Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

August 2015

Vol. 43, No. 4

Respecting Birds, People, and History at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Dave Barnettand Regina Harrison


Great Blue Heron at Halcyon Lake, early spring 2015. (All photographs courtesy of Mount Auburn Cemetery)

Mount Auburn Cemetery has served as a valuable habitat for wildlife since long before its founding in 1831, and conservation has been a concern for the Cemetery’s management as far back as 1870, when Mount Auburn’s Trustees established a Committee on Birds and inaugurated a program to plant trees and fruit-bearing shrubs that would attract birds. In the last two decades, with the increased awareness of Mount Auburn’s ecological uniqueness in the greater Boston area and the growing environmental sensitivity throughout society, more and more attention has been directed at managing the grounds as a natural resource and wildlife habitat. Mount Auburn today represents a tremendous natural resource, providing a diversity of plant and animal habitats containing food, water, shelter, and living space; in 2002 the cemetery was designated as one of the 79 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The landscape includes open parklike areas with large swaths of grass such as the area surrounding Willow Pond, woodland settings with significant understory vegetation, and wetland zones with opportunities for aquatic species. Mount Auburn’s three major water bodies—Halcyon Lake, Auburn Lake, and Willow Pond—attract a wide array of wildlife including birds, mammals, and amphibians. While past landscaping and horticultural design and management have created this naturalistic richness, there are opportunities to enhance existing habitat and create new types of habitat at the Cemetery. Our goal is to provide a wide diversity of vegetation offering nesting, protection, and food resources, in a manner that fits within our historic landscape preservation mission, does not conflict with our obligations to the families of those interred here, and will be sustainable long into the future.

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