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.

Thursday 20th Oct 2011 - A good day and a stormy night

Chris Orsman writes: Today’s point-count transect traversed the farmland patchwork east of Pepease. A fly-past of 2 “red-rumped-type” swallows kicked us off – probably mosque swallows, a yellow-browed camaroptera, and our first red-eyed dove of no doubt many. On our third point a spotted flycatcher foraged from a tree above a cassava crop. A single pied flycatcher was heard some distance from our route, and soon after our first Ghana garden warbler was heard in sub-song within some dense cover. Up a slope away from the wooded farmland valley, into more open shrubland, and whistling cisticolas sang from either side of the track. I find I’m beginning to pick up the different calls of sunbirds again! We hear collared, olive-bellied and splendid sunbirds on the survey. What I think are 2 barn swallows zip overhead, and a second garden warbler and spotted flycatcher appear by the trackside, with a pied flycatcher on the final point-count as we drop back into the wooded valley. An excellent morning, but appears to confirm that here too, as on the mountain, the wood warblers have yet to arrive. Neither have we heard any nightingales or melodious warblers, both of which were reasonably readily encountered from December to March last season.
Back on the mountain top I take some time this afternoon to go through data entry with Japheth and Nicholas, and set about writing this!! Soon after dinner and after dark, the distant sky starts to flicker silently suggesting a storm is brewing. Just as we’re about to turn in for the night, the storm truly arrives! Japheth makes it to his tent, but Nicholas and I hide out in the hired “chalet” with George. The power goes off and with a head torch I try to peek out of the front door. Taking the full brunt of the wind and rain, the covered front porch is soon flooded and the wind is blowing the door open, and once I’ve wrestled it closed the wind continues to force water under the door. Without lights, outside is more often lit than dark, as the sky strobes and the rain pours for over an hour. Once it eases, we tentatively inspect our tents. After quite a battering they – and Japheth – remain intact! And amazingly inside only the smallest drop of water has found its way in. Post-storm our hill-top retreat seems even more peaceful than before – aside from the blaring radio from our new neighbour in the only other room in the chalet. I pop in the earplugs and hope that he turns it off soon...
Awake at midnight, earplugs in, radio still loud! Have words with a sleepy neighbour, who apologises and turns it off.

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