Everything Else 

FWC collects evidence of a female panther north of Caloosahatchee River!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Panther Team has collected strong evidence a female Florida panther has finally crossed the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida.

You can see their  press release here.

Photos courtesy of FWC.

Aurora above Kleppjárnsstöðum

The two videos above are timelapse. The video below is realtime.

The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.  The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines. The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere. In these collisions, the electrons transfer their energy to the atmosphere thus exciting the atoms and molecules to higher energy states. When they relax back down to lower energy states, they release their energy in the form of light. This is similar to how a neon light works. The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 km above Earth’s surface.

Earth’s magnetic field guides the electrons such that the aurora forms two ovals approximately centered at the magnetic poles. During major geomagnetic storms these ovals expand away from the poles such that aurora can be seen over most of the United States. Aurora comes in several different shapes. Often the auroral forms are made of many tall rays that look much like a curtain made of folds of cloth. During the evening, these rays can form arcs that stretch from horizon to horizon. Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs often begin to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the whole sky, moving rapidly and becoming very bright. This is the peak of what is called an auroral substorm.

Then in the early morning the auroral forms can take on a more cloud-like appearance. These diffuse patches often blink on and off repeatedly for hours, then they disappear as the sun rises in the east. The best place to observe the aurora is under an oval shaped region between the north and south latitudes of about 60 and 75 degrees. At these polar latitudes, the aurora can be observed more than half of the nights of a given year.

When space weather activity increases and more frequent and larger storms and substorms occur, the aurora extends toward the equator. During large events, the aurora can be observed as far south as the US, Europe, and Asia. During very large events, the aurora can be observed even farther from the poles. Of course, to observe the aurora, the skies must be clear and free of clouds. It must also be dark so during the summer months at auroral latitudes, the midnight sun prevents auroral observations. 

Northern Lights Timelapse

Realtime Northern Lights

My friend Brian Hampton and I have returned to Iceland to continue our quest to photograph the Northern Lights. With the help of our friend and long time guide Kristján Kristjánsson, we found a great location close to the Hotel Husafell. Kristján was our guide when we photographed the Holuhraun eruption of the Bárðarbunga volcano.

The lights were very intense last night. The video is realtime, made possible with the technology available in the Sony alpha 7Sii camera. The video is about 9 minutes long.


In July we had the good fortune to visit the Pantanal of Brazil. 

Spending time with wild Jaguars along the Rio Cuiabá and its tributaries was a highlight of the trip. 

The tour was arranged by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. We traveled with them to Antarctica two years ago. They always do a good job

Our Van Os photo guide was Paul Bannick. Paul is an accomplished nature and bird photographer. His book Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls will be published this October.

Our Brazilian guide was Paulo Boute. Paulo is one of the pioneering birders and ornithologists in Brazil. Paulo has over 35 years of experience guiding birders and photographers throughout Brazil.

During the dry season the jaguars come to the river to hunt. They are accustomed to seeing boats and people on the river as they search for their prey. This gave us the opportunity to spend many hours watching them.

The video below is of a young brother and sister. 

Transit of Mercury

A rare celestial event occurred today when Mercury passes between the sun and the earth.  The transit of Mercury last occurred in 2006, and it will not happen again until 2019.

Mercury is the tiny black dot on the lower half of the sun.



For many years Gisela and I have volunteered at the wildlife hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Gisela uses her nursing skills to help care for the animal patients. I have worked as a critter courier and occasional as a photographer.  One of the perks of the job is that you get to release critters back into the wild. Because we spend a good bit of time in the wilds of South Florida, we are often asked to release critters that would fare better away from people.

Raising baby raccoons requires a lot of human / raccoon interaction.  The raccoons get use to being around people. Before they are ready for release into the wild their contact with people is limited so that they will behave as normal raccoons.  By the time they are ready for release they are not afraid of people but will maintain their distance.  Many of the bottle fed raccoons do better if they are released where they will have little human contact until they are fully acclimated to the wild.

The ride from the hospital to the woods is a new experience that usually causes a lot of conversation. 

Not having a fear of humans makes the recently released raccoons great photographic subjects.  They will allow you to watch them as they go about being a raccoon.

As part of their acclimation to the wild they spend time in outdoor cages. They will often sleep in a pet carrier as they get used to being outdoors.  When they are released the pet carrier they traveled in offers them a bit of security and the familiar.  Sometimes they are a bit slow to give it up.

Land of Fire and Ice

Last October I had the pleasure of returning to Iceland with my friend Brian Hampton to photograph the Bárðarbunga volcanic system.  Our Icelandic guide Kristján G Kristjànsson  owner of Mountain Taxi made the trip possible and more importantly as safe as it could be around an active volcano. The speed of the flowing lava was impressive, faster than any river I have ever seen. As we photographed the northern lights the glow of the volcano was visiable more than 70 kilometers away.



© Ralph Arwood 2017