Tag Archives: REGUA

Black-fronted Piping-Guan Re-introduction Update

The old pen used for the Red-billed Curassow re-introduction programme which took place between 2005 and 2008 has been refurbished.   It is ready to receive the Black-fronted Piping-guans (Aburria jacutinga) over the next four years, as part of the programme financed by O Boticario and Birdlife International partner SAVE.

Release Pen
Release Pen (©Nicholas Locke)

The release pen is eight meters by 30 meters and eight meters high, with a secure cover of mesh to prevent snakes and rodents getting into the aviary.    There were 20 Black-fronted Piping-guans released in 2009 as part of the previous Red-billed Currasow project with Crax/ Brasil.   There were sightings in the forests of REGUA 2 years ago, but just recently one local resident saw a pair of these colourful birds in the forests of the Matumbo Gap.

As they are an arboreal species, the release pen has to be very high and the biologists accompanying the project have a strategy to ensure that the birds are encouraged to stay off the ground, thereby improving their chances of survival after release.   They need to remain in the campus of the trees away from hunting mammals, rodents and the occasional stray dog.    The more they stay in the canopies, the greater their chance for survival.

This is an exciting project that sees birds coming from a recognized bird breeder Tropicus, passing through the University of North Fluminense’s quarantine pens for a period of a month, adapting to the release pen and then freedom!

Black-fronted Piping-guan
Black-fronted Piping-guan(©Nicholas Locke)

REGUA is delighted to offer its forests as a gateway for their release to the wild.   They are a species that will help disperse fruits, especially the threatened heart of palm, Euterpe edulis and contribute as a charismatic species to represent REGUAs commitment to nature here.

Nicholas Locke

Natural Regeneration Seminar

Nicholas Locke, REGUA’s Project Director recently participated in a seminar on the use of natural regeneration as a means to reforest large areas.   Led by distinguished scientists and organised by Miguel Calmon (IUCN) and Bernardo Strassburg (ISS) a large audience enjoyed the seminar.

Nicholas reports
“Natural regeneration is defined as “the regrowth and reestablishment of an ecosystem following disturbances at a range of spatial intervals”.  Although it takes time, like any self-organizing colony, it can be accelerated and assisted.   The process doesn’t involve planting trees but fertilizing and weed suppression, i.e. promoting growth naturally and reducing its threats.

Although it is very unattractive in its initial stages, forest does form over time and Itatiaia is an example of a successful naturally regenerated landscape.   Natural regeneration reflects nature’s resilience, itself influenced by climate and the historical use of the land.   It certainly is the cheapest way to attain the current target of 350 million hectares in the world (an area larger than India) established by the Bonn challenge (UN Climate Summit 2014).

Brazil with vast areas needing to be forested in both the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado are perfect areas for planting trees and sharing in this objective.

However, this technique does not always work and given that 3/4 of Brazil’s areas for restoration are pastures, how can one attract land owners to abandon land, both in large and small properties?    How can one measure natural regeneration and create marketable indices?    Perhaps carbon and water or ecosystem payments can help?   However experiences show that when ecosystem payments terminate, land owners often cut those forests.

Given that certain areas never regenerate forest, perhaps we need to examine our own farming methods to prevent land from being completely exhausted.    Also there are economic issues at heart for the cheaper forested land invites destruction as a means of capitalising investments.
We know that natural regeneration is a big step in the right direction.     Reforestation is critical to maintain the world ecosystem and normal weather patterns, so we need to develop a strong collective message.   An approved plan that gives a clear direction in defining land use as a landscape of productivity and functionality for if we don’t come up with a strategy, inertia sets in, and it’s business as usual.

We need to organise those who can fund this process to include all elements from seed collection to nursery development.   Perhaps a new approach is needed; new tools needed to cope with the mammoth scale.  Perhaps we need to examine land tenure and land rights and start by reducing the scale and regionalising a programme.

At the same time, researchers need to measure forest regeneration to remunerate land owners prioritising an economic return for small landowners.    Much preparation is needed but leadership is vital to bring in landowners to cede their land for reforestation so perhaps the current drought is an opportunity to grasp.

For me the six big questions are:
1) What indicators are necessary to prove natural regeneration’s success?
2) How do we reconcile food production in forested landscapes?
3) How do we make natural regeneration economically viable for small landowners?
4) How can we scale natural regeneration scale?
5) How can we reach the politicians?
6) How to share the responsibility with the people living in cities?

