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.

Friday 25/11/2011 Our first tagged wood warbler!

As planned we arrive at 0545, set the net and light the blue touch paper (i.e. start the mp3!)

Instantly we get a response. First one bird, then another, calling, but not seen, from over the net area. Then a couple of minutes later another two arrive in that first main tree from yesterday. These two drop down towards the net, and the pewing continues. Just a few minutes later, two reappear in the tree, then a third, fourth and fifth are spotted. None are now calling and all are foraging and moving steadily further away from the source of the song. None is calling, however. Not even those that were very vocal at the start. We need to check the net.

Craning a neck around the corner into the net ride, we spot our first trapped wood warbler, and there next to it is a second! Bowled over by this success, we hurriedly extract the birds from the net and return to the car to prep for ringing and tagging.

Above photo: Japheth at the ringing table

Above photo: ringing the wood warbler

Above photo: measuring the tarsus

Above photo: checking age and for any moult

Above photo: our first radio-tagged wood warbler

Thankfully even with two birds to process the job is done smoothly and efficiently, and before long we’re re-checking that the tags are working. The birds are released with their new mini-transmitters, and they promptly disappear. Moments later we check the frequencies again, and still receiving them there’s a great sense of relief and satisfaction all round. Job well done! Just hope we can find them again later....

With Japheth off for an overdue weekend off, we take him to Nkawkaw to catch his bus. It will be down to me and Emmanuel to hunt those birds down tomorrow. Not knowing how much time this will take, we decide to put off attempting to catch more until we get a good sense of the work involved tracking just the two birds.
Above photo: Nkawkaw traffic

Back west Bee, Chas and Oppong take time out from a hectic fieldwork schedule to explore the local market and search for some bargains!
Above photo: vegetable stall at Nsoatre market

Above photo: villagers sorting through clothes at Nsoatre market

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