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.

Sunday 27/11/2011 Moving from the mountain

Above photo: dawn over the valley

A second morning seeking out the birds, and we head straight for down into the valley where bird 1 was yesterday. We get a good signal from the word go. We find that the valley is in fact quite grassy and scrubby, demonstrating that we are at the very northern edge of the forest zone, and the southern edge of the savannah. Plenty of farmland at the bottom too, readily irrigated from the river continuing north towards the Volta, from the waterfall we passed yesterday. Wondering whether the bird will be accessible in the dense forest at the head of the valley, we’re pleasantly surprised to find that it appears to be hanging out at the farmland/forest edge. No matter how hard we try, however, we cannot see the bird, but feel we must be within 50m of it. A few decent fixes, and we’re pretty pleased with this so head for bird 2. Little problem finding this one, and we see it in a mixed canopy some 70m away from yesterday’s spot.

Above photo: early morning tracking

Considering our success so far, we decide to up-sticks from the mountain-top and head for the closer accommodation, so we head straight back to camp and start packing. We say our farewells to the caretakers, grab some lunch in Mpraeso, and head for the new guest house.

The afternoon foray into the field is spent in the valley, chasing after bird 1. It appears to have moved within some particularly troublesome shrubby terrain, and we take 2 hours to get 2 fixes, and as a consequence we end up with no time to search for bird 2. We decide that our pm fieldwork in future should start with bird 2, and then get as good fixes as possible on bird 1 from vantage points on the ridge above the valley.

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