Year 6 Issue 2


"Just a little drink from your loving cup,

Just a little drink and I fall down drunk."

The Rolling Stones

Welcome to the unofficial newsletter of the David Cup birding competition. There have been some changes at Cup Headquarters. You may have noticed the call for totals coming from Matt Williams. He will be compiling the monthly totals section. Matt Medler will take over as Highlights Editor. Other departments will remain the same: we’ve got at least one more On The Move from Mr. Young after this month and the Quill continues to be an enigma, sometimes available, sometimes not. One never knows does one? Which reminds me of a lovely little ditty by P.D.Q. Bach from his operetta, Iphigenia in Brooklyn, in which the brother, Orestes, sings: "Who knows what it is to be running? Only he who is running knows. Running, running, running knows. Running knows. Running knows. Running knows." This in turn reminds me of Matt Medler on a supra cold, supra windy day at Stewart Park, and similarly, after his date falls through for the Cupper Supper.

Your "Basin Batting Average"

More often than not we express our listing success with a number, a total number of species. In order to play the listing game we use an official list of possible species. I recently went through the Basin Checklist and tallied the number of species I had seen within this famous watershed boundary. The resultant number offered me little comfort–not because it was high or low, but because it did not reflect my performance quality in an immediate sense. I thought it would be more fun to express the number as a percentage. Rather than say "I just hit 458 for my Basin life list, having ticked Rainbow-billed Barking Duck at Myer’s. What’s your total?" One might say instead, "I’m birding 83% in the Basin. How are you doing?" Many of you Basin veterans may have a Basin life list. The Editors would like to know those numbers for publication in The Cup. Just for fun, we’ll convert these numbers into the appropriate percentages. The Basin Checklist I used includes Medler’s additions of Anhinga Anhinga anhinga and Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus. Tally up those Basin life lists and next month we’ll see who has the highest Basin Average.

Supper Time

February 11th, the compass pointed to 36 Etna Rd. Many Cuppers new and old descended upon the Wells’Birdland Bistro for a feast to end all feasts. Allison and Jeff had incriminating video of McIlroy champion Bill Evans dancing about in a white glittery tux worthy of Liberace. Although the silvery Elvis-style hairdo belied a sense of trailer park-panache rarely seen exhibited by the versatile Evans, one had to respect the grace with which he twirled around the dance floor. Apparently Evans fancies himself Australian when succumbing to the super-ego of his alter-self. There are stranger things in this world, but not many. The exposed Evans laughed good naturedly, as if his dark secret were a little joke. He was not unarmed against possible attack, however. A T-shirt proclaiming his victory over the "She-beast" in the McIlroy Competition could not be missed. The McGowan boys provided a visual backdrop to the main event with a digital slide show of photos from 2000, birds and Cuppers alike. The awards ceremony was quiet, but lovely. An ever reflective Kloppel held back tears as he received The Cup trophy from former champion Matt Young. Geo thanked our wonderful birding community and once again took little credit for his smashing victory. Both McGowan and Rosenberg contributed their thoughts about the virtues and uniqueness of the David Cup community. In addition to the Cup itself, Geo received an "exact" beautifully carved replica of his trusty Volvo with the number 251 painted in racing-stripe red on the side and a small bottle of champagne bubbles (for blowing about the room, not consuming). Allison Wells received a package of Alka Seltzer for winning the Big Fizz category. Cup Editors Fambrough and Medler each received from Editor Emeritus Allison Wells a satin pink Cup with strap (half a bra) with "Cup Cheerleader" and our names in black on each. Medler spent the evening thinking his nose warmer a little big, but liking the color. He turned a brighter shade of pink when the award was quietly explained to him. A good time was had by all. There were at least two furious ping-pong battles. Cup Editors held the table for two rousing games, one against the elder McGowan and Matt Sarver, another against Allison and Mr. Young. Both games were quite close, but neither of our opposing teams could match the unforgiving brilliance of our ping-pong might. Rock on Cup Editors!

In case you missed the Cupper Supper, click here for photos of the evening's more memorable moments.

Speaking of the Cup Editors, hear them now as Fambrough gives up his role as interviewer to be interviewed by Medler. Why? Cause he beat y’all in January, that’s why.


