All posts by Nicholas Locke

Zoology “freshmen” at REGUA

REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.

REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.  

Students working hard in the laboratory

A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.         

Restoration is the way forward!

One of our UK supporters recently sent me a link that brought attention to this article produced on the Nature Research organisation website. The paper was written by four British experts who, in their view, state that carbon storage can only be long term effectively reached through planting native forests of mixed species.

They studied the results of the BONN challenge (IUCN and German Government), planting  20 million trees to combat climate change, and noted that efforts have been concentrated in three core activities; single species timber forestry, area abandonment and agroforestry. Their conclusion is that the net effect of these actions is not the same as planting forests of mixed species. The authors conclude existing forest protection, ecoservice payments and investments in natural forest restoration for biodiversity are the only long term solutions to store carbon effectively and combat climate change.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01776-5

Our friend Robin Chazdon (who has visited REGUA a couple of times) and other eminent experts recently published a paper on the same website, titled “Forests, when natural regeneration is unrealistic” in response to this article and their view that single species forestry and agroforestry cannot be dismissed as a means to reach to meet the global temperature reduction targets. They call for innovative practices and policies to reach to long term solutions and draw attention to the socio-economic demands and benefits, that old interface of community and our natural world.

https//www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01026-8

The REGUA team restoring hillsides

This is yet more evidence, to encourage us to continue in our goal to protect, regenerate and restore the forests in our part of the Atlantic forest and to work with local communities, encouraging others to join in this vital project.



It takes a Team!

A conservation project of this dimension is not possible without constant support from a whole team. In REGUA’s case some of our team are based in the UK.  

The UK team, led by Alan Martin include Lee Dingain, Rachel Walls and Sue Healey. They have been a pillar of strength to this project. All volunteers, they started by visiting REGUA to see birds and were smitten by the REGUA bug; a desire to get involved and ensure the continuation of this project.

Sue, Lee, Alan and Rachel at 2018 British Birdfair (© REGUA)

It seems only yesterday we first met them and within a couple of days they were asking how they could help. With zillions of contributions, Alan with his experience in business administration, Lee with website skills, Rachel who runs our volunteer programme, and Sue with her communication skills, this incredible team has helped increase the capacity of REGUA to promote its work.

Today these efforts are responsible for its international success. The team have also been promoting REGUA and our steady progress over the last twelve years at the British Bird Fair, so go along and see the latest updates at this years fair at Rutland Water Leicestershire, Marquee 8, Stand 12 from 16th to 18th August 2019.

You can follow the progress of our project here on our website, or follow the links below to our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Every visitor is welcome at REGUA and your time here contributes to its perpetuity.

All of us at REGUA wish to thank the volunteer team who have devoted so much time to this project and continue to shine in every respect.         

Nicholas, Raquel and Thomas

Not a Praying Mantis!

Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and Lepidopterist recently found this interesting creature. We initially thought it was a Mantis and sent the photograph through to our friends in the Projeto Mantis Research Group.

Leo Lanna from the team sent back his excited reply:

“This is amazing find and actually, it is not a praying mantis! I know it looks just like a Mantis, but it actually belongs to another insect order, the Neuroptera. The family pays homage to mantises – it is called Mantispidae – and they are an amazing example of convergent evolution. This means that different evolution pressures led them to develop similar structures. They do hunt with their raptorials, like mantises, but you can notice some differences, especially the way they fold their wings, which are located on the sides of the animal, not over it. The wings are also more translucid.

Mantispidae (© R Locke)

Take a look at the eyes too. Mantispidae always have a beautiful, coloured pattern when you take a picture with flash, like a star or rainbow. Mantises have plain compound eyes with the fake pupil effect, not this colourful one.

We usually find a green, tiny species, from genus Zeugomantispa. We once found a huge one at Tijuca Forest, from genus Climaciella, but neither look like this one.

Thanks for sharing these findings!”

What a great find, on reading more I found that Mantispidae are also known as Mantid lacewings or mantis-flies in some parts of the world.

Thanks also to Leo and his team for encouraging us to continue to research the amazing creatures of the forests at REGUA.

