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.

26 February: Stormy weather

The team made a massive last effort for the penultimate ringing session today. After sitting/squelching rather unpleasantly for the car journey to the trap site (a reminder of how sodden we were following the previous night’s torrential rain) we caught three Garden Warblers (including a retrap from last year and one from the 7th of February this year), one new Nightingale, one new Great Reed Warbler (the first for more than two weeks) and a Spotted Flycatcher (a first for this trip and a retrap from last winter). All the nets were then taken down from the north and set up on the south east for a last-gasp attempt to catch where nets had not yet covered, and in the hope another Red-necked Nightjar would be caught (and perhaps a Nightingale or two).

The afternoon session we were amazed to catch three more Nightingales (two new and one from earlier in February), and a new Reed Warbler. The weather again was hot and humid, storm clouds still looming as we happily furled the nets, another good evening’s work done. After dinner the satisfied team settled in for the night, until the storm broke and started to leak in to join us, so followed a fitful night’s sleep for everyone, the strength of the nails holding the roof down providing something to contemplate whilst sleep evaded us.

Local Ghanaians walking next to a north side net ride. Guys had to be high to allow people and their loads to pass (Vicky Gilson)

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