THE CUP: Well, well, well. Look who we have here. If it isn't Mr. Editor-in-Chief, who just fired me from my longtime position as Totals Compiler. And what a coinkydink--the first month that I don't do the totals, you bring in some lackey, and voila!- you're supposedly Kickin' Tail. You expect us to buy that?

FAMBROUGH: Ah, what a thin ruse that would be. Perhaps thin enough to fool a few Cuppers whose intrigues rely on more complicated schemes. Only the simple minded, who focus on the obvious, would suspect such open daring. On the other hand... THE CUP: Eighty-four, huh?


THE CUP: If you were going to rig the totals, you might as well have put in a respectable score, like 90. Did you even see any good birds in January?

FAMBROUGH: (Yawn). Sorry, what was that you said? Oh yeah: no, not 90, 84. But I saw some really good birds. I was so sure that we had a good fight on for January. I must say I’m totally disappointed, no pun intended. There are many birds that, if I were really doing the January blitz, I could have ticked: Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird, Great Horned Owl, Purple Finch. The list goes on. I fully expected higher numbers from both Fogg and Nix. Then, of course, we’d been seeing posts from the likes of Kelling and the Wells duo, Rosenberg and McGowan: I really thought things might be closer. Williams is always lurking right in the background, but I never worry about him too much. Not much of a threat really. Geo is resting on his laurels. Young has time and distance and school against him (again). I suppose I should have done it: gone for the crushing blow right away. THE CUP: So, what were the good birds?

FAMBROUGH: Well, Glaucous Gull was really nice. Didn’t have to go to the dump for that one, thanks to Bob. And I really like the Iceland Gulls, too. Speaking of gulls, Lesser Black-backed still escapes me. Finding the Barrow’s first again this year was a real treat, some kind of cosmic affirmation that I can turn up good birds from time to time. In all fairness, I think I beat Bob to the spot by about fifteen minutes, although, unlike me, he probably would not have looked specifically for that bird. As silly as it may sound, I really enjoyed finding Swamp Sparrow. Of course, I know you’re not forgetting the singularly awesome presence of one gray falcon. That was fantastic. Thank goodness Meena was along. She identified the bird first. More importantly, sharing such a fantastic find amplifies one’s enjoyment. I think we were both grinning ear to ear. She’s so fun to bird with. The day ended with a second life bird (could one ask for more?): Gyrfalcon was followed up by listening to and seeing Saw-whet Owl, the second lifer.

THE CUP: Ah yes, your one-day wonder Gyrfalcon. So let me get this straight- you can't even manage to tick off staked-out feeder birds like Eastern Towhee or White-crowned Sparrow, but then you and Meena find one of our rarest visitors from the North? And then it's gone?

FAMBROUGH: Now, now. You know I wish others had seen the bird. If you only knew how I staggered against the bitter wind along those deserted roads, looking desperately for a telephone, freezing, braving menacing, growling mangy curs. Furthermore, both those "staked-out feeder birds" are on private property. I have the decency not to impose too greatly on the generosity of those homeowners.

THE CUP: Please! Are you trying to win The Cup or some type of good citizen award?

FAMBROUGH: Neither, actually.

THE CUP: Changing gears, I guess this could be the perfect opportunity for us to pat each other on the back and say what a wonderful job we're doing with The Cup, but the truth is, I've heard people say that the newsletter doesn't have quite the same "edge" that it did when Jeff was in charge. What do you think about that?

FAMBROUGH: What?! What can you possibly mean by "when Jeff was in charge"? It was Allison’s will and wit that gave us so much pleasure. The bitter expectation of disillusionment has me frantic with confusion. Egad.

THE CUP: Oh, that's what Allison would have you and everybody else believe, but the truth of the matter is that Jeff was the creative genius behind The Cup. Why do you think it took him so long to compile that New York State Important Bird Areas book? It certainly wasn't because he was out racking up a big David Cup total. He was busy writing The Cup all the time. Allison went through that three-year span where she suffered from some pretty serious writer's block. I'd hate to have people read some of the things she tried to slip into The Cup during that time. It even makes Matt Sarver's poetry look good. Anyway, back to my original question. Do you have anything "cookin'" to "spice up" The Cup in the future? Some type of "special sauce," perhaps?

