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Vipers Buglos, Erouca and Cork Oaks 6753

It’s a busy, busy, busy time here right now with Spring in full blast and flowers everywhere as you can see from the photo above and the two below.
I seem to be out birding every day starting at silly o’clock, but I never get bored of seeing sites like these and with the birds showing brilliantly as well and nearly all back from migration it’s never dull! There’s only two species that haven’t got in yet as far as I can tell, Golden Orioles and Melodious Warblers, but they’re both due any day now … the Rollers got in a few days ago and I’ve already been able to get a beautiful shot of one in flight which I’ll post on my birding site – so if you can’t get down here to see them in person and want to see the brilliant blues that they only show in flight, that’s the place to go!

New Terrace and Covered walkway-6740

In my last blag sometime in january i mentioned that we were having a lovely damp period … well, it can stop now …. PLEASE, OK? It just doesn’t seem to have stopped for the last six weeks or so …
Now, for us that live out here full time that’s OK, and even better for those of us who have the good fortune to live actually at the Quinta as we see the lake filling up, but it’s as near as dammit full now and it’s starting to interfere with our birding programs so, as I said before, please stop now.
As well as the lake filling up beautifully, Spring this year is going to be stunning and the flowers are out in force, and I’ve posted up a stunning picture of a wild flower meadow on my birding site if you want to take a look. The picture at the top of this post is of our new terrace and covered walkway – which has really come into its own with the weather we’ve been having recently!

Wetter weather is just hunky dory!

Fire Salamander-0366, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

For a couple of weeks now we’ve had a spell of lovely wet weather, which, though mud-inducing in the short term gives the promise of a beautiful Spring on the way.
Daniela and I have been making the most of the damp soil and clearing the footpath up Lavender Hill on the way to Cortes Pereiras so that our walkers will have an easier go of it later on.
It hasn’t been cleared for donkey’s years as fewer and fewer people need to use it, so it’s been quite a job and our hands are cut to ribbons, but we came across the Fire Salamander above this morning which was a nice surprise. They’re territorial but quite harmless and display their inedibility clearly, so the dogs kept well clear of it!
For those who are interested in the environment there’s an update on the Salgados situation on my Birding Blog.
Basically there’s going to be a public presentation of Finalgarve’s “Environmental Park” at 11.00 on 4th February in Silves Biblioteca and I urge everyone who can to be there so that we can make ourselves heard.

Some things never change … and some things do!

The winter is our time for upgrading the Quinta and so is always a welter of building and maintenance works, and the picture above shows the state of our kitchen right now, not a pretty sight! For those of you who know the Quinta well you’ll notice that a wall seems to be missing … it’s so we can get the new work-surfaces inside … yes, they’re THAT big!
And the picture above that? Well that was us in Lisbon yesterday handing in the first 21,000 signatures for the “Save Salgados” petition – each box representing 1,000.
Was it a success? Not ‘arf!!! There’s a full report on the Birding Blog

A quick update on what’s been happening and an important Salgados update

Northern Wheatear

My sincere apologies for not having written anything for far too long, but there’s simply been too much going on for me to keep up-to-date.
First it was this year’s migration south which this year was stunning, and we saw a good fall of Flycatchers and Northern Wheatears like those above, which in their turn attracted a great number of raptors like the beautiful juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle and Red Kite below.

We have also been very involved with the Save Salgados Campaign. We’re going to be handing over the petition to the Portuguese Government Minister concerned on January 8th at 11.00 in Lisbon.

We had another Protest down at the lagoon itself in October, (which was aided of course by Flora and Elias as you can see above), and have been working with the various NGOs, (like Domingos Leitão of SPEA above), who are backing the campaign and we hope to serve an injunction shortly after handing in the petition. We’ve had questions raised in parliament already – principally in calls for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out – and there seem to be several irregularities in the approved planning permission that have come to light which will provide the basis of the injunction.

If you can make it to Lisbon on the 8th it’d be great to see you. The more the merrier, so drop me a line if you’d like more details.

On top of the above there have been other things happening too …

Just as we wound down from the Quinta’s busy season and thought we could relax we were hit by a large storm that provoked quite a lot of flooding nearby as you can see above. The picture shows the road just south of Santa Clara which was well underwater for a day … We were fairly lucky really and were only really hit by a small part of it, (unlike the poor residents of the Algarve who took the brunt), but we still had quite a mess to clear up in the garden, though, thank goodness, no serious damage to the Quinta itself.

Thus it was that the first two weeks of our winter Maintenance schedule was devoted to chopping and clearing all the debris, but it’s been a god-send really as we took the bull by the horns and cleared out a lot of other overgrown or straggly trees and the garden’s now looking even better than ever. Wonderful new views from all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies and what’s even better is that the birds are adoring it too and we have both a lot more movement in the garden and better visibility too.

Fallow Deer 4206

Fallow Deer 4206, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

It took me by surprise a few days ago when I bumped into these Fallow Deer.

A relatively rare species here as life is pretty tough on mammals on the whole and these are the largest wild mammals of the area. What was even more surprising was that one of the hinds was completely white.

I’ve heard recently that these white hinds are becoming more common in the UK as they show up better in car headlights, but I wouldn’t have thought that amounted to much here in the Alentejo where traffic is uncommon but hunters aren’t …
You can see more of the wildlife of the area on my other blog; don’t be put off by the title – it’s not ALL about birds!

New Beginnings

As we approach the end of the Quinta’s High Season it’s always a sad time as we have to say goodbye to so many hard workers, some of whom invariably became close friends.
This year is no exception, as in a few days’ time we see the passing of the second half of this year’s Dream Team. The latter was made up of Jake, aka “Caramel Camel,” and Luke, aka “Brown Bear.” Luke left us earlier on to continue his travels, but returned from Barcelona a few weeks ago to help us out with a big party we held for Ceci and Teddy Golding. He’s now gone back there and has landed a job managing two bars, so our congratulations to him.
Jake, on the other hand, is still with us, but sadly leaves in three days time to continue his career. He will be training to become a civil engineer and is enrolled at Nottingham Trent University.
The two of them have not only made our lives easier here since April, but have also made being at the Quinta a huge amount of fun both for their co-workers and the Quinta’s guests. The picture above was taken during the party a couple of weeks ago. Luke is on the left and Jake is next to him. We all wish them every success with their future lives and thank them sincerely for the fun times they have given us.
On another matter entirely, I am pleased to announce that for the first time ever, we have a primary winner of the Birdfair Raffle. Congratulations Helen Franklin! We look forward to giving you a holiday you will never forget. Unfortunately, the two runner-up prizes were not claimed, so we have drawn them again, and if either Denise Lievesley or Rick Lockwood gets in touch with us before September 14th we will be pleased to confirm your prize of three free midweek nights accommodation.

Just as Jake and Luke having new beginnings, so also does the Quinta. The last week has seen two vast improvements. The first was the replacement of our old fridge by a new one. It is state-of-the-art and double the size of the old one but uses half the electricity. Daniela has instantly fallen in love with it and has dubbed it Super Mario.

Frank, on the other hand, has fallen in love with the Quinta´s new solar water heating system that went officially on-line today. This has been four years in the planning and a year in construction – you can see him building it in the July 2011 blog entry – and, not surprisingly, he is over the moon that it is all finally up and running. These two improvements have once again significantly reduced the Quinta´s carbon footprint and make us even more eco-friendly and efficient than we were before.