Staff Report

The Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society and UC Sedgwick Reserve are co-hosting a free evening program with naturalist, poet, and bird expert Charles Hood on Saturday, May 12, at 7 p.m. in the Tipton House at Sedgwick Reserve. His talk, titled “What is a perfect guide and why don’t we already have them?” will be followed by a signing of his new book, A Californian’s Guide to the Birds Among Us.

This informal lecture with a unique California author will take us on a tour of current field guide offerings and explore the pleasures and challenges of trying to write, illustrate, produce, and market the perfect field guide. Hood will start with birds but also discuss mushrooms, trees, insects, and even lichens. Along the way he will consider the origins of field guides, going as far back as Shakespeare’s time, when naturalists of that age asked, “Can a good enough field guide help keep away the Devil?” Join him for a lively discussion as we think about the answers and look ahead to what we can expect in the years to come.

Charles Hood grew up near the Los Angeles River, but his parents’ subscription to National Geographic made him eager to explore wider vistas. Since then he has been to over 50 countries, seen 5,000 species of birds, been lost in a whiteout in Tibet, been charged by a musk ox in Alaska, graduated from survival training at the South Pole, and sailed to within 600 miles of the North Pole. A prize-winning poet, Charles is the author of the new title, A Californian’s Guide to the Birds Among Us. He is currently is working on a guide to the mammals of California, a book about urban nature (in collaboration with the Los Angeles Natural History Museum), and a memoir about his father’s service in WW II.

The Sedgwick Reserve’s gate will be open at 5:30 p.m. for those who would like to bring a picnic dinner to enjoy under the oaks near the Tipton House prior to the program. Directions to the Reserve can be found at this link: <>

The Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society’s lectures are free and open to all. A list of upcoming lectures and field trips sponsored by the Society can be found at<>. For more information, write to or call the Society at <>, (805) 693-5683.