WILDLIFE lovers are splashing out to make South Tyneside a hotspot for rare birds.
South Tyneside Coastal Conservation Group (STCCG) is pouring more than £38,000 in National Lottery cash into creating a nature reserve to the south of Souter Lighthouse, at Whitburn.
The project will see two wildlife ponds filled with water for the first time in more than a decade, and it is hoped it will attract rare birds to the area, including snow and Lapland bunting, and a variety of other wildlife.
Work on the two 40x20 metre ponds started on Tuesday.
A feeding station for birds will also be created, complete with viewing hide and information point, as part of a £38,156 project which has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
STCCG is overseeing the project with the help of the National Trust, which runs Souter Lighthouse.
The group’s treasurer, Dougie Holden, said: “The ponds have been there for many years, but they just haven’t been used. More than 10 years ago they were lined with clay, but they did not hold the water and they dried up.
“Now we will be lining them with butyl, which will hold the water, and it will hopefully enable us to retain a nature reserve here for many years to come.”
The conservation group, which has 12 volunteer members, was set up in 2010 to help preserve wildlife in the borough.
The National Trust helped the group secure the cash from the lottery fund, which distributes cash to community causes.
Work on the project is expected to be completed by March 9, which is the 25th anniversary of the National Trust owning The Leas, and it is hoped the new nature reserve will attract both local people and visitors.
A stone viewing wall will be created, with raised platforms enabling people to watch the birds and wildlife feed.
Mr Holden added: “We want this to be a place for birds to thrive. We are absolutely delighted that the Big Lottery funding panel has agreed to support our bid.
“Its generosity will enable the creation of this much needed fresh water habitat, and will be a fantastic addition to this already beautiful stretch of coastline.”
Nick Dolan, National Trust property manager, said: “The group’s hard work in putting the bid together has been rewarded, and it is great to have a start date so the ideas can be put into practice.
“More places of interest on the coast can only be a good thing, giving more reasons for people to enjoy the outdoors and get closer to nature.”