All posts by Lee Dingain

Great Horned Owls found breeding at REGUA!

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

In October 2017 our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha heard a Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus at the village of Matumbo, situated at the edge of REGUA. With a large range covering much of North, Central and South America, Great Horned Owl had long been predicted as a future addition to the REGUA bird list, but this was the first record for the reserve.

Tantalizingly, there was no further sign until just a few days ago on the 18 August 2018 when Adilei finally saw a bird – the first sight record for REGUA. When he returned the next morning with his camera he found not one bird but a pair! Then while watching and photographing them he was amazed when they mated right in front of him!

What an incredible record and yet another owl species for REGUA. The addition of Great Horned Owl takes the REGUA bird list to an incredible 479 species! Well done Adilei for finding and documenting such a great record.

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

REGUA’s 12th British Birdfair

The REGUA UK Team at Birdfair 2019, from left: Sue Healey, Lee Dingain, Alan Martin and Rachel Walls (© Dan Bradbury)
The REGUA UK Team at Birdfair 2019, from left: Sue Healey, Lee Dingain, Alan Martin and Rachel Walls (© Dan Bradbury)

This was the 12th year in a row that REGUA has attended the British Birdwatching Fair, and what a successful Birdfair it was!

Held each year at Egleton Nature Reserve at Rutland Water in England, the Birdfair is the world’s largest conservation fundraising fair and this year (the 30th Birdfair) is helping to fund the creation of the Ansenuza National Park in Argentina.

Our stand was once again organized and manned by our dedicated volunteers, Rachel Walls, Lee Dingain and Sue Healey, with assistance from Alan Martin, and Ken Sutton and Stuart Housden also both helping out for a day. It was good we had so many people helping because we had a large number of visitors to the stand, new faces, past visitors and volunteers and volunteers signed up to our volunteer programme.

Birdfair is also a great opportunity to catch up with our supporters and friends at the World Land Trust, Puro Coffee and Serra dos Tucanos.

REGUA is now well and truly on the birdwatching map and we are a firm believers that international birdwatching tourism is crucial in helping REGUA carry out our urgent conservation work protecting the Atlantic Forest of the Guapiaçu valley.

A huge thanks to everybody who visited our stand and also to all the Birdfair volunteers for making the event run so smoothly. We would also like to give a special thanks to Guto Carvalho of Avistar (the Brazilian Bird Fair) for mentioning REGUA in their excellent talk, and to Rachel Walls for all her hard work behind the scenes organising the REGUA stand each year and for baking her amazing cakes!

We look forward to seeing some of you at REGUA soon! If you have any enquiries about visiting REGUA then please drop us a email.

Highlights of successful dragonfly tour 2018

Male of Progomphus virginiae in hand, splendid addition to the reserve list (© Tom Kompier)

A group of dragonfly enthusiasts from the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden occupied the lodge at REGUA between 5-20 January to look for dragonflies and damselflies with Tom Kompier, the author of our field guide on these winged gems – A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil.

Immature male Nehalennia minuta, new for REGUA! (© Henrik Korzen)

REGUA is one of the world’s best dragonfly hotspots in terms of diversity, and the group was not disappointed. With a total of 166 species seen, the tour even surpassed previous tours.

Not only were there second records of Lestes tricolor and Micrathyria spinifera, and good views of the critically endangered Minagrion ribeiroi and its rare cousin Minagrion waltheri, the group also managed photos of two species not previously documented with photos in nature. Edonis helena is a rarely seen small dragonfly from northern Argentina only recently known to extend into Brazil. A small population occurs in the area. The second was Macrothemis capitata, rediscovered by Tom several years ago at Salinas, but now found in the The Três Picos State Park at the top of our watershed.

Best of all, the group found two species new to the reserve list. The first was an exciting tiny damsel, Nehalennia minuta, found at the old wetland in the reserve. This species occurs widely in South America, but is not often found. And the second was Progomphus virginiae, a beautiful little gomphid found at a forested rocky stream, described from Santa Catharina State. The reserve odonata list now stands at 207 species!

