Elephants' dawn chorus shatters rural calm

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The Independent Online
ARTHUR VAUGHAN'S prototype bird scarer, featuring a dawn chorus of inner-city riots and trumpeting elephants, has provoked a counterblast from villagers living near by in the tranquil Blackdown Hills of Somerset. They have complained to environmental health officials at Taunton Deane borough council, who have told Mr Vaughan to switch off his infernal machine pending a full investigation.

Mr Vaughan, manager of the 600-acre Blackburn Estate farm near Taunton, installed the pounds 449 Pest Off machine two months ago to scare pigeons away from his 200 acres of rape seed. Apart from stampeding elephants and agitated mobs the scarer's repertoire of 25 different noises included a cat being trodden on and a man bellowing 'You cannot enter here'.

Anonymous notes, written by residents of nearby villages such as Broadway, Bickenhall and Curland, began to appear on Mr Vaughan's field gates. 'Sir,' they said. 'We're fed up. . .' One local crept in at 4am, when a light sensor triggered the racket at sun-up, and wrenched out the loudspeaker cables.

'Apart from elephants shouting and cats screaming you've also got Bob Geldof, which is enough to send the pigeons off,' Mr Vaughan said yesterday. 'I think this year's been the Year of the Pigeon. There's thousands of them in the woods and the machine's done a wonderful job.

'What really gets up my nose is that people have run off to the authorities without coming to me first to work out a compromise. I don't want to sound nasty but I think it's these retired people that come into the country and aren't used to our way of life and just take over the villages.'

Lorraine Yarnold, of Martley Electronics, developers of the hydra-headed Pest Off machine, says: 'We put the elephant noises in the prototype as a joke at first because we thought not many birds had heard trumpeting before and it might act as an extra deterrent. We've already had inquiries from other farmers looking for that particular noise. It's a bit sad. People who move into the country just don't seem to realise farmers have to protect their crops.'

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