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What’s Happening in

Harare Issue No 17 - July 2011

Bee-eaters, Falconry, Health Issues Rugby festival, Sculptures This month’s events and more! Photo competition results


Regular Pages:

Page

7

This Month’s Social Events What’s Happening in Harare this month

Articles: Swallow-Tailed Bee-eater

Page

3 4 19

Wine and Dine

33

Updated Monthly Centre Spread listing of Restaurants, Pubs and Coffee Shops - Hot Spots and Internet connections

And the Chimanimani Arts Festival

The Computer Society

Community Services Emergency contacts and numbers, Helplines, Churches, other Public Services, Roadside Assistance, Vets and Animal Welfare

41

Places of Interest

43

Gardening

Junior Schools Rugby Festival at Hellenic School

Falconry

AWARE - Tracking, training Health Issues Melanoma - cancerous moles, how to detect them

Sculpture Exhibition Maintaining a healthy balance

61-63

49

Experience Nature at its best, close to Harare

57

What to do in your garden this month

The sport of Kings

The fight against animal paching

31 38

36

The Role of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe

Catsicas Rugby Festival

Regular Monthly Activities Monthly Things to do

“The tree of life”

The Chimanimani mountains

21

Regular Weekly Activities Things to do from Monday to Sunday

How to see the July stars

Faiderbia Albida

17

What’s Happening at Reps this month

The habits and habitats of this species

Southern Night Sky

Reps Theatre Events

54 65 70

Classifieds advertisements

59

Mashonaland Photographic Society

68

Competition winners

Recipe Hot Bacon and potato soup

73

Kiddies Korner

75

Puzzles

76

This month’s Sudoku and Crossword

Cover photograph: Reflections on Livingstone Building, Samora Machel Ave, Harare, built July 1958 by Michelle Mesley

Read some interesting facts about Harare buildings on page 73 Issue No 17 - July 2011

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Issue No 17 - July 2011


By Ian Riddell

The bee-eaters comprise 52 species in the Old World, all through Africa except for the drier parts of deserts, up into the southern half of Europe and down through South-east Asia to Australia, where there is just a single species – the Rainbow Bee-eater. Plumages of shiny greens and blues predominate in this striking family, though at one end we have the Black Bee-eater (still with some azure-blue, mainly on the rump and belly) and at the other end, our rather flashy Southern Carmine Bee-eater. All have fairly long decurved beaks that allow them to safely deal with various insects that can sting! It is common to see them grasping a ‘dangerous’ insect at the end of the beak and beating and rubbing it against the perch until the sting is dealt with. They also bash beetles and harder insects until they are deemed tender enough to swallow. However, not just bees and wasps are caught, also cicadas, beetles, butterflies, termites and just about all diurnal insects in their particular area, as long as they are not too large or too small. Tail streamers are a common feature of the bee-eaters and whilst others like the Little Beeeater have slightly forked tails, this feature has been developed to an extreme by the Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. The Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus is a beautiful example (but aren’t they all?) of the ‘green’ type of bee-eater and somewhat bigger than the more common Little Bee-eater that we typically see on the highveld and to which it is closely allied. From the back they are both green but the swallow-tailed has a deeply forked tail, greyish-blue in the centre and greenish-blue otherwise. Like most of the bee-eaters, it has a black eye-stripe continuing from the bill, through the eye, to the back of the ‘cheek’. Its yellow throat is separated from the green breast by a lovely blue gorget. There are four species, confined to Africa; two north of the equator from Senegal to SW Ethiopia, and two in the southern tropics to South Africa. Their movements are not fully understood but in Zimbabwe, they are generally considered dry-season visitors, usually arriving in March or April and leaving around September to breed. But like most birds, there are some exceptions and a few sometimes stay late, or arrive early, and these over-summering birds may have remained to breed on the highveld. This year I caught my first glimpses quite late on the 4th May, in the gums at the back of the garden, and they were suddenly ‘everywhere’ after that. The first clue was their call, similar to the Little Bee-eater but distinctively different once you know it. They are vocal birds and quite a few were seen in Haka Park later in the month, hawking insects and bashing bees, and chattering kweep, kweepy bzzz, kweep and kwit, kweet-kwit, as the 5th edition of Roberts’ has it! Whilst they are not around in big flocks, in some years they appear more common, such as in Hwange in 1998 when they were ‘all over the place’, and often this reflects flocks arriving or departing. They tend to avoid high altitude, such as Nyanga above 1400m, but even there they have been recorded at Gleneagles on occasion. Once the bulk of the population leaves the Highveld, they are thought go to breed in the arid west, whilst some may breed in the south-east lowveld or move into Mozambique. To me, breeding in the west appears to have some advantages, chiefly that lower rainfall areas may be less prone to flooding of their nest holes. These are dug on flat or shelving ground or in low banks, road cuttings or even once an antbear burrow. The problem with flat ground is that the bee-eaters are more prone not only to flooding but also predation by small mammals, snakes and lizards. The Swallow-tailed doesn’t nest in big colonies like the Carmine; they would rather nest solitarily or with only a few pairs. Here they may tunnel for up to a metre, excavate a small chamber and lay 2-4 eggs. Not being much studied, we don't know the length of the incubation or nestling period, but those in banks could well end up being parasitised by the Greater Honeyguide! Birdlife Mashonaland Branch organises regular bird walks for its members and non-members free of charge (however there may be entry fees e.g. National Parks or a tip required depending on the location). For further information please contact Tony Alegria talegria@zol.co.zw, 0772438697, 04-490375 (h) Issue No 17 - July 2011

