[Tweeters] Terry Wahl 1930-2022

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Sun Feb 20 09:04:45 PST 2022

I will echo Bill’s comments about Terry Wahl. He was one of the first people who I was told to contact when I moved to Washington in 1967 as an enthusiastic birder. We became good friends, and I went out on virtually every pelagic trip for quite a few years with him.

He would pick me up in Seattle, and we would drive down to sleep in either a handy motel in Westport or his van in Twin Harbors State Park. Up early the next morning and onto one of the boats we used in those days, out onto the ocean not knowing what we would see, an exciting day of birding, and then back on shore to drive home. Some of Terry’s friends from Bellingham would often be with him, and we were never at a loss for conversations about birds and other things on those drives.

Those were great times, and although I haven’t seen Terry for quite a while, I often think of him, and Bill has kept me up to date on him. When he decided to retire from the birding scene a decade ago, it was the end of an era and a real loss to Washington ornithology.

Dennis Paulson

> On Feb 19, 2022, at 6:55 PM, Bill Tweit <bill.tweit at gmail.com> wrote:


> 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 memorials.

> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> 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 work.


> 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 curmudgeon.


> He will be missed.


> In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Whatcom Land Trust.


> Bill Tweit

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