Category Archives: Visitors

The Orchid Cathedral

Our readers will no doubt be following new on the construction of our extraordinary Orchid Cathedral, made possible by a generous grant from the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias.  

Though progress is slow, the Cathedral will be ready for our dear friend Helmut Seehawer, set to arrive this coming April. Helmut, now 82 is to continue his inventory of the orchids here at REGUA. We are delighted because he still has the energy and all the experience in identifying the species on the mountains here at REGUA. 

The Orchid Cathedral (© Nicholas Locke)

 To think that the total number of species of orchids in the world stands at 20 thousand of which 5% or one thousand are found in the mountains here at REGUA and environs. Bathed in cloud forest and stretching from over 2,000 metres to sea level, we can only being to appreciate how lucky we are. 

The Orchid Cathedral, a sun-screened area of 300m², will feature a rocky base, tree ferns mixed with palms, ground plants and some native small Myrtle trees, such as Eugenia sp, to which orchids will be attached. Posts will also hold some of these epiphytes. A path meandering through the house will allow visitors to see why these plants are so special, and interpretation signage will help the visitor understand the delicate role they play in nature and why so many people get excited about them. 

Should any volunteer wish to come and help us organize the interior, we would love to hear from you!!

It is getting exciting around here and already an air of expectation is setting in.

For more information on volunteering at REGUA see here.

Russo’s ‘Banana stop’ is back!

We are delighted to announce that the Russo’s birdfeeder is back working.

Many locals and visitors alike, enjoy stopping at Russo’s makeshift stall on the road to Nova Friburgo. However, following a fire it had been closed for some time.

Russo has now, happily, picked up the courage to rebuild and regain his reputation of one the best places to photograph tanagers close up. The road works that improved access has helped and today the Russo store, though mainly equipped with bananas, snacks and sweets, offers excellent photo opportunities for Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia , Green Honeycreeper, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and even the occasional Spot-billed Toucanet. 

Red-necked Tanager (© Nicholas Locke)

We always like to stop on our excursions, so be prepared with plenty of memory cards!

     


Orchids at REGUA

We are so lucky to receive Helmut Seehawer, orchid enthusiast who, together with his close friend David Miller, surveyed the nearby Macae de Cima valley for these extraordinary epiphytes.

Ranger Messias, Helmut, Ranger Matheus, Nicholas Locke (© REGUA)

Helmut and David identified and described close to 1,000 species found there and wrote and illustrated the book “Orchids of the Serra dos Órgãos”.   Helmut, a retired airplane pilot developed a passion for orchids when he first flew into Rio de Janeiro many years ago and spent a day accompanying fellow crew in another region of Rio looking for these epiphytic plants.

What got him hooked were their many different mysterious forms, sizes, colours and shapes which made it a complicated hobby to master.   Helmut’s fascination led him to study and survey extensive areas and today he is a recognised authority on their identification.

Helmut is 81 years old and has an unassailable passion and energy.   Since his first visit to REGUA he has identified a total of 72 genera comprising 257 species which represent 60% to 70% of known existing orchids.

Divided into the different areas he has surveyed at REGUA these are Helmut’s findings;

Green and Red Trails and Wetland area   68 genera   206 species
Rio do Gato Valley                                     36 genera   65 species
Biaza Reserve                                           35 genera   112 species
St Andre west slope                                  15 genera    25 species
East slope of Lagoinha                              15 genera    26 species
West slope of Lagoinha                             24 genera    74 species

Helmut writes “It seems that the Green and Red trail forest is especially rich but I walked it ten times, Lemgruber six times, Rio do Gato five times, Lagoinha twice and all the rest once only”

Last October, accompanied by two REGUA rangers,  I walked with Helmut to a recently acquired area, the Vidal property on the Serra do Mar ridge-line.   The first expedition was a little misty, but with Black-and-Gold Cotinga calling around us we knew were in a special place.   The next expedition permitted some mind blowing vistas of the surrounding forest for miles around.   Helmut was far too interested in his orchids to notice and he concluded that this rocky high altitude area must be one of the best places he had ever visited.

