Category Archives: Volunteering

Birdfair

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.

Birdfair Stand (© REGUA)

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.


It takes a Team!

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.

Sue, Lee, Alan and Rachel at 2018 British Birdfair (© REGUA)

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.         

Nicholas, Raquel and Thomas

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.

Giant Grasshoppers found at REGUA

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

Nymph of Giant Red-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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.

Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris collaris) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

Visit of the British Consul General

British Consul General visit to REGUA (© Colin Daborn)

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.

The accidental birdwatcher

Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (© Colin Daborn)

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 Tanager Ramphocelus 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.

Jararacussa Bothrops jararacussu (© Colin Daborn)

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.

The orchestra of the night

Tropical Screech-Owl roost by the REGUA Conservation Centre by day and are often heard at night (© Lee Dingain)

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.

Fiona and Colin’s volunteer diary – week 1

Fiona and Bruno weeding in the REGUA nursery (© Colin Daborn)

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.

Colin planting (© Fiona Daborn)

Colin presenting (© Fiona Daborn)

Any Myrmecologists out there?

Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature,  pillars of the ecosystem.   Divided into Tribes, the Atta and 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.

Ants feeding on young plant shoot (© Nicholas Locke)

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.

 

Bare-throated Bellbird

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!

Kaitlin,
Volunteer bird guide.

Silvery-flanked Antwren nest-building

As I was patrolling the Brown Trail today, I noticed a pair of Silvery-flanked Antwrens (Myrmotherula luctosa) gathering dry leaves and taking them into the branches of a small tree. I carefully followed their lead and discovered a little cup nest taking shape! In order to avoid disturbing their work with my observation, I set up my camera on a tripod and left.

This short highlights reel reveals that male and female team up to weave a safe place for raising a family.

Enjoy!

Kaitlin Murphy
Volunteer Bird Guide

If you would like to volunteer at REGUA, see our Volunteer page for more details

Latest news from Kaitlin and Bobby

Kaitlin and Bobby are currently volunteering at REGUA.   Their main project is to help Adilei and Cirilo show the wonderful bird- and wild-life to visitors, but they still find time to do some exploring . . .

“Today Bobby and I were asked to survey a potential trail that winds through an area reforested in 2011-12 with the help of Petrobras.    We were amazed to see such a dramatic amount of growth for such a short amount of time, as well as the diversity of tree species used to jumpstart this section of forest which was once open pasture.    Most of the trees were well above our heads!

Bobby with the trees! (© Kaitlin Murphy)

It was a hot and sunny day, which can effect bird activity, but we still managed to count over 40 bird species using the area already!   It will be exciting to see how species composition changes as the forest progresses. 

Kaitlin, volunteer bird guide”

If you’re interested in volunteering at REGUA check out our Volunteer page 

Heliconia, Hummingbird and Soldierfly Research

Andrew Proudfoot, REGUA Volunteer, reports on research work at REGUA.

“The two men in the middle drop in on Caio Missagia (right) who, helped by his friend Juan, is working towards a doctoral thesis on the intricate relationship between Heliconia spathocircinata, three Hummingbirds (Violet-capped Woodnymph, Reddish Hermit and Saw-billed Hermit) and a Hoverfly (Syrphidae) and Soldierfly (Stratiomyidae) species.

Juan and Caio with Andrew and Thor (REGUA Volunteers) (© REGUA)

Who benefits, who loses and by how much?    Heliconia needs pollination visits from the hummingbird and could provide a plentiful nectar reward.   Larvae of the two fly species are kleptoparasites, gorging on the sugary tissues deep within the protected bracts of the plant’s familiar boat-shaped flowers.   If only those paired bracts were more open, marauding ants might rid the flower of its freeloading flies.

The Amazonian species has no hiding place for Diptera larvae and perhaps it has no trouble supplying its pollinators with nectar. Natural selection could have driven the development of a less enclosed host plant flower. As the Heliconia provides less resource for the hummingbirds, what is the impact on pollinator behaviour and fitness? Fewer birds are recorded visiting infected flowers.

As yet, Caio has no clear answers to these important questions and whether or not Heliconia spathocircinata might be pushed to control these unwelcome freeloaders? An unfolding story; at REGUA we await the next instalment with excitement!”

Andrew Proudfoot

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.

Butterfly rarity, Ortilia polinella, found at REGUA

Female <em>Ortilia polinella</em>, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, is progressing at good pace, and with it lots of new knowledge about the local butterfly fauna, together with some novelties, new records from guests, and volunteers and visitor’s photographs have been consistently pouring in.

