Category Archives: Sightings

Bird sightings for June and July 2017

Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift over the wetland, 3 July 2017 (© Alan Martin)
White-bellied Tanager from the lodge belvedere, 2 July 2017 (© Alan Martin)
Black-banded Owl hunting bats in the lodge garden, 5 July 2017. The bird was seen again in exactly the same spot the following night. (© Alan Martin)
Scaled Antbird, 29 June 2017 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The austral winter months see fewer visiting birders than the spring, when birds are more vocal and on territory, but winter birding in the Atlantic Forest brings its own rewards and is equally exciting. Some species are actually much easier to find at this time of year, including the rare Black-legged Dacnis and large mixed-species flocks in the forest make for exciting experiences. Also, the lodge garden feeders are much busier, with many species that breed at higher elevations moving lower where temperatures are higher. Here are the avian highlights on the reserve for June and July.

Casa Anibal/4×4: Black Hawk-Eagle, Spot-billed Toucanet, Saw-billed Hermit, Spot-breasted Antvireo, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Green-headed Tanager and Red-necked Tanager.

Forest Trail: White-bibbed Antbird (an excellent record for this trail), Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Reddish Hermit, Lesser Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Unicoloured Antwren, Scaled Antbird, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill, Southern Antpipit, Long-billed Wren, Moustached Wren, Hooded Tanager, White-bellied Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Swallow Tanager.

Lodge garden: Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (the first record for the garden on 2 July), Black-banded Owl (5-6 July), up to 5 Black-legged Dacnis, Common Potoo, 1 White-eyed Parakeet (6 July), Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Toco Toucan, lots of Channel-billed Toucan, Tropical Parula, White-bellied Tanager, Azure-shoulder Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Purple-throated Euphonia and Buff-throated Saltator.

Waldenoor Trail: Mantled Hawk (very reliable here), Frilled Coquette, Toco Toucan, Plain Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Motmot, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Blue Manakin and Black-throated Grosbeak.

Waterfall Trail: Solitary Tinamou, Brown Tinamou, White-necked Hawk, Saw-billed Hermit, Surucua Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Scaly-headed Parrot, Planalto Woodcreeper, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Spot-backed Antshrike, Scaled Antbird, Star-throated Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthursh, Slaty Bristlefront, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Southern Antpipit, Grey-hooded Attila, White-bellied Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Wetland Trail: Grey-bellied Spinetail, female Masked Duck, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tataupa Tinamou, Boat-billed Heron, up to 12 Capped Heron (an excellent number), lots of Snowy Egret (they seem to be increasing at REGUA), Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle, Laughing Falcon, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift (small numbers over the wetland in the evenings), Rufous-sided Crake, Blackish Rail, Limpkin, Amazon Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant (both very unusual here), Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Hooded Tanager and Black-capped Donacobius.

Elsewhere at REGUA, Shrike-like Cotinga, a male Tufted Antshrike and White-bibbed Antbird were all seen along the trail to the São José Tower, a Harris’s Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle and Rufous-fronted Thornbird (the later now much scarcer at REGUA now that the reforestation is becoming more established) were seen along the dirt road to Casa Pesquisa, and the 2 Tropical Screech-Owls were still roosting by the conservation centre.

On our night-birding excursion Giant Snipe, Mottled Owl, Scissor-tailed Nightjar and Collared Forest-Falcon were among the birds seen.

Yellow-rumped Marshbirds close to REGUA

Yellow-rumped Marshbirds Pseudoleistes guirahuro near REGUA, 24 July 2017 (© Nicholas Locke)

On 24 July, Raquel and New Zealand volunteer Marc Vanwoerkom were helping me to map a property that has been offered to REGUA adjacent to the João Paulo Farm. Clambering up steep hillsides is never fun, but the work has to be done to accurately map properties with GPS and avoid issues on property size and location.

The day ended well and we were walking home when to our surprise we found a chattering bunch of Yellow-rumped Marshbirds Pseudoleistes guirahuro perched on a shrub in the pastures. This is rare bird in Rio de Janeiro state and Marc got some great photos and I managed a register shot.

Yellow-rumped Marshbird is a species of marshland and grassland, with a distribution covering much of southern Brazil but also east Paraguay, northern Uruguay north-east Argentina. They are not usually found in Rio de Janeiro state and this is the first time we have seen this bird so close to REGUA land. Perhaps it is spreading eastwards? Nevertheless, it is a stunning bird and I am hopeful we can get some better images soon.

