Josef “Jeff” Sipek

Septemberfest 2016 - Birds of Prey

This past weekend, the Dunstable Rural Land Trust had its annual Septemberfest event (yes, it ended up being in early October this year). Holly and I went to it armed with the cameras hoping to get some nice images of birds from the “Birds of Prey” program. We were not disappointed.

So far, I have managed to sift through only the bird photos. I still have to go through the other ones (e.g., the colorful autumn shots) and figure out which are the keepers. I set up a gallery which I’ll update with the non-bird photos in the near future.

Without further ado, here are the birds!

The peregrine falcon:

The screech owl:

The great horned owl:

The Harris’s hawk:

The red-tailed hawk:

The American kestrel:

The golden eagle:

This is only a fraction of the photos that are in the gallery, so make sure to check it out for more avian goodness.

Battle Road Trail Walk

Last weekend Holly and I braved the 35°C weather, and drove to the Minute Man National Historical Park for their Battle Road Trail Walk—a three and a half hour walk covering almost 7 km of the Battle Road trail.

Naturally, I brought my camera. Unfortunately, because of the terrible heat, I didn’t take all that many photos. Of the ones I did take, I think only five are worth sharing. I am including them all in this post, but you can check out the gallery for the photo metadata.

The walk began at Meriam’s Corner, where on April 19, 1775 the locals attacked the British column returning from Concord and drove them all the way back to Boston. This is the beginning of “Battle Road”.

This is Nathan Meriam’s house—standing right next to where the attack began.

Despite the heat, we were only two of about 35! We were shocked to see that most people decided to show up to a 7 km walk in 35°C heat with barely 500 ml of water per person. (We knew better and brought a little over 4 liters for the two of us. And we had a stash of sports drinks in the car.) We were surprised nobody passed out along the way…or at least we did not notice anyone passing out :)

Here is park ranger Jim Hollister, our guide for the walk, mid-sentence near Hardy’s Hill. (I know, not the most flattering of photos.)

Hartwell Tavern is a little past the half-way point of the walk. The whole group took a break here so I had a few minutes to kill—and I did that with photography!

First of all, the tavern itself:

And an 8-shot panorama of the tavern and some of the walk participants. (38 MB full size panorama)

And the last photo from the trip is the Captain William Smith house (in Wikipedia article: Lincoln, MA).

As I said earlier, I did not take that many photos. I will try to do better in the future. :)

Earth Day

For Earth Day, Holly and I went to the nearby Sherburne Nature Center for their Earth Day celebration. The three hour event included a walk through the woods there as well as a demonstration of some owls. We showed up a bit early, so we meandered in the woods for a bit on our own. I was armed with my D750 and the 24-70mm lens, and Holly sported the D70 with the 18-70mm kit lens at first but switched to the 70-300mm not too long after. While I did all the post-processing, some of the following photos are Holly’s. As always, there are more photos in the gallery.

While meandering, we found a large-ish Wikipedia article: garter snake—I’m guessing it was about 1m long.

After about an hour of roaming around, we joined the narrated nature walk. The guide, Mark Fraser, was quite good at spotting assorted nature that I was totally unaware of. For example, he took all of 15 seconds to find this (much smaller) garter snake.

The nature walk was followed by the owl demonstration by Eyes on Owls. As you can see, the owl demonstration attracted a lot of kids.

After a brief intro to owls, six different owl types got shown. Of the six, I post-processed photos of four. (We got photos of the remaining two as well, but none of them struck me as interesting enough to post-process.) All of the owls they brought suffered from some sort of injury that made them unable to survive in the wild.

The screech owls:

Screech Owls

The barn owl:

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

The spectacled owl:

Spectacled Owl

Spectacled Owl

The snowy owl:

Snowy Owl

I wished I had a more telephoto lens than the 24-70mm, but thankfully the owl demonstration was pretty close to me—and the 24MP on the D750 let me crop quite a bit. At the same time, it is my understanding that for birding one wants the longest lens possible anyway. I’ve even heard that birders prefer DX camera bodies because of the crop factor. I think I understand them, but I’ll just stick to photographing mostly non-bird subjects and keep the FX sensor. I guess the world’s birds will have to be photographed by someone else. :)

Private Pilot, Honeymooning, etc.

Early September was a pretty busy time for me. First, I got my private pilot certificate. Then, three days later, Holly and I got married. We used this as an excuse to take four weeks off and have a nice long honeymoon in Europe (mostly in Prague).

Our flight to Prague (LKPR) had a layover at KJFK. While waiting at the gate at KDTW, I decided to talk to the pilots. They said I should stop by and say hi after we land at JFK. So I did. Holly tagged along.

A little jealous about the left seat

I am impressed with the types of displays they use. Even with direct sunlight you can easily read them.

After about a week in Prague, we rented a plane (a 1982 Cessna 172P) with an instructor and flew around Czech Republic looking at the castles.

OK-TUR

I did all the flying, but I let the instructor do all the radio work, and since he was way more familiar with the area he ended up acting sort of like a tour guide. Holly sat behind me and had a blast with the cameras. The flight took us over Wikipedia article: Bezděz, Wikipedia article: Ještěd, Wikipedia article: Bohemian Paradise, and Wikipedia article: Jičín where we stopped for tea. Then we took off again, and headed south over Wikipedia article: Konopiště, Wikipedia article: Karlštejn, and Wikipedia article: Křivoklát. Overall, I logged 3.1 hours in European airspace.

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