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When will they mend this road? I’ll keep you posted!

N266-0371, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

Over the last few months they’ve been doing some repair work on the railway that runs through Santa Clara, and there’ve been huge lorries moving tons and tons of soil and rock from one place to another nearby.

All well and good, but the cost has been that the main road near us has simply disintegrated, and the picture above is just one of the many pot-holes around here.

Flora standing behind it gives some idea of the size, but that pile of earth in front of her isn’t at the side of the road – it’s right in the middle, and the difference between the bottom of the hole and the top of the pile is over half a meter!

We’ve talked to the Junta, (the equivalent of the Parish Council), we’ve complained to the Câmara, (the equivalent of the County Council) and we’ve made an official complaint to Estradas de Portugal, (the national road maintenance body), complete with photographs etc etc and nothing seems to be happening at all, so please, if you’re going to be visiting us anytime soon, TAKE CARE or you’ll be liable to lose your sump, wheels, tyres – or even the whole car if it gets much worse.

It’ll be interesting to see when something’s actually done about it; I’ll keep you posted!

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 “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

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 …

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!

Why Two-tailed Pashas make you thirsty …

As the days become warmer so more and more Butterflys, Moths, Dragonflies and Crickets appear. The Cicadas have still to appear in large numbers, but every day seems to bring something new to our attention.
This morning it was this Two-tailed Pasha, warming up in the early morning sunshine. It’s the largest European Butterfly and the food plant is the Arbutus bush or “Strawberry Tree”.
Those markings on its under-wing are pretty vivid and should bring it to the attention of all the nearby birds, but maybe it doesn’t taste too good as we make our local hooch out of the same bush – it’s pretty powerful stuff!
Called Medronho it’s drunk out of tiny glasses at any hour of the day, but normally accompanied by a slice of cake or a biscuit or two. The first one’s enough to make your eyes water, but the second goes down easily enough and the third even easier – by the fourth you’ll be past caring!

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

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 …