly
mud-hole. Aggressive alteration of habitats to
suit their own preferences is a capability the carp share with
certain featherless bipeds who, further lacking any analog of the pelican
to check their numbers, have multiplied wildly and now
remodel, muck-up, and monopolize habitat on a scale scarcely
to be believed! But to give the latter culprits their due, they sometimes
undertake to reverse the damage within certain carefully delineated areas.
And when so engaged, they really know how to throw
a good Muckrace, this year netting $1600 for MNWR-area projects
broadly aimed at assuring that members of the 160-some bird-species which
the participants found in the Greater Montezuma Wetlands
Complex will not soon find themselves utterly dispossessed.
Pelicans may have stolen the September show, but there were
other noteworthy birds, expected certainly, but not to be found
without some effort. SORAS called from Tschache Pool for the
Muckracers. Red-necked Phalarope was missed entirely this fall, but
most of the expected shorebirds continued to be seen, including
BLACK-BELLIED and AM. GOLDEN PLOVERS, RUDDY TURNSTONE, SANDERLING, BAIRD'S
SANDPIPER and WILSON'S PHALAROPE. Throughout the month
PEREGRINE FALCONS and MERLINS stopped at Montezuma to pursue
them, but only the latter made appearances at other locations
around the Basin. GOSHAWK sightings began to accumulate, later to
prompt cautious speculation about the prospects for an invasion-year.
Roughly 1000 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS were reported during the peak days
of their passage mid-month.
A WHIP-POOR-WILL and a few more NIGHTHAWKS migrating through
our area were detected early in the month, then the songbirds,
moving in ever larger numbers, captured our attention. SWAINSON'S THRUSHES
dropped in, or together with GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSHES could
be heard in night migration from favored locations. YELLOW-BELLIED
FLYCATCHERS, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS, and much-desired birds like
GOLDEN-WINGED, CAPE MAY, BAY-BREASTED, WILSON'S and PALM
WARBLERS and N PARULA filled painful voids in various lists.
A COMMON TERN out on the red lighthouse jetty, a LESSER BLACK-
BACKED GULL at May's Point, a scattering of LINCOLN'S and early
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, and lots of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS rounded out a
darned good month, bringing home yet again the grandeur of
migration, and promising more to come in October.
(Geo Kloppel makes and repairs violin bows. His dreams are white pelicans.)
100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Sign on 100 Club Door:
"Unless you're bringing Godiva chocolates, keep out!"
200 200 200 200 200
2 0 0
200 200 200 200
Chris Butler's Bird 200 (from August): Stilt Sandpiper
Smart Aleck Matt Medler's Bird 200: Mrs. Gould's Sunbird. "It was
a McIlroy bird, in fact. I heard it right outside of my studio."
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< PILGRIMS' PROGRESS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
September 1998 David Cup Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
234 Geo Kloppel
232 Matt Young
226 Kevin McGowan
223 Jay McGowan
222 Ken Rosenberg
218 Meena Haribal
217 Karl David
216 Jeff Wells
215 Allison Wells
214 Chris Butler
213 Steve Kelling
209 Tom Nix
208 Matt Sarver
205 John Bower*
204 Matt Medler
199 Pat Lia
188 John Greenly
186 Anne Kendall
183 Alan Krakauer
177 Jon Kloppel
176 Nancy Dickinson
170 Martha Fischer
157 Ben Taft
152 John Fitzpatrick
152 John Morris
146 Nancy Dickinson
145 Gary Chapin
139 Marty Schlabach
138 Perri McGowan
133 Kim Kline
133 Steve Pantle
132 Jim Lowe
112 Stephen Davies
103 Melanie Uhlir
85 Michael Runge
85 Caissa Willmer
84 Carol Bloomgarden
78 Swift McGowan (DC Kitty Cup)
72 Anne James
85 Ann Mathieson
68 James "The Fly" Barry*
57 Kylie Spooner
54 Mimi Wells (DC Kitty Cup)
48 Cathy Heidenreich
46 Dave Mellinger
43 Teddy Wells (DC Kitty Cup)
42 Scott Mardis
39 Kurt Fox
35 Tom Lathrop
34 Margaret Barker
26 Andy Leahy
20 Figaro (DC Kitty Cup)
0 Ned Brinkley*
0 Ralph Paonessa*
0 Larry Springsteen*
0 Mira "the Bird Dog" Springsteen*
*Currently living out-of-state and refuses to move back.
