Fresh Ink

Working with animals doesn’t realistically give you days off. At home, I don’t get any days off with a house full of rescue critters. When I go into the rehab center, at least I know if I’m sick or my car breaks down that there will be other people there to pick up the slack. But unless there’s some sort of serious issue, I’m not taking time off and this might mean I have to deal with a bit of discomfort.

Cyrene Krey
Me! Taking measurements of tree heights in a local forest preserve for more forestry class a few years back.

This is especially true right after getting a new tattoo. I also have a few tattoos. I’m currently working on #7 on my right arm (a gorgeous underwater scene). I always do my best to schedule my appointments to avoid my rehab shifts and periods of extra busyness. But sometimes, the healing takes a little bit longer than anticipated. After my second session on this particular piece, my arm was more swollen than usual and for a couple days longer than normal.

I’ve been hoping for some warmer weather for quite a while now and Mother Nature decided to grace us with an especially hot day when I had to go in to volunteer with a swollen, still healing arm. Which meant long sleeves for me! Thanks MN ;p No worries though! I was able to keep my arm clean and covered during my shift and it’s healing up nicely. But I was very warm and uncomfortable during my (thankfully short) shift.

CD6B2321 bw
This was Fluffy and Buttercup’s first family photo shoot! (On my other arm.)

Just a few general pointers for anyone who might be thinking about getting a tattoo while working in somewhat unsanitary conditions:

  1. Try to give yourself time off after getting a new tattoo to let your body rest while it’s healing. (I personally try to go for a solid week, but at a minimum give myself two full days of recovery. Talk to your artist and follow their advice always.)
  2. Keep it covered while it’s healing with loose, soft clothing whenever you’ll be in less clean settings. It needs to breathe but you want to avoid bacteria coming into contact with any fresh wound.
  3. Wash your hands frequently to avoid accidentally spreading anything icky near your tattoo (or wear gloves if your tattoo is on your hands).
  4. Shorten your shift if at all possible. I can sometimes sneak out a bit earlier when most of the more challenging or time consuming tasks are done, which gives my body more time to rest without inconveniencing anyone.
  5. Talk to your artist about your concerns ahead of time and get their take on how to best handle your working conditions while keeping your tattoo protected.

These tips are based on my own personal experience. You should always consult with your tattoo artist and follow their advice. If you’re worried about an infection, talk to a doctor. Common sense goes a long way.

It can definitely make working a bit more challenging or uncomfortable, but people get tattoos all the time in every different field so it’s absolutely doable if you’re smart and safe.



Loud-mouthed Baby Owl

Now that it’s baby season, there are a lot of of babies at the rehab center! But even though they’re babies, they aren’t necessarily small, friendly, or safe to handle without gloves.

Baby Owl at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
A baby owl at Hoo from a couple years ago. Although they’re really cute, we can’t interact with them too much. We don’t let them imprint on us so they’re able to be released. It’s still fun watching how quickly they grow up!

Case in point. Baby owls for some species are not small. In fact, they can be the size of adults in just over a month. They still look adorable because they don’t have their grown up feathers yet, but they can do some damage if you’re not careful.

I threw on a pair of thick gloves and went over to the enclosure the baby owl was being moved from. He had been placed in there temporarily because it was available, but was already too big to stay in there for very long so he was being moved to a larger enclosure. As soon as I opened the door, he started screaming bloody murder!

Three baby owls by Cyrene Krey
When they’re smaller like this, we feed them by hand. Once they’re a bit bigger, they start eating on their own. Although already large, these guys are still small and this photo was taken while they were still being hand-fed.

And as soon as I reached down to pick him up, he started biting at me. This is why we wear gloves. I moved the screeching, screaming, loud-mouthed baby owl into his new larger enclosure. Thankfully, he didn’t manage to get me with his beak or talons but he came close a couple of times and he was LOUD! It gave the other volunteers a bit of a chuckle and he quieted right down once he was in his new enclosure and I had left. He certainly didn’t complain nearly as loudly though when I came back a few minutes later with his food!

Dogs Don’t Fly (But Don’t Tell Them That)

In honor of Earth Day, I usually go out for a hike. This time I participated in a virtual 5K and brought along my puppy (a.k.a. a fully grown dog) Shona. She absolutely loves the outdoors and is always nagging me to take her with so I’m trying to do that a bit more often.

