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.

8 March

Mark Hulme writes: On the morning of the 8th of March we opened mist nets close to our old camp site in the thickets and on the first round we were blown away when Tina took a Garden Warbler out of a bird bag, looked at the ring and innocently mentioned “this bird is from London!” Chris and I both knew what this meant, given that we use rings from the Ghanaian Ringing Scheme, and, sure enough, there was the British Natural History Museum address that indicates British rings and, presumably, birds ringed in the UK! There have been more than a dozen recoveries of rings on dead birds across the transition zone but this was, to our knowledge, the first British-ringed Garden Warbler captured and released alive in Ghana. The well-oiled BTO machine was put on the case straight away and we discovered that the bird was ringed on the Suffolk coast on the 25th of August by a now very happy ringer. This means it could be a bird that originally hatched in the UK but it could also be one that was caught on passage from continental Europe.

This highlight apart, the rest of a hot and busy morning’s ringing saw us catch three more Garden Warblers, one just finishing wing moult, and four European Reed Warblers. Afro-tropical bird(s) of the day were a family party of Red-cheeked Wattle-eyes, stunning little birds with a distinctive green-blue wattle around the eyes, particularly impressive in the adult male. We also had good catches of, amongst others, greenbuls, Green Crombecs and Cameropteras, a beautiful Yellow-browed Cameroptera making a change from the ubiquitous Grey-backed Cameroptera.

Above: Garden Warbler with some of the Nsuatre thickets in the background

Above: A stunning adult male Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Nsuatre

Above: Yellow-browed Cameroptera, Nsuatre

After an exciting, but exhausting morning’s ringing we just about managed to summon the energy to scout for other areas to survey, choosing a more wooded area to the south west, which turned out to be good for Pied Flycatchers, some nice males in breeding plumage now, and OK for some other migrants but nothing that special, or are we now just spoilt?

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