facebook googleplus

Blog

What’s on the horizon … Retreats and Birding dates for 2018

No rain - but that hasn't stopped the narcissi!

No rain – but that hasn’t stopped the narcissi!

Being in the middle of a serious drought means that we’re constantly scanning the horizon for clouds of any sort that might signal rain, but sadly, so far, there has been little to get excited about and we’ve had precisely two days of showers and one small thunderstorm since May … but are we down-hearted? Nay! Never, and neither is the garden. The narcissi above started flowering even before the ash trees lost their leaves and they seem to be making the most of the sunny days.

Of course these winter months are filled with maintenance and building projects for Daniela, I and the Quinta team. Painting and weeding and chopping down and clearing up, and re-organising and re-re-organising – it never stops. This year the big plan is for a new “space”; we’re calling it the Yoga Shala as it will be used for that especially as it faces due east to catch the rising sun, but it’ll be used just as much for get-togethers and for hosting our increasing number of Retreats. We’ve always been a bit stymied for space for these so a new shady space measuring 20 mts by 8 mts should fit the bill nicely. While I’ve been building it I’ve noticed that it’s even good for Dartford Warblers and other friends so I’m sure it’ll be a good place also for our birding visitors.

Marie Therese is always on hand - and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Marie Therese is always on hand – and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Talking of Retreats, here’re some dates for next year …

We have Marie Therese King returning for more Batik’n’Birding on two dates; the first is seven nights from the 26th May and the second is for seven nights from 6th October. These have proved to be a great success over the last few years and as space is limited I suggest an early enquiry to Marie Therese should you be interested in learning or perfecting this interesting and innovative technique.

Following on from one of Marie Therese’s weeks and starting on the 2nd June the Quinta will be hosting Lucy Gell who will be running a Print’n’Birding week which promises to be fun. Once again, places are limited, especially as she will be covering techniques including drypoint etching and linocut, giving participants the opportunity to produce a number of prints as they learn to improve their line and texture in these exciting mediums, so book early to avoid disappointment.

There are other Retreats too, notably Todd Acamesis’ Spiritual Underground Retreats which’ll be running twice next year at the Quinta, both times for five nights, the first from 27th June and the second from the 5th September. Here’s a link to the article about his OBEs from August this year.

Of course we also have our normal nature-orientated agencies as usual if you want to bird with like-minded people in an organised group; you might even be lucky enough to see Great Bustards fighting like in this Youtube clip from one of Frank’s Guided Birding Trips

Ornitholidays have two weeks and Travelling Naturalist also.

Ornitholidays will be coming out for a week from 6th May and again for another week from 16th September and Travelling Naturalist also for a week from 7th April and again from 23rd September. Both of these companies are leaders in the field and have both been working with us here at the Quinta for many years.

The Quinta’s Conservation contributions – and the Birdfair raffle winners!

We’re very proud here that we’ve just topped £3,500 in Conservation contributions over the last six years from our efforts at the British Birdwatching Fair alone.

For those who don’t know, the British Birdwatching Fair is “The Birdwatcher’s Glastonbury”, the largest Birdwatching and Nature Fair in the world, which takes place every year in Rutland in the UK.

Birdfair 2015 0880

Every year we have a large stand there under the name “Birding in Portugal” to promote Portugal as one of the best places in the world to go birding and watch nature, and every year we give a free week’s accommodation at the Quinta as a donation towards an auction that helps Avian Conservation projects worldwide. Of course this is on top of the contributions we make by other means towards conservation worldwide and also here in Portugal; it all adds up, and it’s wonderful to really feel the truth in that old adage, “Giving is better than Receiving”, especially to such a worthwhile cause.

Every year we also run a raffle there, with a first prize equal to the auction contribution, (as above), and a runners-up prize of “three-night, mid-week free accommodation” at the Quinta.

The 2015 Raffle winners with Frank & Daniela

The 2015 Raffle winners with Frank & Daniela

Last year’s 1st prize winners were Liz and David Hughes, pictured above at the Quinta.

Both prizes are subject to availability of course, but are valid for any time between March 15th and July 15th or September 10th and October 31st next year, a wide enough window that should suit everyone. A smaller window is the time during which we should be advised by the winners, as both have to be claimed by midnight of the 13th September this year.

I’m glad to say that this year both prizes have been claimed so congratulations to Kenny Hall and Kevin Woods. We look forward to seeing you out here next year.

Just one more thing before I sign off; we’ve been awarded Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence again, the fifth year in a row now. This is the industry’s top Customer Review site so we must be doing something right!

Good luck and I hope we’ll see you out here soon!

This year's Certificate of Excellence

This year’s Certificate of Excellence

 

Batik’n’Birding

Batik'n'Birding Week 2016

Batik’n’Birding Week 2016

We’ve just had the most wonderful week mixing Batik with Marie Therese King and Birding with Frank. The collage above is a small sample of the things we did and saw.

Some group members have already booked up for a repeat next year, so if you’re interested make sure to get in contact with us soon. It’ll be running from the 13th June … see you there!

We won 3rd prize for our stand at the British Birdwatching Fair!

Paradise blog-022

We took our usual place at the Birdfair last week – only we doubled the space and had a bigger stand. It was a huge amount of work to design and organize it all, but we wanted it to go well and to make a splash out of the expansion of our sister company, “Birding in Portugal” and our new website – and all the work paid off when we won 3rd prize out of the whole Fair for it! Well choughed!

We also ran our annual raffle for a week’s free accommodation here at the Quinta and the winner this year is Andy Davis.

Congratulations! we look forward to welcoming you here next year.

Southern Gatekeeper-5653

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

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 “Ol” 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 …

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 new species in the Quinta’s gardens!

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.