Photographing butterflies for the forthcoming Guide to the Butteflies of the Serra dos Orgaos

Pygas eighty-eight <em>Paulogramma pygas</em>, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the "88" on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)
Pygas eighty-eight Paulogramma pygas, photographed at REGUA, May 2019, showing the “88” on the underside of the hindwing (© Robert Locke)

The stunning Four-spot Sailor <em>Dynamine. posverta</em> male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)
The stunning Four-spot Sailor Dynamine. posverta male, REGUA, June 2019 (© Robert Locke)

Robert Locke is visiting us at REGUA and we know how he enjoys taking photographs of butterflies, an interest that he has enjoyed for many years. Two species he found and photographed recently are Paulogramma pygas (previously Callicore) also known as the Pygas eighty-eight, and Dynamine postverta also known as the Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the hindwing which shows an “88” shape in the pattern. D. postverta is restricted to much of western lowland South America, preferring woodlands and farmland.

Both are beautiful butterfly species and both male and female will be featured in a new book currently being prepared on the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, the surrounding mountain range to REGUA and one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil. The Serra dos Órgãos mountains range is a biodiversity hotspot and REGUA is considered to be a very well preserved and protected area within this range.

As REGUA continues to increase the area under our protection, creating corridors for wildlife and strengthening the range of trees planted, we are securing the future for all its inhabitants. These two wonderful species of butterfly are part of the beauty to be found here.

Should you like to visit REGUA and take photographs that could be featured in the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos publication, we would be very happy to receive you!

Canopy hide gets new ladder!

Those who remember our first canopy hide with its wooden ladder, erected in 2005, will be delighted to know that the ladder has been replaced with a metal spiral staircase enabling a much easier ascent.

Looking at the earlier image below, one sees how the view around the hide has changed. In 2005 the hide was placed in cattle pasture. We then planted trees to link this area with our surrounding forest and now the tower situated with and below some of the nearby tree canopies. Our linked forests now tower over the wetlands.

2019 (© REGUA)
2005 (© REGUA)

Giving and excellent overview of the wetlands, this low altitude tower permits birders the chance to peer into the world of crakes and herons.

There are two slightly higher altitude towers for forest species and a great bird hide at the water level edge of the wetlands for you to enjoy at REGUA.   

Maxillaria picta orchid

Helmut Seehawer is visiting us at REGUA and continues to explore for orchids here.

Once again we walked with Helmut to the lofty Lagoinha summits, an extremely important area for orchid dispersal, full of Platyrhipsa brasiliensisStelis ruprechtianaOctomeria grassilabiaOncidium lietzeiPabstiela spZygopetalum pedicillatum, and so many micro orchids.

Maxillaria picta (© REGUA)

We came across these relatively common Maxillaria picta, first described by Sir William Jackson Hooker, English botanist in 1811. Hooker didn’t travel personally to Brazil but probably received these plants and then described them from collected samples.

Helmut is 84 years old and he was delighted to be scrambling up these rocky summits in search of his precious orchids.

We think the world of Helmut, his incredible dedication and knowledge that allows us to draw people’s attention to them and their importance in this very biodiverse region of the globe, after all, the Serra do Órgãos is known for over 1,000 species, or 5% of the world’s entire diversity of orchids!!

Treks and Walks at REGUA

If you are interested in treks and walks in the forest, we are definitely the right place to come to. REGUA has over 45 kilometres of well-marked trails with breath-taking views and stunning scenery.

stunning scenery (© N Locke)

It’s a good chance to get to know the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and its superb attributes. This wonderful area is quite rightly considered one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. Our local team of are well experienced and have walked these trails many times, over the years. Yet every time we find something new. 

The trail pictured is the Cachoeiras de Macacu to Guapiaçu trail, a walk of 14 km, and it will take you minimum of 4 hours. There are waterfalls and fresh cool water spots and even places to swim on a hot day. 

Above all, trails of this kind offer walkers a chance to see the importance of what REGUA is trying to do, restoring and protecting the forests to allow their ecosystem to function healthily. Isn’t this our responsibility?

      

Raquel Locke in the forest (© N Locke)

Leon Restaurant winners


The first Leon restaurant opened in London in 2004 and soon won various awards for quality.

The success in the fast food service led to cookbooks, products and a meteoric expansion around the globe.

(© Nicholas Locke)

Attached to the name are firm convictions in innovation and sustainability. Puro Coffee, a brand of coffee, likewise believes in tropical forest conservation, having helped REGUA acquire an important parcel of forest. Puro supplies coffee to Leon and the chain ran a raffle for their staff early this year with a prize being a three day stay at REGUA and Rio de Janeiro.

The three lucky winners  Habiba Boulakila, Elie Holder, Alessio Giangrande, together with regional manager, John Brooks arrived yesterday at REGUA and spotted capybaras and caimans on their first walk.

