All posts by Sue Healey

Professor Proudfoot’s Work!

Walking the 50km of trails at REGUA is fascinating for birders and naturalists alike. Altitudinal range spans 30 – 2000m and there is a richness of invertebrates and plants to match the diversity of birds that draws the majority of visitors to REGUA.    All classes of arthropod are present in abundance and there are many interesting patterns of distribution waiting to be identified and investigated.

Dobsonfly Corydalidae (©Andrew Proudfoot)

REGUA’s lodge garden has a roofed, whitewashed wall complete with mercury vapour lamp generating many new records of moths for the Reserve and for Rio State.    The wall often reveals a wealth of other interesting invertebrates such as this Dobsonfly (Corydalidae).   Many of these creatures are difficult to see in the forest probably because they are residents of the tree canopy.

In the forest there are chance encounters with exciting species such as the White Witch Moth (Thysania agripina)  Noctuidae with a huge wingspan.

December to Febuary is the Brazilian summer and usually a hot rainy season and time of maximum plant growth.   This is, of course, an excellent time for all insects and amphibians.   Whilst August to November is the Brazilian Spring and busy for birdwatching, it is also good for insects.    Only March to July are a little quieter.

Witch moth Thysania agripina (© Andrew Proudfoot)

There is a profusion of wonderful butterflies.  Some, like the 88, (Diaethria clymena) are very common.   The most famous neotropical butterflies belong to the Genus Heliconia, with their distinctive strap-shaped wings and bright colours.   These insects were shown to have co-evolved with their food plant, the different species of passion-vine (Passiflora). The vines put out new shoots irregularly and the butterflies must live a long time to be able to search out new growth and lay a full complement of eggs.

Another spectacular group of insect are the various species of huge Morpho butterflies which flit through the forest under-storey.

Diptera are interesting and diverse. There are three common sources of food that can provide for a profusion of flies: dung, carrion and some species of freshly emerged fungus. Parasitoid ichneumonids and tachinids search out the larvae of butterflies and moths whose living tissues they will feed on until they finally cause their death.

Ants are predators, roaming leaf and shoot for opportunities or different species will farm leaves with the help of fungus.

Volunteer Researchers (Lee & Peter) in the forest (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Spiders must guard against predatory wasps and some of these are very large indeed.

Beneath the placid exterior of the forest, termites work to undo the conversion of CO2 to sugar; every now and then a crash is heard acr

oss the forest as another giant tree succumbs to their tiny jaws.

There is much work to do to find out how many species of arthropod exist in these rich habitats.   We are only in the earliest of stages investigating how all these myriad species interact in Mata Atlântica.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

Longhorn Beetle identified

In September 2011, I photographed a long-horned beetle, which has been recently identified by Everardo Grossi, a friend of Isabel Miller.

Hypsioma inornata (© Michael Patrikeev)

According to Everardo the species is Hypsioma inornata (Hypselomus inornata).
There is a specimen in the Paris National Museum, labelled simply “Brazil”.

I have little familiarity with Neotropical Cerambycidae. Perhaps there are more recent records in recent entomological literature.

Michael Patrikeev

 

A Volunteer’s Story

Thor Smestad looks back on his time at REGUA.

“Well I am back in Canada now .. after six fantastic weeks at REGUA.

I accomplished what I went there to do – to learn as much as I could about their reforestation program, and also have a great time.    I had the opportunity to collect tree seeds in the forest, help with the process producing seedlings from these in the REGUA nursery, and even plant some trees too. I plan to go back .. for the tree planting season – this was only the beginning for me.    

Thor Smestad Planting Terminalia acuminata (© Nicholas Locke)

The constant stream of researchers that stay there too, looking at everything from bats to frogs and owls .. made things even more interesting.

For anyone interested in tropical reforestation and ecology, I highly recommend spending some time at REGUA. Thank you to all the people at REGUA, you were wonderful – and so was the food and accommodation, I think I even put on a little weight.
Thor”

Thor’s Project – part 3

Thor has returned from the north of Brazil, and revisited REGUA and his cuttings in our nursery on his way home to Canada.

Marianeira cuttings (acnistus arborescens)

Talking to him about the progress of his project made interesting conversation.   He enjoyed the whole experience of being in Brazil, and making new friends at REGUA and found his time with us an excellent opportunity to learn about different techniques of tropical forestation.   From helping in the nursery, planting the seeds in prepared pots to planting the trees, Thor took on board the whole process.

He particularly enjoyed his time walking with Mauricio [head nurseryman] and Barata [forest ranger] in the forest, collecting seeds and trying to identify the myriad of  tree species.

As for his project – to experiment with taking tree cuttings rather than germinating seeds.   Thor has just re-checked his samples.  Although they were probably not take at the ideal time of year there were at least a dozen new plants from the Marianeira (acnistus arborescens) species  and a couple of Tabebuia cassinoides.

Thor plans to return at a different time of year and next time maybe use hormone rooting powder.    As he says

“REGUA and many other projects in the tropics are still having problems germinating some species of tree and if I try at a different time of year we may have more success.  

Thor with one of his successful cuttings. (© Sue Healey)

I also want to go and see other projects here in Brazil.   Before I come back however, I need to tackle identifying some of the tree species and they are overwhelming here.   I would recommend REGUA totally as an experience, with its peace and quiet and such welcoming people, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.”

REGUA looks forward to Thor’s return.

 

Thor’s work continues

Thor Smestad is a Canadian forestry expert of many years experience.   He volunteered at REGUA with a brief to try to improve our plant propagation programme.   See our first news on Thor’s visit here.

