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!

Restoration in action!

Newly planted (© REGUA)

Photographic registers are always great and can often give one a shock when seeing how fast forests, when properly cultivated, can spring back into life.    An area of grassland acquired from the Lemgruber family represented an important forest corridor to areas both to sides.   The World Land Trust rushed to our support and helped fund this tree planting which has resulted in this extraordinary transformation. This forest is only 24 months growth!!

Over 150 species were planted in the green grasslands in March 2018 and carefully tended. The results are dramatic!

We are very grateful to the REGUA field team who have put the effort and the WLT team who funded us. The results are worth every effort and today we have birds and mammals associated with secondary forest cover using this young forest. Thank you all for your support in providing area for these trees, it’s another 7 hectares that will turn into RPPN shortly and be protected for ever. This is the very essence of REGUA’s work here in the Atlantic rainforest, a global hotspot, in its aim of

24 months later (© REGUA)

guaranteeing forests for the future.

Conservation Leadership Programme

REGUA was very lucky to host the global Conservation Leadership Programme  in 2019.

This course is result of a partnership between  three renowned international conservation organizations, made up of  BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).   The Programme started in 1985 and the aim is to help emerging conservation leaders to  grow professionally through support, advice and awards.

The delegates were conservationists engaged in projects in their home country and were selected to share in this professional course where the main objective lies in meeting other like-minded leaders and share in a common theme.   This results in inspiration, fortitude, persistence and networking with the programme’s central theme being the conservation of the environment, be it species or habitat.

The Team Photograph (© REGUA)

Stuart Paterson and Christina Imrich organized the event flawlessly and the 19 participants from varied countries across the world enjoyed a most productive time at REGUA.   Aside from the classroom and field work over the week at REGUA, the group participated in field trips that included the Mangroves close by and of course the city of Rio de Janeiro.

The young leaders embody the standards that the CLP leaders wish and return to their host countries invigorated and keen on their own personal projects.

This is brilliant for us at REGUA for we get a chance to show what we do and likewise get a personal boost from meeting these talented individuals.

Earthwatch Institute Research programme

After a many years of receiving researchers and volunteers from around the world, REGUA’s reputation continues to grow.

Many have visited over the years to help and support REGUA by contributing with their skills, this long-standing key activity has attracted the American Earthwatch Institute.

With a proposal to examine in detail ecosystem services and the restoration of the Atlantic rainforest, Dr Manuel Muanis from Rio Federal University has developed a programme to attract conservation and pro-active Earthwatch volunteers.

Earthwatch Team (© REGUA)

Dr Manuel’s plan included locating camera traps to photograph mammal movement in different stages of REGUA’s planted forest and compare this with the natural regenerating forest.   The aim is to compare the populations of these animals in both forest types, to understand whether the net benefits in ecosystem services and functions are comparable.

This is explained more fully on the Earthward site https://earthwatch.org/Expeditions/Wildlife-and-Reforestation-in-Brazil

“Mammals act as a regulator for a variety of interactions between a large diversity of species, so the health of mammal populations can be used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health.   Understanding to what extent vegetation recovery also restores mammal diversity will provide data about the long-term health and sustainability of these reforested areas.”

And

“This study will directly contribute to the management plan of REGUA.   As we work towards stewarding and restoring the world’s forests, information about how to best manage that process and restore ecosystem functions is critical.”

The team is really committed and enthusiastic, and although January is the hottest time of the year for us, everyone worked extremely hard.

The results are meaningful and Earthwatch will send volunteers throughout the year to provide data that can provide us with a better understanding of forest restoration.

Thank you Earthwatch team for coming and staying at REGUA and helping us.

This is brilliant work and we look forward to learning more as your research develops!

