The Growlers weren’t the only things flying at Coupeville while I was there. A bunch of bald eagles were also flying in the vicinity. They were crossing the approach path for the FCLP training which had me a little concerned. I thought they would get lost when the jets showed up but they clearly weren’t very concerned and were used the the jets. They might have got close but they seemed to stay just far enough away to avoid any conflict. A bird strike with a bald eagle would probably be messy for all concerned.
After work one evening, I headed to Log Boom Park in Kenmore. I was thinking I might shoot a few floatplanes as they returned at the end of the day but I hadn’t timed it right for that and didn’t see any. However, the local wildlife was busy including a few bald eagles that were out hunting on the lake. Some immature eagles were out and about but a couple of adults were also trying their luck. I saw one of them start to dive down on a target and followed with the camera.
The eagle struck its target and grabbed it out of the water successfully. However, it hadn’t fully appreciated just how large a fish this was. It was a beast and the eagle started to try and climb away without success. This fish was too heavy for it. That wasn’t going to deter it though. It had caught dinner and wasn’t intent on letting it go. Flapping furiously, it tried to gain speed and altitude. Speed was fine but altitude was a different story. Instead, it adopted a new tactic. Dangling the fish beneath it, the tail of the fish was slapping on the surface of the water. This seemed to provide a little support and the combination proceeded to skim across the surface of the lake. Only when at the shore was a final surge of effort put in to pull up on to an awning where the eagle landed and laid out its catch.
The ospreys on Lake Washington have got some attention on the blog recently. However, they are not alone. Some bald eagles have also been showing up. They aren’t around in such large numbers and I didn’t see so much fishing activity close by but they were out there having a hunt for some food and sometimes came closer in allowing a shot or three. They are an impressive looking bird.
Sitting out by Lake Washington watching the boat and floatplane traffic also provided a view of the local residents fishing. These residents aren’t the humans on the pier with fishing poles. These are the ospreys. There are lots of ospreys that are around the north end of the lake at this time of year. They are circling overhead looking for targets and then swooping down to catch them.
It is not usual to get them making their catch close in but sometimes you can see them diving in the grab a fish. However, when they catch something, they do head back passed the shore as they make their way to their nests. A fish tucked under their body and held in a forward alignment to make it easier to fly with is not a rare sight. You also can get them circling overhead as they look for some food but I guess nothing too tasty was near me.
The presence of the eagles on Juanita Bay was something I have seen before but I had not been out with the camera before to catch them. I saw one eagle hunting out on the water as I moved towards the bay and this startled the wildfowl as I mentioned in a previous post. The eagle involved then flew back to one of the trees on the shore and perched there for quite a while. I got to one of the boardwalks in the park where I could sit it waiting, a little far away and almost directly in the sun. Time to wait.
I hung around for quite a while hoping this eagle would make a move. It seemed to have more patience than me. Meanwhile, I was looking around to see whether anything else was on the move – the swans perhaps. Then my eye caught some movement coming across the bay towards me out of the background of the hills opposite. I suddenly realized that it was another eagle. It was already climbing as I realized and I tried hard to get the camera up towards it despite having the monopod attached. I got a focus on it just as it reached the tree branch it was aiming for. A great flare of wings and then it was perched, almost directly above me.
I got a bunch more shots of it as it found a comfortable position on the perch and there is remained. I was getting pretty cold and the light was fading so I decided to head back around the park. The last I saw it was still up there.
There are a lot of air shows that I have been to over the years. You think you remember them well and then something shows up in your archive of images that you have completely forgotten about. I am a member of a Facebook group that has a different challenge each week and, when I get the next challenge, I work through my catalog to see what I have that might contribute. It is an interesting exercise in finding stuff that I had forgotten about.
This wasn’t one of those challenges but I was looking for something else when I came across this shot of an F-22 pulling vapor and shockwaves as it did a fast pass at the Rockford Air Show. Rockford was a great show that I used to go to when I lived in Chicago. They always got great static displays and performers for the flying display. The only limitation was that you were pretty much shooting in to the sun.
