The Birdfair was in full swing this time last week, and REGUA had an amazing time. Many friends came along to find out the latest news of the project and we kept in touch here in Brazil via messages and photographs. Our UK team received vital help over the weekend, so a big REGUA “thank you” to Alan, Sue, Stuart, Ken, Tracy and Ian, who gave their time.
Everyone who visited our stand showing continued interest and support in the project really makes a difference and keeps us pushing forward with new impetus to protect and restore more land.
Without our amazing team of workers, volunteers, visitors, donors and support from so many people across the globe we would not have been able to achieve so much in so short a time. You are all playing a vital role in continuing to build the reputation and success of REGUA.
A conservation project of this dimension is not possible without constant support from a whole team. In REGUA’s case some of our team are based in the UK.
The UK team, led by Alan Martin include Lee Dingain, Rachel Walls and Sue Healey. They have been a pillar of strength to this project. All volunteers, they started by visiting REGUA to see birds and were smitten by the REGUA bug; a desire to get involved and ensure the continuation of this project.
It seems only yesterday we first met them and within a couple of days they were asking how they could help. With zillions of contributions, Alan with his experience in business administration, Lee with website skills, Rachel who runs our volunteer programme, and Sue with her communication skills, this incredible team has helped increase the capacity of REGUA to promote its work.
Today these efforts are responsible for its international success. The team have also been promoting REGUA and our steady progress over the last twelve years at the British Bird Fair, so go along and see the latest updates at this years fair at Rutland Water Leicestershire, Marquee 8, Stand 12 from 16th to 18th August 2019.
You can follow the progress of our project here on our website, or follow the links below to our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Every visitor is welcome at REGUA and your time here contributes to its perpetuity.
All of us at REGUA wish to thank the volunteer team who have devoted so much time to this project and continue to shine in every respect.
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.
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.
Michael Patrikeev, a long standing friend and supporter of REGUA is always coming up with amazing information on his sightings while at the Reserve. The latest concerns two species of large grasshopper found at REGUA. Here’s Michael’s report and excellent photographs.
“I have identified two species of Tropidacris from REGUA
Tropidacris cristata (Giant Red-winged Grasshopper) is the largest known grasshopper, reaching up to 14 cm in length, and 24 cm wingspan. The adults are olive or brownish-green, with orange hindwings. The nymphs are striped with black and yellow, and likely toxic. This species inhabits forested areas of Central and South America from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and the island of Trinidad. In flight it resembles a small bird.
Tropidacris collaris (Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper) is found in tropical forests and grasslands of South America east of the Andes, from Colombia to Argentina. Along with T. cristata, this is one of the largest known grasshoppers (length around 10 cm, wingspan 18 cm). The adult is mostly green, yellow-green or brown, with blue hindwings. This species is more common than T. cristata.
I have photographed only nymphs of these species in REGUA, but would expect one of these to come to a light at the Reserve sooner or later – they are quite a sight!”
Both species are widely distributed in the Neotropics, and common. T. collaris occurs in both forests and savanna, and T. cristata is mostly a forest species.”
More details and photos can be seen on Michael’s website here:
REGUA received a visit on Thursday 18th October from the Rio based British Consul General, Simon Wood, along with his wife Pippa and colleague Clarissa Vargas. The focus of the consular work is to promote trade and friendship between Brazil and the UK. Arriving in time for a “cafezinho” (British style, with milk!) the party then set off around the Wetland Trail, looking out for wildlife and hearing about the history and biodiversity of REGUA along the way.
Living in Rio for over a year (following assignments in Tokyo and then Copenhagen), this was Simon’s first visit to REGUA which had been recommended to him by a neighbour. Nicholas and Raquel shared with them about the ambitious reforestation project and other activities including REGUA’s education work with local schools and universities.
After a lunch featuring Brazilian rice and beans alongside English cottage pie, they visited the lodge to see for themselves the warm welcome and cosy accommodation available for visiting birdwatchers and tourists.
Volunteers Fiona and Colin Daborn report on their second week at REGUA.