The Guapiaçu Grande Vida Project becomes the Guapiaçu Project

The Guapiaçu Project team with Nicholas, Raquel and Thomas Locke (© Breno Vianna)
Reforestation undertaken during the GGV I project showing tree growth in less than a year (© Nathalie Horta)

The Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV II) Petrobras funded forest restoration and environmental education project has now come to the end, after two more productive years at REGUA. Here is a summary of the main achievements:

Forest restoration: In the GGV II area, 60 hectares of degraded areas were replanted between 2017-2019, with 120,000 native trees of 181 different Atlantic Forest species. Together with the 100 hectares planted with 180,000 trees by the GGV I project between 2013-2015, a total of 160 hectares have now been reforested with 300,000 saplings grown in our nursery from seeds collected on the reserve. Replanting these areas has created forest corridors between the remaining forest fragments, that are vital if biodiversity is to thrive and recover.

As part of the restoration scheme, growth and biomass counts in the previously planted GGV I area and the GGV II area were established. The GGV I area was monitored, concentrating efforts on weeding, leafcutter ant control, tree replanting and fertilizer soil enrichment. Monitoring across the whole 160 hectares planted provided the base on which to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration and allowed for carbon sequestration analysis of the GGV I area after four years since it was planted. REGUA’s rangers, as well as both agriculturalists and land owners (totalling 32 participants), were trained to implement forest restoration methodology.

Environmental education: As part of the environmental education strategy, a water quality monitoring protocol was implemented in the Guapi-Macacu watershed. 52 Cachoeiras de Macacu secondary school students were selected and trained to collect 300 water samples at four different sites along the Guapiaçu, Macacu and Boa Vista rivers (upstream and downstream of villages and towns). In addition, a very instructive publication, Methodology and Water Quality Monitoring Results, was produced.

School visitation programme: This programme aimed at strengthening visitation to the new Grande Vida educational trail. The first 400 metres of the trail have been adapted to host the physically handicapped visitors.

The GGV school visitation programme funded children’s transport to REGUA and the Sharing Nature environmental education approach was implemented for students (primary and secondary school levels) to experience proximity to nature. Over 4000 students visited REGUA between 2017-2019. The GGV team held two teacher training courses, which allowed teachers to make the best educational use of the Grande Vida trail. A trail guiding course was also organized for 22 participants which enabled them to acquire knowledge on Cachoeiras de Macacu’s sustainable use of its natural beauties.

At the end of December 2019 the Petrobras Socio-Environmental Program grant was finally signed, and in January 2020, the GGV project, now renamed the Guapiaçu Project, started its activities. We have another two very busy years ahead of us (2020-2022), continuing the forest restoration within the upper Guapiaçu watershed, and developing the environmental education activities within Cachoeiras de Macacu and the neighbouring Itaborai municipalities.

For further information please see the Guapiaçu Project website and Facebook page.

London Zoo specialists visit REGUA

The benefit of Ultra Violet (UV) exposure for animals is widely recognised but little studied. It is understood to have a wide range of health benefits for skin, hair, bone development and even animal fertility.   Most available data on UV exposure is based on reptiles studied in Australia.    Obviously, animals in their natural surroundings have a higher UV exposure than can be provided in temperate zoo collections, so how do we look at the issue?

With that question in mind, Steve Goodwin and Priscilla Mills from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) London Zoo, came to REGUA and spent two weeks measuring the UVI (ultraviolet Index) on the Common Marmoset (Callithrix Jacchus) in the wild.

They measured daytime temperatures, light levels and humidity, to build a profile of what these animals may be exposed to throughout the day.

Priscilla and Steve (© Steve Goodwin)

Through their careful and constant fieldwork, Steve and Priscilla observe for how long and what level of UV these marmosets are exposed to, and hopefully this will help build a better picture of what these animals need to remain healthy.

Steve and Priscilla can then extrapolate the information and compare it to the levels offered in captivity and gain an insight into their behaviour back at the Zoo.    If this data proves to be successful, than they wish to use it for other mammal species in captivity.

Cologne University Professor Udo Nehren visits REGUA

Cologne University has been present at REGUA for more than a decade bringing students to study elements of the landscape.

Cologne Professor Udo Nehren supervised Masters student Marisa Kunze on the interface between landscape ecology and resource economics.

