Category Archives: Research

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).

Two new jumping-spiders described from REGUA

Male Arnoliseus hastatus, one of two new species of jumping-spider from REGUA described in February 2020. The species name refers to the huge projection on the male chelicera, similar to a hasta, which is latin for spear. (© André Almeida Alves)
Male Arnoliseus hastatus, one of two new species of jumping-spider from REGUA described in February 2020. The species name refers to the huge projection on the male chelicera, similar to a hasta, which is latin for spear. (© André Almeida Alves)

As part of their ongoing survey of spiders and other arachnids from REGUA, Dr Renner Baptista and his students from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro have described two new jumping-spiders (Salticidae) from the reserve: Arnoliseus hastatus and Arnoliseus falcatus.

Both species belong to the Arnoliseus, a genus of Brazilian jumping-spiders described only as recently as 2002. To date, both of these new species are known only from REGUA.

These additions bring the number of spiders recorded at REGUA to an astonishing 425 species, and Renner reports that the species richness at REGUA is still is going up fast! A species list for REGUA will be published on our website soon.

To read the paper describing the new species click here.

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.

Pans

A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)

One of the researchers who is carrying on his fieldwork at REGUA, Rodrigo Fonseca, has been studying the perception and colonization of reproductive habitats (puddles, flooded fields, streams, etc.) by anuran amphibians and the elements of the landscape (trees and shrubs) favouring this dynamic.

His study includes night field work, where he samples temporary and stablished puddles also capturing and identifying amphibian individuals. He is a Master’s student from the Post Graduate Programme in Ecology at the Federal University in Rio (UFRJ).

During his activities, he quite often comes across with the Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber, a species known to form small nests called “pans” where males vocalize to attract females, which in return will evaluate the nest condition and decide whether to use it or not. If the female chooses it, the male performs the bridal hug, also called amplexus, where together they release gametes into the water forming around 3,000 eggs inside the nest.

Smooth horned frog

One of the amphibians that we love to show guests that visit REGUA are the smooth horned frogs, Proceratophrys boiei  that are often found within leaf litter along the forest trails.   They sit waiting for passing prey, or hunt for spiders, beetles and other insects, with their wide mouth they can take relatively large prey and have been known to eat small frogs.

Smooth horned frog (©) REGUA

They remain stationary and move very slowly if found and picked up.  This is an Atlantic rainforest endemic species.    Listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN  in view of its wide distribution along the range of the biomes, only 7% remains of the forest which provides its home.   Current research in our forests indicates that its population is unlikely to be declining, and with the restoration we are carrying out, we hope this situation continues as we increase the suitable habitat.

The smooth horned frog spawns in temporary slow-flowing water within the forest or on the forest edge.   This species is featured on the World Land Trust site and after all these years I would say it is one of my favourite frogs of our 72 species list.

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)

Rio de Janeiro Antwren – the mystery continues

David Beadle’s superb Illustration of Rio de Janeiro Antwren Myrmutherula fluminense from February 1997 (© David Beadle)

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.

Immature male White-flanked Antwren <em>Myrmutherula axilaris</em> caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren <em>Myrmutherula axilaris</em> caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)

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!

Earthwatch Institute Research programme

After a many years of receiving researchers and volunteers from around the world, REGUA’s reputation continues to grow.

Many have visited over the years to help and support REGUA by contributing with their skills, this long-standing key activity has attracted the American Earthwatch Institute.

With a proposal to examine in detail ecosystem services and the restoration of the Atlantic rainforest, Dr Manuel Muanis from Rio Federal University has developed a programme to attract conservation and pro-active Earthwatch volunteers.

Earthwatch Team (© REGUA)

Dr Manuel’s plan included locating camera traps to photograph mammal movement in different stages of REGUA’s planted forest and compare this with the natural regenerating forest.   The aim is to compare the populations of these animals in both forest types, to understand whether the net benefits in ecosystem services and functions are comparable.

This is explained more fully on the Earthward site https://earthwatch.org/Expeditions/Wildlife-and-Reforestation-in-Brazil

“Mammals act as a regulator for a variety of interactions between a large diversity of species, so the health of mammal populations can be used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health.   Understanding to what extent vegetation recovery also restores mammal diversity will provide data about the long-term health and sustainability of these reforested areas.”

And

“This study will directly contribute to the management plan of REGUA.   As we work towards stewarding and restoring the world’s forests, information about how to best manage that process and restore ecosystem functions is critical.”

