It started like any other day for Stephen Maciejewski. He woke up at 04:30 and by 05:30 he was in downtown Philadelphia ready to start his patrol. Maciejewski – a volunteer with the conservation non-profit Audubon Pennsylvania – has walked the exact same route for years, looking for birds lying on the pavement.
The unfortunate creatures end up there after crashing into the city's brightly-lit skyscrapers. Maciejewski bags and labels dead birds and scoops up those that are simply dazed, moving them out of the way of hurrying commuters.
But the morning of Friday 2 October 2020 was different. Maciejewski was kneeling on the pavement picking up a clutch of dead birds when someone ran up and pointed out another cluster around the corner. A few minutes later, someone else told him about a pile further up the street.
"After a while I just couldn't keep up… it got so overwhelming that I stopped putting them in individual bags," he says. "I just put them in a big plastic bag." It was clearly upsetting for Maciejewski – his voice cracks with emotion as he reveals that he ended up collecting around 400 dead birds that day. Usually he would expect to pick up 20.