Backyard Birds

Small Bird by Cyrene Krey
I spend so much time watching and photographing the wildlife in my own backyard. I do what I can to maintain the area to encourage wildlife to continue hanging out here. Thankfully, the previous owners and many of my neighbors do the same, which has created a beautiful haven for wildlife and some great opportunities for wildlife photography.
Cardinal by Cyrene Krey
Cardinals are abundant and I frequently find them arguing over territory. Although I change the food I put out for wildlife so they don’t grow accustomed and dependent on me as a source of food, several of my neighbors maintain regular feeders. Cardinals frequent these feeders, ousting smaller birds and bickering amongst themselves.

View more of my wildlife photography at and be sure to follow me on Instagram to keep up with all of my adventures!

Katydid by Cyrene Krey

Backyard Wildlife Photography

A lot of times when I talk to people about doing wildlife photography, they immediately think of photographing exotic animals in hard to get to locations all around the world. And while that’s certainly true for some photographers, I spend my time much closer to home. In fact, I spend most of my time at home in my own backyard. I love traveling and exploring new areas, but the fact is that it can sometimes be cost or time prohibitive to do that. And that’s true for a lot of people. So I thought I’d talk a little bit about photographing backyard wildlife, wherever your backyard may be.

Abstract Leaf in Water
Not everything you photograph has to represent exactly what you see. This is an abstract photo of a leaf in a blue bowl filled with rain water, dirt, and bugs. Although I took some clearer images of this leaf, I loved the soft abstract feeling of the photo. Don’t be afraid to get artistic. Blurry, out-of-focus images can have a beautiful, serene quality can that be quite pleasing. If you see something that isn’t quite what you want, but you love the texture or the colors, turn it into something abstract and have fun with it!
Robin with Food by Cyrene Krey
If you have trees in your yard, you’ll have birds. I happen to have a lot of trees so I have quite a few birds. But even if you just have one, they’ll visit and if you keep watching, you can end up with some neat photos. If there isn’t a lot of large trees in your yard, you can attract birds by adding bird houses, bird feeders, and bird baths to your yard or porch. If you place it close enough to a window, you can even sit inside your house and get photos of wildlife in your yard without ever stepping foot out your front door (though I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to go outside! :D).
Katydid by Cyrene Krey
Make sure to go small! Insects, flowers, leaves, even grass can make some really compelling photos because most people don’t look at their surroundings in that much detail up close (and, depending on how close you get, can’t without a magnifying glass). You’ll be surprised by what you see if you focus on the little things.
Red Berry
Have fun and don’t be intimidated! Everyone has their own style and interests. Find something that draws you in and explore with some new ways of looking at it. Bugs, grass, leaves, birds, raccoons, puddles…whatever it is that you want to explore, go for it and have fun! 🙂

In other news…I’ve fully revamped my website. Check it out at! I also have a Facebook page and I’d love it if you liked my page 🙂

“Hoo” Haven

Back in June I began volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Durand, IL. It’s been a great experience! I’ve been involved in volunteer work since I was a teenager, but this has been by far the most fulfilling volunteer work I’ve been involved in.

Earlier this month, I volunteered for their annual open house as a photographer and just a few days ago I interviewed the director, Karen Herdklotz, as part of a class assignment. I thought I’d share some of the photos from that event as well as some information from my interview with Karen and some of my own personal stories. Because like the t-shirts say, “Life’s a hoot at Hoo Haven” ;p

_MG_0006 wo
The wooded, country location for the center makes it the perfect spot for caring for wounded wildlife.

Although Karen’s rehab work started out small, the more she learned and the more the word got out, the faster everything began growing. Today there are multiple buildings for housing injured and recovering wildlife. The main building is also home to an aquatic area for water loving wildlife.

_MG_0030 wo
The squirrels appreciate your donations! “Hoo” Haven is volunteer run and funded through donations from the public and the occasional grant, but receives no state or federal funding and has no paid staff.

