I drafted the outline for Cemetery Birding in the fall of 2019. At the time I was working on another book project with my mom, Valarie Bristol, and was waiting for Parking Lot Birding to be released in April of 2020.
Then Covid-19 hit and everything changed. The research libraries were closed and I could not conduct interviews for the other book so I jumped into writing Cemetery Birding. Since the pandemic hit during the spring migration, I was having a hard time staying home. I would pack up the car and visit as many cemeteries as I could while avoiding all human interactions.
Between 2019 and 2023 I have visited over 300 cemeteries in Texas. That might seem like a lot, however there are over 50,000 in the state. Some are small family plots while others are large, beautifully designed spaces with acres of great habitat for the birds.
So why do cemeteries make good places to bird? Well- first the historic cemeteries tend to have an assortment of large mature trees. Second, there are plenty of places for birds to perch while they are waiting for a tasty insect to pass by. Third, they are generally quite spaces.
One of the things I enjoyed most about exploring the cemeteries of Texas was the solitude. Being alone in nature is something that I crave and need a lot of to fill my restless soul. As the world emerged out of the pandemic and restrictions eased, the world still seemed like a dangerous place. Cemeteries became a safe haven for me to escape and be alone with my thoughts or just be at peace with the birds.
While exploring I took tons of photos or birds, headstones, trees and anything else that captured my eye. That’s one of the things I like the most about birding in cemeteries is they have a lot to tantalize the eye. And just when I thought I had seen every type of headstone of cemetery design- I would discover something new.
Discovery- that’s what feeds my curious mind. The sense of discovering something mysterious from the past or some species of bird that is passing through on migration. It all happens in cemeteries.
I hope you will pick up a copy and start exploring these wonderful spaces in a safe and ethical way. I also hope you will take the time to reach out to the cemetery associations or cities that manage these spaces to request they utilize these spaces to plant more native plants and trees to sustain the birds, while also creating a welcoming and meaningful space for us humans.