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.

Friday 20/01/12 Wood warbler “triangle”, and re-finding another colour-ringed bird

We head off with our hopes high that today we will get our first wood warbler tagged. The wood warbler hot-spot from Wednesday – dubbed wood warbler triangle – sees its first ever mist-netting. Things look hopeful with two birds pewing close by one net before we even start any playback. The hope soon fades though! An African paradise flycatcher is the sole bird caught, until I decide to change the playback towards the end. In order to keep the interest levels up, I change one tape to melodious warbler. At least we can get some comparable data from a species that the team at Nsoatre are catching, and one is singing near the net. Straight away it’s caught. If only the wood warblers were so obliging!

Late morning we head off to find bird 3, flushed with our success so far with birds 2 and 4. Over an hour of effort in its favoured areas finds a couple of unringed birds, but not our target. We’ll try again, but in the draining midday heat we head off for another rethink on the general fieldwork front.

It has to be said that Emma’s cooking has continued to surprise. After such indifference and reluctance last year, we appear to have a seriously capable chef on the team. Is he as good as Oppong? Not sure about that just yet, but keep it up Emma!

With some office catch up for me this afternoon, Emma drives Japheth, Nick and Roger out to delve into “death valley” in search of bird 1, the site so-called last year because the climb back out in the late morning was always a bit of a struggle with the sun on your back. Sadly though, despite all that effort, they return without any sightings. They’re not put off, however, and actually suggest trying again tomorrow. If you like, guys!

Chris O

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