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A Catalog of Birds @ CSS: Home


Male Black-Throated Green Warbler near the Valley of Science. June 20, 2020. Photo by Brad Snelling. 

Welcome to A Catalog of Birds at the College of St. Scholastica: an ongoing, interdisciplinary project initiated by the CSS Library which focuses on bird species found on our Duluth campus. The heart of this project is a species list which was developed by faculty emerita Sr. Donna Schroeder and her students from 1978 until 1996. With her permission, we have updated this list with species which have been found on campus since 2005, including birds seen on library-sponsored campus walks with local ornithologists Laura Erickson and Kim Eckert. Our current focus for this project is to develop a digital collection of photographs and sound recordings of birds as they are seen and heard on our campus. We also hope to highlight interdisciplinary work in science, art and music.


Inaugural Essay by Laura Erickson

Laura Erickson

We are very honored to share an inaugural essay for our Catalog of Birds which has been written by ornithologist Laura Erickson.  Laura is the author of 13 books about birds including The American Birding Association Field Guide to Minnesota Birds, the National Geographic Pocket Guide to North American Birds, and the forthcoming The Love Lives of Birds: Courting and Mating Rituals. In 2014, Laura was the recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Birding Association. Her program, "For the Birds," which first aired in 1986, is the longest running radio show about birds in the United States. 

A Species List for CSS

Sketch of Common Raven by Todd White

Common Raven by T. White. Please do not use without permission.

At the heart of our project is a campus species list which was started by faculty emerita Sr. Donna Schroeder through a tutorial program with students in 1978,  The list was further developed through collaborative work with students in Sr. Donna's formal course on Bird Identification (BIO 104) during the 1980s and 1990s. With her permission, we have updated the list with select sightings from 2005 to 2018, including species which were identified on campus walks led by ornithologists Laura Erickson and Kim Eckert. In 2019, we resumed keeping an annual list as part of this record.

View the campus species list.


How does that song go?

Common Yellowthroat

Field guides to birds typically include a mnemonic which can be used to identify and learn the songs of individual species. The song of the Common Yellowthroat (pictured above near his nest by the community garden), is often described in modern guides with the mnemonic "witchety, witchety, witchety!" Many older guides, such as Ferdinand Schuyler Matthews' Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music (1909), describe the song as "witchery, witchery, witchery!" Mathews also suggests the possibility of "Witch-way-sir, Witch-way-sir, Witch-way-sir." Our favorite interpretation of the song comes in a 1837 journal entry from Ralph Waldo Emerson who describes a Yellowthroat which "pipes to me all day long" with the song: "Extacy, Extacy, Extacy!"

What do you think? Here's a recording of a Common Yellowthroat singing near Lot 15 last summer.

Highlights from 2020 Fall Migration (Gallery)

Winter Wren

Winter Wren first made its appearance on our campus species list in fall 2019. This individual was found in Gethsemane Cemetery on October 25, 2020.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike, a species noted as "scarce" in the Peterson Guide, was added to our campus list after this sighting behind the BHC on October 24.

White-winged Crossbill

We've had a couple of sightings of this new species to our list this fall. This male White-winged Crossbill was found in Gethsemane Cemetery on October 25.

Black-capped Chickadee

This amiable Black-capped Chickadee was seen behind Tower Hall on October 19. Shortly after this photograph was taken, the bird flew right at our camerman, nearly grazing his zoom lens before heading for a nearby tree.

Hermit Thrush

This Hermit Thrush was photographed in the cemetery on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis.

Common Raven

Two Common Ravens--an adult and juvenile--seen on the roof of the monastery on a windy, October Sunday.

Eastern Bluebird

Although Eastern Bluebird doesn't nest on campus any more, the species has been seen in migration over the past two falls. This individual was seen in front of Tower Hall on October 10.

