Our multi-national group (4 from UK, 3 from Holland,
1 from France and 1 from USA) all met together at Rio de Janeiro airport after travelling from
their own countries. Most of us had never seen each other before but that was
not a problem as the Parrot theme of the trip was going to bring us all
together as a team.
airport our driver, Alcenir, was ready to transport ourselves and our luggage
the 2 and a bit hours due northeast to our destination for the next 12 days,
REGUA (Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu). I had been to Regua on a number of
occasions including carrying out a parrot survey in 2007, so I knew everyone
would love the place.
Regua is a NGO (non-governmental
organisation) reserve registered as a charity in Brazil located in the Guapi Assu
valley occupying some 7000 hectares of land from 30 metres above sea level to
2000m above sea level in the Atlantic Rainforest. The Atlantic rainforest is a
shadow of its former glory as only 6 to 7 % (about 100,000 km2 including
remnants, 2005) of the original 1,477,500 km2 (in the 1500ís) remains so Regua
is essential for the continuance of the rainforest and all its dependant flora
and fauna. The land is very diverse in its habitats ranging from wetlands,
lowland and highland secondary forests to primary forest with bamboo thickets,
waterfalls, caves and open areas at every level. What was former cleared land
for agriculture is now being gradually reforested at the rate of about 18000
trees per year having 7 full time rangers (mostly ex-hunters) patrolling the
whole reserve and an education system being spread through the local
communities with a result that there appears to be negligible hunting/poaching.
This in turn has an affect on the neighbours of Regua who are signing up to the
concept of Regua or preferring to sell their land to Regua rather than the Rio
people looking for a country house (even though the Rio people are offering
Our hosts Nicholas and Raquel Locke greeted
us as we reached the lodge which sleeps 15 people with air conditioned
bedrooms, spacious common areas and a small swimming pool, sitting on a small
hill over-looking the wetland area with the mountains covered in forest beyond,
The garden feeders and plant life attract
numerous birds, Brazilian, Sayaca, Burnished-Buff and Green Headed Tanagers,
Violaceous Euphonia, Saffron Finch, Yellow Headed Caracara, as well as the
humble House Sparrow not to mention the constant buzzing around of the
Hummingbirds Ė Swallow Tailed, Black Jacobin, Planalto Hermit and some mammals
although these (the mammals) mostly visit at night.
Once we had settled into our rooms we had
some lunch, the first of many fantastic meals prepared by our 2 excellent
After an initial exploration around the
lodge gardens we went on our first sample of the wetland areas with all the
wildlife associated with it including Capybara, the worlds largest rodent, and
Caiman Crocodiles. The bird life included Wattled Jacanas, Rufescent Tiger
Herons, White Faced and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Brazilian Teal, Cattle,
Snowy and Great Egrets, Least Grebe, and Masked Ducks. There is a large bird
hide where we sat in the shade some 5 or 6 metres above the ground taking in
all the other birds and scenery. Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-Headed
Vultures as well as Crested Caracara, the occasional Savannah and Roadside
Hawks as well as other Hawks, Falcons and Kites flew over in search of a meal.
No Parrots today but a general settling in
to our new environment although Orange Winged Amazons sometimes roost in the
nearby bamboo thickets and several pairs of Blue Winged Parrotlets have been
seen nesting in termite mounds on trees next to the wetland area.
Regua has in excess of 450 bird species of
which 12 are parrots Blue Winged Macaw (Primolius maracana), White Eyed
Conure (Aratinga leucopthalmus), Maroon Bellied Conure (Pyrrhura
frontalis), Blue Winged Parrotlet (Forpus crassirostris), Plain
Parakeet (Brotogeris tirica), Brown Backed Parrotlet (Touit
melanonotus), Golden Tailed Parrotlet (Touit surdus), Pileated
Parrot (Pionopsitta pileata), Scaly Headed Pionus (Pionus maximiliani),
Orange Winged Amazon (Amazona amazonica), Blue Fronted Amazon (Amazona
aestiva) and Blue Bellied Parrot (Triclaria malachitacea). I have
seen 10 of the species of parrot in all the time I have been coming to Regua
missing out on the Brown Backed Parrotlet and the Blue Fronted Amazon although
the Blue Front is a new addition to the list (early 2008) and the Brown Backed
is extremely illusive although I have a book in place at the lodge for visitors
to put down their parrot sightings so I can build up a fuller picture of when
the parrots visit or if they are permanent inhabitants.
Day 2 proved to be more productive on the
parrot front with pairs of Blue Winged Parrotlets and Maroon Bellied Conures as
well as a large group of Plain Parakeets. We were now at a place called
Waldenoors a newly acquired block of land, connected to the existing reserve,
that has proved to be a haven for Parrots, a place I intend surveying a lot
more on future visits. We watched the Plain Parakeets eating the seeds from one
of the Inga trees. Their camouflage would not have given them away, it was
their voices as they communicated between the group, but still difficult to
find in the leafy trees.