One notable rarity was found by Duncan McGeough, a volunteer from Germany in October 2013, just 30 metres from the REGUA office. Ortilia polinella (A. Hall, 1928), a crescent butterfly, is a cousin of the Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia from Europe. Known from less than a half-dozen localities in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, and also very seldom found in collections (only three females and six males in the Natural History Museum, London) this was a superb find!

The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing. Adults are mainly forest species that dwell in sunlit areas like trails, clearings, forest edges, etc. It’s biology is unknown, but other species in the genus use Justicia spp. as foodplants (Acanthaceae).

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

Duncan has also helped with the creation of the REGUA moth leaflet that guests can pick up at the lodge, featuring 60 common moths easily spotted at the moth wall.

Spider-hunting Wasp

Michael Patrikeev has been working on the identification of species he found at REGUA during his stay and has more news for us.

Pepsis-inclyta (© Michael Patrikeev)

“I have identified another species for the reserve this time it is a giant black-blue spider-hunting wasp, which has very likely been seen when it was busily looking for its prey in the forest understorey. The size is impressive, 50-55 mm, and its sting is very painful, apparently scoring 4.0 on the Schmidt sting pain index, next to the bullet-ant (4.0+).

The species is Pepsis inclyta Lepeletier, 1845. It is  “commonest in southern Brazil to central Argentina, but ranges over most of South America” (Vardy 2005).

More images and details on identification can be seen here (http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Hymenoptera/Pompilidae/Pepsis-inclyta.html).”

Michael Patrikeev

Three Generations visit REGUA

Helmut Seehawer has been visiting REGUA for many years.   As a former Lufthansa Airline Pilot, he flew from Germany to Brazil regularly, and in his free time explored the countryside.

On one occasion he travelled with his colleagues to Paraty in Rio State.  In those days there were no roads and travelling was a real adventure.   One of his friends was keen to find orchids and although Helmut could not understand the fascination, he wanted to explore the jungle.   He was delighted when they found some unspoilt forests with their huge trees, tangles and epiphytes.

The friend pointed out large, bright flowers of orchids on the branches of the trees, and at times the two of them climbed trees to get closer views, occasionally jumping from one tree to the other using the branches and vines.

Whilst climbing the trees, Helmut noticed some smaller plants with more delicate flowers, these too were Orchids and a passion was realised.

Helmut purchased a “Sitio” or property in the mountains near Nova Friburgo so that he could explore and protect the habitat there, especially the wonderful orchids he had grown to love.

Three Generations ~ Klaus, Helmut and Katja back at REGUA (© Seehawer family)

A collaboration with David Miller, Richard Warren and Isabel Moura Miller in the late 1990’s resulted in the  acclaimed book ‘Serra Dos Órgãos Sua Historia e Suas Orquideas’ [Serra Dos Órgãos your history and your orchid]’.

Published in 2006, the book features over 200 superb illustrations by Helmut, in wonderful detail. [See below for just one example]

Helmut is back at REGUA for an extended visit with his son Klaus and grand-daughter Katja, who are both carrying on the family love of biology and nature.   Klaus is a snake enthusiast and has spent long days in the field looking for snakes, whilst Katja has previously spent time as a Volunteer researcher at REGUA, studying the mammals around the wetland.

 

Illustrations by Helmut Seehawer (photo by Sue Healey)

 

The Capybaras of the REGUA wetlands by Katja Seehawer

Inspired by my Grandfather’s (Helmut) stories of adventure in identifying orchids and my Father’s (Klaus) passion for snakes, I visited REGUA as a volunteer in 2015. I want to pursue a career in biology and my focus then was on which mammals venture to and from the wetlands and which routes they choose to take, using camera traps positioned on visibly active animal trails.

Katja Seehawer with Capybara (© Klaus Seehawer)

I showed that trail building in an around the wetlands is almost exclusively done by the Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, that permanently live in the wetlands though other animals would also use their trails. These animals like to use the main tourist trails, but between the wetland lakes and the major routes also exist a network of minor “social” trails.

The Capybaras’ stronghold at REGUA is the wetlands but they leave the wetlands for feeding. This was done on three major routes leading to neighbouring farmland, adjacent wetlands and into reforested rainforest with remnant pastures.

