30 March 2014

Spoonbill over Staines Moor: 30 March

A very pleasant afternoon at the patch today in hazy sun and a warm southerly wind, produced a really fantastic start to the spring. Even lady luck cracked a smile for once. Minutes after replacing my dead camera battery with a spare, an adult Eurasian Spoonbill flapped over the Moor heading east-south-east. I fired off a whole load of shots as it passed over, veering south slightly over the Moor before turning back east-south-east over KGVI. A few minutes after the bird had disappeared in the distance, the spare battery died! I'd often hoped for a fly-over Spoonbill so this bird has made my spring already! This is the third record for Staines Moor, following one from 27-28 September 1973 and one on 18 April 1997.

Eurasian Spoonbill over Staines Moor at 15:17, 30 March 2014 - the 3rd record for the Moor

Also recorded my first common summer migrants of the spring with 4 Sand Martin feeding over the Colne for an hour mid afternoon, 1 Green Sandpiper dropping onto the Colne early evening, 1 male Northern Wheatear around the anthills in the north-west corner this evening, 17(6H) Chiffchaff and 3(2H) Blackcap. Also logged were 1+ Redshank, 20 Northern Lapwing (including at least 4 displaying), 1+ Water Pipit (in summer plumage), 15-18 Common Snipe, 2 Red Kite (1 NE and 1 N), 2H Cetti's Warbler (1 Butts Pond, 1 NE corner), 7+ Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, 1 Kingfisher along the Colne, 3 Little Egret, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1+ Grey Heron, lots of displaying Meadow Pipit, several Skylark, 3 Coot back on the Colne (they disappear from Staines Moor in the winter), 8 Stock Dove and lots of Mallard (up to 35).

Four Sand Martins around the Colne for an hour mid afternoon were my first of the year

Some lepidoptera now out - 3 Comma, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2-4 Peacock, and 1 Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella. Also some Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis is now flowering.

Also noted were 2 Shelduck west over Stanwell Moor.

24 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 24 March

Our final day at REGUA. Birding from Amanda's Hide at the wetland in the afternoon produced 1 Anhinga, 2 Muscovy Duck, c7 Black-crowned Night-Heron, 1 Snowy Egret, 5 Great Egret over to roost, 1 Amazon Kingfisher, 1 Blond-crested Woodpecker and 4 Channel-billed Toucan. Elsewhere on the wetland a Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris was hauled out quite close to the bank, and from the tower, 1 Harris's Hawk, 4 Neotropic Cormorant and many Cattle Egret were noted flying into roost.

This is the first time I have visited REGUA in March. Not the best time of year for birds (although we still managed to see some of the REGUA specialities), but fairly good for insects and the moth wall has been very productive at times, especially after rain. I'd certainly like to visit in March again.

23 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 23 March

Spent the day birding the Waterfall Trail. A 1st year female Shrike-like Cotinga (around post 1500) and a Thrush-like Schiffornis (very unusual here) were the highlights, and good views were had of a White-necked Hawk (seen from the truck), singles of Plain Antvireo, Spot-billed Toucanet (male), Black-cheeked Gnateater (male), Red-necked Tanager, Black-goggled Tanager, Blue Manakin, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner and 1-2 Spot-backed Antshrike and 2+ Golden-crowned Warbler.

The dirt road from the lodge to Casa Pesquisa added 2 Whistling Heron, 1 Grey-breasted Martin, 2 Burrowing Owl, many Cattle Tyrant, and many Black Vulture feeding around a dead cow.

The moth wall was busy this morning after rain last night with many species photographed for future identification. Also, 5 Channel-billed Toucan, a pair of Violaceous Euphonia and a Variegated Flycatcher were logged in the lodge garden this morning.

A few pics on Peter Alfrey's blog.

22 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 22 March

A day of very heavy rain spent chilling on the veranda at the lodge. Photographed lots more unidentified moths at the moth wall, but the only sighting of note was 2 Curl-crested Jay in the lodge garden.

21 March 2014

Highland specialities at Pico da Caledônia, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 21 March

The day got off to a great start with a Saw-billed Hermit flying around the REGUA lodge dining area at breakfast! A new species for the lodge grounds for me, this forest-interior hummer appears to be moving into the area around the lodge now that the reforested areas are become more mature. It won't be long before these birds become a permanent part of the lodge garden avifauna.

