Campo Troupial - Icterus jamacaii
Brown Capuchin Monkey - Cebus apella
List of Birds

Site contents:
in Itapajé, Ceará,
100 km from Fortaleza.

The avifauna is listed in
Birds of NE Brazil.
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Threatened species
Many species of NE Brazil are threatened by extinction. Our reserve helps to protect some of them:
Birds of NE Brazil
in Caatinga, Cerrado,
and other habitats
Water situation

Our RPPN (private reserve) is located in the municipality of Itapajé in the state of Ceará, about half way between the capital Fortaleza, and Sobral. It includes the east and north sides of a low mountain range called "Serra das Vertentes" (about 400 ha), and lowland south of the mountains (about 360 ha), see fig. 1.

See also: Map of reserve, and Access roads.

18/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua private reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil.
Figure 1. Foreground: lowlands, with dried-up reservoir. Background: the low mountain range of Mãe-da-lua reserve ("Serra das Vertentes"). The distance between points A (reservoir) and B ("mata fresca" on hill top) is about 1700 meters, and a falcon could get from A to B in less than two minutes. However, a human, walking on our sinuous trails, needs at least 90 minutes. And it takes about 3 hours to walk from the northern border of the reserve to its southeastern or southwestern border.

The maximum elevation of the mountain range is 650-700 m.

Large parts of the property were covered by cotton plantations until about 1970. The cotton areas included the lowland and easily accessible hillsides, but did not extend into areas of more difficult access, like steep hillsides and mountain tops. On one of the mountains existed a banana plantation, which was abandoned in the late sixties or early seventies.

From the 70ties onwards, the farm was used mainly for grazing cattle in native pasture (i.e. in caatinga), and for slash-and-burn subsistence agriculture. The areas of difficult access, and some of the former cotton areas, were left to themselves.

The non-profit group "Associação Mãe-da-Lua" bought the land in 2006, and has transformed it into a nature reserve. Flora and fauna are now protected, and hunting is forbidden. Since 2009, the reserve is officially recognized and registered as private reserve, or RPPN, see Portaria 58, from 29 July 2009, Ministério do Meio Ambiente.

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The flora of the reserve is varied. In general, the areas of difficult access are best preserved. In part of the mountains, the forest is growing without human interference since 30-40 years or more. There are also areas where the forest has never been cut, but at least some of these did suffer from wildfires.

A survey of the vegetation of the reserve, by a botanist or a similarly qualified person, is not available at this time. The following information is preliminary, and summarizes my own observations and estimates.

In the mountain range, the main vegetation types are:

  • Dry tropical forest, more or less well preserved, with high biodiversity. Not uniform. In some areas, even the older trees are only 2-4 m high (fig. 2). In other areas, trees are much higher and bigger (fig. 3).

28/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil.
Figure 2. Dry forest in rocky area, with 2-4 m high trees, in mountain range of Mãe-da-lua reserve.
28/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil.
Figure 3. The biggest embiratanha tree in hills of Mãe-da-lua reserve.

  • Mature sub-humid forest, at least in part secondary, commonly called "mata fresca" (in english: "cool forest"). Covers an area of 5-7 ha on the mountain tops, at an elevation of 600 m or more. This forest has tall and big trees, which are overgrown by lianas and epiphytes (fig. 4). "Samambaia", a sort of moss, can be seen hanging from the tree branches (photo). The "mata fresca" ressembles atlantic forest ("mata atlântica"), and I believe that it is classified as such by the environmental legislation.
  • 28/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil.
    Figure 4. Upper part of a barriguda tree (Ceiba glaziovii, or a similar species) in the "mata fresca" of Mãe-da-lua reserve. The tree is laden with vines, and it appears that even some cactus grows on it. Most of the leaves visible on the photo do not belong to the tree, but to the vines.

  • Secondary caatinga, especially in the valleys and the lower hillsides. The most common tree species here is Sabiá (Mimosa caesalpiniifolia Benth). Also areas destroyed by farming and wildfires in more recent times.

The lowlands are covered by secondary arboreal Caatinga in various stages of regrowth and recovery (fig. 5). There are extensive areas with a high biodiversity, which seem to have been undisturbed for at least 25-30 years. Other areas are less well preserved, with younger secondary growth.

    21/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil. (c) H. Redies.
    Figure 5. Arboreal Caatinga in the lowlands of Mãe-da-lua reserve. (A): Arapiraca (Chloroleucon dumosum). (B) Sabiá (Mimosa caesalpiniifolia). Around this location, one can sometimes see or hear White-browed Guans, Little Woodrails, or Brown Capuchin monkeys.

See Nickel Maia 2004 for a recent book about Caatinga trees and conservation.

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Water situation

There are two springs in the hills (fig. 6), and two more in the lowland. All four springs have sufficient water the whole year, and are much visited by birds and mammals, though the water is a little salty. In addition, there are two water reservoirs, which attract a lot of wildlife during the rainy season, but sometimes dry up in the second half of the dry period (between October and December).

    21/02/2010; Mãe-da-lua reserve, Itapajé, Ceará, Brazil. (c) H. Redies.
    Figure 6. A spring in the hills. Two marmosets ( Callithrix jacchus) came to drink while I was sitting in a hide nearby. Many of the photos exhibited on our site are from this location.

Furthermore, during the rainy season, several small streams run through the reserve. In neighbouring farms, there are other permanent springs and reservoirs.

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