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.
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.
August and September mark the transition from winter to early spring at REGUA and it can be an interesting time for birding. In August many species are already paired up, forming territories and starting to call and even nest-building, while others are still moving around in mixed-species winter flocks. Here are the sightings highlights for August and September.
The undoubted highlights were the 3 new species found that were new for REGUA. The first of these was a superb male Southern Pochard at the wetland, found by visiting photographer Tom Friedel on 22 August. This bird stayed for 5 days and spent most of its time feeding with Brazilian Teal and White-faced Whistling-Ducks.
Other sightings at the wetland include the 3rd record of Magnificent Frigatebird for REGUA (an adult female over on 18 September), the long-staying Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Black-legged Dacnis, 2 Black-necked Aracari (1 September), Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron, 3 Rufous-thighed Kite, Crane Hawk, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Reddish Hermit, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Rusty-margined Guan, Rufous-capped Motmot, Limpkin, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Blackish Rail, Amazon Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Hooded Tanager, Common Waxbill and a noisy colony of nest-building Red-rumped Caciques.
Lodge garden: The feeders in the lodge garden were extremely quiet in August, especially for hummingbirds. However, things did start to improve in September. Notable sightings at the lodge including Lineated Woodpecker (31 August), Blond-crested Woodpecker (up to 3 regularly visiting the fruit feeder), Toco Toucan, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Hooded Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Scaly-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Curl-crested Jay, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3 moving through on 18 September – unusual in the lodge garden) and the usual Rusty-margined Guans visiting the bananas. Black Jaonbins reappeared in September, with numbers increasing as the month progessed.
Brown Trail and São José Tower: Shrike-like Cotinga has been elusive this year but birds have occasionally been seen around the São José Tower. A pair of (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbirds showed well along the trail to the tower and sightings on the Brown Trail include White-necked Hawk, Common Pauraque (2 birds sitting on eggs), Reddish Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Grey-hooded Attila, Sooretame Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-bellied (Turquoise) Tanager and Brazilian Tanager. The 2 Tropical Screech-Owls were seen most days roosting around post 0 by the conservation centre.
Green Trail: An adult King Vulture photographed on 12 September was the third new bird for REGUA during this period (bringing the REGUA bird list up to 483, not including species found on excursions)! Also noted were Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Sharpbill, White-necked Hawk, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Southern Antpipit (6 on 27 August is a notable count), Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Grey-hooded Attila, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, White-throated Woodcreeper, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Red-necked Tanager and Rufous-headed Tanager.
Waldenoor Trail: A Long-tailed Potoo showed well for a few days in August at a roost site and other birds noted include Swallow-tailed Cotinga, White-tailed Trogon, Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-eyed Parakeet, Variegated Antpitta, (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Olive-green Tanager.
Farmland safari: Our new excursion to the farmland bordering the reserve have proven extremely popular with guests, providing a change of pace from forest birding. A Long-tailed Reedfinch found by our guide Adilei on 1 September was the first record for REGUA. Other species recorded include Scaled Pigeon (heard on 1 September followed the next day by the first sight record for REGUA on 2 September), Campo Troupial, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, White-rumped Monjita, Short-tailed Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Ash-throated Crake, White-rumped Swallow, South American Snipe, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Toco Toucan, Whistling Heron, Lineated Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, American Kestrel, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Rufous Hornero, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Yellow Tyrannulet, Cattle Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (first returning bird of the spring seen on 31 August), Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Long-billed Wren, Masked Yellowthroat, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Grassland Sparrow, Chopi Blackbird, Red-cowled Cardinal and White-browed Meadowlark. We will be posting an itinerary for this excellent excursion on our website shortly.
On our night-birding excursion several Giant Snipe were seen along with Black-banded Owl, Common Potoo, American Barn Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl and Spot-tailed Nightjar.
Highlights from our excursions off-reserve include:
This diurnal snake, was seen by a group of visitors on our Green Trail, whilst walking in the forest with Adilei.
Although not venomous, they can still give a nasty bite if threatened. Adelie knows how to deal with this sort of situation as he has spent all his life in these forests. One of the group got this amazing footage, standing at a safe distance.
These snakes lay eggs and are active on the ground and in trees. Their prey are mammals and birds, including eggs and nestlings.
Their defence strategy is to puff up their forebody and shake their tail. This individual seemed quite relaxed and only shook the tail as it left the group by slithering under a nearby fallen tree.
You will all remember that our Great Horned Owls Bubo virginianus were first spotted near to REGUA in August last year by Fito Downs and Adilei, REGUA’s Bird Guide. Many visitors were delighted to see this enigmatic species and Adilei caught some images of their coupling at the time.
Adilei and I visited the same tree in late December to take a photograph of the resulting juvenile bird. As you can see the juvenile has grown considerably and as it starts its first moult, the downy first feathers are being replaced by the first adult plumage.
Naturally we are delighted with the progress and hope that the juvenile decides to stay nearby like our Tropical Screech-Owls, we certainly have plenty of old suitable trees in the area.
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.
Lee Dingain spent lot of time observing this species and wrote an excellent paper that was published in Neotropical Birding.
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!