REGUA is interested in understanding the potential for expanding private protected areas in Rio de Janeiro. Professor Udo suggested evaluating ecosystem services that are provided/improved through setting up projects like REGUA (e.g. habitat quality, connectivity, erosion control, carbon storage, and also tourism visitation etc.) and how these can be assessed (qualitative, semi-quantitative, and where possible monetary). By evaluating the cost and benefits, one can determine profitability.

Outcomes like these can be used to promote REGUA and show the many ecological and social benefits that environmental projects can provide, especially important when thinking of upscaling to larger areas.

Nicholas, Professor Udo and Raquel with two students, Teresa (left) and Claudia (right). (©REGUA)

Marisa spent two months studying REGUA’s surface area, management agreements, and visitor data, completing this through interviews with local stakeholders to evaluate public perception. We look forward to reading the results, but it is work like this that can help shape the future for conservation projects such as REGUA.

Thank you Professor Udo and Marisa! 

Aceratobasis macilenta (Lesser Pendant) – a new species of damselfly for REGUA!

Handsome Aceratobasis macilenta male, Vecchi, 5 February 2020 (© Paul Hopkins)

And the no less wonderful female Aceratobasis macilenta, Vecchi, 5 February 2020 (© Paul Hopkins)

On 26 January Tom Kompier, accompanied by fellow Odonatologists Magnus Billqvist, Paul Hopkins and Agnes Ludwig, visited the large pond at Vecchi, where he caught and photographed a fresh female of a damselfly species unknown to him. Back at the lodge the riddle was solved using the excellent Damselfly Genera of the New World by Garrison et al. (2010).

This mystery damsel was a member of the genus Aceratobasis. This genus is endemic to the Atlantic Forest, with four known species largely restricted to the lowlands. Although recorded from Rio de Janeiro state, it had so far not been confirmed from REGUA.

I quickly wrote to Natalia von Ellenrieder, who provided a paper she wrote with Rosser Garrison in 2008 with additional information on the genus. The specimen turned out to be Aceratobasis macilenta, the smaller of two very similar species. As these damsels, unlike many of their fellow Coenagrionids, hang of leaves and twigs, “Pendant” seems an apt name.

A second visit a few days later failed to turn up more specimens, but luckily a third visit on 5 February by Magnus, Paul and Susan Loose produced a mature male and a mature female, of which Paul was able to take some great photos. It looks like a small population has gained a foothold in the area!

This is species 208 for the reserve odonata list.

RJ state’s 2nd Blackburnian Warbler at Pico da Caledônia

Adult male Blackburnian Warbler, Pico da Caledônia, 28 January 2020 (© Guilherme Serpa)

Adult male Blackburnian Warbler, Pico da Caledônia, 28 January 2020 (© João Sergio)

On 26th January, our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha was looking for cotingas near the gate to Fazenda São Bernardo at Pico da Caledônia with lodge guest Christian Hollville and UK volunteer Sue Loose, when he came across a stunning adult male Blackburnian Warbler. A new bird for Adilei, this is only the second record of this species for Rio de Janeiro state, after one was seen and photographed on 30 December 2016.

The Blackburnian Warbler is a long distance migrant, breeding mainly in the coniferous forests of north-eastern North America, and wintering in the north of South Amercia, primarily in the montane forests in Columbia, Venezuela, as well as in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. There have been very few sightings of Blackburnian Warbler in Brazil, with this being perhaps only the sixth national record!

Raquel Locke informed members of the Rio Bird Club of the sighting via the WhatsApp group, and some of whom then successfully twitched it on the 28th, when Guilherme Serpa  and João Sergio managed to take some great photos.

Although the population is currently thought to be stable, the Blackburnian Warbler is under threat, from climate change that is predicted to push it’s breeding range northwards, to loss of their preferred forest habitat on their wintering grounds.

Unbeknown to us at the time, we have since discovered that this bird was first seen here three weeks before, and amazingly today a female (RJ state’s 3rd!) was also discovered at the same place on the 30th! Both birds are proving a popular attraction for local birdwatchers, and so there is a good chance they may stick around for a while yet before heading back north.

Many thanks to Guilherme Serpa and João Sergio for allowing us to use their excellent photos.