Spent the day off reserve on one of the birding excursions run by REGUA to Pico da Caledônia (Mount Caledonia), one of the highest peaks in the Serra dos Órgãos mountains, reaching 2,219 m. The montane forest here is one of the very best sites for Atlantic Forest endemics restricted to high altitudes, and is one of only two known sites for Grey-winged Cotinga (discovered as recently as 1980) as well as an isolated population of Itatiaia Thistletail. We were also keen to look for invertebrates and plants restricted to higher elevations.

The road to the top of Caledonia failed to produce any sign of Grey-winged Cotingas (and we decided not to climb the stairs to the summit for the thisletail), but 1 superb Collared Forest-Falcon and 2 Serra do Mar Tyrannulets here were both long overdue lifers for me. The following high altitude specialists were also seen here: 5+ Plovercrest, 1m Brazilian Ruby, 1 Yellow-browed Woodpecker, 2 Rufous-tailed Antbird, 1 Pallid Spinetail, 2 Velvety Black-Tyrant, 1f Blue-billed Black-Tyrant, 1 Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, 2+ Diademed Tanager, c3 Brassy-breasted Tanager, 2 frustratingly brief Bay-chested Warbling-Finches and 1+ Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Male Plovercrest Stephanoxis lalandi - a beautiful high altitude hummer that is endemic to the Atlantic Forest

The lower trail is one of my favourite high altitude birding trails in the Atlantic Forest, and didn't disappoint today. Highlights were 2+m Black-and-gold Cotinga, 4 Swallow-tailed Cotinga, 1 White-browed Warbler, 1+ Dusky-tailed Antbird, 4 (2m, 2f) Variable Antshrike, 1 Rufous Gnateater, 1 Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, 2+ Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, 1 Glittering-bellied Emerald, 1 Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, 2 Orange-eyed Thornbird and 1 Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. Notable 'padders' included 1 Rufous-capped Spinetail, 1 Spix's Spinetail, 1 Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, 1 Planalto Tyrannulet, 1 Golden-crowned Warbler, 1 Chestnut-crowned Becard, 1 Squirrel Cuckoo, 1 Rufous-browed Peppershrike, 1 Yellow-olive Flycatcher, 1 Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and another f Blue-billed Black-Tyrant, Plovercrest and Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet.

Also found a lot of high altitude butterflies today, including a stunning Vivid Painted Lady Vanessa myrinna,a Juliette Eueides aliphera aliphera, 1 Theagenes dichrous, a superb Vettius diversa diversa and plenty of Tegosa claudina and Telenassa teletusa. Many thanks to Jorge Bizarro from REGUA and Olaf Mielke, formally from Universidade Federal do Paraná, for helping with some of the identifications.

Vivid Painted Lady Vanessa myrinna. Found above 1800 m in the Atlantic Forest. This species and the closely related Brazilian
Painted Lady Vanessa braziliensis are the only Vanessa species to have this vivid pink colour on the upperside.

Tegosa claudina

Telenassa teletusa

Juliette Eueides aliphera aliphera

Theagenes dichrous - a type of skipper (Hesperiidae)

Vettius diversa diversa

Hawkmoth sp. - hopefully I'll be able to identify this to species eventually

The road back down the mountain from the lower trail added 1 Red-legged Seriema, 1 Curl-crested Jay, 2 Crested Oropendola and 5+ Campo Flicker.

20 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 20 March

Highlights of birding around the wetland today were 3 (1m, 2f) Anhinga (my highest count at the wetland to date and good to see them becoming established), 1 White-chinned Sapphire, 1 ad. m Lined Seedeater, 1m Green-backed Becard, 2f/imm. Red-legged Honeycreeper, 1m Pileated Finch, 1 Moustached Wren, 1f Masked Tanager, 1 Swallow Tanager, several Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, 1 Capped Heron, 1 White-necked Heron, 2 Muscovy Duck and a Yellow-bellied Elaenia.

Female Anhinga, REGUA wetland, 20 March

19 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 19 March

After checking out the moth wall, we set off to bird the selectively logged primary forest along the Grey, Red and Green Trails in an attempt to find three of REGUA's top five avian specialities: Shrike-like Cotinga - REGUA's flagship species, Russet-winged Spadebill and also Salvadori's Antwren - these two both being endangered Atlantic Forest endemics restricted to primary forest. Along with Shrike-like Cotinga, REGUA is the most reliable site in the world for Russet-winged Spadebill.

