Saturday 3 March 2012


John Ingham

BEAUTY and war are rare bedfellows but they came together in style when a Royal Navy warship became a bird refuge.

Stunning pictures released yesterday show how birds flocked to the Type 42 destroyer even though it frequently came under fire from Colonel Gaddafi’s shore batteries and itself unleashed more than 100 shells against his forces.

The 43 species were recorded by the “birdman of Liverpool” Chief Petty Officer Mark Cutts who was in charge of all stores on board, from pencils to Sea Dart missiles.

Swallows rested on ledges, a collared flycatcher perched on a Lynx helicopter and a black redstart roamed the deck.

Other birds seeking shelter from fatigue or fog while crossing the Med included a squacco heron, a chiffchaff and several turtle doves. 

When HMS Liverpool moved into the Arabian Gulf a Saker falcon, a big relative of our peregrines, made a flying visit.

HMS Liverpool also gave several insects a breather, including hummingbird hawk-moths and, appropriately, a lot of red admirals.

RSPB expert Grahame Madge said the sightings show that you can marvel at nature anywhere. And Mark, 46, originally from North London but now living in Portsmouth, said: “Even while under fire from the shore or constantly being called to action stations there were still times when during a lull I would take time to look around the upper deck.

“It was amazing to see some of the birds that we see every day in the UK – swallows, robins, song thrushes and starlings – migrating from breeding grounds in Europe to wintering quarters in Africa.

“My favourite bird on board was the hoopoe. I was constantly told by the crew, ‘I just saw the thing with the pink mohican again.’”

But Mark, a member of the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society whose old boys include Sir Peter Scott, founder of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the WWF, said one species perfect for a Royal Navy warship never showed up.

He said: “I’m afraid we never saw any wrens, they just don’t migrate.”

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