FAMBROUGH: (weeping) I am too distraught to think!

THE CUP: Oh, stop being such a wuss! (Medler hurls a mostly empty beer bottle in Fambrough’s general direction, but misses badly.)

FAMBROUGH: Thanks, I think. So, it was Jeff...huh? Jeff must really love Allison to let her take all the credit. What a guy. Well, it’s true: new management, new blood, time for a change and all that. We’ve discussed this before. Why be a pale imitation of former greatness? We’ve focused on bringing real information: identification and historical articles. I think we’ve really raised the bar in that respect. Of course, it’s my belief that we’re just hitting our stride now. So, we’ll see.

THE CUP: Information, shinformation. Anyway, back to the David Cup competition itself. How do you see yourself doing this year? FAMBROUGH: Boy, that really depends upon what happens with Dianna’s job interviews. We hope she gets a tenure track position, in which case, we is gone like da wind. I’m in wait-and-see mode. Perhaps we can touch on this again sometime. I will say that I’ll be birding through the spring. If I’m around at all for late summer shorebird migration, I’ll have a shot at the top ten. It is possible, as Bill Evans was saying just the other night, to win by October. Last year I added only five species after October first. I had ticked 240 by the end of August.

THE CUP: Matt Young certainly showed what you can do if you "bird your balls off" (or your ovaries, as the case might be) for the first eight months of the year. He had pretty much wrapped up the 1999 David Cup by the time he moved out of the Basin in mid-August, although he did have the luxury of still living less than an hour from Montezuma and Summer Hill. If you are here all year, I say you're the odds-on favorite, but if you leave, who fills the void? Bob Fogg got off to a great start in early January, but then classes started on the 22nd, and reality set in. Matt Williams would be a frontrunner, but rumor has it that just about the time that Ruddy Turnstones will be putting in an appearance at Myers this spring, "Willie" will be leaving the Basin and finally getting a real job. Maybe we could get him a post-doc position at The Cup and keep him in the Basin for the year. After all, he's done a great job as Cup Copy Boy.

FAMBROUGH: Yeah, he always remembers that I don’t like much ice in my water and that I take my coffee with cream only. And look at how clean this place is!

THE CUP: If Williams is gone by June, though, who does that leave to claim David Cup glory?

FAMBROUGH: It will be a perfect opportunity for new and old Cuppers to run for the roses. It’s simply too early to make any calls.

THE CUP: Boy, way to go out on a limb there, Ben. You’re really sticking your neck out with that type of prediction. OK, since you're a first time leader, I have certain questions I'm obligated to ask you. What's your favorite color? FAMBROUGH: Someday I hope to see the turquoise glow of Western Scrub-Jay.

THE CUP: Turquoise? Are you color blind or something? What is in your CD player right now? Hey--do you have my new Mectapus CD?! FAMBROUGH: NO! I do not have your CD! However, Mectapus is playing at the Rongo this Saturday night (Feb 24th) and this Sunday at Maxie’s. Of course, you and I will be at the shows, this would be a great opportunity for our readers to see some great music made by former Cupper Andy Farnsworth and meet us, the editors. That’s right folks, you don’t have to wait until my next Ithaca gig at The Nines on April 7th, my birthday, to say hello to your favorite editors. In my CD player? The two most recent discs have been a John Scofield release called Steady Groovin’ and Saxophone Colossus by the immortal Sonny Rollins. THE CUP: Boxers or briefs? Oh wait--this is a family publication. Forget that. And finally, the $64,000 question: reply-to-all or reply-to-sender?

FAMBROUGH: Ah! Did you guess I would be first to fall prey to your traps! Yes, for the record, I prefer the reply-to-sender setting. And, by the way, boxers only. Briefs lead to intolerance and tyranny.

THE CUP: Huh. I’ll have to remember that. I could turn into a real tyrant if I started wearing briefs. FAMBROUGH: Yes, well, that may be. Anyway, Bob Fogg should be here any minute.

See you at the Rongo!


