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.

1st -3rd April

Mark Hulme writes: The field season was now drawing to a close but we had time for one more foray into the forest zone. On the way back to Accra we stopped to arrange access to the forest reserve in the Atewa hills, a fairly well-known birding site which had potential for forest-based migrant species as well as some Afro-tropical forest species which are rare or absent from many other forest patches in Ghana. After arranging to come back to see the boss early the next morning we spent several hours trying to find accommodation, mining company employees seemingly having booked up all the rooms in Kibi, we eventually found rooms on the main road towards Kumasi, a bit of a drive in the morning but better than having to put up and take down tents in the dark (or stay in the hotel still under construction which was the only other option!). In the morning we went with a guard and a chainsaw in order to clear the road of any fallen trees and branches since the track is rarely used (indeed it turned out that the guard had never ventured up it before!). On a vegetation-strewn and painfully slow drive up the hill we spotted a White-crested Hornbill and a number of the more common forest birds we see regularly in more degraded forest and once we started walking a few more unusual birds started being glimpsed – White-spotted Flufftail singing, a family party of Red-billed Helmet-shrike calling, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Shining Drongo, Icterine Greenbul, African Broadbill and was that a Yellow-bearded Greenbul over that ant-swarm? Perhaps. Ultimately very difficult but quite exciting birding and, right at the top of the ridge on the very last section of the last survey Tina and I both spotted a Wood Warbler foraging in the canopy of a tree over the track. As usual many signs of logging were evident but not a bad end to the fieldwork for winter 2010/2011 I think. A successful season due to the hard work of Nat, Tina, Abraham, Chris, all in Burkina and everyone else who helped with the fieldwork and funding of this important project. Many thanks to all.

The end of the last survey of 2010/2011, Atewa Forest Reserve

Western Bush Viper, Atewa Forest Reserve

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