The current conclusion is that natural regeneration of ecosystems is the least expensive way to reforest and in areas where it doesn’t naturally work we have to plant trees.

I met several interesting people from recognised organisations with valuable experiences around the world and I hope this seminar provides the impetus that is needed to revert the current levels of deforestation.”

Nicholas Locke

REGUA’s First Research Convention

REGUA’s first Researchers Convention was held over three days in May.   The event was attended by over 100 delegates which included university students (both graduates and undergraduates), university professors and local and state government representatives.

The Brazilian Environmental State Agency (INEA) gave a presentation on government conservation initiatives including research and government encouragement and support for the creation of private reserves such as REGUA.

Over 40 Masters and PhD theses were presented both orally and in poster display.   All of these studies had been based on field work at REGUA.   Subjects varied from fly predation on leaf-cutting ants to floristic and fish inventories.

On the final day recommendations are made regarding broadening the range of field studies and communication strategies for the future.

It was a consensus that REGUA provides the best field research site in RJ state.

With thanks to the Petrobras GGV project for their support and funding of this event.

70 gun traps given to the Police

Hunters often use gun traps fixed to stakes in the forest to kill animals.   These traps are notorious for maiming and inflicting great pain on the local wildlife.

Gun Traps
Gun Traps (© REGUA)

During the day, hunters easily identify animal foraging trails and suitable places to place these traps.    The traps are then usually loaded and positioned at night as most of the animals are active after dusk.   They attach a gun trap with a trip-wire located transversely from the trail at one foot above ground level to fire at anything using the path.

The traps are made locally and are quite rudimentary,  consisting of short pipes with threads that fit a 32mm cartridge.   Normally at least a dozen of these loaded traps are placed along the forest tracks in the hope of killing an animal.   More often however, the animal’s leg is blown away and it dies in agony elsewhere.

Captain Hermes
Captain Hermes (© REGUA)

REGUA has for a long time had a programme to acquire these traps from hunters no longer wishing to carry on the practice.

They are usually acquired at half the price they cost to make, and this takes them safely out of use.

Over the last three years, seventy of these traps have been acquired and they were recently handed over to the local Police force.   Our local Police, Captain Hermes and Sergeant Ricardo will arrange for these traps to be destroyed as they are still classified as firearms.

Nicholas Locke

Eighth Brazilian Congress of Protected Areas

Every presentation, discussion and talk held at the Protected Area Congress at Curitiba between the 21st and 24th September was fascinating leaving both Raquel and I keen to get home and back to work.

Nicholas and Raquel with George Schaller, US Biologist.
Nicholas and Raquel with George Schaller, US Biologist. (© REGUA)

Organized by Brazil’s Cosmetics giant “O Boticario” who have sponsored so much in research (over 1400 projects) and conservation over the last 15 years, this is the event to attend to hear to the latest news concerning Brazil’s conservation status, todays perspectives and tomorrows ambitions.

It never ceases to amaze us how much of Brazil, with its nine bio-regions, is still forested under some type of protection status.   Since the first protected area, the Iguassu National Park, was created in early 1900, some 320 Parks (UCs) have been created.   These are for the most part open to the public with a total area of 125 million hectares under Park status.

There are also 111 million hectares of indigenous reserves and a further 60 million hectares of protected areas in Amazonia (ARPA), making roughly 25% of Brazil’s land surface lying within “Protected” status.    There are State and Municipal parks to add to this impressive figure.
However not all is so simple.

In spite of the laws of the National System of Protected areas it is still a challenge in Brazil to ensure the continual protection against encroachment, hunting, timber and heart of palm extraction of these areas.  Perversely within the Government itself, other departments create difficulties for the environmental agenda as the Government favours economic powerhouse development that includes the corporate agribusiness, illegal timber extraction, dam construction and mineral extraction to provide exports, energy and taxes.

However the recent current financial crisis has the Government axing costs in all departments and one can readily note that with more land needed to conserve and associated operational costs, the future of protected areas might be bleak.   Trying to avoid this, the Government is encouraging partnerships and concessions to co-administrate these protected areas, though this remains contentious with Government backbenchers.

Raquel and I were happy to note that the Private Park Status (RPPN) has taken off over the last few years.   This is a terrific legal tool for landowners committed to declaring forested areas of their properties “protected” status.    Today there are 760 thousand hectares of forest protected within 1350 RPPNs and the Government is happy to see this area increasing.