British artist Jelly Green donates exhibition proceeds to REGUA

British artist Jelly Green has spent four years painting rainforests around the world.

Jelly Green, a British artist from Suffolk, has spent the last four years painting rainforests in central Brazil, as well as other places around the word. But seeing the devastating effects of rainforest destruction first-hand had a lasting impact on Jelly, who began to focus on the issue of deforestation in her work.

Last April, Jelly displayed her work at a sold-out exhibition in London, England, and very generously decided to donate £9,000 from her exhibition to REGUA. This will enable us to buy an area of farmland to be forested and incorporated into the reserve, where the unique flora and fauna of the Atlantic Forest is protected and can thrive.

We would like to give a huge thanks to Jelly for her kind donation.

Read more about Jelly on the BBC website. To see some of Jelly’s work visit her website at www.jelly-green.com, or follow her on Instagram.

2019 Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of REGUA 

Yet another year has passed and Raquel and I, on behalf of everyone at the REGUA project, would like to share this update that is just full to the brim of encouraging news. 

The Guapiaçu Valley (© REGUA)

The mission statement of the project is the conservation of the Guapiaçu watershed achieved through the implementation of four principle programmes; protection; restoration; education and research. 

Land Purchase is a visceral part of REGUA’s protection programme and in 2019 REGUA purchased or (at the time of writing) is in the process of finalising the purchase of various parcels of land to integrate into the Reserve of 338.5 hectares/846.25 acres. This would not be possible without the continued generosity of our supporters. 

REGUA employs 10 rangers from the local community and their work consists of principally patrolling the forests along 45km of the reserve’s trail network. The aim of the patrolling is to show REGUA presence and discourage hunting.  Coming from the local community the rangers are able to share news and discuss any concerns which enables them to be part of the decisions made and work done here.  Sponsorship supports some of our rangers enabling us to increase our team as land purchase increases the size of the reserve.

Our Reforestation Team (© REGUA)

REGUA continues to reforest as part of its programme in habitat restoration. The project has now planted over 520,000 trees since 2005. Tree planting is not an easy task, but with support from many individuals, and grants from companies and supportive conservation organisations, REGUA has planted tough areas and results are heart-warming. Increasing the overall forest cover, reducing edge effect, and creating and strengthening forest corridors, which offer greater areas for biodiversity, are vital. 

Our education programme thrives with the out-reach programme to local schools meeting over 2,270 children. We have 19 enthusiastic young people in our young ranger programme and have met just under 200 school teachers and received 80 tutors on our teacher courses. All of which continues to spread our message of conservation and the value of the wonderful landscape and biodiversity in to the local communities.

Taking our education programme to local communities (© REGUA)

Over 2,000 individuals have participated in training courses and research work at REGUA and our reputation with major universities continues to grow. 

The results have led to protocols in tree monitoring established by the RJ Government; on-going experimental plots; long term monitoring plots to measure tree growth; carbon sequestration studies; seed exchange and hosting technical workshops at REGUA as well invitation to participate in seminars and congresses.

Our protection and increased continuous forest, made REGUA a suitable project to launch the tapir reintroduction programme, a fact which we feel is an clear endorsement of the work we are doing. The reintroduction project is run by the Rio de Janeiro University. REGUA currently has nine tapirs roaming in the nearby local forests. This attracts public attention and reflects the value of a safe nature reserve. Sadly things are not always straightforward and two casualties showed that bats, anaemia and infections are to be reckoned with.

Lowland Tapir reintroduction (© REGUA)

Tourism at REGUA has continued to increase as a result of its reputation spread by word of mouth, internet and social media promotion, report writing and reviews. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, and guiding helps to make for a pleasurable and productive time. The bird life continues to attract visitors and groups from around the globe, but similarly dragonfly, butterfly and amphibian groups are visiting. Rio is an international hub and makes the REGUA an easy place to visit being just under two hours from the airport with a remarkably preserved habitat. 

Our plans for the future are clear, we have to keep developing and promoting our work independently. REGUA wishes to expand and consolidate through land purchase and complementary programmes. Tourism continues to be an essential component of REGUA’s fund-raising.

