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PETER CLARKE REMEMBERED (1926-2017)

Peter Clarke


It is with great sadness that the NOA reports that Peter Clarke passed away at the age of 90. Peter was the founder of both Holme Bird Observatory and the NOA, and also its first warden, who gave over 33 years’ service to the association. He was a pioneering ornithologist in Norfolk, who saw the potential of the site of Holme Bird Observatory as early as the mid 1950’s when he saw the site for the first time, and realised it would be a wonderful place from which to study migration.

Holme Bird Observatory came into being on the 6th September 1962, following Peter’s discovery and the interest and help that he attracted in the years that followed. Peter took up residence in The Firs for the first two years of its life, but the outset was far from easy; Peter’s first winter at Holme saw some of the most severe winter weather for decades, and progress was later offset by the sale of The Firs, leaving Peter Clarke to find alternative accommodation. However, by hanging on and continuing his work at Holme in spite of these difficulties, the picture improved in 1968 when 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 Norfolk Ornithologists Association 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 shared his knowledge both within and beyond the NOA circle, publishing Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia with his wife Margaret, writing Nature Notes for the Lynn News between 1979 and 2012, and assisted in moth identification at Titchwell RSPB reserve once a week for a few years.

Peter’s 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.

For those many members who remember Peter and would like to pay their respects, the family have provided the following details: his funeral will take place on Monday the 20th March 2017 at Mintlyn Crematorium, Lynn Road, Bawsey, King’s Lynn, PE32 1HB at 10.45, and the family have requested informal/birding attire! Family flowers only please, but donations if desired for the Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association (to be shared jointly with the NWT) may be made at the service or sent to: John Lincoln Funeral Directors, 40 Greevegate, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6AG. The service will be followed by a wake to be held at the Firs NWT centre where refreshments will be available. The NOA reserve and building will also be open to all comers

Norfolk Ornithologists Association, registered charity no. 267670, Broadwater Road, Holme Next The Sea, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6LQ