Professor Proudfoot’s Work!

Walking the 50km of trails at REGUA is fascinating for birders and naturalists alike. Altitudinal range spans 30 – 2000m and there is a richness of invertebrates and plants to match the diversity of birds that draws the majority of visitors to REGUA.    All classes of arthropod are present in abundance and there are many interesting patterns of distribution waiting to be identified and investigated.

Dobsonfly Corydalidae (©Andrew Proudfoot)

REGUA’s lodge garden has a roofed, whitewashed wall complete with mercury vapour lamp generating many new records of moths for the Reserve and for Rio State.    The wall often reveals a wealth of other interesting invertebrates such as this Dobsonfly (Corydalidae).   Many of these creatures are difficult to see in the forest probably because they are residents of the tree canopy.

In the forest there are chance encounters with exciting species such as the White Witch Moth (Thysania agripina)  Noctuidae with a huge wingspan.

December to Febuary is the Brazilian summer and usually a hot rainy season and time of maximum plant growth.   This is, of course, an excellent time for all insects and amphibians.   Whilst August to November is the Brazilian Spring and busy for birdwatching, it is also good for insects.    Only March to July are a little quieter.

Witch moth Thysania agripina (© Andrew Proudfoot)

There is a profusion of wonderful butterflies.  Some, like the 88, (Diaethria clymena) are very common.   The most famous neotropical butterflies belong to the Genus Heliconia, with their distinctive strap-shaped wings and bright colours.   These insects were shown to have co-evolved with their food plant, the different species of passion-vine (Passiflora). The vines put out new shoots irregularly and the butterflies must live a long time to be able to search out new growth and lay a full complement of eggs.

Another spectacular group of insect are the various species of huge Morpho butterflies which flit through the forest under-storey.

Diptera are interesting and diverse. There are three common sources of food that can provide for a profusion of flies: dung, carrion and some species of freshly emerged fungus. Parasitoid ichneumonids and tachinids search out the larvae of butterflies and moths whose living tissues they will feed on until they finally cause their death.

Ants are predators, roaming leaf and shoot for opportunities or different species will farm leaves with the help of fungus.

Volunteer Researchers (Lee & Peter) in the forest (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Spiders must guard against predatory wasps and some of these are very large indeed.

Beneath the placid exterior of the forest, termites work to undo the conversion of CO2 to sugar; every now and then a crash is heard acr

oss the forest as another giant tree succumbs to their tiny jaws.

There is much work to do to find out how many species of arthropod exist in these rich habitats.   We are only in the earliest of stages investigating how all these myriad species interact in Mata Atlântica.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer

REGUA Ranger receives joint Conservation Award

Sometimes one feels that there seems to be a lull like the wind has dropped leaving the sails slack.   This year appeared that way; fewer visitors and reforestation grants contributing to the lack of needed momentum at a precious time.

Admittedly land purchases have been tough and it’s been hard to close the available areas with their respective owners.   I guess socio-economic conditions are constantly changing and these naturally affect the efficiency of our proposal.

Muriqui Research Team André and Rildo centre left and right resp. (© REGUA)

Then I received an email that the Global Conservation Leadership Programme winners had been announced and found the page to seek the name of those prizewinners.

The Young Conservationists is a great programme that seeks young researchers in Biology and provides them with a grant to continue with their studies.   I have often been asked by friends to submit a proposal but I do consider I am in the correct age range to compete.   Imagine my delightful surprise when checking this year’s prizewinners to find the Muriqui Monkey Project in SE Brazil.

The picture of André Lanna and Rildo as winners of the 2017 prize gave me a huge confidence boost. Well done André, REGUA ranger Rildo and Muriqui Team!

André had mentioned that REGUA may be the last bastion of the Southern Muriqui primate and suspect that there could be three populations here.   May their project continue to enjoy the success it deserves and place REGUA healthily on the map.

The wind is picking up my friends!

Warmly

Nicholas Locke  

http://www.conservationleadershipprogramme.org/project/muriqui-serra-do-mar-brazil/

 

Insect life Research

REGUA received a visit by the eminent biologists Dr. David Redei and his colleague, Dr. Qiang Xie from Nankai University last December.    Working in partnership with Brazil’s Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) and invited by Dr. Felipe and Dr.Elcio, they spent a day looking at REGUA’s insect life.