After a close encounter with a South-eastern Common Opossum Didelphis aurita on the lodge driveway early this morning, we drove our trusty Toyota Hilux along the dirt road to Casa Pesquisa, changed to 4WD mode (much to Mr Alfrey's amusement) before heading up the Waterfall Trail to the Grey Trail.

The trails were very quiet and we failed to find any of our target birds, but we did see a good number of species including many Atlantic Forest endemics. Highlights from the day - Grey Trail: 1-2m Scaled Antbird, 1m Black-cheeked Gnateater, 1 Rufous-capped Antthrush, 1 Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, 1 Planalto Woodcreeper, 1 White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, 2 White-throated Spadebill; unmarked trail from Grey to Red Trails: 1 White-necked Hawk (perched up briefly), 2(1H) Saw-billed Hermit, 1m Spot-billed Toucanet, 1 Yellow-throated Woodpecker, 1 Spot-backed Antshrike, 1+ Pale-browed Treehunter, 1m Black-capped Becard, 1m Black-goggled Tanager and 1 Red-crowned Ant-Tanager; Waterfall Trail: 1 Rufous-tailed Jacamar, 1m White-shouldered Fire-eye, 1 White-throated Spadebill, and 1 imm. m Blue Manakin. Finally, the dirt road back the lodge from Pasa Pesquisa produced 1 hoped for White-rumped Monjita.

Stand-off with a South-eastern Common Opossum/Brazilian Common Opossum/Big-eared Opossum Didelphis aurita (choose your
preferred English name) on the lodge drive early this morning - puffing up it's fur and gently hissing at us for several minutes before
running off into the trees.

Pachylioides resumens at the moth wall this morning

18 March 2014

Lepidoptera walk at 'The Fragment', REGUA, Brazil: 18 March

Another post from REGUA. Today, Helen, Rachel, Andrew 'Hhhi' Proudfoot, Pete and I teamed up with REGUA's Research Co-ordinator Jorge Bizarro for a butterfly walk along the Onofre Cunha Trail. This trail runs through an area of good quality flat lowland Atlantic Forest, a very rare habitat indeed in the Atlantic Forest nowadays, located a couple of kilometres outside of the main part of the Reserve, and known at REGUA as simply 'The Fragment'.

Jorge's knowledge of Neotropical butterflies and their lifecycles is second to none, and he found many interesting species for us during the morning, both as adults and caterpillars. For anyone visiting REGUA I highly recommend a butterfly walk with him.

Highlights include a first for Rio de Janeiro state - a Little Banner Nica flavilla flavilla - a widespread Neotropical metalmark (Riodinidae) found from Mexico south to Bolivia, and apparently rather scarce in the south-east corner of the continent, and a second for Rio de Janeiro state - a Shining Groundstreak Calycopis demonassa (Jorge photographed the first for the state only yesterday on the Forest Trail), and a new species of butterfly for REGUA.

Little Banner Nica flavilla flavilla at Onofre Cunha today - a new butterfly for REGUA and Rio de Janeiro state!

A terrible out of focus photo of today's Shining Groundstreak Calycopis demonassa, grabbed before it flew off. This is the second
record for Rio de Janeiro state, after one on the Forest Trail yesterday also found by Jorge!

Another highlight was a very fresh White Witch Moth Thysania agrippina discovered resting characteristically side-on on the side of tree. This huge Noctuid has the largest wing-span of any moth or insect in the world, with a record wing-span of 280 mm! In flight they're even more bonkers!

White Witch Moth Thysania agrippina today

Other butterflies seen include Smooth-banded Sister Adelpha cytherea, Hemon Hairstreak Theritas hemon, and several Many-banded Daggerwing Marpesia chiron marius. Many thanks to Jorge for his help with the identifications.

Smooth-banded Sister Adelpha cytherea

Hemon Hairstreak Theritas hemon - a fairly common species at REGUA

The Fragment is also an excellent site for odonata. We didn't look specifically for them today but still managed to photograph a few Argia lilacina (apparently scarce at the Fragment) and a superb male Band-winged Dragonlet Erythrodiplax umbrata (many thanks to Tom Kompier for the identifications).