Helmut hopes to return in late May 2019 and we are only too pleased to walk with him, learn from him and share his passion.   The REGUA orchid cathedral will be ready to present a sample collection of some of the species found here and draw visitors to appreciate their beauty.

Helmut’s enthusiasm and energy encourage us to continue to increase our knowledge and protection of this amazing valley.    We look forward to seeing him on more expeditions in the future.

A big Thank You to all REGUA supporters!

REGUA welcomed retired RSPB director Stuart Housden and Alan Martin recently.   Although Stuart is familiar with the project and had visited REGUA before, he is now a Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust (BART) Trustee and the aim of the visit was to learn what REGUA does; why its work is so valuable and how he could help us with his vast experience.

Stuart and Alan (© Nicholas Locke)

It is amazing to think that we started this off in 2001 with a plan to protect a part of the Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA and almost two decades later, this project is attracting international and national attention for progress in all of its programmes, be it in administration, protection, research, education, restoration or tourism.

REGUA’s location is privileged in that it is set in an area that still retains a significant amount of original biodiversity.   It is also just close enough to Rio de Janeiro city and its environs to make a day outing, an overnight stay or longer visit easily viable.

The factors that contribute to the biodiversity are various including; area of remaining forest cover, a forested gradient and fundamentally an understanding local community, be it land owners, farmers or the local population.    We started our conservation programmes 20 years ago with international support as funding within Brazil was virtually non-existent. Today we see the fruit of what we planted and the results today of every programme speak for themself.

Possibly the best thing about REGUA is that there are so many things to do, it has an exciting aura around it as ever more people are visiting and we can show positive results. The forests are returning the hillsides and valley, the biodiversity is improving, more land is put into set aside, more visitors and the community are learning and approving of our actions and we are getting bolder with our convictions.

Restored landscape (© Sue Healey)

So, although Raquel and I are getting older, we are keener than ever to gain improved results.   Through sharing experiences and knowledge, your visit helps us stride firmly towards the future.

A huge thank you to our UK volunteers, Lee, Rachel, Sue, and to Alan for having been champion king pin for so many years, and now Stuart who together with our mother charity BART and its Trustees endorse our actions and want to help us reach further towards the future.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we have marvellous teams and Raquel and I can firmly say that your determined support has made the difference!

If you would like to meet our UK Volunteer Team they will be at the British Bird Fair, Rutland Water, 17th-19th August, 2018.   Pop along and say hello, Marquee 1 stand 37

Rothschild Silkmoth (Rothschildia hesperus)

Dr Adrian Spalding, president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society in company of Devon’s Marsland reserve director Gary Pilkington visited REGUA in search of insects and birds last October.    The weather was not helpful being hot and dry, so together with Jorge, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist, we headed for a night’s “moth trapping” at Bel Miller’s house in nearby Macae de Cima.

Rothschildia hesperus (© Nicholas Locke)

The weather at that point changed and a light drizzle started.   Bel had mentioned that the weather had also been dry so the rain was most welcome.   Before dinner, Gary set up the light and whilst we had our meal, we could see the moths homing in.   Dr Adrian was up and down and taking photographs of species that converged by the light.    Jorge patiently placed examples of Hawkmoths for identification and send mouth-watering photos to Alan Martin, co-writer of REGUA’s publication “A Guide to the Hawkmoth of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil”.

A multitude of Silkmoths, Tiger moths, Hawkmoths and other micro moths as well as other insects attracted by the light and humid weather came in droves and Adrian said that this must be “the best night EVER I have mothed!”    Gary was similarly delighted, his head covered in moths busy taking photos.

A superb Giant Silkmoth visited, Rothschildia hesperus (Linnaeus, 1758).   Occurring from Argentina to South USA, this is a canopy rainforest species found from sea level to 1400m. It has a wingspan of 10-12 cm and the male is larger bearing transparent triangular windows in each wing.   Females have more rounded wings than males. The adults do not feed, for after mating and laying eggs, and their life’s function is fulfilled.