Karen describes the growth of her rehabilitation work as an “evolution” that has taken place through increased education and support. She’s quick to credit her volunteers who have made such a huge undertaking possible.

Squirrel at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
There are always a lot of squirrels at Hoo. They stay inside until they’re healthy enough to be moved into an outdoor pen with other squirrels. Eventually, if they’re healthy enough, they’ll be released.

Although cute, squirrels can be surprisingly aggressive. It’s very important to wear gloves whenever interacting with them. And if you happen to forget (like I did once), you definitely won’t repeat that mistake! When they’re disturbed, they’ll start flicking their tails. That’s when you know you definitely want to be wearing nice, thick gloves 🙂

Pelican at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Marshmellow is one of the three pelicans currently at the center.

Squirrels aren’t the only ones who bite. Marshmellow is a pelican at the center who often serves as an educational bird. After hitting a wire, he lost most of one wing and can’t be released. He’s generally pretty friendly, but certainly likes getting his way. One day when I was in cleaning his room, he decided he wanted to come out to play. When I didn’t let him out, he bit me in the butt. It didn’t hurt, but it certainly caught me by surprise.

Funny Crow at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Twinkletoes is the attention-loving crow that lives at the center.
Coyote Pup at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Although generally disliked, coyotes are very important to keep ecosystems balanced. Their populations only began to grow out of control when larger predators, such as wolves, were driven from the area.

During our talk, Karen mentioned some of the things that she’s noticed being serious environmental concerns. One of these involves removing a species for a supposed human benefit. However, this doesn’t work as ecosystems are highly intertwined, and removing one species will impact all the others.

If a predator like a wolf is removed with the goal of increasing populations of animals such as deer for hunters, the impacts are far more widespread than that. Deer populations can grow so out of control that hunters can’t keep up with them. But deer aren’t the only species that are affected. Coyotes now have the run of things, small animals that were also consumed by wolves grow out of control, and there’s no way humans can keep up with all of that. This is a message people are beginning to understand more and more, but when Karen started her rehab work, she said that this wasn’t as well understood.

Hoo Haven's Open House by Cyrene Krey
The Open House at “Hoo” Haven was a huge success, with a lot of visitors coming to see how wildlife is cared for at the facility.

“Of all the things that can be manufactured, you can’t manufacture Mother Earth,” Karen said, explaining why she wishes more people would make the effort to set aside habitat for wildlife. She explained that if everyone avoided using just 10% of their land and allowed it to remain suitable habitat, it would greatly improve the space available for wild animals to live and thrive.

The National Wildlife Federation agrees and promotes the creation of backyard habitats through the Certified Wildlife Habitat program. It’s easy to do and can be a lot of fun. Next spring, my husband and I start working on our yard. While we plan on putting in a lot of effort to make our yard a wonderful wildlife habitat, minimal work is actually required to meet NWF standards to provide living space for a wide range of animals.

Kestrels by Cyrene Krey
Kestrels are small, predatory birds with beautiful coloring and designs on their feathers. There are several at “Hoo” Haven.

Karen said her work in wildlife rehabilitation began because of her career in nursing. As an RN, people knew that she understood the art of healing and would often ask for her help in caring for injured animals. Eventually she was able to take a class on rehabilitation with her husband and find mentors that guided her as she became more involved in rehabbing wildlife.

Ginger the Owl at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Ginger is one of the educational birds at “Hoo” Haven. Because of cataracts in one of her eyes, she is unable to be released and serves as both a surrogate for other small owls and as an educational bird for the center.

Karen mentioned that when she began, she didn’t really know all of the rules and made a few minor rookie mistakes. But with the help of her mentors, she learned and got better at what she did. Constant learning was a recurring theme during our discussion. “The smarter you get,” Karen told me, “the dumber you know you are.”

Karen Herdklotz of Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
Karen Herdklotz, Director of “Hoo” Haven in Durand, IL, with one of the resident bald eagles.

