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.

Monday 16/01/12 am. Some success, but a familiar problem

We have another go at netting, near the spot where bird 2 spent a lot of time last December. Quite ironically the first bird we caught was a nightingale! Full biometrics were taken but no tag put on this bird – saving the tags for the nightingale study site. After over an hour of trying, however, we actually caught a wood warbler. We were not getting too excited however, as a quick check of the tail showed that there was no way we were going to be able to tag it. Those feathers present were all at various stages of growth, but the central pair was missing altogether. The state of moult in the wing suggested that perhaps it was about half-way through, at about 3 or 4 weeks to go before completion. If all the wood warblers are like this, then will we be able to tag any at all? We put colour-rings on it in any case, as we did the 4th bird in December, seeing as with the latter we were able to relocate it a couple of times without a tag. Perhaps we can do it with this new one.

We spend the rest of the morning surveying the remainder of the site for wood warblers. Not as good as yesterday, with just 5 encountered, but still more than on this same section last December. A particular highlight was the first woodchat shrike that I’ve seen on the study site.

Chris O

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