2020 Virtual Birdfair

REGUA are delighted to be able to attend the Virtual Birdfair which is taking place online this year.  So although travel throughout the world is disrupted the Bird Fair will still be there, just a click away.

REGUA will be present, and the Team will be with you all in spirit throughout the weekend. Once live we will publish a link to bring you closer to our “stand”.

Bird Fair 2019 (© REGUA)

All the usual favourites will be there with live and pre-recorded talks, films, a photography competition and the familiar auction.

The full Birdfair programme of lectures and events will be fully operational from 18th August until the 23rd August but until then you can follow the link to Virtual Birdfair here to take a look at the first Virtual Birdfair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.virtual.birdfair.org.uk/

 

An update on forest restoration at REGUA (August 2020).

Reforestation undertaken at one of REGUA’s partners area (© João Stutz).

 

In spite of the the Covid-19 pandemic, forest restoration is proceeding at REGUA observing all the necessary measures to safeguard the staff´s health. Already 18 hectares have been planted within the “Armenio” land in the vicinity of Matumbo village.

Thirty thousand seedlings of 113 Atlantic Forest different tree species were planted since February this year. Aside this, the maintenance of the 60 hectares planted in 2017-2019 has also been completed and we are now in the process of planting five hectares belonging to REGUA´s partners as part of the Petrobras socio-environmental Guapiaçu III project. Brazilian Forest Code obliges land owners to restore hillsides with slopes over 45º, hill tops, water springs and riparian vegetation alongside rivers and streams. REGUA is making this available for partners who share the same conservation vision within the Guapiaçu watershed.

 

The Orchids of REGUA

The project “Survey and Distribution of Orchids of the Ecological Reserve of Guapiaçu” was developed by OrquidaRio Orquidófilos Associados, between November 2006 and September 2007. Along the trails we recorded and mapped 107 species of orchids, distributed in 51 genera. Of these, 44 species are new occurrences for Munic. of Cachoeiras de Macacu. Many of the species that occur in REGUA can be found in other preserved areas of Serra dos Órgãos, some of which have a wider distribution. The objectives of this research were:

Maria do Rosário planting orchids on the wetlands (© Nicholas Locke).
  • to know and map the orchids that occur in REGUA;
  • provide information so that orchids can be used as additional material for the local environmental education program;
  • publicize the area’s orchid flora so that they are included and appreciated as part of REGUA’s ecotourism attractions.

Subsequently, the list of orchids that occur in REGUA grew a lot, with the addition of several micro-orchids identified by Helmut Seehawer, a great connoisseur of our flora. Some of the species found during the work were reproduced in the laboratory of Orquidário Quinta do Lago, at Itaipava and after some years some were reintroduced back into the reserve by members of OrquidaRio. Now, with the construction of the greenhouse, many of the species that occur in REGUA’s forests will be part of this collection that aims to show visitors the charms and varieties of the great Orchidaceae family.

A Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil now available

Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil
Co-author Jorge Bizarro with our new Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil

Tropical America is one of the regions on Earth with the greatest animal and botanical biodiversity. Brazil, due to its continental dimensions, is included in the roll of the top five countries with the greatest biological wealth, which includes a rich fauna of butterflies with two different aspects: the fauna of the Amazon and that of the Atlantic Forest.

With the advent of digital cameras, many citizens began to spend their leisure hours on nature walks and adventures, using these cameras to record the beauties they are observing, obviously butterflies are one of the preferred targets of these ecotourists within the group of insects. But there are so many species, that for those who are not specialists in this group (Lepidoptera), it is difficult to identify the majority of them. Unfortunately and unlike birds, the butterfly guides published in Brazil are counted on less than a handful, precisely because the number of species exceeds 4000, with around 1000 in the Atlantic Forest biome alone!

Thus, it is with great satisfaction and joy that we finally managed to publish this guide for the Serra dos Órgãos, the central mountain range of the State of Rio de Janeiro, after 4 years of exhaustive research, writing and searching for natural photos of the species included (just over 800), which encompasses almost all of those registered for the area. The book was made possible with the collaboration of more than a dozen people (amateurs and professionals, such as the late Luiz Claudio Marigo) who made their photos, data and records of butterflies in south-east Brazil available. This area encompasses 90% of the Brazilian butterfly species listed as threatened or vulnerable under the IUCN criteria, with 20% of them occurring in the Serra dos Órgãos.

