Category Archives: Excursions

RJ state’s 2nd Blackburnian Warbler at Pico da Caledônia

Adult male Blackburnian Warbler, Pico da Caledônia, 28 January 2020 (© Guilherme Serpa)
Adult male Blackburnian Warbler, Pico da Caledônia, 28 January 2020 (© João Sergio)

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.

Russo’s ‘Banana stop’ is back!

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. 

Red-necked Tanager (© Nicholas Locke)

We always like to stop on our excursions, so be prepared with plenty of memory cards!


Blue-winged Macaw

The Blue-winged Macaw (Primolius maracana) is one of those very special Psittacidae that occur between coastal Brazil spanning west to Bolivia and Argentina.   They are found in an area in the North East of Brazil, but they generally seem to occupy the extent of the Atlantic Rainforest.

Primolius maracana, Blue-winged Macaw (© Nicholas Locke)

No longer so common, we remember seeing them nesting in thick bamboo clumps but that was a while ago and before our wetlands were developed.    Perhaps they are not fond of water bodies as they are now observed only on the rain shadow side of the Serra do Mar mountain range.

We like to show these friendly yet shy birds to visitors on the Sumidouro trail in search of other endemics such as the Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren.  These are all drier region species and one can see these wonderful Macaws on tall Imperial Palms typically chatting together in what appears profound chitchat!

Want to see Atlantic rainforest endemics?

Visitors coming to stay at REGUA can enjoy an excursion to Pico de Caledonia, a granite peak located just two hours drive from REGUA near Nova Friburgo.

Serra do Mar Tyrant-manakin (© Nicholas Locke)

Atlantic rainforest endemic species can be found all along the cobbled road that climbs to 2230m above sea level.    This is home of the ultra-rare Grey-winged Cotinga (Tijuca condita) found only on trees tops of this mountain range, but probably the eeriest call heard is that of the Black-and-Gold Cotinga (Tijuca atra) a high pitched lonely whistle mixing in the mist.

You can see the Large-tailed Antshrike (Mackenziaena leachii) hopping in the undergrowth as it comes to investigate the visitor.   As it reveals his speckled black plumage, it is well camouflaged for such a large bird.

Another rare bird to be found in the area is the Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin (Neopelma chrysolophum).

Whilst this species may not be as quite as flamboyant in colour as many of its Manakin ‘cousins’, its series of random short resonant notes and wonderful prominent yellow crest makes this yet another truly enigmatic species.

The higher altitude of Pico de Caledonia is a marvellous place to visit all year round.   However, during our summers when the lowlands can sometimes be hot and humid the altitude here brings a fresh and cooler feel.

Large-tailed Antshrike (© Nicholas Locke)

Many of these species are known to be in the inaccessible higher elevations of

REGUA’s land, so it is great for us to be able to take our guests to a more readily accessible area.

Caledonia hides many endemic residents but with patience and REGUA’s excellent bird guides they are all there to be seen.

Brazilian Antthrush

The Brazilian Anthrush (Chamaeza ruficauda) has also been known as Rufous-tailed Antthrush, it has also previously been confused with Cryptic Antthrush (C. meruloides) but the song differs. See here for further details. 

It is a relatively common bird locally, but a restricted-range species and can be difficult to locate until it sings.   It occurs in protected areas, such as Serra dos Órgãos National Park, which is a lovely day trip out from REGUA.

The call of this bird is an unmistakable ascending stanza that evokes the high altitude mist-laid forests which they inhabit.

I was delighted to hear one calling recently at Macae de Cima and decided to follow it.

Brazilian Antthrush (Chamaeza ruficauda) (© Nicholas Locke)

After only a few minutes could I see an adult guarding the entrance of its nest, these being hollows in tree trunks which can be quite deep.   Standing back and with a zoom lens I was able to get a photograph or two.

Let’s hope they are successful in breeding their young and continue their guard of the forests.




Half-collared Sparrow

One of the species everyone anticipates on REGUA’s excursion to Mt Caledonia is the Half collared Sparrow, or Pectoral Sparrow (Arremon taciturnis).

Half-collared Sparrow (© Nicholas Locke)

This stunning Sparrow is not an endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest for it occurs in the Amazon basin, but here in Rio state it can be seen only in the mountain regions of the Serra do Mar.

Its typical high pitched “bis-bist” gives it away and play-back can draw it in.   From then on, it flies quickly around the birder perching occasionally on an open branch to help the photographer.

When that happens one can glimpse its exceptional colours and beauty –  What a gem!!


