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An early morning spin

I had to pop up to town a week or so ago, and, to beat the heat of the day as much as the traffic, left the Quinta at 5.30 for a ride up there on the bike.

I thought it’d be interesting to make a note of what I saw in the first hour’s drive, passing through 6 villages and covering 60 miles of the ride, (about 100 kms), so here it is …

Regarding the Natural World there was
1 Barn Owl
1 Buzzard
1 Hare
1 Rabbit
4 Storks
5 Cattle Egrets
5 Red Legged Partridges
3 Jays
10 Blackbirds
and many LBJs, mostly Crested, Thekla and Wood Larks, Goldfinches, Linnets, Cirl Buntings, Stonechats etc.

Nothing spectacular there one might think, but what always stuns me on these early morning rides is the amount of human presence noticeable in this area, and that morning was no exception.

In that first hour’s ride there was
1 lorry carrying bricks
1 lorry carrying wood
1 small van
1 pick-up
1 moped,
3 men, (two together and 1 individually)
and 1 dog ….

I wonder how many other places in Europe would have this kind of list! What a joy to be able to live here!


Eclipse-2757, originally uploaded by Paradise in Portugal.

The recent Lunar Eclipse threw up this particular oddity – a new Blue Planet. Any of you know what it could be? There was nothing there and only when the shot was downloaded off the camera did the blue object became visible. A mystery …

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.