Unfortunately, in order to make a minimum of 500 copies, we had to choose the English language to cover a potential larger audience that could find some use in the book. Even though a bilingual edition was originally considered, it was later found that printing costs, sales price, etc. would be excessively high, and our aim has always been to provide an extremely accessible identification tool for the general public.

Orders worldwide can be made from NHBS. Orders within the the UK may also be placed direct with co-author Alan Martin (please send a cheque payable to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan Martin, Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6JJ, England).

The Guapiaçu III Project inaugurates a ‘virtual trail’ at REGUA

Drone footage of the visitor's centre and wetlands (© Projeto Guapiaçu)
Drone footage of the visitor’s centre and wetlands (© Projeto Guapiaçu)

 

The Environment Week (01/06 to 05/06 2020) began with the viewing of the “Grande Vida” trail from home. The narrated tour begins on the Yellow trail and reaches the wooden bridge in which the viewer is accompanied by the sounds of nature, specially of birds that often can be seen and heard at REGUA’s wetlands. It is possible to select icons such as photos and self-explanatory posters that are present along the trail showing the Atlantic Forest biodiversity, animal tracks, view of the wetlands, forest dynamics and some of the conservation work carried out at REGUA.

Self-explanatory poster on food chain present on the trail (© Micaela Locke).

The idea is quite innovative, even though there are already some virtual visits in National Parks across the country. What makes it different is the fact that it was made in a Private Nature Reserve (RPPN). It is worth mentioning that home office has changed the routine of many professionals worldwide, however this is far from preventing people’s contact with nature. Thus, it is essential to share contents with technological tools, as well as to keep up with digital media trends. The Environment Week was also featured with several live sessions broadcasted on Instagram, covering topics related to other projects financed by Petrobras that are part of Guanabara Bay network. All of these initiatives are a means to bring a little inspiration to those in quarantine respecting social isolation.

You can access the virtual tour 360° by clicking on: https://www.projetoguapiacu.com/

Bertoni’s Antbird found at unusually low altitude at REGUA

Bertoni's Antbird <em>Drymophila rubricollis</em> (© Nicholas Locke)
Bertoni’s Antbird Drymophila rubricollis (© Nicholas Locke)

Aguas Compridas is an area of the reserve that we reforested with World Land Trust funding back in 2012. Just last week our bird guide Adilei, heard the call of Bertoni’s Antbird Drymophila rubricollis in this area. Bertoni’s Antbird is an Atlantic Forest Endemic and normally associated with higher altitudes, between 900 and 2000 metres above sea level. As this piece of land is at around 95 metres above sea level, Adilei was surprised to hear the species there.

At around 08:00, Adilei left his house as usual with his trusty binoculars. He heard the call and eventually found the bird in this small piece of secondary forest scrub. Only the single male bird was seen and it was singing its heart out, sadly without a reply. Was it simply lost, or maybe calling to a female? Maybe it had been forced low down as it is unusually cold at the moment, even for this, our winter season.

It will be interesting to see if it is heard again. Unfortunately Adilei did not have his camera with him on this occasion, so here’s a photograph of a different individual I took recently, to highlight how stunning this bird is.

Two new jumping-spiders described from REGUA

Male Arnoliseus hastatus, one of two new species of jumping-spider from REGUA described in February 2020. The species name refers to the huge projection on the male chelicera, similar to a hasta, which is latin for spear. (© André Almeida Alves)
Male Arnoliseus hastatus, one of two new species of jumping-spider from REGUA described in February 2020. The species name refers to the huge projection on the male chelicera, similar to a hasta, which is latin for spear. (© André Almeida Alves)

As part of their ongoing survey of spiders and other arachnids from REGUA, Dr Renner Baptista and his students from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro have described two new jumping-spiders (Salticidae) from the reserve: Arnoliseus hastatus and Arnoliseus falcatus.

Both species belong to the Arnoliseus, a genus of Brazilian jumping-spiders described only as recently as 2002. To date, both of these new species are known only from REGUA.

These additions bring the number of spiders recorded at REGUA to an astonishing 425 species, and Renner reports that the species richness at REGUA is still is going up fast! A species list for REGUA will be published on our website soon.

To read the paper describing the new species click here.

Guapiaçu III Petrobras socio-environmental funded project (2020-2022)

The Guapiaçu III team (© Breno Viana)
The Guapiaçu III team (© Breno Viana)

REGUA is very pleased to announce that Petrobras Socio-Environmental renewed the funding of the GGV or now the Guapiaçu III programme. The project continues with its objectives in restoration and education. Aside strengthening the Atlantic Forest ecosystem at REGUA through further tree planting, and continuing in supporting education, a new element will be the support for the current tapir reintroduction programme.

