Hugh Ranson, a Goleta teacher and member of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, has been writing a regular birding column for the Indy, including an installment this week here. We get to know him a little better below.
When did you get into birding? Did you have a mentor? I remember well the moment I got into birding. I was 12, and it was a dull, rainy Saturday morning, typical for Cheshire, England, where I spent my first 16 years of life. I was at loose ends and decided I’d try to identify the birds coming to the feeder in the back garden. One of my six older brothers, Roger, was into birds (he collected eggs), and so I found his field guide and was soon naming the birds in the garden. Things snowballed after that, and soon Roger was taking me farther afield in search of birds. By the time I was 14, I was hitchhiking across the country in search of new birds.
What have been your most exciting S.B. sightings? Why were they so special? It’s every birder’s dream to find a new bird for the county, and I’ve been lucky enough to find several. I saw the first zone-tailed hawk for the county, which then returned for several successive winters, entertaining scores of birders. Once on my lunch break from teaching, I came across Southern California’s first confirmed black vulture, another bird that was seen by many. Pride of place, though, goes to the LeConte’s sparrow I came across at the Bird Refuge a few Decembers ago. It was a bird I’d dreamed of finding, and to see this lovely bird teed up on a tule stalk right in front of me was literally a dream come true.