Male Band-winged Dragonlet Erythrodiplax umbrata

Female Argia lilacina

Birds took a back seat this morning, but without even trying I managed to see 1 Southern Caracara, 2m and 1f White-flanked Antwren, 1 Plain-winged Woodcreeper, 1 Streaked Xenops, 2m Flame-crested Tanager, 1 Fawn-breasted Tanager, 1m and 1f Blue Dacnis, 1m Yellow-backed Tanager and 1f Violaceous Euphonia along the trail.

This morning before the walk, 3 Scaly-headed Parrot flew over the conservation centre, and I spent some time photographing more moths at the moth wall, as well as this tiny, and unusually co-operative, young Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia that even rested on my hand while I snapped it with the macro.

This Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia resting on my finger, has no doubt also been enjoying the recent moth trapping

16 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 16 March

Birded the Waldenoor area of REGUA this morning. Things were very quiet, no doubt at least partly due to the very hot and humid conditions. The journey along the dirt road from Matumbo to the trail-head was fairly productive, with the highlight being a female Giant Antshrike at very low altitude and in very atypical grass and scrub habitat. Also seen along the road: 1 White-cheeked Puffbird, 1 Yellow-bellied Elaenia, 2(1m, 1f) Brazilian Tanager, 2 Double-collared Seedeater, 1 Common Waxbill, 1 House Sparrow, 1(H) Ash-throated Crake, 1 Giant Cowbird, 3 Red-rumped Cacique, 4 Grey-breasted Martin, and a large flock of Blue-and-white Swallow (mainly juveniles) - probably a post-breeding gathering. A Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth was also seen.

Female Giant Antshrike along the dirt road to Waldenoor today. A very unusual record in atypical habitat.

Blue-and-white Swallows on the road to Waldenoor

The trails around Waldenoor itself were extremely quiet. Highlights: 1 Mantled Hawk overhead, 3 Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, 1 Cliff Flycatcher, 1 Sepia-capped Flycatcher, 1+ Olive-green Tanager, 1 very brief Black-goggled Tanager, 1 Golden-crowned Warbler, 1 Black-throated Trogon, 1 Surucua Trogon, 2 Violet-capped Woodnymph, lots of Biscutate Swift, 2 Chestnut-crowned Becard and 1(H) Rough-legged Tyrannulet.

A late afternoon scan over the wetland from the lodge tower produced a superb fly-by Aplomado Falcon, 5+ Channel-billed Toucan, 1 White-necked Heron, 5 Great Egret (a high site count), lots of Pale-vented Pigeon, several Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling-Ducks, and several hundred Cattle Egret coming in to roost.

15 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 15 March

A quick look at the wetland this afternoon produced incredible views of 4 Rufous-sided Crake down to 1.5 metres (with 2 more heard), 2 Yellow Tyrannulet at very close range, 4 Muscovy Duck, 18 Brazilian Teal, several Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling-Ducks, 1m Brazilian Tanager, 9 Chestnut-capped Blackbird, 1 Great Egret, lots of Cattle Egret coming into roost, 1 White-tipped Dove, 2 Southern Lapwing. Set up a camera trail along the Forest (Brown) Trail this afternoon, seeing a male Rufous-tailed Jacamar and 1 Long-billed Wren in the process.

Yellow Tyrannulet at the wetland today

14 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 14 March

An hour photographing moths and bugs at the moth wall found a much greater number and diversity of moths than yesterday (pics to follow). 7 Channel-billed Toucan, a few Swallow Tanager, a few Palm Tanagers and a Banaquit (uncommon here) were also kicking around the lodge garden first thing.

Spent the rest of the day birding the first 2.5 km of the Waterfall Trail. March is a very quiet time of year at REGUA, but we still recorded a lot of birds, including a male Giant Antshrike (very unusual at such a low altitude), 2 Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, 1 Scaled Woodcreeper, 1 Saw-billed Hermit, 1 Pearly-breasted Cuckoo, 1 Dark-billed Cuckoo, 1 Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, 1 Star-throated Antwren, 1 Yellow-throated Woodpecker, 1 Southern Antpipit, 2+ Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, 1 Thrush-like Schiffornis (my first record on this trail but unfortunately heard only), 2 Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, 1m White-shouldered Fire-eye, a huge flock of White-collared and Biscutate Swifts, 1 White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, 1 Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, 3(2H) Black-cheeked Gnateater and a Rufous-headed Tanager.

