Birding highlights of 2011

What a truely amazing year 2011 has been for birding at REGUA, with another 9 new birds found for the reserve (including a regional first) as well as a number of regional and local rarities.

Adilei got the year off to a great start by finding REGUA’s second Chimango Caracara at the wetland in January, where it was seen successfully killing and eating a juvenile Southern Lapwing before being chased off by Yellow-headed Caracaras. Chimango Caracara is rare in RJ state, with the nearest populations around Iguape in São Paulo state, some 540 km to the south-west of REGUA. Chimango Caracara is largely resident but some non-breeders do move northwards. Other notable birds in January included a Barn Swallow – a very scarce bird indeed at REGUA! In February, Adilei found the first new bird for the reserve of 2011 – an Olivaceous Flatbill, photographed on the Onofre Cunha Trail on 4th (photo below). REGUA lies at the southern of the range of this species’ range, so perhaps more can be expected in future. An Anhinga at the wetland was a notable find by volunteer Will Freeman, and the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks returned to breed once again. REGUA’s third Wing-barred Piprites was also seen on the Waterfall Trail.

Olivaceous Flatbill <em>Rhynchocyclus olivaceus</em>, Onofre Cunha Trail, 4 February 2011 (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Olivaceous Flatbill Rhynchocyclus olivaceus, Onofre Cunha Trail, 4 February 2011 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

In March several species associated with higher altitudes were found around the wetland, with 3 Green-chinned Euphonia, 2 Blue-bellied Parrot and a Plumbeous Pigeon all recorded! Perhaps this is an indication that the habitat around the wetland is improving? March also produced one of the very few records of Lineated Woodpecker at REGUA, with a bird seen at Waldenoor. In April the second new bird for the reserve (and a new bird for the Serra dos Órgãos region) was found by Leonardo on the Elfin Forest Trail in the form of a Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant (photo below). Usually found much futher south, there are at least 2 birds present still present on the trail and so maybe this is the beginnings of a new small population?

Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant <em>Hemitriccus furcatus</em>, Elfin Forest Trail (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant Hemitriccus furcatus, Elfin Forest Trail (© Leonardo Pimentel)

On 4 May, Leonardo did it again by finding and photographing REGUA’s first Grey-eyed Greenlet at the wetland (photo below). This species inhabits caatinga woodland and scrub, mainly in eastern Brazil. The nearest populations are in Minas Gerais state and they are rare in RJ state where they are replaced by Rufous-crowned Greenlet in the Atlantic Forest. July saw two more new birds added to the REGUA list. The first was a female Green Honeycreeper found by Adilei on the Veludo Trail on 12th, followed by RJ state’s third Stygian Owl, seen and photographed at the wetland on the evening of the 31st by just three very lucky observers (photo below).

Grey-eyed Greenlet <em>Hylophilus amaurocephalus</em>, wetland, 4 May 2011 (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Grey-eyed Greenlet Hylophilus amaurocephalus, wetland, 4 May 2011 (© Leonardo Pimentel)
Stygian Owl <em>Asio stygius</em>, wetland, 31 July 2011. The third record for Rio de Janeiro state (© Mikael Käll)
Stygian Owl Asio stygius, wetland, 31 July 2011. The third record for Rio de Janeiro state (© Mikael Käll)

On 18 October, Kevin Cox and Renton Righelato were birding at the wetland when 3 beautiful Swallow-tailed Kites appeared overhead! Thought to be another new bird for REGUA, it then became apparent that Adilei had actually seen this beautiful raptor at REGUA in the past and was unaware that it wasn’t on the list! 2 more were also seen over Waldenoor in November. November produced another two new birds for the reserve. On 2nd, brothers Gabriel and Daniel Mello were photographing birds at the wetland when they located a Narrow-billed Woodcreeper (photo below). This widespread species has been predicted at REGUA for some time now, having been seen on excursions to several sites close to the reserve. Then on 12th, REGUA supporter Lee Dingain found a Black-backed Water-Tyrant at the wetland (photo below). This wetland species is slowly spreading into RJ state from the north and could therefore could become more frequent in the future. It was still present the next day but has not been seen since (more on this bird here). REGUA’s second record of Yellow-billed Cuckoo (on our Casa Anibel Trail) was also found in November.

Narrow-billed Woodcreeper <em>Lepidocolaptes angustirostris</em>, wetland, 2 November 2011 (&copy; Gabriel Mello)
Narrow-billed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes angustirostris, wetland, 2 November 2011 (© Gabriel Mello)
Black-backed Water-Tyrant <em>Fluvicola albiventer</em> wetland, 12 November 2011 (© Lee Dingain)
Black-backed Water-Tyrant Fluvicola albiventer wetland, 12 November 2011 (© Lee Dingain)

December started well with at least 2 Blackpoll Warblers seen by several observers around the wetland, including a pair together seen by volunteer Eric DeFonso on 3rd. Then on the 9th things got even better when Marcos Felipe located another new bird for the reserve in the form of a juvenile Black Skimmer flying around over the wetland (photo below), while leading a group of students. This record brings the total number of bird species recorded at REGUA to 461! The incredibly high avian diversity here proves just how important the Atlantic Forest is, and how vital it is to save what remains. We look forward to seeing what birds 2012 brings.

Juvenile Black Skimmer <em>Rynchops niger </em> at the wetland (© Marcos Felipe)
Juvenile Black Skimmer Rynchops niger at the wetland (© Marcos Felipe)