Squirrel licking sap by Cyrene Krey

Field Report (School+Work+Fun)

Once again, I’m taking Ornithology! This time as a graduate student. I loved taking it as an undergrad and as always, my favorite part is the field observations. It’s like work, school, and play all rolled into one 🙂 This field report was especially fun too because I was also able to combine it with the Great Backyard Bird Count, a citizen science effort to collect data on bird observations during one weekend every year. This data is published on the eBird website at http://gbbc.birdcount.org.

Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) by Cyrene Krey
The Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) were the most abundant and active throughout both my observations. I saw at least four distinct birds during my first day out. They were flying back and forth from tree to tree, foraging for food. One would occasionally noisily come to an already occupied branch and displace another bird. They have a black cap on their heads (hence their name) as well as a black throat, while the rest of them is white and tan. They look like Carolina chickadees but have different vocalizations, which is one of the methods I used to ID them as black-capped chickadees.
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) by Cyrene Krey
Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) were also very active. I saw four in total, three males and one female. One of the males appeared to be watching over the female as she foraged. He would inspect a tree, move to a higher branch or tree, and she would come over to his previous location to begin foraging. He maintained a relatively close distance to her the entire time I was observing. The other two occasionally appeared to face off with one another, while minding their own business looking for food the rest of the time.
Female cardinal by Cyrene Krey
Male cardinals are bright red with a black mask and females are brown with red tinges on their wings and head crest. Although the males are known as the beautiful ones, I’ve always been partial to the females.
Male Cardinal Licking Sap by Cyrene Krey
Fun note, when I first spotted the male he appeared to be drinking sap off of a tree. The female also came to that tree to do the same .
Squirrel licking sap by Cyrene Krey
Not to be left out, this squirrel decided to see what the cardinals found so delicious about this tree’s sap.

I encourage you to check out the data collected from this year’s bird count and to be on the lookout for it next year! If you participated in this year’s count, comment about your experience 🙂

Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc.birdcount.org.

Check out cool audio files of bird songs at http://www.xeno-canto.org.

Tekiela S. 1999. Birds of Illinois Field Guide. Cambridge, Minn.: Adventure Pub.


Smith Lake

Smith Lake is near an itty bitty town in Illinois and right nextdoor to the pond the Dakota Access Pipeline cuts through. The pond and lake are connected and during flooding, the lake spills over into the Illinois River. It’s a very risky area to place an oil pipeline and yet it’s one of the locations Energy Transfer Partners decided to cut through.

White Pelicans at Smith Lake by Cyrene Krey
Smith Lake was absolutely stunning! It was our first destination of the second day for our journey. Gravel roads were the only route to the out-of-the-way lake. We went early morning and arrived just at sunrise. It was chilly and there was a thick mist all across the lake. Flocks of over 150 white pelicans were gathered there, likely on their way south for their fall migration.
White Pelican Drifting by Cyrene Krey
This pelican was the star of the morning! He kept swimming out of the mist closer towards the center of the lake where the sunlight was. It’s always nice when critters decide to cooperate 😉
Bird in the Sky by Cyrene Krey
Birds soared overhead, just awakening for the day as the sun rose over the lake. Although the waterbirds were still lazily drifting in the lake, several species of gulls and birds of prey were already moving about overhead ready to find food.
Private Pier by Cyrene Krey
Small homes dotted the lake, several with small piers. Other than a couple of birders out observing the migrating pelicans and waterfowl, we didn’t see or hear anyone else. It was beautifully peaceful.

Other photos from this location and my DAPL project are available on my website at www.cyrenekrey.com for purchase and viewing. Please contact your representatives to let them know you aren’t interested in any more pipelines and want cleaner energy sources (and the tons of jobs that will come with them!). The Army Corps is also taking public comment on the pipeline, please voice your opinion.