September 1998 McIlroy Award Totals
Compiled by Matt Medler
146 Martha Fischer
145 Jeff Wells
139 Karl David
134 Kevin McGowan
117 Ken Rosenberg
113 Jay McGowan
111 Matt Medler
109 John Bower
102 Jim Lowe
85 Ben Taft
82 Michael Runge
80 Anne Kendall
60 Stephen Davies
42 Dave Mellinger
0 Bill Evans*
*Nonetheless claims to be ahead.
September 1998 Evans (Dryden) Trophy
Compiled by Bard Prentiss
193 Ken Rosenberg
186 Matt Young
183 Kevin McGowan
166 Jay McGowan
165 Bard Prentiss
109 Anne Kendall
September 1998 Lansing Totals
138 Kevin McGowan
122 John Greenly
September 1998 Etna Challenge
87 Allison Wells
80 Jeff Wells
18 Casey Sutton
September 1998 Evans Trophy
THE YARD STICK ----------------------------
135 Ken Rosenberg, Dryden, NY
127 John Fitzpatrick, Ithaca, NY
120 Steve Kelling, Berkshire, NY
119 Kevin McGowan, Dryden, NY
116 Geo Kloppel, West Danby, NY
104 John Bower, Enfield, NY
95 Nancy Dickinson, Trumansburg, NY
69 Jeff and Allison Wells, Etna, NY
69 Ben Taft, Ithaca, NY
66 Darlene and John Morabito, Auburn, NY
64 John Greenly, Ludlowville, NY
53 Ann Mathieson, Scipio Center, NY
28 Susann Argetsinger, Burdett, NY
1 Casey Sutton, Ithaca, NY
LEADER'S LIST LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
By Geo Kloppel
As of September 30 the lead had still not migrated! I added 5 birds during
the month, for a total of 234. Some few of the remaining possibilities are
likely enough in the next three months, but they
ain't many! I'm figuring I'll have to search diligently and/or be
very lucky in order to reach 240 by the end of the year. On the
other hand, I'm ten over target, so pretty well pleased.
Here's the complete September leader's list:
R-t & C Loon,P-b,H & R-n Grebe,Am W Pelican,D-c Cormorant,
Am & L Bittern,G Egret,G B & Green Heron,B-c Night Heron,T & M
Swan,S & C Goose,Wood Duck,G-w Teal,Am Black Duck,Mallard,
N Pintail,B-w Teal,N Shoveler,Gadwall,Am Wigeon,Canvasback,
Redhead,R-n Duck,G & L Scaup,Surf & W-w Scoter,C Goldeneye,
Bufflehead,Hooded,C & R-b Merganser,Ruddy Duck,Turkey Vulture,
Osprey,Bald Eagle,N Harrier,S-s & Cooper's Hawk,N Goshawk,
R-s,B-w,R-t & R-l Hawk,Am Kestrel,Merlin,Peregrine,R-n
Pheasant,Ruffed Grouse,Wild Turkey,VA Rail,C Moorhen,Am Coot,
Am Golden,Bk-bellied & Semipalmated Plover,Killdeer,AM AVOCET,
G & L Yellowlegs,Solitary,Spotted & Upland Sandpiper,Whimbrel,
R Turnstone,Sanderling,Semipalmated,Western,Least,W-r,Baird's &
Pectoral Sandpiper,Dunlin,CURLEW SANDPIPER,Stilt Sandpiper,
Short-&Long-billed Dowitcher,C Snipe,Am Woodcock ,W's Phalarope,
B's,R-b,Herring,Iceland,L B-b & G B-b Gull,Caspian,C,F's & B Tern,
Rock & Mourning Dove,B-b & Y-b Cuckoo,E Screech-Owl,G H,Barred,
L-e,S-e & N S-w Owl,CNighthawk,W-p-w,Chimney Swift,
R-t Hummingbird,Belted Kingfisher,R-h & R-b Woodpecker,
Y-b Sapsucker, D & H Woodpecker,N Flicker,Pileated Woodpecker,
E Wood-Pewee,Acadian,Alder,Willow & Least Flycatcher,E Phoebe,
G C Flycatcher,E Kingbird,Horned Lark,Purple Martin,Tree,N R-w,Bank,
Cliff & Barn Swallow,Blue Jay,Am & Fish Crow,C Raven,B-c Chickadee,
Tufted Titmouse,R-b & W-b Nuthatch, Brown Creeper,Carolina,House,
Winter & Marsh Wren,G-c & R-c Kinglet, B-g Gnatcatcher,
E Bluebird,Veery,G-c,Swainson's,Hermit & Wood Thrush,Am Robin,
Gray Catbird,N Mockingbird,Brown Thrasher,Am Pipit,Cedar Waxwing,
N Shrike,Eurostarling,B-h,Y-t,Warbling,Philly & R-e Vireo,B-w,G-w,
TN & Nashville Warbler,N Parula,Yellow,C-s,Magnolia,B-t blue,Y-r,
B-t Green,Blackburnian,Pine,Prairie,Palm,B-b,Blackpoll,Cerulean &
B-and-w Warbler,Am Redstart,Prothonotary & W-e Warbler,Ovenbird,
N & LA Waterthrush,Mourning Warbler,C Yellowthroat,Hooded,Wilson's
& Canada Warbler,Scarlet Tanager,N Cardinal,R-b Grosbeak,I Bunting,
E Towhee,Am Tree,Chipping,Field,Vesper,Savannah,Grasshopper,
