Category Archives: Sightings

Dragon Praying Mantis – Projeto Mantis

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.

Projeto Mantis Team at REGUA (© Projeto Mantis)

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.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

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 team of biologists collected not only one.    A second was found a couple of days later from a forest fragment just seven kilometres away, showing that the species is present along the Guapiaçu valley.    A report and video was sent to National Geographic magazine which was hugely successful.
See https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/animals-insects-brazil-rainforests/

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.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

For further information, the Mantis Project can be found at: https://www.instagram.com/projetomantis/?hl=pt and https://www.facebook.com/projetomantis/

                Good luck team !!

 

 

 

all photographs courtesy of Projeto Mantis

Blue-winged Macaw

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.

Primolius maracana, Blue-winged Macaw (© Nicholas Locke)

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!

Rildo finds Bothrops jararaca

Bothrops jararaca (© Rildo da Rosa Oliveira)

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 elusive Solitary Tinamou at REGUA

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!

Solitary Tinamou egg (© Rildo da Rosa Oliveira)

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.

 

 

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.