Remembering Rich Stallcup
Rich Stallcup was an extraordinary naturalist and teacher who touched the lives of countless people. He played a pivotal role in the rise of birding as a national pastime—especially the love of birds as a motive for conservation. Rich founded the Point Reyes Bird Observatory – the organization that has now grown to become Point Blue Conservation Science; inspired thousands of people to dedicate their lives to conservation; participated in some of the landmark battles to save wild places in California; and was a source of endless wisdom about the living world. Although we lost a great friend when Rich passed away, in December 2012, Point Blue will forever carry on his legacy of devotion to conserving “all things wild.”
Along with many other people, we at Point Blue feel tremendously fortunate to have known and loved Rich Stallcup. His memory will continue to inspire and motivate us always.
Rich’s contributions to PRBO/Point Blue
When he was still in his teens, in 1965, Rich co-founded the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Along with a small group of field ornithologists, he had set out to understand the rare birds that occur along the outer coast during migration. From a field station on a ranch in the brand new Point Reyes National Seashore, Rich and his cohorts monitored birds on the “Outer Point.” Not long afterward Rich became one of the first employees of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, and for the next four decades Rich continued, on and off, as a staff biologist and a renowned field-trip leader; from 2000 onward he served as PRBO’s Naturalist.
Rich Stallcup’s love and knowledge for the living world encompassed reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, plants, and more. He worked on the campaign to save Mono Lake, among other conservation battles in California. He co-founded the birding tour company Wings, and, later, he settled in western Marin County to be with his family. Among his many accomplishments, Rich originated “Bird School” to impart bird identification skills and appreciation; he authored Ocean Birds of the Nearshore Pacific (published by PRBO in 1990) among other books; contributed to our quarterly journal with dozens of popular “Focus” columns; and led our Bird-A-Thon Committee, an annual fundraiser now renamed in his honor, the Rich Stallcup Bird-A-Thon.
Here are some links about Rich Stallcup:
- Bay Nature Interview (2012)
- Listen to an audio podcast with Rich about birds and birding
- Tribute letter by Ken Kauffman
- Essay: Who's Who in California Birding
- Marin Independent Journal story
Rich’s influence on people was profound. Here are just a few expressions from friends and comrades:
“To say that Rich Stallcup had a massive influence on birding and natural history in the great state of California would be a huge understatement. Everyone knew him, everyone had learned from him. But his influence spread far, far beyond the boundaries of California. For me Rich’s knowledge, which was extraordinary, was overshadowed by his wisdom. He truly was wise in his approach to birds, nature, and people. Endlessly reveling in the joy of nature, endlessly patient and generous with beginners, he inspired everyone to greater awareness and kindness.”—Kenn Kaufman, naturalist, field guide author, and artist.
“Rich guided and quietly educated many of us. Year after year my appreciation for nature grew, as did my understanding of the intersection between the birds we chased and the environment we share—knowledge gained in large part because of Rich’s work at PRBO.”—Robin Leong, lifelong birder, leading Bird-A-Thon counter, and past member of our Board of Directors
“While I was quartered at Petaluma I had the opportunity to see beyond the natural historian side of Rich to appreciate his deep understanding of ornithological and ecological science, and his unique combination of respect and disdain for current modes of scientific thinking—respect for the objectivity and open-mindedness, and disdain for the too-frequent coldness that submerges the emotional side of our relationship with nature.”—John Wiens, PhD, Chief Scientist