Tribute to GGV Gabriela Viana

Gabriela Viana is a dedicated conservationist who has helped project REGUA with her knowledge, experience and dedication.   Gabriela  lives in the municipality of Cachoeiras de Macacu just 15 miles away from REGUA, and her professional life led her to work at the Golden Lion Tamarin project,  ITPA and IBIO, all successful conservation organizations in Rio de Janeiro State.

Gabriela with her team (front centre) (© Nicholas Locke)

Gabriela helped REGUA develop its Agenda 21 action plan in 2005, and she always wanted to work and further conservation efforts in this municipality.    When Petrobras signalled its interest to fund a project, Gabriella came to our rescue and helped write a proposal, but after two unsuccessful attempts we were less keen to submit a third.

With much insistence Gabriela then suggested we focus our expertise on compounding our education and reforestation programmes, and she prepared a project based on those two lines.   We were ecstatic that out of 600 projects submitted, REGUA was approved and the overall results were considered excellent by Petrobras, leading to an invitation to submit a sequel last year.

REGUA then introduced an important component along with education and restoration; that of monitoring water quality engaging local school children.   Not only was this perceived as important by Petrobras, but it sparked off a huge awareness by the local population of the importance of water quality for its towns.   This led to a photographic competition that resulted in further promotion of the project.

GGV Team relaxing with Nicholas and Raquel Locke (© Jorge Bizarro)

Gabriela is the personification of dedication, quality and perseverance and she was recently head-hunted by WWF to direct their “threatened” species programme.  Gabriela helped put REGUA on the map and believed in the capability of her team.   She taught us quality and style in the quest for project results that have shaped REGUA into a major player in the local Conservation world of Rio de Janeiro.

A big thank-you Gabriela for the time you have dedicated to REGUA.

Great Horned Owls found breeding at REGUA!

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

In October 2017 our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha heard a Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus at the village of Matumbo, situated at the edge of REGUA. With a large range covering much of North, Central and South America, Great Horned Owl had long been predicted as a future addition to the REGUA bird list, but this was the first record for the reserve.

Tantalizingly, there was no further sign until just a few days ago on the 18 August 2018 when Adilei finally saw a bird – the first sight record for REGUA. When he returned the next morning with his camera he found not one bird but a pair! Then while watching and photographing them he was amazed when they mated right in front of him!

What an incredible record and yet another owl species for REGUA. The addition of Great Horned Owl takes the REGUA bird list to an incredible 479 species! Well done Adilei for finding and documenting such a great record.

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

REGUA’s 12th British Birdfair

The REGUA UK Team at Birdfair 2019, from left: Sue Healey, Lee Dingain, Alan Martin and Rachel Walls (© Dan Bradbury)
The REGUA UK Team at Birdfair 2019, from left: Sue Healey, Lee Dingain, Alan Martin and Rachel Walls (© Dan Bradbury)

This was the 12th year in a row that REGUA has attended the British Birdwatching Fair, and what a successful Birdfair it was!

Held each year at Egleton Nature Reserve at Rutland Water in England, the Birdfair is the world’s largest conservation fundraising fair and this year (the 30th Birdfair) is helping to fund the creation of the Ansenuza National Park in Argentina.

Our stand was once again organized and manned by our dedicated volunteers, Rachel Walls, Lee Dingain and Sue Healey, with assistance from Alan Martin, and Ken Sutton and Stuart Housden also both helping out for a day. It was good we had so many people helping because we had a large number of visitors to the stand, new faces, past visitors and volunteers and volunteers signed up to our volunteer programme.

Birdfair is also a great opportunity to catch up with our supporters and friends at the World Land Trust, Puro Coffee and Serra dos Tucanos.

REGUA is now well and truly on the birdwatching map and we are a firm believers that international birdwatching tourism is crucial in helping REGUA carry out our urgent conservation work protecting the Atlantic Forest of the Guapiaçu valley.

