A West Coast Bird in an Historic Cleveland Cemetery.

Lake View Cemetery

At the beginning of 2019, a friend and I piled into his SUV and went on a road trip one Sunday, from Columbus to Cleveland Ohio.  A rare bird had been sighted regularly there, and this life-lister would be worth the 2.5-hour drive.

Road trip!

Cleveland’s skyline

Passing Cleveland steel mills

Progressive Field, the ‘new’ sports stadium

East Cleveland at last!

I always have an eye out for interesting architecture…

Case Western University district

And suddenly we were at our destination- Lake View Cemetery.

Lake View Cemetery is on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, along the East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights borders. More than 104,000 people are buried at Lake View, with more than 700 burials each year. There are 70 acres remaining for future development. Known locally as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum,” Lake View Cemetery is home to the James A. Garfield Memorial, Wade Memorial Chapel, which features an interior designed by Louis Tiffany, as well as an 80,000,000-US-gallon  capacity concrete-filled dam.

Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 and sits on 285 acres of land. The cemetery is so named because it is partially located in the “heights” area of Greater Cleveland, with a view of Lake Erie to the north. It was modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian-era England and France. The Italian stonemasons brought in to create the Cemetery founded the Cleveland neighborhood of Little Italy just to its southwest.

One thing I noticed was a fair amount of Egyptian symbols upon century-old gravestones.  Back in the 1920s, Howard Carter had sparked an Egyptian antiquity craze by discovering King Tutankhamen’s tomb.  The interest was plain to see.

Cemetery symbolism is a fascinating subject.  Take, for example, the draped urn.

The widely used draped urn is one of the many symbols that humans have used to represent their views towards death and the immortal spirit. The urn itself represents a classical funeral urn used for cremains. A revived interest in classical Greece led to the prevalence of the draped in urn in cemetery symbolism, even though cremation was not terribly popular at this time ( mid to late 1800s). The urn was also thought to stand for the fact that we all return to ash, or dust; the state from which God created us.
The meaning of the drape on the urn can mean many things to many people. Some feel that it symbolizes the final, impenetrable veil between the living and the dead that awaits us all. To others, it symbolizes the human shedding their mortal body and trappings to join God in Heaven. The drape can also stand for the protective nature of God over the dead and their remains, until the Resurrection occurs. 

Mausoleums dotted the cemetery.  This particular one was near where the bird we were seeking slept at night.

The most spectacular sight in the cemetery was the James A. Garfield Monument.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the James A. Garfield Monument is the final resting place of the 20th President of the United States. The monument is open daily, April 1 through November 19, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The building combines Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles of architecture. Our staff will discuss the President’s life, and the beauty and history of the building. Items- from post cards, posters, puzzles and books- are for sale in our gift shop.

The architecture was truly a visual feast.

This scene is apparently Garfield on his death bed after being struck down by his assassin.

Unfortunately, it was winter, and the interior was closed for the season.  I very much would like to return and see the inside.

English Ivy is not an uncommon vine found in cemeteries.

Birds included White-Throated Sparrows

Downy Woodpeckers



A Fox Squirrel kept an eye on us from a tree-trunk

Berries could be found on bushes- this is what kept our rare bird fed

Birding tip- always look for other birders to see if they see anything.

Suddenly, we all saw something in some berry bushes…

Sure enough, it was a Varied Thrush, a bird usually seen on the West Coast!

The Varied Thrush lives in dark, wet, mature forests in the Pacific Northwest. In its breeding range, which covers Alaska and tapers as it extends south to northern California, it inhabits forests dominated by coastal redwood, Sitka spruce, red alder forests, western hemlock, western red cedar, western larch, or Douglas-fir. In winter it may be found in a broader range of habitats, including parks, gardens, lakeshores, and riparian areas where fruit and berries are abundant.

During breeding season, Varied Thrushes eat insects and other arthropods from the leaf litter; in winter they eat mostly berries and nuts. They forage by seizing dead leaves in their bill and hopping backward to clear a spot of ground before examining it for prey. In fall and winter, they switch to fruits and acorns, forming loose flocks around their food. Some of their typical fruits are snowberry, apple, honeysuckle, madrone, mistletoe, manzanita, toyon, ash, salal, cascara, dogwood, blueberry, huckleberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry.

The bird- a female- hopped through bushes and trees, even spending some time upon the ground.  It was amazing to see a bird so far from its western home.  But then again it’s been known to do this:

It is well known for individual birds to fly eastward in winter, showing up in just about any state, then returning to the west coast for breeding…This species is an improbable transatlantic vagrant, but there is an accepted western European record in Great Britain in 1982.

It was wonderful to see such a bird so far from home- may she get back safely!


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