Meredosia Pipeline Construction

Backlit Forest by Cyrene Krey
Along the way to a lake we wanted to photograph at night, Winifred Bird, friend and journalist, and I stumbled across a construction site. Needing to check the map, we decided to pull off on the side of the road and see if any of the workers would speak to us. However, we soon found out that although floodlights and generators were running, nobody was in sight.
Photographing an Empty Construction Site by Cyrene Krey
Winnie and I photographed the empty site while looking for someone to talk to. Eventually we decided to continue on towards the lake.
Construction Work at Night by Cyrene Krey
After leaving the first construction site for the lake, we stumbled across a second site. People were there and we decided to stop and try to talk to them. Unfortunately security believed we were there to make trouble. Although we remained in the car, they accused us of being there to make trouble. We soon left, but they followed, prompting me to stop and photograph the site. They claimed there had been problems at the site previously, although locals denied that. Considering the hostile behavior we received from security, we opted to skip the lake and go back in the morning along another route that allowed to avoid further harassment.

More photos from this project can be viewed at my website, www.cyrenekrey.com.

Winifred Bird Photographing DAPL Site by Cyrene Krey

Patoka, IL DAPL Site

I’ve mentioned a little bit about my trip along the Dakota Access Pipeline to see some of the natural habitats and wildlife that may be impacted by the pipeline’s route. Now it’s time to start sharing a few of those photos and stories!

Water Pipe Flags by Cyrene Krey
Behind these flags for water pipelines and this fire hydrant, is a storage yard for the pipes needed to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Right next to this site is the final endpoint for the pipeline in Patoka, IL. This is where I began my journey, accompanied by my friend and journalist Winnie Bird.
Winifred Bird Photographing DAPL Site by Cyrene Krey
We weren’t allowed onto the site, so we photographed from the road and ditches around the site. Security kept a close eye on us all the time, driving around the site and the roads to keep us in view and reluctant to talk to us.
Birds Flocking in a Cloudy Sky by Cyrene Krey
This flock of birds maintained a presence at the site. They huddled together on the construction materials until disturbed by the trucks driving around the site. They would then gather in the bright blue sky until they once again resumed their posts.

Some of these photos will also be shared on my website at www.cyrenekrey.com and you’re invited to like my Facebook page where I’ll continue posting my wildlife and project photos 🙂

Breeding garden slugs by Cyrene Krey

Breeding Slugs

A pair of breeding gray garden slugs by Cyrene Krey

This fall, during one of my exploratory walks around my yard, I discovered a pair of breeding gray garden slugs. Slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they contain both male and female reproductive organs. Although they are able to self-fertilize, they usually mate with another slug.

Breeding garden slugs by Cyrene Krey
Slugs, shell-less snails, can be found in higher numbers after it rains, preferring moist environments. 
Tiny slug by Cyrene Krey
Just a few feet away, I saw several smaller slugs around a pile of leaf litter. They’re considered a pest because they’ve become so common in home gardens and destroy vegetable seedlings. They eat holes in leaves and stems which harms the plants and I often see them out enjoying my blackberry bushes.
Gray Garden Slug by Cyrene Krey
Despite being considered pests, slugs are vital members of their ecosystems. They play an important role in the decomposition of vegetative litter as well as important nutrient recyclers which aid in the maintenance of soil health.
Mating Slugs by Cyrene Krey
If you absolutely must reduce the population of slugs in your garden, avoid harsh chemicals. One alternative to deal with them is to encourage predators, such as toads, snakes, and beetles near the garden. These guys will eat the slugs and also give you more wildlife to appreciate.

As always, you’re welcome to view more of these photos on my website at www.cyrenekrey.com and I’d love it you liked my Facebook page for even more wildlife facts and photos! I’ll be giving away quite a bit of goodies soon to clear out my old inventory, so now’s a great time to start following my page if you aren’t already 🙂

For more information on these cool critters, check out the following resources:

University of Illinois Extension: Slugs by Phil Nixon

Economic Impacts of the Conservation of the Mojave Shoulderband Snail (Helminthoglypta ‘Coyote’ Greggi) by Cyrene Krey

Goh, K. (1988). Gray Garden Slug: Deroceras reticultatum. Field Crops Fact Sheet No. 102GFS795.00

Silhouette Cat by Cyrene Krey

Taking on New Challenges Seeking out Urban Wildlife

Most of my work in wildlife photography has me visiting preserves and other natural areas within a few hours of my residence. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to do wildlife photography in national forests several hours away or travel out of state altogether. I even spend quite a bit of time in my own backyard. However, until recently, I hadn’t attempted photographing urban wildlife.

