The Birds and the bees

Scotts_2016 Posted by Keith and Lyn Scott on Tue, 09 May 2017 | 2 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

So let us tell you about the birds and the bees and about the wild life we have in Kitwe.

Our house, although not really very old, has more than a few oddities. One of those oddities is that there were two voids (technical speak for big holes), in the wall at the back of the house. They gave access to the pipework under the baths in the two bathrooms (yes we do have two bathrooms, even if sometimes we have no water in either of them). They were left there when the house was built because of the way the baths were built in. Instead of setting the baths in and then screwing a nice piece of painted plyboard or plastic onto the side of the bath as you would normally expect, someone set the bath in then put concrete all around it and tiled over the concrete. Certainly durable, but if you were ever need to repair or replace the pipework then it is pick axe and big mess time.

When we arrived in January, we did arrange for someone to cover these holes over with a piece of carefully cut plywood in the vague hope that this would prevent snakes, rats and other unwelcome guests taking up residence in the space underneath our bath. Water or not, there is nothing quite so off-putting as discovering a large spitting cobra under your bath, especially if you are in it, doing what one does in a bath.

About two weeks ago a swarm of bees arrived at our house, uninvited, unexpected and unobserved. They manage to by-pass our cunning and well constructed defenses and find their way into the space underneath one of the baths. Lyn eventually noticed them one Sunday afternoon, and called Keith. “There are some bees in the hole at the back”, she said, “can you come and spray them”?

Keith emerged, armed with the inevitable can of Doom assuming that a quick squirt would do the job. There was a threatening buzzing noise from behind the board, and a stream of bees worthy of any city rush-hour were going both in and out of a small gap at the side of the board.

African bees are bad tempered and dangerous. We were going to need something other than a can of Doom. Unfortunately neither Keith nor Lyn know any local bee-keepers and sadly the bees had to go. The exterminator was summoned and the hive, unhappily, destroyed. The following Friday Keith and Francis supervised the bricking up and filling in of both holes. If we do have to work at the pipes under the bath it will indeed be pick-axe time, but that is better than bees, snakes or rats in the bath.

The second part of this story is a little bit happier. It is about birds. There are over 700 species of bird in Zambia, some of them, like wagtails and sparrows, are pretty much the same as the birds in Europe. They each have their own strategies for survival and their own season for breeding.

It may well be coming into what we laughingly call ‘winter’ in Zambia. The days are shortening and the rains appear to have, more or less, stopped, the nights are cooler and we have a blanket on the bed. The odd thing is, that although it is more or less the equivalent of autumn here, plants are busy flowering. The frangipani tree that we planted many years ago has flowered and it’s heady perfume is there for all to experience. Just over our back wall there is a piece of more or lest waste ground, colonized by tall rangy bushes with enormous daisy-like yellow flowers. The short cut grass around the house has seeded and so have many of the trees and shrubs around the garden and on the wider MEF campus.

This is a food bonanza for the small seed eating birds of Zambia. If there is a food bonanza then it is breeding season. The small seed eating birds are busy gobbling up the seeds and, without the cold of a northern European winter to worry about, building nests and settling down to lay eggs and raise chicks.

This is where the oddities of the house come in again. The concrete of the mortar was not mixed very well. Some of it is a little bit like Cheshire cheese, and about the same value for keeping the house together. At several points just under the eves of the house small holes have developed in the mortar at the top of the brickwork, just big enough for a sparrow or the likes to come in and go out under the iron sheet of the roof. We now have at least two pairs of sparrows nesting at various points in our attic. Unlike bees they are unlikely to sting us to death and won’t do much harm. They can stay. We look forward to families and fledglings. Perhaps later in the year we will look into providing nest boxes.

On hearing the noises of creatures in the attic when they first arrived Keith went up to investigate, thinking “rats”. Apart from signs that the birds rather than rats, had moved in, there was also a bat up there, trying to sleep and not too pleased to have a torch wielding human disturb it. Bats eat insects, including malaria bringing mosquitoes. The bat can also stay.

We don’t know what the big daisy like flower is, it looks like a Goldenweed, but it is about two meters tall. If you can identify it from the photo let us know.


Gillian Maganda said Thu, 18 May 2017 11:19AM
I don't know about the Birds & The Bees, I heard there was snow in Zambia?????
Frank Dobbs said Tue, 12 Sep 2017 07:25PM
Maybe yellow marguerite daisy - Argyranthemum.

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