Pupils make new feathered friends

When a bird box and webcam was set up at Martham Primary School, pupils eagerly awaited their first residents.

Now, after waiting four years without any takers, they not only have a blue tit family hatching out in the box – they also have a blackbird nesting on top of some mops.

The blue tit has nine hatchlings, and the blackbird has five eggs.

Excited children huddle around a TV in their dining room wired up to a 'bird-cam' in the blue tit's playground bird box to watch the mother feed her chicks in the nest.

And the blackbird family decided to set up their home beside the door to the school canteen, on two mops which had been drying in the sun.

Staff at the school say the experience has been like waiting for a bus – as they had longed for a bird to visit since setting up the habitat four years ago, and after years of nothing they have all arrived at once.

Head teacher Richard Denny said: 'The children love the birds and are enthralled by them.

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'We have break times and some children come in to get a snack from the kitchen and they're all transfixed by the TV screen.

'This is the first time in four years we've had some birds in the box, and it's been fantastic.'

He added that caretaker Pauline Gislam – who has worked at the school for more than two decades – is to thank for turning the school into an aviary.

He explained she wanted to set up a bird box with a video camera link, and, after some fundraising, it was installed. But it sat empty until four weeks ago when a mother blue tit appeared.

'The blue tit came and made a nest,' revealed Mr Denny. 'We wondered if anything was going to happen and the next thing we knew there were nine eggs.

'Then, overnight, a blackbird put a nest where the kitchen staff put their mops – where they leave them to dry. She's so tame and you can watch through the door.

'It's a real testament to what Pauline has done.'

Kitchen staff say they welcome the new additions to their team, and have seen it put a twinkle in the children's eyes.

Teachers say the school timetable is not too rigid, and they have taken the opportunity to inspire the children.

And youngsters have spoken of their delight at watching the chicks be fed.

Callum Barringer, seven, said: 'I watch them at lunchtime. I've seen the daddy bird feed his babies and I like seeing them up close.'

Abigail Orchard, seven, had hoped the birds would nest at the school, and Oliver Prowse, six, has been telling his parents all about them.

Jessie Bull, seven, kept a close watch and said: 'I've seen the mum sit on the babies.'

Oliver Watson, seven, added: 'I think they're funny.'

Youngsters aged three to 11 have been enjoying the company of the birds, but head teacher Mr Denny revealed there was an added bonus.

'One question in this year's SATs exams was on describing a new, unusual or exotic bird,' he said. 'They had a bit of a head start with that one.'


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