Category Archives: Citizen science

A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil now available

Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil
Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil

Tropical America is one of the regions on Earth with the greatest animal and botanical biodiversity. Brazil, due to its continental dimensions, is included in the roll of the top five countries with the greatest biological wealth, which includes a rich fauna of butterflies with two different aspects: the fauna of the Amazon and that of the Atlantic Forest.

With the advent of digital cameras, many citizens began to spend their leisure hours on nature walks and adventures, using these cameras to record the beauties they are observing, obviously butterflies are one of the preferred targets of these ecotourists within the group of insects. But there are so many species, that for those who are not specialists in this group (Lepidoptera), it is difficult to identify the majority of them. Unfortunately and unlike birds, the butterfly guides published in Brazil are counted on less than a handful, precisely because the number of species exceeds 4000, with around 1000 in the Atlantic Forest biome alone!

Thus, it is with great satisfaction and joy that we finally managed to publish this guide for the Serra dos Órgãos, the central mountain range of the State of Rio de Janeiro, after 4 years of exhaustive research, writing and searching for natural photos of the species included (just over 800), which encompasses almost all of those registered for the area. The book was made possible with the collaboration of more than a dozen people (amateurs and professionals, such as the late Luiz Claudio Marigo) who made their photos, data and records of butterflies in south-east Brazil available. This area encompasses 90% of the Brazilian butterfly species listed as threatened or vulnerable under the IUCN criteria, with 20% of them occurring in the Serra dos Órgãos.

Unfortunately, in order to make a minimum of 500 copies, we had to choose the English language to cover a potential larger audience that could find some use in the book. Even though a bilingual edition was originally considered, it was later found that printing costs, sales price, etc. would be excessively high, and our aim has always been to provide an extremely accessible identification tool for the general public.

Orders worldwide can be made from NHBS. Orders within the the UK may also be placed direct with co-author Alan Martin (please send a cheque payable to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan Martin, Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6JJ, England).

New REGUA book off to print: Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Cover of A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, due to be publoshed soon.
Cover to REGUA’s forth book A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Back in 2015 Alan Martin and Jorge Bizarro started work on a guide to butterflies to accompany the three REGUA books already published that are specific to the REGUA area (hawkmoths, dragonflies and birds). What started as a three year project has taken five years, partly because the number of species recorded in the area is more than had been anticipated but also because it proved very difficult to source photos of some of the rarer species.

The book is now about to be printed and it covers 803 species (excluding grass skippers) with descriptions, comparisons to similar species, global distribution and notes on the ecology, behaviour and host plants. All but three of the species are illustrated with over 1,300 photos of live specimens or where not available, photos of pinned specimens. There are also introductory texts for each family, subfamily and tribe.

The book will be distributed by NHBS, but in the UK is best ordered from Alan Martin at a reduced price of £30 plus £5 postage (please see our Publications page for details). All the profits from the sale of the book will go to REGUA.

Dragonfly tour late January – February 2020 turns up fabulous result

First photo of a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing <em>Heteragrion sp. </em> along the Green Trail (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. along the Green Trail (© Tom Kompier)

Paul Hopkins and Magnus Billqvist stayed at the REGUA lodge from Jan 23 until Feb 13. During almost the first half of their trip they were joined by Agnes Ludwig and Tom Kompier. The weather was somewhat wet and cold, but nevertheless the tour turned up 152 species out of the 208 that have now been recorded from the Guapiacu catchment. The discovery of a new damsel for the REGUA list, Aceratobasis macilenta, was very exciting, but there were several other remarkable records or developments.

The swamp at the bottom of the hill on which the lodge is situated, near the office buildings, was wet throughout the stay. It is still the only confirmed site for Brown-striped Spreadwing Lestes tricolor in the area, but holds easily 25 species within its 30×15  m area. Amongst these are sought after species like the Flame-tip Telagrion longum and Brazilian Blue-eye Anatya januaria, both often found emerging there, but it now also holds a good population of Caribbean Duskhawker Triacanthagyna caribbea and the rarely encountered Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia. This little area is constantly evolving and never ceases to amaze.

