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.

Tuesday 17/01/12 Still no success at catching wood warblers

This morning’s efforts involve a netting attempt where bird 3 was caught last year. Total catch: 1 olive-bellied sunbird. Not very good, frankly. We’re doing all we feel we can – 2 nets, 2 playback systems, and then moving the nets further into the wooded farmland after each hour of failure. We do get some responses in terms of pewing when the playback is started, but not a sniff of a bird coming to the net. Ok, maybe not wholly surprising as they aren’t normally very vocal at this time of year, perhaps due to the moult factor, but I would have expected one or two by now? Obviously I’ve forgotten how much effort it was to catch 4 last month! After almost 4 hours of mobile netting, we go on the hunt for bird 3. Even if the radio-tag has stopped working, it will still be colour-ringed. We’re out of luck, but in the process we spot a honey buzzard floating overhead.

After an Abetifi fast-food lunch once again (different stall, and wache this time), Emma sets of for his first big grocery shop. As we’re without the vehicle, the rest of us take a walk into the valley below the house – the route we investigated with a timed species count last October, on the day we first clapped eyes on our fabulous new digs. A great circular walk through various wooded farmland habitats, with some forest edge, fallow scrub and more open fields, and back via the partly cultivated rocky plateau grasslands. Although no wood warblers were here back in October, I was hopeful of several this time around – the habitat looks pretty good. Just the one seen though, so again it seems we’ve made the right choice of study site further from town. It feels like a decent patch for some local birding, though, should we get any time off!!

It’s Emmanuel’s first meal this evening, and I’m quite astonished actually. A simple tomato based stew with some rice, which is very tasty indeed. Hope this continues!!

Chris O

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