After volunteering as a bird guide at Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for one month, I was asked by the World Land Trust to write a series of blogs about my experiences. This blog was published here first.
When I arrived at REGUA it was late evening, and in the darkness all I could perceive were the sounds of insects and amphibians filling the densely humid and sweetly scented air. I had that out-of-body kind of jetlag that meant I wasn’t really certain where I was, but was full of excitement that I would wake up somewhere completely new, somewhere incredibly special.
At 6.30am, the sun hadn’t yet risen above the surrounding mountains, but light had started to filter through the darkness, nature’s dimmer switch gradually revealing the sights and drawing out the sounds of a new day. I threw on my clothes, slung my binoculars around my neck, and emerged from my cabin to take in the scene. To the left I glimpsed water, and I could see something moving, a hairy blob with ripples. When my shaky hands lifted my bins, I beheld my first Capybara, and that was the moment that my month-long smile began.
As I panned right into the restored Atlantic Forest, my ears forced me to look up into the highest tree, where two Yellow-headed Caracara had announced their presence. With the darkness now quickly diffusing into light, three Southern Lapwings called from behind me in the paddock, and as I turned, raising my bins, four Picazuro Pigeons scattered into the air.
In the corner of my eye, I could see oddly shaped silhouettes atop a Cecropia tree that turned out to be a flock of diminutive Blue-winged Parrotlets. I lowered my bins and quite possibly took a breath before I noticed a Southern House Wren busying away under a tree and a White-Barred Piculet tapping away on the branches above. To say that I was like a kid in a sweetshop would be a grand understatement.