I was challenged a while back to shoot cities at night. While I enjoy taking on new photography challenges, initially this one didn’t seem to be a fit for me. Urban wildlife is a topic that comes up frequently during discussions on wildlife management, but it still is something that usually isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking of wildlife.

But this challenge inspired me to try something new. Going into this challenge, I had no experience with shooting urban environments at night, and certainly not while keeping an eye out for wildlife. This made it the perfect project to tackle to practice new techniques and expand my skills.

Buzzing Bugs by Cyrene Krey
The first signs of wildlife were the bugs gathering around various light sources. Buzzing around the faint light, they looked almost magical (that is, until you remembered they’re bugs ;p). It was a good opportunity though to practice different exposures and settings. Low-light conditions can be difficult to work with; having a subject that remained in the same location for an extended period gave me time to properly experiment.

On my first night out, I spent much of the time walking along the sidewalk near the street. Despite it being a small town, it was still a Saturday night, so there were several people out. I tried to avoid the most heavily utilized areas, but I still managed to run across a few people. I have to once again apologize to the poor gentleman I startled.

While I’m out photographing wildlife, I’m frequently on my own. I don’t have anyone to talk to and I’m used to being quiet and still for long periods of time so as to avoid disturbing the animals. When I’m in public, I try to turn this off, but I still manage to stay fairly quiet. This is a habit I’ve had since I was a teenager, out exploring different wooded areas near my house, so it’s fairly ingrained at this point.

While walking along the sidewalk, I saw a man texting on his phone and did my best to try to be a little more noticeable to avoid startling him but failed. As I walked past him, he jumped and said, “Wow, you’re quiet,” sounding quite surprised. I laughed and apologized, explaining my mission.

But it was a great encounter. He worked at a local hydro-plant and was able to share with me some very useful information regarding sightings he’d had of coyotes, foxes, deer, turkeys, and raccoons in the area. It was a spot I hadn’t really known about or considered visiting, but thanks to running into him it was something I quickly added to my list.

Although I didn’t have any of the sightings he described on my first night out, I could see why the area would be frequented by the local urban wildlife. It was slightly off the beaten path, close to a water source, and had a lot of both natural and human made shelter available while still remaining very close to human sources of food, such as dumpsters.

Old Fire Hydrant by Cyrene Krey
Plant growth along a fence-line, in the progress of taking over an old fire hydrant, suggests a lack of regular human activity that would appeal to wildlife.

So despite scaring the local human life, I was able to get some great tips on where to search for (and hopefully not scare) the local wildlife. He wished me well in my hunt and requested that I try to avoid scaring anyone else while I was out. I promised I would do my best and continued on.

Silhouette Cat by Cyrene Krey
While I didn’t see a lot of animal life on my excursion, I did repeatedly run into this local resident enjoying a night on the town. However, he wasn’t overly fond of having his picture taken and tended not to sit still for very long. It was good practice in quickly catching a shot of an uncooperative subject in low-light.
Stop to Smell the Flowers by Cyrene Krey
I left my new friend to go explore the small town. When I caught up with him again, he was sniffing the flowers outside a store before finding the dish they’d apparently left out for him. He was uneasy as I photographed him while he ate, so I made sure to keep my distance to give him some peace. Once he’d had his fill, he took off and so did I.

While I wasn’t able to photograph the wildlife I was searching for, I was able to practice my skills and obtain some useful information. I also heard a coyote call nearby, as well as ducks, and saw several other signs that there was indeed plenty of urban wildlife in the area. The next time I’m able to go out, I’ll have that information and experience to guide me.

Please visit my website as www.cyrenekrey.com for more images from this excursion and like my Facebook page for even more fun photos!