Male of Edonis helena, a rare photo opportunity! (© Tom Kompier)
First in nature photo of the very rare Macrothemis capitata (© Tom Kompier)
Female of Nehalennia minuta (© Tom Kompier)
Male of Progomphus virginiae occupying a rock in the stream (© Tom Kompier)

Southern Tamandua seen at REGUA

Southern Tamandua
Southern Tamandua Tamandua tetradactyla (@copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Southern Tamandua Tamandua tetradactyla are not often seen at REGUA, with previous records including one in the lodge garden and another found dead in the forest at the wetland several years ago.

But last November our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha was lucky enough to find one on the Red Trail and managed to capture some excellent video of the encounter.

This member of the anteater family is found in a variety of habitats from mature to disturbed secondary forest and arid savannah, although it is thought to prefer living near streams or rivers. Feeding on ants and termites they will occasionally take bees and honey. A solitary species, Southern Tamanduas are mainly nocturnal, although as can be seen here, they are sometimes found during the day and this individual seemed to be completely at ease with Adilei’s presence.

It’s great to see this enigmatic creature in the forests at REGUA and this sighting is another indicator of the improvement our reforestation has made to the biodiversity of the forest environment.

REGUA’s 11th British Birdfair

REGUA’s UK ‘A Team’ at the stand at this year’s Birdfair – (from left) Lee Dingain, Rachel Walls and Sue Healey (© Trevor Ellery)
REGUA supporter and past lodge guest Nigel Marven came by the stand to say hello on Saturday (© Lee Dingain)

Last Friday to Sunday, tens of thousands of birders and wildlife enthusiasts descended on Egleton Nature Reserve at Rutland Water in the UK for the annual British Birdwatching Fair.

This was the 11th year in a row that REGUA has been represented at this internationally important event and our stand was once again organized and manned by our dedicated volunteers, Rachel Walls, Lee Dingain and Sue Healey. Past volunteer bird guide Ken Sutton was also on the stand on the Friday and Saturday and did a great job helping out the team.

The Birdfair is the ideal place for us to spread the word about the excellent birdwatching at REGUA and how international birdwatching tourism is crucial in helping REGUA carry out the important conservation work protecting the Atlantic Forest of the Guapiaçu valley.

Once again we had a huge amount of interest from birders and tour companies alike, and it was great to catch up with many past guests and supporters, as well as with our friends at the World Land Trust and Serra dos Tucanos.

We’d like to say thank you to everybody who came by our stand and for helping to once again make Birdfair such a special event for us. It gives the whole REGUA team, both in Brazil and the UK, such a boost to receive so many compliments and encouragement. Also, we’d like to give a special thanks to Mr and Mrs Lee for making such a generous donation towards our land purchase and tree planting.

If you have any enquiries about visiting REGUA then please drop us a email. We look forward to seeing some of you at REGUA soon.

Birdfair 2017 is almost upon us

The REGUA stand at Birdfair 2016 (© Edson Endrigo)
The REGUA stand at Birdfair 2016 (© Edson Endrigo)

It’s that time of year again – the annual British Birdwatching Fair, better known simply as the Birdfair, returns to Rutland Water in the UK next weekend.

This huge event attracts over 20,000 people and raises thousands of pounds for nature conservation every year. The Birdfair is the perfect place for us to spread the word about the excellent birding at REGUA and on our excursions in surrounding Serra dos Órgãos mountains and beyond, our beautifully situated bird lodge, and also to demonstrate how birding tourism is helping REGUA to conserve and restore one of the best preserved areas Atlantic Forest remaining in Rio de Janeiro state.

REGUA has had a stand at the Birdfair since 2007 and this year it will once again be manned by Rachel Walls, Sue Healey and Lee Dingain, along with past volunteer bird guide Ken Sutton will also be on the stand on Friday and Saturday. All of our publications will be available to buy (with a special Birdfair discount) and you’ll also be able to grab some free RAW Baking goodies from Rachel including her now legendary “Bristlefront Brownie” and “Fruitcrow Flapjack”!

If you are going to the Birdfair then why not drop by the REGUA stand and say hello at stand 37, marquee 1. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Birdfair will be taking place at Egleton Nature Reserve, Rutland Water, UK, from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th August 2017.