Although I had my camera, I was more interested in enjoying the hike with my girl. There’s a lot of beautiful and exciting sights even in a small preserve if you’re willing to pay attention. Some interactions are more exciting than others though.

Happy puppy
While her brother prefers to stay indoors, Shona loves being outside as much as possible (just like her mom :D).

As we rounded a bend in the trail, we were surprised by a turkey that had been hiding out in some bushes. She didn’t seem to appreciate us coming up on her like that, so as soon as we were too close for comfort, she yelled out, jumped up, and took off flying away from us.

Shona doesn’t really chase after animals. She isn’t aggressive towards my other furry (or scaly) babies and doesn’t show any interest in hunting the squirrels, birds, raccoons, and other critters that make our yard their home. But she does love to play. And once this turkey took off, that’s exactly what she tried to do. By wanting to fly after her.

Puppies by Cyrene Krey
These are my two perfect puppies. Dozer is my sweet, pampered pitbull and Shona is my little adventurer.

It didn’t take her long to realize that she couldn’t fly and let the turkey go. She looked back at me with the cutest expression of “aw, shucks,” and we went on our way. I guess for our next hike I’ll need to invest in some wings for her.

Turtle or Trouble-making Tortoise?

Bowser is a darling Sulcata tortoise at “Hoo” Haven. When he came in (just before I began volunteering almost three years ago), he was in rough shape and his survival was uncertain. Although he’s still dramatically underweight for his age (by about 60 or more pounds), he’s doing fine today, eating regularly and getting a lot of exercise.

One form of exercise he’s decided suits him nicely is attempting to escape from his carrier while we’re driving to and from educational programs. Because of his size and heat requirements, he isn’t placed in a typical pet carrier. Instead, we load up a laundry basket with cozy blankets and a heat pack for him, put him inside and cover him up with another soft (but not thick) blanket. This keeps him warm and comfortable. Unfortunately, it isn’t always good enough for this picky guy.

On the way back from an event in honor of Earth Day, Bowser decided to get in some of his exercise by trying to climb out of his basket. This guy still insists on being fed by hand because of the difficulty he has in lifting himself up so he can eat properly, but can manage to get himself up out of a basket while heading home because he doesn’t feel like being confined anymore. He cracks me up!

Bowser by Cyrene krey
Look at that handsome face! No wonder he gets away with so much.


Sulcata tortoises are known for being strong and being escape artists. So it’s no surprise that even a struggling guy like Bowser manages to live up to that reputation. But I was keeping a close eye on him and each time was able to tuck him back in without incident.

While at this educational program, there was a lot of confusion about the difference between tortoises and turtles. This is one of the reasons it’s so great to bring Bowser (despite the challenges he gives us!). To oversimplify: turtles are aquatic and tortoises are terrestrial. But if you don’t know the species, leave them be. Well-meaning people sometimes place tortoises in the water where they can easily drown.

Blanding's Turtle by Cyrene Krey
This is a Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), an endangered species in some states (and possibly being considered for federal status). I didn’t realize that I’d photographed an endangered animal until I was contacted by a natural resource manager from the area this photo was taken. It was very exciting. Want to know how you can help endangered animals in your area? Keep natural habitats clean of litter. Don’t get too close to wild animals. Plant native plants in your backyard to provide food and shelter for wildlife. Learn about endangered animals in your area and support initiatives that provide habitat and protection for wildlife.
Turtle in swamp by snake road by Cyrene Krey
The swamps along the Snake Road are home to numerous species. Standing on the road and looking out into the swamps, I was able to observe a wide variety of wildlife, particularly turtles.


Shenanigans at the Rehab Center

Right from the start, it was a ruckus of activity. At 9AM sharp, I walked in the door and already two volunteers and the intern were hard at work. Dodging rabbits and stepping over tortoises, I made my way to the volunteer sign-in sheet to officially start my shift. I began with our neurologically damaged little chipmunk, carefully removing the towel he was spinning in circles on and replacing it with a fresh one. I call him Twirly. He’s pretty used to people now but still doesn’t care for having his personal bubble invaded. Whether or not he’ll ever be eligible for release is dependent entirely on whether or not he stops compulsively spinning in circles. Since there’s no reason to think the damage to his brain isn’t permanent, he’ll probably live out the rest of his life with us.

