Popular annual 'bird race' returns to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas - here's what it's all about, and how to take part

Nature-lovers can have a great day out and help wildlife experts build a picture of the bird life along our area’s coastline by joining in a popular annual event.

The annual bird race returns to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas on January 9.
The annual bird race returns to Souter Lighthouse and The Leas on January 9.

National Trust rangers and members of the area’s Coastal Conservation Group will again lead volunteers on a one-day ‘bird race’ to count as many bird species as possible.

Racing to cover as large an area as they can, some teams will compete in vehicles, while others will walk up to 15 miles over an eight-hour period on Sunday, January 9.

The annual bird count is one of the first fixtures of the year in the area’s events calendar.

A treecreeper, one of the birds you may spot on Sunday. Picture sent by the National Trust.

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    The event is open to bird enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.

    Each team will record their findings, hoping to beat previous years’ totals by spotting up to 100 different species.

    As well as familiar varieties including wood pigeon, blue tit and black headed gull, Dougie Holden, National Trust ranger at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, said the chance of spotting rarer species such as peregrine falcon. treecreeper and little egret offers additional motivation.

    “It’s a pleasure to welcome newcomers to this event and see it grow each year,” said Dougie.

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    A black-headed gull with its winter plumage, buy Dougie Holden from the National Trust.

    "It’s a competition, but a very friendly one and an opportunity for less experienced birders to team up with regular competitors. Everyone’s keen to share their knowledge, bird identification tips and tricks.”

    He added: “The bird race is the first in a series of events throughout 2022 at Souter.

    "We want to introduce people to local nature and hopefully inspire them to get involved in caring for it. We’re already looking forward to bird box building over February half term, then moth nights, bird ringing demonstrations, wildlife walks rock pooling events and more in spring and summer.

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    "People can make a real difference by putting up a bird box, or growing some insect friendly plants in their garden or even a window box.

    A peregrine falcon. Picture by Nick Upton c/o National Trust Images.

    "And of course, volunteering with the National Trust or Coastal Conservation Group is an option for anyone who really wants to get hands on.”

    The bird race starts and finishes at Souter Lighthouse.

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    Participants should email [email protected] or phone 0191 529 0901 to sign up.

    Then wrap up warm, bring binoculars and meet at the bird ringing hut in the main car park in time for an 8am start, returning around 4pm.

    Bird watching. Picture by National Trust Images/Chris Lacey.

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