Throughout our talk, it was clear that much of what Karen began doing with wildlife rehabilitation was because of the encouragement she received from others. Despite her own doubts, her mentors saw her skill with wildlife and encouraged her to take on new challenges. One of those challenges was to rehabilitate bald eagles and in 2004, “Hoo” Haven became officially certified for bald eagle care.

Hoo Haven Educational Owl by Cyrene Krey
Educational programs are an important way of raising awareness both for the center and for the environmental issues relevant to preserving wildlife and habitat.

Although “Hoo” Haven started with just one volunteer and a lot of hard work, today there are many dedicated volunteers and a community of supporters. Hundreds of animals are taken in every year. Their care ranges from complex and costly veterinary procedures to food, shelter, and rest for a while. Some will require lifelong care, unable to survive in the wild on their own. Whatever is needed, the center, Karen, and the volunteers are happy to provide.

Pheasants by Cyrene Krey
Pheasants at “Hoo” Haven in Durand, IL.
Pigeons at Hoo Haven by Cyrene Krey
“Dude, have you heard of a personal bubble? Stretch somewhere else!”

There’s no shortage of fun and interesting stories when volunteering at Hoo. Unfortunately it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Watching an animal die, knowing that everything possible has been done, but that it still wasn’t good enough…is very difficult. Still, being able to see the lives that are saved and the good that’s done and being a part of that is more than a little awesome. I encourage everyone to find your local wildlife rehabilitation center and spend some time there. Bring a donation while you’re at it!

As with all the photos I take at nonprofit organizations, I won’t ever sell prints of these images. However I encourage you to use them non-commercially for awareness and educational purposes. If you do use any of the images, do not alter them in any way and credit both myself (“Photo (c) Cyrene Krey”) and “Hoo” Haven (Photo taken at “Hoo” Haven in Durand, IL”). Thanks! 🙂


Garden for Wildlife by the National Wildlife Federation

“Hoo” Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center

Oldies but Goodies

I didn’t get out to do much photography this month because of how busy I’ve been with school, so I’m just going to share some photos that are a couple years old (or older!). Enjoy! 🙂

Indiana Sunset by Cyrene Krey
Indiana Sunset by Cyrene Krey
Abstract Patterns in Stone by Cyrene Krey
Abstract Patterns in Stone by Cyrene Krey
Reflections by Cyrene Krey
Reflections by Cyrene Krey
Ruins by Cyrene Krey
Ruins by Cyrene Krey
The Office by Cyrene Krey
The Office by Cyrene Krey
Finch by Cyrene Krey
Finch by Cyrene Krey

A House Wren at My House

House wrens are adorable little birds. When my husband and I bought our house, the previous owner left the little birdhouse right outside my kitchen window. In the six or so years we’ve lived here, I’ve yet to see it occupied. So I got really excited when I did finally see a bird checking it out. The photos may not be best as I was shooting through my screened kitchen window, but I was more interested in recording it for posterity anyway :p


This is the view of the birdhouse from my kitchen window. It’s a little worn, but still intact and sturdy. But until I saw the house wren checking things out, I hadn’t seen any birds show much of an interest in it. I can’t tell you much about birdhouses, but I do know that different types and sizes attract different species. I’ll probably have a post on that later since I plan on adding a few around my yard either this or next summer (basically whenever I get time for it :p).

House Wren

These are tiny, cute little birds! They’re only 5 inches from bill tip to tail tip. A lot of times they’ll hold their tail just about straight up while sitting. Telling males and females apart is next to impossible since they look the same, but I suspect this one is a male because they’re the ones who bring supplies to a couple of nest locations to attract females. And that’s exactly what he was doing while I watched him.

Singing House Wren

While they seem to have decided not to move in, and I haven’t seen any other house wrens around the birdhouse lately, they’re still fun to watch when they show up elsewhere in the yard. They’re such cute, tiny little birds 🙂


Tekiela, S. (1999). Birds of Illinois: Field guide. Cambridge, Minn.: Adventure Pub.