The team is really committed and enthusiastic, and although January is the hottest time of the year for us, everyone worked extremely hard.

The results are meaningful and Earthwatch will send volunteers throughout the year to provide data that can provide us with a better understanding of forest restoration.

Thank you Earthwatch team for coming and staying at REGUA and helping us.

This is brilliant work and we look forward to learning more as your research develops!

London Zoo specialists visit REGUA

The benefit of Ultra Violet (UV) exposure for animals is widely recognised but little studied. It is understood to have a wide range of health benefits for skin, hair, bone development and even animal fertility.   Most available data on UV exposure is based on reptiles studied in Australia.    Obviously, animals in their natural surroundings have a higher UV exposure than can be provided in temperate zoo collections, so how do we look at the issue?

With that question in mind, Steve Goodwin and Priscilla Mills from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) London Zoo, came to REGUA and spent two weeks measuring the UVI (ultraviolet Index) on the Common Marmoset (Callithrix Jacchus) in the wild.

They measured daytime temperatures, light levels and humidity, to build a profile of what these animals may be exposed to throughout the day.

Priscilla and Steve (© Steve Goodwin)

Through their careful and constant fieldwork, Steve and Priscilla observe for how long and what level of UV these marmosets are exposed to, and hopefully this will help build a better picture of what these animals need to remain healthy.

Steve and Priscilla can then extrapolate the information and compare it to the levels offered in captivity and gain an insight into their behaviour back at the Zoo.    If this data proves to be successful, than they wish to use it for other mammal species in captivity.

Cologne University Professor Udo Nehren visits REGUA

Cologne University has been present at REGUA for more than a decade bringing students to study elements of the landscape.

Cologne Professor Udo Nehren supervised Masters student Marisa Kunze on the interface between landscape ecology and resource economics.

REGUA is interested in understanding the potential for expanding private protected areas in Rio de Janeiro. Professor Udo suggested evaluating ecosystem services that are provided/improved through setting up projects like REGUA (e.g. habitat quality, connectivity, erosion control, carbon storage, and also tourism visitation etc.) and how these can be assessed (qualitative, semi-quantitative, and where possible monetary). By evaluating the cost and benefits, one can determine profitability.

Outcomes like these can be used to promote REGUA and show the many ecological and social benefits that environmental projects can provide, especially important when thinking of upscaling to larger areas.

Nicholas, Professor Udo and Raquel with two students, Teresa (left) and Claudia (right). (©REGUA)

Marisa spent two months studying REGUA’s surface area, management agreements, and visitor data, completing this through interviews with local stakeholders to evaluate public perception. We look forward to reading the results, but it is work like this that can help shape the future for conservation projects such as REGUA.

Thank you Professor Udo and Marisa! 

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.

2019 Update

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 Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

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.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

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.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

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.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

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. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

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.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

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 

 

King Vulture at REGUA

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.

King Vulture in cecropia (© Calel Passarelles)

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.


Students investigate the health of the wetlands

RJ State University Student Group with Prof. Marcelo and Tim

Professors Marcelo Marinho and Tim Moulton returned to REGUA with their 3rd year Biological sciences at the RJ State University. Their field of interest is “Limnology and Oceanograph”, and they come to REGUA to study the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Every wetland is continually evolving and changing. Having followed the progress of REGUA’s wetlands since 2005, Professor Tim can state with authority that each of the three wetlands is vastly different from each other. The central wetland, created in 2005, is the healthiest with a small stream passing through; the second wetland lying below the lodge garden, created in 2007, receives a small amount of water that is diverted to maintain its level, and the wetland nearest the Conservation Centre, created in 2010, has water emerging from sources below the surface but offering a constant flow.  

The students at work. (© Prof.Tim Moulton)

The central wetland is full of underwater plants/macrophytes and its water is almost transparent. The second has water seeping under the walls and does not overflow. As a consequence it has a greenish appearance, covered by “watermeal” (Wolfia sp), most appreciated by waterfowl, including the Masked Duck, a rare visitor. The 2010 wetland is occasionally covered by orange Euglenoid algae. As a scientist Tim is really perplexed and is coming up with many questions. Have the algae have choked out the macrophytes or vice versa? Have fish stirred up the bottom? Is the wetland turning eutrophic that might lead to the death of its fish?  

