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.

24 Feb – 1 March

Mark Hulme writes: After a couple of days catching up on some rest, office work and (for Chris) blog-writting we resumed our search for migrant hot-spots. The town being invaded by a huge number of mourners for a typically grand funeral (for a lady who’s importance and productivity was obvious from the number of attendees) accelerated our decision to get back to fieldwork and find somewhere else to stay. We happened upon a very nice campsite on top of a rather heavily-forested hill with wonderful views over the lowlands to the West, and some TV towers that Alec Eiffel would have been proud of. We could even just-about see one of the Atewa sites we’d visited a few days earlier. We then embarked on some repeats of sites visited last year and a few other areas were also sampled, including our hill, which turned out to be rather good for forest birds with the the hither-to-unrecorded-by-this-project Sabine’s Puffback and the range-restricted Sharpe’s Apalis both being common, although, as ever, encroachment on the forest habitat made us wonder whether these birds would remain here for long. A couple of attempts at ringing were also made close to our camp, picking up some dastardly-difficult Andropadus greenbuls which seemed to be evenly split between Little Greenbul and Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, hard enough in the hand this is one of the more difficult ID challenges in the field. We also caught a Brown-chested Alethe, a new bird for Chris, and some more common forest under-storey species but no migrants were attracted down by our trusty playback equipment.

Above: Tina with Nkawkaw below her

Above: Some Forest/farmland mosaic habitat in the Mampongtin Range

Brown-chested Alethe

Any suggestions moth fans?

Whilst the fieldwork continued apace so too, it seemed, did the early onset of the rainy season, with more stormy weather hitting us whilst we were camping, very dramatic looking out over the clouds building across the escarpment but we weren’t worried this time, we’d learnt our lesson from Kogyae and the tents remained dry.
After a successful stay on the hill we decided to try some more lowland habitat and were directed by the helpful folk at the forestry office to a partially-protected area near Nkawkaw where there is a 40-year cycle of legal logging, which results in a fairly open forest reserve where there is active logging but still plenty of forest-interior species which are rare outside protected areas. It was interesting doing fieldwork whilst a group of loggers went by on their gigantic contraptions but we were encouraged by the presence of birds such as Red-billed Helmet Shrike and parrots (most likely Red-Fronted). Some European Bee-eaters were also spotted along with a large flock of Barn Swallows drinking from pools left by the recent rain, perhaps larger numbers than I’ve seen since our visit to the forests at Ankasa, south west Ghana, in March 2010.

A (legal) logging team off to work in a lowland forest reserve

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