Obscured by Light – Remains of Winter

Sometime back in January, I was sitting in my office on a particularily cold mid-morning. Everything beyond my windows was a shade or two of grey, interrupted only by streaks of icy white cruelty. Since moving permanently to Zagreb in 2007, I had never experienced cold such as this, nor for so long.

I was pondering how many sweaters to put on when a jackdaw slammed into the north facing window. The sound was so loud I thought one of the neighbor’s kids had thrown a soccer ball at it.  I shot up out of my chair, ran over to the ledge, and leaned into the window-well to view the tiny lifeless body cushioned eight feet below in the snow beneath our pear tree.  After several moments of ringing my hands and standing there saying ‘oooh no. oh no no no’ over and over again, I finally grabbed a coat and my sneakers and went outside.

The cold immediately seized my lips for thought to speak. Each breath was like inhaling needles. As I approached the bird, I could see red trailing from his little beak. My face scrunched up in a rictus of horror. His eyes were half closed in the slumber of death. Under normal circumstances, I would have grabbed my camera and shot an entire series, but for some reason it seemed more apt to remain in the moment. I took him in my hands, checking his warm little chest for a heartbeat. His head lolled loosely on his shoulders, and as I sniffled away my first tear, should it freeze upon my cheek, I chuckled to myself upon closer inspection of the beak – it was smeared with the remains of his last berry, likely fermented in the clutch of winter. The cold and the poor food had probably addled his mind, and he misjudged his launch from the tree branch to another likely reflected within my window.

I cradling him along one sleeve of my coat, and walked half a mile into the forest to lay him to rest in the nook between a young chestnut’s sprawling roots. To this day, I am haunted by how warm his little body was.  Today, it is 24C and beautiful, and my hooded crows Kara and Kaine are busy meeting the demands of their hatchlings.

This past winter hit Bucharest equally as hard, and one of our readers captured the compelling photos in this post to document the effect it had on corvids in the area.

As he describes it, “The Remains of Winter series refers to the dead birds lying in the parks, killed by the cold weather, hunger or thirst, during one of the most bitter winters in the last twenty years. Among the children’s playgrounds you can spot these creatures lying on the ground.”

To view more Obscured By Light photography, visit the artist’s photography blog here.