Masters student Hidde de Graff enrolled at University of Amsterdam has come to stay for three months at REGUA studying amphibians. Professor Wouter Halfwerk organised Hidde’s stay here with Brazilian Dr. Mauricio Almeida and he has been conscientiously at work in the field.
Hidde is been analysing sound tracks from deliberately located microphones recording night sounds in forest fragments as a way to detect and identify the amphibian species present. Every quarter of an hour those frogs calling will be recorded and later as he studies the sonograms, he will be able to identify the species present.
Dr Mauricio carried out a similar survey a few years ago and Hidde will be able to compare the results and see if there has been any species change and evaluate how accurate his findings are in terms of species identification.
The Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA is well protected and expanding, and one of the prime habitat quality indicator species are amphibians. Are the populations stable or declining?
Researchers are always interested as their population numbers reflect air quality and air humidity levels, which in turn are affected by forest cover. There are over seventy amphibian species at REGUA and with programmes in forest protection and expansion, all species appear to be in good shape.
One genus that attracts attention is the Atlantic rainforest endemic Horned frog which we found on the green trail recently. Both Proceratophrys appendiculata (also known as Guenther’s Horned Frog) and Proceratophrys boiei were seen. They live in the leaf litter in forests up to an altitude of around 1200m, and spawn in forest streams.
Both species are relatively common at REGUA and all visitors like to pick them up and get a closer look at them. They sit immobile and looking rather glum, patiently waiting to be returned to the ground when they hop off into the leaf litter and are quickly almost impossible to refind.
The Blue-winged Macaw (Primolius maracana) is one of those very special Psittacidae that occur between coastal Brazil spanning west to Bolivia and Argentina. They are found in an area in the North East of Brazil, but they generally seem to occupy the extent of the Atlantic Rainforest.
No longer so common, we remember seeing them nesting in thick bamboo clumps but that was a while ago and before our wetlands were developed. Perhaps they are not fond of water bodies as they are now observed only on the rain shadow side of the Serra do Mar mountain range.
We like to show these friendly yet shy birds to visitors on the Sumidouro trail in search of other endemics such as the Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren. These are all drier region species and one can see these wonderful Macaws on tall Imperial Palms typically chatting together in what appears profound chitchat!
One of the two most common species of hawkmoth found at REGUA is Xylophanes porcus continentalis which is found from Central America to southern Brazil. At least that is what we thought until a new paper was recently published in the European Entomologist by Jean Haxaire and Carlos Mielke. Their paper describes two new species that occur in south and south-east Brazil, and suggests that the entire X. porcus family needs further investigation.
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.
Kaitlin and Bobby are currently volunteering at REGUA. Their main project is to help Adilei and Cirilo show the wonderful bird- and wild-life to visitors, but they still find time to do some exploring . . .
“Today Bobby and I were asked to survey a potential trail that winds through an area reforested in 2011-12 with the help of Petrobras. We were amazed to see such a dramatic amount of growth for such a short amount of time, as well as the diversity of tree species used to jumpstart this section of forest which was once open pasture. Most of the trees were well above our heads!
It was a hot and sunny day, which can effect bird activity, but we still managed to count over 40 bird species using the area already! It will be exciting to see how species composition changes as the forest progresses.
Even though the Curculionidae family is one of the largest with almost 23,500 described species, split in 2,200 genera, making it the largest weevil sub-family known.
These enigmatic creatures, are surprisingly hard to find on the forest floor as they rummage for food, feeding mainly on plants. The larvae and imago of this family are known to particularly like feeding on flowers, acorns and other nuts.
Weevils are given away by their distinct features such as shape, colour and their “geniculate antennae”, which contain their neuronal taste cells.
I could not find a name for this particular individual so took photos and left it to its meal.
Work on the next REGUA field guide, Observation Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, is progressing at good pace, and with it lots of new knowledge about the local butterfly fauna, together with some novelties, new records from guests, volunteers and visitor’s photographs have been consistently pouring in.
One notable rarity was found by Duncan McGeough, a volunteer from Germany in October 2013, just 30 metres from the REGUA office. Ortilia polinella (A. Hall, 1928), a crescent butterfly, is a cousin of the Glanville FritillaryMelitaea cinxia from Europe. Known from less than a half-dozen localities in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, and also very seldom found in collections (only three females and six males in the Natural History Museum, London) this was a superb find!
Adults are mainly forest species that dwell in sunlit areas like trails, clearings, forest edges, etc. It’s biology is unknown, but other species in the genus use Justiciaspp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae). The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing.
Duncan has also helped with the creation of the REGUA moth leaflet that guests can pick up at the lodge, featuring 60 common moths easily spotted in the moth wall.
Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:
Since 2001 there have been 74 species of hawkmoth (Sphingidae) found at REGUA, from the 110 or so that have been recorded in the Serra dos Órgãos mountains. Arguably one of the nicest is Oryba kadeni which has a distinctive shape and colouring.
Widespread throughout Central and South America, this is this was my first sighting, though it has been recorded at REGUA twice before, once by Nicholas at his house and once by his father Robert Locke. To be more precise, Robert found the unmistakable wings of this moth by his front door, the remains of a meal for a large bat.
Whilst walking the Yellow Trail which meanders around the wetlands, Adilei took this splendid image of a female Sungrebe (Heliornis fuluca). Since the appearance of REGUA’s third Sungrebe in June 2016, at least three and perhaps four birds have been regularly sighted at REGUA.
Almost a year passed with a pair regularly seen on the wetlands, until recently when they became very elusive. It could be that they are hiding in the dense undergrowth around the wetland, breeding or nurturing their young.
According to literature this species has a unique feature – a small pocket under their wings in which they are able to carry their young, even in flight. Though a species of least concern (IUCN Red data list), many birders from Rio de Janeiro have visited the wetland keen to photograph them. Very little is known of their habits so we have our fingers crossed that they will be back in the near future.