Who could help but notice a new name on Cayugabirds-L this January? Bob Fogg was out and about scaring up some pretty good stuff, including many 2001 firsts. I bet you want to know who the heck this guy is. We did. THE CUP: Hi Bob, welcome to the David Cup Clan. We’re mighty pleased some new, young blood has come to town to shake things up in the birding scene. You’ve found lots of really good birds and contributed a few of them to our first arrival list of 2001, or so I believe. We can check that when Medler finally updates the web page. There are a lot of folks who would like to know who the heck you are. Let’s work backward from the present: What brings you to Ithaca? And more importantly, how long will you stay?

FOGG: I moved here last August because I started school last fall. I’m a grad student in physics. Hopefully I’ll be here for 5 or 6 years.

THE CUP: Rumors have been circulating around Cup Headquarters that you’ll pretty much disappear from the scene as classes keep you concentrating on things other than birds. I have noticed you still manage to get out, at least on weekends. How much time can you spare for birding? And do you think it will be enough to keep you in contention for David Cup glory?

FOGG: I think I can get out when I need to. I try to get out on weekends and occasionally during the week after I’m done for an hour or so. As far as the David Cup goes I’ll give it my best. It’ll be tough with school so let’s hope the birds come around on the weekends. We’ll see.

THE CUP: Will you be around this summer?

FOGG: Yeah, I’ll be around this summer probably (hopefully) working.

THE CUP: So, where you from?

FOGG: I’m from Sussex County, New Jersey.

THE CUP: Uh-oh. Gosh, hope you don’t find things too boring up here. You realize, of course, there is a lot of local pride in our birding scene. Some folks might not like to see that tarnished with an uppity NJ attitude. Think you can rein that in?

FOGG: I have to apologize but I’m a physics student. I don’t really know what that last question means. I think the birding is great around here though. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect the birding to be so great when I first came here. I was surprised with the number of birders though. There are not that many younger birders in New Jersey and I saw lots around here. After I met some people and learned some of the local birding spots I was very happy. Of course, since I’m from New Jersey I’m better than everyone else right? (That was a joke)

THE CUP: How long have you been birding? And what got you started?

FOGG: Well my first real birding trip was in December of 1995. It was not a particularly pleasant one. I was in the environmental club at our high school and our coach, Tom Miller who is now our friend, is the man to blame. For our first birding trip he took us on the winter pelagic out of Brielle (a 15-hour boat trip 80 miles out). That year was particularly bad with 12-foot swells and it was terribly cold. But it felt great afterwards. We did some other trips to Sandy Hook and Cape May and it was just lots of fun. My friend and I started going out on our own and we’ve been birding ever since.

THE CUP: Turning a pile of ice, snow and soot into a Lesser Black-backed Gull is an excellent trick. I’ve seen you do it. Does that take practice or does it just come naturally?

FOGG: When the pile of soot, snow and ice regurgitates I feel pretty comfortable.

THE CUP: I see. Don’t be embarrassed. Such tricks fall right into place with true Cupper idiom: confuse, baffle, impress and outwit your competition. You just have to be careful it doesn’t backfire on you, as it has for Allison. Of course, I myself choose to play a straight hand at all times.

FOGG: What happened to Allison?

THE CUP: Well, for four years she made everyone believe she was the genius behind the acid wit and biting commentary everyone loved in the old Cup. Turns out it was her husband, Jeff. Now she’s ostracized by the community and can’t even make a decent showing in McIlroy, which calls into question all her former victories. Darn shame. What was your best, or most exciting bird, this year so far?

FOGG: I’d have to say it was the Peregrine Falcon.

THE CUP: Do you know any girl birders? There’re a couple guys at HQ who need a little help. Of course, I’m an old married man, so I ain’t too much help to them.

FOGG: Hmmmm. That’s a tough one. I’ve gone birding quite a bit and I have probably only seen a couple girl birders. I’ll have to say no. Sorry guys.

THE CUP: Anything you’d like to add?

FOGG: My cat’s breath smells like cat food.

THE CUP: Very interesting, Bob. Have a lollypop won’t you?


By Matt Medler

As the list owner of Cayugabirds-L, I hereby declare that the Highlights section of this edition of The Cup is officially cancelled.

