Belated news of two adult Purple Martins Progne subis seen and photographed with Grey-breasted Martins Progne chalybea by our bird guide Adilei at REGUA on 9 October 2019. Purple Martin breeds in North America and winters across much of South America east of the Andes. Rio state is towards the southern limit of their range. Following a White-throated Seedeater at the wetland on 12 October 2019, also found by Adilei, this long overdue addition to the REGUA bird list brings the total number of bird species recorded here to an incredible 485! This total excludes species seen on excursions. Which bird species next for REGUA?
Almost exactly twenty years ago, renowned UK birders Guy Kirwan, Rodd McCann, Rob Williams and Canadian bird artist David Beadle visited REGUA, returning a year later in the company of the late Argentine birder Juan Mazar Barnett. Staying at the modest REGUA research accomodation, they had come to find the Rio de Janeiro Antwren Myrmutherula fluminense, following the sighting by Stephen Knapp which had electrified the birding world and put REGUA on the international map. The birders all saw the bird in a secondary forest at 100m elevation and I even asked David if he could draw us a picture of this extraordinary bird.
The Rio de Janeiro Antwren is a monotypic species that lies in Professor Luis Gonzaga’s collection at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). During Professor Gonzaga’s doctorate field work in 1982 he found and collected a common antwren in one of his mist nets in the lowland forest near Magé, some 30 miles away from REGUA as the crow flies. Upon further study he realized that it was not the White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris and named it Myrmutherula fluminense.
Over the years, birders came to REGUA to try to see not only this bird, but also other species of Atlantic Forest birds, and the REGUA organization grew to become the respected conservation project it is today. Birders and naturalists from around the globe visit REGUA and stay at our lodge. The results of our habitat protection, partly funded by visitation to REGUA, have been inspirational, but the Rio de Janeiro Antwren was never seen again, suggesting that it may well have been the White-flanked Antwren or even a possible hybrid.
Brazilian ornithologist Fabio Olmos visited and mist-netted in exactly the same area six years later and caught an immature White-flanked Antwren offering doubts as to the real identity of that mysterious bird that David and friends saw.
Professor Gonzaga kept the bird for over 15 years until it was given the ultimate test, the DNA test, and what did he find? The results showed that the bird was completely different from the Myrmutherula genus. Now he has a single bird of a new unnamed genus, probably the rarest bird in Brazil!
On the search now are Brazilian ornithologists Luciano Lima and Rafael Bessa, Rafael famous for rediscovering the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove Columbina cyanopis, missing for over 75 years. They are involved in a field project sponsored by American Birding Conservancy to search the lowland forests for the mysterious bird. Could others lurk out there in similar secondary forest? Luciano and Rafael have completed their fieldwork and have some ideas, but we are left with doubts. However, it was chance to tell them the story of the bird that put REGUA on the map, that brought generous donors to help establish this lowland reserve and all its programmes in conservation of the Atlantic Forest. There are still many small patches of forest out there so perhaps we have not heard the last of this enigmatic bird!
On 26th January, our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha was looking for cotingas near the gate to Fazenda São Bernardo at Pico da Caledônia with lodge guest Christian Hollville and UK volunteer Sue Loose, when he came across a stunning adult male Blackburnian Warbler. A new bird for Adilei, this is only the second record of this species for Rio de Janeiro state, after one was seen and photographed on 30 December 2016.
The Blackburnian Warbler is a long distance migrant, breeding mainly in the coniferous forests of north-eastern North America, and wintering in the north of South Amercia, primarily in the montane forests in Columbia, Venezuela, as well as in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. There have been very few sightings of Blackburnian Warbler in Brazil, with this being perhaps only the sixth national record!
Raquel Locke informed members of the Rio Bird Club of the sighting via the WhatsApp group, and some of whom then successfully twitched it on the 28th, when Guilherme Serpa and João Sergio managed to take some great photos.
Although the population is currently thought to be stable, the Blackburnian Warbler is under threat, from climate change that is predicted to push it’s breeding range northwards, to loss of their preferred forest habitat on their wintering grounds.
