The Rufous-sided Crake (Laterallus melanophaius) is one of my favourite wetland bird species. Walking around the wetlands, if one hears a shrill resembling a rising crescendo, you can be sure that this little bird is quite close, yet very hidden.
To see it is quite another matter. The Rufous-sided Crake’s distribution is limited to Brazil and bordering countries, and though it’s considered “least concern”, not much is known about it as it is so incredibly secretive.
They are best found if you are walking around the wetlands early morning or late afternoon when if you are quiet, you can get good views of this bird as it scuttles across from one lake to another or watch as it probes around for small insects to eat.
Sometimes they forage in pairs and move around very quickly. The colours are gorgeous and when a little light catches the rufous feathers, it gleams.
Scaled Antbird ( (Drymophila squamata) is a superb Atlantic Rainforest endemic species that can be seen along most mid elevation trails at REGUA making its plaintive call and hopping from branch to branch in the low vegetation.
In spite of its the male having monochrome colours the visual effect it creates as it hops in the undergrowth is startling, indeed the female, who shares similar patterning, but with dark brown buff and hints of cinnamon is equally attractive. They can often be found feeding in pairs or small family groups as they search for insects and spiders in the forest.
Our guests can be sure to gasp in appreciation – REGUA bird guide Adilie Carvalho da Cunha recently took this photograph.
Although its status is classed of ‘least concern’ as it is fairly common throughout its range, having protected areas such as REGUA are vital to ensure its continued healthy population.
The Sao Paulo Birdfair held at the Butantã Gardens has to be one of the greatest venues to attend in South America, if not the Americas. It is just teeming with bird guides, exciting news, conservation projects and photographers. The date is always mid-May and run singlehandedly by Gustavo “Guto” Carvalho and his wonderful team, he brings together the best of the birding world in Brazil.
Butantã is world famous for producing snake serum and the Gardens holds the marquis full of stands. REGUA has one small stand that is shared with other Rio birders and this makes for one of the most popular venues.
We get to meet up with the birders, guides and tour companies to share news and comment on recent activities. Everyone is a member of a big extended family and we leave feeling fully revived and firing on all cylinders. The photograph shows Nicholas and Raquel with just a few of the people they met this year.
Already looking forward to next year’s venue.
If you want to meet up with Guto, he will be at the UK Birdfair this August – our UK Team look forward to seeing him there.
Last weekend REGUA received Thomas Brooks, Head of Research at Geneva for IUCN.
In between seeing birds in the day and waiting for the owls to call in the evening, we discussed the importance of monitoring, something talked about at the recent World Land Trust conference in Thetford UK.
He also asked us about long term sustainability. I told Tom that we believe REGUA will continue to grow and reach to tourism, education and research income streams and that we look at the protection core costs such as Ranger work being covered by Eco-service payments.
As there is increasing evidence that forests produce water, we believe that grants will be available in the near future that provide annual fee given to those proprietors who have forest cover.
Last week REGUA received Igor Camacho in the company of Ian Thompson, Conservation director for The Nature Conservancy, Brazil to successfully see the Shrike-like Cotinga amongst many local specialities.
Ian’s stay provided us with the opportunity to discuss our own objectives and plans. We understand that most International agencies prefer providing funds to establish parks in Partner countries as opposed to supporting local NGOs buying land.
The former takes a fraction of the cost but on the other hand, NGOs understand the importance of engaging at local level, with their local communities, providing employment and raising awareness, all as a result of their own personal commitment.
Though decreeing parks is an important step taken by Governments, often those areas become “paper parks” allowing occupation, hunting and farming to continue. Nature’s protection can be hard to enforce in these situations and NGOS are squeezed out of their stewardship role.
Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature, pillars of the ecosystem. Divided into Tribes, the Attaand Acromyrmex are very common in our Neotropical forests and though we worry about their action in freshly planted forests, they are very important in the established forest harvesting and cultivating their fungus on which they feed in their underground homes.
Their vast system of perfectly ventilated tunnels and chambers permits precious nitrogen to reach the roots of trees.
We are trying to identify the most common species at REGUA but we expect to have between 400 and 450 different species. Taking photographs is notoriously difficult, for aside being small, they move and are often camera shy.
If you want a challenge and wish to visit us spending your time helping us to get some images to help with developing a field guide, drop us a line and we would really love your company.
South East Brazil’s most successful Young Ranger course has celebrated its 12th anniversary.
It is aimed at the younger segment of our local communities and offers young children a glimpse into our own vision of the world, that of conservation. We want to show them why we need to protect Nature here and how we do so.
If they can understand that they live in one of the most bio-diverse Hotspots in the globe and that REGUA wants to share this with them, then we have helped instil the concept of responsibility. It has been a brilliant 12 years with super results and it’s a programme that all sister conservation projects could offer.
P.S. I well remember a group of friends visiting the Reserve in May 2006, agreeing to help with your new Educational project. They took telescopes down to the Wetland to meet our first group of Young Rangers. The children had never really had the opportunity to look at birds and the excitement could be heard back at the lodge as they looked at different species and delighted in trying to understand their English names. The current Young Rangers are studying and monitoring the quality of the water in the wetlands, are keen to explore the forests in the area and understand far more about the importance of protecting the area they live in. They still love to practice their English too!
Hawkmoths are Sphingidae and one of the most amazing insects to arrive at the purpose-built moth wall in REGUA’s garden at night. They are bulky and fly like nitro-fuelled rockets in what seems parabolas bashing themselves in the process coming to land under lamps. Lepidopterists say that they are guided by stars and perhaps they believe they have landed just by one of the billions out in the sky at night.
Curiously, wet evenings are best for the moth wall at REGUA, and it’s hard to see the stars at such times. These moths are important pollinating species for many tree species of the Atlantic Rainforest, but their preferences remain to be researched.
This is an example of Eumorpha labruscae and left Alan Martin author of REGUA publication, Guide to the Hawkmoths of Serra do Orgaos green with envy as he hasn’t seen it. Alan’s book says this is a widespread species and March was a good time to see it on the wall, so hopefully he will catch up with it on a future visit.
REGUA has just received the Federal University of Juiz de Fora and Uppsala University on a week-long workshop at REGUA as part of the International Research Council project “Greenhouse gases arising from reservoirs in Brasil”.
Reservoirs providing water to hydroelectric plants have always been perceived as “green energy” but in fact this is not always the case. In partnership with Uppsala University and other partners, various doctorate and master students have worked over three years to study various reservoirs across the country to determine their long term effects and the results will help the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to perhaps cast a shadow as the future of their construction.