Our life has been turned upside down. Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime. It feels as if the world has gone to war. To think that I worried about Brexit, Johnson and Trump – this is far worse.
The Corona Virus (COVID-19) was identified in Wuhan in Central China last November and in no time China became the epicentre for this virus that causes a deadly pneumonia-type disease in elderly people but mostly only mildly affects the young and fit. It spreads like wildfire and over Chinese New Year hundreds of thousands of tourists from China conveyed it to all parts of the globe. At first there was only a trickle of cases in Europe but in the last two weeks it has become rampant and was classified by WHO as a pandemic. Italy has been in lockdown for some time and now Spain and likely other countries are to follow. Most countries have closed schools, universities, nightclubs and even larger restaurants and bars. The UK has adopted a more measured approach but the death rate there is rising rapidly and I believe that policy will soon change. Here in Portugal all major events, sporting and otherwise, have been cancelled or postponed and everyone has been told to self-isolate at home. Queues in supermarkets are long and shelves are quickly emptying. Schengen agreement or no, it is believed that Portugal will soon seal her border with Spain.
Flights to many countries have been suspended and I am sure that our planned visit to England at Easter will not go ahead. For us, bridge has ceased and all social events involving more than a few people have been put on hold. Our Portuguese friends are sitting tight at home. This looks like going on for months and months. I am certain that the public are not being told everything about COVID-19. At least I have the countryside and walks to enjoy but that may change, as in Italy nobody can leave their homes without a permit. The sun is shining and summer is coming and Villa 24 makes a very comfortable holding pen. I only hope that it does not turn out to be God’s waiting room!
Ribeira do Almargem – 14th March
It was good to get out in the morning sunshine and walk up this lovely valley through traditional farmland and orchards. There was not much of a flow in the river and the ford was barely wet. I hardly saw anyone and certainly did not come within sneezing distance of a living soul (two metres). Mercifully, the Algarve countryside is free of dog walkers. In a little less than three hours I listed 33 species of birds, four butterflies, two mammals and a frog. Despite this being the driest spring for years, wildflowers were showing well. I identified the small cistus-type flower Fumana laevipes for the first time – in Malta it has the English common name Narrow-leaved Needle Sunrose, which is a bit of a mouthful.