This year we have started weekly stargazing sessions with our guests as many over the years have commented on the fantastic night skies we have. We look at what is there around 22:00, at the moment Jupiter and Saturn are in view.

At one of the last sessions I put my camera out too – the bright spot just to the left of the center is Saturn; with the telescope we could clearly see the rings.

You can also see the Milky Way over the left part of the photo.

Night Sky at Casa Flor de Sal

A great thing about stargazing at Casa Flor de Sal in the summer is that you don’t get cold 🙂

For interested photographers: ISO 800 30s f/4.0.

Posted in Activities, Garden, Photography

Winter night at the pool

Night photo from our pool

Night photo from our pool

After all the work with updating the website I wanted to do something different. We have had some very clear days and nights (and cold, today it _snowed_ 6km from here!) and I thought I would try star trails with the pool. In the evening I set up tripod, prepared camera, had the lens focused to be ready before six in the morning and then – clouds showed up!

Not to waste the work I took photos anyway, here’s the first result.

Posted in Garden, Photography

Little Owl saved

Little Owl in hand

Little Owl in hand

One of the birds you are sure to see at Casa Flor de Sal if you look is the Little Owl. They are common around here, and we gave Alexandra a sponsorship of recovering one at RIAS as a Christmas present.

RIAS is based at the visitor centre at Parque Natural de Ria Formosa and had saved two little owls; one found with a broken pelvis and one fallen out of the nest.

As we had sponsored it we were invited to participate in the release, unfortunately Alexandra was not able to be there but was replaced by our oldest son Daniel. We had the chance to see it before the release and they are really small, just compare to the hand.

And then it went:

Just a last look close up:

Little Owl

Little Owl close

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At last, “our” storks are successful

As our guests know, we have a stork nest at the property, and it is interesting to follow what is going on.

Two young stork plus a parent

Two young stork plus a parent

We have had storks on it every year, but the last 3 seasons they have not been successful breeding. One year the young died, and the two next nothing hatched. We think one of the partners are new this year, and in any case they have produced two young, who seem to be growing well. They have to, as they normally leave the nest around the beginning of July.

Looking at the photo, you can see one of the parents lying to the left of the young.

Other birding: A couple of days ago, we saw a tern diving for fish in our natural swimming pool. We could not identify it (it was not a Little Tern), but as it was diving from at least 5m in the shallow part we almost worried if it would hurt itself. Apparently not, as we saw it repeating the dive a couple of minutes later.

Posted in Garden, Wildlife

More wildlife

We are discovering more about the local wildlife as time goes. We have discovered that there are foxes in the area, not only did we see two coming home one evening, but we had one in the property too – the cats were very exited.

We have also seen more hedgehogs and chameleons since we got our natural swimming pool. I can imagine the first are attracted by access to fresh water, and the latter perhaps because there are more insects around. By the way, the hedgehogs seem smaller than the ones I knew from Denmark – as they do not have to survive the winter, size is not as much of an advantage?

The badger's front door?

The badger’s front door?

Finally I have found I think is badger dens, have a look at the photo. This is in one of the dikes around the salt pans in the Ria Formosa, and I found 3 that looked like they were in use, plus some abandoned ones. The hole itself is 25cm or so in diameter, and as there were no rubbish or strong smell I thought it was not a foxhole. Unfortunately the soil is too sandy for the critters to leave legible pawprints.

The main thing that puzzles me is how the animals get fresh water in the summer – it is a very dry place, surrounded by salt water.

Posted in Natural Swimming Pool, Wildlife

Flamingo House photos

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Stork House photos

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Hoopoe House photos

As we changed our website, the old houses need photos on the web until we finish the gallery.

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Autumn bird migration

Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture

This afternoon we had a good chance to see the autumn bird migration. I looked up and spotted about 20 large birds of prey slowly passing Casa Flor de Sal, slowly moving east while riding the thermals of the warm afternoon.

Luckily I was out with my camera anyway, but as they were very high the photo is more for identification than art 🙂 I have been told it is a Griffon Vulture, I had mistakenly identified it as Egyptian.

Among birders, Algarve and in particular the area around Sagres is know as a good spot to see most of the migrating European birds of prey at the end of September/beginning of October. For some reason, many of them end up too far west and get to the Sagres pensinsula. They spend a week or so there, and when they realise they can’t see land on the other side they move east and cross at Gibraltar.In the spring they do not do this detour, and I have heard that it is mainly the young and inexperienced birds that do this.

As the birds rely on thermal updraft for flying, it is at quite civilized hours as they only get going around 10 in the morning. If you are really interested, there is the Sagres Birdwatching Festival.

Technical: The photo is at actual pixels from a Nikon D3100 (14MP), and shot at 400mm.

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Natural Swimming Pool development

Lake plants

The plants in the natural swimming pool are growing well

It is some time since I last wrote about out natural swimming pool, so here is an update.

The water cleared slowly, and for a long while we could almost see the grains of sand at the bottom, through 2.5m water. There was still a bit of algae floating on the surface, but it reduced slowly.

We then started to use it, and so did a lot of our guests; it is clearly warmer than the normal pool. Unfortunately it seems to have charged the balance (suntan lotion?), and the water started turning slightly green. We have stopped using it for a couple of days, and the green has reduced again, I think the sudden change of load was a bit too much. As it matures and the plants grow, we expect it to become more robust.

And as you can see on the photo, the plants are growing well.

Dragonfly Skin

Discarded skin of dragonfly larvae hatching in the natural swimming pool

The animals have also changed, there are fewer species than in the spring. We still have the fish and at least 3 species of dragon- and damselflies, but some of the other insects are rarely seen. I wonder if it is the time of year or if the fish and dragonfly larvae have eaten them all. At least we have now proof the dragonflies feel well in the natural swimming pool, this is the discarded skin of one turning adult:

Posted in Natural Swimming Pool, Photography