Category Archives: Volunteering

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

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
Female Ortilia polinella, REGUA, 15 October 2013 (© Duncan McGeough)

Work on the next REGUA field guide, Observation Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, 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, 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!

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). The photo depicts a worn female sun basking, probably in between short exploratory flights to find a suitable plant for ovipositing.

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 in the moth wall.

Further information about Ortilia polinella can be found here:

Type specimens photos: http://butterfliesofamerica.com/L/t/Ortilia_polinella_a.htm

Higgins revision of Phyciodes/Ortilia: http://archive.org/stream/bulletinofbritis43entolond#page/119/mode/1up

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)