March is not the best month for birding in south-east Brazil, as it is the end of the bird breeding season and many species become more diffcult to see. But this didn’t stop our guide Adilei from finding yet another new bird at REGUA. On 29 March, Adilei was walking close to the Sao Jose Tower when he heard the call of the Grey-crowned Flatbill Tolmomyias poliocephalus. Grabbing his camera, Adilei managed to capture these fantastic photos.
Grey-crowned Flatbill is found in the Amazon basin and the Atlantic Forest, where Rio state is at the very southern edge of its range. This record brings the number od bird recorded at REGUA to an incredible 486 species!
With the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel, as with so many places around the world, REGUA tourism levels have collapsed.
Rainforest Trust, who have helped to raise funds for us over the years, came to our aid and helped us support Adilei, REGUA’s bird guide until guests can return.
With this hiatus in his usual work Adilei has been able to do many regular walks around the reserve as well as maintaining the trails. On a recent survey of the wetlands, Adilei spotted a female Masked Duck in the middle of one of the wetland lakes. He played the call and to his surprise the bird flew toward him and landed a few metres away. The bird called with a series of short high-pitched calls in a falling crescendo.
Masked Duck is associated with wetlands which have rafts of water plants on the surface. They use these plants as camouflage and hide out of sight. As it is small duck and sits rather low in the water it can be very hard to find. Adilei’s photograph actually shows the bird in relatively clear water, maybe it was reassured by the call and Adilei’s calm, quiet enjoyment.
REGUA’s wetlands have always had this species and many guests have seen it here, however as the wetlands have matured and with the growth of the planted trees, and increased weed growth, sightings have reduced and they have become increasingly hard to see.
A male was seen last year and with this latest sighting, hopefully we will be able to see more of them in the future.
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?
Paul Hopkins and Magnus Billqvist stayed at the REGUA lodge from Jan 23 until Feb 13. During almost the first half of their trip they were joined by Agnes Ludwig and Tom Kompier. The weather was somewhat wet and cold, but nevertheless the tour turned up 152 species out of the 208 that have now been recorded from the Guapiacu catchment. The discovery of a new damsel for the REGUA list, Aceratobasis macilenta, was very exciting, but there were several other remarkable records or developments.
The swamp at the bottom of the hill on which the lodge is situated, near the office buildings, was wet throughout the stay. It is still the only confirmed site for Brown-striped Spreadwing Lestes tricolor in the area, but holds easily 25 species within its 30×15 m area. Amongst these are sought after species like the Flame-tip Telagrion longum and Brazilian Blue-eye Anatya januaria, both often found emerging there, but it now also holds a good population of Caribbean Duskhawker Triacanthagyna caribbea and the rarely encountered Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia. This little area is constantly evolving and never ceases to amaze.
The wetland itself is also evolving, with some of the pioneer species that were very common in previous years losing ground to species that likely require less disturbed habitat. This means that the Erythemis species, although still present, are much scarcer. Several years back Pin-tailed Pondhawk E. plebeja would pick off the flies accompanying Ode lovers at virtually every step, but now you have to search for it. Rainpool Spreadwing Lestes forficula, previously abundant and one of the commonest species, was almost completely gone. On the other hand, Guiana Spiderlegs Planiplax phoenicura is now really common and has been joined by the rarer Scarlet Spiderlegs Planiplax arachne, and previously common Bow-tailed Dasher Micrathyria catenata has been largely replaced by Square-spotted Dasher M. ocellata.
At the nearby forest fragment of Onofre Cunha, the recently described Regua Pincertip Forcepsioneura regua was still regular, and exciting as always.
The Green Trail up to the Waterfall was excellent as usual. It turned out to be a particularly good year for the Long-tailed Bromeliad Guard Leptagrion perlongum with dozens seen at the beginning of the trail. Further up a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. was a first, and even more exciting was that is was seen to subsequently oviposit in a shallow forest stream, verifying its suspected habitat.
The fishponds at Vecchi remain excellent, although the Large Pond seems to suffer from disturbance. This possibly explains the apparent complete absence of Slender Redskimmer Rhodopygia hollandi, which used to be a common species here. During our visits we observed a very late Green Forceptail Phyllocycla pallida, which previously had not been recorded after early December. A female Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia here was another surprise. The small ponds again turned up such excellent species as the enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena.
One of the most exciting observations was done at the Tres Picos area, where several Chagas’s Emeralds Neocordulia carlochagasi was observed patrolling. This area appears to be a good location for this rare species, with observations in several years now. Another specialty of this area is White-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata, which has now been found consistently for several years at the start of the trail up.
Although not achieving the maximum score of the 2018 tour (166), partly because fewer locations were visited and partly because of weather and luck, the result proved once more that any visitor in the right season can expect to see more species of dragonfly here than recorded from the whole of Europe, and with much more ease.
On 26 January Tom Kompier, accompanied by fellow Odonatologists Magnus Billqvist, Paul Hopkins and Agnes Ludwig, visited the large pond at Vecchi, where he caught and photographed a fresh female of a damselfly species unknown to him. Back at the lodge the riddle was solved using the excellent Damselfly Genera of the New World by Garrison et al. (2010).
This mystery damsel was a member of the genus Aceratobasis. This genus is endemic to the Atlantic Forest, with four known species largely restricted to the lowlands. Although recorded from Rio de Janeiro state, it had so far not been confirmed from REGUA.
I quickly wrote to Natalia von Ellenrieder, who provided a paper she wrote with Rosser Garrison in 2008 with additional information on the genus. The specimen turned out to be Aceratobasis macilenta, the smaller of two very similar species. As these damsels, unlike many of their fellow Coenagrionids, hang of leaves and twigs, “Pendant” seems an apt name.
A second visit a few days later failed to turn up more specimens, but luckily a third visit on 5 February by Magnus, Paul and Susan Loose produced a mature male and a mature female, of which Paul was able to take some great photos. It looks like a small population has gained a foothold in the area!
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.
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:
This diurnal snake, was seen by a group of visitors on our Green Trail, whilst walking in the forest with Adilei.
Although not venomous, they can still give a nasty bite if threatened. Adelie knows how to deal with this sort of situation as he has spent all his life in these forests. One of the group got this amazing footage, standing at a safe distance.
These snakes lay eggs and are active on the ground and in trees. Their prey are mammals and birds, including eggs and nestlings.
Their defence strategy is to puff up their forebody and shake their tail. This individual seemed quite relaxed and only shook the tail as it left the group by slithering under a nearby fallen tree.
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!
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.
Michael Patrikeev, recently sent us this photograph of the rarely seen Idomeneus Owl-Butterfly Caligo idomeneus, taken at REGUA on 14 September 2010.
Jorge Bizzaro, REGUA’s Research Coordinator, and very knowledgeable lepidopterist explains why this species is rarely encountered. “This individual from REGUA is a rarity, because it only flies during sunrise when most lepidopterists are sleeping! The main characteristic of Caligo idomeneus is the very straight and defined median white band of the forewing present on both sides.”
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.
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.
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.
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 Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.
They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea. There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.
Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science. Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.
With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden. They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.
However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.
The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.
One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843. It resembles depictions of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one. Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.
The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.
Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection. Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.
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.
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!