A huge thanks to everybody who visited our stand and also to all the Birdfair volunteers for making the event run so smoothly. We would also like to give a special thanks to Guto Carvalho of Avistar (the Brazilian Bird Fair) for mentioning REGUA in their excellent talk, and to Rachel Walls for all her hard work behind the scenes organising the REGUA stand each year and for baking her amazing cakes!

We look forward to seeing some of you at REGUA soon! If you have any enquiries about visiting REGUA then please drop us a email.

Shrike-like Cotinga

Even though it’s just a year since we published our last note on the sighting of the Shrike-like Cotinga in the recent news section of the web site, once again, birders are seeing this species on the lowlands in July.

We have the distinct feeling that it seems to staying longer on the lowland part of the reserve, before making its way up the mountains to disappear in January when presumably it is breeding.    Both Adilei and Cirilo, REGUA’s Bird Guides, have taken many guests to see this Neotropical species, one of the most iconic species of the Atlantic Rainforest.

Shrike-like Cotinga (©Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Please come along to visit us at the British Bird Fair Rutland Water, UK from 17th to 19th August we shall be in Marquee 1, stand 37 where you can speak to our UK team to find out more about this and a host of other species and plan your visit to see them for yourself.

White-bellied Tanager

Though the IUCN states that White-bellied Tanager (Tangara brasilensis ) is considered of “least concern” it really is a stunning bird.

Flying in small flocks, up to 10 strong, this Atlantic Rainforest endemic can be found at REGUA even close to houses that make up its local villages.   It is very responsive to its call, and raises the neck feathers in retaliation to Adilei’s speakers.   It seems to like tree canopies at mid-elevation, but with the two tone powder blue plumage, black mouth parts and white underbelly it is unmistakeable.

White-bellied Tanager, (Tangara Brasiliensis) (© Nicholas Locke)

As they appear quite mottled, one is left intrigued if the colourful feather arrangements are identical to all members of this species.

Recently renamed the White-bellied tanager; it has been split from its Amazonian cousin, Turquoise Tanager.    Those wishing to photograph this bird will not be disappointed.

 

Brown Tanager

The “Near threatened” Brown Tanager  species  (Orchesticus abeilli) like many tanagers, is an arboreal species generally associated with higher altitude forest where occasio

Brown Tanager (Orchesticus abeillei) (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

nally one can find it feeding with in a mixed tanager flock.    Seeing one in tree canopy is quite usual, but viewing one by the REGUA tower at lowland altitude appears a little out of place.

It is an uncommon tanager and habitat loss has not improved things for it, Serra dos Órgãos National Park, just two hours drive from REGUA, is one of several protected areas where this species has been found, but the risk of deforestation outside of the safety of Reserves such as REGUA and the National Park mean the species is becoming more isolated.

The Brown Tanager can be confused with the Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, the same rufous supercilliary line, but the typically “tanageresque” thick bill is the giveaway.   These birds like insects but will eat small fruit.

Brown Tanager (Orchesticus abeillei) (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

So why is it around? Another of Natures mysteries, but it certainly was thrilling to view from the tower offering great sightings and photographic opportunities to those with cameras and binoculars.

 

 

Tanagers

Whilst birders pack their binoculars, telescopes and long camera lenses to photograph the wonderful Neotropical birds at REGUA, we often reflect on why these colourful tanagers are found at different altitudes, as if the bird’s territories are indeed stratified.

Brassy-breasted Tanager (Tangara desmaresti) (© Nicholas Locke)

In my garden, at low elevation, we often find the Green-headed tanager flying in mixed flocks together with Violaceous Euphonia and Blue Dacnis.

Occasionally a woodcreeper, xenops, ant-tanager and even a White-barred Piculet will share the flittering spectacle as they look for insects between leaves, for small fruit and any other tasty morsels.

However we do not find the mid-elevation Brassy-breasted Tanagers, whose busy flocks are only to be found at the higher altitudes.

Where can we see the Gilt-edged Tanager?   Occasionally they will be seen at the very top of the mountains or on the drier leeward slopes of the deciduous Mata Atlántica.

