All posts by Lee Dingain

Boat-billed Herons nest at REGUA

Juvenile Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Adult Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, or arapapá in Portuguese, is one of the more mysterious bird species present at REGUA. Records over the years have been very few and far between, with only occasional sightings of roosting birds from the replanted forest around the wetland.

But for the last three years birds have been arriving at REGUA in the beginning of December and breeding has been suspected. Then on 2nd December Adilei found 12 nests at the wetland in the ten year old replanted forest close to Amanda’s Hide – the first confirmed nesting of Boat-billed Heron at REGUA.

The nests are made from twigs and lined with feathers and situated 6-8 m above ground, and at the time of writing the chicks are close to fledging.

Boat-billed Heron is widespread throughout Latin America and although numbers are thought to be declining, with such a large range they are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Being a nocturnal species, it is never that easy to see them. But many local birders have recently come to REGUA to photograph these birds and last year Francisco Falcon took this amazing photo of a displaying adult that became a huge success in the local birding world.

In 2012, we captured on camera trap, an adult bird feeding at night along one of the small forest streams that flows into the wetland. Watch the video »

October bird sightings

We are well into the austral spring and the weather in October has been rather mixed, with hot temperatures much rainfall, including a couple of days of full rain. Many bird species have now moved to higher, cooler elevations for the spring and summer, whilst activity around the wetland and lodge garden is increasing as more species are breeding.

The undoubted highlight of the month was finding Rio de Janeiro’s first Andean Flamingo on one of our excursions to Cabo Frio.

On the reserve, the wetland continues to provide excellent birding opportunities with an amazing four Sungrebe now being reported – surely a record count for Rio de Janeiro state? Also at the wetland, Boat-billed Heron, Greenish Eleania (very scarce in Rio de Janeiro state), Uniform Crake, Russet-crowned Crake, Rufous-sided Crake, Pauraque and Red-cowled Cardinal (scarce at the wetland nowadays). The adjacent Brown Trail continues to bring in yet more forest interior species, with White-bibbed Antbird and Scaled Antbird making appearances, along with the more usual Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike and Tawny-browed Owl.

Highlights on the Green Trail include Shrike-like Cotinga, Temminck’s Seedeater, White-necked Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Pin-tailed Manakin, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Southern Antpipit, Saw-billed Hermit, Spot-billed Toucanet, Bare-throated Bellbird, Rufous-capped Motmot and Rufous-capped Antthrush.

On the Grey Trail another of REGUA’s specialities, Russet-winged Spadebill, was seen along with Salvadori’s Antwren, Buff-bellied Puffbird and Least Pygmy-Owl, On the 4×4 Trail the very rarely encountered Tufted Antshrike was heard but not seen, and nearby a Bare-throated Bellbird seen on the area planted two years ago near the Guapiaçu river.

At the other end of the reserve on the Waldenoor Trail, another Tufted Antshrike was heard, as was Salvadori’s Antwren, but 2 male Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-throated Woodcreeper and Spot-billed Toucanet were amongst the birds seen.

On our night excursions, Giant Snipe, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, South American Snipe, Ash-throated Crake, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and White Woodpecker were all seen.

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Hangnest Tody-Flycatcher Hemitriccus nidipendulus (© Nicholas Locke)

Excursions offsite have been equally popular and productive. Cabo Frio and its rare coastal restinga habitat produced Restinga Antwren, Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Lemon-chested Greenlet and of course, the Andean Flamingo.

Our trips to the Atlantic Forest mountains produced a good number of high altitude Atlantic Forest endemics. Pico da Caledônia produced great views of the extremely rare Grey-winged Cotinga, nesting Swallow-tailed Cotinga, a female Chestnut-headed Tanager (rare on the coastal slope), Large-tailed Antshrike, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Black-billed Scythebill , Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Diademed Tanager, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch and Cinnamon Tanager. While at Macaé de Cima, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Bertoni’s Antbird, Giant Anshrike were among the species noted.

On our excursions to the remnants of the Dry Atlantic Forest around Sumidouro we found the highly sought-after Three-toed Jacamar, as well as other open-country species including Blue-winged Macaw, Magpie Tanager, Serra Antwren, Half-collared Sparrow, Sooty Tyrannulet, Firewood-gatherer, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Masked Yellowthroat, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Plumbeous Kite and White-tailed Hawk.

Finally a belated sighting from September – a Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the Waterfall Trail!

Andean Flamingo at Cabo Frio – a first for RJ state!

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Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis, Cabo Frio, 16 October 2016 (© Alan Martin)

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that our news post about a Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis seen at Cabo Frio on 16 October has been removed. Well, there is an exciting reason for this – the bird has been correctly re-identified as an Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus, and the first record for Rio de Janeiro state!

