Ralph Hoffmann
and the
Vermilion Flycatcher:
Cottonwood Trees at Cushenbury Ranch

Dedicated to Samuel Parish

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek
Ballona Institute
322 Culver Blvd., Suite 317
Playa del Rey, California 90293
(310) 821-9045


Volume 23, Number 5, Page 166
September, 1921
Vermilion Flycatcher in Western San Bernatdino County, in Summer
-On June 28, 1921, I found a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus mexicanna) at the Cushenbury Ranch at the base of the east slope of the San Bernardino Range, in San Bernardino County, California. Although I did not find a nest, I have no doubt that the birds were breeding as they were both busy about a fork high up in a cottonwood and the male was constantly indulging in his flight song.-
Carpinteria, California,
July 16, 1921.

Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek


The year, 1921, marks a significant year for Ralph Hoffmann. For it is in that year that he writes in his field journal of birds and natural history, under the month of April, an announcement that "work" has begun toward the ultimate completion of a book on the birds of California. Approximately 6 years later, in 1927, that book is completed. The book is entitled: BIRDS OF THE PACIFIC STATES.

The year, 1921, also is the year that at the edge of the Mohave Desert, on the lower north slope of the San Bernarindo Mountains, Ralph Hoffmann discovers a pair of unique birds, most likely nesting in some cottonwood trees. His visit to this transition zone between desert and mountain forests at the Cushenbury Ranch resulted in the discovery of a noteworthy bird, namely the Vermilion Flycatcher. It is only through the eclectic natural history writings of Ralph Hoffmann that I have been humbly able to elucidate this narrative biography of the 'life and times' of this very interesting man and new immigrant resident of southern California.

In 1921, Ralph Hoffmann had barely just begun living in California for approximately one year. Yet, he was inspired to such an extent in his new surroundings on the Pacific coast as a 50 year old man, that he knew he would be living here for some number of years, so why not write a book on the birds of the great state of California. Thus, in 1921, he announced in his field journal that he was going to write a book on California wild birds.

Beginning in 1921, he traveled widely in California from his new small home town of Carpinteria, not only to many other parts of the state of California, but also to Oregon and to Washington. In his first year of exploration, he traveled to Mono Lake of the Great Basin Desert, immediately adjacent to the eastern Sierra Nevada. This travel was completed in a Model T Ford with his field journal. Of course, he also traveled to the San Bernardino Mountains and the virtual edge of Mohave Desert. He must have traveled elswhere in the great state of California in 1921, but alas, this author has no further knowledge or records at this time to offer definitive proof of further trips, except for several short jaunts nearby to Carpinteria. These "one-day" short journeys went southward into adjoining Ventura County, always near the coast, at the local estuary of the mouth of the Santa Clara River.

Won't you please fund the Ballona Institute in its efforts, so that this important natural history research on the history of birders and birding in southern California can continue on its quest. The biography of Ralph Hoffmann is both a scientific and recreational pursuit for this writer, just as the study of birds and native plants was a scientific and recreational pursuit for Ralph. This research can only be continued to a heightened degree with a benefit for all of us interested in nature, particularly birds and native plants, if funding continues for the Ballona Institute.