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.

The Gbele Resource Reserve, Ghana 29th October to 3rd November 2010

Tina Mensah-Pebi writes: The Gbele Resource Reserve is located at Walembele in the Sisala district of the Upper East region of Ghana. It is under the protection of the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and has two base camps, one in the north and a second in the south. The research team settled at the Wahabu Rangers’ camp.

River and riparian forest at Gbele

The early morning of Saturday, 30th October looked promising for Gbele reserve to accommodate large numbers of migrants, with the team recording about 10 Willow Warblers and 4 Pied Flycatchers. The Kawlpaw River that runs through the reserve served as an important place for diverse birds in the reserve. Taking a walk in the afternoon across the bridge in the reserve revealed splendid numbers of Willow Warblers and Pied Flycatchers happily moving from one plant to another - we even saw the amazing sight of five Willow Warblers on one small shrub in the middle of the river and two Pied Flycatchers moving-to-and-fro on a fruiting tree on the bank of the river close to the bridge.
Five Willow Warblers in one bush!
A second day’s search for Palaearctic migrants in the reserve still proved promising for both Willow Warblers and Pied Flycatchers, with a count of 16 and 11 respectively during one timed species count.
Mohammed and Tina habitat recording at Gbele

The team carried out point count transcets at Gbele on 1st November 2010. Out of the ten points counted, 7 Willow Warblers and 5 Pied Flycatchers were recorded.

Another point count transect was undertaken the following day (five minutes of counting every 200 metres). This recorded 4 Willow Warblers and 12 Pied Flycatchers on the points, with a further 5 Willow Warblers and 7 Pied Flycatchers between points.

Ringing followed early morning of Wednesday 3rd November 2010 and the first and only (for this site) Pied Flycatcher was caught on the first round of net inspection after opening at 6:00 prompt. A total of 63 birds were ringed, with a total of 10 Willow Warblers amongst a good number of Afro-tropical species, including the Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Northern Puff-back, African Thrush, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-necked Weaver, Village Weaver, Common Wattle-eye, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Yellow White-eye, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Blackcap Babbler, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and Black-winged (red) Bishop.
African Pygmy Kingfisher (above) and Common Wattle-eye (below)
We can thoroughly recommend the Gbele reserve to birders who visit Ghana - you will see an incredible diversity of species here, such as violet turaco, western grey plantain-eater, African golden oriole, giant kingfisher, pied kingfisher, lead coloured flycatcher, northern black flycatcher, yellow fronted tinkerbird, Senegal eremomela, African paradise flycatcher, wire-tailed swallow, vieillot’s barbet, brown babbler, red throated bee-eater, pin-tailed whydah, exclamatory paradise whydah, pygmy and scarlet-chested sunbirds, grey wood pecker, red shouldered cuckoo-shrike, lavender waxbill, common sandpiper, white-headed lapwing, green-backed heron, many egret species, Senegal coucal, Senegal parrot, Abyssinian roller, rose-ringed parakeet, bruce’s green pigeon, yellow-crowned gonolek, laughing, vinaceous and red-eyed doves, black-billed wood doves, black-headed tchagra, common bulbul, red-billed and African-grey horn bills, long-tailed, greater blue-eared and purple glossy starlings, cinnamon-rock bunting, bush petronia, red-winged pytilia, grey-backed camaroptera, Bataleur, village indigo bird, bronze manikin, northern red bishop, klaas’s cuckoo, double-spurred francolin, yellow-billed shrike, fork-tailed drongo,, and many more.

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