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! 😀

Bison by Cyrene Krey

Bison at Nachusa Grasslands

I went to Nachusa Grasslands last month in the hopes of seeing the bison that roam around there. And I did!

Bison by Cyrene Krey
Bison grazing at Nachusa Grasslands. (c) Cyrene Krey
Nachusa Grasslands by Cyrene Krey
The Nature Conservancy-established preserve encompasses around 3,500 acres of prairie, woodlands, and wetlands.
Brown-headed Cowbird by Cyrene Krey
Bison aren’t the only animals that make the grasslands home. This little cowbird (Molothrus ater) was singing away as I was photographing the bison. Photo (c) Cyrene Krey

In the past, cowbirds would follow herd of bison to consume the seeds and insects that were stirred up by the large animals, however with modern farming and ranching they have become much more common in developed areas (The Guardian: Zoology). Their previous nomadic lifestyle following herds of bison is believed to be the reason for their parasitic behavior, since nesting wasn’t practical when constantly on the move (The Guardian: Zoology). The Brown-headed Cowbird does not make its own nests, but rather lays white and brown eggs in the nests of other birds which require incubation for approximately 10-13 days (Tekiela, 1999). Because of the time and energy saved from their parasitic behavior, females are able to lay up to three dozen eggs each season (The Guardian: Zoology). However, because of the advantages the Brown-headed Cowbird has received from agriculture and pastoralism, their numbers have increased at a rate that hasn’t allowed other species to catch up (The Guardian: Zoology). Because of this, many species have not yet evolved a defensive strategy against inadvertently raising cowbirds instead of expending the energy on their own young (The Guardian: Zoology). The Brown-headed Cowbird is the only parasitic bird species in Illinois and have been known to lay eggs in the nests of over 200 different species of birds (Tekiela, 1999). They are social birds and often move in large flocks (The Guardian: Zoology). Although they are a migratory species that heads to southern states, they can still be seen throughout Illinois year-round (Tekiela, 1999).

Nachusa Grasslands Sign by Cyrene Krey
Nachusa Grasslands is located in Franklin Grove, IL.
Geese by Cyrene Krey
On the way home, there were several nice, little spots to stop and appreciate the scenery. This adorable family was hanging out at one of the stops 🙂 (c) Cyrene Krey

In addition to geese though, there was also a lot of litter at these stops including some discarded fishing gear. Fishing gear can cause a lot of problems for wildlife so if you do fish, make sure to clean up properly. If you can’t for whatever reason, then you shouldn’t be fishing.

I’ll be sure to get these photos (and more) onto my site (when I get around to it ;D).


Friends of Nachusa Grasslands

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

The Guardian: Zoology

Challenges to Mammal Migratory Route Conservation in North America

Bison at Nachusa Grasslands by Cyrene Krey
Bison are well-known for their migratory habits.

Mammal migration between seasonal ranges can consist of relatively short distance migrations of a single individual as well as massive migrations involving thousands of individuals in a population. Understanding the varying migratory habits among…

Source: Challenges to Mammal Migratory Route Conservation in North America

Article by Cyrene Krey.