Memorial unveiled to moors twitcher

A memorial has been created to a dedicated bird watcher who was educated in Whitby.

Mike Corner, who lived at Commondale for 31 years, did not allow ill health and disability to get in the way of his passion for bird watching and he regularly submitted reports of birds he spotted on his beloved North Yorkshire Moors.

Now, just 14 months after the 51-year-old’s death at James Cook, Middlesbrough - the same hospital where he worked in the pay department - Mike’s parents, Denis and Irene, have paid for a bird watching screen to be erected in their son’s memory, on the RSPB’s Saltholme reserve and discovery park, near Billingham.

The screen complete with viewing slots stands on a corner of the reserve where Mike used to himself pause, binoculars and telescope at the ready.

Reserve warden Emma Birnie said: “It commands a fantastic view across the Special Protection Area pools , an ideal location for breeding waders and wildfowl and a mecca for bird watchers offering a panoramic view of both the pools and the wet grassland.’’

Mike’s father, 81-year-old Mr Denis Corner said: “I have stood on that corner myself with him, watching birds. Some of his interest in birds rubbed off from Michael. I used to occasionally go out birding with him and carry his equipment across rough terrain.’’

Educated at Whitby School, where he was the first pupil to gain an A Level in economics, Mike was a lifelong member of both the RSPB and the Teesmouth Bird Club to whom he faithfully submitted his sightings reports for more than three decades, including consistently recording the first returning Rough Legged Buzzard to Sleddale on the North Yorkshire Moors.

Scaling Dam was another of Mike’s favourite bird watching points.

A silhouette of one of his favourite raptors, a hen harrier, is being etched into the screen before it is unveiled on Thursday.

Demonstrating the courage that was to be his hallmark Mike, who was from Great Ayton, did not allow the discovery of a brain tumour at the age of 19 to prevent him from achieving an honours degree in economics.

He died in August 2012 after a long battle with illness, complicated by pneumonia.