Tribute to Ed Swan

A Celebration of Life will be held in Ed’s honor at the Vashon United Methodist Church at 2 PM on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. In special remembrance of Ed, who donned a bird T-shirt every day, consider wearing a bird T-shirt if you have one. Questions? Please contact Sue Trevathan at

“There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.”

Whoever wrote these beautiful words must have envisioned Ed Swan. 

We lost Ed to a heart attack Friday, Oct. 28 in the prime of his life, while he was doing what he loved most, birding at one of his favorite places. Vashon has been in mourning ever since.

Ed’s knowledge of birds was legendary, yet he remained modest and humble. When he and his wife, Linda Barnes, moved to Vashon in 2000, his reputation as a master birder preceded him.

Instead of waiting to be asked, he showed up at every opportunity to support Vashon Audubon and was always willing to share his vast knowledge about birds in a way that fueled their curiosity to learn more. He served as Vashon Audubon president for many years, and managed the Christmas bird count, an annual survey that contributes to global knowledge about bird populations.

Many of us were delighted to encounter Ed while out birding on the island, always wearing his classic bird T-shirts. He was known to bundle up his young sons, Garnet and Leander, and take them all over the island on his birding expeditions.

Ed was meticulous in his record-keeping, noting for many years the arrival and departure dates for migratory and rare birds on the island. This effort culminated in his essential book, The Birds of Vashon Island: A Natural History of Habitat and Population Transformation, which was so popular that he produced an updated edition in 2013. This book is key to our understanding of bird populations and their habitats on Vashon. It is a go-to for island naturalists and will remain the definitive baseline of bird species accounts, seasonal abundance, and birding hotspots on the island as we face an uncertain future of climate change and habitat loss.

After Ed and Linda moved to West Seattle in 2015, he resurrected Washington Birds, the journal of the Washington Ornithological Society, after many years of dormancy. He was always seeking better ways to teach birding techniques, and he developed a unique, systemic method for improving birdwatching skills that he taught to eager participants through Vashon Audubon, Tahoma Audubon, and North Cascades Audubon. He led countless birding trips all over Puget Sound, and offered backyard consultations on how to attract birds and other wildlife. 

As I look out my window and see my first Varied Thrush of the season, I think about the gifts Ed left for us and my hope that we can make a difference in the lives of birds, even if it’s just in our own backyards.

– Sue Trevathan


If you would like to send a note to Ed’s family the address is:
Linda Barnes
2247 Prescott Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98126

In recognition of Ed’s tremendous contribution to our Island community, Vashon Audubon plans to purchase a bench in his honor at one of his favorite island birding locations. If you would like to send a donation, please mail a check to: Vashon Audubon, PO Box 838, Vashon WA 98070

– or – 

use the “Donate” button below to send a donation via your PayPal account or your credit or debit card.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Please include a note that the donation is in tribute to Ed Swan. We will mail you an acknowledgement for your tax records.

3 Comments on “Tribute to Ed Swan

  1. Ed was my very first boss when I moved to Seattle in 1987, 35 years ago. He was then educational programs director for Volunteers of America, doing work in the schools to advance educational opportunities for disadvantaged high school students. There was only the two of us in that office and he was patient, encouraging and attentive to detail.
    That said, I have never worked for a kinder person and am very saddened to see this.


  2. What a shock! I thought Ed would go on forever! Such a sweet, kind person. He did so much for awakening the love of birding in so many people. He will be deeply missed.


  3. Pingback: Remembering Ed Swan | RAINIER AUDUBON SOCIETY

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