We visited Miguel Hertal’s Arabic coffee plantation in Bom Jardim and the group will finish off their tour on Ipanema beach in Rio. They will be able to relate their experience to their customers and staff.  A great break for these lovely people!!

Jorge finds a Praying Mantis

Jorge appeared the other morning asking me to photograph an interesting Praying Mantis which he hadn’t seen before. “We have to get this to the Mantis team”, he said.

So I sent photographs and a description off to Leonardo Lanna of the research team researching Praying Mantis at REGUA.

Eumusonia genus (© Nicholas Locke)

Biologist Leo Lanna of the Mantis team said  “This is a male of Eumusonia genus, a grass mantis. We’ve registered them on our visits – what is cool is that REGUA is the only place where we see a great variation in the males colours. They are described as brown, but we’ve seen yellow and green ones, and this is the first one we have seen that is brown with green legs.

They live among grasses and tiny bushes, as well as leaf litter, mainly on more open areas, like fields and trail borders. You can easily identify them by the triangle segment on the tip of their abdomen. Males and females share this triangle-shaped segment though females have no wings. We discovered a healthy population in the garden of Casa da Pesquisa (REGUA’s research house) when we were there in 2017 and now in March we’ve found many more, from small ones to adult males and females. We didn’t find in any other area of the reserve, though, but this will definitely add to our work..”

It is so gratifying to receive news back from Leonardo, and exciting that REGUA is the first place where they have seen this colour variation. Leonardo is so enthusiastic, interested and generous with his time in providing valuable feedback. This encourages us to keep our eyes alert in the hope of finding another species.. 

Carea Castalia photographed near REGUA

Castalia Green Mantle <em>Carea castalia</em> photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)
Castalia Green Mantle Carea castalia photographed near REGUA (© Nicholas Locke)

I recently came across this beautiful iridescent green butterfly several kilometres from the reserve. Jorge Bizarro, REGUA’s resident lepidopterist and Research Coordinator, confirmed the example as a male Carea castalia, also known as Castalia Green Mantle. Jorge had previously seen the same species on REGUA’s brown trail two years ago.

Adrian Hoskins, on his website Learn about Butterflies (Amazonia section) describes the family Carea as being some of the most beautiful butterflies on the planet and indeed coming across this individual, I could not believe the iridescent green on the thorax and wings. These butterflies are stated to be restless and once they take off are difficult to follow in surrounding undergrowth which perfectly confirms Jorge’s experience of the butterfly he saw at REGUA.

As Jorge and Alan Martin are writing the book on Butterflies found at REGUA and the Serra dos Órgãos region, this photograph could well be included. Should you have photos of butterflies seen here at the reserve, please feel free to email them to us as we would love to see them. For contact details click here.

Duke University students visit REGUA

You will have recently read that the US charity SavingSpecies helped REGUA acquire a parcel of land. Once planted with trees this will be an important corridor linking two established forests.

Setting up the camera traps (© Nicholas Locke)

We recently received students from Duke University in USA. The three students; Bridgette Keane, Chiara Klein and Jacob Levine set up camera traps in both remnant forest blocks to record the fauna present. In time, and once the replanting programme has been completed in the new plot, there will be comparisons with what is using the “new” corridor.

They also planned to take panorama images with the famous ‘Gigapan’ system, a system developed for taking many high resolution photos and stitching them together to make a massive panorama photo. 

Having set up their project, these delightful students left us to go onto the Golden Lion Tamarin project. After three days REGUA’s bird guide, Adilei and I collected the video material to see what was moving in these patches of forest.

Preparing for the panorama! (© Nicholas Locke)

The results were startling for we recorded a Cracid; Rusty-margined Guan (Penelope superciliaris), the less common Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla) and White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi). The mammals were brilliant with a tail(!) of Brazilian Squirrel (Sciurus aestuans), several Agoutis (Dasyprocta leporina),  and Common Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). To top it all Crab-eating Raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) was also captured on film. These species are using the forest to forage, which is great for seed dispersal and helps the nutrient cycle. 

Most Neotropical mammals are nocturnal, and the use of camera traps helps us understand which animals are present in these forests.   We are really impressed that these species appear to be quite common in this fragment border and this is the required base line information for us to monitor the forest corridor once it is planted. 

To view the Agouti video, published with the kind permission of the Duke University project, click here

Great Horned Owls Part 2

You will all remember that our Great Horned Owls Bubo virginianus were first spotted near to REGUA in August last year by Fito Downs and Adilei, REGUA’s Bird Guide. Many visitors were delighted to see this enigmatic species and Adilei caught some images of their coupling at the time.

