Thank goodness - it's raining!

Cattle and Cattle Egrets 4292

Yet another year when we didn't really have a Winter at all, and I put pen to paper now not to celebrate Spring prising open Winter’s icy grip – one can hardly say that in any case while living in Europe’s most southwestern corner - but our first Swallows have already hatched and we’re well on the way to Summer already. I thought it about time to post a few pictures, so here're a few from yesterday.

untitled 4294

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius)

Spring here is fast – blink and you’ve missed it - and that was going to be especially so this year after another dry winter, the fifth in a row. I've been away a good deal since November but nevertheless I counted less than five days of rain in the last five months and the lake in front of the Quinta hasn't risen a single inch - when we should have gained four meters. 

Who wouldn’t be worried at the billowing dust and yellowing pasture as March gave way to April? The first news reports of the coming drought were airing on the News Channels and despondency was in the air - but then came a wonderfully wet week and, seemingly within hours, we are where we should have been, lush green fields bursting with life, fat lambs, fresh flowers, tinkling streams and smiling farmers.


untitled 4379Great Bustard (Otis tarda)

Oh, we’re not out of the woodwork yet, not by a long chalk, there’ll still be a drought, and eucalyptus-fed forest fires again too of course, but what a change a little rain has made. Spring is back on again in all its glory!

Yes, there’s a downside too - I wouldn’t be a country lad if I didn’t complain whatever the weather did – so here’s my penny’s worth ...

For a start I’d nearly forgotten what mud looked like – it seems so long since we’ve had to deal with any - but a couple of days rain has reminded me with a vengeance. However, slipping and sliding down dirt tracks is wicked fun and as long as one doesn’t get stuck, come off the road completely or think about how long it’s going to take to clean the car again, it’s actually more enjoyable than painful, so that’s not the rub.

No, the thing that bugs me just a little is that it would have been so much more convenient if it had rained during the winter rather than now when we have guests piling in to enjoy our Spring! With two months of back-to-back birding outings already organized, there’s little leeway to change a day out on the Plains for a day down on the Salt Pans ‘cos it’s raining in the Alentejo and fine on the coast or vice versa.

Monty 4258Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

But hey-ho, it’s a small price to pay, and there’s really nothing that we can do about it, so let’s carry on regardless and look on the bright side – and what a bright side there is!

To start with, the quality of the dawn light after one of those quick showers just cannot be beaten, and with so much of Nature simply wanting to be seen, now really is the time!

Calandra Lark 4312Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra)
Showing its diagnostic black collar and white trailing edge to its wings

Even better, what a joy to get rid of heat haze, even for a few days. There’re few things more annoying than a great shot in good light spoiled by waves of heat enveloping the subject, a magic moment turned to mush. We have so many stunning subjects and heat haze kills them, so a couple of days of wonderful cold rain is a godsend! No more fuzzy long shots for a while, just crisp, clear, gorgeous art!

Right now there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

So to hell with grumbling about the weather.

To hell with cleaning the car time and time again.

To hell with being shouted at for bringing mud into the house!

Here comes that beautiful light again … it’s too good to miss and I’m off to fill the unforgiving minute!

Corn Bunt 4311

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)

Birding in Portugal

Quinta do Barranco da Estrada
7665-880 Santa Clara a Velha

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