When I first set up this website it seemed only right that I should call it Birding in Portugal. After all, that's what it's about, yes?

Well, yes and no, for I'm interested in ALL of Nature, not just birds, and I think most birders are too, so I make no excuses today with a post about some of the other life we have here at the Quinta.

Due to this pesky virus, like everyone else, we've been requested not to travel anywhere for the last six months, so, apart from some shopping trips, a doctor's appointment or two and one outing for the yearly Census of Breeding Birds for Spea, we've kept ourselves to ourselves over the last six months. I must admit that it hasn't been that hard as we've plenty to do around the garden, and it's there that we've been able to enjoy the wildlife that the Quinta's garden now attracts.

Of course we have birds aplenty, Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs, Sparrowhawks, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and many other species kept us company throughout the winter, and now that Spring is here again the Nightingales are singing and nesting while the Golden Orioles arrived a few days ago, so all's in order on that front.

Mammals are harder to come by but we have Field Mice, Weasels and Genets as relatively regular visitors and in February we had a Fallow Deer turn up one day while we were building the new greenhouse. It must have been an escapee from someone's land for it was far too trusting of humans,

but it's on the reptile and amphibian front that we've been excited recently for a week ago we came across a couple of difficult-to-see species, both listed as "Near threatened" on the IUCN Red List.

Of course we enjoy various species of reptiles and amphibians that're part of the food chain in our "living" garden and these all play their part in helping to keep our bug population under control so that we don't have to resort to chemical solutions that do more harm than good. 

Spiny Toads (Bufo spinosus) are plentiful,

Spiny Toad

 as are Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica)

Moorish Geckos 9994

and Stripeless - or Mediterranean -  Tree Frogs (Hyla meridionalis), and these last two species I had to originally introduce into the garden myself from several ruins in the neighbourhood.

Stripeless Tree Frog 1700

However, the two species that were exciting last week are two that have found their own way here and seem to be happy with the eco-system that the Quinta's garden provides.

First there's the Southern Marbled Newt (Triturus pygmaeus), a beautiful little creature,

Marbled Newt Triturus pygmaeus

and then there's the Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl).

Sharp ribbed Salamander Pleurodeles waltl

This last species is somewhat less beautiful and has less delightful manners also. If you look closely you'll see there's a row of red spots running along its flank. These mark the place where this ugly little blighter shoves its own ribs through its skin if threatened by a predator. These ribs pick up poison from the skin as they pass through, so are a powerful deterrant. Once the danger has receded so too do the ribs and the skin re-heals. Quite a defense you'll agree!

We're thrilled to have them all here and their approval of our efforts to make a holistic environment here are the ultimate bonus.

Otter 7985

It's not only birds we get to watch at the Quinta, it's all of Nature, and recently we've been having some great views of our local Otters at our Water Rail and Kingfisher Hide down in Santa Clara, so here are a few of the recent pics.

I'm aften asked, "What do they eat?", so the picture above answers that one quite succinctly - it's mostly Crayfish!

Otter 7979

We watched this particular individual munch on four in as many minutes right in front of us the other day, and as the latter are the introduced American species that's no bad thing.

Otter 8058

On this particular day the otter could hear the cameras whirring away but seemed to be quite oblivious of any of us being there, and floated in an open patch of water right in front of us before coming to investigate even closer, until we had trouble focussing - the picture below is one of these as it was only about three mts away just below our feet. A rare treat to have them come so close.

Otter 8011

Eurasian Golden Oriole 7764

Male Eurasian Golden Oriole

Well ... what can one say?

Along with everyone else it's been a bit of a downer on the business front, what, with everyone being on lockdown and travel anywhere being discouraged if not forbidden, but from a purely birding point of view it's been wonderful here at the Quinta.

The Barn Swallows arrived on time and the pair nesting outside the bar bred well so they, and a couple of other pairs as well, have managed to fledge three clutches.

Barn Swallow 0647

Barn Swallow chicks

 

The Golden Orioles also had a good year and we've had three pairs breeding in the garden and now the chicks are leaving the nest there're flashes of yellow constantly catching one's eye as they zap through the garden. That's a male I took a picture of this morning up above, and a female and fledgled youngster below.

