A D-DAY veteran who became an expert on sparrows after his interest was sparked while recovering from war wounds has died, aged 99.

Denis Summers-Smith, who lived for much of his life in Guisborough, in North Yorkshire, was a former engineer and leading ornithologist.

He died in Saltburn on May 5, aged 99 and his funeral takes place tomorrow, at Kirkleatham Crematorium.

The author of five books about sparrows, his first The House Sparrow (1963) is considered a wildlife classic.

A self-described "sparrow obsessive", he first became interested in them while in hospital recovering from wounds sustained during the Second World War, when he watched the birds from his ward.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

It was not until 1948 he began studying them seriously. In a memoir, written with the aid of friend Stuart Worton, completed just last month, he wrote: "I continued this study until I moved from my last house to a care home in 2017.

"I am still obsessive about sparrows. My house in Guisborough had a convenient kitchen where I could continue to watch the sparrows through a telescope."

Born in Glasgow in 1920, he joined the British Army and got his commission in 1940.

It was during his training he met his future wife, Margaret, who was a physiotherapist at the Hexham hospital where he was treated after being injured during an exercise in Teesdale.

Part of the second wave of the D-Day landings, he was one of those to land at Gold Beach.

In August 1944, he was positioned near Grainville sur Odon when he was injured by a German shell exploding. Writing in his biography, he said: "My was was over."

His recovery took more than a year, after which he returned to Newcastle to marry Margaret, with whom he had a son, Michael.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Denis and Margaret on their wedding day

After living in the south, the couple moved to Stockton in the 1950s after Mr Summers-Smith got a job at ICI in Billingham, where he worked until retiring at 62.

Building an aviary in his garden, he studied the breeding habits of sparrows at his home, even hiding nestlings in a drawer in his office.

Margaret died of a heart attack while watching sparrows with him in Ethiopia in 1972. The following year he married Margaret Ribbeck, also a physiotherapist, who died in 2004.

With a passion for travel, he was able to study sparrows on every continent except Antarctica and in 1992 his work earned an award from the Zoological Society of London.

His devotion to bird watching on occasion led him to run-ins with police in both Stockton and Guisborough. "There are hazards in watching sparrows in built-up areas," he wrote. "Not the risk that faces the watcher of sea birds nesting on a cliff but the risk of being questioned by the police alerted by someone questioning the motives of a strange man looking through binoculars at their bedroom early in the morning."

Mr Worton said: "Denis has spent the best years of his life studying the house sparrow. Some might think it strange to focus on this rather than his war testimony but I know from our many conversations Denis has only disdain for the futility of war."

"Like many former soldiers, he was a reluctant story teller but has seen the importance of placing his account on record."

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Denis Summers-Smith, pictured at the end of his career at ICI in Billingham