The second wild tapir born at REGUA

Flora’s offspring – still to be chosen a name (© Marcelo Rheingantz/Projeto Refauna).

We would like to share this video showing the second wild tapir born at REGUA! We are delighted with the news and we think that the young must be 6 months old.

In 2020 tapirs Eva and Valente had Curumim, the first wild tapir born in the State of Rio de Janeiro after 100 years where this species was considered extinct. Now, tapirs Flora and Jupiter had their offspring and we are thrilled to contribute with tapir population increase at REGUA.

Both adult tapirs arrived in 2018, coming from Klabin Ecological Park in the State of Paraná and bonded since then. There are several camera traps around the forest and for that reason we can keep an eye on the monitoring programme led by REFAUNA project. Guapiaçu Petrobras funded project is also one of the project’s partners as they help buy radio collars to keep track of the tapirs and also help finance the tapir’s transportation to the REGUA. We hope you also enjoy this great news!

Melanoxylon brauna – Leguminosae family

Brauna in flower (© Raquel Locke)

Brauna tree is an Atlantic Forest endemic tree species found in southern Bahia, Espiritu Santo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro states. Brauna tree is under IUCN Vulnerable conservation status category. Its dense, compact and resistant wood has been intensively used in civil construction, in the making of musical instruments, fence posts and tool handles. A semi-deciduous, heliophyte species found in both primary and in mature secondary forests, very often on hill-tops and slopes. Brauna seeds are wind-dispersed. This specimen is growing in our partner’s area, “Francês” (Frenchman), where we restored  4 hectares.

 

Brauna growing at one of REGUA’s restored areas (© Raquel Locke).

A Brazilian native rabbit

Native from Brazil, the Tapiti rabbit (Sylvilagatus brasilienses) is found throughout all the Brazilian biomes, with the exception of some parts of the Amazon. This friendly mammal is nocturnal, wary and solitary and it is most of the time hiding from its predators, such as pumas, ocelots and some snakes.

Its diet consists of fruit, shoots and plant stalks. These rabbits make their nest with leaves or dry grass, lining the inside with their own fur to raise their young, usually giving birth to one to six off springs.

Some people think rabbits are rodents. Actually they have similar behaviour such as nocturnal habits and reproduction, however what most differs rabbits from rodents is their teeth: they have four incisor teeth (two upper and two lower), while rodents have only two.

Besides the fact that rabbits have beautiful long ears!

Tapiti rabbit (Sylvilagatus brasiliensis)
© Micaela Locke

This video was made available by Marcelo Rheingantz and Projeto Refauna due to the tapir monitoring programme.

 

Meet the fruit piercing moths!

Most moths feed on flower nectar and thus behave as pollinators. Another part lives for a few hours or days and accumulates fat in the larval stage, so adults barely eat, drinking water instead.

Eudocima sp. feeding on fruit (© Micaela Locke).

However, several groups of the Erebidae family (ex-Noctuidae latu sensu + Arctiidae) are frugivores, feeding on decomposing ripe fruits. They include the well-known and popular underwings (genus Catocala) from the northern temperate region, which can be attracted by brushing fruit puree over bark and tree trunks.

Some genera of the subfamily Calpinae have specialized in piercing the intact peal of fruit with the proboscis, the mouthpiece typical of 99% of adult Lepidoptera, which in this case has a pointed and barbed tip, allowing the moth to pierce the rind of the fruit to sip its juice and some of them are considered citrus orchard pests.
In our region occurs the colorful genus Eudocima of Pantropical distribution (with species in all tropical regions) exemplified by the individual pictured here on a fallen fruit.

Eudocima sp.  (© Micaela Locke).

Finally – as a curiosity; – Nature went a little further on with some improvements over the proboscis modifications involved in piercing intact fruits allowing for the appearance of some blood feeding (hamatophagous) species in Southeast Asia capable of piercing mammal skin to feed on their blood, especially that of large animals including local cattle. These are the vampire moths of the genus Calyptra.

