[Tweeters] Ken Knittle -

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 8 05:18:44 PST 2020

As with others, Ken’s death is sad news for me.

Ken inspired me to get into county listing — long ago I crossed paths with Patrick & Ruth Sullivan in the field and they handed me a copy of Washington Birder — A newsletter from Ken & Laurie, and Scott Ray, dedicated to county level birding. I was hooked. As with others, going on trips with Ken was an education in learning what was possible. I take from him my motivation through today to stretch days out to really see what can be found in any corner of the state. I trace my fondness for SE WA birding to Ken - It is so normal to have a hard time finding amazing rarities there, but just the promise that there might be something to learn is enough to make it worth returning again and again. And though I never picked up his affinity for sleeping rough, I know Ken is the reason I know that a day trip to Neah Bay , or Garfield County or points in between is a totally plausible plan for a weekend.

More broadly, in this era of abundant data and eBird, it can be hard to recall just how much new knowledge about the birds of Washington Ken was responsible for. Looking back at early issues of WOS News, you’ll find Ken in there from the get-go. In issue #8 <http://wos.org/documents/wosnws/issue8.pdf>, Dennis Paulson is reporting out on a project that seems quaint these days: What are the spring arrival dates for species across the state? He called on the collective knowledge of the state’s birders, and much of the info from eastern WA comes from Ken’s records — it is easy to take for granted now that we can look up status & distribution across the state without trouble - just over 2 decades ago, we still didn’t have the knowledge to understand when birds were appearing across the state and Ken helped build that up.
His newsletter, Washington Birds, and later the website incarnation, provided a home to record not just county listing accomplishments, but also many of the early site-guides for every corner of the state. He really pushed the community to move beyond the hot spots and explore every corner of the state to paint a more complete picture.

Obviously, he was instrumental in encouraging me to build up the county year list project — we’re still compiling data for the wrap on the 13th complete year of compiling sightings from every county in the state, and launching year #14 — Up to the end, Ken was working on the Columbia & Garfield lists, and joining in conversations about suggestions for abundance code updates to some of the lists we’re working on.

I’ll miss that leg-pulling humor that kept us all on our toes and kept days in the field fun through groan-inducing humor. Sheesh!

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA
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