This F-22 made a fast pass and was clearly pulling a lot of vapor as it went. I don’t know why I forgot about this sequence but apparently I did. I had a go at processing them again to see what I could make of the shots this time compared to my technique in 2009. Not an easy shot to make work but the plane is dramatic enough to make it worthwhile I think.
The F-22 Raptor that displayed at Seafair took off from Boeing Field away from us. It kept things nice and low building up speed before pulling hard to the vertical. Impressive but a long way away from us. Unfortunately, the pilot then elected to land on the opposite runway. All of this was away from us. The only upside was that, when he ran in to break, he ended up breaking right over the top of us. A brief window to get some shots and rather close in for the longer lens I was using but, all things considered, it was a good consolation prize.
The first Boeing 757 built was kept by Boeing as a test aircraft and never went to an airline. When Boeing became a partner in the F-22 Raptor program, a new use was found for the aircraft. It was fitted out as a flying testbed for the avionics suite. A test crew could ride in the cabin and they could try out a number of different configurations of software changing things as they go without having to have the software flight qualified.
To make the whole ensemble work appropriately, the aircraft was fitted with F-22 sensors. This included a radome on the aircraft nose with the F-22’s radar. In addition, because a number of sensors were embedded in the wings, a wing structure was added about the cockpit. This unusual configuration resulted in the aircraft gaining the nickname “Catfish”. It flew a lot during the development program but I only ever saw it on the ground at Boeing Field and then it was partially obscured. I did also look down on it from an airliner approaching SeaTac.
I knew it didn’t fly often but I hoped that, in moving to the area, I would finally get to see it airborne. Then I discovered that it had flown to St Louis. The rumor was that it had been retired. Indeed, on a flight across the country involving a plane change in St Louis, I did see it parked up in an open-ended hangar. I figured that might be as close as I got. Then I got a notification that it was heading west again. Better yet, it wasn’t going direct to Boeing Field but to Everett first. It is a short drive from the office to Everett and the flight plan meant it was coming in during lunch.
The harsh lunchtime light and the prospect of heat haze notwithstanding, I figured this was too good a chance to miss. It showed up pretty much when expected so I was able to get some shots of it coming down the approach and across the threshold. The heat haze was really bad as it was over the runway but actually slightly less of an issue further out. I don’t care. I finally got to see it fly and that is what I was after. It headed back to St Louis from Boeing Field the following day. I have no idea when it left Everett for Boeing Field though. If it comes back again and I can see it, that will be a bonus.
The 1st FW at Langley AFB was the source of the Raptor contribution to Red Flag this year. They weren’t the only F-22s I got to see though. Some of the based aircraft were busy before and after the Red Flag missions so there was plenty of Raptor action. Not much of a story to tell on these. Just a chance to gratuitously show a variety of photos of F-22s because, from the right angle, they look pretty cool!
There have been quite a few Raptor posts recently. I guess seeing a bunch of them at Nellis triggered a few things of interest to me. One was as I looked at the jets after they had passed me by on their approach. A few years ago, the F-22 fleet was grounded by some issues with the oxygen system. Like most modern jets, the F-22 doesn’t carry bottled oxygen but instead generates it onboard for the pilot. There were some issues with the oxygen being generated that resulted in pilots feeling unwell and, potentially, losing awareness of what they were doing. As you can image, this is not a good thing in a fast jet and was believed to have contributed to loss of an aircraft with its pilot!
A backup oxygen system was implemented to provide the pilots with something in the event that they felt symptoms of the problem recurring. Not so much of a solution as a fallback plan. As I looked at the jets, I saw green tanks behind the ejection seat. These are pretty big tanks and seem rather unsubtle in the way that something that has been added after the fact often is. I wonder whether these are the spare tanks for the pilots to breathe should the onboard generation system cease to be reliable.