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.

Monday 14/11/2011 Wood warbler-free "farmland"

Chris O: After yesterday’s brilliant count of at least 11 wood warblers, we had an earlier start to get to the “farmland” site and much hope of some more of the same. A poor start did not bode well. 6 pairs of eyes and ears failed to pick up on any wood warblers in the very best spots of last year, even with the song and call playback. We checked every (well, pretty much!) tree-top, but in 4 hours got nothing. All was falling silent by mid-morning, so we headed back to camp, via a possible new campsite in the nearest town. If the birds do return, this place would make much more sense as a base than the hilltop some 50 minutes away.

A single net was erected near the camp this afternoon, after 2 birds were again seen nearby. Having elicited a “pew” from the playback yesterday, would they be actually attracted to it? With no other option at this stage – the birds are so high and mobile – we start the tape and stand back.In an hour of trying, we did see the two birds again, but only very high up, looking briefly slightly interested but not really responding particularly positively. With no birds as yet on the preferred farmland site (thought to be better for tracking any birds caught) we decide to at least try a more concerted effort on the hillside the next day. At least we know the birds are here, and we may get an idea of some movements and tracking limitations with one or two birds caught.

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