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What’s on the horizon … Retreats and Birding dates for 2018

No rain - but that hasn't stopped the narcissi!

No rain – but that hasn’t stopped the narcissi!

Being in the middle of a serious drought means that we’re constantly scanning the horizon for clouds of any sort that might signal rain, but sadly, so far, there has been little to get excited about and we’ve had precisely two days of showers and one small thunderstorm since May … but are we down-hearted? Nay! Never, and neither is the garden. The narcissi above started flowering even before the ash trees lost their leaves and they seem to be making the most of the sunny days.

Of course these winter months are filled with maintenance and building projects for Daniela, I and the Quinta team. Painting and weeding and chopping down and clearing up, and re-organising and re-re-organising – it never stops. This year the big plan is for a new “space”; we’re calling it the Yoga Shala as it will be used for that especially as it faces due east to catch the rising sun, but it’ll be used just as much for get-togethers and for hosting our increasing number of Retreats. We’ve always been a bit stymied for space for these so a new shady space measuring 20 mts by 8 mts should fit the bill nicely. While I’ve been building it I’ve noticed that it’s even good for Dartford Warblers and other friends so I’m sure it’ll be a good place also for our birding visitors.

Marie Therese is always on hand - and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Marie Therese is always on hand – and what better place to learn Batik than the Quinta!

Talking of Retreats, here’re some dates for next year …

We have Marie Therese King returning for more Batik’n’Birding on two dates; the first is seven nights from the 26th May and the second is for seven nights from 6th October. These have proved to be a great success over the last few years and as space is limited I suggest an early enquiry to Marie Therese should you be interested in learning or perfecting this interesting and innovative technique.

Following on from one of Marie Therese’s weeks and starting on the 2nd June the Quinta will be hosting Lucy Gell who will be running a Print’n’Birding week which promises to be fun. Once again, places are limited, especially as she will be covering techniques including drypoint etching and linocut, giving participants the opportunity to produce a number of prints as they learn to improve their line and texture in these exciting mediums, so book early to avoid disappointment.

There are other Retreats too, notably Todd Acamesis’ Spiritual Underground Retreats which’ll be running twice next year at the Quinta, both times for five nights, the first from 27th June and the second from the 5th September. Here’s a link to the article about his OBEs from August this year.

Of course we also have our normal nature-orientated agencies as usual if you want to bird with like-minded people in an organised group; you might even be lucky enough to see Great Bustards fighting like in this Youtube clip from one of Frank’s Guided Birding Trips

Ornitholidays have two weeks and Travelling Naturalist also.

Ornitholidays will be coming out for a week from 6th May and again for another week from 16th September and Travelling Naturalist also for a week from 7th April and again from 23rd September. Both of these companies are leaders in the field and have both been working with us here at the Quinta for many years.

Retreat in Portugal

Yoga on the pontoon

We’ve had more and more requests this year for Retreats in Portugal – so much so that we’re going to start up a new web page soon, not surprisingly to be called www.retreat-in-portugal.com so watch this space. The above is a retreat we’re running right now doing yoga on the pontoon before breakfast.

Some of our birding groups during 2017

We’ve had a stunning year on the birding front and above are some of our birding groups during 2017. I haven’t counted yet but I’ve a feeling we took around one hundred and fifty different people around southern Portugal this year to show them some of our wildlife wonders. You can see some of the pictures on our birding site. One lady – you know who you are – celebrated her 14th visit for this activity and has already booked again for next year, and we’ve several who are also into double figures. It’s nice to know that we’re doing something right!

Batik Group 2017

Another successful course was our “Batik’n’Birding Week” run with Marie Therese King which has just finished with the happy participants showing off some of their work above.

Old friends

We’ve seen many old friends, (many older than they’d like to be), and made many new ones too, like those below

New friends

But none of this could be possible without the help and assistance of our dedicated helpers and staff; first and foremost of course come Fatima, (who’s now been with us over twenty five years), and Dulce, (a mere newcomer with only ten under her belt).

Fatima & Dulce

Other helpers this year included Sammy, Rosanna and Lynn

Sammy, Rosanna & Lynn

and Kate and Judith

Kate & Judith

and of course we mustn’t forget Amber, (in the middle),

Amber & friends

and Jasmin, (also in the middle),

Jasmin & friends

or the stalwart Tony, that man of mystery and invisible shirts, the speedy Gonzalez of the Algarve.

Tony, Kate and friends

Our sincere thanks go to all of you at the end of this season, you who make up our team, our colleagues and our friends. There are, of course, many others, but sadly we have mislaid some photos this year … so instead I’ll leave you with a couple of shots I took when I went to the Farne Islands in June with another great friend – for no other reason than that it was one of the happiest days of my life!

Atlantic Puffin

 

Clowning around

Here we go!

