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: 10-13 October. Kogyae

Dr Danaë Sheehan writes: In central Ghana the team will be based near the Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve, which lies in the Ashanti Region of Ghana and is surrounded by a fairly wide expanse of flat arable land. The geographical location of the area places it in the transitional zone, separating the southern forest from the northern savanna regions. The strict nature reserve status is designed to allow absolute protection from logging, farming and any other form of access, so the reserve represented undegraded habitat at the pristine end of our scale. With support from the Wildlife Division, we set up our tents in the small settlement where the park staff live, right on the edge of the reserve.

Our first CES site was established in the reserve in the habitat surrounding one of the small dams that had been built to provide water for wildlife. This was not without it's difficulties, for with the ground still being so waterlogged from all the recent rainfall, we managed to get the truck well and truly bogged in the mud. It took us a good three hours to dig it out using machetes as spades and gathering sticks and stones to try and give the tyres more grip. Barefooted Nat had a scorpion run across his foot at one point, a sobering moment and one that saw us all buying wellington boots the next day!

Thankfully, the second CES sites was easier to set up, and being within walking distance from the camp, the truck was safe. Although the reserve is well protected and has suffered from very little habitat degradation, the surrounding areas have seen a great deal of tree clearance (this is a major charcoal production area) and arable farming. These contrasts in habitat degradation allowed us to set up a good set of transects, sampling along a degradation gradient without going too far from our camp.

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