Want to know where your swallows are now?

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Want to know where your swallows are now?

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You’ll be reading (and hopefully learning!) lots about migrant birds in the next issue of Birds. We’ll be bringing you the story of how the RSPB is trying to find out about turtle doves by tracking them on their perilous migration, plus showing you how you where you can watch migration, and fabulous migrants, near you.

We read a lot about ‘our’ migrants flying to Africa for winter, but Africa is a very big place with a lot of different habitats from desert and savannah to rainforest and wetland! Ever wondered exactly where they go in Africa and what they get up to in winter rather than just disappearing into some unimaginable place a few thousand miles away? I know I have, but that might just be the sceience geek in me wanting to know everything about every bird!

In the jungle

I had an eye-opening trip to West Africa a couple of weeks ago and admittedly it was the star birds of Ghana’s Upper Gunea Rainforest that were my top targets – the bizarre white-necked picatartes (remember that one from RSPB communications around Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone and our work there?), a host of hornbills, the grebe-like Africa finfoot, the really difficult to see Nkulengu rail (but yes we did see it!) and some eye-popping forest kingfishers, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher (shame it isn’t chocolate-barred...) and another 160 or so species that I’d never seen before on my world travels.

I was surprised to see so many familiar birds from home though while craning my neck for canopy dwellers. Our own swallows among flocks of square-tailed saw-wings, wood warblers sharing the treetops with bizarre African residents such as naked-faced and bristle-nosed barbets and flocks of swifts in lots of places.

You might remember our “In and Out of Africa” feature by Mike Unwin on the work on birds such as wood warblers in Africa. When I was putting that feature together, little did I know that I’d be balancing on the 60 metre high canopy walkway (health and safety officers look away...) at Kakum that featured in it and seeing for myself the wood warblers swapping their oakwood summer homes for lush, and incredibly humid, rainforest. It was so hot in Ghana and the two night's camping with an ice cold jungle shower had me longing for some home comforts!

So, I’m happy to report that ‘our’ birds are doing ok – and one thing is for sure, they’re an awful lot warmer than we are at the moment!


I might look cool, calm and collected, but this is what I'm standing on, 60 metres above the forest floor...(Mark Ward)

 


Kakum's famous canopy walkway gives views of migrants like wood warblers and swallows among the Africa residents (Mark Ward)


The view below the walkway - gulp (Mark Ward)


In Africa, everything is bigger, from millipedes...(Mark Ward)


...to earthworms! (Mark Ward)

More shots from Ghana, and a bit more about what our migrants are up to at the moment, next Friday.

Comments
  • Hi Keith.

    Yes, it's quite a contrast being back here in the UK in sub-zero temperatures today - beautiful frosting on everything today though here in Bedfordshire. The UK is amazing on days like this.

    Our turtle dove feature is coming along well, so do let us know what you think of it when you get your copy of Birds next April.

    Mark

    PS. Like the "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here" TV show gag for the ropebridge shot! A few other people mentioned that to me as well, including my Mum!

  • Hello Mark,

    Ghana must have been great. Would love to see a chocolate backed kingfisher.

    Interesting your comments on turtle doves and wood warblers. These species certainly seem to be in trouble.

    Disappointing though to see another celebrity leaving the jungle!

    Kind reagrds

    Keith