Every evening, for the last six months, REGUA´s Visitor Centre wasvisitedby a mysterious nocturnal animal. It was common to see pellets and white stains on cars and all over the floor first thing in the morning. Wefinallyfound outthat the elusive creature was a Barn-owl (Tyto furcata)! Itisnestingatthe top of an oldtree byREGUA’s common area and feeding on small vertebrates.
Widelydistributed, thisspeciesoccurs in alltheAmericas, except for thedenselyforestedregionsoftheAmazon. Barn-owls inhabit open andsemi-openareasandthey are more activeatduskand at night. They arecommonlyseenflyingloworon top offencesalong theroad. Duringday time, they sleepornest in churchtowers, atticsofhousesandtree hollows. Anunmistakablefeatureofthespeciesistheirheart-shaped face. Males andfemales are quite similar however,the male maypresent a whiteunderpartwhilethefemalemaypresent a cream to light browncolourunderpart.
Barn-owls feed on rodents, invertebrates and some largermammalsandsmallbirds. Studieshaveshownthat this species is able to separate different materials in theirstomach, including hair, bonesandother non-digestibleparts. The pellet cycle is regular, regurgitating the remains when the digestive system has finished extracting the nutrition from the food. This is often done at a favourite roost. When an Owl is about to produce a pellet, it will take on a pained expression. Owl pellets differ from other birds of prey in that they contain a greater proportion of food residue. This is because an owl’s digestive juices are less acidic than in other birds of prey.
The Rufescent Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma lineatum) is often seen at REGUA’s wetlands. This species belongs to the Ardeidae family and inhabits Central and South America. Its head, sides of the head, and long, thick neck are rich chestnut brown to rufous cinnamon. The bill is relatively long, up to 10 cm, appearing slightly up tilted, and varies in colour according to age and season, in ways that are not well understood. Immature birds are variable, undergoing gradual plumage changes through the fifth year. The adult Rufescent Tiger-Heron is identified by its rich chestnut to rufous brown neck and head, dark and white lined throat, dark flanks with narrow white bands, white banded under wings, and relatively long neck and lower legs. Male and female reaching adult age are alike, although there is an indication of sexual difference in plumage details.
This species inhabits wooded tropical swamps. It occurs especially along slow-moving rivers in swamp forests, gallery forest, mangrove swamps and in other extensive forested wetlands. It is a typical bird from the great wetlands of South America, the Amazon, the Paraguayan and Argentinean Chaco, and the Brazilian Mato Grosso. It is common to spot them on rainy and dark days, as they seem to be lonely bird. Their nests are often built on top of trees and shrubs, composed by many sticks. The breeding season is not well documented and there is a need for additional study. Its diet includes fish, amphibians, insects, and snakes. Its long tarsus, bill, and neck suggests a primary adaptation for fishing. When they feel threatened, they remain motionless until they finally fly, finding shelter on top of the trees.
These pictures were taken by Claudia Bauer, a renowned Brazilian ornithologist who belongs to a birdwatcher’s club in Rio de Janeiro. She often comes to REGUA to photograph birds and nature. It is an inspiring hobby!
Among the few students who visited REGUA last year, a very atypical year in which most universities’ field trips were cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic, PhD student Beatriz Ferreira proceeded with her research topic of evaluating how pasture management with isolated tree clumps decreases the effect of deforestation and encourages the presence of Anuran tadpoles in pasture puddles.
Anurans use these ponds for reproduction which become fundamental to their existence. Jefferson Ribeiro and Orlando de Marques Vogelbacher accompanied Beatriz on her last 2020 field trip to REGUA. They are both Biology PhD students and have taken beautiful pictures of flora and fauna found at REGUA.
For the last 20 years, REGUA has been encouraging and supporting research carried out by national and foreign universities.
Research at REGUA is one of the main pillars on which we base our conservation mission in the upper Guapiaçu watershed. Ultimately, understanding the dynamics of nature allows us to acknowledge that Mother Earth’s environmental services are paramount to human permanence on the planet.
We hope continuing welcoming researchers and students this year.
