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.

5th-8th February A change of team, and now hunting wood warblers!

Vicky writes:

Over the 5th we ringed at Odwenanoma at were lucky enough to catch an African Goshawk, and five Red-bellied Paradise fly-catchers.

In time for lunch Chris H (BTO), and new volunteer ringer and good friend of mine John arrived with Japheth from GWS. After eating we had a hand over to smooth the transition between field teams before “the boys” (Chris H, John, Nick, Roger, and Oppong) departed for Nsoatre to continue to Nightingale work and replace radio transmitters with geolocators. Good luck chaps!

The work here in Pepease over the next week will be as usual- chasing after the wood warblers both ringing (hopefully) and tracking through point count transects. Our backs and arms strong from carrying the radio kit around with us at Nsoatre it is now a case of strengthening the neck muscles as we peer upward through binoculars into trees for sightings of Palearctic migrants. We spend a good deal of time staring up at birds bottoms as they flit overhead in the branches of trees we try to gather as many visual clues as we can to establish the species. We are having frequent sightings of Willow Warblers, and less frequently Melodious and the target species- Wood Warbler. Other Palearctic Migrants sighted regularly are Pied Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher. Sighted species the last few days include: Red-Shouldered Cuckooshrike, Splendid Sunbird, Kemp’s longbill, Tawney-flanked Prinia, and I was afforded a particularly indulgent view of a yellow billed kite as it landed in a tree by the guest house.

We were also visited on the 7th by Phil Atkinson from BTO who popped up to see how the joint project was progressing. He had time to join us for a walk around one of the Point Transect areas and a ringing session. Some Yellow White-eyes, Brown-crowned Tchagra, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Western Nicator, Spotted Flycatcher and a Melodious Warbler were ringed and other sighted birds included a Hairy Breasted Barbet, Hooded Vulture and African Cuckoo Hawk.

In the afternoon, the mood was a little deflated after Ghana lost the semi final against Zambia and non-natural bush fires ripped through the valley below the Cottage making the air thick with smoke. I hope that they will not be too severe, but at least they burn the plastic rubbish eh Bee?!

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