Orange-breasted Falcon at Pico da Caledônia

On 23 March, our bird guide Cirilo Vieira was guiding two guests David Wilcove and Tim Treuer from Princeton University at Pico da Caledônia who were keen to see the rare Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita found in the elfin forest around the top of the mountain. Unfortunately they could only hear the cotinga calling, but then imagine their surprise when they caught sight of an Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus perched on a bare branch close to the road (just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint at the start of of the starts to the summit). David had been looking for this bird for 30 years and sighed in disbelief when he realized what it was!

Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus, Pico da Caledônia, RJ, 23 March 2017. Note the bulky structure, heavy bill, large feet, white throat contrasting with the orange breast and neck sides, broad barring on the belly and blackish upperparts. The photo also shows the graduated tail quite well. The greenish tinge to the yellow feet, cere and orbital ring suggest this bird is a sub-adult. (© David Wilcove)

Orange-breasted Falcon is very similar in appearance to the much more common and widespread Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Identification can be difficult, but there are some key identification features if seen well. Structurally, Orange-breasted Falcon is larger and bulkier than Bat Falcon and with a larger head and slightly shorter graduated tail. The feet are also noticeably larger and are yellow to greenish-yellow compared to the bright orange-yellow feet of Bat Falcon, and the bill is significantly heavier. Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts that contrast very little with the blackish head, whereas across much of it’s range, Bat Falcon generally has paler greyish upperparts that contrast with the blackish head.

There are several supporting identification features, that while not diagnostic, are also useful. In Orange-breasted Falcon the white throat is bordered by an orange breast (above the black ‘vest’ on the belly) and neck sides, whereas in most Bat Falcons the white throat contrasts strongly with the black vest with little or no orange or buff on the breast (there are some exceptions though so this alone is not a reliable identification feature). Also, the whitish barring on the black vest is coarser with an orange wash on Orange-breasted Falcon compared to Bat Falcon that usually shows faint narrow whitish barring on the vest.

The Neotropical Bird Club website has an excellent paper on the identification of Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons.

Guilherme Serpa informs us that this is only the second sighting of Orange-breasted Falcon for Rio de Janeiro state – an incredible record! Intriguingly, Adilei has seen a falcon here in the past that he assumed was Bat Falcon and Nicholas has photographs of a falcon taken nearby on Pico da Caledônia, again presumed Bat Falcon at the time. We will be checking these photos to double check the identification.

The following day another group from the lodge visiting Pico da Caledônia failed to relocate the bird, but hopefully it will be seen again. Very well done to David Wilcove for an excellent state find and for taking an excellent set of photographs.

October bird sightings

We are well into the austral spring and the weather in October has been rather mixed, with hot temperatures much rainfall, including a couple of days of full rain. Many bird species have now moved to higher, cooler elevations for the spring and summer, whilst activity around the wetland and lodge garden is increasing as more species are breeding.

The undoubted highlight of the month was finding Rio de Janeiro’s first Andean Flamingo on one of our excursions to Cabo Frio.

On the reserve, the wetland continues to provide excellent birding opportunities with an amazing four Sungrebe now being reported – surely a record count for Rio de Janeiro state? Also at the wetland, Boat-billed Heron, Greenish Eleania (very scarce in Rio de Janeiro state), Uniform Crake, Russet-crowned Crake, Rufous-sided Crake, Pauraque and Red-cowled Cardinal (scarce at the wetland nowadays). The adjacent Brown Trail continues to bring in yet more forest interior species, with White-bibbed Antbird and Scaled Antbird making appearances, along with the more usual Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike and Tawny-browed Owl.

Highlights on the Green Trail include Shrike-like Cotinga, Temminck’s Seedeater, White-necked Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Pin-tailed Manakin, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Southern Antpipit, Saw-billed Hermit, Spot-billed Toucanet, Bare-throated Bellbird, Rufous-capped Motmot and Rufous-capped Antthrush.

On the Grey Trail another of REGUA’s specialities, Russet-winged Spadebill, was seen along with Salvadori’s Antwren, Buff-bellied Puffbird and Least Pygmy-Owl, On the 4×4 Trail the very rarely encountered Tufted Antshrike was heard but not seen, and nearby a Bare-throated Bellbird seen on the area planted two years ago near the Guapiaçu river.

At the other end of the reserve on the Waldenoor Trail, another Tufted Antshrike was heard, as was Salvadori’s Antwren, but 2 male Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-throated Woodcreeper and Spot-billed Toucanet were amongst the birds seen.

