[Tweeters] Terry Wahl 1930-2022
bill.tweit at gmail.com
Sat Feb 19 18:55:39 PST 2022
I am so sorry to be the bearer of the news that Terry Wahl passed away on
Feb 17, peacefully, at home, surrounded by family. For many of us, Terry
was the father of birding as we know it in Washington. He and Dennis
Paulson produced one of the first birdfinding guides in the nation, he
started Westport Seabirds, he urged the creation of a Bird Records
Committee, he birded the entire state when few others were, as well as many
other contributions. To me, he was a mentor, colleague and friend, and I
miss him greatly. Like many other west coast birders, I learned so much
from him about field ornithology and birding, thanks to him Westport
Seabirds has a amassed a half century database of seabird abundance and
distribution off Washington. There is nowhere else in the world that can
make this claim.
Following is the obituary his family has prepared. At this time, I do not
think there are any plans for a memorial service. His family suggests
donations in his name to the Whatcom Land Trust. I also suggest that
contributions to the Western Field Ornithologists scholarship or research
grants program, or contributions to the Pacific Seabird Group funds
supporting student research or conservation projects, would be fitting
Terence R. Wahl, 91, ornithologist, environmentalist, and patriarch to
many, died at home on Thursday, February 17th, 2022.
Born in Bellingham on March 18, 1930 to Ralph Wahl and Jean Kennedy Wahl,
Terry graduated from the University of Washington, earning a degree in
business, and attended New York University in Manhattan. In 1951 he married
Robin Geske, and entered the long-lived family business, Wahl’s department
store in Bellingham.
In 1972 he changed occupations and became a full-time field ornithologist.
For over thirty years following his departure from retail, he worked at
what he called “the equivalent of three part-time jobs for half pay,”
writing environmental impact statements concerning breeding bird habitats,
for both state and federal governments. He was a pioneer in bird census on
the west coast, and started one of the earliest ecotourism businesses in
the state – leading ocean-going tours out of Gray’s Harbor, educating his
clients in the identification and ways of pelagic birds. He taught
ornithology classes and conducted local birding trips for many years. In
the mid 1970s he was a bird observer on a NOAA ship sailing to Peru and
west to find the origin of La Nina, and on other trips across the North
Pacific and Bering Sea, several aboard Japanese research vessels. His
connections in the birding world brought many people to the Washington
coast and to Bellingham, and he started many long friendships through this
He published “Guide to Bird Finding in Washington” in 1977, then “Birds of
Whatcom County,” last edition in 1995, and “Birds of Washington: Status and
Distribution,” published by Oregon State University Press in 2005, compiled
and edited with two fellow ornithologists.
Terry imbued in his children a great love of the natural world, through
camping trips in all kinds of weather, days spent in the woods and
salt-marshes, memorable road trips throughout the west, in seeking and
finding bird species. He taught them basic carpentry, beekeeping, how to
shoot a basketball, how to make a pun that would leave others groaning in
despair. His innermost concerns were to take care of the environment. He
was one of the stewards of the world who didn’t mind being called a
He will be missed.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Whatcom Land Trust.
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