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.

21 Jan: Nightingales 8 and 11

Nightingale Team: After a moist and noisy night it took a good slug of caffeine to bring me into the world of the living. We set off to the usual Nsuatre trap site to radio track Nightingale 8 which we duly found, and he’d/she’d swapped sides to make it interesting for us. The long walk over the north side survey took around 3 hours. We saw on our travels: Tropical Boubou, Viellot’s Black Weaver (complete with nests), Village Weaver, Palm Swift, a Cuckoo Hawk, a noisy African Thrush and Grey Kestrel. We also saw a Willow Warbler and a Tree Pipit.

Bee said there were some usual spots where they tended to hear them each time. We checked for Nightingale 11 with the radio receiver and it had stayed put. Radio tracking the transmitters on the birds is not as simple as it seems, it needs good deal of focus and determination (and a good pair of ears) to find the birds. Nightingales behaviour also means that they stay low in the vegetation so you don’t get the satisfying visual confirmation like you do with more arboreal species for instance, and the transmitters signal can go weak if the bird moves down near the ground. It’s going to mean tracking taking longer for us every time we tag a Nightingale. Hope they appreciate it!

After a lunch of an Oppong special chicken recipe we relaxed for a bit and I stalked a few lizards with my camera. The plan was to ring tomorrow so we put up 8x18m mist nets on the south side, Bee and I radio tracked while Ian introduced himself to the local Whinchats and watched them fly-catching. We might try to catch some with spring traps. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get some more Nightingales and make a lot more work for ourselves.

Above: Vicky and Ian

Posted on behalf of Vicky

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