Non-avian highlights included a flyby Amalia Helicopter Mecistogaster amalia - a giant spider-hunting helicopter (Pseudostigmatidae) damselfly which is endemic to Brazil's Atlantic Forest, and lots of White Morpho Morpho laertes butterflies.

The dirt track to Casa Pesquisa produced a long overdue lifer in the form of 2 (1 ad. male and an imm. male) Lined Seedeater, 4(2m, 2f) Black-legged Dacnis, 1m Sooty Grassquit, 1 Burrowing Owl, 1 Lemon-chested Greenlet, 1 Dark-billed Cuckoo, 1+ Red-necked Tanager, 1 White-thighed Swallow, 2 Grey-breasted Martin, a nest-building Double-collared Seedeater, 2 Cattle Tyrant, 5 Guira Cuckoo, 1 Yellowish Pipit, 1 Capped Heron, 1-2 Common Thornbird, 2 Common Tody-Flycatcher, 7 Blue-winged Parrotlet. No Fork-tailed Flycatchers though, so perhaps they have migrated north already?

Immature male Lined Seedeater holding territory by the Guapiaçu River today

13 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 13 March

Another day wandering the trails around the lodge at REGUA. My personal highlight was a beautiful bright yellow frog - a Hypsiboas semilineatus, resting on a heliconia leaf on the Forest Trail. Also had some great butterflies, moths and other inverts along the trail and unmarked side-trails, including several elusive and crepuscular Lamia Pierella Pierella lamia butterflies - a member of the Haeterini tribe of the Neotropics that fly only in forest interiors just above the leaf litter.

Hypsiboas semilineatus, Forest Trail - check out those eyelids!

Lamia Pierella Pierella lamia, unmarked trail off Forest Trail

A type of shield bug perhaps?

Birds seen on the Wetland Trail today include: 1 Brassy-breasted Tanager at the wetland near Amanda's Hide (a very unusual record at this low altitude and in this habitat), 1 Green Kingfisher in front of Amanda's Hide, 16 Greater Ani, 1+m White-bearded Manakin, 1f Swallow Tanager, 1 Muscovy Duck, 1m Brazilian Tanager and 1 Pale-vented Pigeon. Also, a Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris was noted, and 2 Cattle Tyrant on the football field were probably yesterday's birds.

Photographed many species of moth at the moth wall this morning, to add REGUA's library of unidentified moths. A few hawkmoths were also attracted overnight.

Female Erinnyis ello ello, moth wall, REGUA

12 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 12 March

For Rachel and I this is our tenth trip to REGUA, my tropical patch, located in Brazil's endemic-rich Atlantic Forest. Our first visit in March - which is early autumn in south-east Brazil - we were keen to find some of the invertebrates that are not around when we usually visit between June to October, and also to see how different the birding is at this time of year - very much out of season for birders.

This time we were travelling with Rachel's "gorgeous" friend Helen Russell, and the natty cuff-link adorned 'Non-stop Birder' Peter Alfrey, for both of whom this is their first visit to Brazil. After a late arrival last night we spent the day showing Helen and Pete around the core part of REGUA, taking in the conservation centre, tree nursery, wetland and part of the Forest Trail, and introducing them to friends and staff.

Sightings today include 2 roosting Tropical Screech-Owl near the conservation centre, 2 Black-legged Dacnis, a few Swallow Tanager, 2 Cattle Tyrant and a Streaked Flycatcher on the Forest Trail, and on the Wetland Trail: 1 Anhinga, 2 Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike near Amanda's Hide, a few Greater Ani, 9 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, 1 Rufescent Tiger-Heron, 1(H) Russet-crowned Crake, 1 Ringed Kingfisher, a few Swallow Tanager, 1f Crested Becard, 1 Variegated Flycatcher, several Pale-vented Pigeon, 2 Yellow-browed Tyrant, 1 Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, 1 Snowy Egret, 1 White-barred Piculet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, 1 Muscovy Duck, several Brazilian Teal, 1 Neotropic Cormorant, Striated Heron, Southern Lapwing, 1 Southern House Wren, a few Chestnut-capped Blackbird, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, Wing-banded Hornero, 1 Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, 1 Savanna Hawk, Roadside Hawk and plenty more common birds - Black Vulture, Cattle Egret, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Great Egret, White-bearded Manakin, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Masked Water-Tyrant and Great Kiskadee. Also a Broad-snouted Caiman Caiman latirostris was in front of Amanda's Hide.