Forest restoration: A mixture of tree planting and natural regeneration on 100 hectares will occur in the Guapiaçu watershed, as well as monitoring of Petrobras funded 260 hectares with the aim to measure carbon sequestration. Native trees are planted in a mixture of pioneer, early secondary and climax species. In addition this project will identify and select a further 190 hectares within the watershed as part of a restoration data bank.

Environmental education: Primary and Secondary Schools will continue to visit REGUA on the “Grande Vida trail” which runs from the start of the Yellow Trail to the wooden bridge. The first 400 metres of the trail have been adapted to host physically handicapped visitors. Self-explanatory posters along the trail describe some forest processes and some of the conservation work carried out at REGUA. The project team will visit kindergartens in both Cachoeiras de Macacu and Itaborai municipalities.

GGV will continue with the water quality monitoring programme involving 80 Secondary students trained by the team to monitor Guapiaçu, Macacu and Caceribu rivers water quality at determined sampling sites along each river (both upstream and downstream urban areas) to produce data on the rivers’s physical-chemical characteristics. The team will also be studying biological indicators of water quality.

Tapir reintroduction support programme: Guapiaçú III Petrobras Socio-Environmental project will sponsor the transport, the telemetry equipment, promotion and community outreach programme in the area. A futher six tapirs will be released at REGUA as from June 2020.

REGUA interview with talk: Wildlife

Last week, Allan Archer of talk: Wildlife interviewed Lee Dingain of the REGUA UK Team about the work that REGUA is doing to conserve and restore the Atlantic Forest of the upper Guapiaçu valley. The conversation covers topics such as the habitats and biodiversity at REGUA, the threats to the forest and biodiversity, reforestation, wetland restoration, the tapir reintroduction, and how to visit REGUA. To watch the interview visit the talk: Wildlife YouTube channel or click below.

80 hawkmoth species now recorded at REGUA!

<em>Aellopos ceculus</em>, photographed at the lodge on 15 March 2020 (&copy; Alan Martin)
Aellopos ceculus, photographed at the lodge on 15 March 2020 (© Alan Martin)

There have been 110 species of hawkmoth recorded in the Serra dos Orgaos and only a further four in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

A recent visit to REGUA by Alan Martin in March 2020 added the 80th hawkmoth species for REGUA, Aellopos ceculus, a day flying moth somewhat similar to the European Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum. It was found laying eggs only a few hundred metres from the lodge.

A further 14 species have been found and photographed close to REGUA, but at higher altitudes than are easily reached within the reserve. Some expeditions to add some of these to the list along with some of the high altitude bird species has to be a priority for future visits.

Ecdysis

Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake <em>Spilotes pullatus</em>, REGUA, 5 April 2020. Note the yellow pigmentation in the skin. (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, REGUA, 5 April 2020. Note the yellow pigmentation in the skin. (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake <em>Spilotes pullatus</em>, REGUA, 5 April 2020 (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Shed skin of Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, REGUA, 5 April 2020 (© Rodrigo Fonseca)

The Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, a semi-arboreal species, which feeds on small rodents, amphibians, lizards and even other snakes, is easily found in forests, in open areas such as pastures and trails and can even be seen around human constructions in search of food. Despite being a large snake, reaching up to 3 metres, it’s very agile and not venomous, with yellow and black colors.

Recently, an old skin left after shedding (the process being called ecdysis) was found at the research accomodation, Casa Pesquisa, which in adult individuals occurs on average once a year. This process occurs when the outer layer of the skin, formed by keratin, is replaced by a new one. This exchange takes place when snakes, in general, grow or when the outermost layer is damaged. Ecdysis lasts from 5 to 7 days and during this period the snake becomes more vulnerable to predators as vision is reduced due to fluid accumulation between new and old skin.

New REGUA book off to print: Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Cover of A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, due to be publoshed soon.
Cover to REGUA’s forth book A Guide to the Butterflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Back in 2015 Alan Martin and Jorge Bizarro started work on a guide to butterflies to accompany the three REGUA books already published that are specific to the REGUA area (hawkmoths, dragonflies and birds). What started as a three year project has taken five years, partly because the number of species recorded in the area is more than had been anticipated but also because it proved very difficult to source photos of some of the rarer species.

