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.

18 Jan: Melodious and gropper

After a rather noisy night- (every night is party night in a Ghana), we got up at 5 to a healthy pineapple and bread breakfast. The first net round saw a rush of Palearctic migrants with 5 Garden Warblers, 2 Reeds Warblers, 1 Grasshopper Warbler and 1 Melodious Warbler. From the guide book recently published on Ghanaian birds ‘groppers’ shouldn’t be here so it’s an interesting species to catch, Bee says there has been one seen before Christmas too- so not just a fluke! I’d not seen a melodious before so it was great to have the chance to ring it (thanks Ian). They look superficially like an Icterine, but smaller and quite yellowy green whereas Ickies tend to have a buffy tinge and a thinner looking bill. Also I find Icterines tend to shout at you in the net, and this little bird stayed very quiet.
We colour ringed all the migrants and took, feather, faecal and blood samples for analysis in the lab later, as well as fat and muscle scores. None seem to carry a lot of fat, the Garden Warblers were carrying some - up to score 3. Afrotrops caught were a Greenbul, Bronze Mannikin, and Red-headed Quelea. We also saw some European Bee Eaters fly over. After all the birds were ringed we packed up shop and had a civilised lunch at the dining table. Bee and I did our impression of two washer women as Ian sorted out charging flat batteries and action man Oppong helped me put up an ad hoc washing line. Nets will go up later today and hopefully it will be a good day.#

Above: Grasshopper Warbler

Above: Melodious Warbler

Posted on behalf of Vicky

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