In October 2017 our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha heard a Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus at the village of Matumbo, situated at the edge of REGUA. With a large range covering much of North, Central and South America, Great Horned Owl had long been predicted as a future addition to the REGUA bird list, but this was the first record for the reserve.
Tantalizingly, there was no further sign until just a few days ago on the 18 August 2018 when Adilei finally saw a bird – the first sight record for REGUA. When he returned the next morning with his camera he found not one bird but a pair! Then while watching and photographing them he was amazed when they mated right in front of him!
What an incredible record and yet another owl species for REGUA. The addition of Great Horned Owl takes the REGUA bird list to an incredible 479 species! Well done Adilei for finding and documenting such a great record.
Though the IUCN states that White-bellied Tanager (Tangara brasilensis ) is considered of “least concern” it really is a stunning bird.
Flying in small flocks, up to 10 strong, this Atlantic Rainforest endemic can be found at REGUA even close to houses that make up its local villages. It is very responsive to its call, and raises the neck feathers in retaliation to Adilei’s speakers. It seems to like tree canopies at mid-elevation, but with the two tone powder blue plumage, black mouth parts and white underbelly it is unmistakeable.
As they appear quite mottled, one is left intrigued if the colourful feather arrangements are identical to all members of this species.
Recently renamed the White-bellied tanager; it has been split from its Amazonian cousin, Turquoise Tanager. Those wishing to photograph this bird will not be disappointed.
The “Near threatened” Brown Tanager species (Orchesticus abeilli) like many tanagers, is an arboreal species generally associated with higher altitude forest where occasio
nally one can find it feeding with in a mixed tanager flock. Seeing one in tree canopy is quite usual, but viewing one by the REGUA tower at lowland altitude appears a little out of place.
It is an uncommon tanager and habitat loss has not improved things for it, Serra dos Órgãos National Park, just two hours drive from REGUA, is one of several protected areas where this species has been found, but the risk of deforestation outside of the safety of Reserves such as REGUA and the National Park mean the species is becoming more isolated.
The Brown Tanager can be confused with the Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, the same rufous supercilliary line, but the typically “tanageresque” thick bill is the giveaway. These birds like insects but will eat small fruit.
So why is it around? Another of Natures mysteries, but it certainly was thrilling to view from the tower offering great sightings and photographic opportunities to those with cameras and binoculars.
Though Birdlife and IUCN state the Long tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus) occurs across all South America, it also warns the population is declining.
The species refined distribution map suggests that in some time the Atlantic Rainforest and the Amazonian species might well be split. This magical bird is rarely seen and highly desired by most bird observers around the globe. With its nocturnal habits, its call is a long loud “Raaauuulll…” and the local population is scared by its unexpected call.
It is usually found perched on snags and high stumps and although it’s a large bird, it is well camouflaged and slow to move that often one just misses it. This species requires good habitat and we are lucky to have one that doesn’t mind being photographed.
The Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.
They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea. There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.
Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science. Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.
With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden. They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.
However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.
The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.
One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843. It resembles depictions of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one. Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.
The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.
Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection. Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.
The Blue-winged Macaw (Primolius maracana) is one of those very special Psittacidae that occur between coastal Brazil spanning west to Bolivia and Argentina. They are found in an area in the North East of Brazil, but they generally seem to occupy the extent of the Atlantic Rainforest.
No longer so common, we remember seeing them nesting in thick bamboo clumps but that was a while ago and before our wetlands were developed. Perhaps they are not fond of water bodies as they are now observed only on the rain shadow side of the Serra do Mar mountain range.
We like to show these friendly yet shy birds to visitors on the Sumidouro trail in search of other endemics such as the Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren. These are all drier region species and one can see these wonderful Macaws on tall Imperial Palms typically chatting together in what appears profound chitchat!
The Atlantic Forest snake species, Bothrops jararaca, a type of pit viper, is one that locals hold in the highest regard and with good reason. It is dangerous only if one steps on one and accidentally gets bitten.
According to serpent specialists, snakes are not uncommon in REGUA’s forests. I have to admit that although I have walked many times in the forest I have failed to find one. However, I am sure that finding one coiled on the path can be a harrowing experience. In the distant past most local people would kill every snake irrespective of colour, thickness and length.
Today the REGUA rangers know that reptiles form an important part of our biodiverse forests and are not aggressive. They now leave them to their own business, and are helping to spread the word that unless they are inadvertently disturbed, most snakes would slither off into the forest before we are even aware of their presence.
REGUA’s World Land Trust “Keepers of the Wild” project sponsored ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this one by a rock and left it apparently dozing. He didn’t want to look closer!
The Atlantic Rainforest endemic Solitary Tinamou (Tinamus solitaries) has to be one of the hardest birds to see at REGUA. I have only once seen one walking a distant trail some years ago. The bird leapt onto the path in front of me and we walked serenely in single file for what seemed like an eternity but perhaps it was only a few seconds before it left. I rejoined the bird group I was with half an hour later and told them excitedly what I had seen. All I could see on their faces were torturous expressions of sadness. Never again!
The Solitary Tinamou occurs throughout the Atlantic Rainforest and suffers from the loss of habitat. Hunters’ reputation depended on bagging these birds, but with the conservation efforts and reduced hunting the populations are rising and the birds can be heard throughout the reserve. Ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira found this single egg. He wasn’t able to go back to make sure it hatched, but we do hope all is well for the chick and its parents.
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.
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.
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.
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.