All posts by Sue Healey

REGUA’s 13th British Bird Fair

For the 13th year REGUA will have a stand at the British Bird Fair at Egleton Nature Reserve, Rutland Water, Leicestershire. Why not come along and catch up with all the latest news from the Reserve.

We will be in different Marquee this year – Number 8, Stand 12 – so make sure you don’t miss us!

REGUA at the 2018 British Birdwatching Fair (© REGUA)

For more information follow this link: https://birdfair.org.uk

Tiger Ratsnake

This diurnal snake, was seen by a group of visitors on our Green Trail, whilst walking in the forest with Adilei.

Although not venomous, they can still give a nasty bite if threatened.   Adelie knows how to deal with this sort of situation as he has spent all his life in these forests. One of the group got this amazing footage, standing at a safe distance.

Tiger Ratsnake, Spilotes pullatus (© REGUA)

These snakes lay eggs and are active on the ground and in trees.   Their prey are mammals and birds, including eggs and nestlings.   

Their defence strategy is to puff up their forebody and shake their tail.   This individual seemed quite relaxed and only shook the tail as it left the group by slithering under a nearby fallen tree.

Giant Owl-Butterfly

Michael Patrikeev, recently sent us this photograph, taken at REGUA.

Jorge Bizzaro, REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and very knowledgeable lepidopterist explains its taxonomy:

Idomeneus Giant Owl-Butterfly (Caligo idomeneus) in Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“This individual from REGUA is a rarity… because it only flies during sunrise when most lepidopterists are … sleeping! Caligo idomeneus… the main characteristic is the very straight and defined median white band of the forewing present on both sides.”
For more information from Michael’s website see here :http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Lepidoptera/Butterflies/Nymphalidae/Morphinae/Caligo%20idomeneus.html

Giant Grasshoppers found at REGUA

Michael Patrikeev, a long standing friend and supporter of REGUA is always coming up with amazing information on his sightings while at the Reserve.   The latest concerns two species of large grasshopper found at REGUA.   Here’s Michael’s report and excellent photographs. 

“I have identified two species of Tropidacris from REGUA

Nymph of Giant Red-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tropidacris cristata (Giant Red-winged Grasshopper) is the largest known grasshopper, reaching up to 14 cm in length, and 24 cm wingspan. The adults are olive or brownish-green, with orange hindwings. The nymphs are striped with black and yellow, and likely toxic. This species inhabits forested areas of Central and South America from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and the island of Trinidad.   In flight it resembles a small bird.   

Tropidacris collaris (Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper) is found in tropical forests and grasslands of South America east of the Andes, from Colombia to Argentina.   Along with T. cristata, this is one of the largest known grasshoppers (length around 10 cm, wingspan 18 cm). The adult is mostly green, yellow-green or brown, with blue hindwings. This species is more common than T. cristata.

Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris collaris) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have photographed only nymphs of these species in REGUA, but would expect one of these to come to a light at the Reserve sooner or later – they are quite a sight!”

Both species are widely distributed in the Neotropics, and common.   T. collaris occurs in both forests and savanna, and T. cristata is mostly a forest species.”

More details and photos can be seen on Michael’s website here:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

What a difference a year makes!

It’s amazing how things can change in a year.   It’s just over a year since I was last at REGUA, and so much has happened.

Most noticeable to the lodge visitor is the tapir release project where  five Lowland or Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus Terrestris) have been released at the nearby wetlands, they often make the short trip up to the lodge garden.   It is surreal to see guests at night photographing moths at the moth wall, with a rather large mammal wandering past on its evening patrol, both seemingly unaware of the other.

Tapir in our restored wetland area (© Sue Healey)

The Tapir have managed to get food off the garden feeding stations so a suspended higher-level table has now been made.   The Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) were a little perplexed initially but soon mastered the art of a trapeze-style dash across the wires.   Some continue the more traditional approach – head first down a nearby tree.

The lodge orchid garden continues to develop, and with ferns and bromeliads amongst the rocks it makes a breeding area for house wren and feeding area for hummingbirds, the lantana and milkweed are doing well, again both favourites with the hummingbirds.

Other changes may not directly affect our lodge guests but they are making a huge difference to local visitors, including school visits, with a new car park by the conservation centre – hopefully no more buses getting stuck in the mud!   A new accessible trail has been created to Amanda’s hide, bringing opportunities where previously it would have been impossible for some people to enjoy the delights of the wetlands.

On the project itself, we reached the milestone figure of 500,000 trees planted and continue to plant – over 69,000 trees were planted in the 2017/18 planting season alone, thanks to the generous donations from many of our supporters.

