Feathered Crew

Kato

During our crossing of the Mediterranean from Port Suez, Egypt to Marmaris, Turkey, we were treated to a magical encounter with a feathered hitch-hiker. We were about two hundred miles off-shore when he came aboard.

Our crossing happened to coincide with the annual bird migration from Africa to Europe. One night we had 25 to 30 knots blowing on the nose. Peregrine beat into the ferocious winds and we were uncomfortably making very little headway. It became obvious that we were not the only beings out there taking a beating. Over the course of several hours, we had birds land on the boat, exhausted by their attempts to cross in such fierce winds. They didn’t stay nearly long enough to rest. We tried not to scare them, but the frequent popping our heads out the hatch to scan for ships spooked them. I wanted so much to offer them sanctuary, but one after another, they left the safety of Peregrine when we had to scan. When they left their perches it seemed that the winds just blew them away into the darkness; it broke my heart to see that. The birds we had for a short time were: European Kestrel, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, and what I think was a Semi-collared Flycatcher. I made a note in my Egyptian bird book next to the photo of a Collared Flycatcher: ‘April 9, 2006 Landed on Peregrine No collar, small beige dot above beak. 200 miles from Turkey.’
We did have one bird stay. In fact, he stayed for three days. He was a Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), and he was a huge source of enjoyment to us. He must have known that we were going the way of his migration route, because he was very content to stay on his two-star cruise ship. I do a pretty job job of provisioning, but I hadn’t planned on an insect eating crew member. I didn’t have any moths or worms, or other protein birdy snacks on hand, so I scrambled him eggs twice a day. He loved them. The first day, he flew down the hatch and landed on Gene's shoulder. If I put my hands out, palms up, he would climb into my hands and he liked to sit on us while we were out in the cockpit.
On day three, we arrived in Marmaris. About five miles out, Kato gave Gene a, "Cheep, Cheep", flew around the boat twice, and off toward land. I was below and missed the farewell, just as well, I’m not good at good-byes. He had a cross breeze of about 20 knots, but it was no big deal; I know he made it safely. He ate like a pig that morning. Even though we were quite a bit off-shore, we had lots of moths flitting about and Kato would fly from Peregrine, grab a moth, and bring it back to de-wing it and eat it. He must have eaten eight of them, and then he finished his eggs. I couldn't believe anything so small could eat so much. He was strong and ready to finish his migration. It was a wonderful ushering into Turkey.