Crickets, Moths and Dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea

   Although employed in a dangerous occupation, matelots are like most men, scared of all things creepy crawly.  Late the other night, I had a call from the Hangar “We have a Bug!”  Apparently they were watching television in the dark and this thing had crawled out onto the floor in front of them, they were all less than happy.  I took the offending bug away for release in the morning. 

Cricket Sp, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Cricket Sp, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   Although I am told this is a True Cricket I cannot narrow it down to the species.  In the morning there were definitely two of these beasts onboard with possibly a third near the bridge.  Any help on the species name would be much appreciated. 

   Later that day I was handed a moth and I straight away recognised it as a Silver Y, a highly migratory species.  I found another dead on the upper deck a few hours later.  I have seen a few other micro moths, one of them similar to our Mother of Pearl, but nothing that I could identify.  

Silver Y moth, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Silver Y moth, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   The week ended with a good day for Dolphins.  In the morning I was treated to three Short-beaked Common Dolphins jumping in the wake and later that lunchtime a Bottle-nosed Dolphin kept pace with us as we patrolled, choosing to swim just below the surface, rarely coming up above the waves. 

Common Dolphin, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Mark C.

Kites, Commas and Adders over the Bank Holiday Weekend

Managed a few opportunities over the Bank Holiday weekend to get out with the camera. Today I was having lunch with my family on the ridge at Faccombe in North Hants when a confiding Red Kite passed overhead. As I was hoping for, hence lunch on the ridge. Over an hour I had six Kites and a similar number of Buzzards with a single Kestrel.

Red Kite, Faccombe, 29 Aug 2011

Two visits to Botley Wood over the weekend produced good birds in the form of two Spotted Flycatchers, two Hobbies and plenty of Common Buzzards. Large areas of the wood have been cleared by the Forestry Commission. In Whitely Pastures it appears the softwoods have been taking the brunt where as in Botley Wood proper I saw quite a few Oaks have been removed. Although the scene at present looks a little apocalyptic, I am sure the areas will regenerate quickly given the extra light, benefitting both local Flora and Fauna.

Wood clearance in Whitely Pastures

Hardwood Timber Stack in Botley Wood

Comma, Botley Wood, 28 Aug 2011

Also obtained good views of two Adders, a Grass Snake and seventeen Slow Worms in the wood. The warm weather of Sunday did seem to bring out a few more butterflies. Commas, Red Admirals and a few very washed out Silver Washed Fritillaries were on the wing along with the more common Browns and Whites.

Adder, Botley Wood, 28 Aug 2011

Golden Ringed Dragonfly, Botley Wood, 28 Aug 2011

Steve Copsey

Disaster at sea chasing a Hoopoe

   The disaster I am referring to happened this morning at first light.  I was talking to the helicopter maintainers on the flightdeck when a Hoopoe flew across the rear of the ship.  As I started off to get a better look I caught my foot in a securing strop and went sprawling.  My hands, knees and unfortunately my Canon took most of the impact, with both my lens and my camera becoming, as we say in the navy, buggered.  Embarrassed and extremely hacked off I trudged off back to my office to evaluate the damage. 

   Three hours later and my good friend “Ozzy”  lent me his Canon 50D and a 300M lens until I can get a replacement sent out.  I immediately fell in love with the 50D.  As I took it for a test drive a couple of first year Yellow Wagtails were buzzing around the upperdeck, trying to settle on the flightdeck but constantly flushed by the joggers “who go round and round”.  Another Hoopoe flew past and a small flock of six or seven Black Terns were feeding with a few Cory type Shearwaters around a shoal of fish splashing on the surface. 

Yellow Wagtail, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Yellow Wagtail, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   So not a great start to the day but some nice birds to end with. 

Mark C.

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'Groppers', Groppers' and yet more Grasshopper Warblers at Titchfield Haven

   This morning I attended the public ringing event at Titchfield Haven and had an absolutely wonderful time.  The number of species actually caught was rather limited and unsurprisingly reed bed specialists dominated due to the location of the mist nets, but the number of Grasshopper Warblers caught was simply staggering. 