The book is now about to be printed and it covers 803 species (excluding grass skippers) with descriptions, comparisons to similar species, global distribution and notes on the ecology, behaviour and host plants. All but three of the species are illustrated with over 1,300 photos of live specimens or where not available, photos of pinned specimens. There are also introductory texts for each family, subfamily and tribe.

The book will be distributed by NHBS, but in the UK is best ordered from Alan Martin at a reduced price of £30 plus £5 postage (please see our Publications page for details). All the profits from the sale of the book will go to REGUA.

Pans

A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
A pair of Blacksmith Tree Frogs Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog <em>Boana faber</em> in a "pan" (© Rodrigo Fonseca)
Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber in a “pan” (© Rodrigo Fonseca)

One of the researchers who is carrying on his fieldwork at REGUA, Rodrigo Fonseca, has been studying the perception and colonization of reproductive habitats (puddles, flooded fields, streams, etc.) by anuran amphibians and the elements of the landscape (trees and shrubs) favouring this dynamic.

His study includes night field work, where he samples temporary and stablished puddles also capturing and identifying amphibian individuals. He is a Master’s student from the Post Graduate Programme in Ecology at the Federal University in Rio (UFRJ).

During his activities, he quite often comes across with the Blacksmith Tree Frog Boana faber, a species known to form small nests called “pans” where males vocalize to attract females, which in return will evaluate the nest condition and decide whether to use it or not. If the female chooses it, the male performs the bridal hug, also called amplexus, where together they release gametes into the water forming around 3,000 eggs inside the nest.

First tapir born in the wild at REGUA

Still taken from camera trap footage of the first wild born Lowland Tapir in Rio de Janeiro state for 100 years (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Still taken from camera trap footage of the first wild born Lowland Tapir in Rio de Janeiro state for 100 years (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

We bring you a follow up of the news of the birth of Rio de Janeiro’s first wild Lowland Tapir Tapirus terrestris birth for over a century, at REGUA.

The story kicks off in 2016 when Professor Fernando Fernandez of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) arrived at REGUA with a plan of releasing 10 pairs of Lowland (or Brazilian) Tapirs at REGUA over 3-4 years, a species that has been extinct for over 100 years in Rio de Janeiro state, (a physical territory equivalent to the country of Costa Rica). The forests that Roger Wilson of the World Land Trust had exhorted us to plant in 2005, were at a stage that they represented the perfect gateway to the forested mountains of the Três Picos State Park, the third largest remaining fragment of Atlantic Forest in the world. After much time convincing the Park authorities that this was a great idea to improve forest quality through seed dispersal, the go ahead was granted.

REGUA built two huge fenced pens in the forest by the wetlands to receive three Lowland Tapirs raised in a captive breeding centre in Minas Gerais. Accompanying Eva was her adolescent calf, Flokinho, and partner Adão, names chosen by the local community in late 2017. Sadly Adão succumbed to pneumonia, but soon afterwards the Projeto Refauna team brought another three, Jupiter, Valente and Flora, from another breeding centre in Paraná. Jupiter is a fitting name, being the God of sky and thunder in Roman mythology, as Jupiter spoon chased off Flora’s calf Flokinho, who is now living in the lower part of the Guapiaçu valley. Time passed as the three weaned off their supplementary diet of fruit and lo and behold 13 months later we have our very first tapir calf!

The Projeto Refauna team managed the first glimpses through a camera trap. Then REGUA bird guide, Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, installed two camera traps, but found the card in one was faulty and the other trap captured no video of any tapir (though a surprising amount of recordings of agouti paca, common marmoset, common opossums and the smaller gray four eyed opossum). Adilei replaced the dud card and later successfully returned with these two videos. Both show a very healthy individual (still without a name) which we expect to be at least three months of age. Mum is living by some fields and plantations, not in deep forest, and has been seen walking a trail that goes to the river many times of the day.

This is not only the very first Lowland Tapir born at the Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve, but also the first born out of captivity in Rio de Janeiro state for over a hundred years. We have to thank Projeto Refauna, the tapir captive breeders and of course the Três Picos State Park authorities, who will certainly be seeing the tapirs roaming before long in this immense green area.

Smooth horned frog

One of the amphibians that we love to show guests that visit REGUA are the smooth horned frogs, Proceratophrys boiei  that are often found within leaf litter along the forest trails.   They sit waiting for passing prey, or hunt for spiders, beetles and other insects, with their wide mouth they can take relatively large prey and have been known to eat small frogs.