The conservation principles and ethos has attracted political interest and with the aim of securing water resources, the Government has declared the Guapiaçu watershed as strategically important for conservation. 

Restoration in action (© REGUA)

Brazil continues to be a key area for global conservation, but it’s not an easy country to work in.  Located in a global “hotspot”, the Atlantic rainforest biome, located in an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) as defined by Birdlife International, REGUA is an “Outpost of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve”. 

Perhaps REGUA is not pristine habitat nor is it the home to some of the more charismatic species instantly recognised by the general public, but our main contribution is that we are repairing and organising damaged ecosystems. REGUA is showing that this different approach, will one day be vital for repairing tropical forests around the globe. 

Three RPPNs areas have been constituted and two more are waiting to be approved, taking us up to second position in the State list of protected private areas. Our conservation efforts are being recognised and they are a source of inspiration to people visiting anxious to see what the fuss is all about!

This year REGUA was able to put more land into protection, plant more trees, publish more science and receive more visitors. As a result we are
influencing public politics as to the regional importance of this Guapiaçu
watershed and encouraging others to follow us. 

We could not be prouder of our efforts. We would like to wish everyone a very Happy Xmas and a wonderful New year.

King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli

Here’s to a great year ahead – and hoping for more great sightings like the King Vulture photographed by Marco Wood-Bonelli in September 2019!


Nicholas, Raquel, Thomas and the REGUA Team 

 

King Vulture at REGUA

Although we continue to find new birds on the reserve, it isn’t actually that easy, so the King Vulture espied by Biologist Calel Passarelles in a new area of tree planting near our Onofre Cunha forest was especially thrilling.

King Vulture in cecropia (© Calel Passarelles)

Raquel Locke (REGUA’s Vice-President) remembers seeing several in the same area over twenty years ago. Two months ago, Marco Wood-Bonelli photographed one soaring over the new area of trees planted. Marco is finalizing his Masters Degree at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Institute on the use of individual trees and artificial bamboo perches by birds.

He has already had identified 70 species that regularly use trees in open areas between forest fragments and he was keen to evaluate the use of these ‘island trees’ as stepping stones between forested fragments. His field visits terminated with the wonderful sight of the King Vulture perched on a Cecropia tree.

We hope this is an indication of more sightings to come.


Students investigate the health of the wetlands

RJ State University Student Group with Prof. Marcelo and Tim

Professors Marcelo Marinho and Tim Moulton returned to REGUA with their 3rd year Biological sciences at the RJ State University. Their field of interest is “Limnology and Oceanograph”, and they come to REGUA to study the biological, chemical, and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Every wetland is continually evolving and changing. Having followed the progress of REGUA’s wetlands since 2005, Professor Tim can state with authority that each of the three wetlands is vastly different from each other. The central wetland, created in 2005, is the healthiest with a small stream passing through; the second wetland lying below the lodge garden, created in 2007, receives a small amount of water that is diverted to maintain its level, and the wetland nearest the Conservation Centre, created in 2010, has water emerging from sources below the surface but offering a constant flow.  

The students at work. (© Prof.Tim Moulton)

The central wetland is full of underwater plants/macrophytes and its water is almost transparent. The second has water seeping under the walls and does not overflow. As a consequence it has a greenish appearance, covered by “watermeal” (Wolfia sp), most appreciated by waterfowl, including the Masked Duck, a rare visitor. The 2010 wetland is occasionally covered by orange Euglenoid algae. As a scientist Tim is really perplexed and is coming up with many questions. Have the algae have choked out the macrophytes or vice versa? Have fish stirred up the bottom? Is the wetland turning eutrophic that might lead to the death of its fish?  

Professors Marcelo and Tim are naturally very excited to learn more and have directed their students to study elements of the wetlands to reach the heart of the matter. This is a prime example of the benefits to both student and REGUA; whilst students gain experience, REGUA gains from the ongoing research that students are carrying out.