Barry in action extracting birds, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

Sedge Warbler, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

Some of the c300 birds processed at Titchfield Haven on 27 Aug 11

   Although the ‘Gropper’ is renowned for being one of those species that is rarely seen, I haven’t heard let alone seen one at Hook with Warsash, Ranvilles Lane or along the Titchfield Canal despite the many hours I have spent at those sites.  However, at nearby Titchfield Haven they pass through on migration in the hundreds and they are the second most numerous migrant there at this time of year. Admitedly the audio tape lures no doubt artificially increase their density around the mist nets, but until this morning, I had only seen one previous Grasshopper Warbler in Hampshire. That was at Oxey Marsh, with Steve, on 11 Sep 09. Today I encountered over one hundred!!!  It was a site day record. 

Grasshopper Warbler (juvenile), Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

Grasshopper Warbler (juvenile), Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

   Sedge Warblers were also caught in large numbers throughout the morning along with Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat, a few late Willow Warbler and some early Blackcap and Chiffchaff.  Other species of warbler caught were a single Cetti’s Warbler, a species that only has ten rather than the orthodox twelve tail feathers and Garden Warbler. 

Blackcap, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

Garden Warbler, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

   Non-warbler species caught that interestingly only appeared later on in the session, were Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit and a Robin (last bird).  

Long-tailed Tit, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

   Although there is no denying the fact that I would of been disappointed had I not seen a Grasshopper Warbler, I also attended the event because I get alot of enjoyment looking at the finer detail of moult / bird anatomy that it is difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate in the field.  I certainly didn’t know that the sixth primary on a Chiffchaff, unlike that on a Willow Warbler, is emarginated. 

Chiffchaff, Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

   A big thank you to Barry Duffin and fellow ringers Nigel Jones, Trevor Codlin and Duncan for freely sharing their ornithological knowledge. 

Grasshopper Warbler (juvenile), Titchfield Haven – 27 Aug 11

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Unexpected Wader in the Med

   This morning I decided I would get some fresh air and ventured out onto the flightdeck.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a small wader wandering around pecking at the deck.  I slowly pulled out my camera and gently sat down.  As I have found before, I kept still and the bird just walked towards me until it was less than three feet from my boots.  This is often the case, many years ago a Cattle Egret walked between my legs as I sat on a bollard. 

Dunlin, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   As you can see the wader was a juvenile Dunlin.  This is not a species that I would have expected onboard but a quick look at the reference material I do have shows a small wintering population in central North Africa.  It kept moving around pecking at debris on the deck and taking the odd drink from the helicopter securing ring holes in the flight deck. 

Dunlin, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Dunlin, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   Eventually it took to the air and I relocated it a little later on the foc’sle, but when I returned at lunchtime it had departed.  No Dunlin but a report from a valid source of another Hoopoe about half hour before.  It was the second of the day as one had been seen at first light.  As I sat scanning the seas, a passerine flew in and settled on a hangar roof stanchion.  All I could manage was a quick look before it flew off again.  If I had to name the species I would say it was a female Pied Flycatcher, because of the white in the wing, but I know this is very variable, so a Collared cannot be ruled out. 


More Black Tern offshore from Libya

   Another typical day started with a few Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwater in the early morning light, as I did my usual rounds first thing.  A few hours later during another walk around the upperdeck I was rewarded with a Hoopoe, a bird which I have seen almost daily.  I lost the Hoopoe as it crossed over the ship but my attention was caught by a glimpse of white on the sea.  As I scanned with my binoculars I could see it was a Tern and then there was another and another.  I grabbed my camera and jogged up the waist to try and get a better angle.  I could see now that this was a Black Tern flock, possibly those I had photographed a few days before. 

Black Tern, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Black Tern, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   The size of the flock was hard to gauge but I would estimate about 80 birds.  I watched as they dived and swooped over the water, obviously pursuing their next meal.  In amongst the flock were three, but maybe more Cory type Shearwaters. 

