Chris Packham leads tributes to Norfolk conservationist David Cobham

Norfolk conservationist David Cobham, who has died aged 87. Picture: Ian Burt

Norfolk conservationist David Cobham, who has died aged 87. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Television naturalist Chris Packham has led the tributes to passionate Norfolk conservationist and film pioneer David Cobham who has died, aged 87.

The Tarka the Otter director died on Sunday night after suffering a stroke some weeks ago, his family has said.

Mr Cobham, who lived near Dereham, is known for directing Tarka the Otter, as well as children's series Woof!

The producer, director and author was also a founding member of the Hawk And Owl Trust, based at Sculthorpe, near Fakenham, which is now a national conservation charity.

Springwatch host Chris Packham, who was influenced by Mr Cobham, said: 'Kind, calm and committed, a great enthusiast with an insatiable passion for birds of prey David leaves a legacy of great books and films and inspiration.

'He was a fabulous mentor and conservationist.'

In 2014, Mr Cobham wrote a book: A Sparrowhawk's Lament, chronicling the public's treatment of birds of prey.

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He said at the time: 'I've been a wildlife filmmaker for 40 years and a vice president of the Hawk and Owl Trust and felt I ought to be sharing my memories,' he explained. 'I wanted to find out exactly how the species were doing. That meant a lot of travelling and talking to scientists and conservationists but also writers, artists, poets and television presenters.'

The 256 page book looks at all 15 birds of prey found in Britain.

The project took him a decade to complete, and began with a gift from his wife, actress Liza Goddard.

He said: 'I was waiting for an operation, and my wife brought me a book about birds of prey.

'I was struck by an extraordinary anonymous 15th-century poem in it called The Sparrowhawk's Lament, in which every verse ended with a Latin phrase 'timor mortis conturbat me' which means 'the fear of death worries me'.

'How could this be? This was written at a time when man had been depending on hawks for their hunting skills for three millennia.

'Could it be that it was looking forward a few centuries to when it would be persecuted and poisoned?'

Mr Cobham also made Vanishing Hedgerows, said to be the BBC's first conservation film.

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