This shows us that these colourful beauties help to indicate the altitude, that tanagers aside from their natural colourful plumages are “stratospheric”  in more ways than one.

Gilt-edged Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris) (© Nicholas Locke)

Nicholas Locke

 

Long-tailed Potoo

Though Birdlife and IUCN state the Long tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus) occurs across all South America, it also warns the population is declining.

Long-tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus)(© Nicholas Locke)

The species refined distribution map suggests that in some time the Atlantic Rainforest and the Amazonian species might well be split.  This magical bird is rarely seen and highly desired by most bird observers around the globe.  With its nocturnal habits, its call is a long loud “Raaauuulll…” and the local population is scared by its unexpected call.

It is usually found perched on snags and high stumps and although it’s a large bird, it is well camouflaged and slow to move that often one just misses it.    This species requires good habitat and we are lucky to have one that doesn’t mind being photographed.

Lee Dingain spent lot of time observing this species and wrote an excellent paper that was published in http://regua.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/nb10-ltpotoo-dingain.pdf

Dragon Praying Mantis – Projeto Mantis

The Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.

Projeto Mantis Team at REGUA (© Projeto Mantis)

They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea.    There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.

Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science.   Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.

With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden.   They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.

However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.

One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843.   It resembles depictions  of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one.    Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.

The team of biologists collected not only one.    A second was found a couple of days later from a forest fragment just seven kilometres away, showing that the species is present along the Guapiaçu valley.    A report and video was sent to National Geographic magazine which was hugely successful.
See https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/animals-insects-brazil-rainforests/

The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.

Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection.   Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

For further information, the Mantis Project can be found at: https://www.instagram.com/projetomantis/?hl=pt and https://www.facebook.com/projetomantis/

                Good luck team !!

 

 

 

all photographs courtesy of Projeto Mantis

A big Thank You to all REGUA supporters!

REGUA welcomed retired RSPB director Stuart Housden and Alan Martin recently.   Although Stuart is familiar with the project and had visited REGUA before, he is now a Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust (BART) Trustee and the aim of the visit was to learn what REGUA does; why its work is so valuable and how he could help us with his vast experience.

Stuart and Alan (© Nicholas Locke)

It is amazing to think that we started this off in 2001 with a plan to protect a part of the Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA and almost two decades later, this project is attracting international and national attention for progress in all of its programmes, be it in administration, protection, research, education, restoration or tourism.

REGUA’s location is privileged in that it is set in an area that still retains a significant amount of original biodiversity.   It is also just close enough to Rio de Janeiro city and its environs to make a day outing, an overnight stay or longer visit easily viable.

The factors that contribute to the biodiversity are various including; area of remaining forest cover, a forested gradient and fundamentally an understanding local community, be it land owners, farmers or the local population.    We started our conservation programmes 20 years ago with international support as funding within Brazil was virtually non-existent. Today we see the fruit of what we planted and the results today of every programme speak for themself.

Possibly the best thing about REGUA is that there are so many things to do, it has an exciting aura around it as ever more people are visiting and we can show positive results. The forests are returning the hillsides and valley, the biodiversity is improving, more land is put into set aside, more visitors and the community are learning and approving of our actions and we are getting bolder with our convictions.

Restored landscape (© Sue Healey)

So, although Raquel and I are getting older, we are keener than ever to gain improved results.   Through sharing experiences and knowledge, your visit helps us stride firmly towards the future.

A huge thank you to our UK volunteers, Lee, Rachel, Sue, and to Alan for having been champion king pin for so many years, and now Stuart who together with our mother charity BART and its Trustees endorse our actions and want to help us reach further towards the future.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we have marvellous teams and Raquel and I can firmly say that your determined support has made the difference!

If you would like to meet our UK Volunteer Team they will be at the British Bird Fair, Rutland Water, 17th-19th August, 2018.   Pop along and say hello, Marquee 1 stand 37