Henslow's,Fox,Song,Swamp & W-t Sparrow,D-e Junco,S Bunting,
Bobolink, R-w Blackbird,E Meadowlark,Rusty Blackbird,C Grackle,
B-h Cowbird,B & O Oriole,Pine Grosbeak,Purple & House Finch,Red &
W-w Crossbill,C Redpoll, Pine Siskin,Am Goldfinch,Evening Grosbeak,
The following birds have been seen by others:
Brant,E Wigeon,Oldsquaw,Black Scoter,BLACK VULTURE,Golden
Eagle,GYRFALCON,Sora,FRANKLIN'S GULL,Little Gull,Glaucous Gull,
Snowy Owl,Olive-s & Y-b Flycatcher,Cape May Warbler,Lincoln's &
W-c Sparrow,Lapland Longspur,HOARY REDPOLL.
Grand Composite Total: 253
This is four species shy of the September 1997 composite total of
257, in spite of our early sweep of the winter finches. So what's missing
this year? Well, Ross' Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose
(turns up in October 98), Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Red-necked Phalarope,
Sedge Wren, White-eyed Vireo and Kentucky Warbler, for starters. Then there
were last year's yet-to-be-repeated
accidentals: BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, LAUGHING GULL, THAYER'S GULL,
WESTERN KINGBIRD and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. Set these thirteen
against the nine 9/98 species absent from the 9/97 list, namely Surf
Scoter, Black Scoter, GYRFALCON, FRANKLIN'S GULL, HOARY REDPOLL, Whimbrel,
Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, and White-winged Crossbill,
and the reckoning is complete. Recall, though, that six of these
also turned up later in 1997. But few of the other 9/97 uniques look very
promising for 1998. Thus it seems to be shaping up as a low composite-total
year. I won't make a similar comparison with the
9/96 composite list just now, for fear that might be a bit too discouraging!
(You already know Geo. His elegant prose makes him easy to
remember... and so does his Basin list.)
< COACH'S CORNER <
< < < <
Is this another regurgitation of last year's October column? You
best it is (albeit with a few 1998 modifications). We know a good
thing when we read it. Be thankful we--including Coach
Extraordinaire Kevin McGowan--are (still) willing to share:
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 [this species found in this October by the man himself!]
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 [already found!],
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 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.
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. 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's known in these parts for his crow research,
which often finds him "up a tree.")
! KICKIN' TAIL! !
What better way to prove you've got guts 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, or imagined his/her way to
the top of the David Cup list.
EDITORS' NOTE: We did not interview this month's leader, Geo Kloppel.
We thought you might rather appreciate this conversation, overheard between
Geo and Matt Young from somewhere in the depths of the
YOUNG: (Long sigh) I'm so envious of you, Geo. You've gotten so many
Kickin' Tail interviews and I haven't gotten any.
KLOPPEL: Don't ruminate so, son. Your day will rise up out of yonder
horizon like the eye of Glory herself. And when she rises, my tenure
as reluctant noble leader will colliquate like Icarus' wings. I may
be the feistiest cannon fodder at present, but I endure so many hours
imbibing the wilds that I might one day find myself seized and
carried aloft in the talons of a Great Grey Owl. It would be smooth
sailing for you there after, captain.
YOUNG: No offense, but I spend darned near as much time in the field
as you do. The town of Lansing is considering putting in a bench at Myer's
Point with my name on it. Yet you always manage to stay just barely ahead
of me month after month. What gives?
