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Pioneering Norfolk ornithologist Peter passes away

PUBLISHED: 16:22 09 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:10 13 March 2017

Peter Clarke at the Holme Bird Observatory Moth Day Event, July 2008 Picture: Penny Clarke

Peter Clarke at the Holme Bird Observatory Moth Day Event, July 2008 Picture: Penny Clarke

Archant

A pioneering naturalist who inspired generations to share his love of Norfolk’s wildlife has passed away at the age of 90.

Peter Clarke with daughter Penny at Titchwell RSPB, October 2006 Picture: Frank EdmondsPeter Clarke with daughter Penny at Titchwell RSPB, October 2006 Picture: Frank Edmonds

Peter Clarke founded both the Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association (NOA) and the bird observatory at Holme, near Hunstanton, where he was warden for 33 years.

In the 1950s, he realised Holme would be an ideal site to study bird migration, as it was one of the nearest landfalls for species migrating from the Arctic and Greenland.

The observatory opened in 1962 and the ornithologists’ association became a registered charity in 1970.

Mr Clarke became the face of the NOA for its members and visitors. During his long career the association grew, buying reserves including Walsey Hills and Redwell Marsh.

Peter Clarke at home in his garden at Holme photographing a bee, in June 2011. Picture: Vivien ClarkePeter Clarke at home in his garden at Holme photographing a bee, in June 2011. Picture: Vivien Clarke

He retired in 1994 but his passion for wildlife continued and included not only birds but also moths, which he continued to trap in his garden in Holme.

Mr Clarke also published Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia with his wife Margaret, and wrote Nature Notes for local newspaper the Lynn News between 1979 and 2012.

Mr Clarke was also responsible for setting up part-time wardening of the marshes at Snettisham and Titchwell, which led to firm and permanent establishment of reserves by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

In a tribute on its website, the NOA adds: “His health suffered in recent years, which limited his ability to pursue his love of wildlife, but he remained in Holme until the last few months of his life, with the care of his wife Margaret and daughters Penny, Vivien and Lucy. He reached his 90th birthday in November 2016.

“Peter will be remembered by a great many members as the original face of the NOA, for his quiet determination to make the observatory a success, and for his outstanding wildlife knowledge. His contribution to the NOA has been immeasurable.”

Mr Clarke passed away at the Summerfield Care Home, in Heacham, on February 23.

He leaves a wife, Margaret, and daughters Penny, Lucy and Vivien.

His funeral is being held at Mintlyn near King’s Lynn on Monday, March 20 (10.45am). 
Mourners are requested to come wearing informal or birding clothes. Donations may be made to the NOA.

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