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.

Friday 24th February: Expert help arrives

Having returned to Pepease to meet up with Chris and the nightingale team, on their way to Accra, it seemed only right that we take them into the field on their final morning; to show them how difficult it is to catch a wood warbler. We put up a handful of nets, and set the playback at just one end of a net ride. After a buff-spotted woodpecker and a Kemp’s longbill to keep them happy, Chris and John went off to check the nets. Lo and behold, there, in the bottom panel of the net next to the mp3 player, sat a Phylloscopus sibilatrix. Of course Chris and John then joked that catching wood warblers is easy (well, if it were me then I would have said the same!) Not wishing to get too excited, I checked that the bird had completed its tail moult, vital if we were to be able to radio-tag it. Sure enough, all the tail feathers were new, and even the primaries were finished. Just a few of the body contour feathers were still being replaced.

With the bird tagged, and all other measurements taken, we released it back into the trees, and immediately set about seeing if the radio receiver could still pick up the signal! No problems there, and so bird 6 (or tagged bird 4) was already starting to reveal its secrets.

After lunch we swapped a few bits and pieces of equipment, and then Chris and John headed back to Accra, taking our driver-chef Emmanuel with them, and leaving Oppong and Nick to join us for the final month on wood warbler duty.

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