We’ve now come to the end of our second week volunteering at REGUA and there has been plenty of work on trail maintenance, tree planting and nursery tasks. We’ve also chalked up a surprisingly extensive species list. We love the outdoors and all things nature but we wouldn’t classify ourselves as serious birders. At home in the UK we love seeing birds when we are out and about hiking or camping but we don’t normally keep a log. Life at REGUA is different. Whilst doing our volunteering we have so far seen an incredible 48 species of birds not to mention numerous butterflies and moths. My favourite bird is the bright red Brazilian TanagerRamphocelus bresilius, easy to spot and still breathtakingly colourful even after a few sightings.
But there is more to REGUA than just birds. Our volunteer shared house backs on to the wetlands and most mornings before breakfast we have been down to the water’s edge to watch the group of 12 or so Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris who have made a small island their home. It has been a real treat to see them so close and they are great subjects for photos because they stay relatively still.
From the same location you can sometimes also catch a glimpse of a Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris gliding slyly through the water, keeping a low profile and watching out for his next meal. Sometimes the only part showing is a bulging glassy eye. Just once so far we have been able to see a sloth up high in the bare branches of a tree – standing just outside Casa 3 (another volunteer/visitors house) with binoculars it was great to watch him as he moved at glacial speed down the trunk.
We’ve also had the privilege (?) of seeing two snakes this week. We disturbed the Tiger Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus while clearing debris on the Brown Trail – it must have sensed us coming and the first indication was a steady rustling noise as it slithered away through the leaves and then up a tree. Obviously feeling safe at that point it stayed still watching us watching him/her! Our other sighting was whilst walking back to the truck after tree planting as we followed a small stream, I glanced down and saw a venomous Jararacussa Bothrops jararacussu coiled on a rock on the lookout for lunch. As we were up on the bank at a safe distance there was plenty of time to study the impressive patterning and triangular head.
Most evenings around 5 pm you can find us sitting at the top of the observation tower, reclining in the comfy chairs and having a definite sense of being “on top of the world”. The view from there is amazing (you must come and see!) and truly hopeful – there are trees as far as the eye can see. We’ve spotted lots of hummingbirds from this viewpoint but on the walk back from the tower to our house we’ve also been lucky enough to see tapir. REGUA is in the midst of a Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris reintroduction programme so it has been fascinating to learn about that but even more exciting to see the tapir themselves snuffling around in the undergrowth rediscovering their native landscape.
We’re looking forward to exploring more of this landscape ourselves in Week three of our volunteering adventure. Coming soon!
Follow Fiona and Colin’s adventures at REGUA on their blog.
Volunteers Fiona and Colin Daborn report on their volunteering at REGUA.
One thing we didn’t expect when we signed up as “General Volunteers” with REGUA, was that there would be an on site orchestra… but now, two weeks into our stay we are very much tuned in to the soundtrack of REGUA. The music begins before first light with a Brazilian dawn chorus; lots of high twitterings like the flute section joining the mix, preceded only by one or two mournful cicadas who emit a piercing monotone anguished cry – perhaps they just don’t like mornings.
During the day different sections of the orchestra have their turn; working in the plant nursery it is common to hear the cheerful melody of the Great Kiskadee announcing his arrival (“kis-ka-dee”), trail clearing in the forest we enjoy additional percussion from the White-bearded Manakin who sounds the high hat cymbal (if you’ve heard a Stonechat it is very similar) and while we are raking leaves by the wetlands we are interrupted by the occasional double bass bark of the placid Capybara.
As evening approaches, and especially after heavy rain, it is the turn of the baritone section – a rhythmic baseline of rich gurgling is added by the numerous frogs and toads in the soggy undergrowth. Their song is surprisingly deep and loud, each croak followed by another just one tone higher or lower. Before long, our friendly Tropical Screech-Owl, who regularly visits to choose his dinner from the many moths by our refectory lights, sounds the final haunting note of today’s symphony. Time for bed before it all begins again!
