Ralph Hoffmann on Massachusetts Birds:
Unsatisfactory Records

Compiled and Edited by
Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
Ballona Institute
322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Playa del Rey, California 90293

Volume XIX, Number 4: 420
October-December 1902
Unsatifactory Records.
Dear Sirs:-It is with reluctance that we offer any criticism of labor which results in so much pleasure and profit as the editing of 'The Auk.' For some time, however, it has seemed to us that a strictor censorship of items for the 'General Notes' would result in a much more satisfactory standard in that department. Many interesting birds have lately been recorded, as seen, but not shot, by observers whose capacity for accurate observation is absolutely unknown to ornithologists in general. Some of these records seem to bear on their face evidence of error. There appeared, for instance, in 'The Auk' for July, 1902, p. 297, a list of arrivals in the Northern Adirondacks. The author lists the White-eyed Vireo, and records its arrival from April 25 to April 25, nine days earlier than the date given in 'Chapman's Handbook' for Sing-Sing, N.Y., and that the Hermit Thrush does not appear in the list, it seems surprising that the list should have been printed without the least editorial comment.

We would respectfully suggest that no record of a bird merely observed, where there is any chance for error, be accepted, unless the observer be well known to the editor, or to some ornithologist of standing and judgment, who will vouch to the editor for the accuracy of the observer.
Yours respectfully,
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek

It is noteworthy to see that Ralph Hoffmann coauthored this piece of writing with the distinguished ornithologist, William Brewster. My research shows that Ralph Hoffmann and William Brewster spent some time together birding during the 1890s and this may have helped solidify their friendship and trust so that they would pen this editorial together.