On our night excursions, Giant Snipe, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, South American Snipe, Ash-throated Crake, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and White Woodpecker were all seen.

Hangnest Tody-Flycatcher Hemitriccus nidipendulus (© Nicholas Locke)

Excursions offsite have been equally popular and productive. Cabo Frio and its rare coastal restinga habitat produced Restinga Antwren, Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Lemon-chested Greenlet and of course, the Andean Flamingo.

Our trips to the Atlantic Forest mountains produced a good number of high altitude Atlantic Forest endemics. Pico da Caledônia produced great views of the extremely rare Grey-winged Cotinga, nesting Swallow-tailed Cotinga, a female Chestnut-headed Tanager (rare on the coastal slope), Large-tailed Antshrike, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Black-billed Scythebill , Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Diademed Tanager, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch and Cinnamon Tanager. While at Macaé de Cima, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Bertoni’s Antbird, Giant Anshrike were among the species noted.

On our excursions to the remnants of the Dry Atlantic Forest around Sumidouro we found the highly sought-after Three-toed Jacamar, as well as other open-country species including Blue-winged Macaw, Magpie Tanager, Serra Antwren, Half-collared Sparrow, Sooty Tyrannulet, Firewood-gatherer, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Masked Yellowthroat, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Plumbeous Kite and White-tailed Hawk.

Finally a belated sighting from September – a Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the Waterfall Trail!

Andean Flamingo at Cabo Frio – a first for RJ state!

Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis, Cabo Frio, 16 October 2016 (© Alan Martin)

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that our news post about a Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis seen at Cabo Frio on 16 October has been removed. Well, there is an exciting reason for this – the bird has been correctly re-identified as an Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus, and the first record for Rio de Janeiro state!

Initially thought to be a Chilean Flamingo, thankfully Alan Martin was able to take a few photos and it was only after subsequently checking the photos a few days later that the true identity of the bird became clear. News of the bird was put out and a major twitch (in Brazilian terms) ensewed, with several local birders making the trip to Cabo Frio to see it. It was still present on 6 November and photos from many photographers can be seen on WikiAves.

Andean Flamingo is the scarcest flamingo species, mostly restricted to the salt lakes of the altiplano of southern Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and north-west Argentina. They are altitudinal migrants, moving to lower elevations for the winter, and vagrants have made as far as Buenos Aires province in Argentina, the Brazilian Amazon, and Brazil’s southern coast, where flocks of up to 32 individuals together have been found. The Cabo Frio bird is by far the most easterly occurrence of this species.

Very well done to Alan Martin and the Limosa birding group for finding and photographing the bird, and to Gabriel Mello for re-identifying the bird.

Recce for new birding excursion in Guanabara Bay

Spectacled Tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus (© Nicholas Locke)

REGUA is looking at offering a slightly different off-reserve excursion to its lodge visitors in the future. Specialities of another rare Atlantic Forest habitat – mangroves.

The mangroves at the back of the Guanabara Bay are quite inaccessible unless one organises a small boat to negotiate the straightened channels. Led by the birding twins, Daniel and Gabriel Mello, members of the Rio de Janeiro Bird Club (COA) converged on the quay at seven in the morning to board three boats and search for species known specifically from this habitat.

Along the way we soon found many common species including Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja, Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi, a lone Harris Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus, Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata, Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea and Snowy Egret Egretta thula. Alighting to explore some marshy areas, we soon found the target birds of the trip – Crested Doradito Pseudocolopteryx sclateri, Spectacled Tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus and Rusty-collared Seedeater Sporophila collaris.

Crested Doradito is a fairly widespread species but difficult to see as it is restricted to marshy inaccessible areas. Spectacled Tyrant is known mainly from the south of Brazil but migrates to Rio de Janeiro for the winter, so we were all very pleased to see it. Rusty-collared Seedeater is fairly widespread along the Atlantic Forest but is difficult to see at REGUA. The excellent views and interesting habitat make it an ideal trip for visitors and REGUA is excited to be able to offer this new trip in the near future.

A day with the REGUA team in Macaé de Cima

White-bearded Antshrike <em>Biatas nigropectus</em>, Macaé de Cima (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
White-bearded Antshrike Biatas nigropectus, Macaé de Cima (© Nicholas Locke)

Adilei, Eduardo “Tiriba” and I, took Keith and Hein, visiting REGUA and anxious to see a few high elevation species to strike them off their list, on an excursion to Macaé de Cima. Those who have been with us to David and Bel’s sanctuary will be accustomed to the hummers that visit the feeders in their garden. The Brazilian Ruby, White-throated Hummingbird, Amthyst Woodstar and Scale-throated Hermit were in full motion at the feeders, as these wintery mornings indicate few flowers are around.

