The project

Our knowledge of ecology of migrants in their wintering grounds is extremely poor and severely hampers our ability to explain these declines and conserve this group of species. We lack even basic information about when birds arrive, the habitats they use and how they move around Africa.

The aim is to understand how Palearctic-African migrants use and move around the different vegetation zones found in West Africa, ranging from the semi-desert Sahelian region in Burkina Faso to the lush tropical rainforest in southern Ghana, and whether habitat change may impact them on their wintering grounds.

During the temperate winter of 2009/2010, using point count methodology and mist-netting, we recorded migrants along a degradation gradient at five different stations on a north-south transect. In 2010/2011 we plan to re-visit these sites as well as roving further afield to get a broader picture of migrant habitat use.

Ghana: 1-4 October. In Burkina Faso

Danaë Sheehan writes: The best thing about arriving somewhere in the dark is that your surrounding are kept as a surprise for the dawn. We made the most of the cooler (although it's all relative...) air of the morning and spent sometime looking for migrants along the shore of the Mare d'Oursi and in the surrounding acacia thickets. Before too much time was up we had managed quite a list, including Nightingale (singing from the thickest areas of bush), Melodious, Olivaceous, Subalpine, Bonelli's and Willow Warblers, Redstart, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, European Turtle Dove, Eurasian Marsh Harrier and Great Spotted Cuckoo. Needless to say there were also plenty of quite wonderfully coloured resident species, including Beautiful Sunbird, Abyssinian Roller and Woodland Kingfisher. The muddy, shallow lake shore held a good selection of waders, including migrant Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Common, Green, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers and both Little and Temminck's Stints. By the time Phil, Chris Orsman (the RSPB lead of the fieldwork team in Burkina Faso) and Judit arrived from Ouagadougou on 2nd October, all we could talk about was the potential of the area and what we had seen. Sadly we had to leave them the next day and headed once again southwards back into Ghana and to our first field site at Damongo.

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