The typical feeding habit in this Asian genus is to drink on the lacrimal secretions of these animals, but less than half a dozen species specialized in hematophagy just like mosquitoes.

 

© Jorge Bizarro, Research coordinator at REGUA.

Siproeta stelenes meridionalis (Fruhstorfer, 1909) Malachite

Siproeta stelenes  (© David Geale).

For some reason green is not a common or popular colour for neotropical butterflies. Contrary to other tropical regions in the Old World, there are a mere handful of greenish butterflies in the American Tropics (some hairtreaks like CyanophrysEvenusArcasErora,  the brush footed Nessaea and a few swallowtails) among them the very large malachite green and brown mimetic species with large squarish wings with scalloped margins. This butterfly is a perfect mimic of the heliconine (longwing butterflies) Philaethria wernickei and P. dido, from which it can be distinguished by the larger size, less elongated wings and the heavily serrated hindwing outer margin with 3 small knobbly tails.

Philaethria wernickei (© Antonio Lopes).

It is a common species found over a vast area of the Americas from southern Texas, Florida and the West Indies into Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and south Brazil. Adults are species typical of open forest found from sea level to 1,500 metres in humid or seasonal disturbed forest habitat such as clearings, river banks, roads, edges, secondary growth and even orchards or gardens where many species of weedy or grassy Acanthaceae thrive (Blechum, Justicia, Ruellia). Adults are both attracted to flowers and rotten fruit, they often sun bask in lower foliage on trails, roads or gardens, and females patrol short stretches of this habitat looking for their host plants. The larvae are olive-black with pinkish and white tubercles, thus very reminiscent of toxic Parides and Battus swallowtail caterpillars. The pupae are pale lime-green with a few short spike-like spines.

Black-capped Screech-Owl

The Black-capped Screech-Owl (Megascops atricapilla) photographed by Adilei Cunha.
The Black-capped Screech-Owl (Megascops atricapilla) photographed by Adilei Cunha.

The Black-capped Screech-Owl (Megascops atricapilla) was heard by Adilei’s house and he gave it a chance trying to photograph it. He had been hearing its call for some weeks and he finally managed to reach it! All owls occurring in Brazil, except for the barn owl (Tyto furcata), belong to the Strigidae family. The Black-capped Screech-Owl can be found in Southeast Brazil, northern Argentina and eastern Paraguay and is under Least Concern (LC) category by IUCN Conservation status. This species is of crepuscular habits hunting for insects, rodents, small mammals and birds and it often nests in natural tree cavities or in abandoned nest holes. It’s easy to find the Black-capped Screech-Owl on mature, humid and dense forests. Brazilians have a fascination for owls and it’s quite an event to make a record of it!

 

Rangers training course

Enthusiastic ranger Mateus looking inside a Jequitibá, one of the tallest trees in the Atlantic Forest (© Micaela Locke).

During the month of May, REGUA’s rangers will be taking part in a training course led by Eduardo Rubião, Phoenix Nature Consulting founder. Rain Forest Trust has kindly donated the funding for this course to take place as a means to encourage REGUA’ s conservation commitment in the Guapiaçu watershed.

Park rangers duties and their relevance to society as a whole, an introduction to the different Brazilian park categories, First Aid principles, walks in the wetlands and in REGUA’s trails including their maintenance and signage are the main training course’s topics. REGUA’s rangers play a vital role in providing a variety of services which guarantee the protection and conservation of REGUA’s forests.

Eduardo Rubião teaching the rangers how to handle snakes (© Micaela Locke).
Eduardo Rubião leading the rangers into Valdenor’s forest, one of REGUA’s restored areas (© Micaela Locke).

 

Three White birds of Prey

Mantled Hawk, Black and White Hawk-eagle and White-necked Hawk are three very special

Mantled Hawk (© REGUA)

bird species found at REGUA, they are stunning to see with their white plumage contrasting against a blue Brazilian sky.   These three species are in the family of Accipiters which comprises hawks, eagles and kites.