Bel was most kind and hospitable, and soon found us pointing our binoculars to the mountain ridge to look for the Swallow-tailed Cotinga feeding on a fruit tree. Without the telescope there was no alternative but to walk up and try to see it closer up and we found one of David’s old orchid trails and set off. Within a few minutes we came across three ultra rare Buffy-tufted-ear Marmoset Calithirix aurita feeding foraging, jumping form tree to tree startling a pair of Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets. The marmosets brown sheen to their fur and dark facial patterns distinguish them from the more common White-tufted-ear Marmoset Calithris jachus. Soon we cut off the trail, scaring off a Black-and-gold Cotinga to see their Swallow-tailed cousins feeding together with Shear-tailed Grey Tyrants on the fruit tree.

Adilei called his famous owl imitation and within seconds we were joined by a pair of angry Diademed Tanagers furious with the mysterious owl’s presence. Walking back to the trail a pair of Rufous-tailed Antthrushes were seen on the path scouring for food. We walked down to thank and say goodbye to Bel to leave the calling Hooded Berryeaters, Bare-throated Bellbirds and White-rimmed Warblers to find Adilei had just accidentally scared off a Slaty Bristlefront which we were not able to see even though it was calling not six feet from us in the cover of the undergrowth.

Suddenly a Mouse-coloured Tapaculo set up its continuous calling but although we hadn’t seen this extraordinary bird we decided it was time to search for the White-bearded Antshrike. We couldn’t find one at first, disturbing Maroon-bellied Parakeets and then a Surucua Trogon, so we took the car down the road and continued playing the tape walking rather absent mindedly as we had not eaten lunch. Suddenly Eduardo got a response and after a short search in the tangled undergrowth around us the bird shot out to dive bomb and dart into undergrowth the other side of the road. A male White-bearded Antshrike with its soft call is not a very small bird so after a while we had superb views and were able to take some poor images to register this rare sighting. Aside this bird, the Rufous-crowned Greenlet and an Eared Pygmy-Tyrant showed up to our delight.

Before a freshly made sandwich and a welcoming beer, we still stopped to find many Red-eyed Thornbirds bouncing in the undergrowth, all very excited that someone had taped them and drawing their attention. After lunch we still wanted to see the bristlefront but alas we only found a Yellow-throated Woodpecker and soaring high in the afternoon air, a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle.

The drive back saw us stop for some red flowering Erythrina speciosa trees and a large flock of tanagers were busy passing through feeding up their last of the day. Green-headed, Rufous-headed, Red-necked and Ruby-crowned Tanagers, Chestnut-crowned Becards together with Chestnut-vented Conebills all chirping loudly and pushing past each other and we had fun calling out their names in pure appreciation. Luckily a Sombre Hummingbird settled on some flowers, a good glimpse at this dark green and grey lustre with its little white ear patch. A Black-throated Grosbeak called but wouldn’t show so we left for REGUA, thoroughly happy with another great day of birding.

A beer after a day’s birding

It’s never easy to see the Atlantic Forest endemic birds of prey. The Mantled hawk Pseudastur polionotus is one such forest dwelling bird feeding on other birds as well as small mammals. We found Robin Waters with Adilei after walking the Theodoro trail in the Três Picos State Park, a section of disused Nova Friburgo railway track to Cachoeiras de Macacu, and brought a couple of cold beers to refresh them. Lucky for us as Adilei drinking he looked up and shouted, “stop stop!! a Mantled Hawk!!” Enough time to screech to a halt, put down the beer and photograph this rare bird. This was a lovely end of a great day. Well done Adilei!!

Mantled Hawk <em>Pseudastur polionotus</em>, Três Picos State Park, April 2012. (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Mantled Hawk Pseudastur polionotus, Três Picos State Park, April 2012. (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Mantled Hawk <em>Pseudastur polionotus</em>, Três Picos State Park, April 2012. (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Mantled Hawk Pseudastur polionotus, Três Picos State Park, April 2012. (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Rufous-fronted Thornbirds

The Rufous-fronted Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons is a bird that is relatively common in the drier savanna interior of Brazil and has a reasonably ample distribution. Easily seen hanging from singular trees in the middle of pastures, these birds construct nests that are by far one fo the most elaborate and extraodinary. Twigs are picked up by both the male and female and gradually built into an impressive fortress of intertwined twigs that surround an interior nest. The chamber is lined with feathers and in this protected nest the chicks grow. These small thornbirds go on to build nests above the first structure and it is increased severalfold for members of the growing family. Apparently in areas where Orange-backed Troupials Icterus croconotus are found, the poor thornbirds labour is used to lay their own eggs. These birds are not always easy to see (even more so around REGUA now the reforestation is maturing) but we were fortunate in taking Canadian guests David and Barabara to see the Three-toed Jacamar Jacamaralcyon tridactyla to Sumidouro and see the couple cleaning in time for the reproduction period coming up.

