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.

3 October, part two: First ringing

The fieldwork for this winter consists of daily counts on transects (essentially a 4 km hike, counting every 200m) and ringing. Judit Mateos, a ringer from Catalonia, volunteered to join the field team for the three months from October to March. Alie (right in picture) and Omar (left) were extremely keen to start ringing as well so we set up some nets in Acacia bushes around the camp. Whilst we were putting up the nets we caught our first bird – a Vinaceous Dove. This was soon followed by our first migrant, a Melodious Warbler and then followed by a species I wasn't really expecting – a stunning male Orphean Warbler! Success was ensured with several Redstarts and more Melodious and in our first morning with only 4 nets we felt that ringing would be really valuable not only in picking up species that we did not see in the field (we never saw another Orphean Warbler in the field for instance) but also be a useful way of measuring abundance.

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