Bob Sundstrom has enjoyed working for VENT for more than thirty years. Tour leading has taken him to diverse destinations throughout North America, as well as Hawaii, Mexico, Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, Japan, Turkey, Iceland, Papua New Guinea and other Southwest Pacific islands, and expedition cruises to Antarctica, the Bering Sea, and the Galapagos. All of these natural settings and their birds have helped make his tour life a rich experience.
One of Bob’s great joys of tour leading has been getting to know so many tour participants, and sharing their pleasure in seeing new birds and wild places. Working with foreign co-leaders has been an especially satisfying part of his job, some of whom he has had the good fortune to hang out with on tour year after year in places like Japan, Trinidad & Tobago, and Mexico. The opportunity to learn about their lives and their interests in nature has meant a lot to him.
Bob grew up in Maryland and Florida intrigued by all of nature: fishing, collecting fossils, keeping snakes, and learning about birds. He moved to the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1970s, and completed a doctorate in cultural anthropology in the mid-1980s. It was during his work on Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands in the late 1980s (where he helped track the occurrence of North American bird rarities) that he made the connection that led to working for VENT.
Bob and Sally Alhadeff, his spouse (they met on a birding outing), have been together more than twenty-five years. Both lived in Seattle for a number of years before moving in 2001 to rural Scatter Creek Valley, south of Olympia, Washington. Life in the country has been good, and they’ve created acres of wildlife habitat and stewarded scores of bird nest boxes. Bob has taught a wide variety of birding workshops in Seattle for more than three decades, but his favorite subject to teach has always been birding by ear. Sally—a gardener, singer, birder, and (now happily retired) commercial real estate professional—has had the grace and patience to put up with Bob’s many weeks each year away from home on tour. Three indoor cats share their place in the country and watch birds through the windows every day.
It has been Bob’s good fortune to be part of the creative team for the radio program BirdNote, www.birdnote.org. Over the fifteen years of the show’s run, he has written hundreds of stories—currently heard daily in many parts of the country by more than two million listeners. Writing—and he’s still hard at it—has led him to research and learn things about the lives of birds (and the place of birds in our lives) that he would never have imagined. Some of these stories are available in book form, in the 2018 book entitled BirdNote, from Sasquatch Press.
Bob is a serious student of scotches and other whiskies, and has a
fondness for classic writing, especially the epics. He has served on the boards
of several nature and conservation organizations and was, for more than twenty
years, a member of the Washington State Bird Records Committee. He is a co-author
of The National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest.