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Retreat in Portugal

Yoga on the pontoon

We’ve had more and more requests this year for Retreats in Portugal – so much so that we’re going to start up a new web page soon, not surprisingly to be called www.retreat-in-portugal.com so watch this space. The above is a retreat we’re running right now doing yoga on the pontoon before breakfast.

Some of our birding groups during 2017

We’ve had a stunning year on the birding front and above are some of our birding groups during 2017. I haven’t counted yet but I’ve a feeling we took around one hundred and fifty different people around southern Portugal this year to show them some of our wildlife wonders. You can see some of the pictures on our birding site. One lady – you know who you are – celebrated her 14th visit for this activity and has already booked again for next year, and we’ve several who are also into double figures. It’s nice to know that we’re doing something right!

Batik Group 2017

Another successful course was our “Batik’n’Birding Week” run with Marie Therese King which has just finished with the happy participants showing off some of their work above.

Old friends

We’ve seen many old friends, (many older than they’d like to be), and made many new ones too, like those below

New friends

But none of this could be possible without the help and assistance of our dedicated helpers and staff; first and foremost of course come Fatima, (who’s now been with us over twenty five years), and Dulce, (a mere newcomer with only ten under her belt).

Fatima & Dulce

Other helpers this year included Sammy, Rosanna and Lynn

Sammy, Rosanna & Lynn

and Kate and Judith

Kate & Judith

and of course we mustn’t forget Amber, (in the middle),

Amber & friends

and Jasmin, (also in the middle),

Jasmin & friends

or the stalwart Tony, that man of mystery and invisible shirts, the speedy Gonzalez of the Algarve.

Tony, Kate and friends

Our sincere thanks go to all of you at the end of this season, you who make up our team, our colleagues and our friends. There are, of course, many others, but sadly we have mislaid some photos this year … so instead I’ll leave you with a couple of shots I took when I went to the Farne Islands in June with another great friend – for no other reason than that it was one of the happiest days of my life!

Atlantic Puffin

 

Clowning around

Here we go!

Alentejo sunrise

Alentejo sunrise

The Birdfair Raffle run by “Birding in Portugal!” has been drawn again and Chris and Vic have booked their stay here next year – we’re looking forward to showing you our beautiful area, like the sunrises, above, or these gorgeous lizards, below.

Large Psammodromous Lizards mating

Large Psammodromous Lizards mating

Another Draw

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Sadly the first winners of the Birdfair Raffle never claimed their prize – so we’re going to draw it again this Saturday, 16th September!

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

There are three prizes to be won again this year and I so hope someone claims them this time … the first prize is for a week’s accommodation for two people in either a double or a twin bedded room here at the Quinta, the nerve-centre of “Birding in Portugal“, and the beautiful home of Frank and Daniela McClintock.

Short-toed Eagle

Short-toed Eagle

The 2nd and 3rd prizes are for three free mid-week nights at the same location, and all prizes have to be enjoyed next year between 15th March and 15th July or 15th September and 31st October.

We’ll post the winners names up here on the 16th and you’ll have a week to claim your prize by simply emailing us here at the Quinta through this website with the same address you gave us at the Birdfair. Nothing simpler, so “Good luck” and we look forward to hearing from you.

News, news, news!

The Birdfair Team 2017

The Birdfair Team 2017

Wow! It’s been a FULL-ON year for the Quinta! I don’t think we’ve ever been so busy and the best bit about it was the amount of past guests returning again and again – I think the winner must be Sheila who’s racked up thirteen visits, but she’s closely followed by Calum and several others, and it’s been a rare week when we haven’t had at least one or two couples staying who’ve stayed before. It’s a great, great feeling to be running the place with this amount of positive feedback, so my thanks go to all you who’ve come and stayed here over this season – and we look forward to seeing you again in the future!

We seem to be becoming known in the “Retreat” market as well – so much so that we’re going to have another website soon called “www.retreat-in-portugal.com”, so watch out for that one. Marie Therese King is running her “Batik’n’Birding” week again in a few week’s time, and there’s still a room free so if that’s your bag, (and with the weather we have at the moment it’ll be fantastic!), get in touch with her soon.

Batik'n'Birding group 2016

Batik’n’Birding group 2016

Talking of Birding, since February there’s rarely been a week when we didn’t have an excursion but the Spring Birding Season was especially busy, and in June we closed the Quinta for five days to give Daniela and I a break.

Daniela took the opportunity for some pampering with her parents and Elias in Vienna, and I, well I of course went birding! Des took me off to the Farne islands where we had a blast, (you can see some of the pictures we took here), and it took weeks before the smile was wiped off my face.

