Birdwatching at Mount Auburn Cemetery
On Friday, I’ll be waking up early to join Mass Audubon on a birdwatching outing at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Waking up early to visit a cemetery might sound like a macabre undertaking, but Mount Auburn is no ordinary cemetery. It was created on the outskirts of Boston in 1831 as America’s first rural or garden cemetery, a precursor to parks in urban areas. The city was yearning for a new aesthetic, a cemetery landscaped with rolling hills, ponds, flowering shrubs, and a mix of trees that provide shade not only for those in mourning, but for the entire public to enjoy their picnic lunch. It became a smashing success that would lay the groundwork for Frederick Law Olmstead to create Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace here in Boston some 40 to 50 years later.
Today, more than 200,000 visitors enter the gates of Mount Auburn annually. Sure, they might come to visit the final resting place of a relative or to stop and say thanks to a long list of luminaries in American arts and letters, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, and Buckminster Fuller, yet others like me simply follow in the footsteps of Roger Tory Peterson, the renowned ornithologist who once led bird walking tours here. The height of the spring migration for warblers usually happens around Mother’s Day each year. Bring your binocs and you might just spot the scruffy yellow chin of the divine Northern Parula warbler. To read more about Boston’s historic cemeteries, see my article from last summer’s American Way magazine, the inflight publication of American Airlines.