Students taking water samples on the main wetland (© Prof. Tim Moulton)

We are delighted to receive many students from diverse Universities and offer them such a wonderful outdoor laboratory. This offers us the opportunity to talk and explain what REGUA’s ambitions are and therefore provoke and reach to young thinkers who will help to shape society in the future.

These visitors will certainly be touched by the efforts and development of this project and take this model elsewhere.     

Orchid Cathedral nears completion

The REGUA orchid cathedral is receiving its 80% sun filter netting which will reduce the temperature significantly.

Obviously orchids are found across the entire gradient, from sea level to 2000m above sea level and the challenge is to provide an ambience that responds to their climatic demands.

João and Tiago working hard to complete the Orchid Cathedral (© Nicholas Locke)

We have received sound advice with regard to the structure of the building, how to provide the best environment for the specimens and most importantly, the ongoing management of the orchids. Rosário Braga (a biologist and former head of OrquidaRio, the RJ orchid club) and Helmut Seehawer, a long-standing friend of REGUA and orchid expert have been invaluable in their support.

We have been warned that watering is not a simple task, and we aim to have a semi-automatic sprinkler system to support the environment of the Cathedral. As Helmut Seehawer advised, air movement is essential and we are using wire netting on the lower section to allow for wind movement. Helmut has also suggested we use as much natural forest compost as possible.

By the end of the year, the REGUA orchid cathedral will be open to the public, an addition to the existing trail network revealing the jewels of the forest.            

REGUA’s 4th and 5th RPPN areas go ahead

We are very pleased to announce that the formal documents including Geo-referenced maps have been handed to the INEA (RJ State Institute of the Environment) for validation.

The papers were presented as part of the process to guarantee the long term protection for REGUA’s forests and biodiversity.

RRPN 5 comprises 97 hectares of the lower slopes of the Serra do Mar mountains (© N Locke)

REGUA already has three RPPN’s areas totalling 367 hectares and these two extra reserve parcels will more than double the area under this permanent protection. Short of giving the land to make a National Park, Private Reserve (RPPN) status is the best tool for long term conservation, and offers donors the possibility of acquiring land and guaranteeing its permanent protection.

Under full protection status, only activities in research, tourism and education are permitted. The effect in planning and transparency raises REGUA’s profile and the ambition to become the largest RPPN owner in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

One of the conditions to create RPPN is that the property is fully forested, and REGUA’s reforestation programme is currently completing two projects that will enable REGUA to become the second largest RPPN owner in the state by next year. 

INEA geographer Evelyn de Castro is conferring GPS location

Saving Nature capturing the beauty of REGUA

Ryan, Ian and Brian (© REGUA)
Ryan, Ian and Brian (© REGUA)

When Brian Rodgers came to visit in June, he brought his drone with a new lens that promised great opportunities. The drone offers remarkable views that can really capture the beauty of the landscape here at REGUA, it is also a very necessary tool to help us understand the importance of the conservation work going on.

Supported by Saving Nature, Brian arrived with two students Ian Handler and Ryan Huang from Duke University, in North Carolina, USA. Their plan was to help set up camera traps, in strategic places around the reserve, and also to continue their scientific research at the Golden Lion Tamarin project in Silva Jardim.

Brian helped REGUA secure the Vecchi land corridor last year, an important strategic purchase to link the Vecchi ridgeline with Onofre Cunha, land which REGUA already owns and protects. Brian was delighted to see the progress we are making in planting this pasture land to create a forested link.

Rio Bird Club’s Annual Visit

On 27th October each year, Rio de Janeiro Bird Club gathered at REGUA for the annual event at REGUA. The previous day many birders visited the Três Picos Park and then arrived to stay overnight at REGUA and explore the Reserve on the following day.

The event was a real success with 76 birders participating and 242 bird species seen. REGUA took birders on the green trail to see the Shrike-like Cotinga and to Waldenoor to see the Long-tailed Potoo, both enigmatic birds that can be tough to see anywhere else. 

Some of the Rio Bird Club members (© REGUA)

The event raises awareness and offers an opportunity for REGUA to show its conservation efforts and biodiversity protection.

We already look forward to welcoming the club at next years event!