Matt Medler

Cayugabirds-L list owner

David Cup Lies: A Special Cup Exposé

By Matt Medler

Whenever I tell non-birders about birding competitions like the David Cup, the Montezuma Muckrace, or the World Series of Birding, I invariably get asked the same question: "How do you know that the competitors are telling the truth?" My typical response in the past has gone something like this: "Basically, we’re on an honor system. We have to trust one another. I think birders are generally an honest group." This usually elicits a "Were you born yesterday?" look from the non-birder, but I’ve been happy with this belief of mine, even as I’ve fallen short in the David Cup each year and have been subjected to Bill Evans biennial "domination" in the Muckrace. Or, at least I’ve been content in my naïveté until now. During the past year, I’ve slowly discovered the dirty little secret of the David Cup- rampant lies and fabrications from most of the "top" birders in our "friendly competition." I’ve held my tongue until now, but I can no longer keep quiet. Here, then, is the truth about the most prolific participants in the world of David Cup lies.

Geo Kloppel (251)- In an interview in last month’s Cup, Geo claimed that he logged almost 10,000 birding miles in his trusty Volvo last year, chasing rarities from all corners of the Basin to contribute to his winning total of 251. But I ask you, fellow Cuppers, how many of you ever actually saw Geo out in the field? [Two hands are raised, out of 20+ Cuppers.] I know what some of you are thinking: "But what about all the wonderful birds like Golden-winged Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Raven, et cetera that Geo saw right around his house last year?" Remember, folks, that Geo is a three-time winner of the Thoreau Award for best writer on Cayugabirds. With his writing skills, he simply created the wonderful birds that he "found" at his home in West Danby; he never saw half the birds that we read about in his beautifully crafted posts. In fact, he even made up the home, the workshop, and even the sauna that we all know and love. The truth is that Geo lives in a small apartment in downtown Ithaca. He’s lucky if he has anything besides House Sparrow, Starling, and Rock Dove in his yard.

Ben Fambrough (246) and Matt Williams (237)- These two are grouped together because they have taken the same path to their current "lofty" positions in the David Cup standings. Didn’t anybody else wonder how these two, who were voted Newcomers of the Year in 1999, suddenly vaulted into the Top Five in 2000? Theirs is a simple game, really. During our classic around-the-lake car trips in 2000, the topic of totals would often come up, at least when we weren’t talking about new forms of listserve tyranny and world domination. "Ben, what are you up to now?" I remember asking some time in May or June. "One eighteen," was the quick, unhesitant response. "Don’t you mean 218?" I asked, rather confused. "Oh yeah, 218," Ben offered back, rather weakly. Even in December, Williams was still giving me his total as 137. So, the next time you read their totals after May, just remember to subtract 100 to get their true totals.

Chris Tessaglia-Hymes (238)- In Chris’s three posts to Cayugabirds this past year, he always spoke of birding with his young daughter Aleta, and how he would "point things out" to her. Well, Aleta might not be able to type messages to Cayugabirds yet, but she is a birding phenom at only two and a half years of age. The truth is that Aleta is the one that finds the good birds when she and Chris go out birding, and she is the one who points things out to him so that he can tick them off on his checklist. So, if any member of the Tessaglia-Hymes family deserves a total of 239, it’s Aleta, not Chris.

Matt Young (234)- Anybody who attended the recent Cupper Supper could see that Mr. Young was clearly intoxicated. Not by the Saranac beers he was drinking, mind you, but rather by the visions of breeding White-winged Crossbills in Saranac Lake dancing in his head. Ever since our trip to the Adirondacks in early January, when we saw hundreds of crossbills, siskins, and Purple Finches, Matt has been on a "winter finch high," so his reported David Cup total is obviously some type of delusion.

Ken Rosenberg (233)- This one was rather difficult to figure out, but I finally pieced it all together at the Cupper Supper, when the McGowan boys gave their slide show of the 233 species they photographed with their digital cameras and spotting scope during 2000. Contrary to popular belief, Ken’s bathroom window doesn’t really overlook Dryden Lake; it looks into the McGowan’s living room. So, rather than go out birding, all Ken has to do to "tally" hundreds of bird species is train his spotting scope on the McGowan’s computer screen as Jay runs through the family slide collection. It’s so simple, it’s beautiful.

