It is widely believed that Bram Stoker based his character of Dr Van Helsing on a real character, also a doctor from Holland who carried out real life research into vampires. Gerard van Swieten (1700–1772) was born in Leiden, Holland and at the age of forty fives became the personal physician to the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia. His statue is given place of prominence on Vienna’s ring right underneath that of his employer.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Budgies By Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill Budgies were introduced to Europe from Australia in the late 19th century and are sometimes referred to as budgerigars or parakeets. Originally pale green, yellow and black in colour there are now several mutations giving us a wide variety of colours. Keeping budgies is a great and inexpensive way for younger people to learn responsibility and commitment. They do not make much of a mess and do not require much food. Even for adults they provide great companionship. They will communicate with people, mirrors and toys and just about anyone or anything they think will listen. They are playful and affectionate, each with their own separate character. Watching their antics can prove to be very therapeutic and entertaining. The lifespan of a budgie depends on their diet and general living conditions. It may be as little as four years if they only eat seeds, while with the right amount of exercise and vitamins they can live up to the age of fifteen or even longer. Depending on the budgie they will also eat a variety of fruit and vegetables such as pieces of apple, broccoli and shredded carrot. Avocado, chocolate and coffee are however toxic for budgies. Budgies do no chew their food but have powerful intestinal muscles and the food can be eased along with a little grit. With the seeds care is required. Budgies open the husks, remove the seed and leave back the empties, which looks as if the seed dish is full, when in fact your budgie may be starving. They can be left alone with adequate food and water for a number of days, but no more than five. Males are easily recognisable with their blue seres above their beak, while the females have a brown sere. The breeding season in Ireland is usually around March and budgies mate if they are at least a year old, like each other and their owner provides a nest box. The months that follow is a good time to buy a budgie. A young budgie will have lines on his forehead and will have black eyes with no rings. As a pet, it is better to buy a young budgie as they are easier to train, less aggressive and not as set in their ways. Budgies can see in colour, can turn their heads 180 degrees and have the ability to count up to three as well as learn basic tricks. It should be noted however that not all budgies will speak and the chances are less if they have a companion. As with a lot of other animals they are active by day and tend to rest in the evening. They tend to sleep on their perches with their heads turned back. Placing a blanket over the cage, with space to breath, will help them sleep and quieten them down. A healthy and happy budgie should be let out of their cage for at least an hour a day. A budgie that is never let out will puff his feathers and start self plucking in frustration and boredom. When out of the cage they should be supervised. Windows should be closed and toilets lids should be down. Budgies may fall behind fridges or book cases and will not be able to get out. In the wild budgies forage for food on the ground so it is not unusual for them to be seen to walking around the floor, which is why you need to be careful walking around the room. Some people will have their budgies’ wings clipped which stops them flying around the room and also makes them easier to train, but may mean that they do not get enough exercise. Training a budgie should be done in a room where the cage is not in view as they tend to be more cooperative. A budgie should be taught to jump onto your finger before being let out of the cage. Otherwise there is the tendency for them to ignore their owner. Budgies do not always like to be petted and will let you know with a peck. A budgie that trusts you will have no problem sitting on your shoulder. A budgie may bite your finger. Sometimes this will be a little bite as it prepares to step up onto your finger and sometimes it will be stronger. The bite is best ignored; otherwise it only encourages such behaviour. Do not raise your voice as this will only frighten the budgie. Catching the budgie can be problematic and certainly requires patience and careful handling. They are after all fragile creatures, albeit with very fast reflexes. It may be coaxed back into the cage with food or caught with a towel. Some people close the cage doors and the budgies return when they are hungry. If the lights can be turned off the budgie is easy to catch as they cannot fly in darkness. If you only have one budgie and introduce a new one this may lead to tension in the beginning. The newcomer could be regarded as an invader and fights are brief but sharp. On the other hand there might be an immediate bond. Ideally, budgies should be bought as a pair. A budgie is a living creature with feelings that responds to its environment and a budgie alone in a cage even with toys will require a lot of attention or it will become frustrated, bored and lonely. A decent cage, two budgies and food can be purchased for under a hundred euro. Sometimes they are even given away as people move house. Given that a budgie is such a sociable pet the joy it gives in return is well worth any investment.