Meet Rupert

So, I got a new point and shoot superzoom camera: a Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. Yes, the zoom is super. No, I still cannot take professional shots. Yes, the IS (image stabilizer) sucks the battery. Yes, it’s great fun.

I’ve named him Rupert.

With the mindset of a friendly, getting-to-know-you outing with Rupert, I went to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in the Sellwood district of Portland, OR.

Oaks Bottom, an old floodplain situated on the east bank of the Willamette, earned its humble beginnings like so many parks: it sprouted from a landfill. One story goes that local residents rallied after they heard the area was to be converted into an industrial park back in the late ’60s. In jumped the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups. An important ecological gem, the Oaks Bottom area was believed to be some of the last remaining wetlands in the Portland area. The City of Portland eventually acquired the landfill and through constant evolution, Portland eventually landed its first urban wildlife refuge.

Of course there are other stories, stories from people who had actually been there, done that, sparked the change. I’d love to hear their tales.

So, it was here that I took Rupert for a spin, to test out his zoom, IS, and other many features I will never understand without a BS in photography and a Ouija board. My first goal is to really understand the aperture, exposure, and shutter speed and how they affect a photograph. Though, being fairly new to any fancy camera doohickeys, I also took photos on Auto.

The goal was to find Western Screech-owls, which often reveal their daytime napping perches with a wash of white down the side of the tree trunk. Pleasantly scouting every tree for a dousing of bird poo, we came upon a small herd of deer (I believe Columbia black-tailed deer). They took no mind of us as we passed by on the muddy trail.
It has been over a year since my last visit to Oaks Bottom and the new boardwalk and reestablished trail and viewing platforms were a nice surprise. Though still slick in spots due to the recent rain, at least I didn’t have to wade through ankle deep frigid water!

We saw a number of species of birds and I practiced my hand at photographing a few of those who paused a moment for me to aim my superzoom on.

The list (19): Spotted Towhee, Bewick’s Wren, Cackling Goose, Black-capped Chickadee, Rock Pigeon, Song Sparrow, Western Screech-owl, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Mallard, Gadwall, Anna’s Hummingbird, House Finch, Western Scrub-jay, Northern Flicker, Bushtit, Red-breasted Sapsucker, American Wigeon.

The Western Screech-owl didn’t mark his tree very well, but we still found him. He took a moment to peek at me, but otherwise didn’t seem too disturbed.

It’s hard to imagine Oaks Bottom’s past when you walk through this wild zone of oak and cedar, Oregon-grape and reed canary grass. On a warm winter day, a dazzling show of wildlife reminds us that nature will preserver. From landfill to refuge: what an uphill battle. But a battle worth fighting. For the deer, the screech-owls, and those smaller inhabitants, the ladybugs that wake up triggered by a warm, sunny day, such battles are always worth the sweat and blood.

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