Dr. Adrian and Gary were in their element. Who wouldn’t be, covered in moths !!

3rd Dragonfly and Damselfly Tour a resounding success!

An eminent group of European Dragonfly and Damselfly specialists converged at REGUA this month to see their beloved species under the professional guidance of Tom Kompier from the Netherlands.

Tom Kompier leads a successful team (© Raissa Knupp)

Tom (dressed in the National garb above) visited regularly over two years under the auspices of Rio de Janeiro National History Museum, and wrote the definitive guide book on Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Órgãos region, identifying an amazing 204 species, one of which is new for science and will named after REGUA!

This is the third organised dragonfly and damselfly tour at REGUA and the group saw 147 species in their eight days here.   The weather in the first two days wasn’t helpful, but the group not only cherished seeing their species but loved their time enjoying the REGUA hospitality.

Thank you for coming and sharing your enthusiasm of these quality habitat indicator species!

David Nemazie of University of Maryland visits REGUA

We were fortunate to receive birders David Nemazie and René Santos at REGUA recently. David is chief of staff for Environmental Science at University of Maryland USA, and René is a super bird guide who brought him here.

The State of Maryland is twinned with the State of Rio de Janeiro with both Chesapeake Bay and Rio’s Guanabara Bay having geographical and environmental similarities. Both coastal bays have similar environmental issues due to large populations and associated problems with waste water treatment, storm water, and habitat degradation.

In 2014, the Governor of the State of Rio concerned with the Olympics in 2016 approached Maryland’s governor and asked him and the University for guidance in cleaning Rio’s Bay following their success.   Rio’s governor obtained support from INEA (RJ Environmental State Agency), UFRJ (RJ University) and other partners to provide the first step, the elaboration of the “Guanabara Bay Report Card”

David Nemazie with Nicholas and Raquel (© REGUA)

The report cards (https://ecoreportcard.org/report-cards/guanabara-bay ) have been successful in other regions and offer a snap shot of the state of the Guanabara Bay as it is today.   It gives ‘scores’ on health and condition, identifying the issues at heart.

It now is up to all of us to engage the wider public with programmes in awareness and education to help the Government define priorities and actions that will contribute to a better care for our Guanabara Bay, home to river dolphins and seahorses.

We are ready to help and do our part.

 

The Knight Family continue their visit

The Knight Family at REGUA with Jorge (left), Raquel and Micaela (right) (©Loan Heringer)

Sylvia and Chris Knight visited REGUA recently with their two children, and one of the tasks they undertook was to see how many different seeds they could find in the forest.

However, that was not the only thing they did in their visit – here’s more from Sylvia.
“As a family, some of the real highlights were our night-time walk where we were spotting caiman, opossums and nightjars as well as other sightings of sloths, a gorgeous orange spined hairy dwarf porcupine, two male blue manakins displaying to a female, watching 1743 cattle egrets come in to roost, and so much more.

We’d like to reiterate our thanks to all the people at REGUA who made us feel so welcome, and made our stay so enjoyable by ferrying us around, feeding us, finding us incredible wildlife and answering a lot of questions!

The Knight family

Seed Collecting Holiday!

Sylvia and Chris Knight recently stayed at REGUA with their two children.    They opted to stay in the relaxed environment of the research accommodation, and here is their review of their stay with us.

Our seed collection (© Knight Family)

“We have just returned home after four wonderful days at the REGUA reserve.   As a family with two primary school aged children, we knew that having the chance to spend time at the reserve was going to be incredible, but was slightly concerned about how long the girls would last before they got tired or bored.    We needn’t have worried!

The combination of incredible birds, mammals, insects, plants and reptiles together with the most wonderful swimming spots we have ever encountered meant they were totally engrossed and as sad to leave as their parents were.

Having visited two other places in Rio state before arriving at REGUA, they particularly appreciated the amount of space and the freedom that gave them – for example being able to go and visit the capybara group on their own before breakfast. A mini ‘project’ for the visit was to make a seed collection – we were just short of 100 types, but I’m sure it could have been much more.

Sylvia and Chris Knight”