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.

15th – 20th November Return to Pepease, and first bird tagged.

Our brief stay in Accra was a most welcome change, staying as we did at a new and cheaper hostel to the default and with a commanding view over the city from the somewhat under-patronised “Starview” roof-terrace bar!  Batteries recharged, we set off for Pepease, and after 4 hours we reach our old digs and are met by our ever-welcoming landlord Ola.  Ola’s garden is looking particularly green compared to how we left it last March, and it transpires that the rains this year arrived quite late and have continued on into November.  It suggests that our study site will also have changed considerably, and may well be more overgrown than this time last year.  Things could prove a bit tricky when trying to track any birds we catch!
Our first two mornings are spent assessing if, and how many, wood warblers are on site, by surveying the usual transect route.  After what we’ve encountered in the Volta Region, it’s no great surprise that we find a wood warbler here on the 16th (there were a handful detected on the nearby mountain Odwenanoma this time last year); but having found none here on the 14th November 2011, I am a little surprised that we come across as many as we do.  Still, they’re not yet at the levels that we had by mid-December last season.
Of course encouraged by our findings, and some seven days ahead of our first efforts last year, on the 18th we have our first go at catching, but without any success.  Still no luck on the 19th, but on the 20th we catch our first Ghana wood warbler of the season, and in the same spot as our third bird last season, on the easternmost edge of the study site.  Inspired by the BTO's cuckoo tracking project, this year we've decided to give the birds names - and in alphabetical order.  So our first-caught bird is now known as Asante - the name of the most famous tribe and kingdom of Ghana.  We await the next few days to see just were Asante settles, if indeed he stays around at all!

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