 

Mantled Hawk is an Atlantic Rainforest endemic feeding on a variety of prey including small birds, lizards, large insects and small mammals.    They sit on perches and ambush their prey sometimes staying in the same area for several days.   Often it is the call that alerts us that the bird is around.    It is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN red data list.

 

Black and White Hawk eagle (Spizaetus melanoleucu) is slightly larger than Mantled Hawk,  it also has a much larger distribution and is considered of least concern by the IUCN.   REGUA’s bird guide, Adilei Carvalho da Cunha says it can be regularly seen from trails around the reserve.

Black-and-white Hawk-eagle (© REGUA)

 

A third member of the accipiter family found at REGUA is White-necked Hawk, a smaller hawk which is white with black upper parts.   This species is harder to see than the previous two species with its habit of gliding above the trees and remaining mostly within the forested areas.   It also tends to perch in the mid-storey of the forest or within the canopy making it harder to find.   The diet is similar to the previous two species, but may feed lower to the ground.

 

These birds can be seen around the reserve at REGUA and on some of our offsite trips.

White-necked Hawk (© REGUA)

Urban Nature Challenge 2021: Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

REGUA took part in the Urban Nature Challenge 2021: Guanabara Bay, RJ, Brazil, a Bioblitz that began on April 29th till May, the 3rd – at 11:59pm.

Micaela, Eric and Nicholas preparing for the Bioblitz (© Thomas Locke).

We had Eric Fisher’s visit who played an important role in this event.

The Bioblitz aimed at registering as many organisms (animals, plants, fungi) as possible! REGUA was also part of a worldwide DISPUTE among more than 400 cities and regions in which we will be able to show the great biological diversity in aquatic Atlantic Forest and Restinga ecosystems and also in urban areas of our Municipality.

Nicholas Locke and Eric Fisher photographing insects (© Micaela Locke).

The event has 2,140 observations, 88 participants and 880 identified species so far, and more to be added.

We were unable to make this event open to the public due to Covid-19 pandemic however we think it is very important to engage in citizen science practices going outdoors appreciating nature’s fabulous diversity. We already did some great observations and we are excited with the prospect of contributing to the global citizen science platform Inaturalist!

Link to the project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/desafio-da-natureza-urbana-2021-baia-de-guanabara-rj-brasil

Uploading observations to the the Urban Nature Challenge 2021 project (© Thomas Locke).

Masked Duck

Masked Duck female (©: Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

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.

Solitary Tinamou at REGUA

Birding at REGUA is not so easy and demands much attention and physical resistance from the birder. Trekking up slopes of what remains of the Atlantic Rainforest in a hot climate and with birds that are naturally shy, makes for hard birding conditions. The forest litter that protects the soil and retains soil moisture makes for noisy crunchy walks, giving away one’s presence in the attempt to catch a glimpse of any bird. One of the toughest birds to see is the Solitary Tinamou, (Tinamus solitarius), a large terrestrial bird that was historically much persecuted for Sunday meals. The Solitary Tinamou is an Atlantic Rainforest endemic feeding mostly on insects and toady it is labelled “Near” threatened by the IUCN red data list.

Though hunting has significantly reduced at REGUA, on any forest walk, we can hear these birds call very occasionally, though to see one is another matter. It is probably easier to find a ground nest with a couple of emerald green eggs than the birds themselves.

Adilei recounted his joy at hearing an adult call on one of his walks and when trying to stalk it found only a young chick attempting to merge in with the leaves. Naturally well camouflaged, it went into the brush to make it hard to catch a crisp image. This was a joyous moment for Adilei, as one so rarely sees these birds in the wild. A good sign that REGUA efforts in protection and conservation is contributing to increase their numbers.

Research on Anuran Seconday Production

Msc student from Rio de Janeiro State University, João Souza,  is developing his fieldwork at REGUA for his research project aiming to establish how fragmented areas in the Atlantic Forest could affect secondary production of tadpoles.

One of the fragments chosen to be studied. There are 32 artifitial ponds where students conduct their experimental work (© Micaela Locke).

