Ralph Hoffmann and a Pacific Northwest Birder:
Dennis Paulson and Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest

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

In 1993, Dennis Paulson wrote a book called Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. He dedicated this book to Ralph Hoffmann because he was inspired by Hoffmann,, who had authored his own book in 1927, Birds of the Pacific States.

In 1932, Just five years after completing this book, Ralph Hoffmann died of injuries from a fall on a cliff on San Miguel Island in southern California. However, his book remained in print through the 1950s. Many birders became aware of this book and the writings of Ralph Hoffmann on birds. Throughout the later part of the 20th Century, birder began to acknowledge Ralph Hoffmann by dedicating new bird books to him. Dennis Paulson is one such birder, but there are others. This brief article will show how it was dedicated and discuss the implications and significance of Ralph Hoffmann on a whole host of naturalists, birders, and botanists, culminating even in this article by this author.


The results of this study are that a dedication was found to Ralph Hoffmann in Dennis Paulson's book: Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. I only thought to check the dedication page of this book because I have discovered another book with a dedication to Ralph Hoffmann. That book was on warbler and was written by Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett in 1997. I am now checking additional books by various authors to see if they have dedicated their books to Ralph Hoffmann. Presented below are my findings regarding the dedication by Dennis Paulson in 1993 to Ralph Hoffmann:

"This book is dedicated to Ralph Hoffmann and Allan Brooks,
who showed by dynamic prose and crisp illustrations in their inspiring
Birds of the Pacific States that every bird species is memorable."

Conclusion and Summary
Ralph Hoffmann was a dedicated naturalist and it is significant that Dennis Paulson recognized with a very nice dedication. Similarly, two of California's most superb birders dedicated their magnificent book on warblers to Ralph Hoffmann. He was a dedicated naturalist and therefore he deserved to have a book on warblers dedicated to him. Of course, Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett themselves, are dedicated naturalists. One of them, Kimball Garrett, is employed at a natural history museum. They have shared their knowledge of birds and assisted people with identification of birds, just as Ralph Hoffmann did a century ago Dunn and Garrett teach workshops on bird identification through the Los Angeles Audubon Society. I suspect that Birds of the Pacific States, written by Ralph Hoffmann in 1927, and stayed in print for approximately 30 years until 1957. Hoffmann's field guide was available to Dunn and Garret as teenagers growing up in the 1960s. Thus, it appears that the writings of Ralph Hoffmann are inspirational" to various birders.

While Dennis Paulson spelled Ralph Hoffmann's surname correctly, many others have not. The error is always in forgetting to use a second "n" at the end of his surname. It is unfortunate that this has happened on more than one occasion. A few instances where Hoffmann's name was incorrectly spelled include: Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett by accidentally forgetting the second "n." No one is perfect and they must not be slighted for spelling his surname incorrectly. Accidents happen. In fact, the professional scientific journal, Auk spelled his surname wrong three times, over a period of approximately 30 years, in 1900, 1922, and lastly in 1932, in his obituary.

It would be nice to bring this 1927 classic by Ralph Hoffmann back into print. If only so that young boys and girls can be influenced and inspired, just as Dennis Paulson, Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett were influenced and inspired. In fact, it appears that Dunn and Garrett have been influenced and inspired by Ralph Hoffmann, for 30 years, from the 1960s to the 1990s, because they wrote their very nice dedication to Ralph Hoffmann.

Jon Dunn was born in 1954 as their book on warblers tells us. Kimball Garrett has been birding for over 40 years, which would also put his birth year, likely sometime in the 1950s. I imagine they are still in awe of Ralph Hoffmann, now 9 years after their own warbler book was published. They must be because they dedicated the book to Hoffmann. They did say that they were influenced and inspired by Hoffmann's book.

I acknowledge and dedicate this article to Tommye Hite, who volunteered to transcribe parts of Hoffmann's 1927 book, as part of a research project into the life and times of Ralph Hoffmann, in conjunction with a larger project on the history of birdwatching in southern California, particularly Los Angeles County. She also alerted me to Dunn and Garrett's dedication to Ralph Hoffmann, which I had overlooked, until she told me about it in 2005.