Then it was the summer and it was busy, busy, busy (with the Birdfair in August as well, where we once again donated over £500 towards their conservation efforts worldwide), and now … well, the Autumn migration’s begun and we’re straight into it as it seems to be an early kick-off this year.

European Bee-eaters doing what it says on the tin!

European Bee-eaters doing what it says on the tin!

Our Bee-eaters, normally so punctual, left at least 5 days earlier than normal and I saw our first Northern Wheatear coming through before the end of August, which is again early. Speaking with Archie this morning – he’s running a chateau in the south of France this summer – he said he’d noticed it too, with large movements of Rollers and raptors noticeable every day heading for the passes through and around the Pyrenees.

We drew the raffle last week but nobody’s claimed their prize – it’s surprising how often it happens, so we’re going to send out an email to everyone who entered as a reminder and draw it again on the 16th September.

That’s what happened last year and we’re looking forward to welcoming Kenny & Chris, last year’s second week’s lucky winners, who are coming over next month.

 

Kenny & Chris

Kenny & Chris

 

Boasting again

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

It’s always good to be written about, but yesterday we had a double whammy as not only did Zeiss do a piece about us featuring some of my photos on their blog, (which you can read here), but the Times also recognised us as being one of the top 20 “hotels” in Portugal, (which you can access here), so, much as I loathe boasting, it’s only right that I should spread the word isn’t it?!

Added to which of course I can make loads of friends green with envy by posting some pictures, which I hope look as good on your computer as they do on mine – though of course my computer comes complete with a “You lucky so-and-so, Frank” sticker.

Above is a Red-rumped Swallow from a recent day out; always a favourite species for me, but they don’t often stay still long enough to be able to grab a shot like this, and below a dozen Black-crowned Night herons that floated over the top of us the day before yesterday – thank you, Ray, for letting us know they were coming!

Black-crowned Night Herons

Black-crowned Night Herons

Finally, just a quicky of the first Bee-eaters we saw this year. They arrived dead on time again, on the 2nd April, and we were lucky enough to find them already excavating their nest holes in a sandy bank, competing with a respectable colony of Sand Martins.

European Bee-eaters

European Bee-eaters

A quick bonus book

A week ago a very good friend emailed me with the offer of making a couple of photo books, so I thought I’d make one of the birds we’re lucky enough to see in the area around the Quinta. Hope you like it!

Another winter’s work!

The new Helipad

The new Helipad

Another winter’s done’n’dusted and sometimes I have to take stock and actually walk around to see what we’ve achieved to make the Quinta an even better place to spend time.

It’s easy of course when you’ve got something like our new Helipad, (that’s ever so slightly “in yer face”), but so much of what we all do here in the winter ends up being below ground – or at least relatively unnoticeable. All the irrigation that we’ve installed this winter for instance, or the old roofs we’ve replaced, well, no-one in their right mind’s going to go “Wow!”, but it all takes time.

Even the “above-ground” garden alone is pretty well a full-time job now, as every year we have a blitz on it during November and December to keep it in check, prune it back, get rid of the old or dead and replace with bright new horticultural beauties. It takes time to grow back, and at this time of year it’s still feeling a tad dazed, but now the days are getting longer and there’s still some moisture left in the ground it’s recovering swiftly, and it’ll look right as rain within no time. The terrace below for instance, nude now, will be a tangle of roses, grapes and wisteria before another month has passed.

Goldfish Pond and terrace

The refurbished Goldfish Pond and bare Terrace

However, there are some things that stand out as much as the Helipad, and one that’s been on the cards for years, and that we’ve finally got around to doing something about, is a decent spot of shade for cars. The brief from Daniela was that it should fit into the surroundings and be in keeping with the Quinta’s ethos – as well as having as few poles that she could bump in to as possible and enough space so guests didn’t bash doors etc.

Following weeks of model-making, planning and cost analysis, it’s built now and so far so good; you’ll have to let me know what you think when you next visit!

At last, some decent shade!

At last, some decent shade!

What else is new? Oh yes, in line with our constant quest for reduction of our carbon footprint, we have been able to reduce yet further our genny use. Of course it’s another of those things that no-one’ll notice but ourselves, but to cut down from three hours a day to half an hour is quite a reduction, and eases us all the time closer to being 100% run off solar energy; now we have to save up for a new set of main batteries!

Something that our guests will notice this year though are two new SUPs – that’s Stand-Up Paddleboards for the uninitiated – which included me a few weeks ago! I haven’t tried them yet; far too chilly should I fall in, but you’re welcome!

Eco-Watersports with some Stand-Up-Paddleboards

Eco-Watersports with canoes, rowing boats, sailing dinghy and some Stand-Up-Paddleboards

 

Some sunrises are just better than others!