Much of the impetus has been sparked by the lack of rainfall and associated deficit of drinking water in major cities and so bringing Government concern.    With the accepted proof in most circles that the lack of rain in other parts of Brazil is inextricably linked to the deforestation of the Amazon basin and the certainty that the global atmospheric temperature is increasing as a result of more carbon dioxide in the air, one can sense the urgency in planting trees to scoop out carbon in the air.   Though data is still not available on how large an area is currently being planted in the country, there is now a recognized urgency to plant trees and the Brazilian Government has committed to plant 12.5 million hectares by 2030.

CI founder Russell Mittermeier captured the attention of his audience with a clear message
Russell Mittermeier captured the attention of his audience with a clear message (© REGUA)

Utilising the new Forestry Code as a framework; targets for remaining forests in each biome have been established and steps are already underway through mapping all individual properties with GPS.   The maps plot agricultural land, water courses and remaining forest fragments .   This will determine what areas in every eco-region need to be forested and facilitate the Government’s decision-making in terms of marrying obligations and compensations for other sectors of the economy.

If we are to integrate and strive to meet the 20 targets currently set by the global Convention of Biological Diversity meeting in Aitchi with 200 countries participating, we need action.

President Obama said that we are the first generation to feel the consequence of climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it.   A bit scary!

We are happy to see that REGUA working continuously and steadily for 15 years on its programmes in a clearly consistent and coherent way as another link in this chain towards the future.   REGUA shares responsibility between responsible committed people.

The results at REGUA, this holistic approach involving a simultaneous action in protection, education, research, restoration is the way forward and results are showing.

Commissioner Appleton who was credited for the Catskills Watershed Management in New York and presented his work in this Congress at Curitiba is most optimistic.    He said “If you got a great plan and are prepared to communicate it; start it and develop it, for you will find those sharing your dream and wanting to help you”.

We invited him to visit REGUA on his next trip to Rio de Janeiro!

Nicholas Locke

Bats at REGUA

Big-eared Woolly Bat or Woolly False Vampire Bat
Chrotopterus auritus, also known as Big-eared Woolly Bat (© Sue Healey)

Bats or Chiroptera are the most common mammal in the world with a global distribution (outside the Poles) and considered the only true flying mammals.

They are divided in two sub-orders, megabats and microbats; the large megabats have good visual skills and feed principally on fruit, nectar and pollen whilst the microbats have poor sight but advanced echolocation and feed on insects, fish, blood and other prey. Their body size is apparently irrelevant in this classification.

Most bats are nocturnal and the microbats have large ears and a leaf nose to help in echolocation permitting them to feed, fly and land without bumping into each other.
As well as eating innumerous insects (75% of bats are insectivorous) during the course of the night, their pollination of many flowers is essential to the health of the forests as well as their dispersal of fruits and seeds.

Megabats have developed long tongues to reach their food. They are frequently found feeding at the hummer feeders in the lodge garden at night.

The first formal Bat inventory at REGUA, carried out between 2010 and 2011, was guided by Professor Davor of Rio University.   Field work was conducted by Camilla, Renan and Roberto.   They set up mist nets around the REGUA reserve at different altitudes, netting 1,300 individuals, a total of 31 species in three families.

Bat monitoring (&copy Nicholas Locke)
Bat monitoring – Anoura geoffroy (Geoffroys Tailless Bat) (© Nicholas Locke)

Brazil boasts 170 species. The most common found at REGUA were leaf-nosed bats, from the Phyllostomidae family which has 24 species. They also saw and caught fish-eating bats as well as the feared vampire bats which are surprisingly small creatures.

The team concluded that the diversity of species is one of the highest ever recorded in the Atlantic Forest and it is a clear indication that the habitat is well preserved.

Renan is now studying forest fragments located adjacent to REGUA.   These islands of forests are not connected to the main forest block.   The team want to identify the species present and estimate their populations compared to the larger forested block and its fully protected forested gradient. The data will be an important step in justifying the planting of corridors as well as their protection.

A full list of REGUA’s bats can be found here:

Nicholas Locke

Socio-economic impact of REGUA

Most of the research carried out at REGUA is on the biodiversity and behaviour of species. Over the last few years however, one student from Europe has been studying the effect that the project has had on the local population.

Between for almost two years Peter Slovák conducted field research in Brazil as a part of his Doctorate study at the University of Sussex, UK.  The project was entitled ‘Private Protected Areas and Local Communities in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil: What are the Implications for Rural Development and Nature Conservation?’