The wetland itself is also evolving, with some of the pioneer species that were very common in previous years losing ground to species that likely require less disturbed habitat. This means that the Erythemis species, although still present, are much scarcer. Several years back Pin-tailed Pondhawk E. plebeja would pick off the flies accompanying Ode lovers at virtually every step, but now you have to search for it. Rainpool Spreadwing Lestes forficula, previously abundant and one of the commonest species, was almost completely gone. On the other hand, Guiana Spiderlegs Planiplax phoenicura is now really common and has been joined by the rarer Scarlet Spiderlegs Planiplax arachne, and previously common Bow-tailed Dasher Micrathyria catenata has been largely replaced by Square-spotted Dasher M. ocellata.

Silver-clouded Dragonlet &lt;em&gt;Erythrodiplax laurentia&lt;/em&gt; female at the Large Pond at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)
Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia female at the Large Pond at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)
The rare and enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)

At the nearby forest fragment of Onofre Cunha, the recently described Regua Pincertip Forcepsioneura regua was still regular, and exciting as always.

The Green Trail up to the Waterfall was excellent as usual. It turned out to be a particularly good year for the Long-tailed Bromeliad Guard Leptagrion perlongum with dozens seen at the beginning of the trail. Further up a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. was a first, and even more exciting was that is was seen to subsequently oviposit in a shallow forest stream, verifying its suspected habitat.

The fishponds at Vecchi remain excellent, although the Large Pond seems to suffer from disturbance. This possibly explains the apparent complete absence of Slender Redskimmer Rhodopygia hollandi, which used to be a common species here. During our visits we observed a very late Green Forceptail Phyllocycla pallida, which previously had not been recorded after early December. A female Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia here was another surprise. The small ponds again turned up such excellent species as the enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena.

One of the most exciting observations was done at the Tres Picos area, where several Chagas’s Emeralds Neocordulia carlochagasi was observed patrolling. This area appears to be a good location for this rare species, with observations in several years now. Another specialty of this area is White-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata, which has now been found consistently for several years at the start of the trail up.

Although not achieving the maximum score of the 2018 tour (166), partly because fewer locations were visited and partly because of weather and luck, the result proved once more that any visitor in the right season can expect to see more species of dragonfly here than recorded from the whole of Europe, and with much more ease.

Download the complete tour report here.

The field guide A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil is available for sale at the lodge and online. See the publications page for details.

Chagas's Emerald <em>Neocordulia carlochagasi</em> at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
Chagas’s Emerald Neocordulia carlochagasi at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of female Ivory-fronted Sylph <em>Macrothemis capitata</em> at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of female Ivory-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)

Aceratobasis macilenta (Lesser Pendant) – a new species of damselfly for REGUA!

Handsome Aceratobasis macilenta male, Vecchi, 5 February 2020 (© Paul Hopkins)
And the no less wonderful female Aceratobasis macilenta, Vecchi, 5 February 2020 (© Paul Hopkins)

On 26 January Tom Kompier, accompanied by fellow Odonatologists Magnus Billqvist, Paul Hopkins and Agnes Ludwig, visited the large pond at Vecchi, where he caught and photographed a fresh female of a damselfly species unknown to him. Back at the lodge the riddle was solved using the excellent Damselfly Genera of the New World by Garrison et al. (2010).

This mystery damsel was a member of the genus Aceratobasis. This genus is endemic to the Atlantic Forest, with four known species largely restricted to the lowlands. Although recorded from Rio de Janeiro state, it had so far not been confirmed from REGUA.

I quickly wrote to Natalia von Ellenrieder, who provided a paper she wrote with Rosser Garrison in 2008 with additional information on the genus. The specimen turned out to be Aceratobasis macilenta, the smaller of two very similar species. As these damsels, unlike many of their fellow Coenagrionids, hang of leaves and twigs, “Pendant” seems an apt name.

