Ballona Institute
Los Angeles, California
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Biographical Note on Julius Hugh Comby:
Whittier Narrows History Over 50 Years Ago

Robert "Roy" van de Hoek
Biogeographer, Environmental Historian, and Conservation Biologist
Ballona Institute

December 8, 2008

Julius Hugh Comby was a biologist, naturalist and birdwatcher in Los Angeles County from the 1930s to the 1960s. Julius was born in Missouri in 1885, but he wound up in Oregon in Douglas County. There he met and married Erna Linnemann in 1910. They had a daughter named Ernette, who graduated from Whittier High School in 1932. By the late 1930s, his wife, Erna Comby, had become a conservationist and leader in the National Audubon Society as a southern California representative, as well as President of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. By 1950, she founded the Whittier Audubon Society and four other Audubon Societies in California.

Julius and Erna traveled together extensively across America in search of birds in their natural habitats. They also participated in several "Christmas Bird Counts" of the Los Angeles Audubon Society during the 1940s. While Julius joined the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1939, Erna joined the Los Angeles Audubon Society. Julius wrote several articles for that Club's periodical magazine known as "Condor." And Erna Comby wrote articles for the "Western Tanager" newsletter of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. Some of her articles were about conservation of Whittier Narrows as a a new Audubon wildlife sanctuary while her other writings were about their joint travels in America. One of the articles written by Julius Comby (see below) documented the nesting of the Belted Kingfisher at Whittier Narrows on the San Gabriel River. Sadly, the kingfisher does not nest here due to loss of habitat but it could be restored with proper wildlife techniques. In essence, Julius and Erna were joined together by their mutual interest in birds, wildlife and nature.

In 1953, Julius Comby was acknowledged for his assistance with publication of the first "Annotated Field List of Birds of Southern California." That "Field List" was published by the Los Angeles Audubon Society. Howard Cogswell, a good friend of Julius and Erna Comby, was also acknowledged in the "Field List." There is so much more to share with you about conservation and birdwatching in Los Angeles County from the Great Depression years through the post-World War II years (1939-1952). In 1968, Julius Comby died at the age of 83 years. Please revisit this web page to learn more in the future.

Selected article by Julius Comby on the Belted Kingfisher breeding at Whittier Narrows in Los Angeles County. Reprinted for educational purposes from the magazine: Condor.