Alvin the Chipmunk by Cyrene Krey
This is Alvin, one of the chipmunks we recently had at “Hoo”. He was released on site with another chipmunk, Simon. We’re still backfeeding these guys. Backfeeding means we still make up plates of food for them and put them near where we set them outside. It allows for a more gradual transition to natural foraging after they’ve been fed by humans over the winter.

After Twirly, I dealt with our messy crow. Crows are a bit notorious for being little troublemakers, but of course in the best way possible! Twinkletoes as he’s been called since he arrived as a baby, is always quite the character. As I bent over to pick up the cereal he’d tossed on the floor, he decided to make a game of it. There are two spots for him to perch in his room and in between them is where he likes to dump his food on the floor. He started on one perch, and as soon as I bent over jumped on my back, and then completed the circuit by jumping on the other perch. Rinse, repeat. He did this a few times before I’d managed to collect all his leftovers. “Do you mind?” I asked him when I stood up, knowing full well that he didn’t. I asked for a kiss, which he happily obliged in exchange for a nice head rub, and went on to the next task for the day.

Funny Crow at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Twinkletoes is a little crow with a big personality! After coming in as infant, it was expected he would be released. Unfortunately, he lost a portion of his lower beak in an accident and so remains as an educational crow.

I ended my shift with some pleasant conversations and jokes with my fellow critter nerds, eavesdropping in on the back and forth between Twinkletoes and our first baby fox of the season. Then, I headed out the door for home, to my own little zoo of critters waiting to be let outside, fed lunch, and cuddled.

Venomous snake by Cyrene Krey

My Adventure Along Snake Road!

Last September I made a trip to Southern Illinois. I was there looking for ghost towns, historical sites, and of course, snakes. While the ghost towns and historical sites didn’t live up to my expectations (although were cool to check out nonetheless), the famous Snake Road of the Shawnee National Forest didn’t disappoint!

Abstract photograph of leaves by Cyrene Krey
The bright sunlight shining through the green leaves created interesting and colorful abstracts.

The sights were amazing! The area is absolutely stunning. I could tell on the drive that things were going to be very different than northern Illinois where I’m from. About an hour or so away from my destination, the flat plains that Illinois is famous for gave way to beautiful rolling hills and imposing limestone bluffs.

Turtle in swamp by snake road by Cyrene Krey
The swamps along the road were home to numerous species. Standing on the road and looking out into the swamps, I was able to observe a wide variety of wildlife, particularly turtles.
Campsite with tent by Cyrene Krey
I camped at a small campground with several well-maintained primitive campsites. There were no facilities, but it was free to camp for up to fourteen days and there was a gravel drive for parking at each site.

I realized on this trip that I’m getting old! I’m now 30 and sleeping on the ground doesn’t seem to be as enjoyed by my back quite as much. I’ll need to look into a hammock for future trips so look forward to a review of that when I test one out. But it was still incredibly relaxing to listen to singing bugs and hooting owls as I dozed off.

Venomous snake by Cyrene Krey
The most common snake to see in the area is the cottonmouth. Although venomous, they tend to ignore humans as long as they aren’t being harassed or harmed (which are also illegal activities).

It’s always a little intimidating to wind up around a new animal, but it’s easy to quickly become comfortable around the venomous snakes of Snake Road. They’re so abundant and so calm that I learned after running across just a couple of them there was nothing to worry about. Even when they “smiled” at me, it was clear they were just offering a friendly reminder that they didn’t want people to harass them.

Object by Cyrene Krey
There was a lot of human debris in the area. While litter was common, so were artifacts left over from when farms existed where the forest is now.

The area is filled with a lot of history. Even just a simple walk in the woods produces some really interesting leftovers from when farms filled the region. It’s worth while to walk around and see what’s there!

Walker grave by Cyrene Krey
A small family cemetery existed just off of Snake Road. The largest tombstone was damaged. Some people assumed it had been damaged by visitors to the area, demonstrating the importance of being careful and responsible.

Be careful when exploring off the trails to avoid damaging the habitat. It’s better to stay on the trails, but occasionally something you want to explore is off the trail. Speak to locals, they’ll be able to give you directions to the site without wandering around which will limit your impact in the area.

Snake in front of sign by Cyrene Krey
A cottonmouth, the snake the road is most frequented by, sits in front of the entrance to the closed off road.

