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Marauding jackdaws kill time on historic parish clock

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

  • Barry Willcox at the church in Probus where jackdaws have caused damage to the clock.

  • The church tower in Probus where jackdaws have caused damage to the clock.

  • The clock mechanism in the church tower in Probus, which has been damaged by nesting jackdaws.

  • Twigs in the church tower in Probus, brought in by jackdaws which has caused damage to the clock.

  • Barry Willcox at the church in Probus where jackdaws have caused damage to the clock.

  • Twigs in the church tower in Probus, brought in by jackdaws which has caused damage to the clock.

  • Twigs in the church tower in Probus, brought in by jackdaws which has caused damage to the clock.

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Marauding jackdaws could cost residents thousands of pounds after they stopped an historic parish clock.

The intelligent birds have worked their way through metal netting designed to keep them out and have refused to fall for recordings of distress calls or models of owls introduced to deter them from the Probus clock tower.

Barry Willcox, a 79-year-old parish councillor, has been fighting a war of attrition with the jackdaws for decades and has come up with a solution to keep the birds out.

He said: “We have put CDs up there with the distress calls of jackdaws and artificial owls. They respect it for a few days but then they just carry on.”

The jackdaws live in the tower permanently and in the spring bring in tens of thousands of twigs and sticks to build their nests according to Mr Willcox.

At 129ft (39 metres), Probus boasts the highest church tower in Cornwall. The clock, which belongs to the parish council, was installed in 1925.

Mr Willcox said: “If you get sticks brought in they get in the way of the striking mechanism and it can upset the whole mechanics of the clock.”

The clock has just been repaired and is currently striking, but according to Mr Willcox it is only a matter of time before the jackdaws’ nesting stops the bells ringing out in Probus once more.

The mechanism itself is in first class condition and is encased but is not 100 per cent dustproof.

Mr Willcox said the jackdaws had used their intelligence to work on particular areas of the metal netting installed in the 1970s. He said: “Once they have got one hole a whole gang can come in.”

Clean-ups are organised annually with up to 30 bags filled with sticks removed every year. Mr Willcox believed the only solution now would be to install sheets of stainless steel to keep the jackdaws out at a cost of approximately £6,000.

So far the parish council has promised £1,000 towards the project with a further £1,000 from the parochial church council, £100 from the church bellringers and an anonymous donation of almost £1,500.

Despite the ongoing battle, Mr Willcox does not bear any ill-will towards the birds.

“I like jackdaws and I can appreciate why they make use of the church,” he said. “They are too intelligent for us to deal with.”

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