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.

Wednesday 12th Oct 2011 - Nightingale habitat near the Volta?

Chris Orsman writes: Collected early from the hotel, driver George, Augustus, Tina, Japheth and I head north towards Atimpoku, where we cross the Volta near its dam. Incredible just how much scrub there is in the area. Apparently these hillsides would once have been forest of sorts, but most of the timber has been removed. What’s left is rocky terrain that is next to useless for agriculture. There are small pockets where some effort is being made to farm the land, but on the whole, the biggest threat to this expansive scrub is from property development. This part of Ghana is a popular tourist destination, and bit by bit is being sold off to build exclusive residences and holiday accommodation.
We stop at various points along the road, and venture into the scrub via various paths and tracks. A piping hornbill, green turacos and a yellowbill grace one or two of the remnant trees, a grosbeak weaver (new for me!), a western bluebill, and sunbirds and cisticolas (struggle to remember my calls at this stage!) flit and call here and there. No sight or sound of any migrants, but on the whole I think this place has so much promise we should consider revisiting when we know that nightingales have descended this far south.

Photo above: Augustus surveying part-farmed hillside scrub

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