Howard King Memorial by Mary Freeman

Howard King | Photo by Mary Freeman

By Nick Freeman

On February 27, 2018, the birding community of Southern California lost a true stalwart of the pastime, and an incredibly generous, thoughtful and witty fellow. Complications from cancer took Howard from us mercifully quickly, but all too soon.
His impressionable youth was spent seriously pursuing a very different pastime – technical rock climbing – where he made a significant mark, before becoming a soils and cement technician (kinda close), and an avid and passionate birder (not even close!).

Howard was the owner, and until six years ago chief moderator, of the inlandcountybirds list-serv which is a real-time dispersal site for rare and unusual bird sightings in the inland and Imperial counties. He has personally turned up scores of remarkable birds for our pleasure and study – including the rare vagrant White Wagtail that he recently found at Prado Regional Park – one of his favorite patches. He also enjoyed sharing the fine-points of identification with those coming up the ranks, leading many fieldtrips for LAAS over the years to San Jacinto Wildlife Area and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. His citizen science involvement included many CBCs, including many years participating in our Lancaster CBC – a real slog for him, but he was always there to help out.

His principles sometimes got him riled, but he could not hold a grudge, and was usually sporting a smirk or a ridiculous grin. I can’t claim to be among Howard’s closest friends, his home in Riverside for the 30 years I knew him didn’t help that – but during trips we took together and encounters in the field I truthfully cannot remember any time with Howard that did not feel enjoyable and well-spent. He was just that knowledgeable and, well, funny! And perhaps most importantly, he was always Howard. This and a few other details and traits of Howard and his life have also been mentioned in recent reminiscences by his many other good friends, but are too true to leave out here.

Hopefully, the White Wagtail came to escort Howard to a better place.