Northern Goshawk

The identity of this raptor, seen near the softball field on Kenwood Avenue, remained a mystery for several weeks after it was photographed in late September. We finally had some help from Erik Bruhnke--a local guide and expert on raptors--who identified the individual as a juvenile Northern Goshawk. This was our first record of the species.

Lincoln Sparrow

Lincoln Sparrow is one of several sparrows we were able to add to our campus list this fall. This particular individual was seen by Chester Creek and the lower parking lots.

Juvenile Chestnut-sided Warbler

This juvenile Chestnut-sided Warbler was found near the entry to Gethsemane Cemetery on September 7.

Palm Warbler

While the Palm Warbler isn't the flashiest of the warblers, it has its own subtle beauty which naturally blends with fall colors. This photo--taken behind the BHC on September 13--is of interest since it provides a good view of the white tail spots which can be seen when the bird fans its tail.

Northern Flicker with Sharp-shinned Hawk

A Northern Flicker just escaped the pursuit of an aggressive Sharp-shinned Hawk. This photo was taken behind the BHC on September 27. Sharp-shinned Hawk is one of several raptors which we added to our campus list this fall.

Lapland Longspur

After likely spending its summer in the arctic, this Lapland Longspur stopped by campus on its way south on October 18. This was our first record of the species. The longspur was accompanied by a Horned Lark, also a first for us.

Least Flycatcher

This Least Flycatcher was seen in the field adjacent to Gethsemane Cemetery on September 6.

Brown Thrasher

This Brown Thrasher was found behind Tower Hall on September 26.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak has been seen twice this fall. The species was added to our list on October 24. This female was found near Lot 2 eight days later on November 1.

Common Redpoll

A flock of 30+ Common Redpolls was found near Lot 2 in early November. This was a very early appearance for a species typically seen in mid and late winter.


No, it's not a Fox Sparrow or a game of "which of these is not like the others." We just wanted you to see this Red-tailed Fox which showed great interest in our project this fall during a couple of our visits to Gethsemane Cemetery. 

Birds in Art

Sketch of birds from Ceylon Pot

Sketch of George Bain's sketch of "an Eastern Relative of the Bird in Pictish Art (with interlacing necks and topknots) From earthenware pot, modern, Kandy, Ceylon. Berlin Ethnological Museum." Bain, George. Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction. New York: Dover, 1973. p. 105.

Image by T. White. Please do not use without permission.

Library Resources on Birds and Birdwatching

Over the years, the library has collected extensively in the area of ornithology. Below are a few highlights from the collection including Sr. Donna's dissertation on the song of the Tufted Titmouse.









In honor of CSS-Louisburgh

2021 marks the first year since 1980 in which CSS hasn't sent a delegation of faculty and students for the College's Ireland Program in Louisburgh, County Mayo. In honor of the program and the birds of our "Irish campus," here is a lovely painting of a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) by our colleague Dr. Patricia Hagen, who, with her husband Dr. Tom Zelman, led the program on seven different occasions. Dr. Hagen's painting (enlarge by clicking on the thumbnail) is from 2015, when this species was a frequent visitor at the campus feeder.

Dr. Nicholas Susi Plays Liszt

Composed in 1863, the first of Liszt's Two Legends (S.175) is inspired by the story of St. Francis preaching to the birds. It is performed here by our talented colleague, Dr. Nicholas Susi.

CSS Bird in Profile!


Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker courtesy of Laura Erickson.

In 2019, we had our first record of a Red-bellied Woodpecker which was seen and heard in the Gethsemane Cemetery on June 2, 2019. In this brief recording, you can hear the woodpecker's shrill call along with the tolling of the chapel bell. The species has been seen and heard on campus several times since.

Recording of Red-bellied Woodpecker, Gethsemane Cemetery, June 2, 2019.

Inspired by Messiaen

We've named our project in honor of the French composer Olivier Messiaen and his Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-68), a collection of 13 piano pieces inspired by birdsong. (Of course, the term "catalog" seems appropriate in itself since catalogs and cataloging are essential to our work as librarians.)