The project’s focus is on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of the relationship between private conservation projects established in vulnerable natural habitats and the people living in rural communities in their vicinity. The aim was to shed more light on the impacts the project has on rural communities and their perceptions and interactions with the surrounding natural environment.

To find out more the methodology was based on observations, interviews and oral testimonies, and also required that Peter participate in everyday life and activities of the REGUA Reserve as well as the local communities.

Peter Slovak harvesting manioc with local farm workers
Peter Slovák harvesting manioc with local farm workers (© Peter Slovák)

He received training and dedicated considerable time to the study of Portuguese, but nothing could have really prepared him for the challenges encountered in the field. Ethnographic fieldwork requires a researcher to adapt to an ‘alien’ culture. Therefore, the choice of fieldwork place is as crucial as the relevance and accessibility.

Peter already knew the REGUA project from a trip to Brazil in 2008 when he spent two months as a volunteer. Inspiring conversations with Nicholas Locke the Project Director, planted the seed of interest in his mind. Thus, he was delighted when REGUA agreed to host his research project enabling his return in 2012.

The main supporters of the project were: Project Directors, Nicholas and Raquel Locke, Research Co-ordinator Jorge Bizarro, and Field Co-ordinator José Luiz Rogick Motta. Together with the rest of the REGUA team they helped to provide the excellent conditions for the completion of the fieldwork, providing constant support and assistance.

With the stunning views of Serra do Mar, friendly local people and great food, REGUA offers all that is important for a researcher: a favourable working environment and conditions for any research related to nature conservation.



Black-fronted Piping-guan project update – September

On September 14th and 15th the Black-fronted Piping-guan Project Team was at REGUA, one of the sites where the species will be reintroduced, to conduct several activities.

Young Rangers
Young Rangers (©REGUA)

On the 14th, the Project was presented during a meeting of the Rural Development Municipal Council.   Twenty-six participants attended, among them council members and guests.    Later that day, the 11th activity of the Guide for Practices and Experiences with Nature (available in Portuguese for download: http://goo.gl/XqcF56) was held with 13 of REGUA’s Young Rangers.

The following day, the Project was presented in Bacia do Rio, Macacu Permanent Preservation Area with the presence of the Area Manager, REGUA’s vice-president Raquel Locke, and the 5th UPAm (Environmental Police Unit).

In total, 18 participants attended, all of whom are important partners in the species’ protection network.  Without the support of the local people and the REGUA team this project would not be possible.

Macacu Permanent Preservation Area Attendees (© REGUA)

The reintroduction of Black-fronted Piping-guan at REGUA  is now expected for the first semester of 2016.

Alecsandra Tassoni
Project Co-ordinator

Rio Scouts visit REGUA

REGUA recently played host to a Rio de Janeiro Scout Group.   With an entourage of Scout leaders and parents, two coach loads of excited children swarmed around the Conservation Centre.

Rio Scouts walking to planting area
Rio Scouts walking to planting area (© Sue Healey)

Then it was off to the planting area, two kilometres away along the banks of the River Guapiaçu.    Some of the group were happy to stroll along, whilst others took a lift in one of the reserve vehicles.   Soon everyone was in place; in the middle of a cattle pasture which had been prepared to accept seedlings from the enthusiastic gardeners.

With the help of our colleagues from the Guapiaçu Grande Vida (GGV) project – who kindly arranged the event – everyone gathered under the shade of a large tree to hear about REGUA project, the importance of the forest and why REGUA and GGV needed their help to plant trees.   After receiving instructions on the best way to handle and plant the seedlings, it was time to get their hands dirty!

The children were thrilled to be able to handle a tree, and eagerly dug into the prepared holes to make a space for the roots.   Once planted and carefully firmed in, they went off to get another tree to plant.   As the adults got more involved, they too, collected seedlings to plant with the children.    Excited rivalry broke out as they competed to plant more trees than their friends – I think the most was seven.

Scouts tree planting
Scouts tree planting (© Sue Healey)

After a walk back through the newly planted land, everyone returned to the Conservation Centre for lunch.   In the afternoon a walk around the wetlands was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone and the day was rounded off with a vote of thanks from the Scouts to those who had arranged the day.

Ruy Lagoas – Helping REGUA restore the forests

Ruy Sylvester Lagoas and his wife Angelica have lived in Santo Amaro, just above the village of Guapiaçu for many years.   Ruy has worked for Nicholas Locke for many years and was contracted to oversee REGUA’s tree planting workforce.   With a love of the countryside, Ruy is only too keen to be re-planting forests in an area where trees have previously been felled.