Unbeknown to us at the time, we have since discovered that this bird was first seen here three weeks before, and amazingly today a female (RJ state’s 3rd!) was also discovered at the same place on the 30th! Both birds are proving a popular attraction for local birdwatchers, and so there is a good chance they may stick around for a while yet before heading back north.
Many thanks to Guilherme Serpa and João Sergio for allowing us to use their excellent photos.
Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA
Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news.
The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research.
Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters.
REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting. Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here. Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.
REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital.
Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.
Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow.
The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.
Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.
Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat.
Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.
The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation.
Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in. Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”.
Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe.
Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!
This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are
influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu
watershed and encouraging others to follow us.
We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.
Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!
Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team
Although we continue to find new birds on the reserve, it isn’t actually that easy, so the King Vulture espied by Biologist Calel Passarelles in a new area of tree planting near our Onofre Cunha forest was especially thrilling.
Raquel Locke (REGUA’s Vice-President) remembers seeing several in the same area over twenty years ago. Two months ago, Marco Wood-Bonelli photographed one soaring over the new area of trees planted. Marco is finalizing his Masters Degree at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Institute on the use of individual trees and artificial bamboo perches by birds.
He has already had identified 70 species that regularly use trees in open areas between forest fragments and he was keen to evaluate the use of these ‘island trees’ as stepping stones between forested fragments. His field visits terminated with the wonderful sight of the King Vulture perched on a Cecropia tree.
We hope this is an indication of more sightings to come.
On 27th October each year, Rio de Janeiro Bird Club gathered at REGUA for the annual event at REGUA. The previous day many birders visited the Três Picos Park and then arrived to stay overnight at REGUA and explore the Reserve on the following day.
The event was a real success with 76 birders participating and 242 bird species seen. REGUA took birders on the green trail to see the Shrike-like Cotinga and to Waldenoor to see the Long-tailed Potoo, both enigmatic birds that can be tough to see anywhere else.
The event raises awareness and offers an opportunity for REGUA to show its conservation efforts and biodiversity protection.
We already look forward to welcoming the club at next years event!
August and September mark the transition from winter to early spring at REGUA and it can be an interesting time for birding. In August many species are already paired up, forming territories and starting to call and even nest-building, while others are still moving around in mixed-species winter flocks. Here are the sightings highlights for August and September.
The undoubted highlights were the 3 new species found that were new for REGUA. The first of these was a superb male Southern Pochard at the wetland, found by visiting photographer Tom Friedel on 22 August. This bird stayed for 5 days and spent most of its time feeding with Brazilian Teal and White-faced Whistling-Ducks.
Other sightings at the wetland include the 3rd record of Magnificent Frigatebird for REGUA (an adult female over on 18 September), the long-staying Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Black-legged Dacnis, 2 Black-necked Aracari (1 September), Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron, 3 Rufous-thighed Kite, Crane Hawk, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Reddish Hermit, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Rusty-margined Guan, Rufous-capped Motmot, Limpkin, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Blackish Rail, Amazon Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Hooded Tanager, Common Waxbill and a noisy colony of nest-building Red-rumped Caciques.
Lodge garden: The feeders in the lodge garden were extremely quiet in August, especially for hummingbirds. However, things did start to improve in September. Notable sightings at the lodge including Lineated Woodpecker (31 August), Blond-crested Woodpecker (up to 3 regularly visiting the fruit feeder), Toco Toucan, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Hooded Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Scaly-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Curl-crested Jay, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3 moving through on 18 September – unusual in the lodge garden) and the usual Rusty-margined Guans visiting the bananas. Black Jaonbins reappeared in September, with numbers increasing as the month progessed.
Brown Trail and São José Tower: Shrike-like Cotinga has been elusive this year but birds have occasionally been seen around the São José Tower. A pair of (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbirds showed well along the trail to the tower and sightings on the Brown Trail include White-necked Hawk, Common Pauraque (2 birds sitting on eggs), Reddish Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Grey-hooded Attila, Sooretame Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-bellied (Turquoise) Tanager and Brazilian Tanager. The 2 Tropical Screech-Owls were seen most days roosting around post 0 by the conservation centre.
Green Trail: An adult King Vulture photographed on 12 September was the third new bird for REGUA during this period (bringing the REGUA bird list up to 483, not including species found on excursions)! Also noted were Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Sharpbill, White-necked Hawk, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Southern Antpipit (6 on 27 August is a notable count), Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Grey-hooded Attila, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, White-throated Woodcreeper, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Red-necked Tanager and Rufous-headed Tanager.
Waldenoor Trail: A Long-tailed Potoo showed well for a few days in August at a roost site and other birds noted include Swallow-tailed Cotinga, White-tailed Trogon, Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-eyed Parakeet, Variegated Antpitta, (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Olive-green Tanager.
Farmland safari: Our new excursion to the farmland bordering the reserve have proven extremely popular with guests, providing a change of pace from forest birding. A Long-tailed Reedfinch found by our guide Adilei on 1 September was the first record for REGUA. Other species recorded include Scaled Pigeon (heard on 1 September followed the next day by the first sight record for REGUA on 2 September), Campo Troupial, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, White-rumped Monjita, Short-tailed Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Ash-throated Crake, White-rumped Swallow, South American Snipe, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Toco Toucan, Whistling Heron, Lineated Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, American Kestrel, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Rufous Hornero, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Yellow Tyrannulet, Cattle Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (first returning bird of the spring seen on 31 August), Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Long-billed Wren, Masked Yellowthroat, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Grassland Sparrow, Chopi Blackbird, Red-cowled Cardinal and White-browed Meadowlark. We will be posting an itinerary for this excellent excursion on our website shortly.
On our night-birding excursion several Giant Snipe were seen along with Black-banded Owl, Common Potoo, American Barn Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl and Spot-tailed Nightjar.
Highlights from our excursions off-reserve include:
Macaé de Cima: Saffron Toucanet, Lineated Woodpecker, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Bertoni’s Antbird, Dusky-taiked Antbird, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Rufous-capped and Pallid Spinetails, Grey-capped and White-crested Tyrannulets, Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, White-browed Warbler, Sharpbill, Black-and-gold Cotinga and Fawn-breasted Tanager.
Pico da Caledônia: Grey-winged Cotinga, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Versicolored Emerald, Hooded Siskin, Highland Elaenia, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch, Short-tailed Hawk,
Sumidouro: Three-toed Jacamar and Blue-winged Macaw.
Cabo Frio: Restinga Antwren, American Oystercatcher, White-backed Stilt, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Semi-palmated Plover, Collared Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Masked Yellowthroat and Sooretama Slaty Antshrike.
You will all remember that our Great Horned Owls Bubo virginianus were first spotted near to REGUA in August last year by Fito Downs and Adilei, REGUA’s Bird Guide. Many visitors were delighted to see this enigmatic species and Adilei caught some images of their coupling at the time.
Adilei and I visited the same tree in late December to take a photograph of the resulting juvenile bird. As you can see the juvenile has grown considerably and as it starts its first moult, the downy first feathers are being replaced by the first adult plumage.
Naturally we are delighted with the progress and hope that the juvenile decides to stay nearby like our Tropical Screech-Owls, we certainly have plenty of old suitable trees in the area.
We are delighted to announce that the Russo’s birdfeeder is back working.
Many locals and visitors alike, enjoy stopping at Russo’s makeshift stall on the road to Nova Friburgo. However, following a fire it had been closed for some time.
Russo has now, happily, picked up the courage to rebuild and regain his reputation of one the best places to photograph tanagers close up. The road works that improved access has helped and today the Russo store, though mainly equipped with bananas, snacks and sweets, offers excellent photo opportunities for Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia , Green Honeycreeper, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and even the occasional Spot-billed Toucanet.
We always like to stop on our excursions, so be prepared with plenty of memory cards!
In October 2017 our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha heard a Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus at the village of Matumbo, situated at the edge of REGUA. With a large range covering much of North, Central and South America, Great Horned Owl had long been predicted as a future addition to the REGUA bird list, but this was the first record for the reserve.
Tantalizingly, there was no further sign until just a few days ago on the 18 August 2018 when Adilei finally saw a bird – the first sight record for REGUA. When he returned the next morning with his camera he found not one bird but a pair! Then while watching and photographing them he was amazed when they mated right in front of him!
What an incredible record and yet another owl species for REGUA. The addition of Great Horned Owl takes the REGUA bird list to an incredible 479 species! Well done Adilei for finding and documenting such a great record.