Tag Archives: Volunteers

A Birding treat for our volunteer bird guides

Volunteer bird guides Wes, Jerome and Clive have worked hard in supporting Adilei (our resident guide) in guiding our guests over the last two months and they deserved a well-earned break.    A window of opportunity presented itself with a few days without guests and I suggested a trip to the southern area of Pereque, Ubatuba and Itatiaia, where we might find some new birds.

We left early one morning and in spite of the rain, we saw our two most wanted species Black-hooded Antwren, and Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant.   These species have a tiny distribution, and Pereque which is located at sea level is one reliable area to see them.    The latter species has been seen at REGUA, but is by no means a regular sighting.

Our three fantastic Bird Guides
Our three fantastic Bird Guides (© Nicholas Locke)

We steamed off for Ubatuba to prepare ourselves for the next day.    Leaving early for our hotel we birded the renowned Fazenda Angelim where we had great views of Ferruginous Antbird,  Buff-throated Purpletuft and Spotted Bamboowren, all equally challenging species.

The afternoon saw us at the Sitio de Jonas.   This is a world famous spot for hummingbirds with sixteen species possible.    Mr Jonas retired from a job in Sao Paulo city and is now feeding hundreds of hummingbirds – using over 4kg of sugar daily!    The two species everyone wants to see are Festive Coquette and Sombre Hummingbird.    We had great views of both species and with time available, headed up to Engenheiro Passos to spend the night in a magnificent hotel visited by the Emperor Don Pedro himself over 100 years ago.

Needless to say the birding along the first six kilometers of the road leading to Mount Itatiaia was just amazing.    The road is easy to bird, the species kept popping up and the guides just kept finding new species.    Red-breasted Toucan, Red-breasted Warbling-finch, Thick-billed Saltator, Golden-winged Cacique, Plovercrest, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo , Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Olivaceous Elaenia and Black-capped Piprytes were all seen here.

Black Hawk-eagle
Black Hawk-eagle (© Nicholas Locke)

With Black Hawk-eagle at the higher areas we also added Araucaria Tit-Spinetail and the Itatiaia Spinetail amongst many-many other species, everyone was left deeply impressed. Wes patiently called in the spectacular Speckled-breasted Antpitta, and we craned our necks to get a view within the tangled undergrowth – a joy that left us all enraptured.
Finally, we arrived to spend the night at the Ipé hotel and in the evening still had a chance to see Buffy-fronted Seedeater, a nesting Blue-winged Macaw, Magpie Tanager at the feeders and before turning in, Tawny-browed Owl.

The following day, an early start once again, and we had Robust Woodpecker flying into the mist   During the course of day we had magnificent views of the Large-headed Flatbill, White-throated Spadebill, with more Buffy-fronted seedeaters all around chirping in the high canopy whilst they fed on bamboo.   Brown Tanager, Brown-breasted Bamboo-tyrant and Drab-breasted Bamboo-tyrant, Lesser Woodcreeper, Slaty Bristlefront, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Star-throated Antwren were all seen here and finally after a tough climb through the bamboo undergrowth we found White-bearded Antshrike.

Black-hooded Antwren
Black-hooded Antwerp (© Nicholas Locke)

Soon it was time to return to  REGUA – a thoroughly tired but satisfied group.

Well done everybody!

Nicholas Locke

Volunteer Bird Guides

The REGUA conservation project attracts bird guides from around the world.   People interested in spending prolonged periods of time studying birds in the area, and showing them to our visitors.    REGUA’s volunteer co-ordinator, Rachel Walls, receives applications and arranges to interview the candidates.

REGUA has established itself on the world circuit and most birders staying at the lodge wish to see as many birds as possible of the daunting list of 464 species registered to date.

Taking advantage of REGUA’s student research accommodation facilities, volunteer birders are happy to accompany the groups of guests staying at REGUA.   The guides have heard of our resident guide, Adilei’s, field skills and once at REGUA can share on-site and off-site excursions accompanying the visitors.    This is the best opportunity to see and study the birds.

Wes Omotya
Wes Omotya (©Nicholas Locke)

Volunteer bird guides Wes and Jerome are such examples and after a couple of months at REGUA are just awesome in the field.    Wes is a field biologist from Indiana, USA and has been a dedicated birder for many years – having specialized in Hawaiian birds.   Prior to arriving at REGUA, Wes volunteered at a lodge in Ecuador and is due to start work as a guide for Tropical Birding.     He is soft spoken and his field skills, perseverance and uncanny ability to find the shyest of birds is a pleasure to witness.    He has familiarised himself with all the birds at the reserve in record time and is now to embark on a tour of Western Australia.