Professors Marcelo and Tim are naturally very excited to learn more and have directed their students to study elements of the wetlands to reach the heart of the matter. This is a prime example of the benefits to both student and REGUA; whilst students gain experience, REGUA gains from the ongoing research that students are carrying out.

Students taking water samples on the main wetland (© Prof. Tim Moulton)

We are delighted to receive many students from diverse Universities and offer them such a wonderful outdoor laboratory. This offers us the opportunity to talk and explain what REGUA’s ambitions are and therefore provoke and reach to young thinkers who will help to shape society in the future.

These visitors will certainly be touched by the efforts and development of this project and take this model elsewhere.     

Zoology “freshmen” at REGUA

REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.

REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.  

Students working hard in the laboratory

A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.         

Not a Praying Mantis!

Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and Lepidopterist recently found this interesting creature. We initially thought it was a Mantis and sent the photograph through to our friends in the Projeto Mantis Research Group.

Leo Lanna from the team sent back his excited reply:

“This is amazing find and actually, it is not a praying mantis! I know it looks just like a Mantis, but it actually belongs to another insect order, the Neuroptera. The family pays homage to mantises – it is called Mantispidae – and they are an amazing example of convergent evolution. This means that different evolution pressures led them to develop similar structures. They do hunt with their raptorials, like mantises, but you can notice some differences, especially the way they fold their wings, which are located on the sides of the animal, not over it. The wings are also more translucid.

Mantispidae (© R Locke)

Take a look at the eyes too. Mantispidae always have a beautiful, coloured pattern when you take a picture with flash, like a star or rainbow. Mantises have plain compound eyes with the fake pupil effect, not this colourful one.

We usually find a green, tiny species, from genus Zeugomantispa. We once found a huge one at Tijuca Forest, from genus Climaciella, but neither look like this one.

Thanks for sharing these findings!”

What a great find, on reading more I found that Mantispidae are also known as Mantid lacewings or mantis-flies in some parts of the world.

Thanks also to Leo and his team for encouraging us to continue to research the amazing creatures of the forests at REGUA.

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!

Maxillaria picta orchid

Helmut Seehawer is visiting us at REGUA and continues to explore for orchids here.

Once again we walked with Helmut to the lofty Lagoinha summits, an extremely important area for orchid dispersal, full of Platyrhipsa brasiliensisStelis ruprechtianaOctomeria grassilabiaOncidium lietzeiPabstiela spZygopetalum pedicillatum, and so many micro orchids.

Maxillaria picta (© REGUA)

We came across these relatively common Maxillaria picta, first described by Sir William Jackson Hooker, English botanist in 1811. Hooker didn’t travel personally to Brazil but probably received these plants and then described them from collected samples.

Helmut is 84 years old and he was delighted to be scrambling up these rocky summits in search of his precious orchids.

We think the world of Helmut, his incredible dedication and knowledge that allows us to draw people’s attention to them and their importance in this very biodiverse region of the globe, after all, the Serra do Órgãos is known for over 1,000 species, or 5% of the world’s entire diversity of orchids!!

Jorge finds a Praying Mantis

Jorge appeared the other morning asking me to photograph an interesting Praying Mantis which he hadn’t seen before. “We have to get this to the Mantis team”, he said.

So I sent photographs and a description off to Leonardo Lanna of the research team researching Praying Mantis at REGUA.

Eumusonia genus (© Nicholas Locke)

Biologist Leo Lanna of the Mantis team said  “This is a male of Eumusonia genus, a grass mantis. We’ve registered them on our visits – what is cool is that REGUA is the only place where we see a great variation in the males colours. They are described as brown, but we’ve seen yellow and green ones, and this is the first one we have seen that is brown with green legs.

They live among grasses and tiny bushes, as well as leaf litter, mainly on more open areas, like fields and trail borders. You can easily identify them by the triangle segment on the tip of their abdomen. Males and females share this triangle-shaped segment though females have no wings. We discovered a healthy population in the garden of Casa da Pesquisa (REGUA’s research house) when we were there in 2017 and now in March we’ve found many more, from small ones to adult males and females. We didn’t find in any other area of the reserve, though, but this will definitely add to our work..”

It is so gratifying to receive news back from Leonardo, and exciting that REGUA is the first place where they have seen this colour variation. Leonardo is so enthusiastic, interested and generous with his time in providing valuable feedback. This encourages us to keep our eyes alert in the hope of finding another species.. 

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.