Rufous-fronted Thornbird <em>Phacellodomus rufifrons</em>, Sumidouro (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Rufous-fronted Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons, Sumidouro (© Nicholas Locke)

Rufous-fronted Thornbird <em>Phacellodomus rufifrons</em>, Sumidouro (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Rufous-fronted Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons, Sumidouro (© Nicholas Locke)

Night birding at REGUA

It’s always the same with all our guests wishing to go night birding looking for Atlantic rainforest owls at REGUA. Even if we have a large number of “Murucututu’s” the Portuguese wonderful onomatopoeic word for the Tawny-browed Owl, the scarce Black-banded Owl is the one species everyone wants to see. Found unexpectedly in the large forest fragment known as Onofre Cunha land – for those who have visited us, a large area of relatively undisturbed lowland forest – by Mieko and Igor Camacho two years ago, the Black-banded Owl Strix hulula is the ultimate prize for long days birding after dinner. We just received a second super torch from our past guests Janet Duerr and Steve Shaffer from Athens, Ohio, and went looking for the owls yesterday. Just getting out of the Toyota pick-up we walked 10 paces to hear the unmistakable cry from above. Adilei, his sight as keen as a puma, looked up and in the very dim light he caught sight of something. The beam lit up and before our eyes was this magical bird, his orange toes and orange beak contrasting from his black barred belly feathers. The cameras light up for us to register this moment and we leave to look for the Murucututu. A glowing feeling of satisfaction swells. Birding at night is magic!!

Black-banded Owl<em>Strix hulula</em> (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Black-banded OwlStrix hulula (© Nicholas Locke)

Black-banded Owl<em>Strix hulula</em> (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Black-banded OwlStrix hulula (© Nicholas Locke)

Restinga Antwren – a Rio de Janeiro state endemic?

Male Restinga Antwren <em>Formicivora littoralis</em> (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Male Restinga Antwren Formicivora littoralis (© Nicholas Locke)

Female Restinga Antwren <em>Formicivora littoralis</em> (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
Female Restinga Antwren Formicivora littoralis (© Nicholas Locke)

When we think of Rio de Janeiro state we wonder if it has any endemic bird species. Indeed though Brazil boasts 1600 bird species, Rio de Janeiro state, one of Brazil’s smaller states, with its moutains covered in spectacular Atlantic Rainforest it boasts only four endemic species; the Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita from the mountain tops, the little known Rio de Janeiro Antwren Myrmotherula fluminensis, the possibly extinct Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata and the Critically Endangered Restinga Antwren Formicivora littoralis. This small antwren split was split from Serra Antwren Formicivora serrana in 1990, and has a very restricted range.

REGUA runs excursions to take guests to the restinga sand dune vegetation near Cabo Frio to see these very special birds. They are often seen in pairs scuttling in the undergrowth and recently we found a pair and registered these images. The restinga vegetation type is very special and is still under threat from the construction of seaside resorts, so the establishment of conservation sites is most important for the future of this unique species. On 15 April, a new reserve was established in Rio de Janeiro state to protect this ecosystem, the State Park of the Costa del Sol (PECS).

But is Restinga Antwren actually a good species? The latest issue of Neotropical Birding (Autumn 2011) reports that a recent study by Daniel Firme and Marcos Raposo has found insufficient characteristics to split Restinga Antwren from Serra Antwren, and that Restinga Antwren is best treated as a subspecies. Either way, our excursion to Cabo Frio to see this charasmatic bird is well worth it. At certain times of the year you might also even find small numbers of Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus and tubenoses offshore, as well as a wide variety of North Amercian waders wintering on the salt lagoons.

