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-27th Jan: Into the forest zone....

After an unavoidable 2 nights in Accra to obtain our permit to work in the forest reserves, we head west along the Cape Coast road. The first bout of roving takes in Kakum national park and adjacent forest and farmland, and 4 other forest blocks in a transect south to north. We have moderate success finding wood warblers in degraded forest edges, but in the closed canopy within Kakum for example, we find none.  Without the playback this would come as no great surprise perhaps, but the output from the playback device is pretty powerful, and we’re fairly sure that we should have had some response if the birds were up there. Do they really not like the forest interior?

Further north near to Lake Bosumtwe we barely touch proper forest, our path taking us through farms within the forest reserve, and timber plantations that are perfectly normal practice in these reserves of resource, rather than those of biodiversity such as the national parks.  Here we detect double figures of wood warblers, with a minimum of 6 calling from within the rather regimented plantation. Again, more questions are raised as to the preferred habitat of wood warblers in Ghana!

Roger & Japheth listen out for wood warblers in plantation within Bowumtwi forest reserve

We return to the study site in Kwahu for a site survey, producing similar numbers of birds to our previous count 2 weeks ago, and also reminding us of just how good the wooded farmland is here with higher densities than all of the 6 sites we traversed in the previous week. With an up-coming visit from Dr Danaë Sheehan and several other luminaries from the UK, Denmark and Poland, we can expect plenty of discussion as to how to progress and answer many of the questions that we are left pondering.

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