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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.

The Birdfair Raffle

Little Owl-2271, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Before I say anything at all about Birding in Portugal‘s Raffle at the Birdfair, I must first give my heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this Birdfair so successful; to the Birdfair Team and their volunteers of course we all owe a huge debt of gratitude, but I owe just as much to all my friends and family who gave up their time to make Birding in Portugal’s attendance the success it was.
To Michael and Emily who year after year invite me into their busy lives and print endless reams of paper and pictures, to Smithy and Antz who year after year let me stay in their lovely house in Rutland, to Des who year after year drives over to help out on the stand itself and to Ronnie who came over this year for the first time too, to Elias, aka “The Badger” who cut short his holiday in Vienna and came to help out again on the stand this year and of course to Daniela who kept the Quinta show on the road as efficiently as ever while I was away with the excellent assistance this year of her new son Jake. A BIG THANKS to all of you. You have all supported me over so many years; I owe you far more than you can imagine.
So, who won the Raffle then? I sincerely hope the winners claim this year, so here we go, hand into the bag, and … the first prize of a week’s B&B accommodation here at Paradise in Portugal has been won by Helen Franklin. Congratulations!

One last thing … please take the time – if you have not already done so – to sign our petition against the imminent destruction of one of Portugal’s best birding sites, Salgados or “Pera Marsh” as it’s known to many. It costs nothing and we are battling for its survival against large influential bodies that see in it just more dollars for themselves, closing their eyes entirely to the damage that their development will wreak. The petition stands today at 13,820 and we are trying to gather as many signatures as we can before Parliament reconvenes at the beginning of September. Get your friends to sign too!


IMG_4614-2, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

I’m off to the Birdfair tomorrow so just thought I’d leave on a high – and what could be higher than mucking around over the lake in a Microlight, courtesy of Dave and Karen from the Algarve Airsports Centre based down in Lagos.
They regularly pop up to take our guests out for a spin here and there’s really no better way of seeing just how large the lake is, so if you fancy getting up there with the birds drop us a line!
Talking of the Birdfair, it runs next Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Rutland. I’ll be on Stand 93 in Marquee 4, “Birding in Portugal“, and’ll be giving a lecture about Salgados on Friday at 17.00 so if you want to find out the current state of affairs and have a chat, it’d be great to see you there!

Mosquitoes Rule!

I saw a great quote the other day on Facebook; it went, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.
It’s so appropriate right now I quote it again, as our little petition to try to save Salgados has had the most amazing effect!
We started the petition because we thought someone had to stand up and say “ENOUGH!” and if no-one else was going to, well, it might as well be us, but we never thought that it’d be as successful as it has been. It’s gone right around the world – and then some – continues to grow and grow and has had really great consequences.
First of all, it’s raised awareness of the issue and put Salgados on the map as far as a groundswell of opinion against further development of this fragile area is concerned, but it’s done much, much more.
The water levels at the lagoon are rising to where they should be at last, (though unfortunately too late for this year’s breeding success as a great number of birds didn’t make it), and as far as rockets under “competent authorities” backsides are concerned, it’s been as great a success as any I’ve ever known. APA, the Portuguese Environment Agency, put out a press release the other day in an attempt at Damage Control, blaming the water loss on a single farmer … this was quickly picked up by the press and shown to be a fabrication and distortion of facts. APA’s already dubious competency took yet another knock. It also became common knowledge that, notwithstanding an agreement of management having been signed with SPEA and the RSPB over four years ago, they have yet to even install a meter for the neighbouring golf course – so have no way of knowing how much water has been taken by that entity, despite saying that they have taken 30% less water this year than last. The publicity engendered by the petition has shown APA in a very bad light indeed, and I sincerely hope that lessons will have been learnt.
Another good thing to have come out of the petition is a letter from the Ramsar Convention to the Portuguese Government. This is really quite an achievement and has been generated uniquely by the raised awareness granted by the petition.

There have been some organisations that have really helped the petition along the road, principally of course Avaaz themselves, (so if you haven’t joined their organisation I suggest you do), but notably also the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust that have pulled out all the stops to grant it more publicity, so a very big thank you to them and to SPEA too who are right there and have been since the beginning.

We had a meeting last night chaired by Almargem and there were representatives from Quercus, the LPN and SPEA as well as several concerned individuals like myself and members of the local press. Amongst other actions, we’re going to invite the Portuguese President, who’s coming on holiday just down the road in a few week’s time,  for a quick view of Salgados itself and the neighbouring, empty and derelict resort … I wonder whether he’ll reply!

So, what happens now?

Well, the effort continues, so if you have friends who haven’t yet signed the petition, beat them around the head until they do, that’s the first thing! Only with the petition growing steadily but surely can we give the NGOs the tool with which to fight for greater protection of the site and a rescindment of the building permission already granted. This is seriously important.
Next, if you’re in Portugal come along to Salgados on the 6th August at 14.00 and join our protest – the more the merrier. We’ll be at the Dunas Café on the western edge – and if you know any members of the press do tell them about it!
Now I have to do just that, so see you there!

Female Montagu’s Harrier in early morning sunlight

The Save Salgados Petition has had to take a little bit of a back seat during the last few days as I was already booked as a Birding Guide pretty well solid this last week.
The petition hit 10,000 yesterday evening just three weeks after it was started and the response has been terrific; thank you all so much for signing and sharing.
I wish I could have shared this beautiful Montagu’s Harrier with you as a better way of expressing our gratitude, but here’s a picture of it anyway.
We also had amazing views of a family of Bee-eaters feeding their chicks and I’ve posted up some piccies on my Birding Blog if you want to see them.

Salgados 6.7.2012.jpg

IMG_0262.jpg, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

This is Salgados right now … officially “protected” as a Wetland Bird Sanctuary of prime importance, but in fact completely dry! Just sun-baked earth … no Life at all.

If this is what full protection means now, what hope have we if the “development” of the area goes ahead as planned?
It’s a disgrace that Portugal is currently promoting itself as a location for Nature-based holidays while allowing the degradation of a unique area like this to be despoiled in an erroneous grab for tourist dollars.
Please sign and share our petition to help the NGOs concerned get proper protection for this vital area … once it’s developed it’ll be gone for ever …

The RSPB and SPEA both support our petition!

Flamingos, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

The petition gathers momentum!

Today we managed to get both SPEA, (Sociedade Portuguesa para Protecção das Aves), and it’s better known counterpart the RSPB, to both publish articles with the petition link on their websites. SPEA’s is here and the RSPB’s here.

The petition’s numbers are climbing steadily; 4,320 now, and we should have breached the 5,000 mark by this time tomorrow – so let’s head for 10,000! And after that 20,000! Let’s really show these politicians and property developers that it’s OUR land too!

What next? I’m trying to get the Audubon Society involved and have written to and rung all their Press officers and editors. Does anyone have any contacts?

Also, does anyone have any UK media contacts? If so can you write to them – or if you haven’t got the time to, can you introduce me and I’ll do it? If we can get some Big Hitters involved … any help you can give us would be very gratefully appreciated.

See you the other side of 5 grand!