Self-isolation – Monday 16th March 2020

I feel like I have been practicing self-isolation for the last five weeks in anticipation of the inevitable spread of Coronavirus. Record breaking rainfall totals and high winds made ringing impossible and led to a gap of 40 days between visits to the reserve, the longest since I started ringing there. On the bright side, at least I have valid reason now to ask visitors to keep their distance rather than try to hold a conversation while I’m trying to concentrate on processing and releasing birds!

Personal hygiene has been a priority for me whilst ringing, ever since contracting Giardia at SML a couple of years ago. A particularly unpleasant gastric parasite, associated with faecal material, it proved beyond the testing and diagnosis capabilities of the NHS and my degree in applied and environmental microbiology was my saviour in that, after three weeks of discomfort and pain, I was able to self-diagnose and arrange private tests and appropriate antibiotics rather than waiting another ten days for the NHS to conduct yet more tests. Just two days after starting the antibiotics things started to improve!

One fortunate consequence of the parasite was that I stocked up on medical-grade, alcohol-based hand gel at a budget price – surplus stock from the Canadian health system, which was originally procured during fears of a SARS outbreak. I now have six litres of the stuff at home, probably enough to last my entire ringing career. I’ll be selling it on street corners as the current outbreak progresses!

Not much need for it today though. All the wintering Chiffchaffs and Crests have departed, leaving behind just resident species and the first few, returning male, breeding Chiffchaffs, some of which were adorned with the pollen of eucalypts, presumably picked up as they crossed N Africa or Iberia. At least three Cetti’s Warblers were singing at various points around the perimeter of the reedbed and three Water Rails appeared to be holding separate territories. Bird of the day was a beautiful Barn Owl, which sat briefly on a pole in the sunshine beside marsh ride before flying to cover.

Ringing was slow, with just 14 birds trapped, and only three between 9 and 12am, when I packed up: 3 Cetti’s Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Robin and 3 Wren. Things can only get better!