Ruy and Angelica
Ruy and Angelica (© Sue Healey)

His story is not untypical of recent generations throughout the world but the changes he has seen at REGUA show what can be achieved and something that he is rightly proud of.

Ruy was born in Santo Amaro, and at the age of 15 began helping his father in the family business of felling trees on their land.   The trees with a diameter of at least 2 metres were chosen and felled with an axe by one of Ruy’s brothers.   The family had their own hydro-powered sawmill and oxen to drag the trees down the hillside.   They would sell timber as far away as Cachoieras de Macacu.  The wood was used for many things from houses for hens to homes for people.

In addition, the family farmed bananas and Ruy remembers they would make up to four trips to the mountains a day bringing the bananas down to sell in the local villages and town.

After a few years Ruy went to work for a gas bottle distribution company on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro but after being assaulted by men with guns on seven occasions in a year he decided to return to the countryside he knew and loved.   John Locke (Nicholas Locke’s uncle) asked Ruy to look after his brother Robert’s property, adjacent to his own and Ruy was delighted to accept.   At around this time Nicholas Locke came to work in Brazil and this started the friendship and respect between Ruy and Nicholas which endures today. Over the years they built successful farm with sheds, houses for Ruy, Nicholas and his family, bridges, set up a generator for electricity and by the early 1980’s had build over 10 homes for the workers on the property. They also built up a team of labourers to cultivate crops and manage the cattle pastures.

Ruy and Nicholas loading saplings
Ruy and Nicholas loading saplings (© Sue Healey)

When John sadly died, his widow Genevieve, asked Nicholas to run the property and Ruy joined him.   Bananas were planted on the lower slopes – something that had not been done before; and when the banana price dropped they began growing yams, manioc, okra and maize corn.   This all worked very successfully until 2000, when the REGUA reserve was created.

As land was acquired by REGUA and taken out of farming, restored and re-forested, Ruy was the natural choice to head this task and with a hardworking team around him, he successfully helped REGUA to create the wetlands and extend the forest along the valley closing vital gaps in the lowland slopes and preventing further encroachment into the forest by property developers.

Asked the key to the success of REGUAs reforestation project, Ruy says he has a good group of men working with him, and with mutual respect and an optimum team, planting new forests is in his word “easy”.

However, without a great manager, that team would not have developed into the successful group it is now.   The new forests are a testament to both Ruy and the whole REGUA Team.

Ruy's hardest challenge
Ruy’s hardest challenge (© Sue Healey)

Looking back, Ruy can see how the project has grown and adapted to cope with the vagaries of the land. The men have learned how to plant on steeper slopes where access is difficult and everything has to be done by hand. The tough imperata or brachiaria grass will choke young trees if it is not kept at bay with maintenance for the first two years. Poor, hard soils take longer to nourish the saplings, but with patience even the most challenging areas eventually flourish. Planting a larger variety of species and increased the diversity of the replanted areas which brings in more species of birds and mammals.

Ruy considers the hardest area to work on has been the 25 hectares behind the wetlands which held every disadvantage.   Access was difficult and all the tools and trees had to be brought to the area manually.   Despite the slow start with steep slopes, saplings are now starting to grow through.

In contrast the area Ruy considers the most successful is the 2013-15 reforestation area.   Here on the pastures and slopes above the river the access was easy, allowing farm trucks to bring the men, trees and all the equipment they needed right to the heart of the area.   This was also an area of good soil and new technology helped to get the young trees planted as quickly as possible – drilling machines were used to break up the soil and create holes and hydrogel was added to retain much needed moisture near the roots of the trees.

Planting team us a drill
Planting team use a drill (© Raquel Locke)

Asked about his own personal key to success and Ruy is quick to point to the support he has from his wife, Angelica who shares his commitment to the project. She ensures he is happy and content and gets up at 5 am every morning to cook his breakfast and prepare a cooked lunch. She talks openly in the community of her dislike of hunting and the burning and clearing of forests.

They are the most respected couple in the Guapiaçu valley. Ruy is doubly pleased that the trees he felled in his youth, have now been replaced with new trees and forests are forming in pastures that he once created.

Ruy understands well the concept of nature and time; how trees grow, their needs and his gentle calm nature ensures that the REGUA team achieve the hard work of forest restoration.


Lagoinha Valley

REGUA is overjoyed with the recent purchases in the Lagoinha valley.     As you can see from the attached map, the valley is a key area for conservation.   With forest on either side which have been separated by farming activities, it prevents species movement and which can lead to species isolation.    The ownership of the area is even more complex in that it is made up of over 50 land owners whose properties vary in size.