Dr David Redei inspecting the Conservation Centre Moth Trap (© N Locke)

David and Qiang are working on phylogeny using morphological and molecular characters used in establishing taxonomic differences.   David is classifying insects according to tribe, family and genus.   Their interest in South America is evident once one knows that the continent has its own endemic and specialized insects.   David’s specialty is Hemiptera or Stink bugs, but he became very excited to learn that REGUA has its fair share of Phloeidae, a family existing only in the Neotropics of the Atlantic rainforest.   These are barnacle like insects that can be found mainly lurking on tree trunks in quality forest.

Now we will keep our eyes peeled to photograph and send images to these fascinating visitors. Thank you both for visiting and sharing your interests with us!

Longhorn Beetle identified

In September 2011, I photographed a long-horned beetle, which has been recently identified by Everardo Grossi, a friend of Isabel Miller.

Hypsioma inornata (© Michael Patrikeev)

According to Everardo the species is Hypsioma inornata (Hypselomus inornata).
There is a specimen in the Paris National Museum, labelled simply “Brazil”.

I have little familiarity with Neotropical Cerambycidae. Perhaps there are more recent records in recent entomological literature.

Michael Patrikeev

 

A Volunteer’s Story

Thor Smestad looks back on his time at REGUA.

“Well I am back in Canada now .. after six fantastic weeks at REGUA.

I accomplished what I went there to do – to learn as much as I could about their reforestation program, and also have a great time.    I had the opportunity to collect tree seeds in the forest, help with the process producing seedlings from these in the REGUA nursery, and even plant some trees too. I plan to go back .. for the tree planting season – this was only the beginning for me.    

Thor Smestad Planting Terminalia acuminata (© Nicholas Locke)

The constant stream of researchers that stay there too, looking at everything from bats to frogs and owls .. made things even more interesting.

For anyone interested in tropical reforestation and ecology, I highly recommend spending some time at REGUA. Thank you to all the people at REGUA, you were wonderful – and so was the food and accommodation, I think I even put on a little weight.
Thor”

Orange-breasted Falcon at Pico da Caledônia

On 23 March, our bird guide Cirilo Vieira was guiding two guests David Wilcove and Tim Treuer from Princeton University at Pico da Caledônia who were keen to see the rare Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita found in the elfin forest around the top of the mountain. Unfortunately they could only hear the cotinga calling, but then imagine their surprise when they caught sight of an Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus perched on a bare branch close to the road (just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint at the start of of the starts to the summit). David had been looking for this bird for 30 years and sighed in disbelief when he realized what it was!

Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus, Pico da Caledônia, RJ, 23 March 2017. Note the bulky structure, heavy bill, large feet, white throat contrasting with the orange breast and neck sides, broad barring on the belly and blackish upperparts. The photo also shows the graduated tail quite well. The greenish tinge to the yellow feet, cere and orbital ring suggest this bird is a sub-adult. (© David Wilcove)

Orange-breasted Falcon is very similar in appearance to the much more common and widespread Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Identification can be difficult, but there are some key identification features if seen well. Structurally, Orange-breasted Falcon is larger and bulkier than Bat Falcon and with a larger head and slightly shorter graduated tail. The feet are also noticeably larger and are yellow to greenish-yellow compared to the bright orange-yellow feet of Bat Falcon, and the bill is significantly heavier. Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts that contrast very little with the blackish head, whereas across much of it’s range, Bat Falcon generally has paler greyish upperparts that contrast with the blackish head.

There are several supporting identification features, that while not diagnostic, are also useful. In Orange-breasted Falcon the white throat is bordered by an orange breast (above the black ‘vest’ on the belly) and neck sides, whereas in most Bat Falcons the white throat contrasts strongly with the black vest with little or no orange or buff on the breast (there are some exceptions though so this alone is not a reliable identification feature). Also, the whitish barring on the black vest is coarser with an orange wash on Orange-breasted Falcon compared to Bat Falcon that usually shows faint narrow whitish barring on the vest.

The Neotropical Bird Club website has an excellent paper on the identification of Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons.

Guilherme Serpa informs us that this is only the second sighting of Orange-breasted Falcon for Rio de Janeiro state – an incredible record! Intriguingly, Adilei has seen a falcon here in the past that he assumed was Bat Falcon and Nicholas has photographs of a falcon taken nearby on Pico da Caledônia, again presumed Bat Falcon at the time. We will be checking these photos to double check the identification.

The following day another group from the lodge visiting Pico da Caledônia failed to relocate the bird, but hopefully it will be seen again. Very well done to David Wilcove for an excellent state find and for taking an excellent set of photographs.

