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.

29th - 31st Jan: habitat studies and a little astrology

Nightingale Team: Two new Nightingales recently, bringing our total in the last two weeks to nine. With one Robin-chat too we have 10 birds to track in all. Among the other migrants, three new Whitethroats were still a bit of a surprise but Garden, Reed, Melodious, and the occasional Great Reed Warbler make up the bulk, in that order.On Monday we had a break from ringing to complete the weekly survey of Nightingales and their song output. The most visibly obvious migrants were Tree Pipits, Whinchats and the odd Woodchat Shrike. The Tree Pipits aggregate under the cassava plants in small groups of three to five birds. The Whinchats are individually dispersed across the open habitats, especially old (fallow) maize fields, harvested maize fields and open scrub/crop edge. Most of their foraging is done by flycatching, with just rare forays to the ground. Occasionally the Whinchats will also use the canopy of tall, quite dense scrub and it is interesting that they utilise a broader range of habitats than we are used to them doing in the UK. Intriguing to observe species in a different context and discover a little bit more about the way they ‘work’.

Two Violet Turacos were a nice surprise one evening. Good news that they can tolerate what is a heavily modified mosaic of agriculture and semi natural habitats.

Finally put my telescope to good use showing Oppong the craters on the moon and Jupiter’s moons, which he’d never seen before.

Posted on behalf of Ian

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