Kevin McGowan (232) and Jay McGowan (231)- Of all the sad stories from the David Cup "competition," I think this one must be the saddest. Every month, Jay would send me an e-mail with the totals for the McGowan family, and every month, he was consistently ahead of his old man. But then a few days later, I would receive a message from Kevin, with the "correct" totals for the two of them. Guess who would come out ahead in these "corrected" totals? That’s right- Dr. McGowan. I can just imagine the conversations around the dinner table. "Jay! You’ll never guess what I saw today while I was working. A Rainbow-billed Barking-Duck [which, of course, Jay hadn’t seen]. I wish you could have been there!" The one thing that Kevin would leave out, of course, is that he saw the barking-duck in a collection drawer at the Cornell Vertebrate Museum. In fact, I bet Kevin ticked off quite a few species while "tidying up" at work. Did the Cape May Warblers pass through the Basin too fast to tick one off? No problem- we’ll just pull out the warbler drawers to make sure everything is in order there. Tick check.

Matt Medler (230)- Why am I so confident about Kevin’s strategy for ticking off tough species? Because I work in a collection too, and I counted any North American species that I heard in the Library of Natural Sounds during the past year. We’ve been digitizing some major North American collections this year, so it’s been a field day for me. Talk about quality species for my Basin list- Gray Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Varied Thrush, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, the list goes on and on. You didn’t think that I still went out birding, did you?

Allison Wells (207) and Jeff Wells (195)- Hmm. I can’t imagine why anybody would lie about totals this low, so I guess these must be the Wells’ true numbers. Better luck next year!

Now that I’ve exposed most of the Cup competition as a bunch of pathetic fibbers, the question is: Who really won the 2000 David Cup? The one thing that I didn’t mention about Jay’s e-mails to me is that Swift the Cat consistently posted higher totals than Jay or Kevin. That’s right- Swift the Cat was the true winner of the David Cup, with 250 birds. Although, I just got a hot tip from Tringa the Dog about some of those birds...


by Matt Young

Movement of the four northern owls has continued in the Northeast and parts of the upper Midwest. In Minnesota you can rack up 100 Great Gray Owls, dozens of Northern Hawk Owls, a handful of Boreals, and a few Snowies all along the same road. Yes, somebody actually racked up 101 Great Gray Owls in a day (see Meena's post). Truly amazing! Here, closer to home in Northeast, Northern Hawk Owls have been found in Maine, New Hampshire and New York. Two Northern Hawk Owls can still be seen in northern NY. One can be seen at Bloomingdale Bog, and another can be seen near the Plattsburgh exit along the Northway. In Quebec, there have been 200 reports of Northern Hawk Owls. Some experts believe it could be the largest movement on record.

Great Gray Owls have continued to move our way as well. Quebec has received over 80 reports of Great Gray owls since the movement began back in November. A single Great Gray Owl has been seen sporadically in the Kingston area for nearly a month. These movements often continue into March, but much of this depends on the weather patterns. We can only hope that one crosses the NY border so we can all get a closer look at this beautiful western owl.

Boreal Owls continue to be reported from Amherst Island, with as many as 6 individuals reported during the middle of January. Numbers of this northern owl often go unreported in years of irruptions due to their secretive nature. I received a first hand report of a Boreal Owl that was heard just east of Albany back in November.

This year’s Snowy Owl movement is easily the largest in 5 years or more. Snowies continue to be seen throughout the northeast, upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and even the central Midwest. A weekend trip to Amherst Island on February 16-17 yielded 6 Snowy Owls. Way cool!

Finches, finches and finches. Well, I'm sure many of you feel I've beaten this drum one too many times. This is my article, so, too bad. Only kidding! WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS are still being seen all over northern parts of the state. White-winged Crossbills are probably one of the most common birds in the Adirondacks this winter. They are in nearly all boreal forest stands. As many as 20 pairs have been recently seen courting just east of Albany. They also continue to be seen in Norway spruce stands within an hour of the Cayuga Lake Basin.

Few RED CROSSBILLS have been reported in any part of the northeast. Back about two weeks ago I looked at Red Crossbill CBC numbers. It appears that Red Crossbills were reported in high numbers throughout the west where they're more commonly seen. It doesn't look like Red Crossbills are going materialize.