I returned to REGUA in March 2017 and observed that all the major routes still existed. There was no change in the trail network although there was an obvious change to where the Capybaras stay during daytime. The object of my stay was to determine how the Capybaras live in the wetlands.

Based on different counts I estimated that there were 50–70 Capybara living in the wetlands in March/April 2017. These numbers were less than we expected. I did not count them in 2015, but I have the feeling their numbers have declined. In 2015 there were seemingly two major groups of Capybara and they were apparently present everywhere in the wetlands. But this was not the case this year, when there was only one group left and other individual Capybara were scattered.

In 2015 I also noticed that many Capybara had wounds and cuts especially on their rear body parts. Some were seriously wounded and were noticeably limping. They seemed to be quite aggressive between each other and I could witness several moments when Capybaras bit each other. The wounds were not as obvious this year. Fighting still took place but the wounds were not as numerous and not as severe. I have the feeling there may have been over-population in 2015 and the lower numbers could have diminished social pressure in 2017.

I also observed that only the group near the volunteer houses remained and concluded that the animals also formed “Capybara nurseries”. A group of 20-30 Capybaras would gather on an island and look after the new born and young less than six months of age, guarded by three to six adults. The young were clearly protected with the adult guards looking in every direction supervising the group. This nursery island was abandoned about one hour after sunrise each day, the young guided to their day area and to other Capybara groups. The majority of Capybaras live loosely dispersed on the shores and islands all over the wetlands.

Aside from the nursery, I could not find evidence of a constant group of Capybara larger than five animals during my three week study. I could not mark any Capybara and there are no individual markings on any Capybara body to distinguish them apart. From the pictures of the camera trap I could see that there were no uniform constant groups. Capybara would go alone or form differently composed groups daily.

Katja with curious Capybara (© Klaus Seehawer)

Over the past three years there was a noticeable relocation of the Capybara population towards human housing especially during night time. This behaviour could be the result of a clear increase of larger predators in the wetlands. We have seen at least three large Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris longer than two metres and there was a clear evidence of an increase of big cat activity in the wetlands. I had read tales from African safari camps of alternating behaviour of animals with young moving towards humans to avoid their predators.

It is possible that the whole population of the REGUA wetland Capybara are in fact a loosely connected society but their behaviour may vary seasonally. This has to be verified.

The REGUA wetland Capybaras give me the impression of a healthy population that very well adapts and regulates itself by wandering off to the adjacent habitat and perhaps also through increasing predation. For future work on the Capybara and to study their social behaviour I will have to find a way to mark individual Capybara. Radio tagging would only make sense when and if we could get funding for a major work on Capybara.

There are excellent conditions to study the life in nature of Capybaras and other wildlife at REGUA because wildlife is diverse and abundant and almost free from human pressure. I look forward to returning and conducting further research work at 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

Possible new snake for REGUA by Klaus Seehawer

Whilst counting Capybara, Katja and Helmut Seehawer found a wonderful green snake in the REGUA wetlands.   It has been provisionally identified it as Chironius multiventris.   If this is confirmed it would be a new snake for the REGUA snake species list.

Chironius multiventris showing blue irridescence (© Seehawer family)

The Chironius family of the Atlantic forest consists of five species of elegant green, grey, brown or black snakes.   The green variants are especially difficult to identify.

The common name of Chironius multiventris is cobra-cipó – liana snake.   It is a non-venomous snake that grows to nearly two metres.    The snake is diurnal and actively hunts for its prey in trees and on the ground.   It preys – good news for you birders out there! – mainly on amphibians.

The snake seen at noon right in the middle of the wetlands was 120 cm long and of a wonderful green colour with a blue shimmer reflecting from the sky above.  It was observed for a while and obviously distracted by hunting.

With the growing number of species across many taxa in the wetlands the number of snakes will also increase.   In intact Atlantic Forest habitat (without human snake killing) 80% of the snakes encountered will be nonvenomous.

Chironius multiventris well camoflagued (© Seehawer family)

On a separate occasion the Seehawer family encountered another large green snake on Green Trail.   This snake was possibly Chironius exoletus or Chironius bicarinatus, but they were not able to make a reliable identification as the colour and back marking was in between these two snake species.

Give snakes their space and enjoy the rare adventure of seeing one.

Klaus Seehawer

N.B. it should be noted that snakes are not easy to find at REGUA, their natural defence means they are well aware of human presence and will slip away rather than be found.  The Seehawer family are very experienced in finding snakes and walked in the forest with REGUA Rangers.