All posts by Nicholas Locke

A weekend of Birding at REGUA

The Rio de Janeiro Birding Calender for 2017 successfully kicked off on March 11th and 12th at REGUA.

Some 30 local birders came to enjoy the wetlands and waterfall trail.    An early start, followed by Cirilo’s guiding enabled many first time birders to walk the yellow trail and see many of the over 180 species found in this habitat.

Some of the group with Cirilo (© Raquel Locke)

There were ample opportunities to present the work that REGUA has been devoted to and the project’s future plans.

People are always very receptive and positive and the end of the day was filled with promises of return visits and future enjoyment.

 

Tiger Beetle

Tiger beetles are always exciting to watch as they prowl about searching for food before flying off like a jet fighter to disappear out of view.

Tiger Beetle [possibly Cicindelidia politula] (© N Locke)
They have characteristically large bulging eyes and large mandibles for crunching up their food.

Tiger Beetles come from the Cicindelinae family, originating from the Latin word of Glow worm since most are brightly coloured.    Whilst this example looks similar to a Limestone Tiger Beetle, it is one of many different Cicindela sp.

Visit of ICPDR President

Peter Gammeltoft recently made a visit to REGUA.   Peter is the former head of Water and Marine Environment in the European Commission and currently the President of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICDPR) which involves 14 European Countries in its watershed as contracting parties.

Raquel & Peter in a newly planted area (©Nicholas Locke)

Peter was invited to Brazil by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to advise the Brazilian Government on water policy.

Peter is a family relation of Nicholas and Raquel Locke and they took advantage of his time and knowledge to show what REGUA is doing for the environment in this microcosm of the world.

Questions flowed and doubts ebbed as conversations showed that our principles are not too far behind the thinking needed in territorial design and ecosystem functionality.

Peter remarked “It was really great to see all the good work you are doing at Regua.   This type of work is very important, and I was very impressed to hear about how you are managing to ensure local support. “

We wish him and the OECD team all the success in the current decisions that are so very important for the future.

Thanks for finding time to visit, Peter!

 

Barred Forest-Falcon

Some of our visitors will remember bird guide Igor Camacho, who has not stopped his survey work and guiding since he left REGUA.

He continues to bring clients to REGUA and on his visit early this year, to the restored forest around the San José tower, he found Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-bellied Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager and Blue Dacnis to show Ernani Oliveira. The star of this trip however was Barred Forest-Falcon near the tower.

Barred-forest Falcon (©Igor Camacho)

He suggested a hanging feeder near the tower might attract forest birds such as Yellow-green Grossbeak, Channel-billed Toucans, Rufous-winged Antwren and Greyish Mourner, so we considering how feasible it will be to maintain a feeder at this remote location.

Guide Training – part of REGUA’s Education work

Rio’s State Environmental Institute (INEA) organized a summer training course called “Trail Guiding” whose target audience were participants from the local areas of Cachoeiras de Macacu and Guapimirim. Thirty people enrolled in this course including REGUA’s young ranger Miguel – just shows how inspiring REGUA can be!

The course participants with REGUA staff (©REGUA)

The aim is to prepare local guides to help visitors at the Três Picos Park and Natural Park at Macacu. The guides love nature and need to gain experience, knowledge and confidence to show visitors all the beauty and diversity of the Atlantic Forest.

Part of the course covers Bird guiding, and as Regua’s guides have become well known for their skill and knowledge, we were happy to host the birdwatching event around our restored wetlands.   Adilei de Carvalho and Cirilo Vieira, Regua’s bird guides, were in charge of the training, giving a talk on what birding is about and showed them some of the most representative lowland species in the wetlands.

REGUA – the solution to land erosion!

Planting trees on degraded soils is never easy. Over time, the soil loses most of its nutrients, becomes compacted, and is very often too steep to even walk on. The land owners give up areas that cannot be mechanized and allow it to turn into poor quality pasture where it can be burned occasionally to keep it free from weeds. Soils lose the carbon granules that bind soil together and slowly micro-bacterial life drains out allowing heavy rain to start ugly gully erosion.

Raquel and André inspect the trees (© Nicholas Locke)

These are the soils that REGUA wants to return to forests before they become an ecological disaster zone, an eyesore and are also too expensive to retrieve. Owners are reticent to allow REGUA to convert tired uphill land to forest as they think their properties will lose value. The owners don’t want to sell the land as there is little else to buy with the money. However REGUA has experience and in its stubbornness gently inches forward to improve the Guapiaçu valley.

The hillside of the Protestant land is one that poses a challenge for it is currently in grass, very steep and already has some gullies formed by heavy rain.

Professor André Tavares Correa Dias of the Department of Ecosystem Ecology at Rio de Janeiro State University, is himself involved in restoring bauxite residual dumping grounds in Pará State visited us and we took him to see our challenges. He was very pleased with the results to date. Our trees are planted just before the rains – the best time to build a forest. We only hope the rains won’t bring the hill down before the trees have time to bind the soil!