João also    wishes to    demonstrate    through his    research the    important  role of isolated    mother        trees in helping to maintain natural    ecosystem      processes. As  part of these    ecosystem    processes    he is    specifically    looking at net secondary yeld, however it is important to remember the previous stepraw primary yeld. Terrestrial ecosystems rely on the sun’s energy to support the growth and metabolism of their resident organisms. Plants are known for being biomass factories powered by    sunlightsupplying organisms higher up the food chain with energy and the structural      “building blocks of life”. Autotrophs are terrestrial prime yeld producersorganisms that      manufacturethrough photosynthesis, new organic molecules (carbohydrates and lipidsfrom raw inorganic materials (CO2, water,    mineral nutrients).

The energy from the sun is stored on the newly created chemical bondsbeing then source of energy to heterotroph organismsHeterotrophs are secondary yeld producersrather    consuming than producing organic molecules.   

Captured tadpole to be taken to laboratory (© Micaela Locke).

Net secondary yeld (NSY)    historically represents the    formation of living biomass of a heterotrophic population or group of populations  over some period of time. It’s known    that not all food eaten by an individual is      converted into new animal  biomass (NSY),  onlyfraction of the material ingested is assimilated from the      digestive tractthe remainder passes out as fecesOf the material assimilatedonly a fraction contributes to growth of an individual’s    mass or to reproduction — both of which ultimately represent net yeld. Most    of the rest is consumed by normal methabolims (like respiration). 

Student João Souza collecting tadpoles on one of the artificial ponds (© Micaela Locke).

 

João’s research may supply    important data highlighting the      importance of conserving      vegetation fragments – even      standing trees – to help maintain      essential natural ecosystem    processes like NSY. He    also wishes to understand how the group of anuransone of the      largest vertebrate taxa with many    threatened species, is affected by    the loss of vegetation. 

A mysterious creature at REGUA’s Visitor Centre

Every evening, for the last six months, REGUA´s Visitor Centre  was  visited by 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. We finally found out that the elusive creature was a Barn-owl (Tyto furcata)! It is nesting at the top of an old tree by REGUA’s common area and feeding on small vertebrates.

During day time, Barn-owls sleep or nest in church towers, attics of houses and tree hollows (© Nicholas Locke).

Widely distributedthis species occurs in all the Americas, except for the densely forested regions of the Amazon. Barn-owls inhabit open and semi-open areas and they are more active at dusk and at night.  They are commonly  seen flying low or on top of fences along the roadDuring day time, they sleep or nest in church towersattics of houses and tree hollows. An unmistakable feature of the species is their heart-shaped face. Males and females are quite similar however, the male may present a white underpart while the female may present a cream to light brown colour underpart 

Barn-owls feed on rodents, invertebrates and some larger mammals and small birds. Studies have shown that this species is able to separate different materials in their stomach, including hairbones and other non-digestible parts. 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 Barn-owl using the tree hollow as her nest (© Nicholas Locke).

Research on Coleoptera at REGUA

Ederson and Beatriz looking for Weevils on the Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis) (© Micaela Locke).

Scientific research, contributes to the generation of local knowledge and helps the scientific community to fill in several gaps and areas of knowledge that still need to be investigated.

This week we have the visit of two researchers, Ederson and Beatriz, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), who are looking for Amalactus carbonarius species larvae. This beetle belongs to the Curculionidae family, known as Weevils. It was found recently that this species finds shelter on the Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis), which is found at REGUA’s wetlands.

 

 

A Weevel found on the Southern Cattail (Typha domingensis) (© Micaela Locke).

 

Typha domingensis is a very invasive plant spreading freely when in a suitable site. This is fine when growing on its native habitat, but the plant can become a serious weed in managed aquatic systems worldwide.

For that reason, it is important to keep the right balance between the area these plants occupy, in order to guarantee a minimum number of individuals that can shelter different insects.

 

Rufuscent Tiger-Herons at the wetlands

The Rufuscent Tiger-Heron after capturing a fish from the Gymnotus genus (© Claudia Bauer).

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.

 

 

The captured fish belongs to the Gymnotus genus. This fish order is able to generate a strong electric field, however this species probably generates a weaker electric field, unlike his related species, the electric eel (© Claudia Bauer).

