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.

At the airstrip, Kulbia, Ghana 20th to 24th October 2010

Tina Mensah-Pebi writes: Searching in a range of habitats the Ghana team started roving fieldwork, beginning in the northern parts of Ghana, and then heading southwards, with the purpose of getting some idea about how migrant occurrence varies away from the sites that were studied last year. Habitats that we will be looking at include areas such as stream courses, forest edges, patches of semi-natural habitat in agricultural lands, forest edges, open areas, patches of dense herbage and grasses as well as fruiting and flowering plants which are appealing areas for birds (as well as man!) to spend their time.

Grassland habitat near Navrongo

Driving between Navrongo and Bolgatanga in the Upper East region we headed to a disused airstrip, which served as the first camping area for the Ghana team (with permission from the local chief and elders of the nearby village of Kulbia).

The airstrip campsite near Kulbia (above) and meeting the local chief (below)

After four days stay, four migrants were recorded including three Willow Warblers, one Pied Flycatcher and one Hoopoe. This area covered a broad vegetation of Grassland and Opened woodland. Willow Warblers were found on a flowering tree along a stream on 22nd October during a time species count.

One of the Willow Warblers (above) and Tina extracting a captured bird (below)

One Pied Flycatcher was recorded out of 29 birds ringed at one site. The terrible experience on the airstrip was the inaccessibility to portable water, intensive hot temperature and insect bites.

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