Bird sightings for June and July 2017

Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift over the wetland, 3 July 2017 (© Alan Martin)
White-bellied Tanager from the lodge belvedere, 2 July 2017 (© Alan Martin)
Black-banded Owl hunting bats in the lodge garden, 5 July 2017. The bird was seen again in exactly the same spot the following night. (© Alan Martin)
Scaled Antbird, 29 June 2017 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The austral winter months see fewer visiting birders than the spring, when birds are more vocal and on territory, but winter birding in the Atlantic Forest brings its own rewards and is equally exciting. Some species are actually much easier to find at this time of year, including the rare Black-legged Dacnis and large mixed-species flocks in the forest make for exciting experiences. Also, the lodge garden feeders are much busier, with many species that breed at higher elevations moving lower where temperatures are higher. Here are the avian highlights on the reserve for June and July.

Casa Anibal/4×4: Black Hawk-Eagle, Spot-billed Toucanet, Saw-billed Hermit, Spot-breasted Antvireo, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Green-headed Tanager and Red-necked Tanager.

Forest Trail: White-bibbed Antbird (an excellent record for this trail), Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Reddish Hermit, Lesser Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Unicoloured Antwren, Scaled Antbird, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill, Southern Antpipit, Long-billed Wren, Moustached Wren, Hooded Tanager, White-bellied Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Swallow Tanager.

Lodge garden: Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (the first record for the garden on 2 July), Black-banded Owl (5-6 July), up to 5 Black-legged Dacnis, Common Potoo, 1 White-eyed Parakeet (6 July), Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Toco Toucan, lots of Channel-billed Toucan, Tropical Parula, White-bellied Tanager, Azure-shoulder Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Purple-throated Euphonia and Buff-throated Saltator.

Waldenoor Trail: Mantled Hawk (very reliable here), Frilled Coquette, Toco Toucan, Plain Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Motmot, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Blue Manakin and Black-throated Grosbeak.

Waterfall Trail: Solitary Tinamou, Brown Tinamou, White-necked Hawk, Saw-billed Hermit, Surucua Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Scaly-headed Parrot, Planalto Woodcreeper, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Spot-backed Antshrike, Scaled Antbird, Star-throated Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthursh, Slaty Bristlefront, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Southern Antpipit, Grey-hooded Attila, White-bellied Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Wetland Trail: Grey-bellied Spinetail, female Masked Duck, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tataupa Tinamou, Boat-billed Heron, up to 12 Capped Heron (an excellent number), lots of Snowy Egret (they seem to be increasing at REGUA), Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle, Laughing Falcon, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift (small numbers over the wetland in the evenings), Rufous-sided Crake, Blackish Rail, Limpkin, Amazon Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant (both very unusual here), Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Hooded Tanager and Black-capped Donacobius.

Elsewhere at REGUA, Shrike-like Cotinga, a male Tufted Antshrike and White-bibbed Antbird were all seen along the trail to the São José Tower, a Harris’s Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle and Rufous-fronted Thornbird (the later now much scarcer at REGUA now that the reforestation is becoming more established) were seen along the dirt road to Casa Pesquisa, and the 2 Tropical Screech-Owls were still roosting by the conservation centre.

On our night-birding excursion Giant Snipe, Mottled Owl, Scissor-tailed Nightjar and Collared Forest-Falcon were among the birds seen.

Bird sightings for March 2017

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, lodge garden, 18 March 2017 (© Lee Dingain)

While March might see less bird activity in general at REGUA than during the breeding season, there is still plenty of excellent birding to be had. Here are the sightings highlights for March on the reserve.

Wetland/Yellow Trail: Black-legged Dacnis (numbers much lower than usual this year), 3 Sungrebe (including a bird showing at close range by post 400 – just a two minute walk from the lodge), a female Masked Duck, several Boat-billed Herons showing well from Amanda’s Hide (at least 2 adults in full breeding plumage and 1 or 2 juveniles), a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with a single offspring (another successful breeding at REGUA), Crane Hawk, Grey-necked and Slaty-breasted Wood-Rails, Rufous-sided Crake, Brazilian Tanager, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Amazon, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, lots of Streaked Flycatchers (a summer migrant here) and lots of Rufous-tailed Jacamars which were seemingly everywhere! Now that the breeding season is over, the numbers of roosting Cattle Egrets is starting to increase with most still in fantastic breeding plumage.