KLOPPEL: A wise man lays the golden egg of wisdom; a foolish man
cracks it open to see if it is putrid. Suffice to say I cannot give
way to your curious mind, but rest easy, friend, that I engaged in no
meddling with regard to your email connection going afoul in months past.
And as Ralph Waldo Emerson as my witness, I claim no
ownership, should the intimate clockwork of your automobile find
YOUNG: Well, anyway, it doesn't really matter who's ahead in the
David Cup. The real competition is the Evans Trophy.
KLOPPEL: What blinders we wear when the pain of truth shines too brightly.
KLOPPEL: That is, I opted to forego the tonnage of the Evans Trophy
in favor of the splendor of my yard bird compatriots. And of course,
on the dream of David Cup victory that has haunted my being since the day
that drat Cup slithered into my email box. But then, that's not
the matter, is it, my friend? More valiant men then we have let slip
opportunities for fame in the name of friendship.
YOUNG: You got that right, Geo. [Slaps Geo on the back] Say, let's
go for a ride. I heard about a report of Great Grey Owl not far from here...
By Jay McGowan
Jay blew us off again this month. He has no excuse. Next
time you see him, steal his hat.
STAT'S ALL, FOLKS
By Karl David
Recently a magazine article writer, talking about global
warming, casually cited the fact that Red-winged Blackbirds
happened to be returning to a particular Midwestern marsh two weeks earlier
in the spring than they once did, as if global warming
clearly was the explanation. Continuing the analysis of my spring migration
data from the last few columns, I'm not so sure you can
so easily and confidently make that connection.
While Red-winged Blackbird was not one of my sample birds, it
is true that all my chosen early-spring migrants--Turkey Vulture, Killdeer,
Tree Swallow, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Meadowlark--have personal median
arrival dates earlier than those given in the
historical Basin data, covering 1903 to 1993. So it does seem
incontrovertible that these birds are arriving earlier than they
used to. True, for Turkey Vulture at least this is linked to
northward range expansion, but that wouldn't apply to the other four.
In fact, with some justification I could push the Meadowlark
date up a little. I noticed that my two absolutely latest dates coincided
with my sabbatical years, i.e. years when I wasn't driving regularly to
Aurora ... a mechanism which often has netted me my
However, at the other end of the spring migration the picture
is far from clear. My ten chosen late-spring migrants all have
personal arrival medians later than the historic dates. Nonetheless, there
could still be some "forward creep" in the arrival dates that would point
to earlier arrival times, if less dramatically so than
for the earlier set.
Since I have fourteen years' worth of data, I divided them into
two equal periods, 1985-1991 and 1992-1998, and computed my median arrival
date for each species for both of these subcategories.
Here's the outcome:
SPECIES '85 - '91 '92 - '98
Chimney Swift 4/27 4/30
Eastern Kingbird 5/05 5/07
House Wren 4/29 4/30
Wood Thrush 5/07 5/06
Gray Catbird 5/04 4/30
Warbling Vireo 5/02 5/02
Yellow Warbler 4/30 4/30
American Redstart 5/06 5/08
Common Yellowthroat 5/08 5/06
Baltimore Oriole 5/05 5/07
These are highly inconclusive results! For the more recent period,
five species arrived later, two the same and three earlier. Of
course there are tests to determine if two sample means/medians are likely
to have come from the same population, which should be used
here if it looked like one set tended to be later or earlier than the
other. But happily for my busy schedule, I don't have to review how
to do this here, because the answer is clear in advance: the data
offers no support for earlier (or later for that matter!) arrival
So what to make of this? I happen to be one of those people
who do believe that the earth is in fact getting warmer; I just
don't know how this should affect bird migration. If, as some people
believe, migration is triggered by the amount of daily light, then
temperature changes would have no effect at all. But unless someone
can convincingly demonstrate otherwise, the safest theory to espouse
is always multi- rather than monocausal, so that temperature change would
play some role ... the debate would be over how much.
If my data is representative of what's actually happening, and
if warmer temperatures do indeed induce birds to migrate earlier in
the spring, then my best guess would be this: a rise of a few degrees
is more consequential when it's cold than when it's already warm, so that
an increase in March matters more than a similar increase in
May. Thus the "forward creep" in May could still be there, but much
slighter, so that it's harder to detect in the data. Or, I could be
all wet. Anybody out there have any ideas of their own?
(Karl David is [still] a mathematics professor on sabbatical at
Cornell. Karl, consider this our "groveling" apology for not being
able to find this column last month. You did in fact send it, so we
can now in clear conscious blame our computer.)
