I live in Las Vegas and whenever I visit Massachusetts, I bird the famed Mount Auburn Cemetery. On my first visit in February 2009, photographer and guide John “Garp” Harrison took my friend and me to see Great Horned Owls. Another year, we saw their owlets, and I shared my scope with other visitors so they could see them close up. We almost always spot the cemetery’s nesting Red-tailed Hawks. (Harrison is the co-editor of the 2015 book Dead In Good Company, which celebrates the cemetery’s wildlife.)
In May 2013, my first visit during spring migration, we saw a beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler, as well as Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Magnolia, Blackpoll, and Black-and-white Warblers, American Redstart, and Ovenbird. The woods are equally filled with songbirds in fall.
Besides birds, I’ve seen mink, woodchuck, red fox, coyote, frogs, and turtles. You never know what is around the next tree or bush. Probably the greatest thing about Mount Auburn is that it’s here to stay. It was founded in 1831 and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. It’s also an active burial ground, so it should continue to be a great place to bird and visit for decades to come. — Je Anne Strott-Branca
Forest with more than 100 varieties of trees, grassy areas, ponds; 10 miles of paved roads.
Flat to hilly. Some areas steep and some with steps. Many areas wheelchair-accessible.
More than 225 species. Hooded Merganser, Wild Turkey, Great Blue and Green Herons, Red-tailed, Cooper’s, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Woodcock, Solitary Sandpiper, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Carolina and House Wrens, kinglets, Wood Thrush, 38 warbler species, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, orioles, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin.
When to go
Year-round; spring and fall best.
Visitor center located in Story Chapel open 9-4 daily (closed on Sundays, November through March). Bird walks offered Monday through Friday in spring and fall. Checklist and a current sightings board; list of trees. Restrooms at main entrance.
Nonprofit historic cemetery. Open daily 8-8. No fees. MBTA bus routes 71 and 73 stop on Mount Auburn St. Park only on pavement without green lines. No bikes or motorcycles allowed; they can be parked at main entrance. No pets allowed.
Mount Auburn is an active burial place. As a sacred site, visitors are expected to act respectfully. Complete list of rules available at entrance gate.