(© REGUA)

Adilei and I visited the same tree in late December to take a photograph of the resulting juvenile bird.   As you can see the juvenile has grown considerably and as it starts its first moult, the downy first feathers are being replaced by the first adult plumage.

Naturally we are delighted with the progress and hope that the juvenile decides to stay nearby like our Tropical Screech-Owls, we certainly have plenty of old suitable trees in the area. 

FioCruz researchers at REGUA

The Oswaldo Cruz Institute for Tropical Diseases (often referred to as FioCruz) is of global renown, considered one of the world’s leading public health research institutions. The Institute has been leading research and saving lives for many decades.

Maycom Neves, Tiago and Agostinho Perreira (© Nicholas Locke)

Recently, we received three researchers very interested in hanging insect traps designed to capture mosquitoes. Maycom Neves, Tiago and Agostingho Perreira are researching two species that are not known in their larvae stage. Interestingly enough one species, Wyeomyia knabi, first collected by Teobald in Cachoeiras de Macacu and sent to UK in 1901 was named after his beloved Wye College where he had studied.

Our researchers are looking for the young or their stages as larvae.  Sabethes forattteniiis another species that has been collected at REGUA but not very well known. Neither are a transmitter of diseases, but the FioCruz is always concerned with public health and lead research efforts into the lives of our friendly mosquitoes amongst many other creatures.     

After this brief introduction, I will certainly look out for these amazing creatures.   

New Lizard for REGUA!

REGUA’s Keeper of the Wild ranger Rildo da Rosa Oliveira funded by the World Land Trust found this banded lizard on the red trail at around 600 metres above sea level. This lizard has very short legs and if were not for the scales on its body, one could mistake it for a salamander, but salamander are not currently known to be further south than Roraima, Northern Brazil.

We had help to identify this individual from Canada’s naturalist Mike Patrikeev who stated it was Banded Galliwasp, Diploglossus fasciatus of the Anguidae family.  

Banded Galliwasp (© Rildo da Rosa Oliveira)

Indeed this example measured close to 30 centimetres in length, and Rildo said that in all his years as a ranger, he had only once seen this species before.

There is a similar Banded Galliwasp (Diploglossus lessonae) endemic to Brazil’s Northeast region, rated “Least Concern” by the IUCN, but I wonder whether it’s Atlantic Rainforest cousin is as common? In fact, we all wonder when we shall see another one. 

Brazilian Gold frog

Measuring less than one cm in length, the Brazilian Gold frog also known as “Saddleback toad” or “Brachycephalus sp.” are some of the smallest frogs endemic to South East Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. 

They are found at very high altitude, where they are adapted to low temperature and high humidity. As a result, the populations are isolated and form technically “sky” islands on mountain tops. Over 16 species have been described.   As one can see from the photo, these amphibians have three toes on each foot, and two fingers on each hand, in contrast to the usual five digits of most frogs. 

Brazilian Gold Frog Brachycephalus sp
© Nicholas Locke)

Whilst climbing in search of orchids in the recently purchased Lagoinha area with Helmut Seehawer last December, we came across a large number of these golden frogs in leaf litter.   On taking a photograph, one gave an enormous silent roar in protest and then leapt away a massive distance by our standards to safety. We left them to their lives in this isolated world.

Our thanks to Rainforest Trust who provided funding to purchase this land. It is located at around 1000m above sea level and nestles next to Lagoinha farm.

IUCN states that species here at REGUA are of “least concern” and very well protected from deforestation, but we hope that climate change and pollution won’t affect them adversely.


World Land Trust Ambassador Visits REGUA

We are always so pleased to share our work with interested parties and Patrick Sherriff’s lightening visit was no different.  

Patrick lives in Hong Kong, and is World Land Trust (WLT) ambassador to the Far East. Due to start a tour of the Andean countries, he took time to visit REGUA to see the hard work we are engaged in.

Patrick Sherriff at the Matumbo Gap (© Nicholas Locke)

Patrick arrived on a boiling hot day and we started his visit at the Matumbo Gap, a series of properties acquired over several years with WLT support. The area Patrick is standing on is being funded by Petrobras (the well known Brazilian petroleum company). The first hillside behind him is the area funded by WLT and the reforested area behind Patricks hat was funded by Brazilian SOS Mata Atlantica.

