Borders bird reserve makes bid for zoo licence

Owen Joiner at his Oxton bird reserve.
Owen Joiner at his Oxton bird reserve.

Plans to create a haven for rare birds are taking flight now the couple behind them are applying for a zoo licence.

Owen Joiner and Mark Haillay intend to submit a licence application to Scottish Borders Council for Riggsyde Cottage, Oxton.

Their proposed visitor attraction, a community interest company, is to be called Bird Gardens Scotland.

A £180,000 visitor centre is being built there this year following a crowdfunding appeal being launched in 2016 and planning consent being granted in October last year subject to various conditions.

A flock of flamingos will be the site’s star attraction, but it will be home to hundreds more rare birds too.

Owen said: “We very much intend to work with Chilean flamingos. We’d be hoping to build up a flock of approximately 60 flamingos.

“At the moment, we are finishing the rearing barn that will be used to hatch the eggs when they come in and then rear the birds to a juvenile state, after which they will be moved to the flamingo house and the main lake on site which will be their forever home.

“Flamingos are just one of many species we hope to work with.

“We’re also very keen to work with threatened native species such as capercaillie, black grouse, red squirrel, Scottish crossbill and crested tit.

“Currently, we work with around 400 threatened, rare and endangered birds on site.

“This year, we will focus on getting the visitors’ centre built and opened, and plans for 2019 are to substantially grow and develop in the grounds to incorporate a host of new gardens and birds.

“Bird Gardens Scotland will be a unique visitor destination in the Borders.

“We have a clear mission to work with endangered bird and plant species, including those that are critically endangered, in order to facilitate captive breeding, rearing and propagation programmes.

“By bringing people, plants and birds together in an informative, educational and recreational environment, we aim to raise awareness of the plight of endangered species while generating funds to further our conservation efforts.”

A fledgling version of the bird sanctuary Owen hopes to create, plus an adjoining pottery, is already open to the public, but he now plans to create specialist areas for further species and mammals such as red squirrels, wallabies and pine martens.