Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

Southern Gatekeeper-5653

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Southern Gatekeeper-5653, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

The weather this Spring has been gorgeous, hot sunny days interspersed with a few rainy ones here and there. Wetter than normal and the rain seems to have lasted a great deal later than usual which has kept everything green and fresh.
Loads of food around for all of nature to take advantage of and we’ve had great fun observing it all.
One of the nicest places around the Quinta is the little Cortebrique Valley about three miles away, and I’ve spent many happy hours there during the past few months. It has a mixture of habitats from scrub to grassy meadows to kitchen gardens and fields of maize and wheat to patches of cork oaks and woodland. I’ve posted quite a few pictures of birds I’ve seen there on the Quinta’s Birding website, and it’s sometimes difficult to know where that blog ends and this one begins - or vice versa - but this beautiful Southern Gatekeeper belongs here I think.
There were quite a few of them yesterday in a small patch of wood, flitting about early on in the morning warming up; this is a male.
He’s smaller than the female, (only about 15mm wide rather than 20mm), who lacks that beautiful pattern on the top forewing shown above. The pattern is actually scent glands called androconia that are used in attracting the female. They feed on grasses and like it hot with dappled shade, so the Cortebrique Valley suits them right down to the ground. They fly in one brood from June onwards throughout the summer, extending from Portugal eastwards to Turkey and along the north African shore, though apparently absent from the eastern Mediterranean.
I got most of the above information, including the original id, from Matt Rowlings and his excellent website, so “Thanks, Matt!”. If you’re interested in butterflys I can heartily recommend a visit.

Breakfast music

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Breakfast at the Quinta can be a lot of things; getting ready for the day, nursing an over-indulgence from the night before, lively conversation, a relaxed start or just a time to contemplate while enjoying the fresh croissants and the Quinta’s honey.
In the background Uncle Harry is most likely welcoming everyone with “Olá” and squawking away like a wound-up toy while he clambers from one branch to another, and so it was this morning, but I found the Nightingale singing just outside the window too and grabbed this quick film which I hope you’ll enjoy!

In the garden right now …

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Juvenile Fire Salamander

We’ve all been horrendously busy during the last few weeks as Spring is Springing like nobody’s business and we’ve been choc-a-bloc with Nature enthusiasts. I’m out guiding most days, so when the forecast last night said rain it was with a sigh of relief that we looked forward to a small lie-in, but it wasn’t to be …

A huge thunderstorm broke over our heads in the middle of the night and I was up and down the stairs protecting our electricity - most of the time splashing about with a tatty old umbrella and an equally tatty hat and dressing gown!

I finally got back to sleep again in the wee hours, only to be woken by an excited Flora at half past six gabbling on excitedly about something or other, and my excitement matched hers as she told me about the Fire Salamander she’d just found outside.

Rushing downstairs again we found him where she’d left him. They don’t wander far - nor too fast either, though this one was quicker than most as it was only young - and they’re territorial so it’s a real bonus to have them around here. They love this warm, wet weather and come out on nights like the one we’d just had, so it was a real silver lining to all that lost sleep.

Death’s Head Hawkmoth

Contrary to the forecast it turned into a beautiful day as well AND we found a Death’s Head Hawkmoth.

These moths are huge and love honey, regularly raiding bee-hives; we have a few of these here at the Quinta as you may know - it’s where our delicious honey comes from - but this moth had been attracted to a hive in the roof of one of the staff rooms and become trapped inside. We took some photos and let him out and he’s been resting on one of the poles on the terrace all day, getting ready for the night’s activities …

Dartford Warbler

It was great to spend a day at home, the first in quite a while, and to take a little wander around the “home patch” too; we were even lucky enough to come across this Dartford Warbler who’s got a nest in some scrub in the garden; what bliss!

A new film of the latest “Fishing Holiday in Portugal” at the Quinta

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Following his family’s successful Fishing Holiday in Portugal at the Quinta, Christophe sent me this lovely film he made while here fishing with Paulo Jorge Ramos, the World Wide-mouthed Bass Champion. I think they enjoyed themselves! So, notwithstanding the Quinta’s reputation as a birding and nature hotspot, it’s not all about those past-times, not by a long cast!!

Another new species in the Quinta’s gardens!

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

IMG_0753, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Another new species has colonised the Quinta’s gardens!
It’s fantastic how as the garden matures so it becomes more and more attractive and new birds appear here.
This Cirl Bunting has been singing away prominently for the last week or so but every time he’s seen my camera he’s high-tailed it into the undergrowth … until yesterday afternoon, and I’m over the moon with having got this shot.

More stunning flowers

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Poppies-0475, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Another quick roadside shot of some of the beautiful, beautiful flowers at this time of year. This time they’re just common poppies - but in such profusion as to take your breath away, and, mixed in as they are with the crops in the fields, they turn every view into an impressionist painting.

Sunrise over the Plains

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Sunrise-0573, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

I spend, as a lot of you will know, an inordinate amount of my time showing our guests the birdlife that surrounds the Quinta, and many many mornings I’m up before dawn to be in the right place at the right time. The early bird, as they say, catches the worm, but if you want to catch the bird then there’s no option than to be up even earlier.

I know some people have trouble getting up early, especially on holiday, but there are some wonderful compensations, and none better in my opinion than to see the sun “come up like thunder” across the Plains of the Alentejo.

Flower-filled days in the Alentejo; what a Holiday!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Flower-meadow-0107, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Another small taste of what the countryside is like around here at this time of year. A real joy to be lucky enough to have a “job” that gives me so much time and opportunity to see the stunning flowers that surround the Quinta right now. The birds are simply fantastic too; all the latest postings can be seen on the Quinta’s Birdwatching site.

Spanish-Festoon-0019

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Spanish-Festoon-0019, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

The warm days of Spring have produced a truly wonderful brood of butterflies this year, and these Spanish Festoons are some of the best. Everything seems to be buzzing at the moment and with the streams all still flowing it really is the most perfect setting for long lazy walks nearby.

Wild-Gladioli-0048

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Wild-Gladioli-0048, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Last year I saw this particular meadow full of wild gladiolus down in Cortebrique but failed to take a snap of it as I was in too much of a hurry; a mistake i was sure not to repeat this year!