Follow Fiona and Colin’s adventures at REGUA on their blog.
Volunteers Fiona and Colin Daborn report on their first week at REGUA.
Nearly at the end of our first week as general volunteers at REGUA and we are loving it so far. After a warm welcome from Nicholas, Raquel and the team on Monday (8th October) we were out with Jorge (REGUA Research Coordinator) on the lush “green trail” in search of butterflies. When we got back we had time to settle into our room in one of the volunteer houses, complete with well stocked bookshelves and a table perfect for writing up our sightings.
Tuesday saw us working in the plant nursery with Mauricio and Bruno planting seedlings and preparing new soil bags. Bruno turned out to be a fantastic Portuguese teacher too, so we expanded our vocabulary whilst weeding!
On Wednesday the sun was shining as we joined the hard-working ranger team led by Rui, planting out young trees to help reforest bare slopes. It was impressive to see the team workflow with each person having their own task – hoeing, preparing holes, adding compost, bringing the plants up to the steepest slopes in two baskets on the back of a mule, then passing the young trees across the slope so that the rest of the team could do the final stage of planting.
After a dramatic thunder and lightning storm, Thursday dawned wet and the air was filled with the sound of contented frogs! After a morning back in the nursery we joined the rest of the team for a short drive out to have lunch with one of the families who have a small holding adjoining REGUA land. Our host was so grateful to REGUA for protecting the land in the valley surrounding his farm that he wanted to provide a Thank You lunch. The table was laden with rice and beans, manioc, various salads, pasta, a local speciality of baked cod with boiled eggs and two meat dishes including one prepared in the blood of a chicken. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another mouthful, dessert appeared – homemade passion fruit mousse or Brazilian trifle! After lunch we joined Professor Carlos back in REGUA classroom for the weekly session of the Young Rangers. Colin shared a presentation on his work as a National Trust ranger in the UK and there were plenty of lively questions about the size of snakes in Dorset! (photo 3)
It has been a great opportunity so far to share our skills and experience with REGUA but also to learn a lot about our new environment from the team and the many visiting scientists. We’re looking forward to seeing what next week brings!
Follow Fiona and Colin’s adventures at REGUA on their blog.
Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature, pillars of the ecosystem. Divided into Tribes, the Attaand Acromyrmex are very common in our Neotropical forests and though we worry about their action in freshly planted forests, they are very important in the established forest harvesting and cultivating their fungus on which they feed in their underground homes.
Their vast system of perfectly ventilated tunnels and chambers permits precious nitrogen to reach the roots of trees.
We are trying to identify the most common species at REGUA but we expect to have between 400 and 450 different species. Taking photographs is notoriously difficult, for aside being small, they move and are often camera shy.
If you want a challenge and wish to visit us spending your time helping us to get some images to help with developing a field guide, drop us a line and we would really love your company.
Ever wonder what the loudest bird on Earth is? The outrageous Bare-throated Bellbird (Procnias nudicollis) is certainly a top contender! While hiking up the Green Trail here at REGUA, singing males can be heard from over a kilometre away.
The call each male belts from his featherless blue-skinned throat sounds like a mallet striking an iron pipe, and echoes down the valley in rhythmic series. As we climb higher up the mountain trail, the boinks and bonks of competing males get louder and louder, but we can often only catch glimpses of them perched high in treetops.
Today, volunteer bird guide Bobby found our lucky visitor group, front row seats to an ear-splitting performance by a young male singing close beneath the canopy. Bare-throated Bellbirds are endemic to the Atlantic Forest, found nowhere else on Earth. These large, fruit-loving passerines perform crucial seed dispersing services for many lowland and montane trees. Unfortunately, drastic logging of the Atlantic Forest for development, combined with illegal poaching for the caged-bird trade, has led to declining populations of this spectacular species and a Vulnerable designation by IUCN. But thanks to REGUA, the forest home of these contending males along the Green Trail is safe into the future. And they can return the favor by dispersing their favorite fruit trees throughout the reserve, helping the forest to grow!