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: 14-16 October. Kakum

Dr Danaë Sheehan writes: From Kogyae we moved down towards our southernmost site to set up camp on the edge of Kakum National Park. The reserve manager had very kindly allowed us to camp next to the park administrative offices, so we set up our tents on the covered balcony of one of the buildings there. The additional comfort offered by way of being able to pitch a tent on a wooden covered platform was not lost on us, and allowed us to do away with the hot and stuffy covering of the flysheets.

The first morning saw us heading straight up to the canopy walkway at first light, with access at this hour being specially arranged. We bird-watched from here until mid-morning, with some excellent views of forest specialists, particularly hornbills, of which we saw 6 species – Black Dwarf, African Pied, Brown-cheeked, Yellow-casqued and White-crested. However, despite the walkway being an excellent vantage point, no migrants were seen. In May, Phil and I had seen Wood Warbler foraging about 100m up in the highest tree here – a bird that we would certainly not have seen from the forest floor. One of our transects will include a couple of points on this walkway, allowing us a unique opportunity to sample the canopy as well as the understory. As at Damongo and Kogyae, we established transect locations in many of the surrounding habitats as well, much of it being farmed with cocoa and oil palm, as well as a CES site on the forest edge in an overgrown fallow farm plot.

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