Jerome is a passionate and accomplished bird guide who works in the summer to help fund his own research, and spends the rest of the year as a volunteer guide.    He has specialized in the avi-fauna of South America which he knows well.    Jerome also leads tours in Europe and being at REGUA was an opportunity to learn South Eastern Brazil Atlantic Rainforest species.   He specialises in vocalisations and as one may imagine after a couple of months at REGUA his knowledge of the difficult species calls is almost as good as that of Adilei.

Jerome Fisher
Jerome Fisher (© Nicholas Locke)

Jerome confided that his favourite family is Flycatchers. Though they are notoriously difficult to tell apart and seemingly plain, he sees their identification as a deliciously satisfying challenge and is happy to spend hours in the field recording the different calls and studying their habits.    His generous and tireless nature makes him great company and he is constantly looking at improving his collection of recordings that are uploaded regularly on the internet and readily available to those interested.
This is not the first time REGUA has been visited by expert guides and the benefits are clear to both parties.   It is nice to hear from the guides that aside the birds they see, they fully approve of what REGUA is doing in establishing the reserve and protecting bird habitat for the future.

Their energy, drive and interest, their recognition and support for Adilei , their appreciation of REGUA’s objectives make us thoroughly appreciate their visits.    We are certain they will remain passionate and can communicate that conservation is possible when it is undertaken in a serious and objective manner.

Thank you all for helping us!
If you want to volunteer at REGUA as bird guide, please contact Rachel Walls at volunteer@regua.org

Nicholas Locke

Animal Trail mapping by Katja

My name is Katja. I am 18 years old and I come from Frankfurt in Germany. I grew up in a family of naturalists and animal lovers.

Setting up the camera trap
Setting up the camera trap

My grandfather owns a property in Macae de Cima near to REGUA.    He specialises on a family of miniature orchids and is a co-author of a book on the orchids of the Sierra dos Orgaõs.   My father grew up stumbling over snakes on my grandfather’s land and became a recognised snake charmer himself.    He travels to Brazil because of its wonderful snake fauna and is very familiar with the well-known Jararaca.

Most of my family’s travelling led us to remote rural places in Europe and North America. Of course snake tracking is not only about snakes but other wildlife, landscape and nature in general also. On these trips exploring wilderness I fell in love with nature myself. I love to walk and explore natural places and take a closer look on whatever comes across.

In 2012 I passed through the gates of REGUA Reserve and from that moment I was determined to come back as a volunteer some day. REGUA is a very special place of immense beauty and breathtaking scenery. It is one of the very few places left one can still experience and explore almost undisturbed Atlantic forest.

Bothrops Jararaca
Bothrops Jararaca

In summer of 2015 I finished school with a focus on natural sciences and before starting university I felt this could be “some day” – although this four week trip will only serve as a glimpse into the Mata Atlantica habitat.

Volunteering at REGUA includes a project – a small scientific work. I decided to take a closer look at REGUA’s restored wetlands. Therefore I concentrated on the animal trails within and around the wetlands to find out which animals call the wetlands their home and which migrate to and from the wetlands on regular bases.

I will try to develop an “animal trail map”. Looking at animal trails means I will focus on the “big game” only. On the technical side I rely on two camera traps.

With only four weeks I understand that this work could only open a window for further work. But who knows… maybe I come back… some day?


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.”

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

Young Rangers prepare for Black-fronted Piping-Guan Re-introduction

Following on from the great news that a reintroduction programme for the Black-fronted Piping-guans (Aburria jacutinga) is to take place, the young rangers have been keen to find out more. The Black-fronted Piping-guans belong to the cracidae family (the same family as the Red-billed Curassow, the subject of an earlier re-introduction at REGUA) and they are very similar looking birds. The Black-fronted Piping-guans can be recognised by their white quiff, white spots on their wings and blue and red wattle.

Like all re-introduction programmes the re-introduction of the Black-fronted Piping-guans must be accompanied by an awareness programme, and who better to take the first step than REGUA’s Young Rangers.

Making Black-fronted Piping-guans
Making Black-fronted Piping-guan models

Various activities will be taking place; learning about the species, walks in the forest, art and craft activities.   One of the first exercises in getting to know about the Black-fronted Piping-guan was to make papier-mâché  models of the birds, using recycled newspaper and card.   The Young Rangers were supported in this by REGUA Volunteers Katerina Samara and Emma Louise Smith.

The eagerness and interest the youngsters have shown in the bird is a breeze of excitement about their arrival at the reserve.

Soon there will be a team of papier-mâché Black-fronted Piping-guans waiting to welcome their real-life counterparts back to nature.

Katerina Samara