Aguas Compridas is an area of the reserve that we reforested with World Land Trust funding back in 2012. Just last week our bird guide Adilei, heard the call of Bertoni’s Antbird Drymophila rubricollis in this area. Bertoni’s Antbird is an Atlantic Forest Endemic and normally associated with higher altitudes, between 900 and 2000 metres above sea level. As this piece of land is at around 95 metres above sea level, Adilei was surprised to hear the species there.
At around 08:00, Adilei left his house as usual with his trusty binoculars. He heard the call and eventually found the bird in this small piece of secondary forest scrub. Only the single male bird was seen and it was singing its heart out, sadly without a reply. Was it simply lost, or maybe calling to a female? Maybe it had been forced low down as it is unusually cold at the moment, even for this, our winter season.
It will be interesting to see if it is heard again. Unfortunately Adilei did not have his camera with him on this occasion, so here’s a photograph of a different individual I took recently, to highlight how stunning this bird is.
Belated news of two adult Purple Martins Progne subis seen and photographed with Grey-breasted Martins Progne chalybea by our bird guide Adilei at REGUA on 9 October 2019. Purple Martin breeds in North America and winters across much of South America east of the Andes. Rio state is towards the southern limit of their range. Following a White-throated Seedeater at the wetland on 12 October 2019, also found by Adilei, this long overdue addition to the REGUA bird list brings the total number of bird species recorded here to an incredible 485! This total excludes species seen on excursions. Which bird species next for REGUA?
Almost exactly twenty years ago, renowned UK birders Guy Kirwan, Rodd McCann, Rob Williams and Canadian bird artist David Beadle visited REGUA, returning a year later in the company of the late Argentine birder Juan Mazar Barnett. Staying at the modest REGUA research accomodation, they had come to find the Rio de Janeiro AntwrenMyrmutherula fluminense, following the sighting by Stephen Knapp which had electrified the birding world and put REGUA on the international map. The birders all saw the bird in a secondary forest at 100m elevation and I even asked David if he could draw us a picture of this extraordinary bird.
The Rio de Janeiro Antwren is a monotypic species that lies in Professor Luis Gonzaga’s collection at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). During Professor Gonzaga’s doctorate field work in 1982 he found and collected a common antwren in one of his mist nets in the lowland forest near Magé, some 30 miles away from REGUA as the crow flies. Upon further study he realized that it was not the White-flanked Antwren Myrmutherula axilaris and named it Myrmutherula fluminense.
Over the years, birders came to REGUA to try to see not only this bird, but also other species of Atlantic Forest birds, and the REGUA organization grew to become the respected conservation project it is today. Birders and naturalists from around the globe visit REGUA and stay at our lodge. The results of our habitat protection, partly funded by visitation to REGUA, have been inspirational, but the Rio de Janeiro Antwren was never seen again, suggesting that it may well have been the White-flanked Antwren or even a possible hybrid.
Brazilian ornithologist Fabio Olmos visited and mist-netted in exactly the same area six years later and caught an immature White-flanked Antwren offering doubts as to the real identity of that mysterious bird that David and friends saw.
Professor Gonzaga kept the bird for over 15 years until it was given the ultimate test, the DNA test, and what did he find? The results showed that the bird was completely different from the Myrmutherula genus. Now he has a single bird of a new unnamed genus, probably the rarest bird in Brazil!
On the search now are Brazilian ornithologists Luciano Lima and Rafael Bessa, Rafael famous for rediscovering the Blue-eyed Ground-DoveColumbina cyanopis, missing for over 75 years. They are involved in a field project sponsored by American Birding Conservancy to search the lowland forests for the mysterious bird. Could others lurk out there in similar secondary forest? Luciano and Rafael have completed their fieldwork and have some ideas, but we are left with doubts. However, it was chance to tell them the story of the bird that put REGUA on the map, that brought generous donors to help establish this lowland reserve and all its programmes in conservation of the Atlantic Forest. There are still many small patches of forest out there so perhaps we have not heard the last of this enigmatic bird!
On 26th January, our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha was looking for cotingas near the gate to Fazenda São Bernardo at Pico da Caledônia with lodge guest Christian Hollville and UK volunteer Sue Loose, when he came across a stunning adult male Blackburnian Warbler. A new bird for Adilei, this is only the second record of this species for Rio de Janeiro state, after one was seen and photographed on 30 December 2016.
