Friday, September 14, 2012

Facing the Sky

When I find dead animals, I like to conduct some detective work – I try to find the why and the how, and I like to solve mysteries. Occasionally, though, I encounter a scene for which I can offer no suitable explanation, at least not without a whole lot of conjecture and guesswork. In these situations, all I can do is take photographs and wonder – how did this come to be? What series of events – many or few – led up to this moment?

Last weekend, I came across a mysterious scene, and I left with more questions than answers. The rocky shoreline near the Presque Isle Park breakwall is, without fail, a place to find gull corpses; I wasn't prepared, however, to discover one peacefully facing the sky, head raised to the heavens in what looked like a postmortem act of sun worship.

It was an eerie sight. The herring gull was uncanny in appearance, seeming neither alive nor dead, looking more like taxidermy than anything else. The body was in rigor, the eyes were still wet, and the feathers were warm, thanks to the sun.

One can only guess how this came to be. Throughout my walks and travels, I've seen a great number of dead animals; each has been unique in appearance, but never have I seen one posed as such. Was a person responsible? Did the gull simply die while facing the sky?

Now, several days later, the appearance of this gull has most certainly changed – if it's even still there. I feel lucky to have seen it when I did; it's a reminder that death and decomposition can be strange and mysterious. The dead animals that we do see offer only a brief glimpse into the long process of decay, and sometimes, it can take on forms unexpected and bizarre.


  1. How striking! Wow.

    I wonder if perhaps he actually died on his back, head hanging back and throat to the sky, and then was flipped over by someone while still in rigor. Or, maybe he really did die facing the sun, which is pretty remarkable.

    1. I was wondering that myself – his feet were flat against his body, wings slightly spread. In any case, a pretty bizarre scene!

  2. How unusual. It looks so peaceful. Glad you were able to document this.