The lodge garden was the quietest I've ever seen it, with not a single bird on the fruit feeders (probably because so many of the replanted trees around the lodge are fruiting), and just 1 Black Jacobin of note. A Southern Monarch Danaus erippus laying eggs on the Tropical Milkweed Asclepias curassavica that REGUA's Research Co-ordinator Jorge Bizarro planted recently was great to see.

Tropical Screech-Owls roosting by the conservation centre today

Southern Monarch Danaus erippus laying eggs on the Tropical Milkweed Asclepias curassavica in the lodge garden

8 March 2014

REGUA bird checklist updated

Just finished the third edition of the Checklist of the Birds of REGUA. This edition updates the taxonomy and nomenclature introduced by Brazilian Committee of Ornithological Records (CBRO) in January 2014, based on the classification the South American Classification Committee (SACC) - an official committee of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU).

The Checklist of the Birds of REGUA is, to the best of my knowledge, still the only checklist of birds in Latin America to include
seasonal abundance charts.

A continuously improving understanding of evolutionary relationships from phylogenetic studies has resulted in many changes to the list. The biggest sequence change is the separation of the Falconiformes (caracaras and falcons) from the Accipitriformes, with the former now placed between the Cariamiformes (seriemas) and Psittaciformes (parrots). Also adopted is the AOU's reorganisation of Wood-warbler taxonomy. The genera Dendroica, Parula and Phaeothlypis are no more - Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi and Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata are now both placed in the genus Setophaga, and Neotropical River Warbler Myiothlypis rivularis moves into Myiothlypis, along with White-browed Warbler Myiothlypis leucoblephara.

Falconiformes such as Southern Caracara Caracara plancus have been separated from the Accipitriformes

Two species on the REGUA list have been split: American Barn Owl Tyto furcata is split from Barn Owl Tyto alba, and the South American brown-eyed form of Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus is now considered to be a separately species - Chivi Vireo Vireo chivi.

Since the second edition of the checklist was published in May 2012, five more bird species have been found at REGUA: Black-collared Hawk Busarellus nigricollis, Rufous Nightjar Antrostomus rufus, American Pygmy Kingfisher Chloroceryle aenea, Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus and Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola; bringing the total number of birds recorded here to an incredible 464, including 118 Atlantic Forest endemics and 62 Brazilian endemics!

Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus, REGUA, 18 September 2012 - the first record for the Reserve. Preferring open or
semi-open habitats such as cerrado and savanna, this was a somewhat unexpected find at REGUA, especially now that the
reforested areas are maturing.

The checklist is written in both English and Portuguese and will be available to buy at REGUA as well as in the UK in the next few weeks. If you would like a copy please email me at webmaster@regua.co.uk. Copies cost £3 plus £1.60 postage and all funds go directly towards our conservation work in Brazil's highly threatened Atlantic Forest.

2 March 2014

Review: LED Lenser M7R rechargeable torch

I've been looking for the ideal torch for watching nocturnal wildlife for quite some time. For the past six years I've been using a Nightsearcher Puma - an rechargeable incandescent bulb torch providing a very bright 750 lumens and lasting 1.5 hours on high beam (175 lumens and 48 hours on low beam). Other key advantages of this torch over the others is it's clear neutral white light, 500 m beam range, water-resistance, and the ability to fit an infra-red filter to reduce disturbance to wildlife. However, at 2 kg it is heavy as well as bulky, and not at all practical for carrying on long hikes or for taking abroad. A 220v socket is required for charging (not always possible abroad) and the torch is not the most durable, with charging problems frequently encountered.

Over the last few years, much smaller, lighter, and robust LED (light-emitting diode) torches have flooded the market. My experience of night-birding with LED torches is limited to just the Fenix P3D CE (215 lumens) and the Nightsearcher Trigger (210 lumens), both of which are much less powerful than the Puma, omit an obvious bluish light (blue diodes are most commonly used in LED torches as they transmit most light) that couldn't compete with the more neutral incandescent light of a halogen or xenon bulb (especially where photography was concerned), and had have a very narrow beam. I persisted with the Puma, however, recently the torch has stopped charging fully and so the time had come for a replacement.