A second visit a few days later failed to turn up more specimens, but luckily a third visit on 5 February by Magnus, Paul and Susan Loose produced a mature male and a mature female, of which Paul was able to take some great photos. It looks like a small population has gained a foothold in the area!

This is species 208 for the reserve odonata list.

Photographing butterflies for the forthcoming Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Pygas eighty-eight <em>Paulogramma pygas</em>, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the "88" on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)
Pygas eighty-eight Paulogramma pygas, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the “88” on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)
The stunning Four-spot Sailor <em>Dynamine. posverta</em> male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)
The stunning Four-spot Sailor Dynamine. posverta male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)

Robert Locke is visiting us at REGUA and we know how he enjoys taking photographs of butterflies, an interest that he has enjoyed for many years. Two species he found and photographed recently are Paulogramma pygas (previously Callicore) also known as the Pygas eighty-eight, and Dynamine postverta also known as the Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the hindwing which shows an “88” shape in the pattern. D. postverta is restricted to much of western lowland South America, preferring woodlands and farmland.

Both are beautiful butterfly species and both male and female will be featured in a new book currently being prepared on the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, the surrounding mountain range to REGUA and one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil. The Serra dos Órgãos mountains range is a biodiversity hotspot and REGUA is considered to be a very well preserved and protected area within this range.

As REGUA continues to increase the area under our protection, creating corridors for wildlife and strengthening the range of trees planted, we are securing the future for all its inhabitants. These two wonderful species of butterfly are part of the beauty to be found here.

Should you like to visit REGUA and take photographs that could be featured in the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos publication, we would be very happy to receive you!

Carea Castalia photographed near REGUA

Castalia Green Mantle <em>Carea castalia</em> photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)
Castalia Green Mantle Carea castalia photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)

I recently came across this beautiful iridescent green butterfly several kilometres from the reserve. Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist and Research Coordinator, confirmed the example as a male Carea castalia, also known as Castalia Green Mantle. Jorge had previously seen the same species on REGUA’s brown trail two years ago.

Adrian Hoskins, on his website Learn about Butterflies (Amazonia section) describes the family Carea as being some of the most beautiful butterflies on the planet and indeed coming across this individual, I could not believe the iridescent green on the thorax and wings. These butterflies are stated to be restless and once they take off are difficult to follow in surrounding undergrowth which perfectly confirms Jorge’s experience of the butterfly he saw at REGUA.

As Jorge and Alan Martin are writing the book on Butterflies found at REGUA and the Serra dos Órgãos region, this photograph could well be included. Should you have photos of butterflies seen here at the reserve, please feel free to email them to us as we would love to see them. For contact details click here.

New damselfly species discovered at REGUA by Tom Kompier

A new damselfly to science – Forcepsioneura regua sp. nov. (©Tom Kompier)

We are delighted to announce that a new Damselfly species for science of the Forcepsioneura genus found at REGUA by Tom Kompier has been named Forcepsioneura regua sp. after the reserve. This is one of two new damselfly species described by Dr. Ângelo Pinto with Tom as co-author in their paper In honor of conservation of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: description of two new damselflies of the genus Forcepsioneura discovered in private protected areas (Odonata: Coenagrionidae), published in the zoological journal Zoologia.

Tom’s contribution to our knowledge of dragonflies and damselflies has been magnificent and provides valuable evidence of the importance of this reserve. He started his research in 2011, making several visits during the varying Neotropical seasons, travelling from the Netherlands to REGUA throughout 2013 and identifying 204 species in this region. Tom was supported by Dr. Ângelo Pinto and Professor Alcimar Carvalho of the Natural History Museum/UFRJ. This resulted in the publication of A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil (see details on our publications page).

The principle difference between dragonflies and damselflies is the position of the wings when resting. Dragonfly wings lie transversal and damselfly wings lie flat alongside their abdomen. 204 species have been recorded at the reserve and REGUA hosts annual visits to see the odonate and in an eight day visit it is possible to see at least 160 species!

