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.

Tuesday 18th Oct 2011 - Fieldwork starts

Chris Orsman writes: At last some fieldwork at Mpraeso. George drops us off at the bottom of the mountain, and we start our first repeat transect. Black-necked weavers, a splendid sunbird and a few common bulbuls get us off the ground, in the mixed rural residential and agricultural mosaic, with a few palm, plantain and mango trees here and there. A hairy-breasted barbet and some orange-cheeked waxbills further on into more contiguous plantation, and then on the forest edge our first grey-headed negrofinch. African emerald, Klass’s, Didric and black cuckoos all call en route to the summit, and eventually single pied flycatchers are heard and spotted at point counts 11, 12 and 15. Lots of little greenbuls noted, along with slender-billed and honeyguide greenbuls, and a fly-by white-crested hornbill on the last point of the morning.
George is waiting at the summit to ferry us back down. A great start to the Ghana field season, especially with a couple of migrant species having already arrived. Not yet though, it seems, any wood warblers.
After exiting the hotel, and a final lunch (it seems like we’re holding off the inevitable!) at the resto, we head back up the hill, and set about some tent assembly. An hour or so later and back down the hill to shop for groceries for tonight’s dinner! The market is of course colourful, cramped and pungent, and we home in on a one-stop shop for fresh veg and tinned meats. I’m not surprised to learn that the tins are as expensive as, if not more than, in the UK, but the fresh veg is not quite as cheap as one might have thought. Still, can’t beat the fresh stuff, and am sure the home-cooked fare will be much more satisfying!
Lastly today we check with the caretakers to see if we can set some nets for a spot of ringing tomorrow. With darkness looming we aim for an early start to set the nets just before dawn.

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