Black Terns, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

Black Terns, Mediterranean Sea – August 2011

   My day was completed when I was called to the Quarterdeck as a bird was trapped inside the nets.  I guessed straight away that it was probably a Hoopoe and wasn’t disappointed.  After a while we managed to manoeuvre it into a corner with an open area and it took off and headed towards Africa. 

Hoopoe, Mediterranean Sea, August 2011

Mark C

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Hook with Warsash: Hirundines, Hobby and Wagtails, 24 Aug 2011

Had a very pleasant early morning stroll around Hook with Warsash this morning with the new RNBWS secretary; Stuart Lawrence, known in birding circles as Sid. The weather between seven and nine was rather overcast but it did not deter the movement of many Willow Warblers and the odd Blackcap moving through the scrub around Hook Park. Hirundines were also very evident especially over the links where we had c300 Sand Martin mainly heading west with similar numbers of Barn Swallow. Further along the links we encountered 6 Wheatears and one of the resident Little Owls.

Wheatear, Hook Links, 2008

Little Owl, Hook with Warsash, 24 Aug 2011

Several flocks of Yellow Wagtails were also seen along the links numbering around 70 birds. Another 50 or so were feeding among the cattle near Beam Cottage. In the same fields were 3 Whinchat and a further 3 Wheatear. A Hobby zipping through at tree height caused some consternation among all the smaller birds present and what we assume was the same bird was seen again in Hook park 20 minutes later with what looked like a Sand Martin in it’s talons. Unfortunately the views were only fleeting as the Hobby flew into the distance to consume its catch.

Whinchat, Hook with Warsash, 2010Yellow Wagtail, Hook with Warsash, 24 Aug 2011

Steve Copsey

Wigeon and c200 Yellow Wagtail at Hook with Warsash

   Yesterday I had another rewarding visit to Hook with Warsash where there was something of interest throughout the Local Nature Reserve.  The first highlight was my first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn with a single bird catching insects, until it got moved on by the resident Robin, in the trees adjacent Hook Park Road. 

   The fields between Hook Farm Cottages and Workman’s Lane held three Wheatear and a similar number of Whinchat.  In addition, it was there that I spotted my largest Goldfinch flock of the day.  There were at least eighty birds feeding on seed heads that took flight as a female Sparrowhawk flew overhead. 

Wheatear, Hook with Warsash – 22 Aug 11

   Although I had already encountered two Yellow Wagtail in a paddock at the western end of Workman’s Lane, I was treated to my largest ever count of the species in the field to the southwest of Beam Cottage.  The grass around the feet of the cattle was alive with ‘Yellow Wags’ as they hunted for flies disturbed by the passage of the cows.  In a quick scan I counted 152 birds, but the true figure must have been nearer 200.  As I enjoyed the spectacle a Lesser Whitethroat called continuously as it searched for food in the adjacent scrub. 

The field that held c200 ‘Yellow Wags’, Hook with Warsash – 22 Aug 11

   Along The Links I encountered four more ‘Yellow Wags’, another Whinchat and at least five Wigeon on what was otherwise a quiet Links Scrape.  

Wigeon, Hook with Warsash – 22 Aug 11

   Throughout the reserve it was apparent that there was a large number of Barn Swallow on the move and as I walked along the foreshore small groups headed South, out across Southampton Water. 

Barn Swallow (juvenile), Hook with Warsash – 22 Aug 11

   A four inch long Common Lizard, on the kissing gate to Cow Lane, was another noteworthy sighting. 

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) geosci (Open)

More Migrants on my Mediterranean adventure

   It’s always a good thing when you don’t know which bird to photograph next.  A few days ago whilst patrolling the Med, I had just that problem.  I had been called up originally for a warbler in the hangar.  This turned out to be a Whitethroat. 