Initially thought to be a Chilean Flamingo, thankfully Alan Martin was able to take a few photos and it was only after subsequently checking the photos a few days later that the true identity of the bird became clear. News of the bird was put out and a major twitch (in Brazilian terms) ensewed, with several local birders making the trip to Cabo Frio to see it. It was still present on 6 November and photos from many photographers can be seen on WikiAves.

Andean Flamingo is the scarcest flamingo species, mostly restricted to the salt lakes of the altiplano of southern Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and north-west Argentina. They are altitudinal migrants, moving to lower elevations for the winter, and vagrants have made as far as Buenos Aires province in Argentina, the Brazilian Amazon, and Brazil’s southern coast, where flocks of up to 32 individuals together have been found. The Cabo Frio bird is by far the most easterly occurrence of this species.

Very well done to Alan Martin and the Limosa birding group for finding and photographing the bird, and to Gabriel Mello for re-identifying the bird.

Olympic Forest Reserve Appeal target reached

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World Land Trust CEO Debbie Pain and Nicholas at the British Birdfair announcing the Olympic Forest Reserve Appeal had reached it’s target (© Raquel Locke)

Nothing could give us a greater thrill than the news announced by Debby Pain on the penultimate day of the Britsh Birdfair that the World Land Trust had achieved their target for the Olympic Forest Reserve Appeal; the purchase of the Paloma property situated high in the Sao Miguel valley within the Guapiaçu watershed. Dan Bradbury’s team at the World Land Trust had taken under four months to reach the target, showing how supportive and determined everyone has been to reach this goal.

On behalf of everyone working at REGUA, we wish to dearly thank every single individual supporter who contributed towards this appeal. We can now say that this forested property of 221 hectares full of tall trees and rare orchids, together with it’s animals, can be safely integrated in the REGUA reserve contributing to the permanent conservation of another important section of Atlantic Forest. Thank you all so much.

Birdfair 2016: 19th – 21st August, Rutland Water, UK

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The British Birdwatching Fair, most often known simply as the Birdfair, is an annual event for birdwatchers that has been held each August since 1989 at Rutland Water in England. REGUA has been represented at the Birdfair by our British volunteers Rachel Walls and Lee Dingain since 2007, when we were invited by our partners, the World Land Trust, to use part of their stand.

To celebrate our tenth year at the Birdfair, Nicholas and Raquel have flown to the UK to take part. Nicholas and Raquel will spending time with our regular volunteers Alan Martin, Sue Healey, Rachel Walls and Lee Dingain on the stand.

Nicholas will also be giving two talks (sponsored by the World Land Trust) in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre:

Friday 11:00 – 11:20: A conservation case study in the Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil by Nicholas Locke
Saturday 11:00 – 11:20: The Olympic Forest Reserve: preserving threatened habitat in Brazil by Nicholas Locke

In addition, our Wildscreen film, narrated by Michael Palin and produced by Verity White/Five Films, will be being shown regularly in the food marquee.

If you coming to the Birdfair, make sure you come by and visit us in marquee 1, stand 37. We look forward to seeing you.

July bird sightings

The mid-winter month of July can be a very exciting time for birding at REGUA. An influx of winter visitors to the area, in addition to many species moving to lower elevations for the cooler winter months, mean that at this time of year unusual species can be found, and the REGUA wetland is a good place to watch.

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Giant Snipe, just outside REGUA, 14 July 2016 (© Sue Healey)
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Male Sungrebe, wetland, 7 July 2016 (© Lee Dingain)

The avian highlight of the month must be the 3 female Comb Ducks that appeared at the wetland for just 15 minutes on 23rd. Sadly they haven’t been seen since.

Another excellent record at the wetland came in the form of a Stygian Owl heard calling for over 10 minutes on 15th, the 2nd record for REGUA, and to the best of our knowledge only the 3rd record for Rio de Janeiro State!

The male Sungrebe continued to show well at the wetland all month, and the much more elusive female also put in an appearance on the 8th (potential future breeders?). Other notable records at the wetland include a Giant Antshrike on the 5th, 12 Azure-shouldered Tanager over on the 5th, a White-necked Thrush on the 6th, 1 Great Black-Hawk on 19th and 2 Masked Duck on 25th.

Situated at the edge of the wetland, the lodge garden produced a couple of notables – a male House Sparrow briefly on 3rd and 2 Giant Cowbirds on 15th (both ‘firsts’ for the garden), and a female Chestnut-bellied Euphonia visiting the feeders from the 8th is further testament to the success of the reforestation around the lodge and the wetland.

Highlights from elsewhere around the reserve include a pair of Red-ruffed Fruitcrows in a fruiting tree along the Forest Trail on 3rd, a female Sooty Grassquit along the Forest Trail on 5th (the first record for this trail), 4+ Yellow-legged Thrush on the Forest Trail on 5th (a very good count for this trail), a male Shrike-like Cotinga on the Forest Trail on 7th (records are getting closer and closer to the lodge!), and at Waldenoor 1m Frilled Coquette and a Planalto Woodcreeper were present on 10th.

