Home Articles Mark's Argus Column 30th July 2011 - Out of Africa
30th July 2011 - Out of Africa PDF Print E-mail

Spotted FlycatcherI was very interested to read recently that the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have had some success in the early stages of their 'Out of Africa' project.

During the past few years the BTO has been conducting research in Africa to find out where many of our summer migrant birds go after leaving Britain in the autumn.  Birds are well recorded in Europe, especially Britain; We know approximately how many there are, where they breed and what kinds of habitat they prefer - However, once they fly off over the Mediterranean they simply disappear from view.  

Unfortunately the number of many of these bird species are plummeting, so uncovering the mystery of their winter lives is vital to help understand the cause of their population decline.

One of the areas that the BTO have concentrated their efforts is Ghana and Burkina Faso. Here they have discovered sites where there are good numbers of garden, willow and wood warblers, pied and spotted flycatchers (pictured), whinchats and nightingales. By studying these sites the researchers can now build up a picture of each birds' requirements and behaviour – and hopefully identify measures to help them.

Readers might recall that a few weeks ago I reported on a related project where mini tracking devices were fitted to cuckoos – a similar study is also being carried out on nightingales – it should provide some very valuable information. To find out more about the 'Out of Africa' projects visit www.bto.org.uk

Good News for Sebastopol?

It was great to hear that Torfaen councillors have voted against the proposed building development at South Sebastopol. Local campaigners have fought tirelessly against this plan for fifteen years and the decision is testament to their endeavours. I am, however, more than a little concerned by the council leader's comments that the developers could appeal against the decision and still end up building up to 1200 homes on this scenic area of farm and woodland!

I don't claim to have any understanding of the planning process, but know that destroying our countryside is wrong; In my opinion we need to conserve the green areas we still have – the views of the people of Sebastopol (and their councillors) must be respected and building restricted to derelict brown field sites.

Birdwatching Walk

Don't forget the guided birdwatching walk on Saturday 6th August, when Richard Dowle will show birdwatchers around Capel Newydd, Blaenavon. I'm not familiar with this site, but would imagine that many upland species such as red grouse, stonechat, whinchat, and redstart will feature – and maybe a few surprises as well. The walk is planned to last about 4 hours and starts at 8 am from the Queen Victoria car park, Prince Street, Blaenavon (SO 252 086, or tap NP4 9BD into your satnav).

 There is no need to book places on this walk, just turn up - New faces (especially Argus readers) are always welcome at GOS events.

Walkers should remember to bring suitable clothing (boots essential), food and drink – and binoculars if you have them.   

For more information visit www.gwentbirds.org.uk or give me a call on the number below. Likewise, if you want me to send you a copy of GOS's programme of walks and talks, just let me know.

Keep in Touch

Thank you to all readers that have taken the time to get in touch.

 I always enjoy hearing from you and can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on 01633 866470.