Red-ruffed Fruitcrow – another garden bird

Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (© Alan Martin)

The Red-ruffed Fruitcrow Pyroderus scutatus is high on visitors wish-lists, but it is scarce and a very hard bird to see well. However this splendid bird appeared in the lodge garden on the 2nd July and was seen by two lucky people sitting quietly on the veranda. It stayed in the garden for a few minutes allowing a series of photos to be taken before flying off when someone came up the drive.

New bird for Adilei!

Pale-breasted Spinetail, REGUA, 22 June 2017 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, one of REGUA’s resident bird guides, spends his working life showing birds to visitors to the reserve. It is therefore not common for him to find a new species for his personal bird list. Imagine his delight therefore, when on 22nd June he found a Pale-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis albescens.

Although widespread throughout South America, this species is not normally found in the Atlantic Forest, as it is more associated with central Brazil and the Cerrado habitat. Maybe this individual knows about global weather change for he can be seen on the edge of our reserve in open grasslands.

This is the second record of this species for REGUA.

A new born Jararacussu found on REGUA trail by Klaus Seehawer

I am fascinated by snakes.  My father, Helmut, is an orchid specialist and he knows of over 680 species of orchids that can be found in the cloud forests of the Serra dos Órgãos mountains in South East Brazil.   This is a really important area for biodiversity.

Accompanying my father on his trips to the Atlantic forest starting in the late 1970’s we frequently stumbled over different species of snakes without really knowing them.   I became interested in what was creeping between our feet.   Looking closer, my fascination for these creatures grew and looking even closer I finally fell in love with snakes.  Over the time I have specialized on true vipers and pitvipers.   In the past 30 years I studied female Bothrops jararaca and other snakes in upland habit of the Atlantic forest.    Looking for snakes at REGUA is quite a different story because it is lowland habitat and snakes behave quite differently.   Generally higher temperatures give these poikithermal animals even less reason to expose themselves to the sun.   Snakes are well camouflaged, shy and secretive. Especially vipers will hide most of their lives.   All this makes snakes very hard to find for the naturalist.   However,  on 9th of April 2017 I found something very special here at REGUA, a new born Jararacussu (Bothrops jararacussu) on one of its trails.

The little snake was only a little over 20 cm long, which is small for this species.   Literature gives 26-28 cm for this species but it is not mentioned if this data was taken from captive animals or those in the wild.

Breeding of the genus Bothrops takes place between November and March.   Bothrops are ovoviviparous; Juveniles are born alive or under breaking a transparent egg hull.   Up to fifteen young can be born simultaneously.    This happens usually at the end of the rainy season.

Juvenile snakes are difficult to identify.   In this case it had to be determined whether it was a Jararaca or a Jararacussu. The unicoloured top of the head, the more triangular shaped head, the slightly upturned and sharper edged snout, the more rounded A’s on the snake’s flanks and the little spots along the snake’s spine between the A’s make this snake a Jararacussu.

The Jararacussu is a large heavy bodied terrestrial snake. Females longer than two metres are frequently encountered.   Males are smaller.   Preferred habitat is rocks in close proximity to water.   It is often said to live in semiaquatic conditions. Generally it prefers damper habitat and is by far less abundant than its generalist cousin Jararaca (Bothrops Jararaca).

Please forget your possible fears and dislike for snakes for a moment and have a look at this beauty.   This tiny, vividly coloured creature already has all the scales that it

Jararacussu (Bothrops Jararacussu) (© Klaus Seehawer)

will have when it is a two metre giant.   So these scales are only micrometres small and still are individually coloured in grey, brown, black and white or even have a pinkish hue.

Did you notice the snake’s pale tail?  Many Bothrops as juveniles feed on frogs.  By waving the tail a worm is imitated and frogs are lured into striking range.   Remember Bothrops are born at the end of the rainy season when young frogs are numerous also.  Growing up, Bothrops change their food preference to warm blooded rodents.   At this stage the tail colour changes to the ground colour or black in this species.

The location site of this snake was well off the regular tourist trails.   Venomous snakes are very rarely seen on REGUA trails.   Still everybody should remember venomous snakes could be encountered everywhere in tropical areas.   Snakes will never attack unless seriously cornered or hurt.

Give snakes their space and try to enjoy the rare adventure of seeing a snake in the wild, and if you are lucky enough to find one remember to take a good look, get a sketch, photograph or video and as much information as possible to enable an accurate identification.