Once again as in all the areas we visited
lots and lots of other bird life, including the spectacular Suracua Trogan
here, that we were able to observe and have time to photo and video.
After lunch we packed essentials for a 2
night camp in the rainforest and duly set off in the landrover to the other
side of the reserve getting as far up the trail before having to load up with
all the equipment for a camping expedition. It was a 3-hour trek before we came
across the small clearing where we would set up the tents. The rangers helped
us with the majority of the heavy lifting going back to the vehicle and up to
camp several times within the time it took us to travel there the once. We had
to cross one relatively large river en-route, which is where the teamwork of
the whole group really pulled together. It was humid and hot and we were all
looking forward to a great experience. I had camped here before and had seen 93
sightings of Parrots in one day with several good sightings of the Blue Bellied
Parrot including 1 occasion where a male Blue Bellied ate an entire bromeliad
flower right next to the camp site but fairly high in the tree. We watched him
for about 40 minutes all the time the female was seen now and again keeping her
distance but he seemed to be interested in us as well as the bromeliad. I had
also had very good sightings of a group of Woolly Spider Monkeys and a Howler
Monkey actually slept in a tree right above the tents. I was hoping this visit
was going to be as fruitful in sightings but unfortunately it rained most of
the time we were there. Well I suppose there is a clue in the title of this
place Atlantic Rainforest.
Needless to say we still saw many birds and
we did hear the Blue Bellied Parrots at least 3 times which was encouraging to
know they were around and Scaly Headed Parrots where seen flying over head. We
came across a Tiger Rat Snake on one of the walks that we did at these higher
elevations and he was not going to let us past. Tiger Rat Snakes are not
poisonous but can give a nasty bite so we stayed clear. There are snakes in the
Rainforest but most tend to keep out of the way unless you specifically look
for them which is what one of the volunteers at Regua was doing therefore we
saw more snakes than you would normally as he showed us where to look.
After 2 nights camping we decided to make
the trip back to relative civilisation (namely the lodge) walking down a
different route. Our camping equipment was left behind for the rangers to
retrieve later and to make it lighter work for us taking the sometimes very
steep slippery trail back to Casa Pesquisa where our transport had been
arranged to take us back to the lodge. This trek down took about 6 hours passing
across 2 very swollen rivers and crossing the path of a huge waterfall. With
the extra water from the rains the waterfall looked stunning, I had never seen
it like this before. Everybody enjoyed the camping trip immensely with all the
sights and sounds of the Forest but most where relieved to get back to have a
shower and proper clean up at the lodge.
Our next day we took it a little steadier
by going on a walk around the back of the lodge through some bamboo thickets
past the nursery where trees are grown from the seeds collected in and around
the forest for eventual re-planting in the reserve. There are usually 60,000 +
trees in various stages of growth. In the bamboo was a large group of
These amazing inquisitive small monkeys have been seen in the trees
around the lodge. Also seen were 3 Tropical Screech Owls as well as the usual
Tanagers. This trail takes you right round the back of the wetlands so we came
back through the wetlands to the lodge for lunch.
While we were on this walk Alcenir had gone
to the airport to pick up Rosemary Low who was joining us for the rest of the
trip. That afternoon we went around the wetlands again but this time at our own
pace although our guide Adelei was there to show us anything we had missed
which was usually most things for there is very little that gets past Adelei.
He used to be a hunter on Regua land following in his fatherís footsteps but
converted to be a ranger and ultimately a guide with an incredible amount of
knowledge on the wildlife that is in the area. He does not speak much English
apart from knowing all the birdsí names in English but he spends lots of time
with you and you get to see lots of things that you would never see on your
That evening we had a presentation from
Christine Steiner a Brazilian involved in the release and study of Red Billed
Curassows into the wild in the reserve. A spectacular achievement. Prior to
this reintroduction these Curassows had become extinct in Rio de Janeiro state.
They are birds that are a similar size to a turkey making them very suitable
for the dinner plate for the natives in the past. Hopefully not for the future
as Christine involves the local communities in the development of this project.
Sunday morning was a trip to a different
wetland area on the reserve with a walk back to the lodge via the River Guapi
Assu and the avenue of bromeliad covered trees where all types of birds are
found. The afternoon was a Barbecue followed by a game of Croquette on the
lawns of the lodge
Sumidouro was the next dayís destination. A
trip outside of the reserve in fact the other side of the mountains an area of
very few trees but with lots of surprises. Along the lane a pair of Blue Winged
Macaws have been nesting in a palm tree in the past but this year the tree had
gone, however we were rewarded with a fly over of several pairs of Blue Winged
Macaws. This lane is also a guaranteed site for the Three-Toed Jacamar, which
was there again on this trip. Toco Toucans were also seen and we watched them
drinking from the centre of a tree for some time.