Congratulations and thank you Tom for the magnificent contribution your work has given us and you have inspired us to continue to develop studies in ants, butterflies and spiders.

Highlights of successful dragonfly tour 2018

Male of Progomphus virginiae in hand, splendid addition to the reserve list (© Tom Kompier)

A group of dragonfly enthusiasts from the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden occupied the lodge at REGUA between 5-20 January to look for dragonflies and damselflies with Tom Kompier, the author of our field guide on these winged gems – A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil.

Immature male Nehalennia minuta, new for REGUA! (© Henrik Korzen)

REGUA is one of the world’s best dragonfly hotspots in terms of diversity, and the group was not disappointed. With a total of 166 species seen, the tour even surpassed previous tours.

Not only were there second records of Lestes tricolor and Micrathyria spinifera, and good views of the critically endangered Minagrion ribeiroi and its rare cousin Minagrion waltheri, the group also managed photos of two species not previously documented with photos in nature. Edonis helena is a rarely seen small dragonfly from northern Argentina only recently known to extend into Brazil. A small population occurs in the area. The second was Macrothemis capitata, rediscovered by Tom several years ago at Salinas, but now found in the The Três Picos State Park at the top of our watershed.

Best of all, the group found two species new to the reserve list. The first was an exciting tiny damsel, Nehalennia minuta, found at the old wetland in the reserve. This species occurs widely in South America, but is not often found. And the second was Progomphus virginiae, a beautiful little gomphid found at a forested rocky stream, described from Santa Catharina State. The reserve odonata list now stands at 207 species!

Male of Edonis helena, a rare photo opportunity! (© Tom Kompier)
First in nature photo of the very rare Macrothemis capitata (© Tom Kompier)
Female of Nehalennia minuta (© Tom Kompier)
Male of Progomphus virginiae occupying a rock in the stream (© Tom Kompier)

Butterfly rarity, Ortilia polinella, found at REGUA

Female <em>Ortilia polinella</em>, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, 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, and 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 Fritillary Melitaea 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!

The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing. 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 Justicia spp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae).

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

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 at the moth wall.

Butterflies along the São José Trail

Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)
Catocyclotis aemulius (© Arnold Wijker)
Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)
Mesosemia meeda (© Sandra Lamberts)

The São José Trail wanders 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, and dragonflies, etc.

Last year I was privileged to accompany a couple of two excellent amateur nature photographers, Arnold Wijker and Sandra Lamberts, with a keen interest in butterflies and birds, for a walk on São José 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 were the metalmarks (Riodinidae) seen. 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 State 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 here.

Other more common species seen were Juditha azan azan, Melanis unxia, Eurybia molochina and Leucochimona icare matatha.

More images can be found at https://Observation.org, and a paper about the Paleo-Biogeography and Phylogny of the Riodinidae butterfly family can be downloaded at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.08.006.

Temenis huebneri, a new butterfly for REGUA

A male <em>Temenis huebneri</em>, the first record of this species for REGUA, photographed on 29 May 2016 (© Robert Locke)
A male Temenis huebneri, the first record of this species for REGUA, photographed on 29 May 2016 (© Robert Locke)

Confined to central and south America, the butterfly genus Temenis is composed of three species: T. pulchra, T. laothoe, and T. Huebneri. T. pulchra is found from Central America to the Andes. T. laothoe is known from Mexico to northern Argentina, and T. huebneri is more restricted to the northern and south-east Atlantic forest. T huebneri has been found in Bahia state and specimens are held in the collection of Stephan Attal.

Robert Locke took this photograph (right) of Temenis huebneri at REGUA on 29 May 2016, which is a new species for the list of the butterflies at REGUA, and also new for Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s Research Coordinator and keen Lepidopterist.

Photos required for 4th REGUA book – Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos

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.

butterflies-of-serra-dos-orgaos-eg

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 alanjmart@gmail.com. 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.

