Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

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!

A ray of sunshine

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Juvenile-Great-Spotted-Cuckoo-2583, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

In these days of economic crisis and general doom and gloom it’s easy at my wildly advanced age to become ever more Colonel Blimpish and whinge and moan constantly about how hard everything is, how nothing seems to work, how expensive Life is becoming, how, “it wasn’t like that when I was a kid” etc etc, and I do my fair share.
Recently, for example, I’ve been beating my gong about the ridiculous bureaucracy we have to fight our way through here in general - and principally the outrageous price that Turismo de Portugal has seen fit to burden all of us Birding Guides with by making it obligatory to have a license if we’re to take anyone birdwatching. 950 euros plus extra insurance; totally obscene in my opinion.
Y’see what i mean? There I go again; whinge whinge, moan moan, grumble grumble, and all the time my eyebrows become bushier, my nose redder, my hearing more selective and my blood pressure rises to dangerous levels, so it’s nice to balance this constant gripe with a tale of success, a tale to lighten your mood, a tale to bring a ray of sunshine into your life.
I don’t suppose this’ll help the great majority of the readers of this blog, but here y’go anyway …

To start with you must remember that the Quinta’s in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest town a good 45 minutes drive away; this has its advantages in that we live in gorgeous countryside with a view to die for and, apart from the bureaucracy, (careful Frank, keep your eye on the ball), very little stress, but it also has its disadvantages in that it’s a long way to go if an emergency takes one by surprise … like this morning when one of my teeth decided it didn’t want to be part of me anymore and took a hike. Saturday morning, oh blimey, now what do I do?
Well, more in hope than anything else, I rang our “local” dentist, a great practice in Odemira running under the name of Juvenal Patriarca, (for you local bods, 283 322678, juvenalpatriarca@gmail.com), and was surprised when I was answered politely straight away. Explaining the situation I was told to come in, and an hour later was in the chair, with the job done within 45 minutes, at a very reasonable rate too, just 60 euros.
Brilliant! What an antidote to an irascible Colonel! Long may their practice thrive and I take my hat off to ‘em and thank them sincerely. 10 o’clock tooth goes awol; 11.45 new one in place at dentist 45 minutes away. Stunning, efficient, friendly, well-priced service; I’m not used to it here at all. Perhaps they could have a word with Turismo de Portugal?
And what does that have to do with the picture of the Great Spotted Cuckoo above? Nothing at all, but I hope that the picture makes you feel as happy as I do today! Have a nice one!

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!

Another first for the Quinta’s “Birdwatching Holidays in Portugal”!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Red-knobbed-Coot-1206, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

We noticed a real rarity in SPEA’s recent newsletter to us which we received last week. A Red-knobbed Coot had been seen on a lake close to a village near our normal Plains Birdwatching tour, so we decided to try to find it, and on the third lake we checked there it was.
It’s not often I find a lifer nowadays on my “home patch” and all the more exciting for that …

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.

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.

Bee-eater-9915

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Bee-eater-9915, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Sometimes everything comes together and I get a shot I’m truly proud of; this was one of those times a couple of days ago …

The picture I’ve dreamed of for years - what a Valentine’s day!

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Black-bellied-Sandgrouse-8361, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

No posts for ages, but there’s been a reason … Daniela and I have been Honeymooning in Costa Rica and only got back a few days ago! We managed to take around 3,500 pictures which’ll take me some time to sort out, but as soon as I manage it I’ll post them up on our Birding site for you to take a look at.
We’ve had a busy time finding our feet again here, but I’ve managed to squeeze in two days birding on the Plains, the second of which was today – and it’s GREAT to be birding on my home patch again, back amongst old friends!
The species count today was only 57 in an eight hour period, but that’s to be expected at this time of year before the migration gets into its stride. However the views we had were stunning as always, and it makes a huge change from birding in the Rain Forest where, although the birds are spectacular, the light for photography is so often “flat” and one has to be constantly changing the ISO and other settings. Back here the ISO is pretty well a constant 200 at f5.6 and this gives excellent results as you can see from this post’s photo.
What was more we had the highest count I’ve ever witnessed for Great Bustards over a similar time period, well over my highest in years past which was 87; today it was 126!
They’re gathering together into droves to prepare for the mating season which normally gets into its stride in a few week’s time, (though we saw a couple displaying well today). This increase in numbers is solely due to the successful hard conservation work put in by the LPN and SPEA and I take my hat off to them; all power to your elbows!
Anyway, I could have posted any number of shots of either of the Bustards as they’re the flagship species for the area, but instead I had to post the picture of these Sandgrouse, as, on top of being the shot I’ve dreamed of taking for years, it goes to show that all that hard work done by those splendid organisations benefits not only those flagship species but also those other species that live in the same habitat, like these gorgeous Black-bellied Sandgrouse.

Lapwing

Monday, October 19th, 2009

A-Lapwing-20081024_1821, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

The first Lapwings are arriving back again to over-winter here. We find a lot of them on the plains of the Alentejo along with Golden Plovers.

Dipper-20090908

Thursday, September 10th, 2009


Dipper-20090908, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

I had a break with Daniela at the beginning of the week and we decided to go north and grab ourselves a Dipper; thanks to a very informative offer from Rui Marcão we were able to do just that and the above is the result. We were looking for some other species as well but sadly we blew out on all of them - not surprising really as the temperature was well over 40ºC/105ºF and it was a tad warm even for us.