Several excellent spot-lighting excursions led by Adilei in July produced extremely close views of small numbers of Giant Snipe on the the ground by torch-light, along with Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Spot-tailed Nightjar, Common Potoo, Tropical Screech-Owl, and Burrowing Owl. Also just outside the reserve, a Streamer-tailed Tyrant was a notable sighting on 18th.

Finally, an intriguing sighting was made this month by one of our rangers, Antonio, who spotted a Black-fronted Piping-guan feeding from a fruit tree. Presumably one of the 10 birds introduced at REGUA in 2008, this is the first sighting since 2010 and this bodes well for the forthcoming introduction of a further 40 birds as part of the SAVE Brasil Projeto Jacutinga reintroduction programme.

REGUA’s third Sungrebe found at the wetland

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Sungrebe at the REGUA wetland, 14 May 2016 (© by Vanessa Bard)

The rare Sungrebe Heliornis fulica has made a rare appearance at REGUA – the first occurrence here in ten years!

On 14th May Biologist Vanessa Bard from the nearby city of Nova Friburgo was participating on the course of Marcos Felipe. During the walk observing birds around the wetland, Marcos spotted a Sungrebe amongst the lilies on the far side. Vanessa with her camera was able to take this register photo and though the rest of the group was able to see the bird later in the afternoon, the following day Adilei, Daniel and Joao were unfortunately not so lucky.

This bird is a male, possibly a sub-adult, and is the third record for REGUA. All have occurred at the restored wetland, and the first was recorded in 2005, the year the wetland was created. The Sungrebe is extremely secretive and can be difficult to find, and so the bird could still be present. Let’s hope it is seen again.

Find out more about the Sungrebe on the Neotropical Birds website.

Olympic Forest Reserve Appeal launched

olympic-forest-reserve-logoIn partnership with the World Land Trust, REGUA has launched a campaign to raise funds to purchase a highly threatened area of Atlantic Forest located in the Guapiaçu Valley.

Called Paloma Coelho, this 89.5 hectare (221 acre) area of high quality forest is under threat from hunting and deforestation, threatening the survival of the rich flora and fauna found here. In addition the property protects the streams that feed the Guapiaçu River, an important water supply for the local community.

The most effective way to conserve this important area of forest is for REGUA to purchase the land and incorporate it into the reserve. The Olympic Forest Reserve Appeal aims to raise £40,000 to enable this to become a reality. Please help us save this forest by making a donation.

Amendment to the REGUA odonata list

In the recently published field guide on the odonata of REGUA, A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, the scientific name of the Blue-wedged Dancer is given as Argia claussenii. Rosser Garrison pointed out that this in fact is A. croceipennis, therefore we have amended our odonata list. We are indebted to Rosser for sharing drawings and scans of both species with us that support his view.

The appendages of these two species are quite similar and there are also considerable similarities in colour pattern. However, under the microscope the difference in the shape of the cerci (placement of ventral tooth) can be clearly seen.

In the field there are luckily also a few differences that help identify the species. Argia claussenii has clear wings, whereas those of A. croceipennis are amber colored, and A. claussenii has an occipital bar, whereas A. croceipennis does not. These characteristics are very much in line with the species occurring in fast flowing and rocky streams in the foothills of REGUA. Below are examples of both species, kindly made available by Rosser.

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Tom’s excellent guide is available in the UK from Alan Martin. Please send a cheque for £30.50 which includes postage and packing, made out to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan Martin, Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6JJ.

Orders from other countries should be sent directly to Tom Kompier at kompierintokyo@yahoo.com. Copies will also be available from the REGUA stand at the British Birdfair on 21st – 23rd August at Rutland.

Black-banded Owl makes first lodge appearance

A sign of successful habitat restoration is the appearance of indicator species for the habitat you are restoring. On 2 July guests at our lodge were just about to enjoy dinner when a fantastic Black-banded Owl Ciccaba huhula was found in the garden. The bird showed very well and performed obligingly for the photographers present.

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Black-banded Owl, lodge garden, 2 July (© Sue Healey)

Black-banded Owl is a widespread resident throughout South America, with two subspecies recognised – the nominate C. h. huhula of northern South America, and the darker race C. h. albomarginata, endemic to the Atlantic Forest of south-east Brazil, eastern Paraguay and north-east Argentina.

Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana and Tropical Screech-Owl Megascops choliba, both forest edge species, are not uncommon in the garden, but this is the first time that a Black-banded Owl, a species of humid forest interiors, has been recorded here, and we are more used to seeing them on our night-birding excursions.

This record is no doubt a result of the maturing restoration surrounding the lodge, which we began planting in 2005. Perhaps in the future Black-banded Owl will become a regular visitor to dinner?