The Blackburnian Warbler is a long distance migrant, breeding mainly in the coniferous forests of north-eastern North America, and wintering in the north of South Amercia, primarily in the montane forests in Columbia, Venezuela, as well as in the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. There have been very few sightings of Blackburnian Warbler in Brazil, with this being perhaps only the sixth national record!
Raquel Locke informed members of the Rio Bird Club of the sighting via the WhatsApp group, and some of whom then successfully twitched it on the 28th, when Guilherme Serpa and João Sergio managed to take some great photos.
Although the population is currently thought to be stable, the Blackburnian Warbler is under threat, from climate change that is predicted to push it’s breeding range northwards, to loss of their preferred forest habitat on their wintering grounds.
Unbeknown to us at the time, we have since discovered that this bird was first seen here three weeks before, and amazingly today a female (RJ state’s 3rd!) was also discovered at the same place on the 30th! Both birds are proving a popular attraction for local birdwatchers, and so there is a good chance they may stick around for a while yet before heading back north.
Many thanks to Guilherme Serpa and João Sergio for allowing us to use their excellent photos.
Although we continue to find new birds on the reserve, it isn’t actually that easy, so the King Vulture espied by Biologist Calel Passarelles in a new area of tree planting near our Onofre Cunha forest was especially thrilling.
Raquel Locke (REGUA’s Vice-President) remembers seeing several in the same area over twenty years ago. Two months ago, Marco Wood-Bonelli photographed one soaring over the new area of trees planted. Marco is finalizing his Masters Degree at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens Institute on the use of individual trees and artificial bamboo perches by birds.
He has already had identified 70 species that regularly use trees in open areas between forest fragments and he was keen to evaluate the use of these ‘island trees’ as stepping stones between forested fragments. His field visits terminated with the wonderful sight of the King Vulture perched on a Cecropia tree.
We hope this is an indication of more sightings to come.
On 27th October each year, Rio de Janeiro Bird Club gathered at REGUA for the annual event at REGUA. The previous day many birders visited the Três Picos Park and then arrived to stay overnight at REGUA and explore the Reserve on the following day.
The event was a real success with 76 birders participating and 242 bird species seen. REGUA took birders on the green trail to see the Shrike-like Cotinga and to Waldenoor to see the Long-tailed Potoo, both enigmatic birds that can be tough to see anywhere else.
The event raises awareness and offers an opportunity for REGUA to show its conservation efforts and biodiversity protection.
We already look forward to welcoming the club at next years event!
August and September mark the transition from winter to early spring at REGUA and it can be an interesting time for birding. In August many species are already paired up, forming territories and starting to call and even nest-building, while others are still moving around in mixed-species winter flocks. Here are the sightings highlights for August and September.
The undoubted highlights were the 3 new species found that were new for REGUA. The first of these was a superb male Southern Pochard at the wetland, found by visiting photographer Tom Friedel on 22 August. This bird stayed for 5 days and spent most of its time feeding with Brazilian Teal and White-faced Whistling-Ducks.
Other sightings at the wetland include the 3rd record of Magnificent Frigatebird for REGUA (an adult female over on 18 September), the long-staying Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Black-legged Dacnis, 2 Black-necked Aracari (1 September), Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron, 3 Rufous-thighed Kite, Crane Hawk, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Reddish Hermit, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Rusty-margined Guan, Rufous-capped Motmot, Limpkin, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Blackish Rail, Amazon Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Hooded Tanager, Common Waxbill and a noisy colony of nest-building Red-rumped Caciques.
Lodge garden: The feeders in the lodge garden were extremely quiet in August, especially for hummingbirds. However, things did start to improve in September. Notable sightings at the lodge including Lineated Woodpecker (31 August), Blond-crested Woodpecker (up to 3 regularly visiting the fruit feeder), Toco Toucan, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Hooded Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Scaly-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Curl-crested Jay, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3 moving through on 18 September – unusual in the lodge garden) and the usual Rusty-margined Guans visiting the bananas. Black Jaonbins reappeared in September, with numbers increasing as the month progessed.
Brown Trail and São José Tower: Shrike-like Cotinga has been elusive this year but birds have occasionally been seen around the São José Tower. A pair of (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbirds showed well along the trail to the tower and sightings on the Brown Trail include White-necked Hawk, Common Pauraque (2 birds sitting on eggs), Reddish Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Grey-hooded Attila, Sooretame Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-bellied (Turquoise) Tanager and Brazilian Tanager. The 2 Tropical Screech-Owls were seen most days roosting around post 0 by the conservation centre.
Green Trail: An adult King Vulture photographed on 12 September was the third new bird for REGUA during this period (bringing the REGUA bird list up to 483, not including species found on excursions)! Also noted were Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Sharpbill, White-necked Hawk, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Southern Antpipit (6 on 27 August is a notable count), Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Grey-hooded Attila, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, White-throated Woodcreeper, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Red-necked Tanager and Rufous-headed Tanager.
Waldenoor Trail: A Long-tailed Potoo showed well for a few days in August at a roost site and other birds noted include Swallow-tailed Cotinga, White-tailed Trogon, Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-eyed Parakeet, Variegated Antpitta, (Greater) Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Olive-green Tanager.
Farmland safari: Our new excursion to the farmland bordering the reserve have proven extremely popular with guests, providing a change of pace from forest birding. A Long-tailed Reedfinch found by our guide Adilei on 1 September was the first record for REGUA. Other species recorded include Scaled Pigeon (heard on 1 September followed the next day by the first sight record for REGUA on 2 September), Campo Troupial, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, White-rumped Monjita, Short-tailed Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Ash-throated Crake, White-rumped Swallow, South American Snipe, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Toco Toucan, Whistling Heron, Lineated Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, American Kestrel, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Rufous Hornero, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Yellow Tyrannulet, Cattle Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (first returning bird of the spring seen on 31 August), Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Long-billed Wren, Masked Yellowthroat, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Grassland Sparrow, Chopi Blackbird, Red-cowled Cardinal and White-browed Meadowlark. We will be posting an itinerary for this excellent excursion on our website shortly.
On our night-birding excursion several Giant Snipe were seen along with Black-banded Owl, Common Potoo, American Barn Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl and Spot-tailed Nightjar.
Highlights from our excursions off-reserve include:
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.
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.
We are delighted to announce that the Russo’s birdfeeder is back working.
Many locals and visitors alike, enjoy stopping at Russo’s makeshift stall on the road to Nova Friburgo. However, following a fire it had been closed for some time.
Russo has now, happily, picked up the courage to rebuild and regain his reputation of one the best places to photograph tanagers close up. The road works that improved access has helped and today the Russo store, though mainly equipped with bananas, snacks and sweets, offers excellent photo opportunities for Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia , Green Honeycreeper, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and even the occasional Spot-billed Toucanet.
We always like to stop on our excursions, so be prepared with plenty of memory cards!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The “Near threatened” Brown Tanager species (Orchesticus abeilli) like many tanagers, is an arboreal species generally associated with higher altitude forest where occasio
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though Birdlife and IUCN state the Long tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus) occurs across all South America, it also warns the population is declining.
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 Neotropical Birding.
The story of the reintroduction of Black-fronted Piping-Guan (Aburria jacutinga) at REGUA continues.
Alecsandra Tassoni, is SAVE Brasil’s Black-Fronted-Piping-Guan project coordinator and will be visiting REGUA to supervise the arrival of the birds.
The two females and one male come from a captive-breeding project in Paraná state. Their health tests were undertaken at UENF (Universidade Estadual Norte Fluminense) in Rio de Janeiro state prior to their transfer to São Paulo where they are currently being monitored.
Scanning and observation are the techniques used to study their behaviour which include assessing their food demands. There will also be predator training to ensure the birds react naturally to predators once they leave their release pen.
The Black-Fronted-Piping-Guan reintroduction project at REGUA is funded by ‘O Boticário’ cosmetic company which is a long- standing Birdlife International partner.
REGUA looks forward to the next exciting part of the story.
Photograph published with the kind permission of SAVE Brasil and O Boticário Foundation.
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.