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 18th Oct. City park visit

We take a long-planned break from tracking this morning.  Aware from previous experience that disturbance can be a bit of an issue on Thursdays with noisy children around the ringing site, we leave for Ouaga forest park early  to check on presence of wood warblers there.
After a quiet start, with a flock of lesser blue-eared starlings overhead and later foraging for berries in some low shrubs, we hear a first nightingale, soon followed by another, and then a couple of melodious warblers.  A willow warbler is seen, but for a while no wood warblers respond to the mp3 playback.  Things pick up a little as the sun rises and mixed Estrilda finches flit around low on and near the path.  At about 0630, we hear our fist wood warbler call.
A stroll around a fair section of the park over the next 3 hours yields an amazing 54 wood warblers, including at one spot over 15 birds – we actually lost count as they kept arriving in response to the playback!  To me this is a truly amazing tally, especially when one considers the total lack of records from Burkina in our first year of surveys – the park was clearly the place to be back then, if perhaps only during October!  It seems hard to believe these birds will remain here once the site begins to dry out, and one would expect them to head south to more-humid zones as the days pass.
After a quick shop for breakfast things and a visit to the office, we head back to attempt tracking again after the difficulties of last night.  We have absolutely no problem whatsoever!  All 3 birds are easily located, so our worries about a hastened departure are assuaged for now.
We’re invited to dinner with Henri this evening.  A very un-African sausage and mash!

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