What’s the best time of year?

I’m often asked as to what is the best time of year to visit …
For most people staying at the Quinta it’s a family holiday or R&R but more and more guests come to the Quinta for the birds and wildlife, and for them there’s no easy answer, so if this is what rings your bell, here are a few tips.
Spring, which stretches for us from late February through to the end of May, is stunning and is of course when most Nature lovers congregate here; the flowers are out and changing almost by the hour, (huge swathes of purple, red, yellow and blue set amidst a backdrop of the brightest green), butterflies flit from place to place and all the birds are in their breeding colours, so bright it seems unnecessary to view them through binoculars … and yet there are still more colours when one does! The daily promise of better and better weather prises loose the last links of the chain that’s bound us tight since last November and the soul longs to soar free, up there in that azure void – y’see, I get carried away just thinking about it!
Summer has the guarantee of weeks of solid sunshine as the temperature rises, and the Quinta’s great for holidays for the whole family, even when only a fraction of it wants to look at nature. All that lush greenery outside of the Quinta’s garden slowly fades, replaced by dry brown stalks, sticky cistus and clouds of dust, the memory of rain fading with the grass. Personally, having been born in Africa, I love this period, when the very earth smells of heat and the search for shade is constant – of course living right beside a clean freshwater lake might have something to do with it too!
Then there’s the Autumn, always an interesting time, and for Birders full of surprises. I count it as starting at the beginning of the last week in August, when the Bee Eaters gather in larger and larger flocks and then finally they’re gone; (from my experience close to the Quinta, always within 36 hours of the 31st, matching their arrival in the Spring which is within 36 hrs of the 1st April – they really are the Swiss of the Birding World!) They’re closely followed by the Swallows, and then everything seems to be moving around too as the southward migration gathers strength …. Who could ever forget the sight of over 200 Booted Eagles overhead as we saw last year? Or, last week, a total of more than 70 Gt Bustards seen in a single day?
Which brings us to Winter, though I can’t really call anything winter that doesn’t get below freezing point – it seems a bit of a sham – perhaps I should just call it The Wet Season, but even that’s a bit of a misnomer as on occasions it produces a grand total of 2 misty mornings during its 4 months! On others it really does earn its name and every ten years or so we have a storm to beat all storms, (the one in November ’97 dumping over 5 inches of rain in two and a half hours ….). Even during these months though there are things to see, sights that take one’s breath away, from the beauty of the Bluethroats to the surprise of having up to seven Robins within 2 meters of one whenever digging in the garden ….. I suppose the wealth of food dampens their normal aggressiveness; they certainly turn their collective noses up at any bird seed I put out!
So, …. when’s a good time to visit? Anytime that suits!

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