There have been 110 species of hawkmoth recorded in the Serra dos Orgaos and only a further four in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
A recent visit to REGUA by Alan Martin in March 2020 added the 80th hawkmoth species for REGUA, Aellopos ceculus, a day flying moth somewhat similar to the European Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum. It was found laying eggs only a few hundred metres from the lodge.
A further 14 species have been found and photographed close to REGUA, but at higher altitudes than are easily reached within the reserve. Some expeditions to add some of these to the list along with some of the high altitude bird species has to be a priority for future visits.
Back in 2015 Alan Martin and Jorge Bizarro started work on a guide to butterflies to accompany the three REGUA books already published that are specific to the REGUA area (hawkmoths, dragonflies and birds). What started as a three year project has taken five years, partly because the number of species recorded in the area is more than had been anticipated but also because it proved very difficult to source photos of some of the rarer species.
The book is now about to be printed and it covers 803 species (excluding grass skippers) with descriptions, comparisons to similar species, global distribution and notes on the ecology, behaviour and host plants. All but three of the species are illustrated with over 1,300 photos of live specimens or where not available, photos of pinned specimens. There are also introductory texts for each family, subfamily and tribe.
The book will be distributed by NHBS, but in the UK is best ordered from Alan Martin at a reduced price of £30 plus £5 postage (please see our Publications page for details). All the profits from the sale of the book will go to REGUA.
One of the two most common species of hawkmoth found at REGUA is Xylophanes porcus continentalis which is found from Central America to southern Brazil. At least that is what we thought until a new paper was recently published in the European Entomologist by Jean Haxaire and Carlos Mielke. Their paper describes two new species that occur in south and south-east Brazil, and suggests that the entire X. porcus family needs further investigation.
Since 2001 there have been 74 species of hawkmoth (Sphingidae) found at REGUA, from the 110 or so that have been recorded in the Serra dos Órgãos mountains. Arguably one of the nicest is Oryba kadeni which has a distinctive shape and colouring.
Widespread throughout Central and South America, this is this was my first sighting, though it has been recorded at REGUA twice before, once by Nicholas at his house and once by his father Robert Locke. To be more precise, Robert found the unmistakable wings of this moth by his front door, the remains of a meal for a large bat.
The Red-ruffed Fruitcrow Pyroderus scutatus is high on visitors wish-lists, but it is scarce and a very hard bird to see well. However this splendid bird appeared in the lodge garden on the 2nd July and was seen by two lucky people sitting quietly on the veranda. It stayed in the garden for a few minutes allowing a series of photos to be taken before flying off when someone came up the drive.
Few people from REGUA visit the Theodora Trail which is a shame as it has some great birds and is probably the easiest trail for walking.
The trail starts beside the main road from Cachoeiras to Nova Friburgo at about 1,200m and follows the route of a long-gone railway line – so it has a very gentle downhill gradient ending back at the main road only a few hundred metres lower.
In October I walked the trail with Adilei and amongst the good birds seen were great views of Shrike-like Cotinga, Spot-winged Wood Quail, Black-throated Trogon, Bertoni’s Antbird, Sharpbill, Greenish Schiffornis, Bellbird, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Barred Forest Falcon and many many more.
The expected release of the first two South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) also known as Brazilian or Lowland Tapirs, has been delayed slightly but is still expected to occur before the end of the year.
The release compound where the animals will be held for a month to become acclimatised before release has been completed, and the reintroduction team are busy talking to all the local landowners and schools to ensure that everyone is aware of the project and is supportive.
In total it is planned to release about 50 animals over the next five years or so, and at least the first few will have collars fitted which will incorporate both satellite transmitters and radio tags so that their movements and behaviour can be monitored. Tapirs are usually solitary animals and will range widely in the forest, but in hot weather they need to find ponds or rivers in which they can cool down. The major concern is that they may start visiting local farmers’ crops and cause damage, which is why so much effort is being taken to inform locals of the releases and of the legal methods that can be used to prevent that damage.
In addition to the collars, the team will be setting up a series of camera traps to monitor the released animals, and trials have already produced some wonderful photos of other mammals that inhabit the forest. This wonderful photo of Puma was taken on the 4×4 trail.
On 15th October, REGUA volunteer Alan Martin and our bird guide Adilei spent a few hours driving around the roads towards the Vecchi area, about 9km from REGUA, looking for some of the ‘trash habitat’ birds that are often overlooked by visitors and not so easy to find at REGUA now that the reforestation is maturing.
Such species include Grassland Sparrow Ammodramus humeralis, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch Emberizoides herbicola, Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola, Masked Yellowthroat Geothlypis aequinoctialis, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove Columbina minuta, Whistling Heron Syrigma sibilatrix, Striped Cuckoo Tapera naevia and many more.
Two weeks ago Adilei had seen a Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco in this area and as we were passing Adilei played a recording of the call, without any great expectation of a sighting. However almost immediately a Toco Toucan stuck his head out of a nest hole in a dead palm tree beside the road, then further down the same road another bird was seen doing the same thing.
Toco Toucan is only a very occasional visitor to REGUA, mainly to the wetland area. Now we know of at least two breeding pairs of Toco Toucans in the local area – how long will it be before they are regular visitors to the reserve?
One of REGUA’s objectives is to encourage a wider interest and knowledge of the incredible biodiversity of the Serra dos Orgaos. REGUA has already published three books covering Hawkmoths (2011), Dragonflies and Damselflies (2015) and Birds (2015).
Now Jorge Bizarro and Alan Martin are working on a 4th book covering the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos. This is a mammoth task and will cover about 500 species, of which we have so far written the text for Papilionidae (28 species), Pieridae (36 species) and are now working on Riodinidae.
Each species text will include a description, notes on similar species, distribution and ecology plus of course photographs where available. An example is shown below.
We are still missing good photographs of many of the species that will be covered in the book, so we would welcome any photographs of butterflies taken at or near REGUA which should be sent to Alan Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org. It may take another year to complete the texts, so there is still plenty of opportunity to take those pictures, and of course every picture will be acknowledged if used.
Tom Kompier’s excellent new book A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos is now available in the UK from Alan Martin. This book describes all 204 species known from the REGUA area and is illustrated with 560 photos.
Please send a cheque for £30.50 which includes postage and packing, made out to the ‘Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust’ with your name and address to Alan at Alureds Oast, Northiam, East Sussex TN31 6JJ.