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.

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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 www.cyrenekrey.com 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!

Standing Rock Camps

Standing Rock Camps by Cyrene Krey
Two of the camps at Standing Rock, adjacent to the Cannonball River, where people gathered in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Friend and journalist, Winifred Bird, and myself went there in mid-November 2016 as the final leg of our journey to travel the length of the pipeline’s route to survey for ourselves what natural areas were being placed at risk.
Super Moon at Standing Rock by Cyrene Krey
The night we arrived was the night of the super moon. Everyone in the camps took a moment about of their busy work to appreciate the sight.

I learned a lot from this experience and challenged my photography along the way. More of the photos from this project are available on my website at www.cyrenekrey.com. My co-pilot and I published a brief photo essay about our trip on Sierra Magazine’s website. More of Winifred Bird’s journalism can be accessed at her website, www.winifredbird.com.

I encourage everyone to continue fighting for better energy alternatives and clean water for all. I’m grateful to the people of Standing Rock who were welcoming and enthusiastic about this project.

Sunrise at Missouri River by Cyrene Krey

Missouri River Sunrise

Sunrise at Missouri River by Cyrene Krey
The last stop before reaching the camps in North Dakota, brought us to the banks of the Missouri River. Downstream of the contested crossing, we witnessed a stunning sunrise along the shore on a misty morning.
Sunrise Over Missouri River by Cyrene Krey
The sun rising over the Missouri River. At this point, we were still in South Dakota, about to cross into North Dakota and drive a couple more hours to reach camp.
Beaver Enjoying the Sunrise by Cyrene Krey
We spotted a beaver taking an early morning swim as we walked along the shore. The Missouri River is home to many different species as well as a source of water for humans.

Other photos from my trip are available at my website at www.cyrenekrey.com.

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, http://www.cyrenekrey.com. 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 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.