Recent bird sightings on excursions

Male Restinga Antwren <em>Formicivora littoralis</em> (© Nicholas Locke)
Male Restinga Antwren Formicivora littoralis (© Nicholas Locke)

Whimbrels <em>Numenius phaeopus</em> and Clapper Rail <em>Rallus crepitans</em>, Cabo Frio (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus and Clapper Rail Rallus crepitans, Cabo Frio (© Leonardo Pimentel)

Over the last few months we’ve had some fantastic sightings on our excursions. Highlights include:

Cabo Frio: Excellent views of the Critically Endangered Restinga Antwren, along with White-cheeked Pintail, Brown Booby, Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail, Semipalmated Plover, Collared Plover, Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, White-rumped Sandpiper, Grey-headed Gull, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant and Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant.

Macaé de Cima: Mantled Hawk, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Red-capped Parrot, Scale-throated Hermit, Green-crowned Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Amethyst Woodstar, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Bertoni’s Antbird, Ochre-rumped Antbird, Rufous Gnateater, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, White-throated Woodcreeper, Planalto Woodcreeper, Black-billed Scythebill, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Red-eyed Thornbird, White-browed Foliage-gleaner, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Shear-tailed Grey-Tyrant, Hooded Berryeater, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Sharpbill, Greenish Schiffornis, Azure-shouldered Tanagers, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager and Bay-chested Warbling-Finch.

Pico da Caledônia: Then undoubted highlight has been great views of the rare Grey-winged Cotinga, but other sightings have included Dusky-legged Guan, White-necked Hawk, Red-legged Seriema, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, Large-tailed Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Variable Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Rufous Gnateater, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Black-billed Scythebill, Itatiaia Thistletail, Pallid Spinetail, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Highland Elaenia, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Blue-billed Black-Tyrant, Velvety Black-Tyrant, Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Diademed Tanager, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch, Buffy-fronted Seedeater, Green-winged Saltator, Thick-billed Saltator and Hooded Siskin.

Sumidouro: Fantastic views of the Vulnerable Three-toed Jacamar, along with a supporting cast of Blue-winged Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Common Barn Owl, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Serra Antwren, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Crested Black-Tyrant, White-rumped Monjita, Gilt-edged Tanager, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Crested Oropendola.

Green-crowned Plovercrest <em>Stephanoxis lalandi</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Green-crowned Plovercrest Stephanoxis lalandi (© Leonardo Pimentel)

Black-and-gold Cotinga <em>Lipaugus ater</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Black-and-gold Cotinga Lipaugus ater (© Leonardo Pimentel)

Yellow-bellied Seedeater <em>Sporophila nigricollis</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis (© Leonardo Pimentel)

The Serra dos Órgãos National Park

The Serra dos Órgãos National Park was created in 1939 as the third national park in Brazil, with the objective of protecting the remaining hill forest and to protect the water sources that are abundant in the region. This park covers an area of 12,000 hectares from 145 metres above sea level to 2,263 metres and has ten peaks higher than 2,000 metres and a further six over 1,500 metres. At the park centre there is a fantastic raised walkway that enables you to get close to some of the canopy birds and also to look down on the forest floor where great views of some of the difficult species such as anthrushes, leaftossers and tinamous can be seen. Other special birds include both species of rare parrotlets (Golden-tailed and Brown-backed – both difficult to see but heard regularly), Tufted and Giant Antshrike, and many many others (see photos of Mottled Owl and Large-headed Flatbill below). The Park is about 1.5 hours drive from REGUA, and excursions can easily be arranged.

Mottled Owl <em>Strix virgata</em> (&copy; Alan Martin)
Mottled Owl Strix virgata (© Alan Martin)

Large-headed Flatbill <em>Ramphotrigon megacephalum</em> (&copy; Alan Martin)
Large-headed Flatbill Ramphotrigon megacephalum (© Alan Martin)

Recent sightings on excursions

White-bearded Antshrike <em>Biatas nigropectus</em> (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
White-bearded Antshrike Biatas nigropectus (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Black-and-gold Cotinga <em>Lipaugus ater</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Black-and-gold Cotinga Lipaugus ater (© Leonardo Pimentel)

We’ve had some fantastic sightings on our excursions recently.

Cabo Frio: Great looks at the Critically Endangered Restinga Antwren in the restinga habitat around the town, with Hook-billed Kite, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant and Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant also seen. The mangroves and coastal lagoons nearby have also been very productive, with White-cheeked Pintail, Brown Booby, Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail, Semipalmated and Collared Plovers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Royal, Yellow-billed and Cayenne Terns and Grey-hooded Gull amongst the species seen.