Thor’s Project – part 3

Thor has returned from the north of Brazil, and revisited REGUA and his cuttings in our nursery on his way home to Canada.

Marianeira cuttings (acnistus arborescens)

Talking to him about the progress of his project made interesting conversation.   He enjoyed the whole experience of being in Brazil, and making new friends at REGUA and found his time with us an excellent opportunity to learn about different techniques of tropical forestation.   From helping in the nursery, planting the seeds in prepared pots to planting the trees, Thor took on board the whole process.

He particularly enjoyed his time walking with Mauricio [head nurseryman] and Barata [forest ranger] in the forest, collecting seeds and trying to identify the myriad of  tree species.

As for his project – to experiment with taking tree cuttings rather than germinating seeds.   Thor has just re-checked his samples.  Although they were probably not take at the ideal time of year there were at least a dozen new plants from the Marianeira (acnistus arborescens) species  and a couple of Tabebuia cassinoides.

Thor plans to return at a different time of year and next time maybe use hormone rooting powder.    As he says

“REGUA and many other projects in the tropics are still having problems germinating some species of tree and if I try at a different time of year we may have more success.  

Thor with one of his successful cuttings. (© Sue Healey)

I also want to go and see other projects here in Brazil.   Before I come back however, I need to tackle identifying some of the tree species and they are overwhelming here.   I would recommend REGUA totally as an experience, with its peace and quiet and such welcoming people, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.”

REGUA looks forward to Thor’s return.

 

A weekend of Birding at REGUA

The Rio de Janeiro Birding Calender for 2017 successfully kicked off on March 11th and 12th at REGUA.

Some 30 local birders came to enjoy the wetlands and waterfall trail.    An early start, followed by Cirilo’s guiding enabled many first time birders to walk the yellow trail and see many of the over 180 species found in this habitat.

Some of the group with Cirilo (© Raquel Locke)

There were ample opportunities to present the work that REGUA has been devoted to and the project’s future plans.

People are always very receptive and positive and the end of the day was filled with promises of return visits and future enjoyment.

 

Accessibility in the Atlantic Rainforest

Caroline Begg on the Waterfall Trail

Staying at Regua over the next 2 weeks, we have a guest Caroline Begg staying at the Lodge.  During her time here, Caroline will be advising us on improving accessibility around the Lodge. Caroline has a disability called “Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia” and uses a mix of crutches and a wheelchair to get around.  Two wooden ramps have been fitted, one up to the veranda and one leading into Room Three as well as a grab rail in the shower area. These improvements enable Caroline to get around the Lodge independently.

During her first week, Caroline accessed the Yellow trail around the wetland on her wheelchair with some assistance over tree roots and where there are slight inclines. We bird watched along the way, taking a leisurely 3 hours to complete the trail.  She also participated in the weekly fitness class being held for REGUA staff at the conservation area. This class has been started to help staff member Lisa, who had her legs amputated last year to gain strength and improve her general fitness. During the week, we drove up part of the green trail and visited the new reforested area, the Protestant Land.

Caroline says she is impressed with the outstanding beauty of the reserve and the friendliness and willingness of the staff helping her to get around. Following Caroline’s visit, we will be looking to provide a room which is accessible for disabled visitors.

Thor’s work continues

Thor Smestad is a Canadian forestry expert of many years experience.   He volunteered at REGUA with a brief to try to improve our plant propagation programme.   See our first news on Thor’s visit here.

Thor with his cuttings in the REGUA Nursery (© Andrew Proudfoot)

Many Mata Atlantica tree seeds germinate easily and only require to be collected from the forest, placed in a soil-filled sleeves, watered and sheltered from direct sun in the nursery. However, germination rates for some can be poor.    For trees from the fig family for example, success may be limited.    Perhaps Brazil nuts are the best illustration of this dilemma: fewer than 5% of planted seeds germinate.

The way ahead is to use cuttings of shoots dipped in rooting hormone and placed in soil.   In this way, rare plants, not found in fruit, and species with seeds of low viability can be restored to the new forest plantings here at REGUA.

Symbiotic micorrhizal fungi are another issue investigated in Thor’s project.   We do not know how central these fungi are to successful forest establishment and vigorous growth. By experimentally including/excluding forest floor debris (which will carry the fungal spores), the impact of micorrhiza may be assessed. Better information improves reafforestation outcomes and so there is understandably a lot of interest in Thor’s work.

Andrew Proudfoot
REGUA Volunteer