Green Trail: an immature Shrike-like Cotinga, a White-necked Hawk (at an ant swarm), Buff-bellied Puffbird, Southern Antpipit, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spot-backed Antshrike, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Scaled Antbird, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Grey-hooded Attila, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Spot-billed Toucanet, Saw-billed Hermit, Blonde-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-winged Antwren, Streak-capped Antwren, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager.

Waldenoor Trail: this trail continues to provide excellent raptor sightings with 2 Mantled Hawk, 2 Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle and 2 Black Hawk-Eagle all seen.

Typically for this time of year the lodge garden has been quiet, but 2 female Black-legged Dacnis, lots of Swallow Tanager, Rusty-margined Guan, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Blonde-crested Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Channel-billed Toucan, Purple-throated Euphonia, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Piratic Flycatcher, Crested Becard, Flame-crested Tanager and Yellow-backed Tanager all made appearances. Hummingbird numbers were down but the feeders were still entertaining with 3 Black Jacobins fighting over the sugar-water with Rufous-breasted Hermits, Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Violet-capped Woodnymphs and Glittering-throated Emeralds.

On our night-birding excursion Giant Snipe were seen well on the ground and also in display flight (with 3-4 seen at close range some nights), and Tawny-browed Owl, Common Potoo and Pauraque were all also seen, but frustratingly Black-banded and Mottled Owls were both heard only. The roosting pair of Tropical Screech-Owls were still in residence near the conservation centre.

Orange-breasted Falcon at Pico da Caledônia

On 23 March, our bird guide Cirilo Vieira was guiding two guests David Wilcove and Tim Treuer from Princeton University at Pico da Caledônia who were keen to see the rare Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita found in the elfin forest around the top of the mountain. Unfortunately they could only hear the cotinga calling, but then imagine their surprise when they caught sight of an Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus perched on a bare branch close to the road (just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint at the start of of the starts to the summit). David had been looking for this bird for 30 years and sighed in disbelief when he realized what it was!

Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus, Pico da Caledônia, RJ, 23 March 2017. Note the bulky structure, heavy bill, large feet, white throat contrasting with the orange breast and neck sides, broad barring on the belly and blackish upperparts. The photo also shows the graduated tail quite well. The greenish tinge to the yellow feet, cere and orbital ring suggest this bird is a sub-adult. (© David Wilcove)

Orange-breasted Falcon is very similar in appearance to the much more common and widespread Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Identification can be difficult, but there are some key identification features if seen well. Structurally, Orange-breasted Falcon is larger and bulkier than Bat Falcon and with a larger head and slightly shorter graduated tail. The feet are also noticeably larger and are yellow to greenish-yellow compared to the bright orange-yellow feet of Bat Falcon, and the bill is significantly heavier. Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts that contrast very little with the blackish head, whereas across much of it’s range, Bat Falcon generally has paler greyish upperparts that contrast with the blackish head.

There are several supporting identification features, that while not diagnostic, are also useful. In Orange-breasted Falcon the white throat is bordered by an orange breast (above the black ‘vest’ on the belly) and neck sides, whereas in most Bat Falcons the white throat contrasts strongly with the black vest with little or no orange or buff on the breast (there are some exceptions though so this alone is not a reliable identification feature). Also, the whitish barring on the black vest is coarser with an orange wash on Orange-breasted Falcon compared to Bat Falcon that usually shows faint narrow whitish barring on the vest.

The Neotropical Bird Club website has an excellent paper on the identification of Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons.

Guilherme Serpa informs us that this is only the second sighting of Orange-breasted Falcon for Rio de Janeiro state – an incredible record! Intriguingly, Adilei has seen a falcon here in the past that he assumed was Bat Falcon and Nicholas has photographs of a falcon taken nearby on Pico da Caledônia, again presumed Bat Falcon at the time. We will be checking these photos to double check the identification.

The following day another group from the lodge visiting Pico da Caledônia failed to relocate the bird, but hopefully it will be seen again. Very well done to David Wilcove for an excellent state find and for taking an excellent set of photographs.

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 »