SCRAWL OF FAME
(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.)
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm McILROY MUSINGS mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Since no one seems able to unseat our current McLeader--even though
she doesn't even live in Ithaca anymore--it seems appropriate to interview
the person who has taken over the Wells' former perch
(sort of) on yonder side of Sapsucker Woods...Matt Medler!
MEDLER: In other words, you haven't had a good chance to really make
fun of me in a while.
THE CUP: Well, there's that, too. Given your new, prime McReal
estate, why aren't you doing better?
MEDLER: Actually, I'm in the lead right now, although nobody knows
it. You see, I'm using the Kelling method of calculating my totals:
I count birds that aren't strictly in the designated area (but
they're close!), and then I miscount my total so that it's a little
THE CUP: Oh, it's "low" all right.
MEDLER: But watch out in December, when I realize that I actually
have seen Black-capped Chickadee, Canada Goose, etc. in Ithaca, and I
suddenly vault to the top of the leader board.
THE CUP: Oooooh. We're sooo scared. Speaking of scarey, you're
rooming with another Cupper, Matt Sarver. How is this working out?
Do you ever, say, reset his alarm clock so he won't get up in time to catch
MEDLER: No, I would never sink to such levels. I have been known to
take away the ladder to his bunkbed so that he can't get down from
his bed in the morning, but that seems perfectly fair to me.
THE CUP: Careful, he might hide the stool you use to reach the sink.
MEDLER: Seriously, Matt and I have helped each other out with various
birds over the past year. I called him as soon as I found out about
the avocets, and just the other day, he stomped through the back
forty at Hog's Hole to point out what for me was an elusive McMute
Swan. I'm more than happy to help him out, as long as I beat him out
in the end (a foregone conclusion, since I compile the Pilgrim's Progress).
THE CUP: Since we're on the subject of trust, whatever became of
your "trusty" Reliant, and does this have anything to do with the
reason you're now within walking distance to work?
MEDLER: The Trusty Reliant is doing just fine, thank you. It's still going
strong at almost 115,000 miles.
THE CUP: Oh, that's right, you sold it and the poor sucker had to rebuild
the engine. Must run like a charm now. On the other hand,
it's still a Reliant...
MEDLER: The reason why I live within walking distance of work is so
that I can drive to work in only five minutes.
THE CUP: Hmm. Guess that explains why you missed that Yellow-bellied
Flycatcher that was lingering around in Sapsucker Woods--the one that never
got reported because you were driving to work! Has your
Winston Court fire escape been good to you so far (does it compare
to Allison and Jeff's old one)?
MEDLER: Oh, it's been just wonderful. I have seen all of zero birds
out there since I moved in at the start of August. It will probably
be even better when Matt and I get around to putting up the
birdfeeder kindly given to me by Mimi and Teddy [the Well's cats,
for cat sitting them].
THE CUP: What's your big McIlroy plan for the rest of the year?
MEDLER: Maybe spend a little time down on the jetty, try to pick up Brant,
Red-throated Loon, Black and White-winged scoters, and some
of the easier waterfowl that I never got out to see this spring.
Come December, I'll add up my list again, and we should see a new McIlroy
THE CUP: That's what they all say...
BIRD BRAIN OF THE MONTH
By Caissa Willmer
This month's Bird Brain has "been interested in birds for as
long as I can remember, for the obvious reason: they can fly! Oh,
I am envious!" A New Hampshire native, he is currently a junior
biology and English major at Cornell, "and I rarely have time for anything
but classes." That is Ben Taft talking, and he insists, furthermore, "I
only started seriously birding when I got to Cornell
and bought myself a pair of functional binos."
But he adds a bit wistfully, "I spend much of my time
'vicariously birding' from a computer, since I am really busy with school
work. This is an awesome place for birding, especially since there are so
many cool guys who are serious birders and have CARS.
My biggest mentor would have to be Matt Medler-I totally agree with
his philosophy of birding. In his Bird Brain interview, he said, 'I don't
enjoy going birding alone nearly as much as I enjoy it when
I'm with somebody else. At the risk of sounding corny, I enjoy
sharing birds with fellow birders, whether they be seasoned veterans
or beginners.' Mat's been a big help to me at work and in the
field (not to mention that I'm going to get ten extra birds on my
David Cup total for mentioning him)."