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By Pam Brennan and Julia Bryce

As the sky darkens in the west after sunset look to the left of where the sun set and you will see, about a hand span above the horizon, a very bright star. A hand span is the distance from thumb to little finger when splayed hand is held at arm’s length against the sky. This Star is Sirius and, in fact, it is the brightest star in the sky. Carry on looking left, and about two hand spans from Sirius is Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. Being in the southern hemisphere, we are privileged to see the two brightest objects in the sky together. Canopus is not visible in the northern hemisphere. Even further left and higher in the sky – you are now looking south – is the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, standing on its foot but leaning to the right. Five stars, four bright and one faint, make up this constellation. Immediately to the left of Crux and slightly lower is the famous Coalsack, a dark area caused by a vast dust cloud that obscures the Milky Way in the background. The Coalsack is easier to see when the sky is really dark later in the night and there is no moonlight. Close by and to the left of Crux are the pointers to the Southern Cross. These two stars are in the constellation Centaurus. The left hand pointer is Rigil Kent, our nearest star after the sun. Actually, it is a pair of stars as it has a much smaller, very close companion known as Proxima Centauri. A further two hand spans to the left (you are now facing east) is the constellation of Scorpius, measuring about one and half hand spans from head to tail. Its head, which rises first, consists of four stars, lying in a straight line which tilts to the right. At right angles and below the head is the body, made up of three stars. The middle star is a bright orange colour, and is known as Antares, meaning the ‘Rival of Mars’, which is our red planet. Below the body and curving in a clockwise semi-circle are the nine stars forming the tail and the sting. Because in myth, the scorpion stung Orion the Hunter to death, these two constellations never appear in the sky at the same time. Not only do the stars rise and set during the night, but they also move steadily westwards each night in their fixed positions. Thus the stars we see in winter are not always those we see in summer. Those near the celestial South Pole, like the southern Cross, remain low in the sky and stay below our horizon for a shorter period than do those nearer the Celestial Equator which are higher in the sky. This explains the myth about Scorpius and Orion! There are five planets that can be seen with the naked eye, but only three can be seen in the night sky in July. Saturn is visible in the early evening setting in the west before midnight and can be seen near Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. Jupiter, which is very bright, rises in the east around 2am and will be relatively high when the sun rises. Mars, the red planet, rises in the east about 4.30am, and you will need a level horizon and unobstructed horizon to view Mars low in the sky and in the glare of dawn. Venus will not be seen in July as it rises with the sun and Mercury rises long after sunrise at about 8.30am. The spectacular lunar eclipse on 15th June had an unusually long totality of 100 minutes which was just seven minutes shy of the absolute maximum for a total lunar eclipse. In fact, over the last 100 years, only three other eclipses have rivaled the duration of totality of this eclipse: The total lunar eclipse of July 16, 1935, lasted 101 minutes; the eclipse of July 6, 1982, lasted 107 minutes; the eclipse of July 16, 2000, lasted 107 minutes. This is possible only when the moon passes through the centre of the earth’s inner darker shadow (the umbra). The next total lunar eclipse of exceptional length will come on July 27, 2018, and will last 106 minutes. July has two new moons the first being on the 1st and the second new moon on the 30th. The Full moon is on the15th. On July 1st there will be a solar eclipse. This Southern Hemisphere event is visible from a D-shaped region in the Antarctic Ocean south of Africa. Such a remote and isolated path means that it may very well turn out to be the solar eclipse that nobody sees. Page 4

Issue No 17 - July 2011


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