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.

Saturday 22nd Oct 2011 - Headed back to Accra

Chris Orsman writes: Another disturbed night – this time our neighbour’s ignored alarm rang every few minutes from around half past two! Yawn!!
We open the nets at first light, around 05:45. First out of the nets is a western bearded greenbul, followed by quite a brutish red-tailed bristlebill, although the latter lacking the bare blue skin above the eye as indicated in our field guide. Is this lost by non-breeders, or not apparent in females? Or were we looking at an immature individual? Another 2 caught later, and a second red-tailed greenbul - the first on Wednesday - also lack this bare blue skin. The latter 2 red-tailed bristlebills clearly differ in size, so perhaps a male and a female. The smaller has signs of a late (or early?) brood patch.
Photo above: Japheth with a western bearded greenbul
Photo above: A hard stare from a red-tailed bristlebill
A western nicator, a Finsch’s flycatcher thrush and a Kemp’s longbill are all new species, and the longbill a totally new species that I’d never seen before.
Photo above: Nicholas measuring a little greenbul's wing
Photo above: Finsch's flycatcher thrush
We tried the mp3 playback of spotted flycatcher next to one of the nets, and as a result caught an olive-green camaroptera! Swapping the call for that of pied flycatcher, having heard one calling nearby, was even less productive. We have to try these things!! So alas no migrants caught in Ghana so far, but in a few days we’ll be at our next study area, and with November approaching surely there we’ll have more luck...
Back to camp after taking down the nets and poles, we then pack away all our gear and tents, settle our bill with caretakers Raphael and Ebenezer, and set off for Accra. Tonight our new team member Birgitta arrives, and tomorrow is a day of rest for the team, before our nightingale hunt begins in Brong Ahafo next week.

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