Amendment to the REGUA odonata list

In the recently published field guide on the odonata of REGUA, A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, the scientific name of the Blue-wedged Dancer is given as Argia claussenii. Rosser Garrison pointed out that this in fact is A. croceipennis, therefore we have amended our Odonata list. We are indebted to Rosser for sharing drawings and scans of both species with us that support his view.

The appendages of these two species are quite similar and there are also considerable similarities in colour pattern. However, under the microscope the difference in the shape of the cerci (placement of ventral tooth) can be clearly seen.

In the field there are luckily also a few differences that help identify the species. Argia claussenii has clear wings, whereas those of A. croceipennis are amber colored, and A. claussenii has an occipital bar, whereas A. croceipennis does not. These characteristics are very much in line with the species occurring in fast flowing and rocky streams in the foothills of REGUA. Below are examples of both species, kindly made available by Rosser.

garrison-plates

The field guide A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil is available for sale at the lodge and online. See the publications page for details.

Orders from other countries should be sent directly to Tom Kompier at kompierintokyo@yahoo.com. Copies will also be available from the REGUA stand at the British Birdfair on 21st – 23rd August at Rutland.

The new odonata book is available in the UK

dragonflies-damselflies-front-coverTom Kompier’s excellent new book A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos is now available in the UK from Alan Martin. This book describes all 204 species known from the REGUA area and is illustrated with 560 photos.

Please send a cheque for £30.50 which includes postage and packing, made out to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan at Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex TN31 6JJ.

Orders from other countries should be sent directly to Tom Kompier at kompierintokyo@yahoo.com.

New REGUA publication: Dragonflies & Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

dragonflies-damselflies-front-coverWe are thrilled to be able to announce the imminent publication of our new REGUA publications book A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos.

The book has been written by Tom Kompier and describes all of the 204 known species from REGUA and its surroundings. Illustrated with 560 photos and an additional 125 plates, we think this is a milestone in the study and observation of this stunning group of insects.

Publication is due in April. For pre-orders or additional information, please contact Tom Kompier directly at kompierintokyo@yahoo.com.

New damselfly for REGUA

<em>Lestes pictus</em>, new for REGUA, 24 October 2013 (© Dennis Paulson)
Lestes pictus, new for REGUA, 24 October 2013 (© Dennis Paulson)

Netta Smith and I visited REGUA for almost two weeks in late October to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the lodge and the wildlife of the area, but our special purpose was to look for dragonflies and damselflies. Tom Kompier has done a superb job of surveying the area, but you just about have to look at every wetland of every kind to find all the members of the order Odonata, so new species are always possible.

On October 24, we visited a tiny, densely vegetated pond by the abandoned house on the Waldenoor Trail and found Lestes pictus, a new species for REGUA. This beautiful spreadwing damselfly is known from relatively few records from Peru, Argentina and southern Brazil (Mato Grosso, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo).

Male Lestes have a pale blue or grey abdomen tip, but in almost all species the colour comes from a powdery bloom called pruinosity. In Lestes pictus, the colour is instead a reflected blue like that of many other damselfly species.

We encountered 78 species of Odonata during our visit, not even half of the species known from the area, but still a very impressive list for a short visit at the end of the dry season.

Duskhawker, secrecy is thy middle name!

Male <em>Gynacantha mexicana</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Gynacantha mexicana (© Tom Kompier)

There is a group of darners that fills a special niche in the dragonfly world. These are the duskhawkers, a group of medium to large dragonflies with habits that set them apart from most other species. Although there are other dragonflies with somewhat similar habits, I speak of the members of the genera Gynacantha and Triacanthagyna.

They avoid the hot and sunny hours of the day, but fly for relative short periods in the evening, most commonly in, but not restricted to, the autumn and winter months. Some species occur when it is still relatively light, others when it is almost dark. During those restricted hours they hunt for small insect prey, mostly mosquitoes. During the day they hang inside the forest amongst tangles and vines, or clinging to tree stems, waiting for the feeding frenzy to start when the sun sets.

