Tuesday 16 October 2012


Our Brazil trip in August 2012 had two main wildlife destinations: the Pantanal (see below in previous posts) and REGUA, a beautiful reserve in the Atlantic Rainforest. Here is a view of the REGUA wetland, created by damming a stream as part of a project to increase the wildlife interest. Much of the reserve was originally forest, then converted to cattle pasture, and now back to forest again thanks to huge tree-planting efforts by the Locke family and staff and volunteers. In the background are the beautiful mountains of Serra dos Orgaos.   

Among the many birds to inhabit the wetland is the Capped Heron, a rather solitary species that spends time patiently fishing among the water-lilies. Here are also many White-faced Whistling-Duck, Purple Gallinules and a small herd of Capybara. A huge roost of Cattle Egrets is also a picturesque sight, but is causing a problem of eutrophication in the wetland: too many nutrients from their droppings have removed oxygen from the water and algal blooms are resulting.

Guapi Assu Lodge is only a few metres away from the wetland, and is a very comfortable place to stay. It is an old converted and extended farmhouse, which in fact gives its name to the reserve. REGUA stands for Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu. Feeders in the garden attract hummingbirds, tanagers, and troupes of White-tufted (or Common) Marmosets. The staff are especially friendly, and the atmosphere is like staying with a family in their home. 

There is an excellent trail system around REGUA which offer the possibility of watching many bird species endemic to the Atlantic rainforest. On the beautiful Waterfall Trail, we came a cross a Black-cheeked Gnateater, the first member of that family I had ever seen. As so often with rainforest species, we heard it before we saw it: the male uttered a high-pitched trill, which sounds something like dragging a thumbnail across the teeth of a comb. REGUA has two excellent bird-guides, Adilei and Leo, who know all the calls and thereby help visitors see much more. One morning, Adilei guided us round the wetland and lodge area, where he somehow managed to find us (among many other sightings) a well-camouflaged Three-toed Sloth.

On the Wetland Trail and at Macae de Cima Leo guided us. Macae de Cima is an area two hours away from REGUA, up in the Serra dos Orgaos mountains. Here's a shot of Leo, recording all the species (by their scientific names) in his notebook. I have been lucky enough to work alongside many extremely skilled ornithological guides since I started guiding in 1977, and I found Leo was up there with the best of them. Here we were at about 1,000 metres above sea level, exploring the cloud forest.

At the top of the track at Macae de Cima is a beautiful house, which belonged to an English naturalist and orchid-collector, David Miller, who sadly died recently. As we ate our picnics in the garden, we watched the hummingbirds at the feeders such as this White-throated Hummingbird. There were also Brazilian Rubies, Scale-throated Hermits, and two tiny Amethyst Woodstars, not much larger than a bumblebee, and each weighing 2.4 grams. For comparison, a British 1p coin weighs 4 grams. We very much hope that this wonderful area, rich in cotingas, trogons, furnarids, tyrant-flycatchers and many other bird families, will continue to be protected and accessible to all wildlife enthusiasts. 

Back at the lodge, a mercury vapour light is left on to attract moths - a great attraction also for our son Douglas. He took these photos (and hundreds of others) at dawn before the House Wrens and Tropical Kingbirds came round to seek their lepidopteran breakfasts. 

A book on the hawk-moths of Serra dos Orgaos has recently been published, co-authored by Jorge Bizarro. Jorge works at REGUA and spent time showing Douglas the moths and 
other insects of the area. 

Most of these wonderfully patterned creatures, so different from the well-studied European moth species, do not yet possess English names. Dragonflies too are being studied at the REGUA wetland. A friend of mine from the Welsh borders is about to volunteer there for three months, escaping the British winter in the furtherance of Brazilian insect biology!

Our three full days and two half-days in and around REGUA came to a close much too quickly. Many thanks to all the staff and volunteers who helped us enjoy ourselves. Next time, we hope for a longer visit!