Barry passed away in his sleep overnight between Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He had been having medical investigations into heart issues over the last year but the precise cause of death is not yet known. His death comes as a massive shock to the Clarkson family and his best friend Mike Tarrant with whom he shared a home at Saltfleetby.
Barry was the third of three Clarkson brothers to have died in the last year. His elder brother John having died in August and his younger brother Keith last December. He leaves his twin brother Alan and sisters Julia, Lyn and Joyce who all live in the Louth area.
Barry was born and bred in Louth, attending Monks Dyke High School and joining the Army when his schooling was completed. He subsequently returned to Louth and did a series of jobs including a long spell at Burtons in Louth before it closed. His main pursuits were cycling, birding and bird photography all of which he shared with his elder brother John but birding was his main passion and the area in which he excelled.
Giving up work in his middle age Barry became a full time birder and was frequently seen in tandem with his best birding buddy Mike. He started birding around Louth in the mid 1970s and Covenham Reservoir and the local coast from Donna Nook to Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe NNR was his stamping ground. It was in this area he scored four county firsts. He found Lincolnshire’s first Red-breasted Goose at Covenham Reservoir in October 1978. He and Mike had the first county Cory’s Shearwater, a flypast on a seawatch at Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe in August 1985. He spent most of his time looking for and photographing birds and perhaps he and Mike’s greatest success was discovering a Lesser Sand Plover on the saltmarsh pool at Rimac on May 11th 2002, only a couple of miles from their front door. It was only the second record for Britain and the first twitchable, so it generated massive national interest during its 5 day stay and put Lincolnshire on the map for a generation of twitchers. The species has recently been split and the Rimac bird is now referred to as a Tibetan Sand Plover. It is worth getting hold of a copy of Birding World May 2022 to read he and Mike’s finders account.
Barry’s image taken from Birding World Magazine May 2002
His fourth first for Lincolnshire came on 12th June 2013. A Pacific Swift had been seen flying south at Spurn earlier that morning, part of a large Swift movement. Exercising his ornithological nous honed from years of experience of observing migrants along the coast Barry positioned himself on top of the foredunes at Sea View and was rewarded with a fantastic display from the Pacific Swift which he picked up as it headed towards him from Saltfleet Haven. It flew directly over him allowing him to get some excellent shots to verify the record. He remains the only birder to have seen a Pacific Swift in Lincolnshire and his account in Lincolnshire Bird Report 2013 reflects the expertise which went into his find. Good judgement as well as a dash of luck.
Barry could be a shy and private person but as he gained in experience over the years he was happy to share his knowledge with less experienced birders who were grateful for his insights. His experience was gained from thousands of days in the field. The late Keith Atkin who organised the project, confided that Barry was one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated contributors to the Lincolnshire Bird Atlas of the 1980s covering hundreds of one km squares on the Lincolnshire Marsh and most of TF48. He showed his zeal for Atlasing once more in the 2007-2011 BTO Atlas covering much of the ground he had done in the 1980s.
Barry had been a twitcher himself in the early days and I well remember taking him, Mike and John for the Saltburn Ivory Gull in February 1986. He’d also travelled extensively to Africa and Asia in his younger days but over the last couple of decades he’d settled down to focusing on Lincolnshire.
Lincolnshire birders will feel the loss of a man who was an integral part of the local birding scene in East Lincs. Graham Catley lamented “another coastal stalwart gone”, County Recorder Phil Hyde said: “another terrible loss. He was a quiet, unassuming and knowledgeable birder and a thoroughly nice guy to meet in the field”. Tetney birder Steve Meek sharing the sadness felt by many said Barry was a “lovely man and very enthusiastic birder”.
The thoughts and condolences of the Lincolnshire birding community are with Barry’s family and his best mate Mike.