Tribute paid to West Norfolk naturalist

Peter Clarke
Peter Clarke

Dedicated naturalist Peter Clarke, who wrote the Lynn News Nature Notes for more than 30 years, has died aged 90.

Mr Clarke was the founder of Holme Bird Observatory (HBO) and the Norfolk Ornithologists Association (NOA) and was also its first warden. He gave 33 years’ service to the association.

He was initially responsible for setting up part-time wardening of marshes at Snettisham and Titchwell, which led to firm and permanent establishment of reserves by the RSPB.

He was a pioneering ornithologist in Norfolk, who saw the potential of the site of HBO as early as the mid 1950s when he came upon it for the first time, and realised its potential as a place from which to study migration.

The observatory at Holme came into being in 1962 and in 1968 there was a bumper year for rare migrants and funds enabled an official opening of the observatory to take place the following year.

As membership continued to increase, the NOA was established as a registered charity in 1970 to act as the parent body to the observatory and to further the study of ornithology in Norfolk.

Peter became the face of the NOA for its members and visitors, and during his career the association grew, with Peter and his committee overseeing the purchase of other reserves, including Walsey Hills and Redwell Marsh.

Peter retired from his post in January 1994 but his passion for wildlife continued and included not only birds but also moths, a subject on which he had incredible knowledge. Peter continued to trap moths in his garden in Holme village, catching many rare species. He was also a keen and accomplished photographer and continued to take many images of wildlife he came across.

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

He remained in Holme until the last few months of his life, with the care of Margaret and daughters Penny, Vivien and Lucy. He reached his 90th birthday in November 2016.

Said Sophie Barker, warden at Holme Bird Observatory: “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’s funeral will take place at Mintlyn Crematorium on Monday, March 20, at 10.45am.