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.

18th December: Back from Ghana

The Ghana team finished fieldwork on 16th December after more than 12 weeks continuous fieldwork and travel up and down the country. Tales of bad weather in England began to filter through and Ian Dillon arrived home on Friday 18th to find a carpet of snow. I was not so lucky though and was sent home from the airport that evening and told they would ‘try again tomorrow’ to get my flight to Heathrow underway…. It was not long though before I arrived back in the UK to a carpet of snow and a heavily pregnant girlfriend, in sharp contrast to the balmy conditions of September that I had left behind!

Despite illness and other assorted challenges our team managed to carry out all of the surveys and ringing activities that we had hoped to during the pre-Christmas period. Although most migrants were still thin on the ground in the south, we had witnessed the arrival of good numbers of Willow Warblers from the north during the month or so since the rains had stopped. Prior to this African migrants (such as White-throated Bee-eaters and Shikras) had moved south with the rains, emphasising to us how migration was a truly pervasive phenomenon and not just restricted to birds coming from Europe. Good numbers of Pied Flycatchers had been present in the two northern sites since October although Spotted Flycatchers, seen in the two most southern sites, seemed to decline after November. The southern-most site, in the area around Kakum National Park, looked good for Wood Warblers as well as the likes of Garden Warblers and Nightingales in the surrounding farmland but was still drenched in rain and mist when we left and the only migrant noted was a single Tree Pipit. The drier scrub on the coast nearby held good numbers of Garden Warblers and Nightingales, though, suggesting that the moister areas inland might become more suitable once the rains had finally stopped there.

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