Foia Sunrise

Foia Sunrise

Couldn’t resist posting this shot, taken this morning from the top of Foia just south of the Quinta.

We were on a “Birding in Portugal” day, and it’s always best to start it off at sunrise, so there we were, dead on time, when up run two models and set the shot off perfectly!

It was a great day out too, with over 200 Booted Eagles seen along with Black Storks, Short-toed Eagles, loads of Red-billed Choughs and more Northern Wheatears than you could shake a stick at, but from a photographer’s point of view, this picture just took the biscuit.

Good news from Salgados and the Birdfair

A Bee-eater spreads its wings ready for the long flight south

A Bee-eater spreads its wings ready for the long flight south

The picture above was taken a week or so ago from Birding in Portugal‘s Golden Oriole Hide in the Quinta’s garden as they got ready for the start of the Autumn Migration. They’ve left now, along with the Golden Orioles too, dead on time as ever. I find it extraordinary that they’re so punctual; over the last twenty years or so I’ve been keeping records of when our local Bee-eaters arrive and depart, and they’ve never been more than 36 hours out during all those years, arriving on the 1st April and leaving on the 31st August.

But enough gossip, let’s get down to some nitty-gritty … Great news from Salgados! This is the wetland in between Armação da Pera and Albufeira that we’ve been trying to save from being destroyed by over-rapacious development. I was asked to keep stumm about this over the last year as we didn’t want my soap-boxing to spook the judges while they ruled on the admissibility of the corrupted Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by the developers.

I say “corrupted” as the developers EIA somehow failed to note the largest colony in the world of a CITES’ red-listed species of plant! This is Linaria algarviana and it only exists in the Algarve … on the proposed development site this species has one of its last strongholds and this is made even more important by also being the largest. Rather surprising that they missed it, don’t you think?! Any way, we noticed its absence from the report even if they didn’t in their assessment and we raised a stink and challenged it, and for the past year or so it has been going through the courts, but now the judgement has been made and it has gone in our favour with a total ban on any development until an impartial assessment has been carried out over the course of the next year.

We’re not out of the woods by any means, but for the time being we should celebrate this small stepping-stone victory and thank those hard working souls behind the scenes who have gained us some breathing space, principally SPEA, A Rocha, Quercus, Almargem and their lawyers who have got us this far.

Our local Kingfisher

Our local Kingfisher

Next bit of good news is the Birdfair Raffle winners’ names, and the Kingfisher above is one of the birds you’re most likely to see when you claim your prize, as this was shot from our Water Rail and Kingfisher Hide down by the riverside a couple of days ago.

This is a Raffle Prize that we give away every year when we attend the British Birdwatching Fair in Rutland, UK. This Fair is the largest of its kind in the world and is always one of the highlights of our year, for as well as running the Raffle on our stand there, (whose prize you can read about below), we also give away a week’s accommodation as an item in their auction to help raise funds for species protection.

The Raffle itself has the same prize as that of the auction – the first prize is one week’s accommodation in a room for two here at the Quinta anytime between now and the end of October 2015 or from March 15th to July 15th 2016 – subject to availability of course! – and the winner this year is Liz Hughes.

Congratulations Liz, and thanks for contacting us; we look forward to welcoming you to the Quinta.

One of the runner-ups has contacted us and wins three mid-week nights accommodation at the same remarkable venue during the same time-frame and with the same conditions, so we look forward to welcoming him here too.

For those unlucky enough not to win this year, my commiserations … better luck next year.

August Mayhem

Polishing the cutlery

Polishing the cutlery

This time of year seems to be a never-ending series of meals – and before each one all the cutlery has to be polished. Over the last few weeks I’ve taken to doing it myself when I can, (yes, it took me by surprise too!), and the above is a normal August meal’s worth. I know, a bit pernickety to polish them and then lay them down like this just to pick them all up again a couple of minutes later and lay up, but it looks nice for the short while they’re there!

Ready for the "Off"

Ready for the “Off”

Ten minutes later and, bingo, the table’s laid …

Lively conversation

Lively conversation

… and ten minutes after that, aided by a nice glass of wine or two, there’s the hubbub of lively conversation while we all get stuck in to another of Daniela’s delicious meals …

Barbie Pink skies

Barbie Pink skies

… while outside the window Nature lays on another stunning light show for us across the lake!

Oh, I nearly forgot, our new website is going live any day now, (so let me know what you think please), and one more thing … the Quinta’s exhibiting at the Birdfair in Rutland next weekend so come and see us if you’re able. We’re on Stands 90 & 91 in Marquee 2 under the name “Birding in Portugal“, (not “Birds and Nature” or “Birdwatching Tours in Portugal” who are one of our dastardly competitors!) . See you there!