rosiebriggsParticipantJanuary 15, 2021 at 5:38 pmPost count: 23
PETER COOK 1946 – 2021
We are very sad to report that our secretary Peter Cook passed away on 5th January. Peter had been an active birdwatcher and LDBWS member for much of his life.
Rather like another active birder in this area, Pete’s trigger point for an early interest in birds at the age of 12 in 1958 was watching stonechats, in this case nesting on Heysham Barrows. “My enchantment with these birds led me to want to know more about birds in general” wrote Pete in his 2013 article for the LDBWS annual report. He was disappointed that they were no longer a regular breeding bird in coastal areas in the LDBWS area, including Heysham.
He then met up with Tom Walkington and the late Bill Parkinson and they started watching the Dry Dock and the harbour. The Dry Dock was a hollowed out area of reclaimed land which was an extension of the active docks including a lock gate which soon filled with water followed by coot and other wildfowl. The early 1960’s saw Pete joining LDBWS in 1960 and then contributing 52 records to the 1961 LDBWS annual report, including the first of two ferruginous ducks. This was followed by a very early example of ruddy duck away from captivity and then the gradual in-filling of the Dry Dock began with one of the final birds being a superb summer plumaged red-necked grebe. As an active birder Pete was also involved in nest monitoring and ringing.
In the early 2000’s, overtures were made to the power station decision makers to try and do something about re-creating an area of water in the relatively unused western end of the nonoperational land to compensate for the “lake” which was filled in during construction of the Power Stations. The result was a whole list of nasty contaminants discovered in the soil, the inevitable refusal and we ended up with the relatively miniscule “dog-walk pond”. Pete Cook reappeared as an active birder later that decade and was singularly unimpressed with our efforts! He commented that surely no-one could return to his local patch anywhere in the country and see so many changes as had happened between the early-1960’s and the present day around Heysham Harbour and immediate area. Particularly he lamented the loss of the Dry Dock and access to many areas, such as the Heysham Banks.
Before long Pete, Tom and others also turned their attention to the local area, meeting up with Keith Hague and Mike Rigby. Keith, Mike and Pete used to take regular sea-watching trips on the Isle of Man ferry. Later, Blackpool-based Maurice Jones, Ken Smith and John Morgan and Preston-based Phil Thompson and the late Harry Shorrock were met at the Stone Jetty, Leighton Moss (where a young John Wilson was now in charge) and other sites.
Work and family commitments then took over until Pete rekindled his interest on retirement starting with a bit of seawatching at Heysham and enthusiastic visits to the hides at Leighton Moss, along with his camera. The changes in the bird populations were immense. Gone were the yellowhammers at the game-keepers cottage at the top of the Leighton Moss causeway and coveys of grey partridge all over the Heysham area. In their place were mythical far-away creatures in the early 1960s, now treated as relatively common-place, for example little egrets and Mediterranean gulls.
Pete’s career in administration prompted him to volunteer as the LDBWS Secretary in 2012 and one of his first contributions was a superbly detailed piece on Heysham Harbour and area ‘how it used to be’. From 2015 – 2019, he also incorporated the Membership Secretary role and was very diligent in recruiting new members. Latterly Pete had to give up active birding to act as a carer and in 2017, he expressed a desire to relinquish his committee roles due to health problems. He would not leave the Society in the lurch though, agreeing to continue until a replacement was found. He remained as Secretary until he passed away, doing a superb job with the minimum of fuss. The Society will miss his presence and members should be thankful for his many contributions. Our thoughts are with Pete’s family and friends at these difficult times.
PETE MARSH, KEVIN BRIGGS AND JOHN WILSON
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