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 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.
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 has returned from the north of Brazil, and revisited REGUA and his cuttings in our nursery on his way home to Canada.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Tiger beetles are always exciting to watch as they prowl about searching for food before flying off like a jet fighter to disappear out of view.
They have characteristically large bulging eyes and large mandibles for crunching up their food.
Tiger Beetles come from the Cicindelinae family, originating from the Latin word of Glow worm since most are brightly coloured. Whilst this example looks similar to a Limestone Tiger Beetle, it is one of many different Cicindela sp.
Peter Gammeltoft recently made a visit to REGUA. Peter is the former head of Water and Marine Environment in the European Commission and currently the President of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICDPR) which involves 14 European Countries in its watershed as contracting parties.
Peter was invited to Brazil by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to advise the Brazilian Government on water policy.
Peter is a family relation of Nicholas and Raquel Locke and they took advantage of his time and knowledge to show what REGUA is doing for the environment in this microcosm of the world.
Questions flowed and doubts ebbed as conversations showed that our principles are not too far behind the thinking needed in territorial design and ecosystem functionality.
Peter remarked “It was really great to see all the good work you are doing at Regua. This type of work is very important, and I was very impressed to hear about how you are managing to ensure local support. “
We wish him and the OECD team all the success in the current decisions that are so very important for the future.
Some of our visitors will remember bird guide Igor Camacho, who has not stopped his survey work and guiding since he left REGUA.
He continues to bring clients to REGUA and on his visit early this year, to the restored forest around the San José tower, he found Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-bellied Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager and Blue Dacnis to show Ernani Oliveira. The star of this trip however was Barred Forest-Falcon near the tower.
He suggested a hanging feeder near the tower might attract forest birds such as Yellow-green Grossbeak, Channel-billed Toucans, Rufous-winged Antwren and Greyish Mourner, so we considering how feasible it will be to maintain a feeder at this remote location.
There are now over 470 species of birds confirmed at REGUA – more than at any other site in the Atlantic Forest and probably a greater number of species than at any site in Brazil outside of the Amazon region. Here are just a few highlights from recent walks at REGUA. Whilst this is our Autumn, it just shows what a great all-year-round birding destination our wonderful Reserve is.
6th February – a short afternoon walk along the Green Trail
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Pin-tailed Manakin (Ilicura militaris)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Yellow-Olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias assimilis)
Rio’s State Environmental Institute (INEA) organized a summer training course called “Trail Guiding” whose target audience were participants from the local areas of Cachoeiras de Macacu and Guapimirim. Thirty people enrolled in this course including REGUA’s young ranger Miguel – just shows how inspiring REGUA can be!
The aim is to prepare local guides to help visitors at the Três Picos Park and Natural Park at Macacu. The guides love nature and need to gain experience, knowledge and confidence to show visitors all the beauty and diversity of the Atlantic Forest.
Part of the course covers Bird guiding, and as Regua’s guides have become well known for their skill and knowledge, we were happy to host the birdwatching event around our restored wetlands. Adilei de Carvalho and Cirilo Vieira, Regua’s bird guides, were in charge of the training, giving a talk on what birding is about and showed them some of the most representative lowland species in the wetlands.