Lagoinha _Agosto2015 largescale-1
Map of Lagoinha land (Click to enlarge) (© REGUA)

Where to start?
When Nicholas showed the REGUA trustees the valley 10 years ago, they were slightly apprehensive at the thought of slowly buying into a valley of 700ha with so many land owners.    What if some never were to sell?

Everyone could understand its biological significance, but not all were prepared to start this battle.    Nine years later, having secured large sections within adjacent valleys, the time came to address the Lagoinha challenge.    With this area REGUA would be preventing further farming and potential urban development to enter this valley.

The degradation of Lagoinha was still apparent, and a certain courage was needed to start the process. The first step was to map the valley even if this proved contentious to its residents.   They might not approve of REGUA stepping in.   One property was identified initially as a natural area to start, number 19.   It came on the market at a reasonable price, and after negotiation the purchase was complete.    Soon afterwards another property was identified, number 32,  which would constrict the potential development at the base of the valley.

Cleared Land
Cleared forest (© Nicholas Locke)

Nicholas managed to identify and telephone its owner.

“The owner was keen to sell as he wasn’t able to install electricity there and concluded that if he couldn’t get energy he might as well sell it to REGUA.   Unfortunately that week the electricity company expanded the energy grid to include his property and he withdrew the property from the market.    With this we thought that the other land owners would lobby the electricity company to install energy to all properties within the valley, a sure sign that development was just around the corner.     I talked to our local environmental secretary and he understood the environmental impact this would have on the biodiversity of the area and decided not to allow the grid to expand into the valley.   Messias [one of REGUA’s Rangers] also helped locally reduce the interest amongst local landowners.

Some land used for grazing
Land previously grazed (© Nicholas Locke)

This coincided with the interest of a dedicated Swiss environmentalist visiting REGUA.  He took an instant liking to two brothers wanting to sell their properties, Areas 20, 21, 22 & 23, and this visit was instrumental in clinching a really important deal, for this purchase was essential to start the process of acquiring a number of properties.   With further mapping we went on to identify key areas and approved the purchase of other key areas, being Areas 18, 24, 25 & 26.

The most important thing was to guarantee a full corridor between the forested land to the west and east forest edges.   I talked to the authorities who are responsible for the Park and received total support for all land purchases, and this led to other land owners in the valley wanting to sell to REGUA.   With more land protected, they sensed that development was not going to occur and that their pieces of land will not increase in value.    They are now keener to sell to REGUA.   It seems that the dream we had so many years ago is slowly becoming a possibility.

We are slowly mapping the areas missing, but if we secure the areas in yellow we start limiting the capacity of the owners of the remaining area to develop their land.   The biodiversity of this area is gaining protected ground and has a good chance to be protected forever.    We feel this is the most important contribution we can make.”

Bridging the gap in REGUA forest
Bridging the gap in REGUA forest (© Nicholas Locke)



Swallow-tailed Cotinga

Alan Martin, Sue Healey, Raquel and I went to visit Lila, a friend of REGUA who lives in the area of Macae de Cima.   This is a higher altitude area where our visitors go to see species which can be accessed more easily here than on REGUA land.

Reinaldo, Lila’s bird guide  told us to look out for Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the nest in the garden.

Swallow-tailed Cotinga
Swallow-tailed Cotinga (© Nicholas Locke)

It took a while of peering through the mist, but Alan eventually found the nest and we spent the rest of the day observing the care that the parents bestowed on their ravenous young.   The Swallow-tailed Cotinga (Phibalura flavirostris) is a species endemic to the South-East Brazil Atlantic Forest and is immediately identifiable by its ‘swallow-tail’ feathers and black and yellow speckled plumage – hence the word ‘flavirostris’.

These are not common birds and all the bird watchers that come to these shores are anxious to see one.    The higher altitude areas give a greater chance to see them, usually high in the canopy where they forage for fruit.    They have also been seen in groups on Pico Caledonia and this sighting was especially significant for it’s rare to find them on their nest.

The nests are built on branch forks and although they appear delicate they must be quite firmly in place as they are often subject to strong winds and survive.

The birds alternated looking after their young, with one brooding whilst the other headed off to find food for the chicks. The wind and drizzle tested their perseverance and determination but they continued to feed their young all day.

