Nesting birds star in natural paradise

It is not just people who are stars of reality TV - our feathered-friends can also draw an audience. A Norfolk nursery found out just how popular bird watching was when over a million people crashed their website last year trying to log on to watch images beamed from inside a bird box in its grounds where blue tits' eggs were hatching.

It is not just people who are stars of reality TV - our feathered-friends can also draw an audience.

A Norfolk nursery found out just how popular bird watching was when over a million people crashed their website last year trying to log on to watch images beamed from inside a bird box in its grounds where blue tits' eggs were hatching.

Now another pair of blue tits, blissfully unaware that they are about to become the latest on-line big brother-style celebrities, are building a nest in the box.

Already around half a million viewers from around the country are logging on regularly to see the birds as they create their new home in readiness for chicks.

British Wild Flower Plants, the UK's biggest wild flower nursery, installed dozens of boxes to encourage birds to their seven acre site as part of their unique philosophy to their business.

The company, based at North Burlingham, near Norwich, uses no chemicals to control pests, preferring instead to encourage native species to the gardens, recreating the equilibrium that nature devised to keep unwanted bugs in check.

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Owner Linda Laxton, who grows wild plants for gardens all over the county, including exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show, said nature had its own way of keeping a balance if all the right animals and plants in the food chain where present.

“We discovered we had an infestation of greenfly one morning,” she said. “But by tea time hundreds of ladybirds had eaten them all. Then there are birds to eat the ladybirds.”

On another occasion in January flowering coltsfoot attracted hundreds of bees to the nursery which had come out in the warm weather and could find no other source of pollen.

“Plants flower at different times for a reason,” said Ms Laxton, adding: “There are over a million acres of garden in Britain which could become a home to wildlife.”

The 57-year-old recently did a survey of animals in the nursery's grounds and found it teaming with common and rare species including newts, lizards, voles and scores of varieties of butterfly.

And she has started to sell the bird boxes with miniature cameras to encourage people to make their gardens animal friendly.

“You can plug them into your TV,” she said, adding that they expected the blue tits on their website to be as popular as last year.

And a “moth watch” is also being set up this year from sugar water pools aimed at attracting hundreds of nocturnal insects.

The company sell packs of native seeds to encourage local wildlife so people can recreate a slice of traditional English countryside in their gardens.

Go to British Wild Flower Plants website www.wildflowers.co.uk to see the blue tits.

Or visit the nursery which is throwing open its doors on Sunday 1 to raise money for National Gardeners Scheme. Tickets are £2.50.