Looking online at the latest LED torches available, the LED Lenser MR7 caught my eye. Although having a much lower output, the beam is focusable, and crucially Lenser claim their torches have a neutral light. The Puma's 750 lumen output was always too powerful and I liked the idea of the small size and low weight. It wasn't cheap, but neither is the Puma, so I took the plunge and bought one.

Clockwise from top left: the LED Lenser MR7; hard carry case with charger, wall mount, belt clip and battery; the magnetic Floating
Charge System.

The high build quality is immediately apparent with a beautifully machined durable aluminium body that seems well sealed against the elements - the Swarovski of torches! The torch is well designed - the metal surface is knurled for grip, the on/off/mode button is located at the head of the torch (the torch defaults to the high constant beam setting when switched on, no mater which setting was used last), and the push-pull beam focusing can be operated with one hand and is lockable with a twist of the barrel.

The recharging system is ingenious - no more annoying pins (and points where water could potentially get into the torch) and no need to remove the battery either. Instead the battery is charged via a magnetic connection on the end of the torch, and the torch can be hung from a wall mount while charging, held in place by the same magnets.

LED Lenser MR7 key technical details

Lumens 220
Run time 20.5 hrs (on low beam)
Beam range 255 m
Focus Spot to flood
Weight 210 g
Battery Lithium-ion
Body material Aluminium

For more technical details see here.

The torch is delightful to use. It is small and fits comfortably into a pocket, is very light and easily held while also holding binoculars, the beam focusing is very smooth and the power/mode button is just the right sensitivity. But is it any good for wildlife watching? I've been using the MR7 for night-birding as well as night-photography for five months now, in a range of habitats, in Britain and abroad, including open grassland, wetlands, gardens and dense tropical rainforest.

200 lumens is about the minimum for watching wildlife at night, and then only when the beam is focused to spot to maximise the beam range. Scanning open grassland at Staines Moor in Surrey for Eurasian Woodcock, the MR7's maximum 255 m beam range would generate eye-shine on larger animals such as Red Fox at quite some distance (although no outline or colour on the animal would be discernible), however, eye-shine on smaller animals such as the Woodcock was much more difficult to see. An outline and colour would only become visible at fairly close range - about 20 m. Photography is only possible at very close range - 15 m or closer.

For watching wildlife over large distances, 400 lumens or more would significantly increase the usable beam range. At closer distances such as in Brazil's tropical rainforest, the MR7 proved excellent for searching for mammals, frogs, and invertebrates, however, the torch struggled a little with birds such as Tawny-browed Owl perched high in tall trees.

Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, Staines Moor, Surrey, December 2013 -
Canon EOS 7D + EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens; tripod; LED Lenser MR7; no flash.

The MR7 creates a very uniform light with no dark spots or circles appearing anywhere in the beam whether on the flood or spot setting. The blue hue of the diodes is noticeable, but the light from the MR7 is much whiter than other LED torches I have used, producing good colours, and so is great for wildlife watching, although I still prefer the incandescent bulb of the Nightsearcher Puma (although a little on the warm side) for night-photography. Another advantage the Nightsearcher Puma retains over the MR7 is a much wider beam on high power (spot focus on the MR7), allowing birds in flight to be picked up much easier.

Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana, REGUA, Brazil, October 2013 -
Canon EOS 7D + EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM; LED Lenser MR7; no flash.
Note the blue hue emitted by the LED Lenser MR7 and compare to the light from the Nightsearcher Puma (see pic below).

Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana, REGUA, Brazil, May 2010 -
Canon EOS 7D + EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM; Nightsearcher Puma; no flash.
Compared to the LED Lenser MR7, the incandescent bulb of the Nightsearcher Puma has a much whiter light.

In summary, the 220 lumen output of the MR7 falls a little short of the ideal torch for wildlife watching at night. However, the small size, light weight, and ease of use more than make up for these shortcomings, and the whiter light it provides means that, for me, there is no going back to the large and heavy incandescent lights. An LED torch with an output between 400 and 500 lumens, a slightly whiter light, and not too much bigger, would be perfect. There are a few more powerful LED torches on the market, including other models from Lenser, but the price tags need to fall a lot more for them to compete with the MR7.