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.

17 Jan: Hornbills and ground squirrels

Nightingale Team: Today we had a lie in, followed by a maize porridge and condensed milk to start the day. All tummies in good working order too which is always a bonus. An introduction to the ringing sites was due so Bee showed us the transect routes for the Palearctic migrants survey and we recorded a few en route.
Whinchat, Nightingale, Tree Pipit and Woodchat Shrike all made an appearance, as did a Grey Hornbill, Common Bulbuls, African Paradise Flycatcher, Vieillot’s Black Weaver and a handsome Lizard Buzzard. We found a nice snake skin lying on the path, spotted some mammal footprints in the dust and some cheeky lizards scampering always out of reach of the camera lens. Bee also saw a nice Abyssinian Roller en route to get lunch at the Runners restaurant in town where Ian and I were treated to our first ever foufou and goat stew. Despite the weird texture it was pretty tasty and better still, its etiquette to eat it with your hands. The Occra stew was avoided- we’re learning to follow Oppong’s lead when it comes to food. Back to the guest house, and a quick pack up as the guest house owner had somehow double booked us with a regular, and we needed to move to a new place.
An hour later we were in the new digs, and although a few door handles short, some do it yourself electrics, and a longer drive to the trap site, it’s otherwise a nice clean place to stay. After settling in we set the nets at the north entrance near Barnabus’ patch ready for the first ringing session of the trip for Ian and I. The nets went up quickly and hopefully will catch at least one Nightingale, which was croaking and jibing us from right next to one of the rides. 7 nets up and furled, we saw several ground squirrels as we finished. A dinner of yam, tomato sauce and sardines washed down with a malt drink or beer rounded off the day nicely. Not a bad day at all!

Posted on behalf of Vicky

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