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.

29th – 31st Oct. New sites around Ouaga

The first part of our “roving” actually consisted of staying in Ouaga, seeking any other patches in the wider area that might support wood warblers.  The best looking sites from the available satellite images were the wooded valleys in the Gonsee Forest Reserve to the east of the capital, with the wooded savannahs in between appearing rather sparsely forested and, at the time of the picture being taken, burnt.  Two mornings here were quite a surprise, with several wood warblers appearing after mp3 playback even in the scrubbed over wooded savannah, and 8 in one spot nearer to a wooded valley, and also one in very marginal land fringing a large maize crop.  The other sites selected from the aerial shots appeared to the un-trained eye to be stands of trees that may not have been “forest” as such, and indeed they weren’t.  Nevertheless, a Eucalyptus plantation was still worth surveying, as the tagged birds in the monastery were not averse to using small Eucalyptus trees in otherwise quite open areas.  In the end no birds were sighted here, and nor were they found in 2 other ”forest” patches which were in fact largely scrub, Eucalyptus and mango.  I believe negative data is just as good as positive for the presence/absence model!

Onwards then to sites further afield, as we spend a last week in Burkina before heading back through Ghana to get to Pepease by Nov 15th.

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