Whitethroat, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   Whilst I was there, one of the lads called me for a bird sat on the flightdeck nets, that was quickly followed by a second.  I eventually managed to gets some images of both without overly disturbing each bird’s rest. 

Subalpine Warbler, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

Subalpine Warbler, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   These both appear to be Subalpine Warblers and I believe that they are an adult female and a juvenile female, but I welcome comments and views.  In amongst all this excitement I caught a glimpse of another bird landing on the quarterdeck nets and this turned out to be the fifth Hoopoe we have had visit in the last seven days. Probably no more frequent onboard than some other species, but a species easily noticed and recognised by even the most bird illiterate member of our crew.  As you can see it did try to land on one of the guard rails but quickly decided it was happier back on the quarterdeck nets. 

Hoopoe, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

Hoopoe, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   All in all a good selection of birds onboard with hopefully more to follow.

Mark C

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Migrants on the move down Ranvilles, Tree Pipit and Whinchat

Had a rewarding walk down Ranvilles this morning. Met up with local birders Mark Rolfe and Ken Martin who were also hoping for a decent passage of migrants. Pleased to report that plenty of birds were on the move. Particularly Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats, all being seen in double figure numbers. A single Whinchat was also moving along the scrub. Two Tree Pipits, one of which perched for a good while in the scrub providing a half decent record shot. Mark picked up a Lesser Whitethroat earlier on the walk but I missed it, fortunately on the return walk I came across another in a bush with two Commons. As usual in the scrub House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Greenfinches and both Blue and Great Tit were present in good numbers. At least twenty Barn Swallows were hawking insects over the Barley field.  

Tree Pipit, Ranvilles, 20 Aug 2011Whinchat, Ranvilles, 20 Aug 2011Lesser Whitethroat, Ranvilles, 20 Aug 2011


Steve Copsey


Day at the Birdfair

Spent the day at the Birdfair. All manner of goodies on offer, from the various tourism boards and travels companies. I now have plenty of information on birding Australia, New Zealand, Japan and numerous other exotic locations. Good to bump into old friends like Robin Woods on the Falkland Conservation stand and especially Alan Henry on the Falkland Tourism Stand. I do believe he said he could offer me a great deal if I ever want to visit the islands !! 

The 18 hour flight just flies by!!!! Alan Henry ‘listening’ on behalf of Falkland Tourism

Actually I had to visit the stand as Alan had brought my jacket the 8000 miles from Stanley, as the last time I visited I left it in his kitchen. Also had a good look round the optics tent. Some very nice bins and scopes on display as you can imagine. I was particularly impressed by a pair of 8×32 compacts from the Kite Company of Belgium. A newcomer to the market. It will be interesting to see how they progress in the coming years. Some great artwork on display in the various marquees. I could have quite easily walked away with a few pieces if the wife had not been in attendance. Shame I’m just a poor sailor. Whilst on the site I kept a list of the birds seen. I finished with one. A superb Woodpigeon flying over marquee 4. However I did hear a Nuthatch, so two really.

Day Tick 3 ??

One of the many marquees

Steve Copsey

Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat at Portchester Common

   With autumn migration well in evidence from the visit to Hook with Warsash on Tuesday with Steve, I opted to visit somewhere different yesterday in the hope of spotting more migrants.  My visit to Portchester Common was very much one of two halves.  The majority of the sightings were seen within the first hour(0820-0920).  The most numerous species, standfast Wood Pigeon, was Whitethroat.  However, the highlights were singles of Redstart (Year Tick), Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat that I encountered amongst the sparse scrub at the western end of the Common between the M27 embankment and Skew Road.  The Lesser Whitethroat looked particularly impressive with its gleaming pure white breast. 

Common Redstart (male), Portchester Common – 17 Aug 11

   Other migrants encountered included Willow Warbler (3), Chiffchaff and several Barn Swallow. 