Please give snakes their space, have respect and try to enjoy…

Klaus Seehawer

Bird sightings for March 2017

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, lodge garden, 18 March 2017 (© Lee Dingain)

While March might see less bird activity in general at REGUA than during the breeding season, there is still plenty of excellent birding to be had. Here are the sightings highlights for March on the reserve.

Wetland/Yellow Trail: Black-legged Dacnis (numbers much lower than usual this year), 3 Sungrebe (including a bird showing at close range by post 400 – just a two minute walk from the lodge), a female Masked Duck, several Boat-billed Herons showing well from Amanda’s Hide (at least 2 adults in full breeding plumage and 1 or 2 juveniles), a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with a single offspring (another successful breeding at REGUA), Crane Hawk, Grey-necked and Slaty-breasted Wood-Rails, Rufous-sided Crake, Brazilian Tanager, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Amazon, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, lots of Streaked Flycatchers (a summer migrant here) and lots of Rufous-tailed Jacamars which were seemingly everywhere! Now that the breeding season is over, the numbers of roosting Cattle Egrets is starting to increase with most still in fantastic breeding plumage.

Green Trail: an immature Shrike-like Cotinga, a White-necked Hawk (at an ant swarm), Buff-bellied Puffbird, Southern Antpipit, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spot-backed Antshrike, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Scaled Antbird, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Grey-hooded Attila, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Spot-billed Toucanet, Saw-billed Hermit, Blonde-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-winged Antwren, Streak-capped Antwren, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager.

Waldenoor Trail: this trail continues to provide excellent raptor sightings with 2 Mantled Hawk, 2 Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle and 2 Black Hawk-Eagle all seen.

Typically for this time of year the lodge garden has been quiet, but 2 female Black-legged Dacnis, lots of Swallow Tanager, Rusty-margined Guan, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Blonde-crested Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Channel-billed Toucan, Purple-throated Euphonia, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Piratic Flycatcher, Crested Becard, Flame-crested Tanager and Yellow-backed Tanager all made appearances. Hummingbird numbers were down but the feeders were still entertaining with 3 Black Jacobins fighting over the sugar-water with Rufous-breasted Hermits, Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Violet-capped Woodnymphs and Glittering-throated Emeralds.

On our night-birding excursion Giant Snipe were seen well on the ground and also in display flight (with 3-4 seen at close range some nights), and Tawny-browed Owl, Common Potoo and Pauraque were all also seen, but frustratingly Black-banded and Mottled Owls were both heard only. The roosting pair of Tropical Screech-Owls were still in residence near the conservation centre.

Orange-breasted Falcon at Pico da Caledônia

On 23 March, our bird guide Cirilo Vieira was guiding two guests David Wilcove and Tim Treuer from Princeton University at Pico da Caledônia who were keen to see the rare Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita found in the elfin forest around the top of the mountain. Unfortunately they could only hear the cotinga calling, but then imagine their surprise when they caught sight of an Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus perched on a bare branch close to the road (just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint at the start of of the starts to the summit). David had been looking for this bird for 30 years and sighed in disbelief when he realized what it was!

Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus, Pico da Caledônia, RJ, 23 March 2017. Note the bulky structure, heavy bill, large feet, white throat contrasting with the orange breast and neck sides, broad barring on the belly and blackish upperparts. The photo also shows the graduated tail quite well. The greenish tinge to the yellow feet, cere and orbital ring suggest this bird is a sub-adult. (© David Wilcove)

Orange-breasted Falcon is very similar in appearance to the much more common and widespread Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Identification can be difficult, but there are some key identification features if seen well. Structurally, Orange-breasted Falcon is larger and bulkier than Bat Falcon and with a larger head and slightly shorter graduated tail. The feet are also noticeably larger and are yellow to greenish-yellow compared to the bright orange-yellow feet of Bat Falcon, and the bill is significantly heavier. Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts that contrast very little with the blackish head, whereas across much of it’s range, Bat Falcon generally has paler greyish upperparts that contrast with the blackish head.

There are several supporting identification features, that while not diagnostic, are also useful. In Orange-breasted Falcon the white throat is bordered by an orange breast (above the black ‘vest’ on the belly) and neck sides, whereas in most Bat Falcons the white throat contrasts strongly with the black vest with little or no orange or buff on the breast (there are some exceptions though so this alone is not a reliable identification feature). Also, the whitish barring on the black vest is coarser with an orange wash on Orange-breasted Falcon compared to Bat Falcon that usually shows faint narrow whitish barring on the vest.

