This involved welcoming guests and ensuring the smooth running of the lodge, arranging itineraries, day trips, airport transfers and ensuring that the guests got the most from their visit. There were new trails to walk and a couple of new sites to check out for future birdwatching options, my duties also included checking on the progress of the new sunset platform viewpoint – as you can tell it was hard work. It all sounds like one big holiday – but I was shattered at the end of it.
Some of you will be aware that I have been visiting and supporting a reserve called REGUA (Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu) in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest just north of Rio de Janiero over the last few years. This year I had the opportunity to stay for a little longer and do some voluntary work as well. [One of the reasons why my blogs dried up for a short while].
Once covering an estimated 1,477,500 km2, centuries of deforestation has seen the Atlantic Forest become the second most threatened biome in the world after Madagascar. Today only 7% of the original forest area remains, an area of 100,000 km2, and only an estimated 2% is still primary forest. The REGUA project was set up to reforest large areas which had been cleared for farming and link the small fragments of original forest that remain with corridors for wildlife. This has worked well in the last ten years or so, and since I first visited in 2006, the wetland area has expanded threefold and the hillsides and pasture that were originally bare are now covered in trees. These grow an amazing 6 feet each year, so although it will take many years to get the forest back to the original diversity, we are already seeing changes in the flora and fauna, and how they are moving into and around the Reserve. Evidence of Puma are now more regularly seen, and new birds are being found for the reserve every year. The current total is 455 and a high proportion of those are endemic birds, and the protection of this habitat is vital for these species.
Initially six of us enjoyed a two week holiday where we walked in the rainforest, on tracks around the wetland and saw over 270 species many that are either endemnic to the area or are easier to see here than other areas of the Rainforest. These include Shrike-like Cotinga, Salvadori’s Antwren and Russet-winged Spadebill. We visited several offsite venues including the Botanical Gardens in Rio, Pico de Caledonia and Serra dos Orgaos, both the latter give higher altitude species and are in National Parks and Cabo Frio a coastal area north of Rio where it is possible to see Restinga Antwren a handsome small bird which likes Restinga habitat on coasts. Unfortunately, in this area the Restinga is getting smaller each year that I visit as human pressure moves ever closer.
After two weeks my companions returned home and I stayed for a further two weeks, the aim being to add some value and put something back for all the pleasure and enjoyment the Reserve has given me over the years.
Thanks must go to Pauline, John, Claire, Jim and Ken for being such great company and easy-going travelling companions – even in the rain.
So, if you would like to do some voluntary work so – I can heartily recommend it. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and there is something very rewarding about putting something back into a place or interest that has given you pleasure, whether it is the exotic setting of Brazil or helping with the Gravesend RSPB Group, there are lots of things you can do and enjoy. We are always looking for people to join in with the group in lots of different capacities, leading walks, attending committee meetings, helping with education sessions, stuffing envelopes, writing blogs, taking photographs – whatever your skill or interest, you can always add value, just come along and join us.