Wildlife lovers prepare for annual bird race at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas - here's how you can take part

Bird watchers. Picture by Ray Hart
Bird watchers. Picture by Ray Hart
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Wildlife lovers are hoping to spot some amazing feathered specimens when an annual bird race takes place this weekend.

Souter Lighthouse and The Leas is hosting its annual bird race on Sunday January 6, which will see nature lovers count as many species as possible around the coastal beauty spot.

A siskin. Picture by Dougie Holden

A siskin. Picture by Dougie Holden

National Trust rangers and members of the local Coastal Conservation Group will lead wildlife lovers in the one-day event, with the aim to cover as large an area as possible over an eight-hour period.

Competing teams will either use vehicles or cover up to 15 miles on foot.

Each team will record their findings, hopeful of spotting combined numbers of up to 100 species, including familiar varieties like chaffinches, blue tits and black-headed gulls as well as rarer sightings such as peregrine falcons, waxwings or siskins.

Dougie Holden, National Trust ranger at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas said the unique event is open to bird spotters of all ages and abilities.

A waxwing. Picture by Dougie Holden

A waxwing. Picture by Dougie Holden

“We’d love as many people as possible to get involved, either local residents or visitors getting to know the area," he said

"There’s no need for anyone who wants to take part to know much about birds, they’ll be teamed up with someone who does, so it’s a great way to learn. We’re always keen to encourage an interest in nature and the more eyes out there on the day, the better."

Dougie said the event would both help protect important wildlife habitats and help inspire people to learn more about the amazing variety of life around them.

“As a big conservation charity, it’s ideal for the National Trust to team up with partners such as the Coastal Conservation Group and work at a local level to protect wildlife and habitats. Over the years we’ve worked closely together to improve The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park for wildlife.

A black headed gull. Picture by Dougie Holden

A black headed gull. Picture by Dougie Holden

"This is the first of a number of joint events this year which will help introduce people to nature and hopefully inspire them to get involved in caring for it.”

The bird race starts and finishes at Souter Lighthouse in Whitburn on Sunday January 6.

Participants should wrap up warm, bring binoculars and meet in the café at 7.30am for an 8am start, returning around 4pm for refreshments.

For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/souter-lighthouse-and-the-leas email souter@nationaltrust.org.uk or phone 0191 529 3161.

A chaffinch. Picture by Dougie Holden

A chaffinch. Picture by Dougie Holden

Souter Lighthouse sits at the southern end of The Leas, two and a half miles of Magnesian limestone cliffs, wave-cut foreshore and coastal grassland. On its other side is Whitburn Coastal Park, reclaimed colliery land which was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2003.

The Coastal Conservation Group was formed in 2010 and has a close working relationship with National Trust rangers at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas.

Joint projects have included the installation of ponds, a bird feeding station and bird hides within Whitburn Coastal Park and the creation of a wildlife garden at the lighthouse.

Members of the group hold regular bird ringing sessions (some as public events) from the ringing station based at Souter, with data submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology.