Renowned Atlantic Forest bird and butterfly guide, Richard Raby visited REGUA over the Carnival season. His aim was to escape the drums and processions in his home beach town of Maricá which is only about one and a half hours drive from REGUA.
Richard organises tours to Rio de Janeiro and has followed the REGUA project for many years. He was impressed with the species seen on the lowland trails in the restored forests along the trails by the wetlands. He told us that he would normally only see some of these species within mature forested parks.
Walking around the wetlands was the perfect place for him to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity. Whilst with us Richard was able to find and photograph some interesting butterflies, a few of which are pictured here. This just reinforces our belief that our restoration efforts are really working!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The São José trail wanders gently inside secondary forest at least 50 years old, where Bananas used to grow. It has many sunlit spots and small clearings along the main trail, which really favours the presence on nice perching spots of a plethora of both forest and canopy dwellers like butterflies, shield-bugs, robber flies, moths, dragonflies, etc.
Last year I was privileged to accompany a couple of two excellent ‘amateur’ nature photographers – Arnold and Sandra – with a keen interest in butterflies and birds for a walk in that trail. We spent a lovely morning walking the trail butterfly watching and photographing from its beginning on the Brown Trail, all the way to the Rio do Gato and the water filter that belongs to the Kirin brewery and soft drink plant.
The highlight was the metalmark (Riodinidae). This family had its origin in South America, then expanded to the Old World Tropics and recolonised South America, where around 90% of existing species occur today. The metalmark family has seen the most new species records for REGUA since the first survey which finished in 2009… and this time we came back with some amazing records:
Calospila parthaon – a species officially known from the Amazon basin only, so this is a new state record; seen on multiple days in the main trail.
Theope pedias – a new Três Picos Park and REGUA record, and might also be a new state record. We found a small population near the water filter, with plenty of individuals flying lazily around the wet patches.
Mesosemia meeda (very rare, second ever record) and an unidentified female that tentatively belongs to this species, also bluish.
Catocyclotis aemulius (rare and at its southernmost distribution area)
Other more common species seen were: Juditha azan azan,Melanisunxia, Eurybia molochina and Leucochimona icare matatha.
Confined to central and south America, the butterfly genus Temenis is composed of three species, T. pulchra and T. laothoe and T. Huebneri.
T. pulchra is found from central America to the Andes. T. laothoe is known from Mexico to northern Argentina. T. huebneri is more restricted to the northern and south east Atlantic forest.
The red version, T huebneri has been found in Bahia state and specimens are held in the collection of Stephan Attal.
Robert Locke took this photograph of Temenis huebneri at REGUA, a new species for the list of the butterflies at REGUA and also for Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and a keen Lepidopterist .
One of REGUA’s objectives is to encourage a wider interest and knowledge of the incredible biodiversity of the Serra dos Orgaos. REGUA has already published three books covering Hawkmoths (2011), Dragonflies and Damselflies (2015) and Birds (2015).
Now Jorge Bizarro and Alan Martin are working on a 4th book covering the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos. This is a mammoth task and will cover about 500 species, of which we have so far written the text for Papilionidae (28 species), Pieridae (36 species) and are now working on Riodinidae.
Each species text will include a description, notes on similar species, distribution and ecology plus of course photographs where available. An example is shown below.
We are still missing good photographs of many of the species that will be covered in the book, so we would welcome any photographs of butterflies taken at or near REGUA which should be sent to Alan Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org. It may take another year to complete the texts, so there is still plenty of opportunity to take those pictures, and of course every picture will be acknowledged if used.