Murphy’s Law and flying ants

7 12 2011

They are actually flying termites but everyone calls them ants. When I arrived home this afternoon I parked the pickup and as I got out I noticed a lot of birds feeding off termites that were flying off the drive and grass. They paid little attention to me; obviously the risk was worth it! I noticed a spectacled weaver, bronze sunbird, double collared sunbird, blue waxbill, yellow bellied sunbird, red eyed bulbul,masked weaver and a couple of others I didn’t know. It did not matter what their normal food was – this was definitley a bonus! I decided it was worth getting a camera. Of course when I got back the clouds were obscuring the sun and the flying “ants” had stopped! Murphy’s Law enacted…

It’s in the name

29 11 2011

The flamboyant trees this year have been, well, flamboyant! They are not indigenous but I will tolerate that because just about any tree is better than none. No, I have not fiddled the colours!

Beetle fun

29 11 2011

Photos taken on some everlasting flowers (Helichrysum) by my drive. The bee in the first photo was not welcomed by the beetle!

Jacaranda season

3 11 2011

Jacarandas are not indigenous to Zimbabwe but one does find them in the most unlilkely of places. They put on quite a show when in season and this year they have been particularly vivid though their season is coming to an end now. The first rains and storms play havoc with the flowers and now the foliage is taking over.

Insect season!

25 10 2011

Summer is insect season in Zimbabwe. This leaf mantid or Phyllocrania paradoxa was waiting on the verandah door to be photographed when I got home this afternoon. I will see if it is still around tomorrow and try for a better background but they don’t usually hang around when relocated.

Tsetsera revisted – 21 years later!

11 08 2011

The Tsetsera mountains are between the Burma Valley and Cashel on the eastern border of Zimbabwe. One of two places registered to grow seed potatoes they rise up to 2200m so can be pretty cold in winter. Tuesday, however, was a perfect day to visit them and worth braving the appalling road. A complete abscence of anyone else remotely resembling tourists of course helped!

The valley was essentially unsettled from 1980 to 1992, there having been a Renamo perpetrated massacre of some 40 inhabitants in the the early 80s. Now there appears to be a thriving if small community. The lower reaches of the valley are well watered with gravity fed irrigation and there were some very reasonable wheat crops around. Potatoes are still grown on the top of the mountain but I have difficulty believing that they are viable given the 45km of tortuous road out to the main Mutare road.

I was last in the area in 1990 when I got a lift up with an amateur botanist. In those days there certainly was no-one living on the mountain and I recall the valley being very sparsely populated. There was talk of land mines around so we didn’t wander around too much but it seemed to be fine this time!

The mystery fly

5 08 2011

I am told this is a type of sawfly. It is tiny, about 2.5mm long and it was on the Helichrysum flowers at the front of my house. Other than that I have no idea which sawfly it is!


State of the nation – agriculture

17 05 2011

I took a drive up to Mutare this weekend to visit Gary and June and hopefully get in a bit of paragliding as the weather was certainly looking good. It had been some time since I drove the Mutare road so I was also curious to see how much agriculture I could see. As it turned out, very little was happening or had happened in the past season. To be fair it does not pass through very good soils, most are granite derived sands which are mainly suitable for tobacco or cattle farming. There was precious little signs of either. The bush was looking good though and the grass long which does not bide well for the fire season though.

On Saturday we took a drive up into the Vumba Mountains and they are as scenic as ever.  Mostly too steep for productive agriculture the farms there have not escaped the land grab and remnants of protea lands were still just visible over the invading grass.

We never did get to fly as the wind was not co-operating at either site we went to but the views were great.

As I write this a farmer on the road into town is fighting off a “jambanja” (land grab) attempt on his farm. It is not coincidence that he has lands full of cabbages, potatoes and maize all ready to harvest.

Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2011

28 04 2011

As I write this HIFA 2011 is in the closing phase (please see the page on the right for a gallery of photos). The final HIFAlutin (get the pun?) newssheet was produced last night so I am no longer required to take photos and though I have a pass to get into anything there was nothing in the programme for today that I thought warranted a trip into town. As a photographer I was required to take photos of shows that the editorial staff wanted to cover; either a special interest or something that needed coverage to sell a few more tickets so quite a lot of it I would not have attended out of choice. But that’s OK, I got exposure to some interesting stuff and I got some nice photos – well I think so!

So today has been a slow day. I even had to go grocery shopping as I’d done nothing during the week. I abhor shopping at the best of times so it really was a drag to do on a day off but well, the cupboard was bare. Kharma watched me with some trepidation – poor girl, she’s a real person dog and hated being left alone all day and well into the night while I was at the Festival. She leaped into the back of the ‘Cruiser with alacrity and kept guard whilst I did the shopping.

“Hello Sir!” says an opportunistic vendor looking for an opening to sell me somthing.

“Hello and no thanks I don’t want, knives, or steering wheel covers, or brushes, or my car painted, or mats, or superglue or padlocks. In fact I don’t want ANYTHING! You could GIVE me what you are trying to sell me and I would give it back to you!”


“That’s a big dog you have.”

“Yes it is a VERY big dog.”

“What’s it’s name?”

“It’s name is BITE and it wants to bite you!”

“Ah!” He takes a step back and turns away. I grin at the accomplice who can see I am joking. He smiles but says nothing.

It’s a rathy tatty supermarket and not my first choice but today is Africa Day and the other one was closed. I cut short my shopping list when I walk past the meat counter and am assailed by a rather meaty sort of smell. I grab three newspapers at the till to read on the way out.

There are no real Sunday papers in the tradition of the UK. The Sunday papers there took a full week to read, they were so full of information. In fact the three papers I have picked up are weeklies – the Zimbabwe Independent, The Standard and The Financial Gazette. It’s just the same old news from slightly different perspectives. The political impasse in the country is dominant and I have no trouble in getting through them all in half an hour – I need newspapers to clean windows and light fires. There is one piece on the HIFA opening show that got a few of the senior organizers arrested and released without charge and the police apparently denying that anything happened at all. The rest of the coverage of the Festival is minimal. A page is dedicated to the day’s programme and highlights but the photos are small and of little interest.

HIFA is much more than an annual Festival. There are lots of outreach programmes and skills exchange which culminate in the Festival. And the Festival is much more than that – there are lots of workshops and master classes on the go too. It will take a few weeks to clean up in all senses of the word, the permanent staff take a break and then it starts all over again.

Cosmos season

17 03 2011

It’s comos season again though this year they are not as showy as in the past. I don’t know why – maybe something to do with the erratic rains. I enjoy photographing them, there is always something happing – bees, flies and even an optimistic spider!