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!

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 🙂

Ducks by Cyrene Krey

More DAPL Photos

Blue Heart on Tree by Cyrene Krey
A blue heart painted onto a tree near the Illinois River, one of the major waterways the Dakota Access Pipeline crosses. The risk of a spill along one of these major sources of fresh water has been a motivating factor in the opposition to the pipeline.
Old Tree by Cyrene Krey
A tall, old tree stood along the roadside at a scenic turnout located near the Illinois-Iowa crossing. Based on the survey flags that were there, it stood directly in the path of the pipeline at the time of my visit. This probably means this beautiful tree has since been removed to make way for an oil pipeline.
Gray Trees by Cyrene Krey
Bare autumn trees are reflected in the waters at the Mahaska County Conservation Center in Iowa, near where the pipeline route is located. Locals complained to us about the pipeline, stating they felt it put their waters at risk and compromised unmarked Native burial grounds located in the area.
Ducks by Cyrene Krey
Several different species of aquatic birds were observed at the Maskunky Marsh, a small marsh maintained by Mahaska County Conservation. The pipeline is immediately adjacent to the marsh that waterfowl make home during breeding seasons and use to refuel during migratory periods. Loss of habitats like this have led to numerous disease outbreaks, compromising both bird and human health.
Wind Farm by Cyrene Krey
A wind farm in Iowa was the last stop of the second day of the trip. While wind turbines are controversial because of the harm they can inflict on birds, it was an interesting dichotomy to see an oil pipeline being constructed through a source of renewable energy.

More photographs from this and other projects are available at my website, For additional background on my work and extra info, please like my Facebook page.

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 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.

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 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

Mourning Dove Silhouette by Cyrene Krey

Less Literal, More Artistic

Wildlife photography doesn’t always have to be about an obvious, literal photograph of an animal or natural landscape. Sometimes it’s worth it to get creative in a different way. Sometimes I talk to people who don’t realize that wildlife photography (or photography in general) is as much of an art as any other. Photographers are artists too. Just like every other artist, we spend years honing our skills through practice and study. One perfect shot can take hours of preparation, days (or weeks, months, or years depending on the shot) of looking for (and getting to) the perfect location and waiting until everything is just right. It requires knowledge of more than just button-pushing to take a picture. Wildlife photographers have to know the terrain, the animals they’re photographing, lighting, the technical capabilities of their gear, and their own limitations. It’s hard work. And it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes I like to get away from the literal photos of bugs and birds and do something a little different.

Forest Preserve in Winter
For this shot, I wanted something a little harsher so I overexposed this winter scene. My goal was to capture the feel of cold and desolation, the harshness that still remained despite the melting snow. Overexposing caused more work for me post-processing, but it was worth it to get the feel I wanted.
Mourning Dove Silhouette by Cyrene Krey
A silhouette of a mourning dove in black and white is still fairly literal. It’s a nice mix of a more expected wildlife shot and something of a slightly different type of creativity. The sunlight wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and instead of settling for a mediocre bird photograph, I decided to do something a little more impactful and underexposed the dove to end up with just her silhouette. Changing the photo to grayscale also made it a little moodier. (c) Cyrene Krey
Purple Flowers Against Green
It’s pretty obvious this one isn’t intended to be a typical landscape shot :p Originally that’s exactly what I wanted though. I loved the purple of the flowers against the green background but none of the photos had the impact I was looking for. I decided to go crazy with the colors to get that impact and ended up loving the painting feel of the photo more than the other shots I’d taken of the same scene.
Abstract Water on Rocks by Cyrene Krey
I feel like this one should technically be considered a more literal photo because it really is just a shot into a creek. But the closeup of the rocks and the way the sunlight is playing off the water forms more abstract patterns than what you’d usually find in a nature photo. Even the small fish that I saw swimming around are just abstract blurs in the finished product. And I love it :p (c) Cyrene Krey

All of these photos were shot at Clayton Andrews Forest Preserve of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District in northern Illinois. For more wildlife photography tips, read my blog post on backyard wildlife photography. To see some of these and other photos available for purchase, please visit my website at Also, I’m now on Facebook! Like me! 😀