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.

Saturday 21/01/12 – Tuesday 24/01/12 Reassessing priorities

Over the past few days, we have 3 more catching attempts, each revisiting places where we’ve tried and failed this year, but where we had success last year. Still no luck, and precious little else caught either, a garden warbler the only migrant, again when the playback was switched to garden warbler song!

It’s time to reassess some priorities. After all the effort made to catch wood warblers, and all the failures, we think we’re unlikely to catch any so long as they’re continuing to moult. This may go on for at least another 2 weeks for even the earliest finishers. Another major job for us to consider then is to visit several other sites, both nearby and scattered through the southern part of the country, in a further search for our target birds, but for different ends.

Back in the UK our colleagues have been taking all of the GIS information available to produce a map of predicted occupied and unoccupied areas for wood warblers, based on all the GPS waypoints for observed presence and absence so far. What we need to do now to help strengthen this model is to visit as many as yet un-chartered (by us!) areas of predicted presence and absence as possible. We have a map of all the possible highlighted areas, but unfortunately our road map leaves a lot to be desired. In our efforts to find the best routes to these targets, we’re back to relying on Google etc. In places the aerial photographs aren’t too bad, but in others no roads or tracks can be discerned at all. Add to this the fact that we can barely use the internet except at times of low internet traffic in the early hours of the morning, and it’s not the most straightforward of tasks!

More pressing for some of our team is the small matter of a certain football match tonight. Ghana’s first group match in the Africa Cup of Nations, ending Botswana 0 Ghana 1, so spirits should be high tomorrow!

Chris O

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