A real funding fruit salad and an excellent example of people and organisations coming together in partnership to achieve great success. This co-operation has enabled us to protect and begin the restoration of this vital landscape. The forest corridor being created across the “Matumbo Gap” of land which is starting to connect REGUA land to a previously fragmented area of forest.

As Patrick said “I’m glad I made the effort to visit you. Inspirational meeting real people making a real change through commitment and dedication. It was terrific to see first-hand the reforestation. Backbreaking work especially on some of those slopes. Your whole team needs to be congratulated! To see the growth of the reforestation over the years since replanting was also an eye-opener.”

Thanks Patrick, your appreciation is our encouragement!
        

The Orchid Cathedral

Our readers will no doubt be following new on the construction of our extraordinary Orchid Cathedral, made possible by a generous grant from the San Diego Orchid Society and Peter Tobias.  

Though progress is slow, the Cathedral will be ready for our dear friend Helmut Seehawer, set to arrive this coming April. Helmut, now 82 is to continue his inventory of the orchids here at REGUA. We are delighted because he still has the energy and all the experience in identifying the species on the mountains here at REGUA. 

The Orchid Cathedral (© Nicholas Locke)

 To think that the total number of species of orchids in the world stands at 20 thousand of which 5% or one thousand are found in the mountains here at REGUA and environs. Bathed in cloud forest and stretching from over 2,000 metres to sea level, we can only being to appreciate how lucky we are. 

The Orchid Cathedral, a sun-screened area of 300m², will feature a rocky base, tree ferns mixed with palms, ground plants and some native small Myrtle trees, such as Eugenia sp, to which orchids will be attached. Posts will also hold some of these epiphytes. A path meandering through the house will allow visitors to see why these plants are so special, and interpretation signage will help the visitor understand the delicate role they play in nature and why so many people get excited about them. 

Should any volunteer wish to come and help us organize the interior, we would love to hear from you!!

It is getting exciting around here and already an air of expectation is setting in.

For more information on volunteering at REGUA see here.

Tree planting continues at REGUA!

Using traditional methods – Fransisco and his mule (© Nicholas Locke)

Our efforts in tree planting often seem staggering, but such is our ambition at REGUA. We see degraded land as a burden to the planet and certain of our argument – that there is no way to justify the destruction of tropical forests or even search for their sustainable use. Why? We do not know how they work as an ecosystem and it erases just too many life forms that depended on it. That cannot be responsibility!! Forests and the species that depend on it around the globe are suffering and at REGUA, we are trying to grow them back. Not so easy!! 

We are so fortunate to have friends, trustees, professors, students, volunteers, staff, community members and children that also share this view. They all want to help us help us understand how it works and help us to restore the areas devoid of forest.  

This hard work provides opportunities in labour for the local community but more importantly, they gain pride in creating a more beautiful place. Responsibility is shared and though there may be a minimum that see disrespect for the hard work their ancestors put into harnessing land, today their grandchildren understand that forests teem with life, biodiversity and of course, produce water. 

Miguel proving that working on steep slopes is possible! (© Nicholas Locke)

We have just capped half a million trees planted and we are very proud of our story.

We are especially proud of our ground team who made it possible!

Amazing Treehoppers

The family of Treehoppers otherwise known as Membracidae is made up of more than 3,500 species.

Treehopper (© Nicholas Locke)

Treehoppers evolved from the order Hemiptera (from the Greek “halfwings”) cousins to many other winged insects. Treehoppers are mostly found in the tropical world and instantly draw the attention from passers-by with their incongruous shapes and especially protruding head gear, called “pronotum.”

They use the pronotum to mimic thorns on the branches they live on, preventing predators from seeing them. This is not their only source of defence however.

Treehoppers feed on plant sap by drilling into plant stems. As a result, a sugary substance called “honeydew” is secreted. The honeydew is an important food source for a variety of ants, bees and wasps. In return presence of the ants, bees and wasps keeps predators away and is a direct benefit of their symbiotic relationship.

Some species of Treehopper also have a well-developed ant mutualism, and these species are normally gregarious, helping to attract ever more ants to protect them.

The Treehopper pictured was found with others in the INEA Nursery in Trajano de Morais, around 100km from here, where we have picked up seedlings. I have identified the Genus as Heteronotus , confirmed by Dr. Lewis Deitz. 

After this brief introduction, I’m sure you will want to visit and look out for these amazing creatures. I certainly can’t wait to find more!!  

Ed: To see the symbiosis in action see Nicholas’ video here.