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Friday, October 25, 2013

Do Peacocks Mate For Life?

"Do peacocks mate for life?" With bird-watching being such a popular hobby, the Newton Falls Public Library has quite a few books on birds that we were able to look through to find the answer.

The first thing we learned was that "peacock" technically refers to the male. Females are called "peahens," and collectively, they're called "peafowl." (Even the babies have a special name: "peachicks"!) Given the mutability of the English language, "peacock" is often used interchangeably for both the male and female birds. Still, when we hear the word, it's more often the male that comes to mind, with his characteristic splendid tail. Peahens are more drab, with primarily taupe feathers and shorter tails.

The Palomar Audubon Society has a list of collective nouns for birds. Like a group of wolves is called a pack and a group of lions is called a pride, a group of peafowl is called either a muster or an ostentation. Since "ostentation" is defined by as "a display intended to impress others," it's certainly appropriate.

According to "Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World," published by the Reader's Digest Association, while many birds are monogamous, it's an old wives' tale that birds are always faithful. They might change partners from year to year, or even within a season. Peacocks aren't actually monogamous at all. A male will collect a harem of up to five peahens, each of which will lay, on average, four to six eggs. "Beautiful Birds" by Alvin Silverstein tells us that peafowl don't build elaborate nests. Instead, they scratch out a hole in the ground and line it with sticks and leaves. The peahens sit on the eggs by themselves, without help from the peacocks.

Fortunately for romantics, there are a few species of bird that are known to choose the same mate from year to year. According to "Bird Behavior" by Robert Burton, birds that return to the same nesting place stand a good chance of returning to the same mate. Also, if a pair is successful in hatching healthy chicks, they're more likely to partner up again. Swans, geese, and several seabirds (including gulls, albatrosses, and gannets) tend to be most loyal, with many of them pairing up for life.

For more information on avian courtship, Jean Leveille's "Birds in Love: The Secret Courting and Mating Rituals of Extraordinary Birds" is available through CLEVNET and Marie Winn's "Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park" is here at the Newton Falls Public Library.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm Worried About My Dog's Health

Newton Falls Public Library patrons often come into the library seeking information to help their pets. "I think my dog has allergies.  His eyes are red rimmed and he is scratching himself."  "I'm worried my dog has been poisoned. He is vomiting.  What things are poisonous to dogs?" Most of our staff members have pets, so we understand the concerns our patrons have about theirs.
We were able to locate some information about allergic skin reactions in the The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, Bruce Fogle's ASPCA Complete Dog Care Manual and Caring for your Dog.  The website, had a wealth of articles about dog allergies for our patron.
PetMD was also a useful source of information for our second patron.  Our patron's description of symptoms matched some described on the website: "Your pet may be experiencing unexplained vomiting, diarrhea, or may appear to be weak (lethargic) to the point of being unable to move."  There was some information about poisonous substances, but not a list that our patron wanted.  We located additional websites for her which included: 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center run by ASPCA (phone # 800-213-6680); that has a list of the top ten poisons; and  that has "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook." This last site had the type of listing she wanted printed to take home.
Each book and website we consulted encouraged the user to contact a veterinary professional in order to correctly treat both allergies and poisoning.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What Can You Tell Me About Tenosynovitis?

"Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with tenosynovitis in my hand. Could you find me some more information on it?" Though none of us here at the Newton Falls Public Library are doctors, and therefore aren't qualified to give medical advice, we could certainly provide the resources to help answer our patron's question.

First, we wanted to define tenosynovitis. -Itis means "inflammation," which gave us a clue. According to Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the protective sheath around the tendon. The cause is often unknown, but it can be related to overuse of the tendon.

According to our patron, hers had been bad enough that her entire right hand had curled up, leaving her unable to stretch out her fingers. Fortunately, after a trip to the doctor, it had gotten much better, but she still had trouble bending her wrist and was hoping for more information on possible treatments.

We looked in the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book and the Merck Manual Home Health Book. Both stressed the importance of seeing a doctor, because if the tenosynovitis is caused by an infection, it's necessary to treat it immediately before it causes any permanent damage. Otherwise, both suggested treatments including over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol, Advil, and aspirin; resting the affected area; splinting; and changing one's activities, especially when the inflammation is caused by overuse. According to the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, if these methods aren't effective, a doctor can inject a steroid, such as cortisone.

Our patron gained some relief by rearranging her computer so that she could rest her arm while using the mouse. She was hoping to also find some exercises or stretches that might help. Typing "tenosynovitis exercises" into an online search engine brought up "De Quervain's Tenosynovitis Exercises." Although De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a particular kind, affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, our patron felt that the exercises  would be beneficial. Suggested exercises included grip strengthening (squeezing a rubber ball for five seconds at a time) and the finger spring (placing a large rubber band around the outside of the thumb and fingers, and then opening the fingers to stretch the rubber band).

Friday, October 4, 2013

What is a blue moon?

"What is a blue moon?"  All of us here at the Newton Falls Public Library had heard the expression "Once in a blue moon," but none of us were exactly sure what a blue moon was either.

The answer turned out to be a little complicated. Doing an online search for "What is a blue moon?" brought up articles from and The most common  definition of a blue moon puts it as the second full moon in a month. However, this is actually a misconception. Going by the original definition, a blue moon is actually the third full moon of a season that has four moons. Typically, there are three moons in a season, and they're referred to as the early moon, the mid-season moon, and the late moon. When there are four, referring to the extra as a "blue moon" allows the late moon to be the fourth and final in the season.

According to "Blue Moon Tuesday, But Not the Kind You Think," written by Michele Berger for, and "Blue Moon Rises: What Does It Mean?" written by Joe Rao for, the misunderstanding comes from a 1946 article in Sky & Telescope magazine. The article was then referenced on a popular National Public Radio program in 1980, and people have been using both definitions ever since.

Given the mutability of the English language, both definitions are listed as correct in The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition

There's also such a thing as a literally blue moon. According to "Blue Moon Rises," the ash from volcanic eruptions like Mount St. Helens and Krakatoa can cause the moon to take on an azure hue.