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.

Monday 31/10/2011 Last ringing before Mpraeso

Birgitta writes: Shortly after 4 am to put up some more nets before it got light. Our six nets caught us the following:
2 Village Weaver
1 Black-necked Weaver
1 Red-headed Quelea
1 Nightingale
1 Little Greenbul
2 Blue-billed Firefinch
2 Veillot‟s Black Weaver
2 Simple Leaflove
2 Red-faced Cisticola
2 Common Wattle-eye
2 Grey-backed Cameroptera
2 Garden Warbler

Above photo: Nicholas extracting a blue-billed firefinch

Above photo: Male blue-billed firefinch

Above photo: Vieillot's black weaver (male)

Above photo: Male and female common wattle-eye

Above photo: Red-faced cisticola

Above photo: A pair of garden warblers

Japheth, Bee and Nicholas at the ringing station

I was just processing the nightingale as a local farmer on a bicycle came past. He stopped and asked what I was doing. I told him about the migrants and why we ring them. He was very interested and amazed at what such little birds can achieve. It was a very nice encounter with a local, especially as he was at ease with us being there. Earlier on a lady had wanted to walk to her field past our car. Unfortunately she mistook one of our net poles for a gun, which of course scared her somewhat. She called out and her friends came running. Moments later we returned and of course apologized profusely, showed her some birds and how we ring them and in the end she was happy again and even asked to have her picture taken.

Above photo: The farmer gets over her shock of seeing our "gun"

Chris Orsman writes: This quick netting session produced the one nightingale in the thick of the hotspot where we had most of them last season. We chose not to use playback but we did for garden warbler, and pulled in two.
Over all then this visit felt a lot quieter for nightingales than from late November last year – well, it was, with 5 encounters over 4 transects, whereas by December we had up to 17 on just one route alone! Still no melodious warblers have appeared.

Birgitta writes: At around 10 am it got quite hot and the bird catch slowed down so it was time for us to pack up. We had a long journey ahead of us: we wanted to reach Odwenanoma Mountain before nightfall.
However, we did not get there before dark. It took us over two hours just to get through Kumasi. The traffic was awful. We tried to do our best to keep up our spirit by singing to the radio and having some ice cream from one of the many vendors that weave themselves through the standing traffic. Not the healthiest job I assume!

Buying ice-creams from the car

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