On cloudy days some species may fly about inside the forest, or even appear at the forest edge, but only at the appointed time do they venture into open areas. Some species patrol small areas just above the ground, flying in straight lines, like G. mexicana, or above small waters, like G. bifida. Others, like G. nervosa, fly in more irregular patterns.

<em>Gynacantha bifida</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Gynacantha bifida (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Gynacantha nervosa</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Gynacantha nervosa (© Tom Kompier)

 

These three species are the representatives of Gynacantha have so far been found in the lower foothills at REGUA and all three are appearing relatively late, with G. mexicana flying so late that it appears often as no more than a ghost, an ephemeral shape flitting in and out of reality. Meaning that you see it for an instant, but when you register seeing it, it has already disappeared into shade, only to reappear and disappear again and again while you try to follow its flight pattern. A wisp of smoke, a spirit, moving in complete silence a feet or so above the ground. High up, around 1000 masl, there is a fourth species, G. adela, that appears to fly earlier, or even in the middle of the day when there is cloud cover.

Male <em>Triacanthagyna caribbea</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Triacanthagyna caribbea (© Tom Kompier)

These large duskhawking darners are preceded by the members of the genus Triacanthagyna. These are somewhat smaller and occur in higher numbers, regularly swarming with a hundred or more over open spaces. One moment they are not flying and the next they cascade out of the forest into the open in the hour before darkness, to dance around, sometimes high in the sky, sometimes low over the fields, and to retreat suddenly at twilight, to be replaced by the members of Gynacantha.

Three species have been identified until now at REGUA. The larger T. caribbea is the first to appear, when it is still very light, soon joined by T. nympha, a species somewhat smaller, but very similar in general appearance, and later again by the often abundant T. septima. There may be other species in the area. The trouble is that duskhawkers are difficult to catch or observe, irrespective of their abundance, due to their crepuscular habits and often very erratic flight patterns. That is of course exactly why they are such an exciting group.

Male <em>Triacanthagyna nympha</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Triacanthagyna nympha (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Triacanthagyna septima</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Triacanthagyna septima (© Tom Kompier)

Telebasis, a genus of flying pieces of blood coral

There are the Argia damsels, the most speciose genus of New World Coenagrionids, and then there is Telebasis, with almost 60 described species the second most speciose genus. Telebasis species come basically in two flavours, red and blue.

In REGUA up to four species have now been identified, all belonging to the reddish species. And with their bright red abdomens these tiny damsels are reminiscent of the precious blood coral from the oceans. Although they can all be recognized in hand by the shape of their appendages, it is in fact possible to separate them in the field. To work out the field characteristics of Odonata to aid their identification is one of the main purposes of our work at REGUA.

When visiting the wetlands at REGUA the most common of these four species, T. corallina, is hard to miss when you know where to look. As all Telebasis species, it is relatively inconspicuous, mostly staying low in the grasses along the verge of the wetland and amongst the emergent vegetation in the wetlands. But when you take the time to peruse such places you realise it is in fact all over the place.

The third species is T. griffinii. It is very similar to T. corallina, although somewhat smaller. Apart from the dorsal side of the thorax, which is marked by a more diffuse dark cloud along the dorsal ridge instead of the two clear-cut straight lines of T. corallina, it differs in having a red snout, not lime-green. It seems to inhabit even better quality ponds, with lush emergent and floating vegetation and forested edges. At REGUA it has been found at two locations. These records are of note, as the species had not been recorded at Rio de Janeiro state before.

Male <em>Telebasis corallina</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis corallina (© Tom Kompier)
<em>Telebasis filiola</em> (&copy; Tom Kompier)
Telebasis filiola (© Tom Kompier)

 

The last species to mention has been recorded at only one location and is probably rare in Rio de Janeiro state. This is T. carmesina, another species very similar to T. corallina, but with broader clear-cut stripes along the dorsal ridge of the thorax. Like T. corallina, its snout is greenish, but the ventral side of the thorax is whiter and the appendages are differently shaped. That is difficult to establish in the field unless it is caught and because it is so similar to T. corallina it may be under recorded. Like its brothers and sisters it keeps to the emergent vegetation along the edge of ponds.