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!

© Claudia Bauer

© HeronConservation

“Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”

January 31st, “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”.

(RPPN Portuguese acronym) Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is basically tropical forest that stretches 20 degrees of latitude hugging South America’s continental rim. From seashore and beach vegetation to lofty mountain peaks, this biome is a mixture of endless habitats with unique and rich biodiversity that contributes to one of the highest rates of endemism on the planet. However, it is also the region of historical occupation and this has made this region a global conservation “hotspot”, and it needs all the help it can get!

Nicholas and Raquel Locke, REGUA’s president and vice-president (© R Fitipaldi).

Três Picos State Park and adjacent protected areas form the largest remnant of Atlantic Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is in this area that the NGO Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) is located. REGUA’s mission is the protection of the Guapiaçu catchment and one effective tool for long term conservation is the creation of “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”, or simply “RPPN” of a property’s forested area. REGUA applies to the RJ State environmental agency INEA, requesting areas be officially registered as RPPN.
REGUA has established 5 RPPNs adjacent to the Park’s perimeter, totaling 700 hectares and REGUA wants more!. Activities such as environmental education, scientific research and visitation can occur with the support of REGUA´s staff.
RPPN offers protection for biodiversity and defines the land use of areas outside existing parks, both important aspects for future regional planning. Any farmer with forests in their property can effectively protect them and we hope that more land owners rally to having a RPPN!
Today we celebrate the “RPPN” day and we wish all the success to the owners and congratulate the authorities INEA and ICMBIO for actively participating and supporting this process.

REGUA’s RPPN include wetlands and planted forests that offer a gateway for tapir reintroduction (© Thomas Locke).

Miltonia moreliana

A close-up of the species Miltonia moreliana (© Micaela Locke).

This week, at REGUA’s orchid house, the species Miltonia moreliana was in flower. It is a beautiful orchid usually found at around 300 metres above sea level in old secondary forests.

A small South American genus of which nine species are found in Brazil and seven of these occur in the Serra dos Orgãos mountain range. Miltonia moreliana requires abundant sun exposure, moderate humidity and ventilation.

Whenever we feel like getting to know orchids occurring on our mountain range a bit better, we ask specialists like Maria do Rosário de Almeida Braga or we look at the book “The Organ Mountain Range, Its History and Its Orchids: Rio de Janeiro” by David Miller (Author), Richard Warren (Author), Izabel Moura Miller (Author and photographer) and Helmut Seehawer (Contributor). It’s a fantastic publication!

 

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

On March 1st 2019, the UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. There exists an urgent need to accelerate global restoration of degraded ecosystems to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. Healthy ecosystems are essential for sustainable development that contributes to poverty alleviation. The UN Environment Programme and UN FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) are leading the global movement which includes over 70 countries committed to restoring more than 170 million hectares of degraded land worlwide. Ecosystem Restoration implies environmental,social and economic gains through which people´s well-being and nature´s resilience is enhanced.
REGUA is one example of good practice conducive to these global goals.

 

Drone footage of the wetlands at REGUA (© Thomas Locke).

Anuran community in pasture puddles

Beatriz, Jeferson and Orlando having a look at the Anuran community in one of the studied pasture puddles (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

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.

 

Green-headed tanager close to the common area at REGUA (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

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.

A Burrowing owl taking care of her nest (© Jeferson Ribeiro Amaral).

Dahlstedtia pinnata

Plants belonging to Dahlstedtia genus occur exclusively within the Atlantic Forest in Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states in Brazil.

This genus is represented by two species: D.pinnata and D.pentaphylla. However, some specialists consider the genus as monotypic. Dahlstedtia plants grow both as bushes and trees. Hummingbirds regularly visit their beautiful pink or reddish flowers.

Locally known as “Timbo”, its roots and bark were used by indigenous people to dumb and asphixiate fish as part of their fishing practices.

This Dahlstedtia was found and photographed within a new acquired area by REGUA.

Dahlstedtia flower (© Raquel Locke).