PLANS to create a bird sanctuary in the Borders for the rarest species from around the world have taken a step forward.

Bird Gardens Scotland is the brainchild of celebrated ornithologist Owen Joiner and rare breeds expert Mark Hailey.

Work has been ongoing at the rural premises near Oxton for over a year with ponds being dug, paths and parking areas created, and a fox-proof perimeter fence being erected.

A fruit orchard has also been planted and a website is being established to promote the centre, which sits just off the A68.

And now they have applied for full change of use permission for the site to create a conservation and recreation park featuring some of the rarest birds on the planet.

Mr Joiner, who has successfully reared 24 rare Chilean flamingo chicks from egg and has worked at some of the leading zoos and conservation trusts in the UK, stated: "Bird Garden Scotland will be a unique visitor destination in the Scottish 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 bird garden and adjoining pottery are already open to the public.

But work over the next two to three years will see specialist areas created, including a tropical aviary, an Australian area, a native grouse section, and a high altitude garden.

There will also be a flamingo pond as well as other water features for rare ducks and swans.

Amongst the lengthy list of species planned for Bird Gardens Scotland are emus, greater rheas, flamingos, Eurasian cranes, capercaillies, ptarmigans and kookaburras.

Separate mammal areas will play home to red squirrels, Scottish wildcats, pine martens, wallabies and tree kangaroos.

Work will also soon begin on a children's play area and coffee shop.

Mr Hailey, who has operated a successful pottery for the past 26 years as well as rearing rare poultry, added: "Adhering to our ethos of conservation and environmental approach it is proposed to construct the coffee shop with straw bales and lime mortar, with a turf roof."

Bird Gardens Scotland will operate as a not for profit company with a board of directors.

Scottish Borders Council will consider the application for a full change of use over the coming weeks.