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 13/11/2011 The wood warblers have landed

Chris Orsman writes: Back on the mountain, and what a morning! Oppong dropped us at the bottom of the hill for us to walk back up. The hill top was shrouded in mist as usual, but even down the slope the trees were heavy with cloud. We bided our time, all of us being challenged by a new call or three, until eventually some colours emerged as the skies gradually cleared. On reaching the very-hot-spot on the transects from last season, and having craned our necks looking up at the canopy amongst the finest twigs and foliage for almost 2 hours, we spotted our very first wood warbler of the Ghana 'winter'! This was in a partly leafless bi-pinnate tree, fruiting with long leguminous pods. As it readily foraged in the crown, we walked on expectantly. A few yards later, and another was seen, and this time there were two. With the aid of the mp3 playback (not used on transects or surveys last year) we managed to elicit a feeble pewing from these birds. Perhaps this would help us locate more? Maybe even catch one or two later on? Sure enough, a little later a quick “blast” of the song got a pewing response, and in this instance 5 birds were seen together. Again these birds were pretty high up in the smaller-leaved canopy. Still further along and for the rest of the walk back to the camp at the hill-top, no more wood warblers were seen. A very encouraging start, however.

Above photo: clouds lift, and that podded tree top left

Above photo: the team craning to spot wood warblers

In the afternoon, a flowering tree right next to our camp was a-buzz with insect life, and drew our attention with various sunbirds and common bulbuls attracted to it. Whilst watching, a wood warbler appeared here too, and also a willow warbler popped up. Perhaps a net even by the camp would be productive, we thought. Later a stroll around the hill-top produced 2 more, and also 2 garden warblers. And for good measure, a breeding pair of violet-throated cuckoo-shrikes put in a most welcome appearance.

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