Macaé de Cima: A White-bearded Antshrike has been uncharacteristically obliging, giving incredible views! Other highlights at this montane site include Dusky-legged Guan, Golden-tailed Parrotlets seen very well, Scale-throated Hermit, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Amethyst Woodstar, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous Gnateater, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, White-throated and Planalto Woodcreepers, Rufous-capped and Pallid Spinetails, White-browed and White-collared Foliage-gleaners, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Hooded Berryeater, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Sharpbill, Chestnut-headed Tanager, Hepatic Tanager and Bay-chested Warbling-Finch.

Pico da Caledônia: Highlights include Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Red-eyed Thornbird, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Grey-winged Cotinga, Brassy-breasted Tanager and Bay-chested Warbling-Finch.

Sumidouro: We’ve had some excellent views of the threatened Three-toed Jacamar on this excursion, along with very close encounters with Blue-winged Macaws. Other species seen include White-eyed Parakeet, Common Barn Owl, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Serra Antwren, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Crested Black-Tyrant, White-rumped Monjita, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Gilt-edged Tanager and Crested Oropendola.

March sightings

Another great month for bird sightings with many guests seeing over 100 species a day!

4×4 Track to Casa Anibal: Guests enjoyed excellent views of a Hook-billed Kite (a rare bird here) as well as Saw-billed Hermit, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Unicoloured Antwren, Rufous-winged Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Shrike-like Cotinga, Red-necked Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Elfin Forest Trail: Least Pygmy-Owl, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Saffron Toucanet, Giant Antshrike, Tufted Antshrike, White-bearded Antshrike, Ferruginous Antbird, White-bibbed Antbird, Slaty Bristlefront, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, White-browed, Ochre-breasted, Black-capped, Buff-fronted and White-eyed Foliage-gleaners, Pale-browed Treehunter and Brown Tanager.

Onofre Cunha: Limpkin, Striped Cuckoo, Tawny-browed Owl, Black-banded Owl, Saw-billed Hermit, Reddish Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Rufous-capped Motmot, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, White-rumped Monjita, Long-billed Wren and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

São José Trail: Least Pygmy-Owl, Long-tailed Potoo, Saffron Toucanet, Tufted Antshrike, Salvadori’s Antwren, White-bibbed Antbird, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Black-billed Scythebill, Ochre-breasted, Black-capped, Buff-fronted and White-collared Foliage-gleaners and Shrike-like Cotinga.

Waldenoor: Black Hawk-Eagle, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Saffron Toucanet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Blond-crested Woodpecker, White-bibbed Antbird, Bare-throated Bellbird, Shrike-like Cotinga, Azure-shouldered Tanager and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Waterfall Trail: Brown Tinamou, White-necked Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Saw-billed Hermit, Rufous-capped Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Unicoloured Antwren, Rufous-winged Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Pin-tailed Manakin, White-thighed Swallow, Red-necked Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Wetland, adjacent forest trails and Lodge garden: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Masked Duck, Rusty-margined Guan, Pied-billed Grebe, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Russet-crowned Crake, Rufous-sided Crake, Ash-throated Crake, Blackish Rail, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, 2 Scaled Dove (hot on the heals of REGUA’s first record back in December), Blue Ground-Dove, Pale-vented Pigeon, White-eyed Parakeet, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Orange-winged Parrot, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Biscutate Swift, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Reddish Hermit, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-chinned Sapphire, Glittering-throated Emerald, Brazilian Ruby at the Lodge feeders, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crescent-chested Puffbird (in the Lodge garden), White Woodpecker, White-flanked Antwren, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Greenish Elaenia, Small-billed Elaenia, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Moustached Wren, Long-billed Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Brazilian Tanager, an unusual (at this altitude) record of Brassy-breasted Tanager, Black-legged Dacnis (showing well in the Lodge garden) and Chestnut-vented Conebill.

Sightings on our excursions have included:

Macaé de Cima: Several Brown-backed Parrotlets, Pileated Parrot, Plovercrest, Brazilian Ruby, Black-throated Trogon, Saffron Toucanet, Giant Antshrike, Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-shouldered Fire-eye, White-throated Woodcreeper, Planalto Woodcreeper, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Sharpbill, Chestnut-headed Tanager, Fawn-breasted and Brassy-breasted Tanagers.

Pico da Caledônia: Dusky-legged Guan, Black Hawk-Eagle, Red-legged Seriema, Pale-vented Pigeon, Pileated Parrot, Plovercrest, White-eared Puffbird, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Large-tailed Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Rufous Gnateater, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Highland Elaenia, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Grey-winged Cotinga, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Pin-tailed Manakin, Cinnamon, Chestnut-headed, Diademed and Brassy-breasted Tanagers and Bay-chested Warbling-Finch.