Alentejo sunrise

Alentejo sunrise

The Birdfair Raffle run by “Birding in Portugal!” has been drawn again and Chris and Vic have booked their stay here next year – we’re looking forward to showing you our beautiful area, like the sunrises, above, or these gorgeous lizards, below.

Large Psammodromous Lizards mating

Large Psammodromous Lizards mating

Another Draw

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Sadly the first winners of the Birdfair Raffle never claimed their prize – so we’re going to draw it again this Saturday, 16th September!

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

There are three prizes to be won again this year and I so hope someone claims them this time … the first prize is for a week’s accommodation for two people in either a double or a twin bedded room here at the Quinta, the nerve-centre of “Birding in Portugal“, and the beautiful home of Frank and Daniela McClintock.

Short-toed Eagle

Short-toed Eagle

The 2nd and 3rd prizes are for three free mid-week nights at the same location, and all prizes have to be enjoyed next year between 15th March and 15th July or 15th September and 31st October.

We’ll post the winners names up here on the 16th and you’ll have a week to claim your prize by simply emailing us here at the Quinta through this website with the same address you gave us at the Birdfair. Nothing simpler, so “Good luck” and we look forward to hearing from you.

News, news, news!

The Birdfair Team 2017

The Birdfair Team 2017

Wow! It’s been a FULL-ON year for the Quinta! I don’t think we’ve ever been so busy and the best bit about it was the amount of past guests returning again and again – I think the winner must be Sheila who’s racked up thirteen visits, but she’s closely followed by Calum and several others, and it’s been a rare week when we haven’t had at least one or two couples staying who’ve stayed before. It’s a great, great feeling to be running the place with this amount of positive feedback, so my thanks go to all you who’ve come and stayed here over this season – and we look forward to seeing you again in the future!

We seem to be becoming known in the “Retreat” market as well – so much so that we’re going to have another website soon called “www.retreat-in-portugal.com”, so watch out for that one. Marie Therese King is running her “Batik’n’Birding” week again in a few week’s time, and there’s still a room free so if that’s your bag, (and with the weather we have at the moment it’ll be fantastic!), get in touch with her soon.

Batik'n'Birding group 2016

Batik’n’Birding group 2016

Talking of Birding, since February there’s rarely been a week when we didn’t have an excursion but the Spring Birding Season was especially busy, and in June we closed the Quinta for five days to give Daniela and I a break.

Daniela took the opportunity for some pampering with her parents and Elias in Vienna, and I, well I of course went birding! Des took me off to the Farne islands where we had a blast, (you can see some of the pictures we took here), and it took weeks before the smile was wiped off my face.

Then it was the summer and it was busy, busy, busy (with the Birdfair in August as well, where we once again donated over £500 towards their conservation efforts worldwide), and now … well, the Autumn migration’s begun and we’re straight into it as it seems to be an early kick-off this year.

European Bee-eaters doing what it says on the tin!

European Bee-eaters doing what it says on the tin!

Our Bee-eaters, normally so punctual, left at least 5 days earlier than normal and I saw our first Northern Wheatear coming through before the end of August, which is again early. Speaking with Archie this morning – he’s running a chateau in the south of France this summer – he said he’d noticed it too, with large movements of Rollers and raptors noticeable every day heading for the passes through and around the Pyrenees.

We drew the raffle last week but nobody’s claimed their prize – it’s surprising how often it happens, so we’re going to send out an email to everyone who entered as a reminder and draw it again on the 16th September.

That’s what happened last year and we’re looking forward to welcoming Kenny & Chris, last year’s second week’s lucky winners, who are coming over next month.

 

Kenny & Chris

Kenny & Chris

 

Boasting again

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

It’s always good to be written about, but yesterday we had a double whammy as not only did Zeiss do a piece about us featuring some of my photos on their blog, (which you can read here), but the Times also recognised us as being one of the top 20 “hotels” in Portugal, (which you can access here), so, much as I loathe boasting, it’s only right that I should spread the word isn’t it?!

Added to which of course I can make loads of friends green with envy by posting some pictures, which I hope look as good on your computer as they do on mine – though of course my computer comes complete with a “You lucky so-and-so, Frank” sticker.

Above is a Red-rumped Swallow from a recent day out; always a favourite species for me, but they don’t often stay still long enough to be able to grab a shot like this, and below a dozen Black-crowned Night herons that floated over the top of us the day before yesterday – thank you, Ray, for letting us know they were coming!

Black-crowned Night Herons

Black-crowned Night Herons

Finally, just a quicky of the first Bee-eaters we saw this year. They arrived dead on time again, on the 2nd April, and we were lucky enough to find them already excavating their nest holes in a sandy bank, competing with a respectable colony of Sand Martins.

European Bee-eaters

European Bee-eaters

The Quinta’s Conservation contributions – and the Birdfair raffle winners!