Smooth horned frog (©) REGUA

They remain stationary and move very slowly if found and picked up.  This is an Atlantic rainforest endemic species.    Listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN  in view of its wide distribution along the range of the biomes, only 7% remains of the forest which provides its home.   Current research in our forests indicates that its population is unlikely to be declining, and with the restoration we are carrying out, we hope this situation continues as we increase the suitable habitat.

The smooth horned frog spawns in temporary slow-flowing water within the forest or on the forest edge.   This species is featured on the World Land Trust site and after all these years I would say it is one of my favourite frogs of our 72 species list.

Ecosia

REGUA recently hosted Pieter van Midwoud, project director at  Ecosia and their partner Joaquim Freitas of the “Atlantic Rainforest Pact”.    They visited as they have funded REGUA’s restoration programme and wanted to see the developments.

Ecosia is a global search engine platform now centred in Switzerland and part of its profits are directed to tropical tree planting around the Globe.

Ecosia offers a small top-up grant to existing projects and in this way reached to part-funding  60 million trees by June 2019,  today one of the greatest contributors to restoration efforts in the world.

Aline (forestry engineer), Joaquim, Pieter & Ana (from Ecosia) and Raquel overlooking the Pacielo tree planting (© REGUA)

Last November, Joaquim brought Pieter to see REGUA’s contribution over the last three years and was totally bowled over by the results.   We hope that Ecosia can continue to help us for their grant is very important to fuel our efforts.

Purple Martin added to the REGUA bird list

Purple Martins Progne subis, 9 October 2019 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Purple Martins Progne subis with Grey-breasted Martin Progne chalybea, 9 October 2019 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Belated news of two adult Purple Martins Progne subis seen and photographed with Grey-breasted Martins Progne chalybea by our bird guide Adilei at REGUA on 9 October 2019. Purple Martin breeds in North America and winters across much of South America east of the Andes. Rio state is towards the southern limit of their range. Following a White-throated Seedeater at the wetland on 12 October 2019, also found by Adilei, this long overdue addition to the REGUA bird list brings the total number of bird species recorded here to an incredible 485! This total excludes species seen on excursions. Which bird species next for REGUA?

Dragonfly tour late January – February 2020 turns up fabulous result

First photo of a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing <em>Heteragrion sp. </em> along the Green Trail (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. along the Green Trail (© Tom Kompier)

Paul Hopkins and Magnus Billqvist stayed at the REGUA lodge from Jan 23 until Feb 13. During almost the first half of their trip they were joined by Agnes Ludwig and Tom Kompier. The weather was somewhat wet and cold, but nevertheless the tour turned up 152 species out of the 208 that have now been recorded from the Guapiacu catchment. The discovery of a new damsel for the REGUA list, Aceratobasis macilenta, was very exciting, but there were several other remarkable records or developments.

The swamp at the bottom of the hill on which the lodge is situated, near the office buildings, was wet throughout the stay. It is still the only confirmed site for Brown-striped Spreadwing Lestes tricolor in the area, but holds easily 25 species within its 30×15  m area. Amongst these are sought after species like the Flame-tip Telagrion longum and Brazilian Blue-eye Anatya januaria, both often found emerging there, but it now also holds a good population of Caribbean Duskhawker Triacanthagyna caribbea and the rarely encountered Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia. This little area is constantly evolving and never ceases to amaze.

The wetland itself is also evolving, with some of the pioneer species that were very common in previous years losing ground to species that likely require less disturbed habitat. This means that the Erythemis species, although still present, are much scarcer. Several years back Pin-tailed Pondhawk E. plebeja would pick off the flies accompanying Ode lovers at virtually every step, but now you have to search for it. Rainpool Spreadwing Lestes forficula, previously abundant and one of the commonest species, was almost completely gone. On the other hand, Guiana Spiderlegs Planiplax phoenicura is now really common and has been joined by the rarer Scarlet Spiderlegs Planiplax arachne, and previously common Bow-tailed Dasher Micrathyria catenata has been largely replaced by Square-spotted Dasher M. ocellata.

Silver-clouded Dragonlet &lt;em&gt;Erythrodiplax laurentia&lt;/em&gt; female at the Large Pond at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)
Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia female at the Large Pond at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)
The rare and enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena at Vecchi (© Tom Kompier)

At the nearby forest fragment of Onofre Cunha, the recently described Regua Pincertip Forcepsioneura regua was still regular, and exciting as always.

