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.

1st – 7th Nov. Roving south and west

For his past week we’ve been roving around in the south and west of Burkina, covering a transect from Ouaga to Bobo Dioulasso and Banfora, and then returning to Ouaga via the road east to Leo.  On the main road west, we found wood warblers at a few interesting-looking forest patches, but only to around about the half-way mark to Bobo.  After that, despite trying a couple of good-looking areas, we saw no more.  A further 2 days of searching in the best looking forest areas and marginal forest/farmland in the south-west were unsuccessful. 
On the way back east to Leo on the 4th we began to encounter them again. It was here that we decided to head back to Ouaga before we finally head into Ghana, a last chance to visit the Monastery and the park to see if there we still birds there, and if so, were there as many as before.  Already the Monastery forest felt a lot drier, but there were birds here, and crucially we spotted the colour-rings of a formerly tagged bird.  This bird was last tracked on the 27th Oct, but having been caught on the 11th of October we could safely say that by the 6th of November it had spent at least 27 days at the one site!  In the park we were amazed to find that on the 6th there were at least as many birds in the best wet spot as there were 12 days ago.
The final spot we headed for was Nazinga, and en route south we encountered birds in forested river valleys which traversed the main road.  A brief visit to potential hot-spots in the Nazinga ranch did yield a few birds (even without the help of playback!) but there were certainly more willow warblers around than woodies.  Although I failed to see any wood warblers here in 10 days of early November 2009, the ringing team did catch one so we knew they could be here. (Ideally we wanted to repeat a couple of transects to get a measure of willow warbler numbers compared to 2009, but unfortunately we didn’t have the correct paperwork for research  – still, we got the wood warbler affirmation that we needed).  Headed Back to Po on the 7th and crossed into Ghana in order to explore around Tono for a couple of days.

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