The interesting feature was the colouring of one of the adults. It appeared very dark and we were puzzled with its lack of its distinctive yellow chin. Does anyone have an idea as why this bird is so dark?

Nicholas Locke

Ian Loyd Volunteer

Ian Loyd spent 3 months volunteering at REGUA as an assistant bird guide.   Ian also wished to gain valuable experience in ecotourism and to immerse himself in a conservation project doing its best to save and raise awareness for a forgotten forest (the Mata Atlantica) which is a home for some of the highest levels of biodiversity on earth.

Ian at the Waterfall
Ian at the Waterfall (©: Ian Loyd)

During three months at the reserve he spent most of his time showing the guests around the many trails and habitats of the reserve to try and find them some of the most exciting birds and wildlife that can be seen in the reserve.

Ian sums up his experiences:
“I had great pleasure in guiding a mix of visitors from different areas of the world and I found almost every day I would see either a new species or different behaviour. The guests varied greatly in both their level of knowledge and type of interest, in my time I encountered beginners and very experienced birders reaching 6000 species on their life list. Photographers, general naturalists, and enthusiasts for other taxonomic groups. As a volunteer guide, you needed patience, tact, and understanding of the wishes of guests, in addition to as much identification knowledge as possible.”

New Forest Trail

REGUA is always eager to establish an exciting new trail for visitors to enjoy.   The Anil Valley looks to be a good find.   Only an hour’s drive away from the reserve, the lowland area had been studied by Igor Camacho, one of REGUA’s bird guides, for several years whilst doing his biology degree.

Plain-winged Woodcreeper
Plain-winged Woodcreeper (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

He has found many species there including, Yellow-green Grosbeak, White-tailed Trogon and Pale-browed Treehunter as well as the enigmatic Little Tinamou which had been hunted almost to extinction.

On the way there is also a site where it is possible to see Buff-necked Ibis.   This sounded exciting and Nicholas and Raquel Locke decided to visit the area.   The forest path started at 80 metres above sea level and provides easy walking.   A most promising start as Black hawk-eagle was spotted soaring above.   Very soon a bird flock was found which contained Pale-browed Treehunter – which looks like the Streaked Xenops without an upturned bill.

A little further along the forest path Thrush-like Schiffornis called, whilst further on Rufous-capped Anthrush displayed on the ground.  The Yellow-green Grosbeak, associated with quality forest, fed in the low canopy.   A Bare throated Bellbird called and was found easily, a giant of a bird not too far away and intent on making his presence heard.

The species that are normally associated with quality forest are all here and what a pleasure to find them so close by.   Adilei – REGUA’s local bird guide – returned a couple of days later to walk the same path and took some fine shots of the White-tailed Trogon, surprisingly uncommon on the REGUA reserve,  yet common here.    Adilei saw the endemic Thrush-like Woodcreeper as well as the Yellow-green Grosbeak.  He also photographed White-bellied Tanager another great bird to see.

White-bellied Tanager
White-bellied Tanager (© Adilei de Carvalho da Cunha)

With such a positive start, REGUA hopes to add this to the off-site programme, once several more surveys have been carried out.    Hopefully this will prove to be a popular destination for guests.

Nicholas Locke

What’s in a name? by Ken Sutton, Volunteer Bird Guide

The REGUA bird list continues to increase steadily and even before one arrives, the list fascinates.   Just reading the names whets the appetite.    Where have these names come from and what do they mean?

Perhaps the smartest names are those with classical allusions.   The unobtrusive Xenops seems designed for an enthusiastic scramble player (beginners at the game presumably only manage Ani). In fact the name refers to its nest (xeno meaning strange).   Sirystes (a flycatcher), may sound like a skin complaint but in fact it means piping.   The magnificent nests of the oropendola are quite rightly reflected in its name.

Boat-billed Flycatcher
Boat-billed Flycatcher (©Ken Sutton)

Other birds’ names are onomatopoeic. The Kiskadee bellows out its name repeatedly – and this distinguishes it from the similar Boat-billed Flycatcher (which does not say “boat-billed flycatcher”) and whose bill does not much resemble a boat.

The problem of course is that none of the cuckoos sound remotely like their European cousin (whose call is onomatopoeic) but are lumped with an onomatopoeic name.   The majority of birds are described by reference to physical features and are well named. The Flame-crested Tanager for example, but why is the Southern Beardless Tyrannulet named after a feature it does not possess?    After all there is no “Southern Bearded Tyrannulet” and almost all birds lack beards (except of course the White-bearded Manakin) but none are designated by this deficiency.    The Ruby-crowned Tanager needs carefully to part its hair to show any colour at all.

