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 5th Oct 2011, Ouagadougou

Chris Orsman writes - Breakfast today was at possibly my favourite local eatery, and the only one in the area that’s open twenty-four-seven, La Source du Sahel. Had the “usual”, of a café au lait (a generous teaspoon of instant coffee on top of a large dollop of sweet condensed milk in a glass bowl, hot water added from a well-used flask – to be slurped from a spoon until the bowl has cooled enough to pick it up!), and a delicious Ouaga baguette stuffed with an oily omelette. All served in the shade from the 7am sun, next to the Rue de Charles de Gaul, one of Ouaga’s busiest commuter routes into the city centre.
Handing -over of equipment today, much relief for me as was a considerable bulk! 2 old laptops included, donated to the project for the Burkina team to be able to input all of their data as they go along, and email it to us at opportune stages during the season. Then to the office, to find that Idrissa and Georges are not around, but no matter, as there’s plenty to do. Meet up with Mohamed, who tells us that our hopes for some ringing training in Ougadougou Forest Park may not be possible. It seems a bit of a blow, but apparently they couldn’t accommodate only because the park staff are preparing for a visit of pan-African conservation dignitaries on the 8th, otherwise they were very keen. That’s great news, for next time at least. However, Georges has already armed Mohamed with an alternative to investigate, a monastery some 25km south of the city. Some introductions to the laptops first, and it’s clear early on that the software in English is not going to be easy for Aly & Oumar. Why didn’t we think of that before?!
Lunch next to the office, boiled rice with delicious sauce arachid, or groundnut sauce, seasoned with dried fish. We then head off to pay a visit to the monastery, arriving mid-prayers, so we seek some shade next to a nearby barrage. Despite the heat of mid-afternoon, there’s loads of bird activity, mostly rainy-season breeders, such as weavers, bishops and resident finches, all in and out of the long grasses at the lake shore. From the same grasses the calls of tawny-flanked prinias, and in the middle distance a dead tree in the lake is home to a dozen or more long-tailed cormorants.
Back at the monastery we ring a gong to announce our presence, and one of the elders agrees to see us. Not foreseeing any problems, he does suggest we should speak with the Father Abbot, and in his absence we are given his number to call him first thing the next day.

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