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.

19 Jan: A Happy Birthday and the first Nightingale of the year

Nightingale Team: Today was my birthday so the pressure was on the gods of ringing to send us a Nightingale. The weather today was damp, with mist hanging the air, but it didn’t seem to put the birds off as we caught our first Nightingale of the year (that’s Palearctic migrant no.96). We also caught a retrap which Bee had originally ringed on the 24th November (No. 8). Both very nice presents! We tagged both Nightingales with radio transmitters as the retrap’s original transmitter had now run out of battery life. We’ll be tracking the birds ideally twice a day now so where ever they go we will have to follow to find them!

To make the day even better we also had our warbler count topped up with a flurry of Garden Warblers, Reed Warblers, Melodious Warblers (one new and a retrap), and a Willow Warbler. For Afro-tropical species, we caught a Black-and-White Mannikin, Common Waxbill, Blue-billed Firefinch, Copper Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Red-faced Cisticola, Little Greenbul, Green Crombec and a Senegal Coucal who’s red eyes rivalled that of a demented Blue Tit’s.

A lunch of cheese, bread and salad washed down with coffee and condensed milk provided us with energy for an afternoon of productive loafing. Ian got to know the GPS better, Bee sorted emails and ringing records and I sought assistance for the broken light bulb in my bedroom that was becoming a sore point after a few stubbed toes... Kestrel, Common Wattle-eye and Common Bulbul were observed around the hostel. We also celebrated my birthday with a nice spaghetti dinner, and toasted marshmallows to a chorus of bats chattering as they hoovered up the flying termites that had emerged with the increased moisture in the air. Oppong made us laugh at the table as when his phone went beep at the table. The question “Is that your wife?” was quickly answered with “No, it is my phone”. Oppong surprised me with a bottle of sparkling apple juice and a cake. Thanks to everyone for a great day and Happy Birthday to my twin sister at home too! Plan is for playback survey work tomorrow, and then we go back to Gladys’s hostel in Nsuatre.

Posted on behalf of Vicky

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