The Green Trail up to the Waterfall was excellent as usual. It turned out to be a particularly good year for the Long-tailed Bromeliad Guard Leptagrion perlongum with dozens seen at the beginning of the trail. Further up a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. was a first, and even more exciting was that is was seen to subsequently oviposit in a shallow forest stream, verifying its suspected habitat.

The fishponds at Vecchi remain excellent, although the Large Pond seems to suffer from disturbance. This possibly explains the apparent complete absence of Slender Redskimmer Rhodopygia hollandi, which used to be a common species here. During our visits we observed a very late Green Forceptail Phyllocycla pallida, which previously had not been recorded after early December. A female Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia here was another surprise. The small ponds again turned up such excellent species as the enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena.

One of the most exciting observations was done at the Tres Picos area, where several Chagas’s Emeralds Neocordulia carlochagasi was observed patrolling. This area appears to be a good location for this rare species, with observations in several years now. Another specialty of this area is White-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata, which has now been found consistently for several years at the start of the trail up.

Although not achieving the maximum score of the 2018 tour (166), partly because fewer locations were visited and partly because of weather and luck, the result proved once more that any visitor in the right season can expect to see more species of dragonfly here than recorded from the whole of Europe, and with much more ease.

Download the complete tour report here.

The field guide A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil is available for sale at the lodge and online. See the publications page for details.

Chagas's Emerald <em>Neocordulia carlochagasi</em> at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
Chagas’s Emerald Neocordulia carlochagasi at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of female Ivory-fronted Sylph <em>Macrothemis capitata</em> at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)
First photo of female Ivory-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata at Tres Picos (© Tom Kompier)

Rio de Janeiro Antwren – the mystery continues

David Beadle’s superb Illustration of Rio de Janeiro Antwren Myrmutherula fluminense from February 1997 (© David Beadle)

Almost exactly twenty years ago, renowned UK birders Guy Kirwan, Rodd McCann, Rob Williams and Canadian bird artist David Beadle visited REGUA, returning a year later in the company of the late Argentine birder Juan Mazar Barnett. Staying at the modest REGUA research accomodation, they had come to find the Rio de Janeiro Antwren Myrmutherula fluminense, following the sighting by Stephen Knapp which had electrified the birding world and put REGUA on the international map. The birders all saw the bird in a secondary forest at 100m elevation and I even asked David if he could draw us a picture of this extraordinary bird.

The Rio de Janeiro Antwren is a monotypic species that lies in Professor Luis Gonzaga’s collection at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). During Professor Gonzaga’s doctorate field work in 1982 he found and collected a common antwren in one of his mist nets in the lowland forest near Magé, some 30 miles away from REGUA as the crow flies. Upon further study he realized that it was not the White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris and named it Myrmutherula fluminense.

Immature male White-flanked Antwren <em>Myrmutherula axilaris</em> caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren <em>Myrmutherula axilaris</em> caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)
Immature male White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris caught by Fabio Olmos, November 2003 (© Alan Martin)

Over the years, birders came to REGUA to try to see not only this bird, but also other species of Atlantic Forest birds, and the REGUA organization grew to become the respected conservation project it is today. Birders and naturalists from around the globe visit REGUA and stay at our lodge. The results of our habitat protection, partly funded by visitation to REGUA, have been inspirational, but the Rio de Janeiro Antwren was never seen again, suggesting that it may well have been the White-flanked Antwren or even a possible hybrid.

Brazilian ornithologist Fabio Olmos visited and mist-netted in exactly the same area six years later and caught an immature White-flanked Antwren offering doubts as to the real identity of that mysterious bird that David and friends saw.

Professor Gonzaga kept the bird for over 15 years until it was given the ultimate test, the DNA test, and what did he find? The results showed that the bird was completely different from the Myrmutherula genus. Now he has a single bird of a new unnamed genus, probably the rarest bird in Brazil!

On the search now are Brazilian ornithologists Luciano Lima and Rafael Bessa, Rafael famous for rediscovering the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove Columbina cyanopis, missing for over 75 years. They are involved in a field project sponsored by American Birding Conservancy to search the lowland forests for the mysterious bird. Could others lurk out there in similar secondary forest? Luciano and Rafael have completed their fieldwork and have some ideas, but we are left with doubts. However, it was chance to tell them the story of the bird that put REGUA on the map, that brought generous donors to help establish this lowland reserve and all its programmes in conservation of the Atlantic Forest. There are still many small patches of forest out there so perhaps we have not heard the last of this enigmatic bird!