Sometimes these names preserve words in the language which might otherwise disappear.    You do not generally hear ferruginous (as in pygmy owl) in everyday speak, though it does sound rather splendid.   Fuscous (flycatcher) or rufescent (tiger-heron) are similarly scarce in everyday conversation.

Black-capped Donacobius (© Ken Sutton)
Black-capped Donacobius (© Ken Sutton)

Patronymic names as in Bertoni’s Antbird and Such’s Antthrush commemorate distinguished ornithologists although if a bird is to be so named it may prefer not to have been discovered by Herr Sick (Sick’s Swift).    The Schiffornis, in truth an unexciting species, gets the best of both worlds, being literally Mr Schiff’s bird.

Despite this variety in derivation, one bird, in the modern cliche just what it says on the tin, it’s the excellent Firewood Gatherer.

So what of donacobius, a rather splendid bird?   It’s name means ‘marsh dweller’, and rather appropriate that is too

Ken Sutton

Black-fronted Piping-guan Re-introduction project update

Black-fronted Piping-guan
Black-fronted Piping-guan (© Nicholas Locke)

In October 2015, the first 20 Black-fronted Piping Guan (Aburria jacutinga) will be released at REGUA, the fruit of a partnership between REGUA and Birdlife International’s Brazilian partner SAVE Brazil , a project supported by Brazil’s cosmetic giant “O Boticário”.

This stunning Guan was discovered by German ornithologist Johann von Spix in 1819 in his travels in Rio state, not 50 km from REGUA.    Even in 1837 Charles Gardner described their abundance in the same place describing the hunting of the species by locals.    Noted Brazilian ornithologist Helmut Sick still noted local presence in 1915 in the Serra dos Órgãos but by 1950, but sadly not even two hundred years after their discovery, they were extinct in Rio State.

Although REGUA released 20 birds in a trial in 2009, the project will be the first major concerted effort to get the birds back in nature in its home ground.

The birds for release will be sourced from renowned captive breeders, Institute Tropicus. Adolescent birds will be transported to North Fluminense University ( UENF) for full veterinary health checks and final preparation for release under the care of Dr. Carlos Ruiz Miranda, before arriving at REGUA this coming October.

Doctorate student Livia who completed her master at REGUA will monitor the birds with radio tags as a means to learn this species’ behavior in the wild.   The subsequent generated information will help understand the needs of the species and with further releases in the next two years, followed by two years of further monitoring, it is hopeful that with this effort and knowledge, the birds will provide the basis for an initial population of the species in the forests of Rio de Janeiro

Everyone is very excited and the release pen at REGUA is currently being refurbished in their preparation.

Nicholas Locke

New Land Purchase

REGUA is delighted to announce that two parcels of land, amounting to 52 hectares were secured this week to add to the reserve.   The area is known as Lagoinha and lays east of REGUA between the reserve and the Paraiso reserve “aka” the Primatology reserve.

This valley of almost 700 hectares has been occupied by families for close to a century, cultivating bananas and cassava.    Many sharecroppers have lived here but the soil is now impoverished and the profit and productivity have slowly dwindled prompting the families to leave.    The children inheriting these parcels of land often prefer to sell and divide the proceeds rather than retain the land.

Jorge, Solange, Nicholas and Messias all very happy with the outcome

Often developers come in to buy these parcels of land with an eye on building houses and profits.   Sensing this as a potential danger to the integrity of the forested land, REGUA has been working on land ownership, mapping and fundraising to acquire these parcels in as they come onto the market, hopefully avoiding the developers interest.

REGUA has already purchased seven parcels of land of varying sizes and these latest acquisitions were important to strengthen the protection in this area.

In first the case local landowner, Jorge, had owned a parcel of land for over 50 years.   Growing bananas for most of this time, the land had become exhausted and he agreed to sell his parcel of 34 hectares after almost six months negotiation.   As he and his wife Solange have no dependents they intend to buy a small house in the city.   The second parcel of land was owned by Mauricio who sold his homestead (including his house) comprising 14 hectares; an area he has owned for 10 years. He will be moving to a farm which he owns in a less rural area.

REGUA intends to allow the forest to return naturally one Jorge’s land and use the house, which can be doubled up for research or tourism.   Slowly REGUA continues to consolidate this crucial area, guaranteeing a forested corridor for nature.   With more land to purchase, every donation is vital to help secure this area for the future.

Nicholas Locke