Swiss church turns off bells because of nesting storks

The bells of a church in northern Switzerland have been switched off indefinitely so as not to disturb a pair of mating storks.

Swiss church turns off bells because of nesting storks
Storks are regular summer visitors to Switzerland. File photo: Bernd Settnik / dpa / AFP

The birds recently took up residence in a custom-built nest on the top of the Swiss reformed church in the town of Aesch in the canton of Basel-Landschaft.

The arrival of the birds is good news for the community. The stork nest was built in 2013 for 18,000 Swiss francs (€15,600), with most of the money coming from donations.

Read also: Bern politician wants to silence church bells at night

The pricey nest features a special door that allows direct access from the interior of the church tower to the nest itself. This makes tasks such as bird banding much easier.

However, despite the costs, the nest has basically stood empty for five years.

In 2016, the church decided to turn off its church bells during the during the February–March stork breeding period – a move that now appears to have paid off with the new arrivals.

The church bells will now remain silent indefinitely so that the birds are not disturbed.

Bruno Gardelli of the organization Stork Switzerland welcomed the decision to turn off the bells. But he also told Swiss news site 20 Minuten that the birds did not appear to be particularly sensitive to noise.

Storks are regular summer visitors to Switzerland. They return to the country in early spring after wintering in southern Europe and northern Africa.

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Which cities in Spain are the noisiest? (Clue: It’s not Madrid)

It can be hard to find peace and quiet in urban Spain, but if you want to experience life in a Spanish city without going deaf in the process, here is a list of the noisiest and quietest towns and cities in the country.

Which cities in Spain are the noisiest? (Clue: It's not Madrid)
Photo: Vitalie Sitnic/Unsplash

In case you didn’t know already, Spain is the noisiest country on the planet together with Japan. The two countries have been switching top spot over the past decade, fighting over who can be the most earsplitting for its residents. 

Funnily enough the other podium position Spain and Japan share is for being the nations where people live to be oldest (Spain is currently set to be top), but that wellbeing bonus has little to do with the damage the World Health Organisation has warned being exposed to too much noise can do.

Around nine million people in Spain are exposed to noise levels above 65 decibels, the recommended threshold by the WHO.

Traffic is reportedly responsible for 80 percent of noise pollution in Spain.

Whether the remaining 20 percent is attributable to people in bar terraces shouting until the early hours, or eldery neighbours watching their TV soap at top volume, we simply don’t know.

But noise does “cause stress, sleep problems, interference with cognitive processes and can even lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” as Spanish NGO Ecologistas en Acción points out.

So which city in Spain is the loudest? Madrid, right?

Nope, the Spanish capital is the 37th noisiest city in Spain, according to WHO data ranking how much of its population is exposed to harmful noise levels.

The most deafening city in Spain is in fact Vigo in the northwest of the country, where up to 71 percent of the 290,000 residents of this Galician city are exposed to too much noise, especially at night.

Gironés, the region that’s home to the beautiful medieval city of Girona, came in second place followed by its Catalan big brother Barcelona, with 45 and 46 percent of its people exposed to too much noise (Barcelona’s nighttime noise rates affected even more residents: 62 percent).

Another surprise entry in fourth position was Logroño, the capital of Spain’s wine-centric region La Rioja, where daytime noise levels reached 43 percent of the population but at least dropped to 27 percent at night.

Castellón de la Plana was the noisiest city in the Valencia region and fifth overall and Madrid dormitory city Getafe came out as the loudest area in and around Spain’s capital.

The graphs below show the full list for daytime and nighttime noise pollution to which people in cities across Spain are exposed.

Ranking of daytime noise pollution in Spanish cities 

Ranking of nighttime noise pollution in Spanish cities 

Source: Spain’s Environment Ministry 

Why Madrid is far down the list may seem hard to understand as the Spanish capital is indeed a lively place full of restaurants, clubs and of course traffic (less so in the centre since Madrid’s recent traffic restrictions).

Perhaps the fact that its 6.5 million residents are more spread out over its 604 sq km surface area could have made a difference, in comparison other more tightly packed cities in Spain.

Another possible reason is a 2011 Madrid law that rolled out fines of between €90 and €600 for drivers and motorcyclists whose vehicle noise exceeded the permitted decibel levels.