There are a lot of interesting species in the area, but even with nine days of exploration, I barely scratched the surface. For shorter trips, it will definitely take a bit of planning to make sure you’re there at the right time and during the right conditions to maximize the number of species that you see.

Lots o' green by Cyrene Krey
A frog clings to a leaf along Snake Road of the Shawnee National Forest. As I photographed him, he drew his body closer and closer to the leaf he was clinging to, making him less invisible as he blended in to his surroundings.

It’s important to pay attention while you’re out! Wherever you are, it’s good to look closely at areas you might otherwise ignore. In the photo above, the frog blends in very well to his environment. Had it not been for seeing him jump onto the leaf, I probably would have never noticed he was there, emphasizing the importance to look closely at a scene.

Swimming snake by Cyrene Krey
One of the images I really wanted to make while I was there was of a swimming snake. Snakes are beautiful swimmers and I love watching them in the water. I was thrilled when this cottonmouth entered the swamp next to the road on my last day visiting the area!

I loved my trip! It was absolutely amazing exploring the Southern Illinois area. I highly recommend visiting, even if it’s just for a couple days. If you want to read more about my adventure of the Snake Road area, read about it in the current issue of Reptiles Magazine or on their website. You can also order prints from my trip from my website at and support more interesting adventures! Thanks for reading 🙂

Welcome to 2018!

Happy New Year!

Baby Skunk in Backyard by Cyrene Krey
A group of small skunks making my backyard home was one of the highlights of my 2017 summer!

Now that we’re into 2018, I’m finally getting a chance to catch my breath and reflect over everything I did in 2017.

The past two years have had so much going on, that they’ve blurred together in my mind a bit. I was completely focused on getting my Master’s degree. That single ambition led to the feeling that the last couple years have just blended into one. Obviously that isn’t how it works though, so focusing on 2017 is the goal today!

Green Foliage by Cyrene Krey
Green foliage against a bright sky always makes for a pretty photo. And it makes me wish I was somewhere tropical! Working towards that goal was a focus of 2017 and will continue into 2018.

The year ended with a huge accomplishment. I finished my Master’s degree in biology! After spending so long in school, on one degree or another, it’s been kind of surreal to not have to worry about that anymore. A few people have asked if I plan on going for a PhD and the answer is an anti-climactic “maybe.” While I would like to, it doesn’t currently fit into my plans or what I can realistically afford to do at the moment. In a few years though, I plan on looking into it.

Underwater Creek Bed by Cyrene Krey
One new thing in 2017 was underwater photography! I purchased an underwater camera and began experimenting with that. While I wasn’t able to do much more than check out local streams and creeks, I plan on doing a lot more with this in 2018 and I can’t wait!

For now, I’m exploring different career opportunities and I’m going to see where I end up! But of course, photography will always be a part of whatever I do.

One of the new areas I’m exploring is photojournalism. I was able to learn a little more about this during the trip to Standing Rock in late 2016. However, I hadn’t at the time given it much thought. But since that trip, it’s been on my mind a bit. I decided to really try it out and see how I felt about it with a mini-vacation during my last semester at school.

I needed a bit of a nature break and there was this really interesting place I was dying to visit: Snake Road!

Net Neutrality Protester by Cyrene Krey
As an activist, I’ve attended many protests and marches. It’s been a new experience though to attend strictly as an observer. It’s provided me with a new perspective and appreciation for these activities.

This is a road in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois that is closed twice a year to protect reptile migrations. I’ll have more posts about it coming up (with more information on other places you can read all about this trip ;D). But for now, let me just say that it was awesome and I highly recommend visiting!

While I was expecting a fun trip, I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did. I ran into a few problems and my plans had to change, but I was able to make everything work out. I met some really great people, saw some incredible animals, and came away with a few great shots and an interesting story. It was a trip that made me want to do more of this kind of work.

Frog Monitor Sign by Cyrene Krey
My academic and professional career weren’t the only things I focused on in 2017. I also added to my volunteer work by becoming a frog call monitor for the local forest preserve district.

I have a few ideas for some interesting upcoming projects related to this, but more on that will have to wait until later 😉

For 2018, my plan is to continue focusing on what I began in 2017. I’ll of course be continuing with my volunteer work, because that’s just too much fun to give up! But I’ll also be looking for ways to expand my experience and try out new and exciting photography projects.

So I hope everyone has an exciting, fun, and safe 2018!