Walking by the wetlands at REGUA along the Yellow or Brown trail, a small bird can surprise many with its fierce song of bravado.
One has to peer through the tangles of brush to catch a glimpse of the melodious Long-billed Wren (Cantorchilus longirostris), one of the Atlantic Rainforest endemic species. Though the call is well known, its intensity is surprising but it is merely reminding us that we are entering his territory.
The Yellow and Brown trails at REGUA pass through the middle of replanted lowland forest, and the presence of this species indicates the forest has provided a new home for many avian species.
This is what we want, a new habitat we created that now provides many new homes for its true inhabitants.
REGUA was delighted to receive Pedro Develey, the CEO of Birdlife International Brazil partner “SAVE” (Sociedade das Aves do Brasil) at REGUA. His visit was partly to discuss the future reintroduction of the Black-fronted Piping-guans (Pipile jacutinga).
Pedro’s stay at REGUA was also an opportunity to show off our current tree planting area and the success of the wetland restoration. Pedro had a great time and returned to São Paulo with a decent bird list and was especially pleased to see the variety of avian species in REGUA’s two year old forest.
He left us happy and content with the news that the reintroduction project is still ongoing. It’s crucial that a project of this importance develops slowly and steadily and all the pieces are being placed firmly in position. Thanks Pedro!!
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.
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.
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.
On 24 July, Raquel and New Zealand volunteer Marc Vanwoerkom were helping me to map a property that has been offered to REGUA adjacent to the João Paulo Farm. Clambering up steep hillsides is never fun, but the work has to be done to accurately map properties with GPS and avoid issues on property size and location.
The day ended well and we were walking home when to our surprise we found a chattering bunch of Yellow-rumped Marshbirds Pseudoleistes guirahuro perched on a shrub in the pastures. This is rare bird in Rio de Janeiro state and Marc got some great photos and I managed a register shot.
Yellow-rumped Marshbird is a species of marshland and grassland, with a distribution covering much of southern Brazil but also east Paraguay, northern Uruguay north-east Argentina. They are not usually found in Rio de Janeiro state and this is the first time we have seen this bird so close to REGUA land. Perhaps it is spreading eastwards? Nevertheless, it is a stunning bird and I am hopeful we can get some better images soon.
Black-legged Dacnis (Dacnis nigripes) is considered a threatened species on the IUCN red list, but it can still be found in gregarious groups on the Reserve feeding on Trema micrantha fruit.
Just a few years ago REGUA started planting forests on the lowland and the presence of this species signalled that our planting was successful.
Black-legged Dacnis is sparsely recorded along coastal Brazil and found generally in primary and good secondary forest feeding in mixed flocks.
The male might be easily confused with Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana) which has pink legs, but the female is very different, and therefore easy to tell apart.
Adilei has even found both varieties feeding together in high altitude forests. As breeding takes place between October and February, their presence in May on the lowlands suggests they are content to stay, so we shall be looking after them and checking their behaviour.
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.
The Red-ruffed Fruitcrow Pyroderus scutatus is high on visitors wish-lists, but it is scarce and a very hard bird to see well. However this splendid bird appeared in the lodge garden on the 2nd July and was seen by two lucky people sitting quietly on the veranda. It stayed in the garden for a few minutes allowing a series of photos to be taken before flying off when someone came up the drive.
Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, one of REGUA’s resident bird guides, spends his working life showing birds to visitors to the reserve. It is therefore not common for him to find a new species for his personal bird list. Imagine his delight therefore, when on 22nd June he found a Pale-breasted SpinetailSynallaxis albescens.
Although widespread throughout South America, this species is not normally found in the Atlantic Forest, as it is more associated with central Brazil and the Cerrado habitat. Maybe this individual knows about global weather change for he can be seen on the edge of our reserve in open grasslands.
This is the second record of this species for REGUA.
Shrike-like Cotinga (Laniisoma elegans) is classified as ‘near threatened’ with a ‘decreasing population’ on the IUCN red list. However, we are delighted that this enigmatic species can still be found in low numbers on the REGUA reserve.
We only found the species in the lowland a few years ago, and today many birders visit REGUA to view and photograph the species.
It is seen in high altitude forest towards the end of the year (our spring and summer) where it probably breeds, and at low elevation in the middle of the year (our autumn and winter). Juvenile birds have been identified feeding with parents on REGUA’s lowland forest, on various fruits. This altitudinal movement has highlighted to us the importance of the continuous forested mountain gradient and confirms the value of extending the forest from the top of the mountain ridge to the valley floor.
Shrike-like Cotinga is sparsely recorded along coastal Brazil and is very similar to its cousin, the Andean Laniisoma (Laniisoma buckleyi). This latter species is found in several Andean countries also in primary and good secondary forest but populations are also said to be low. The species were lumped and only recently split after much study.
REGUA is one of the best places to see this shy bird with its wonderful penetrating long call, and our Bird Guides are expert in finding them as they move around the reserve.