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 repeat transects (plus a little roving...) Jan 21 to Feb 9

Mark Hulme writes: After a week of bateleurs, bishops, buntings and bubale (hartebeast) in Burkina we headed back into Ghana, my passport heavier with the weight of a new stamp. Before starting the transects we paid a return visit to the area around Tono dam near the Burkina border. Some pleasant birding was, never-the-less, not exceptional for migrants, with a brace of Wryneck, a handful of Melodious Warblers and Willow Warblers, a couple of Booted Eagles, a few House Martins and a Common Whitethroat in some thorny scrub being seen over a morning of timed species counts. Leaving our lodgings in Navrongo we set up camp at our regular guest house in Damongo and started transects on the 22 February. Once again Willow Warblers, Melodious Warblers and Pied Flycatchers were pretty common in the woodland/farmland mosaic around the town, a few more Tree Pipits also being seen this time around. The area was dry considering the particularly wet rainy season that had just passed with much burning having already taken place, in short very similar to this time last year except for a few more leaves on the trees.

Above: Nat recording vegetation in Damongo

Our two transects in and around Mole National Park were fairly quiet bird-wise, surprisingly dry again, although our ever-helpful guard Zach calling in a Black Wood-hoopoe was a highlight, and a male elephant wandering around camp made for a bit of excitement, as did the unexpectedly prompt service when we ordered our lunch!

A dry-season bloom in Mole National Park

We decided to take the opportunity to re-visit the Daka floodplain and see if the Whinchat density was similar to our visit in the first half of December. There were still plenty of Whinchats, though we detected slightly fewer than last time, and I was impressed by my first visit to this area – a small group of Blue Quails was great to see, to add to the one I saw at Kogyae last year, a gigantic Denham’s Bustard flying in the distance and my first Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, an excellent view of a female, made for a nice morning’s transect.
After some well-needed rest and office work in Tamale we stopped off at Buipe on the Volta river, the waters having receded a little since the floods last year, and did some timed species counts which produced particularly high numbers of Willow Warblers along the edge of the waterlogged woodland as well as some Wood and Green Sandpipers, a Ruff and a Painted Snipe. A pair of roosting nocturnal Bronze-winged Coursers were flushed by Chris Orsman and Tina, but not by Nat and myself, it’s alright for some, I’ve been looking for that bird for years! It could be an interesting site to keep an eye on in the future.

Educating the Buipe youngsters in birdwatching: Nat, Chris and Tina

Between the 28 January and 1 February Kogyae camp, Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve in central Ghana, welcomed us warmly, as ever, and the fruit bats decided to be a bit quieter this time around, enabling us to get a bit more sleep than usual, until the last night that is.... There had been less burning than at this time last year, perhaps due to the increased rains, and the grass was very tough to walk through, some of it up to two and a half times higher than Tina......Melodious Warblers were perhaps the most common migrant amongst a small number of Willow Warblers and Pied Flycatchers, fewer Whinchats were seen than last year. I detected a Great Reed Warbler close to some burnt grass in which I’d heard one at the same time last year, which was interesting, but overall rather disappointing from a migrant point of view. On the plus side I managed to ride out a rather ominous illness but the elements had their revenge by unleashing a tropical storm on the last night which, whilst it put out a nearby bush fire, uprooted our tents (OK, uprooted my tent, that will teach me not to guy it properly), left Nat and Abraham wondering what was going on when their tents collapsed on them (Aha! So I wasn’t the only one) and had us running around like headless francolins trying to ensure things stayed dry whilst having what seemed like several swimming-pools poured over us all at once. Thankfully no damage was done and we managed to reach Kumasi the next day in one collective piece, and even managed to dry the tents in the morning sun. Tropical sun has its uses.

Buying provisions in Techiman prior to Kogyae

Grass in Kogyae 2.5 times taller than a Tina

From Kumasi, Ghana’s second biggest city and old capital of the powerful Ashanti kingdoms, we decided to investigate some areas on the way to our next transect site, Kakum. Lake Bosomtwi, formed in an ancient meteorite impact crater, is surrounded by rather lush hills which looked promising but we managed only a Melodious Warbler in a short walk along the road so we carried on to Obuasi, the heart of Ghana’s gold-mining industry, not blessed with decent habitat itself but a base to explore nearby hills the following morning. Once again the odd Melodious Warbler and a few Barn Swallows were seen, and we got a refresher in forest birds in anticipation of Kakum, but otherwise not of much of interest to us.

February 4 to the 7 at Kakum was, as always, very interesting in terms of the forest habitat and the different variety of Afro-tropical species on offer. A pair of Tit-hylias were nesting above our tents in some hanging vegetation, and we caught a glimpse of some Mona Monkeys from the canopy walkway this time, indicating that the disturbance caused by it’s presence and the tourists using it wasn’t completely putting off the larger animals from using the area. We also bumped into Justus, who was doing some work on his project looking at stress in birds at the edge of forest fragments, who had re trapped some of the birds we had ringed earlier in the project, mostly Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls. As for migrants, Barn Swallows were fairly common but little else was detected so we headed for Brenu hoping that Nightingales and Garden Warblers were still present.

Above: A Yellow-whiskered Greenbul re trapped at Kakum from last year.

A Velvet-mantled Drongo seen from the canopy walkway, Kakum.

At Brenu, between February 7-9, we had a refresher course from Justus in blood-sampling and detected a small number of Nightingales and a Garden Warbler in the scrub. The degradation of this habitat was even more marked than on my last visit here with developments springing up all over the place. The grassland held a few Whinchats but no Spotted Flycatchers were seen, fitting in with observations from last year suggesting that most leave this area in mid-winter.
So, with the transects successfully repeated we headed back to Accra to re-group, refresh and study the spatial data on likely habitats for Nightingales and Wood Warblers in order to plan our next few week’s roving. We should be in for some exciting times!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.