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.

Thursday 19/01/12 Re-visiting the mountain

Considering our poor catch rates thus far, this morning we have a change of scene. Up on the well-forested Odwenanoma Mountain, where we used to reside when in the area, we had early success in spotting wood warblers this season, before any were located on the study site. As we’ve established a transect route here, it was thought that some “validation” was in order. In other words, survey the route, and if lots of wood warblers are seen/heard, then perhaps we really do need to consider searching for a true forest study site.

7 wood warblers are registered in all, but 3 of these are unseen, “pewing” birds only detected after the mp3 playback. Compared with previous visits, this is not an exceptional total. It is some affirmation that the study site is the better for both numbers of birds, or at least our ability to detect them, and for overall access.

Back at the site in the afternoon, and heartened by our finding bird 4 yesterday, we start a search for one of the others. Bird 2 is considered the most likely, based on its movements last year when tracked. Within an hour 4 birds are spotted/heard, and then Roger spies a pewing bird in the high crown of a maple-leafed tree (subsequently identified as a Cola species). Sure enough, it has a red over a pale blue ring on its left leg, white over metal ring on the right. This bird has now been around for at least 54 days. Will bird 3 prove traceable? And what about bird 1? We failed to find this one again after the supposed tag failure back in December.

Chris O

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