Thor with his cuttings in the REGUA Nursery (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Many Mata Atlantica tree seeds germinate easily and only require to be collected from the forest, placed in a soil-filled sleeves, watered and sheltered from direct sun in the nursery. However, germination rates for some can be poor.    For trees from the fig family for example, success may be limited.    Perhaps Brazil nuts are the best illustration of this dilemma: fewer than 5% of planted seeds germinate.

The way ahead is to use cuttings of shoots dipped in rooting hormone and placed in soil.   In this way, rare plants, not found in fruit, and species with seeds of low viability can be restored to the new forest plantings here at REGUA.

Symbiotic micorrhizal fungi are another issue investigated in Thor’s project.   We do not know how central these fungi are to successful forest establishment and vigorous growth. By experimentally including/excluding forest floor debris (which will carry the fungal spores), the impact of micorrhiza may be assessed. Better information improves reafforestation outcomes and so there is understandably a lot of interest in Thor’s work.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

Bird Sightings – three days in February

There are now over 470 species of birds confirmed at REGUA – more than at any other site in the Atlantic Forest and probably a greater number of species than at any site in Brazil outside of the Amazon region.   Here are just a few highlights from recent walks at REGUA.   Whilst this is our Autumn, it just shows what a great all-year-round birding destination our wonderful Reserve is.

Cirilo and Adilei – REGUA’s brilliant Bird Guides (© REGUA)

6th February – a short afternoon walk along the Green Trail
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Pin-tailed Manakin (Ilicura militaris)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Yellow-Olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias assimilis)

7th February – the Forest/Brown  Trail
Blond-Crested Woodpecker – a pair (Celeus flavescent)
Rufous-capped Motmot (Baryphthengus ruficapillus)
Sooretama-slaty Antshrike (Thamnophilus ambiguus)
Chestnut-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus palliatus)
White-flanked Antwren (Myrmitherula axillaris)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Eye Ringed Tody Tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)
Yellow-backed Tanager (Hemithraupis flavicollis)
Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster)

Birding the Yellow Trail with Adilei (© Sue Healey)

8th February – the Green and Black Trails
Grey-hooded Attila (Attila rufus)
Yellow-throated Woodpecker (Piculus flavigula)
Lesser Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus fuscus)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla)
Spot-winged Wood-quail (Odontophorus capueira)
Red-crowned Ant-tanager (Habia rubica)
Black-capped Foliage-gleaner (Philydor atricapillus)
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (Philydor rufum)
Pale Browed Treehunter (Cichlocolaptes leucophrus)
Red-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris)
Black-throated Grosbeak (Saltator fuliginosus)
Blue-bellied Parrot (Triclaria malachitacea)
White-browed Foliage-gleaner (Philydor erythrocercum)

Tapir Awareness Programme

As we progress the Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)  re-introduction programme, it is vital that the local communities are aware of the project and understand the value of Tapirs to the diversity of the forest.

Nicholas and Raquel are working with the Team on this vital issue – considering the possibility of the Tapirs advancing into local fields and feasting on manioc, corn and guava!

Prof. Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo with Young Rangers
Prof. Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo with Young Rangers (© REGUA)

Brazilian Tapirs have been extinct for the last 100 years in the state of Rio de Janeiro.   They can reach 300 kilos and their diet is based on fruits, leaves and shoots, making them very important seed dispersers and soil fertilizers.

It is not only the adults that are involved in this education programme however.    Professor Maron Galliez and Joana Macedo recently organized a session with the  Young Rangers.

After the Team explained what Tapir are and the reason for their re-introduction, there was a lively audience participation session which the Young Rangers thoroughly enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

Tufted (Brown) Capuchin

A troop of 20 Tufted (Brown) Capuchin were seen on our Casa Anibal/ 4 X 4 trail on 7th November.

Tufted (Brown) Capuchin (Cebus apella)
Tufted (Brown) Capuchin (Cebus apella) (© Paul Duffner)

Cirilo (one of our resident bird guides) was walking with Paul Duffner and his family when they happened across these delightful creatures.

Paul’s daughter Clara had volunteered here in March 2012 and was amazed by the changes in the forests and the growth of the trees.

 

 

Young rangers learn about palms

DSCN4559
Sara talks about Palms at REGUA (© REGUA)

Our Young Ranger project covers many aspects of the REGUA project and the biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest. Sara Colmenares, a Colombian lady undertaking her doctorate degree at REGUA, is studying palm diversity along the altitudinal gradient at REGUA and within the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. Sara recently gave an excellent talk to the Young Rangers about palms and we’d like to say thank you to Sara for a most interesting talk.

Tom Locke

Tree Planting update

The weather at REGUA has been very wet this October but laced with hot sunny days.

The Planting Team are getting ready to plant the area that caught fire earlier in the year. This is an area of degraded grass.   It is a good area and the burning actually accelerated the process of clearing the grass as we prepared the land for planting the trees.

Ridged area is the next to be planted
The ridged area is the next to be planted (with last years planting in the foreground) (© Sue Healey)

The trees waiting in the nursery to be planted out, and we have been gathering seeds and making new seedlings for next year’s planting already.

We aim to start planting in November and will be planting around 25,000 trees in this area.
Last years area of 10,000 trees looks great with strong growth, we have continued to maintain the land by clearing the grass from around the young trees and keeping an eye out for fires and pest damage.

The largest areas REGUA planted in 2013/2015 are also looking fantastic with a Bare-throated Bellbird Procnias nudicollis calling around the trees.