Ben has also been working for Dr. David Winkler. During Ben's
sophomore year, Dr. Winkler decided that "I should work on swallow sounds
(gulp!). First, I worked with Ryan Bakelaer on a VERY rudimentary study of
similarities between the sounds of mud-nesting swallows. Then, starting in
May, I scorned exams and recorded
singing Tree Swallows, in the hopes that I will be able to figure
out if their song has some effect on or correlation with breeding success.
Winkler introduced me to the Lab and the Library of Natural Sounds, where
everyone is fantastically kind and helpful,"--if and
when Ben can get through the security system!
As he tells it: "I set off the alarm two weeks ago when I was trying
to get into the Lab on a Sunday morning before an ornithology class
bird-banding workshop. There were lots of witnesses. It was
very embarrassing, but I was (probably to the disappointment of the police)
on the list of people who could legitimately set off
the alarm and only be stupid, rather than criminal."
His best birding experience to date was not, he regrets, in the Basin.
"It was Gerard Phillips's Hoary Redpoll that landed on a
branch right next to a Common Redpoll, just as a shaft from the
setting sun broke through the clouds and illuminated that
With that nice piece of description it's safe to say that Basin
birding is once again generating not only a fascination for and a
love of birds, but a delight in and a facility with the words to describe
(Caissa Willmer is a Senior Staff Writer for the Cornell Office of
Development and theater critic for the Ithaca Times.)
Still awaiting Geo's contribution 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,
About the Pilgrim's Progress list: I recently had the same total as Fitz,
yet his name came first. I hope it was because of his name
coming alphabetically before mine and not because he's the head of
the Lab and a certain someone's boss! That kind of preferential treatment
would have no place in an entity with such high moral and ethical standards
as The Cup.
--Listing Off Complaints in Newfield
Dear Listing Off:
Fret no more. Tie scores are always, always, always presented
according to the last name of the corresponding Cupper. Except when
the tie involves Allison Wells--she always must come before anyone
with whom her score is tied. This is strictly because as editor of
The Cup, she needs that vantage point--it helps her stay on top of
(Send your questions for Dear Tick to The Cup at email@example.com)
""""""""" CUP QUOTES """"""""
"This morning I finally glimpsed what I'd been hearing for several
days in the grapevine-and-hawthorne thicket: a little flock of
White-throated Sparrows. How autumnal!"
"After a heavy nocturnal migration last night (lots of Swainson's,
Gray-cheeked, and Wood Thrushes, Green Herons, yellowthroats over
my house), I was eager to check Dryden Lake this morning. No
jaegers, Sabine's Gulls, wheatears, Say's Phoebes, or Connecticut Warblers,
but there was a nice Merlin, several lingering warblers,
and some lines of geese overhead (talk about autumnal!)"
"Yes, I'm back on Cayugabirds!! Anyway, today proved to be quite the
fruitful day on the birding front! At Mundy there were At Sapsucker
Woods on the east trail where the new boardwalk went in, there
were Myer's Pt had At this point I figured I'd go home for a rest,
but when I arrived there was a message from Bard Prentiss about a
Cape May Warbler in his yard. So I jumped back into my vehicle and
when I arrived, he told me it took off. After about 15 minutes of waiting
it didn't disappoint. Bard and I watched a nicely plumed
adult fall male forage in a birch for about 20 minutes."
"I found my first Common Nighthawk of the year but out of bounds at
Lodi Point. That's it! I'm never leaving the Basin again."
"Just this week I saw hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of
Sooty Shearwaters, and dozens of Pink-footed, Buller's, and Black-
vented shearwaters. Also albatrosses, sandpipers galore, many
species of plovers, murres, terns by the boatload, ducks unlimited,
guillemots, several kinds of cormorants, phalaropes, pelicans, and
on and on. And not one of them countable for the David Cup! I feel
so bad I want to cry But there is yet hope! With the recent
extension of the Basin to include South Africa, I'm hoping that
soon Monterey Bay will be considered part of the Basin, too."
"Do I qualify for an asterisk on my David/Mc Cup totals since I am
almost 3,000 miles from David Cup land? I hate to see all those
chumps passing me when I am helpless to do anything about it. I will
be back in town in December and will get a whole bunch of birds then
so I can kick Bill Evans's butt again!"
"The back channel was suffering a veritable infestation of
Green-winged Teal, with Gadwalls galore, and in every opening in
the rushes boasting a male Wood Duck in newly burnished baroque splendor."
"Hey, where are warbler watching folks from Cornell? Don't you
"Anyone interested in hearing night flight calls of migrating
birds? Tonight looks like a great night!"
May Your Cup Runneth Over,
Allison and Jeff