PINE SISKINS are well on their way to breeding throughout parts of New York in boreal zones and in areas with a predominance of Hemlock. Two Pine Siskins were even seen at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology mid-month. Look for sightings of this bird to increase in the coming months. They could be breeding in a BBA block near you.

Once again, PURPLE FINCHES are still being seen in above numbers throughout the northeast and Cayuga Lake Basin. Other winter finches such as EVENING GROSBEAKS and PINE GROSBEAKS are being seen in small numbers in northern habitat types. Two flocks of 10+ PINE GROSBEAKS were reported in the last two weeks near Cranberry Lake (Adirondacks).

In summary, I cannot reiterate enough that everyone needs to make a trip north for the best winter birding year in nearly 10 years. Let the boss know you're taking a day off if need be. He'll understand! Good Birding.


By Matt Medler

Gyrfalcon. In my mind, the Highlights for January 2001 can begin and end with that one word. With all the talk of two Hawk Owls in New York State, along with Boreal and Great Gray Owls seemingly poised just across the border in Canada, Gyrfalcon somehow managed to escape from the collective Cupper consciousness when discussions turned to what visitor from the North might put in an appearance in the Basin this winter. And then, suddenly, out of the middle of nowhere, Ben and Meena discovered what could well be the find of the year--an immature gray-phase Gyrfalcon at one of Tom Nix’s haunts, the corner of West Corey and Poplar Ridge Roads, east of the Village of Aurora. While nobody else has yet been able to enjoy the stunning looks (or any looks, for that matter) that Chef Fambrough and Dr. Haribal had of this massive falcon, their sighting has certainly opened our eyes and kept us on the lookout for "a large, dark falcon."

OK, that’s all for the Highlights for this month. Actually, there were a few other birds seen or heard during January that deserve mention. In just about any other month, either Snowy Owl, Eared Grebe, or Barrow’s Goldeneye, all seen by numerous Cuppers in January, would merit top billing in this column. But, even though it seems ridiculous to be writing this, these three species are all somewhat old news now, with Snowy Owls and the Eared Grebe being seen on and off during December 2000, and the Barrow’s Goldeneye likely being the same bird that Ben Fambrough and Matt Williams found last February. A more surprising January event was Ken Rosenberg’s sighting (and rapid posting to Cayugabirds!) of a pair of Pine Siskins at Sapsucker Woods. Despite the abundance of both siskins and White-winged Crossbills to our north in the Adirondacks, the Basin had been practically devoid of any winter finches (save a few Purple Finches) before Ken’s report. Keeping with the theme of surprising, single-day "sightings" this month, Kevin McGowan’s flyover American Pipit report from outside his office was also noteworthy for January.

Hmm..., what other good birds were there in January? Red-necked Grebe, a bird often mentioned as a possibility during the winter months, but rarely seen during the past few years before March, was found on the Ithaca Christmas Bird Count and seen by at least one other birder later in January. White-winged Scoter, a bird that has been seen fairly regularly on Cayuga Lake during the past few winters, was delivered to me as a birthday present of sorts by my esteemed Editor-in-Chief. Glaucous Gull put in its annual brief appearances along the ice edge at the north end of Cayuga Lake and at the Seneca Meadows landfill, but only a few persistent birders were lucky enough to see this big white monster. Iceland Gulls appeared to be more plentiful than their larger cousins (or at least I saw an Iceland or two), and Bob Fogg seemed to turn up a Lesser Black-backed Gull just about every time he went out during the first three weeks of January. Finally, Northern Saw-whet Owls started tooting away during the second half of the month, delighting numerous Cuppers down in West Danby and at least one intrepid birder (Mr. Fogg) up at the Lettie Cook Memorial Forest.

