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.

Tuesday 15/11/2011 No luck catching

Chris Orsman writes: Again this morning is foggy, and our start is delayed a little as although it’s post-dawn, things are still a touch dark. We open the same hill-top net, and Chris H stays in attendance as the playback is initiated. Meanwhile, the rest of us head down the hill to the successful spot from March 23rd earlier this year, and right amongst the encounters from yesterday. If it’s going to work, a single net will suffice, provided one or more birds respond to the recording. They should, in theory, head straight for the mp3 player placed beneath the middle of the net.
In almost 3 hours, we see two birds, and up at the top Chris sees one. At one point there was a faint wood warbler voice calling from the high canopy, but our two birds merely continued to happily forage high, and oblivious to the recording. A bit demoralising, but not entirely unexpected.
Considering our failure to catch, and even more so the lack of birds on the lowland site, we resolve to head back to the nightingales. The main concern is that I have not put a radio tag on a bird yet – a skill I need to master before I can do it without Chas and Chris, so our best chance, we feel, is to catch more Luscinias, and come back to the wood warblers in a few days when perhaps they will have arrived at our preferred study areas.

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