Thursday, April 15, 2010

Windowed Stairwells

Yesterday morning, Steph called to tell me that she'd found a dead Brown Creeper laying on the pavement behind the NMU art building. The bird was in almost the same spot that we'd found a white-breasted nuthatch a year or so earlier, and there was no doubt as to what had killed it: the tall, windowed stairwells of the art building. (The stairwell at the front of the building can be seen here; the stairwell at the back of the building faces Lake Superior and Presque Isle.)

Nothing could have prepared me for how tiny, weightless, and delicate this bird was. I'd seen Brown Creepers before, but never so close; its beak and claws were surprisingly long and sharp, perfectly adapted to how this species of bird lives, clinging to vertical tree trunks and extracting insects from the nooks and crannies of the bark. Despite the apparent delicateness and fragility of this being, I was astonished to learn that they inhabit Marquette year-round, even through the most bitter of winters.

I took a photograph of the creeper right away, the morning sunlight giving it a bizarre and almost foreboding shadow. The glass stairwells have obviously claimed more than just the lives of the nuthatch and the creeper, and the fact that there are no vinyl clings to deter birds is sad. How many more lives will be lost just because the glass looks good? How much would it cost to put up the most basic of bird-deterring static clings?

Later that day, I hung up two 16"x12" posters inside the art building:

This is the first occasion I've done public protest art in any form. A few times, I've considered taking this project in that direction, but I don't think that will happen.

On the way in to class today, we found this in the same area, near the glass stairwell:

Daily Photo: Wing Fragment

I'm not sure what type of bird this wing fragment belonged to, but I'd say it was in the house sparrow- to robin-sized range. Over the years, I've found multiple wing fragments littered around the back of the art building, all near that windowed stairwell.


  1. Those wing fragments probably mean there is a winged predator nearby. That's what we see from the falcons... falling parts.

  2. True... There are also a lot of gulls and crows that hang out nearby, probably looking for food falling from the heavens...