+= + = + = + JANUARY 2001 TOTALS+ = + = + = +

Compiled by Matt Williams

"...churning and burning they yearn for The Cup..." - Cake

January 2001 David Cup Totals

84 Ben Fambrough

80 Bob Fogg

79 Kevin McGowan

77 Matt Williams

73 Jay McGowan

72 Tom Nix

70 Ken Rosenberg

69 Steve Kelling

66 Bard Prentiss

65 Bruce Tracey

61 Matt Medler

59 Susan Barnett

58 Greg Delisle

51 Jai Balakrishnan

51 Jon Kloppel

39 Pete Hosner

36 Jim Lowe

26 Tringa "dawg" McGowan

21 Martin "cat" McGowan

0 Matt Young

January 2001 McIlroy Award Totals

51 Bill Evans

41 Kevin McGowan

40 Matt Williams

38 Ken Rosenberg

37 Jay McGowan

34 Jim Lowe

January 2001 Evans Trophy Totals

43 Kevin McGowan

40 Ken Rosenberg

38 Bard Prentiss

36 Jay McGowan

Yard Totals

28 McGowan/Kline Family

26 Ken Rosenberg

24 Nancy Dickinson

16 Steve Kelling

1 Pete Hosner

Lansing Listers

53 Kevin McGowan

38 Matt Williams

Office Totals

2 Matt Medler

To read what was seen in the Basin in January and find out what the David Cup leader missed, follow this link to the Composite Deposit.

#!$%#^!#^!#$^! DEAR TICK !#$%^)(^&^@$)*

Dear Tick:

I must say, I was quite alarmed when I saw a Matt Medler CD of House Sparrows. What is this, a Napster scam?! The Wegman’s parking lot is a horrible place for House Sparrow recordings. It's a "gulls only" kind of hangout. And besides, having been a Wegman's parking lot-watcher for years, I must say the ONLY time I EVER saw Matt Medler was the day he exited the store, clandestinely munching a powdered jelly-filled donut (I had my 10x's) - no recording equipment in sight! HA! I request that you pull this CD until the correct recordist can be given full credit!

Scheming in Ithaca

Dear Scheming in Ithaca;

I've heard about this alleged "Matt Medler"-authored CD. I understand it is not a fake, that he actually did make the CD, but not for any noble cause. He did this, I'm told, for the sake of his own fame. I guess he can toss it in the House Sparrow CD recycling bin, as my informants tell me he's since found a more effective way to get a little attention. P.S. If Wegman's is a "gulls only" establishment, where are the guys supposed to hang out?

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

Also few minutes ago a flock of about 30 Bohemian waxwings flew past my window. Two nameless crows are crowing over the atrium green house glass.


From the Red Jacket Yacht Club Bob found a "mystery"gull that was most likely a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but the light was failing so quickly we had to abondon debate for saner pursuits (like me going to home to my lovely wife).

Ben Fambrough

To add to the birds previously reported, Jeff and I (and Anne Marie and spouse???) saw both GLAUCOUS and ICELAND gulls at the Barrow's spot in Canoga on Saturday. It was quite interesting - both flew up from the gull flock at the ice edge at the same time, in different directions, so we had to be quick with the bins (although the Glaucous turned out to be quite accommodating, flying around in front of us before landing farther offshore in the lake.)

After picking through the goldeneye flocks for more than an hour (knowing Steve K and the McGowans had seen it earlier), we were ready to give up on seeing the Barrow's until Tom Nix left - we thought Tom might be the sacrifice we needed. Sure enough, minutes after he left, the Barrow's paddled out from the cove around the corner.

Allison Wells

At one point,while surrounded by finches, we had the THREE-TOED WOODPECKER, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and 2 BOREAL CHICKADEES in the same field of view. It was truly amazing!!!!!!! Boreal birding at its finest.

Matt Young

Believe it or not, I actually don't think I know exactly where this Yacht Club is located. Would someone care to post specifics on how to get there from, say, downtown Ithaca at Route 13?

Chris Tessaglia-Hymes

That's two lifers for me today, folks, I couldn't have been happier. Dianna and I then had an outstanding dinner at Madeline's. Those vodka martinis are something else.

Ben Fambrough

This morning I heard the "spring" songs of chickadee, cardinal, Carolina Wren, titmouse, House Finch and goldfinch, at dawn in the rain. They surely appreciate the thaw as much as I do.

Nancy W. Dickinson

<><><><><> EDITORS' CORNER <><><><><>

Editor-in-Chief and Food and Beverage Director: Ben Fambrough

Senior and Contributing Editor: Matt Medler

Cup Copy Boy: Matt Williams

Literary Critic: Matt Sarver, missing in action

Owl and Finch Fanatic: Matt Young

Editor Emeritus: Allison Wells