We also went to a nearby area
at Duas Barros and while we were watching a lizard on a wall the distinct calls
of White Eyed Conures came from a group just landing on a wooden house on the
opposite side of the road. They were very receptive to our requests for photos
as they went onto chewing the telephone cables to the house.
The following day we went on the Grey
trail, a mid elevation trail, where I have seen Pileated Parrots eating the
fruits from the Heart of Palms (Euterpe edulis) and they allowed me to
watch them for 1 and a half hours.
The next 3 days would be trips away from
the reserve but coming back to the lodge each evening always accompanied by our
driver and at least one guide usually Adelei.
The coast was first on the agenda; Cabo
Frio is 2 hours away from Regua with a variety of birds different to what we
had seen already. On the sea front we saw Brown Booby and Magnificent Frigate
Birds swooping along the cliff edges while we were watching out for the Orange
Winged Amazons that use the islands just off the coast as a roost. Guira
Cuckoos were being their usual mischievous selves flitting in and out of the
Cactus. Meanwhile the endemic Restinga Antwren responded to the tape recordings
our guide played. There are some salt flats nearby where Great Egrets, Blue and
Striated Herons, and Roseate Spoonbills frequent as well as Whistling Ducks and
This was followed by a 2 part trip the
first taking us to Serra dos Tucanos, another bird lodge run by Cristina and
Andy Foster. This lodge being at a different altitude 320 metres above sea
level. He has lots of bird feeders and a hide in his garden with a multitude of
birds coming down to feed.
Spot Billed Toucanets, the logo for Serra dos
Tucanos, both male and female hopped about the trees as well as lots of
Tanagers including the bright red Brazilan Tanager, even a Blond Crested
Woodpecker and Saffron Toucanets (bright yellow birds), although the latter
stayed at some distance but we still had good views.
The parrots did not let us
down either there were Maroon Bellied Conures and Plain Parakeets coming down
for the bananas and with a bit of patience we were able to get within 4 metres
of them taking really close-up shots with the cameras. In the distance on top
of the ridgeline there were Scaly Headed Pionus, I have never found these
parrots very approachable in the Atlantic Rainforest whereas the subspecies in
the Pantanal lets you in extremely close.
After lunch we went to Macae de Cima to
another private garden at 1300 metres above sea level, our hosts here David and
Izabel Miller. We had stopped en-route to marvel at the hanging nests of the
Crested Oropendola and listen to its electronic sounding call.
and Izabelís place had its own marvels in the way of a continuous activity of
hummingbirds from Amethyst Woodstar to Brazilian Ruby, lots of different
species in great numbers. I have also seen Pileated Parrot and Maroon Bellied
Conures here and more recently the Brown Backed Parrotlets have been making an
appearance. David has written several books about the Orchids of the Atlantic
Rainforest and is very knowledgeable about all nature in general, which makes
it a delight to engage him in conversation.
The next day would be Serra dos Orgaoes a
national park located on the outskirts of Rio near to Teresopolis. Our guide
here was Leonardo, an equally accomplished guide but able to speak English. The
park is in a very tranquil setting with a boardwalk taking through you part of
the canopy at one place. It was here that we saw Pileated Parrots flying over.
Maroon Bellied Conures were also around.
After Serra dos Orgaoes we went to a small
service station down the mountains where there is a restaurant and fruit shop.
The fruit shop puts old fruit onto raised feeders behind the shops which you
can observe from either the shop windows looking down onto them or by going
around the back you can stand on a loading platform that brings you almost
level with them. As you can imagine lots of birds and sometimes Squirrels are
very active here including numerous Maroon Bellied Conures and Plain Parakeets
and this time was no exception with as many as 30 Plain Parakeets seen on one
of the feeding platforms at any one
time. It was amazing to see the Saffron Toucanets so close up this time (all 7
or 8 of them) and for some time.
On our way back to our lodge we took a
different route, past some fish farms and usual Egrets, Herons and Neotopical
Cormorants were seen. We also encountered Burrowing Owls and the stunning White
Our last day at Regua saw us going up to
Casa Anibel on the reserve. These are the remnants of a small house from the
days when these slopes were used as a banana plantation, the remains of which
many birds take advantage of including numerous Parrots. I have seen very large
groups, in excess of 200, here. Maroon Bellied Conures, Blue Winged Parrotlets,
Plain Parakeets, Scaly Headed Pionus (again these were on the distant ridgeline) and some of the Amazons. I
usually set up a hide screen at the Casa and it is then possible to photo
Tanagers close up as well as the amazing tiny hummingbird the Frilled Coquette
with raised red frill on its head.
that afternoon was a case of winding down and packing our bags as the time at
Regua drew to an end but it also meant the thoughts of anticipation for our
next destination on this trip, the Pantanal.
We saw 7 species of Parrot, at Regua, as
well as over 150 species of birds but most of all we had a feeling of great satisfaction knowing that we
had taken part in a conservation project that is working exceptionally well and
the eco-tourism that we were contributing to plays a big part in its