Coverage of the Bribery Act reminded me of the only time I have put 'bribe' on my expense claim.  I was travelling to Ghana to see our partner the Ghana Wildlife Society, with whom we were working on the conservation of the beautiful roseate tern.

I arrived at Accra airport and was going through the various checks of passport, visa, luggage etc when one official asked about the box I had under my arm.  I told him it was full of badges with pictures of roseate terns, and he asked how many badges there were.  I didn't have a clue and said so.  So the official suggested that we should count them all - unless we could agree that there were 4000 and that therefore I pay the appropriate 'badge tax'.  The 'badge tax' was paid and it later appeared under 'bribe' on my expenses - a sum of about £1.

Lest that little story should give the wrong impression - I loved Ghana and Ghanaians.  I found it an immensely friendly country full of lovely people, and that seems to be the view of many migrant birds which spend our winter in Ghana and neighbouring countries and are now heading back to the UK and Europe for the summer.

Many migrant species across Europe are declining in numbers and the RSPB and the BTO are working together and separately to look at the reasons behind these declines at both ends of their migration routes.  The joint Migrants in Africa project has taken our staff to Ghana and Burkina Faso to find which areas are used by which migrant species.  Sounds easy put like that, but I remember that we found it difficult enough locating roseate terns along the coast when we knew from ringing recoveries where they occurred - locating nightingales, wood warblers and other 'European' migrants amongst a host of African species in sometimes thick vegetation when they are not bursting into song is a mammoth task.  But I am glad to report that as we come to the end of the second winter, much progress has been made which bodes well for the future.

Earlier this month, the team netted a garden warbler which had been ringed in Suffolk last August - at Hollesly on 25 August.  Whether this bird is a 'UK bird' or had started its migration somewhere else in Europe we do not know.  But now we do know that it was Nsuatre in central Ghana on 8 March. 

Last year I had a rather early garden warbler at Stanwick Lakes in east Northants on 10 April - I would normally expect them to arrive about 10 days later.  But whenever I hear my first garden warbler this year I can smile because we now know just a little bit more about this species and other trans-Saharan migrants.