The Neotropical Bird Club website has an excellent paper on the identification of Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons.

Guilherme Serpa informs us that this is only the second sighting of Orange-breasted Falcon for Rio de Janeiro state – an incredible record! Intriguingly, Adilei has seen a falcon here in the past that he assumed was Bat Falcon and Nicholas has photographs of a falcon taken nearby on Pico da Caledônia, again presumed Bat Falcon at the time. We will be checking these photos to double check the identification.

The following day another group from the lodge visiting Pico da Caledônia failed to relocate the bird, but hopefully it will be seen again. Very well done to David Wilcove for an excellent state find and for taking an excellent set of photographs.

Barred Forest-Falcon

Some of our visitors will remember bird guide Igor Camacho, who has not stopped his survey work and guiding since he left REGUA.

He continues to bring clients to REGUA and on his visit early this year, to the restored forest around the San José tower, he found Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-bellied Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager and Blue Dacnis to show Ernani Oliveira. The star of this trip however was Barred Forest-Falcon near the tower.

Barred-forest Falcon (©Igor Camacho)

He suggested a hanging feeder near the tower might attract forest birds such as Yellow-green Grossbeak, Channel-billed Toucans, Rufous-winged Antwren and Greyish Mourner, so we considering how feasible it will be to maintain a feeder at this remote location.

Bird Sightings – three days in February

There are now over 470 species of birds confirmed at REGUA – more than at any other site in the Atlantic Forest and probably a greater number of species than at any site in Brazil outside of the Amazon region.   Here are just a few highlights from recent walks at REGUA.   Whilst this is our Autumn, it just shows what a great all-year-round birding destination our wonderful Reserve is.

Cirilo and Adilei – REGUA’s brilliant Bird Guides (© REGUA)

6th February – a short afternoon walk along the Green Trail
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Pin-tailed Manakin (Ilicura militaris)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Yellow-Olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias assimilis)

7th February – the Forest/Brown  Trail
Blond-Crested Woodpecker – a pair (Celeus flavescent)
Rufous-capped Motmot (Baryphthengus ruficapillus)
Sooretama-slaty Antshrike (Thamnophilus ambiguus)
Chestnut-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus palliatus)
White-flanked Antwren (Myrmitherula axillaris)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Eye Ringed Tody Tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)
Yellow-backed Tanager (Hemithraupis flavicollis)
Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster)

Birding the Yellow Trail with Adilei (© Sue Healey)

8th February – the Green and Black Trails
Grey-hooded Attila (Attila rufus)
Yellow-throated Woodpecker (Piculus flavigula)
Lesser Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus fuscus)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla)
Spot-winged Wood-quail (Odontophorus capueira)
Red-crowned Ant-tanager (Habia rubica)
Black-capped Foliage-gleaner (Philydor atricapillus)
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (Philydor rufum)
Pale Browed Treehunter (Cichlocolaptes leucophrus)
Red-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris)
Black-throated Grosbeak (Saltator fuliginosus)
Blue-bellied Parrot (Triclaria malachitacea)
White-browed Foliage-gleaner (Philydor erythrocercum)

Boat-billed Herons nest at REGUA

Juvenile Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Adult Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, or arapapá in Portuguese, is one of the more mysterious bird species present at REGUA. Records over the years have been very few and far between, with only occasional sightings of roosting birds from the replanted forest around the wetland.

But for the last three years birds have been arriving at REGUA in the beginning of December and breeding has been suspected. Then on 2nd December Adilei found 12 nests at the wetland in the ten year old replanted forest close to Amanda’s Hide – the first confirmed nesting of Boat-billed Heron at REGUA.

The nests are made from twigs and lined with feathers and situated 6-8 m above ground, and at the time of writing the chicks are close to fledging.

Boat-billed Heron is widespread throughout Latin America and although numbers are thought to be declining, with such a large range they are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Being a nocturnal species, it is never that easy to see them. But many local birders have recently come to REGUA to photograph these birds and last year Francisco Falcon took this amazing photo of a displaying adult that became a huge success in the local birding world.

In 2012, we captured on camera trap, an adult bird feeding at night along one of the small forest streams that flows into the wetland. Watch the video »