Male <em>Telebasis griffinii</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis griffinii (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Telebasis carmesina</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Telebasis carmesina (© Tom Kompier)

 

If we take a quick look at the relationships in the genus, T. corallina was recorded together with all three other species, T. griffinii was seen with both T. corallina and T. filiola, but T. carmesina only with T. corallina. There were no bushes and trees along the verge of the pond where it was found, which may explain the absence of the other two. Now, the million dollar question is: which congeners did T. filiola occur with?

December-January survey of Odonata at REGUA turns up 160 species

Male <em>Navicordulia kiautai</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Navicordulia kiautai (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Phyllocycla viridipleuris</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Phyllocycla viridipleuris (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Leptagrion elongatum</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Leptagrion elongatum (© Tom Kompier)
Female <em>Coryphaeschna viriditas</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Female Coryphaeschna viriditas (© Tom Kompier)
Male <em>Minagrion waltheri</em> (© Tom Kompier)
Male Minagrion waltheri (© Tom Kompier)

After the very productive survey in September-October it seemed unlikely to top its result of 115 identified species, but just the first week of our December-January survey we already topped 130. Of all 173 species recorded during our research to date, a cool 160 were found during our recent three week research period. To put that number in perspective, this is well over the number of Odonate species recorded in the whole of Europe.

With the advent of summer, not just the temperatures were up. Dragonflies and damselflies were abundant and not only in the obvious places. Of course the wetlands around the lodge were very productive, but now the trails in the forests also yielded many species all the way up to 1000 masl and higher. It is on the forest trails that many of the endemic damselflies are found. Let’s take a look at some of the more spectacular finds.

After a brief glimpse of an emerald Corduliinae in April 2012 at the top of the Salinas trail at approximately 1050 masl, at last emeralds were relocated again. In hand the species was verified as Navicordulia kiautai. This is one of the rare Atlantic Rainforest emeralds and had been recorded only twice before and never in Rio de Janeiro State. On subsequent visits it was seen regularly patrolling at midday above a wide trail bordered on both sides by forest. Up to six individuals were seen on any given day. Maybe the flight period is restricted, as it is unlikely that it was overlooked on previous visits.

Unexpected as well was the pretty Phyllocycla species recorded in the amazingly productive forest fragment not far from the lodge at 30 masl. This patch of lowland forest is part of the reserve and a testimony to its wealth. To date 10 gomphids have been found here and at least four Phyllocycla species are present. This individual stood out because of its very distinctive and whitish patterning, quite unlike the other gomphids present. Eventually it could be identified as P. viridipleuris, a species of which the occurrence in southeastern Brazil is shrouded in mystery. Likely, it is rare.

There are many species of Leptagrion forest dwelling damsels in Rio de Janeiro State, but during the whole of 2012 during all surveys only once a female Leptagrion was seen that did not belong to the omnipresent Leptagrion macrurum. At long last Susan Loose, a volunteer working on Odonata, located an unknown Leptagrion species at the beginning of the Green Trail, which turned out to be L. elongatum. Not a day after it was photographed and identified, a female of the same species was found right next to the reserve office!

Another interesting and surprising find at the forest fragment was a Mangrove Darner Coryphaeschna viriditas. On a very hot day an older female was found hanging along the forest edge. Professor Carvalho commented on the rarity of this species in Rio de Janeiro State. Clearly any greenish larger Aeshnid deserves careful attention, as they are around!

The last species to mention, although not mentioning all the other gems encountered is really an insult to them for which I apologize, is a Minagrion. After the September-October survey we did a short special to introduce this fabulous genus. During December we saw both Minagrion ribeiroi, so that species definitely also flies during the austral summer, and a third species, beautiful orange and blue Minagrion waltheri. This was found in bogs on the plain at Salinas, where is keeps inside the grassy emergent vegetation. It is another fabulous representative of this exquisite genus. Now three of the known five species have been recorded at REGUA.

Who is to say what more is out there.