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 4th Oct. A change of ringing site

The 5th and 6th wood warblers caught this morning, and this time both tagged.  This turns out to be the only real highlight of the morning.  The nets otherwise yield very little, and this must be in some large part down to the scores of children that are hanging around the ringing site.  It transpires that as it’s market day, they have no school, and many of them are left to seemingly run amok around the monastery!  We decide to take the nets down with a view to placing them in a new spot later ready for tomorrow’s ringing.  Danaë suggests a great looking patch of forest straddling a stream near to the monastery dairy farm.  A quick call to Alphonse and we get permission to put some nets here in the afternoon.
Arriving at 1530 we set about choosing good net rides, and with minimal clearing of vegetation we manage to put up 5 before we get the sudden command to stop.  It would appear that tomorrow morning a training group from the farm will be here to learn about farming practices, and the group leader, who wasn’t informed of our mission, has taken great umbrage at our large and efficient team busily setting up nets.  No amount of persuasion from Alphonse can change his mind, so the nets must come down.  Instead, Alphonse shows us a nearby fallow arable enclosure of his own, that he kindly allows us to use for the next day’s netting.  Now in the dark, the furled nets will have to stay where they are until the morning.

The Burkina team in some new field kit

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