For many birders visiting REGUA, Giant Snipe is near the top of the list of target birds. REGUA is one of the best sites for these large, mainly nocturnal waders, with birds often showing down to just a few metres! A few years ago Giant Snipe could be seen at the REGUA wetland, but with the grassy areas here now replanted, birds are easier to find in pasture just outside the reserve. Giant Snipe are most vocal, and are therefore easier to find, between July and December, when they display by calling overhead (they are very difficult outside of this period). Joining a guided excursion from the lodge to one of several known feeding grounds at dusk or dawn is essential, where Barn Owl and Spot-tailed Nightjar are also possible.
|Giant Snipe Gallinago undulata, REGUA wetland, November 2008. REGUA is one|
of the best sites for these large nocturnal waders, however, they are almost
impossible to locate if they are not calling.
The Wetland Trail provides the easiest night-birding at REGUA. Beginning just a few minutes walk from the lodge, the trail is easy, not too long (2.8 km), and (since November 2011) well marked with yellow posts every 50 m. The main targets here are Tawny-browed Owl, Striped Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, Common Potoo and Scissor-tailed Nightjar. Allow at least two hours to walk the whole trail.
Tawny-browed Owl is usually found in the larger trees by the Conservation Centre but sometimes perch up in the cecropias around the volunteer accommodation at the very start of the trail (as well as in the lodge garden). Also try the forest edge around post 1400. Common Potoo can be found anywhere along the trail, but especially between posts 900 and 1750 - scan the tops of any bare trees, and from post 1450 to 1740 can sometimes be good for Striped Owl. Scissor-tailed Nightjar prefer the less wooded areas - from post 1600 onwards, scan the hillsides with a torch to pick birds up in flight and eye-shine of perched birds, and at post 1900 carefully scan the ground to the right, where birds can often be found. Barn Owl are sometimes seen hunting over the more open areas (although as the replanted trees mature they are becoming less frequent, and the fields just outside the reserve main entrance are a much more reliable spot nowadays), and occasionally also Short-tailed Nighthawk and Spot-tailed Nightjar. Tropical Screech-Owl and Pauraque can be found anywhere along the trail.
|Striped Owl Asio clamator, REGUA wetland, November 2008. Imagine a |
Long-eared/Short-eared Owl hybrid!
|Male Scissor-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis torquata, REGUA wetland, July 2010.|
Although the reforestation at the wetland is now become quite mature, this
species can still be found around the remaining scrubby hillsides.
|Tropical Screech-Owl Megascops choliba, Forest Trail, adjacent to the REGUA|
wetland, July 2011. This species prefers forest edge habitats and can be seen
anywhere around the wetland.
It is worth keeping your eyes peeled for a variety of mammals around the wetland at night. You should encounter plenty of Capybara, and at dusk Fishing Bats appear in good numbers over the larger bodies of open water. Common Grey Four-eyed Opossum and South-eastern Common Opossum are often seen, and if you're lucky you might glimpse a Nine-banded Armadillo or Paca crossing the trail. On a cautionary note, tracks of Puma and Ocelot (and other smaller cat species) are now being found very frequently on the Wetland Trail, and in 2011 some birding groups even heard Puma growling on the trail at night! Therefore, potentially you could encounter a Puma at night which might be dangerous, and therefore walking this trail at night in a group, preferably with a guide, is strongly recommended.
The 1.3 km Onofre Cunha Trail, located 3 km from the lodge, passes through a fragment of lowland humid evergreen forest. Over the last two years this trail has proven to be excellent for night-birding and in particular for allowing easy access to forest interior species such as Long-tailed Potoo, Black-capped Screech-Owl and Mottled Owl. Tawny-browed Owl, Common Potoo and Ferruginous Pigmy-Owl are frequently encountered, and an area of rough pasture at the end of the trail is worth trying for Giant Snipe, but the real prize here is Black-banded Owl, with a pair of birds in residence.
It is worth spending at least a couple of hours walking slowly along the trail listening for calls (use recordings/playback very sparingly as the birds soon get wise to them (plus using recordings/playback as little as possible is to be encouraged to reduce any adverse effect on the birds) and keeping an eye out for birds perched up quietly beside the trail. I’ve often picked up Black-banded Owls just by scanning with a torch or even finding them perched up in trees over the trail, and once a Mottled Owl flew in and landed just a few metres from me (without any encouragement from recordings) while I was looking for a calling Long-tailed Potoo! In my experience, the last few hours of dark before dawn are best, and birds are seemingly more vocal on clear moonlit nights.
|Black-banded Owl Strix huhula, Onofre Cunha Trail, December 2011.|
Birds in the Atlantic Forest are a unique subspecies S. albomarginata.
(Photo by Nicholas Locke)
|Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana, Onofre Cunha Trail, May 2010.|
This species is endemic to the Atlantic Forest where it replaces the widespread
Spectacled Owl Pulsatrix perspicillata. There are good numbers at REGUA.
For the Onofre Cunha Trail, hiring one of REGUA's bird guides is strongly recommended. Transport is required to reach the trail head from the lodge (although I guess you could walk at a push), and the entrance to the trail is very difficult to find. It is usually Adilei who will accompany you and he knows the best spots for all the birds.
We've only scratched the surface as far as birding at night at REGUA is concerned. The reserve is huge and most of the forest interior remains unexplored at night. The Near-threatened Rusty-barred Owl is probably present at higher elevations, the mysterious Ocellated Poorwill is possible in the forest interior and surely Great Horned Owl is waiting to be found in the more open habitats? Even relatively well-explored areas continue to yield surprises. In July, RJ state's third Stygian Owl was found at the wetland, and there have been several records of Nacunda Nighthawk from just outside the reserve.
|Black-capped or Variable Screech-Owl Megascops atricapilla, Waterfall Trail, |
November 2008. This Atlantic Forest endemic is only found in forest interiors.
Many thanks to Nicholas Locke for permission to use his photo of Black-banded Owl.