Eurasian Golden Oriole 7750

Female Eurasian Golden Oriole

 

Eurasian Golden Oriole 7755

Juvenile Eurasian Golden Oriole

My efforts to attract them here have been a real success - I planted a Rusty Fig, (Ficus rubiginosa), 32 years ago to attract them and it seems to have done the trick, so much so that four years ago I planted another so that it'll take the first one's place one day. In all honesty I reckon we have about thirty Orioles at present here, as of course the tree's fruit attracts them from all around the vicinity.

We've been asked many times whether it's safe here from a Covid-19 point of view and the answer remains the same - couldn't be safer!

Southern Portugal, (that's the whole of the Algarve and Alentejo combined), has had a total of 25 deaths attributed to the pandemic - which rather puts to shame the recent description of Portugal as being a hot-spot.

Obviously we're taking precautions, just like everybody else, but when one considers that the average age of the population hereabouts is 65, thus putting the vast majority fair and square in the "at risk" group, it is nothing short of miraculous. Personally I put it down to "going early and going hard"; social distancing and obligatory mask-wearing in all public places was introduced in March and was adhered to with no fuss by the whole population. Comparing this response to that of more "advanced" nations - yes, I'm looking at you, the USA and the UK, where this obvious reaction to a global pandemic has still not been put into effect - is a lesson that will obviously be required learning for the future.

I feel very sad for all those unlucky souls to have been locked down in a flat or with no access to the outside, but, on a personal note, we have actually enjoyed having the Quinta all to ourselves for a few months and have never been happier. Clean air, a total absence of urgent summonses from the telephone, plenty of work to keep us occupied and plenty of space in which to do so has meant that, despite a paucity of funds, we have been able to continue to enjoy living here - this year it really has been "Paradise in Portugal" and now that guests are flooding in again we're enjoying sharing it again with all those who look for the same!

 

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 7691Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

It may not seem like it yet to most but here in Portugal Spring is definitely in the air. The first migrants are in and our Barn Swallows are already nesting in the eves outside the Quinta's dining room, though we daren't let them actually inside yet just in case we have a squall and have to shut the window again. That'll happen towards the end of April and then we'll have their constant chatter over dinner - can't wait!

Something else that we're looking forward to again this year is welcoming the winners of the BTO's Raffle. We offered the BTO a stay at the Quinta as their first prize last year and they managed to rais over £34,000 on the back of it which was, as they say, a Right Royal Result!

The winners were Chris and Derek Allnutt and we had them to stay during June and took them birding a couple of times as part of the prize during one of which we snapped their picture ...

Chris Derek Allnutt 6805

It wasn't the only time we raised funds for education and conservation either, as we repeated our regular offer to the Birdfair of a week's stay at the Quinta for their auction. This has always been a hit, and not just with the auction winners but with us too as the winners are often past guests who return again, and so it was last year with a special couple, Debbie and Ian Durie, returning for some more Birding, Nature Watching and Photography.

Debby Ian Durie 9140063

All in all we helped raise close to £40,000 and were obviously over the moon - so chuffed in fact that we're offering both prizes again and we obviously hope to raise just as much this year. For the Birdfair auction you'll have to wait till August and then bid for the week at Rutland, but the BTO's Raffle is live now so click on this link - you never know, someone's got to win and your ticket price is all going towards the best of causes!

Just to give you a taste of what those four saw last year while they were with us, here're a few pictures in alphabetical order taken while we were out with them during those two weeks 

Black Stork Ciconia nigra 9120353Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)

Black bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis 7101Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)

Black headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus 9140142Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus)

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 6636Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus 9140074Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 8055Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus 7984Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 9110624Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 7449Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio 9140162Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)

Red billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 9711Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes 7255Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 7031Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 7201Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)

But it was only the birds that stopped at Z, for there was lots more - yes, I know we're called "Birding in Portugal", but we're so much more! There were butterflies like this lovely Southern Gatekeeper, (Pyronia cecilia),

Southern Gatekeeper Pyronia cecilia 6905

and Dragonflies like this Southern Skimmer, (Orthetrum brunneum), 

Southern Skimmer Orthetrum brunneum 6913

and to top one of the weeks off, a species that I wish I could find every time we had friends to stay, a Common Chameleon, (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)!

Common Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon 9140240

Yes, it's worth the effort! Go on, click on the link and have a go! We'll look forward to welcoming you!

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Birding in Portugal

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

Email :
Phone : (+351) 283 933 065
Whatsapp : (+351) 938 386 326