Nicholas and André discuss the planting (© Raquel Locke)

Last year’s planting season was in November, and the mortality rate was quite acceptable given the factors, so we are hopeful that we will be able to establish these new forests at REGUA to the benefit of the biodiversity, its community and the valley’s overall ecological functionality.

Volunteer Thor plants his first Brazilian tree

REGUA volunteer Thor Smestad hails from British Columbia, Canada. He came to Brazil to fulfill a dream, to plant trees in Brazil.

Thor Smestad Planting his first Brazilian Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

With a diploma in Forestry Technology and a degree in Forest Resources Management, Thor brings a new approach to our propagation model. As he is a specialist in propagation from from cuttings he started by taking cuttings from four Brazilian species to test how successful they are in rooting. This would be a major breakthrough in reducing reforestation costs and his cuttings placed in buckets with small air pumps lay in tubs of water waiting to root. Thor has seen the re-forested areas and the latest areas planted and is amazed at the scale in which REGUA is working. He has offered some valuable contributions in improving the quality of planting. We were able to reward Thor by planting two very special seedlings of “Guarajuba”, (Terminalia acuminate) donated by the botanist Pablo Prieto.

We had heard about these endangered trees from Pablo, a senior researcher at the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro. He is involved in compiling the Red data list of plants of the Atlantic Forest. Guarajuba wood was well known for its high quality timber which was used to for buildings and boats. Being valuable led to trees being cut down in huge numbers. There are six individual Guarajuba trees in the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro, but when botanists started searching in the forests around Rio city and in the best remaining tracts of forest, none could be found. It was thought that the species had been lost in the wild.

Volunteer Thor plants a Guarajuba Tree (Terminalia acuminata) (© Nicholas Locke)

However upon researching the Tijuca forest last year, botanists came across 28 examples of this very species. They had probably been planted in 1861-1874 when Major Archer spearheaded the reforestation of the degraded hill under Christ the Redeemer as its water sources had dried up. Pablo found some seeds under this tree and germinated them at home. He generously brought two examples for us to plant at front of REGUA.

This is just terrific and short of opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate we are overjoyed that Thor could plant both the trees for us and hope that in a few years we shall also have seeds to plant elsewhere.

Bromeliad research

University student Juliana Leal is conducting a new experiment as part of her doctorate on bromeliads here at REGUA.

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Juliana Leal

One thinks an epiphyte absorbs nutrients from their host but far from it, the roots of the bromeliads merely fix the plant to the branches, rocks or soil on which it lives. Leaves of bromeliads are fixed at their base in a circular arrangement that trap rainwater and any material falling from above on which algae thrive. Incoming sunlight powers the ecosystem, and aquatic organisms feed on algae in the bromeliad’s small pools, but ecologists are intrigued as to what is more important; the algae or the dead organic material falling into the watery habitat? What maintains the flow of energy in an aquatic ecosystem, algae or the incoming organic material?

Juliana has set up a field of identical bromeliads at REGUA with different sunlight filters that allow varying levels of sunlight to reach the plant. As algae numbers increase with sunlight she can vary the sunlight and measure the number of invertebrates feeding on algae to build a correlation. But is there a minimal shade necessary? We shall have the answers soon.

Collared Peccary skull found

Raquel went seed collecting recently with Barata and Mauricio as we are always on the lookout for seeds to plant in the REGUA nursery.

January is a good month to collect seeds and many species were laying on the forest floor.   High on the Orange trail, Barata suddenly came across a small den and upon closer inspection found the extraordinary remains of a Collared Peccary, Tayassu tajuco.

These are mainly fruit eaters and have been regularly caught on camera traps in large groups foraging for food amongst the vegetation.

It is quite a common species found across the Americas but the sight of the huge skull with its large canines is still most impressive.   Barata had never seen one before and Raquel has a good example to captivate our visitors’ attention.

Nicholas Locke

400,000th tree planted!

REGUA planted its 400,000 tree on November 23rd 2016.   The tree species to get this wonderful accolade is  “Angelim de morcego”,  Andira anthelmia.

Raquel with REGUA’s 400,000th Tree (© Nicholas Locke)

One of Raquel’s favourite trees, the planting was made possible by the World Land Trust UK as part of its “Plant a tree” fund, and with the land donated to REGUA by the Danish Travel Fund this was truly a team success.   This particular piece of land is very important as it faces the High Matumbo community and strengthens the barrier of the forest.

This marks a very important point in history for us all and we can only hope that we can, with your support continue to plant trees and reach a million!

90% of REGUA’s trees come from its plant nursery and the entire process of restoration involves local community members and is admired by local residents.

Thank you again – this just proves what can be done when we work together and there is the will to succeed.

Nicholas Locke