We’re very proud here that we’ve just topped £3,500 in Conservation contributions over the last six years from our efforts at the British Birdwatching Fair alone.

For those who don’t know, the British Birdwatching Fair is “The Birdwatcher’s Glastonbury”, the largest Birdwatching and Nature Fair in the world, which takes place every year in Rutland in the UK.

Birdfair 2015 0880

Every year we have a large stand there under the name “Birding in Portugal” to promote Portugal as one of the best places in the world to go birding and watch nature, and every year we give a free week’s accommodation at the Quinta as a donation towards an auction that helps Avian Conservation projects worldwide. Of course this is on top of the contributions we make by other means towards conservation worldwide and also here in Portugal; it all adds up, and it’s wonderful to really feel the truth in that old adage, “Giving is better than Receiving”, especially to such a worthwhile cause.

Every year we also run a raffle there, with a first prize equal to the auction contribution, (as above), and a runners-up prize of “three-night, mid-week free accommodation” at the Quinta.

The 2015 Raffle winners with Frank & Daniela

The 2015 Raffle winners with Frank & Daniela

Last year’s 1st prize winners were Liz and David Hughes, pictured above at the Quinta.

Both prizes are subject to availability of course, but are valid for any time between March 15th and July 15th or September 10th and October 31st next year, a wide enough window that should suit everyone. A smaller window is the time during which we should be advised by the winners, as both have to be claimed by midnight of the 13th September this year.

I’m glad to say that this year both prizes have been claimed so congratulations to Kenny Hall and Kevin Woods. We look forward to seeing you out here next year.

Just one more thing before I sign off; we’ve been awarded Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence again, the fifth year in a row now. This is the industry’s top Customer Review site so we must be doing something right!

Good luck and I hope we’ll see you out here soon!

This year's Certificate of Excellence

This year’s Certificate of Excellence

 

Batik’n’Birding

Batik'n'Birding Week 2016

Batik’n’Birding Week 2016

We’ve just had the most wonderful week mixing Batik with Marie Therese King and Birding with Frank. The collage above is a small sample of the things we did and saw.

Some group members have already booked up for a repeat next year, so if you’re interested make sure to get in contact with us soon. It’ll be running from the 13th June … see you there!

A quick bonus book

A week ago a very good friend emailed me with the offer of making a couple of photo books, so I thought I’d make one of the birds we’re lucky enough to see in the area around the Quinta. Hope you like it!

Another winter’s work!

The new Helipad

The new Helipad

Another winter’s done’n’dusted and sometimes I have to take stock and actually walk around to see what we’ve achieved to make the Quinta an even better place to spend time.

It’s easy of course when you’ve got something like our new Helipad, (that’s ever so slightly “in yer face”), but so much of what we all do here in the winter ends up being below ground – or at least relatively unnoticeable. All the irrigation that we’ve installed this winter for instance, or the old roofs we’ve replaced, well, no-one in their right mind’s going to go “Wow!”, but it all takes time.

Even the “above-ground” garden alone is pretty well a full-time job now, as every year we have a blitz on it during November and December to keep it in check, prune it back, get rid of the old or dead and replace with bright new horticultural beauties. It takes time to grow back, and at this time of year it’s still feeling a tad dazed, but now the days are getting longer and there’s still some moisture left in the ground it’s recovering swiftly, and it’ll look right as rain within no time. The terrace below for instance, nude now, will be a tangle of roses, grapes and wisteria before another month has passed.

Goldfish Pond and terrace

The refurbished Goldfish Pond and bare Terrace

However, there are some things that stand out as much as the Helipad, and one that’s been on the cards for years, and that we’ve finally got around to doing something about, is a decent spot of shade for cars. The brief from Daniela was that it should fit into the surroundings and be in keeping with the Quinta’s ethos – as well as having as few poles that she could bump in to as possible and enough space so guests didn’t bash doors etc.

Following weeks of model-making, planning and cost analysis, it’s built now and so far so good; you’ll have to let me know what you think when you next visit!

At last, some decent shade!

At last, some decent shade!

What else is new? Oh yes, in line with our constant quest for reduction of our carbon footprint, we have been able to reduce yet further our genny use. Of course it’s another of those things that no-one’ll notice but ourselves, but to cut down from three hours a day to half an hour is quite a reduction, and eases us all the time closer to being 100% run off solar energy; now we have to save up for a new set of main batteries!

Something that our guests will notice this year though are two new SUPs – that’s Stand-Up Paddleboards for the uninitiated – which included me a few weeks ago! I haven’t tried them yet; far too chilly should I fall in, but you’re welcome!

Eco-Watersports with some Stand-Up-Paddleboards

Eco-Watersports with canoes, rowing boats, sailing dinghy and some Stand-Up-Paddleboards