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.
Archive for the ‘Living in the Alentejo’ Category
Driving through Cortebrique this morning and someone shouted out to me, “Congratulations!”
“What for?” I asked.
“Why, for being #1 on Google of course; didn’t you know?”
“#1 on Google? I had no idea”, I replied truthfully. Though both Daniela and I work hard to promote the Quinta and countryside tourism in general in this area, I had no idea we’d apparently been so successful. “What search terms were you using?” I asked, intrigued.
“Quinta Portugal,” my friend replied, “and what’s so clever of you is that “Quinta” isn’t even in the name of your site. You beat all the big boys, all the other tourist sites and even all the “Quinta for sale” sites. Very smart. Congratulations! How did you do it?”
I had to come clean of course and say I didn’t know; as I say we work hard at our internet presence here, and maybe our Birding Site helps in this respect, but whether I know how it came about or not, it’s still a huge feather in our cap and we’re justly proud of ourselves and all of us hope our many friends and volunteers will be too, as it’s just as much thanks to all of you as to anything we’ve done.
Right, enough scribbling, I’m off down to the village to get the bubbly!
After the wet winter we had over the past few months the Alentejo is “springing” to Life again with the advent of warmer and longer days, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the Plains just to the north of the Quinta. The flowers stretch to the far horizon and most of the birds are back from their winter sojourn in Africa so the air is filled with birdsong and colour … it really is the best time by far to visit this spectacular countryside and revel in Nature’s bounty.
Spring is definitely on the way and the first Barn Swallow chicks have hatched in the Quinta’s Library. The days are appreciably longer and today the sun is shining fit to bust, but the last few days and nights Winter threw at us everything it could possibly fling with the result that we’ve lost Turtle Island, Chicken Island is a mere blip in the ocean that is the lake and Santa Clara has a roaring torrent flowing past its door instead of its usual trickle. The pontoon is a jump away from the garden now, (I honestly can’t pull it up any further and will instead build a bridge to get out to it), and there are just three steps from the Summer House lawn into the water.
Yes, I’ve seen it higher, back in November ‘97 when we had the worst storm in living memory and the lake came up 3 mts in a single night, but I honestly haven’t seen it as high as this since then. Back then we were hit hard and then followed a drought that only really lifted eleven years later; I wonder what the next eleven years will bring?
In the meantime we’ll relish the proximity of the water to our door and pray that the Câmara, our local County Council, repair the roads that are all falling apart around here - the potholes are simply everywhere; it’s getting as bad as Costa Rica, so we’re glad we’ve had recent practice !
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.
We got this in the post today and we’re absolutely blown away by it!
We realise of course that we’d never have received it but for all of our guests this year who contributed their time by writing a review on us, so may Daniela and I take this opportunity to thank all of you - and of course all our staff this year who worked so hard to making the Quinta a success, Fatima and Dulce of course, but also those who volunteered their time here, Marcus, Susanna, Des, Shirley, Brian, Steve, Araby, Maria João, Ann, Bronwyn, Elias, Flora and Carolina; this is as much a certificate of excellence for all of you as it is for the Quinta as a whole, so a million thanks to all of you.
We look forward to doing more of the same in 2011!
Well, we had to have a party to celebrate Daniela’s and my marriage so we had a few friends over … the party was actually a run of parties, four days in fact, but these were the core members. This was taken before we sat down for the first night’s dinner; i might post some “during the party” shots but I think I’ll spare you the “after the party” ones ….
Most of the Quinta’s visitors see the lake during the summer when it’s warm and clean - and when we’re all swimming and boating on it it’s sometimes easy to forget that a huge swathe of countryside nearby draws its Life-force from the water stored here; it’s mostly used for irrigating the sandy soils along the west coast during the six hotter months of the year and the level drops on average an inch a day during that period. It needs a fair amount of rainfall to replenish it, so, unlike most Europeans, we pray for a wet winter every year! The last seven or eight years haven’t been that spectacular and slowly the lake’s dropped down to 12 meters or so below it’s level when full - but it looks as if we’re going to see it a lot higher by next Spring as we’re having a lovely wet winter this year thank goodness, and there’s more on the way if the forecasters have got it right ….
It started to rain here just before Christmas and hasn’t really stopped during the last ten days, so the little stream we cross every day, that’s dry for the majority of the year, has turned during the last week or so into the raging torrent in the video clip here; it’s hard to believe that the stream that you can see here flowing OVER the bridge was only a week ago bone dry …
The result? Well, this is just one stream out of hundreds pouring its offerings into the lake - and there’s a fair sized river as well - so the end result is that the lake’s risen four meters during the last four days … with an an average width of half a mile and a length of more than 25 miles that’s an awful lot of water. It seems we’re spending every other second pulling the pontoon further up the bank - but boy are we happy … a tad damp it’s true, but very, very happy!
Though we haven’t had any rain to speak of yet - we’ve had one thunderstorm and two days drizzle since May - it’s just damp enough to produce a lovely early crop of mushrooms and we’ve been busy little bunnies making the most of them. A fantastic bonanza of Caesar’s mushrooms, (like the basket-full Daniela has in the picture above), as well as Parasols a-plenty … Wonderful to be able to get out and about in such clean air, warm sunshine and beautiful countryside with the kids and the dogs and grab dinner from amongst the cork oaks!
Many people have urged me to tell the Quinta’s story on this blog, and seeing as I haven’t written anything for, (heavens above!), two months, it seems only fair that I should do something a little special, so here’s a small video Daniela and I put together over the last week; we hope you enjoy it!