Wouldn’t one million trees planted be a great figure to reach in the future!

With more key land areas coming under REGUA’s care, increased wildlife corridors are being protected and created in the Guapiaçu catchment area.   This will extend the range for many species of wildlife and enable them to strengthen in population, increase genetic diversity and increase the overall biodiversity of the valley.

Restored and reforested wetland area (© Sue Healey)

Our Rangers continue to patrol the forest, adding security and monitoring the wildlife, whilst there has been a huge reduction in hunting in the area since the project began, we cannot stop our vigilance even though there is very little evidence of hunting seen or heard now.

If you would like to support REGUA’s work, full details on how to make a donation are available from our “donate” page here.

If you would like to volunteer, please see our link here for full details.

Bromeliad research

Camille in the field (© Nicholas Locke)

Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme climatic events such as severe droughts.  Little is known on how freshwater ecosystems respond to severe droughts in the neotropics.   Terrestrial organic matter, primarily derived from plant litter, represents an important food resource in these nutrient limited freshwater ecosystems.

The PhD project currently being undertaken by Camille Bonhomme from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) wants to investigate the effects of quantity of terrestrial matter subsidies on the response of the recipient aquatic communities to drought stress.

Camille will use tank bromeliads along with their associated aquatic invertebrates as model ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are neotropical plants. Their interlocking leaves form rosettes that collect rainwater and dead leaves from the overhanging trees, creating an aquatic habitat for various species of invertebrates.  

Bromeliad communities (© Nicholas Locke)

In the field experiment, bromeliads will receive either few or high quantities of leaf litter inputs. After a natural colonisation and equilibration period, the diversity and composition of the aquatic invertebrate community that colonised the bromeliads will be assessed and compared to the quantity of subsidised resources.   The bromeliad micro-ecosystems will then be submitted to a drying and rewetting event, to assess their resistance and resilience.

Camille hopes to show firstly that the variations in leaf litter provision will determine the composition and quality of the colonisation (including number of species, food chain length and overall community composition).

Secondly, that the leaf litter quantity will affect the stability of the community submitted to drought, expecting the higher provision of leaf litter to give greater support, by offering a “buffering” effect to the community. It is hoped to show that leaf litter will provide short term refuges for invertebrates and be more attractive for recolonisation after the drought.

We look forward to seeing the result of Camille’s research.

IUCN Head of Research visits REGUA

Last weekend REGUA received Thomas Brooks, Head of Research at Geneva for IUCN.

In between seeing birds in the day and waiting for the owls to call in the evening, we discussed the importance of monitoring, something talked about at the recent World Land Trust conference in Thetford UK.

Thomas Brook with Nicholas & Raquel (© Norman Cooper)

He also asked us about long term sustainability.    I told Tom that we believe REGUA will continue to grow and reach to tourism, education and research income streams and that we look at the protection core costs such as Ranger work being covered by Eco-service payments.

As there is increasing evidence that forests produce water, we believe that grants will be available in the near future that provide annual fee given to those proprietors who have forest cover.

 

Any Myrmecologists out there?

Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature,  pillars of the ecosystem.   Divided into Tribes, the Atta and Acromyrmex  are very common in our Neotropical forests and though we worry about their action in freshly planted forests, they are very important in the established forest harvesting and cultivating their fungus on which they feed in their underground homes.

Ants feeding on young plant shoot (© Nicholas Locke)

Their vast system of perfectly ventilated tunnels and chambers permits precious nitrogen to reach the roots of trees.

We are trying to identify the most common species at REGUA but we expect to have between 400 and 450 different species.   Taking photographs is notoriously difficult, for aside being small, they move and are often camera shy.

If you want a challenge and wish to visit us spending your time helping us to get some images to help with developing a field guide, drop us a line and we would really love your company.

 

Orchid and bromeliad garden

The orchid and bromeliad garden under construction at the lodge (© Sue Healey)

One of the newest projects at REGUA is the creation of an orchid and bromeliad garden at the lodge. This is a small area to the side of the lodge veranda and was the brainchild of Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s President.

Huge rocks were delivered earlier this year and moved into place. There are also some well weathered orchid posts which have proved very effective in the front garden of the lodge so we are hopeful that they will soon house flourishing exotics. Bromeliads are already in place – all found on fallen branches around the reserve.

Over time more plants will be added, including ferns, and will provide an excellent opportunity for lodge guests to easily see plants that are only too often found high in the canopy.

The garden is sited along the north wall of the lodge ensuring that the plants are in a shady environment. Netting has been added to give further protection. House Wren and Masked Water-Tyrant are already using the area to search for food and a Yellow-headed Caracara has found a good look-out post!