Good Birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Hoopoe Migration in the Mediterranean

   Well eventually I caught up with the elusive Hoopoe.  This is the third bird we had seen in a week and I am sure we have missed a few more as they are nocturnal migrants.  I have seen Hoopoes before onboard ships, mostly whilst transversing the Red Sea.  I thought I was going to miss this one as I was in a meeting when I got the call “You won’t want to miss this one” and from the two line description I knew what it was immediately.  Sure enough, it wasn’t there when I arrived near the flightdeck nets but after a few circuits of the upperdeck I caught sight of it, flying along the Starboard side.  A couple of times it settled on the Quarterdeck nets but this has limited access, so I waited for it to fly again and the best I could do where some flight shots. 

Hoopoe, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   It didn’t settle again and eventually flew off towards Africa for another year in its wintering grounds.  As migration goes on until late October this is unlikely to be the last we see of this fantastic looking bird.

Mark C

Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and hirundines at Hook with Warsash

   Unfortunately, it won’t be possible for the ‘Three Amigos’ to meet up together for the remainder of the year, due to the planned programs for HMS IRON DUKE, HMS LIVERPOOL and HMS YORK.  However, this morning I was able to meet up with Steve at Hook with Warsash Local Nature Reserve.  It was the first time that the two of us had been out ‘birding’ together since the New Year, due to Steve’s absence on HMS YORK during its recent Falkland (ATP South) Deployment. 

   The best of the ‘birding’ was to be had along Workman’s Lane where I had two Hampshire Year Ticks.  From the line of oaks opposite Beam Cottage we first heard a ‘cronking’ Raven before it then flew in to view as it headed South towards The Links.  The first Year Tick was Whinchat with five birds on a wire fence line North of Workman’s Lane.  At the western end of Workman’s lane there were at least forty House Martin feeding above the trees in company with a similar number of Barn Swallow and two Swift.  Nearby in the adjacent paddocks was the second Year Tick in the form of nine Yellow Wagtail. 

   Other highlights apart from a good ‘chin wag’ was Common Sandpiper on Hook Spit, four Little Egret and several Teal at Links Scrape and meeting up with Mark Painter. 

   Below are several photographs of birds seen in the local area recently. 

Sedge Warbler, Tichfield Canal – 14 Jun 11

Pale-bellied Brent Goose (juvenile), Hook with Warsash – 1 Jul 11

Green Woodpecker (juvenile), Hook with Warsash – 6 Aug 11

Reed Bunting, Brownwich Cliffs – 12 Aug 11

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Subalpine Warblers hitch a ride on HMS LIVERPOOL

   This week has seen a vast increase in the amount of birds seen onboard which has been fantastic but at the same time very frustrating.  A few days ago we had to fuel with a tanker, so I took the opportunity to spend an hour on the upperdeck.  We soon spotted a passerine on the tanker and I tried to take some shots with my trusty Canon and its ever present 300m lens.  I was beaten by the distance so couldn’t clinch the species.  The bird eventually flew to the rear of the tanker so I walked down to our hangar to see if it had been seen.  Sure enough the bird had flown straight in and was flying strongly from one end to the other.  Around the top of the hangar is a walkway, about 18 inches across and 8 feet from the ground and I was soon scrambling around trying to get a decent shot of the bird.  As it seemed to rest in the corner I focused in and low and behold there were two birds in my view finder, both the same species, juvenile Subalpine Warblers, at least I hope that’s what they are !

Subalpine Warblers, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   As dark descended, the lights were turned out and the birds settled down for the night.  In the morning we opened the hangar door fully and they both flew off, hopefully in the right direction. 

   As I said we are getting plenty of visitors but they are all quickly moving on, hence my frustration.  Every time I am told about a bird it is gone by the time I get there.  This morning as I came back from the shower I was told by our Warrant Officer that he had spotted a Hoopoe.  By the time I got out there was no sign.  I am happy with his identification as he is familiar with birds and described it perfectly.  It was another one that got away. 

Subalpine Warbler, Mediterranean Sea – Aug 11

   Hopefully persistence will pay off and I will have a few photos of migrants to show you in the coming months. 
Mark C