Grey-winged cotinga <em>Tijuca condita</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Grey-winged cotinga Tijuca condita (© Leonardo Pimentel)

February sightings

The peak period for visiting birders at REGUA is between August to November. This is generally considered the best time of year for sightings, because most birds are either busy feeding young or singing to attract a mate and so are more vocal and easier to find. But the quality of the birds seen last month (which include yet another new species for the reserve) just goes to show that the birding here can be excellent any any time of the year. Highlights around the reserve include:

Elfin Forest Trail: Adilei and Leonardo found some real rarities on this trail last month, including Brown-backed Parrotlet and White-bearded Antshrike. Other highlights were Dusky-legged Guan, Black Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest-Falcon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, Tawny-browed Owl, Least Pygmy-Owl, Dusky-throated Hermit, Brazilian Ruby, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Spot-backed Antshrike, Giant Antshrike, Tufted Antshrike, Salvadori’s Antwren, Ochre-rumped Antbird, White-bibbed Antbird, Rufous Gnateater, Spotted Bamboowren, Slaty Bristlefront, Such’s Antthrush, Scaled Woodcreeper, Black-billed Scythebill, Pallid Spinetail, White-browed Foliage-gleaner, Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Pale-browed Treehunter, Rough-legged Tyrannulet, Oustalet’s Tyrannulet, Large-headed Flatbill, Brown Tanager, Uniform Finch, Buffy-fronted Seedeater, Black-throated Grosbeak and Green-chinned Euphonia.

Grey Trail: A Russet-winged Spadebill has been showing well and Black-throated Trogon, Spot-billed Toucanet, Salvadori’s Antwren, Unicoloured Antwren, Scaled Antbird, White-bibbed Antbird and Yellow-green Grosbeak have also been seen.

Russet-winged Spadebill <em>Platyrinchus leucoryphus</em> (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Russet-winged Spadebill Platyrinchus leucoryphus (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Waterfall Trail: Spot-winged Wood-Quail, White-necked Hawk, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Pileated Parrot, Saw-billed Hermit, Rufous-capped Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Spot-billed Toucanet, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Unicoloured Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-throated Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Southern Antpipit, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Grey-hooded Attila, Pin-tailed Manakin and Yellow-green Grosbeak.

Wetland and adjacent forest trails: The pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks that turned up last November have now bred producing 8 young! Lets hope this is the start of a small range expansion for this species at REGUA. If this wasn’t exciting enough, on the 26th the lodge garden produced the first new bird for the reserve of the new decade – Yellow-billed Cuckoo! Found by Edson Endrigo, at least two birds were seen feeding alongside the closely related Dark-billed Cuckoo (bottom photo below) in a tree that had an infestation of catapillars. Nearby a third species of coccyzus cuckoo, Pearly-breasted Cuckoo, was also seen! Other birds logged around the wetland include Tataupa Tinamou, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Crane Hawk, Limpkin, Russet-crowned Crake, Rufous-sided Crake, Blackish Rail, Solitary Sandpiper, Tropical Screech-Owl, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Long-billed Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Black-legged Dacnis, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Lined Seedeater and Red-cowled Cardinal.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo <em>Coccyzus americanus</em> (&copy; Edson Endrigo)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus (© Edson Endrigo)

Dark-billed Cuckoo <em>Coccyzus melacoryphus</em> (&copy; Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Dark-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus melacoryphus (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Cabo Frio: Excellent views of the critically endangered Restinga Antwren, along with Brown Booby, Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Collared Plover, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Grey-hooded Gull, South American Tern, Minute Hermit, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant and Lemon-chested Greenlet.

Macaé de Cima: Plovercrest, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Bertonis Antbird, Ochre-rumped Antbird, Pallid Spinetail, White-browed Foliage-gleaner, Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, Pale-browed Treehunter, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Hooded Berryeater, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Sharpbill, Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin, Pin-tailed Manakin, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch, Crested Oropendola and Green-chinned Euphonia.

Serra dos Órgãos National Park: Brown Tinamou, Dusky-legged Guan, Spot-winged Wood-Quail, Plumbeous Pigeon, Pileated Parrot, Mottled Owl (photo below), Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, Tufted Antshrike, White-bibbed Antbird, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Black-billed Scythebill, Pallid Spinetail, Hooded Berryeater, Pin-tailed Manakin, Sharpbill, Buffy-fronted Seedeater and Half-collared Sparrow.

Mottled Owl <em>Strix virgata</em> (&copy; Leonardo Pimentel)
Mottled Owl Strix virgata (© Leonardo Pimentel)