Mac Magic

Avatar_MollyONeilFirst, let's look at some facts. Larry Dignan, in his article, PC Vs. Mac: It's Not Zero Sum, October 5th, 2009 (Zdnet) reported the following: According to research firm NPD Group, 12 percent of computer owning households own a Mac, up from 9 percent a year ago. However, the U.S. is all about mixed hardware environments. Of the 12 percent of households that own a Mac, 85 percent of them also own a Windows PC.

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HUMMINGBIRDS OF WINTER

Avatar_SusanVernon Two weeks ago, I watched a hummingbird fly through a snowstorm to get to the bird feeder that was hanging by my back porch. It was a female Anna's hummingbird, barely 4-inches in length, and weighing less than one-half ounce. She arrived in a blur of green feathers, hovered over the red plastic receptacle hanging from an old post, and dipped her delicate, slightly down-curved bill into a bowl of sugar water using her tongue to retrieve the liquid until she was sated. She must have known I was watching her, but considering the snow, gusty wind, and riot of other birds that had careened across her flight path, it did not seem to matter. This was likely her first-light flight. It was imperative to restore energy lost during the long, frigid night, and swirling snow was obviously not a deterrent. Anna's wings were beating about 50 times per second as she whirred through the dense air. It was a rare and wonderful sight I shall not forget.

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RECYCLING THE WOODS

Avatar_SusanVernon

mr-20-ec October may have come and gone on a warm breeze but now, in November, the rain and wind have commenced and, accompanied by graying skies and erratic winds, any lingering dreams of an endless summer have been washed away. The days proceed in a jumble of showers and light, and it is the rain that brings the next phase of discoveries for this island year.

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FALL

Avatar_SusanVernon Fall is in the air. By six o'clock, the sun is in the last phase of its slow deliberate descent toward the western rim of the inland sea, and the sky chills to a cool wash of aquamarine. Along island trails, bigleaf maples have begun their process of winterization; the ground beneath their massive frames is crowded with piles of orange and yellow leaves.

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The inscrutable alcids

Avatar_SusanVernon

The other morning I stood at South Beach and watched a Rhinoceros Auklet fly by. The small, sooty brown seabird sped low over the water just ahead of a pesky fog that had settled over Haro Strait. White plumes behind its golden eyes gave the bird a swept back look of determination as it hastened up the coast with rapid wing beats. Its stout orange beak - adorned with a small horn - was crammed with tiny fish.

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The serviceberry and the waxwings

Avatar_SusanVernon

Each July, for several years now, a friend has been telling me about a tree in his yard that bears such abundant fruit that over a dozen species of birds fly in for an early summer feast. The gathering has become the signature wildlife event on the property. This year I made a point to go see the tree.

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On Rufous Hummingbirds

Avatar_SusanVernon

I watched a Rufous Hummingbird lift off its nest for the first time not long ago. It didn't fly far on its brand new wings - just far enough to experience the possibilities of flight. Its mother soon appeared to feed the little Rufous some nectar - a boost of energy, perhaps, after the momentous undertaking. It was an auspicious occasion for me, too, watching the finely feathered fledgling levitate from a nest that was a wonder of green lichens and bits of bark fastened to the bough of a cedar tree with spider silk and a prayer.

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Counting fawn lilies

Avatar_SusanVernon

The San Juan Islands are a wonderful place to find spring wildflowers. The post-glacial till of south-facing slopes and variety of forest and wetland habitats promote high diversity here and wide-ranging opportunities for plant lovers seeking their favorite blooms.

With spring just around the corner and our warm winter weather a predictor, perhaps, of early blooming wild flowers and plants, I took to the trail recently in search of signs that a new season was at hand.

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Monarch in our midst

Avatar_SusanVernon

Not long ago, islander Ron Keeshan was photographing swallowtail butterflies in his yard along the shore of North Bay when a fine thing happened. A monarch butterfly appeared. It was perched on a plant called Buddleia - often referred to as butterfly bush. Ron was in his zone, concentrating more on keeping in focus than on the swallowtails he was shooting. He aimed at the butterfly, adjusted the lens and pressed the shutter release. As he heard the click, there was a brief moment of recognition. But, Ron did not expect to see the monarch here so he dismissed it in favor of a deadline and moved on. It was not until the film came back from the developer that he realized what had taken place. The appearance of a monarch is a very rare occurrence in the San Juan Islands.

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