Enthusiasts will be able to see birds at close range this weekend.

On Saturday, experts from Durham University are holding a catching-and-ringing event next to a hide erected at the city's Botanic Garden.

Very fine netting will be placed on the flight path into the feeding station in front of the hide.

Species caught in the netting will be recorded, individual birds tagged and blood samples taken to test for illnesses, before the creatures are released.

It is the latest in a series of surveys of local bird life by researchers from the university's biological and bio-medical sciences departments.

The survey will begin at dawn and run until about noon, weather permitting. Visitors are welcome to watch from the hide between these times.

Head gardener Michael Hughes said: "The hide was only put up by the Friends of the Botanic Garden in December 2001, but it has proved quite popular with the university people.

"We attract quite a lot of species to the feeding station, everything from coal tits, blue tits and great tits, to woodpecker and chaffinch.

"It's also popular with the squirrels, which we call the 'grey terror', who seem to have pushed out the red squirrels in recent years."

The Botanic Garden, in Hollingside Lane, off South Road, Durham, is open from 10am to 4pm. Admission is £1.50, concessions 75p, and free for children under 16.

There is no charge for people visiting the bird hide to view the feeding station.

l Volunteers are needed for a bird count survey to be held by the university at the Botanic Garden in coming weeks.

Further details are available on 0191-374 7972.