The Changing Face of our Community

The changes have affected more than the structure and people

I notice that most of the memories of old Laindon are in respect of the dwellings and the people who lived in them.

There appears to be a deep regret of the sweeping changes that took place even though the human population now live in conditions beyond the wildest dreams of their predecessors. Yet there was a non human population which were severely diminished or eliminated by the improvements.

In recent years I have not seen any larks, owls, martins, cuckoos or moorhens. Do the Brent geese still visit us?  Every spring they used to arrive in their thousands in the area now known as Festival Park and they had no fear of humans, as if one walked amongst them, it was often necessary to nudge them out of the way.

While there are still sparrows , robins and thrushes they are in diminished numbers. I have not seen a blackbird for years and although there is the odd crow, the rookeries of which there were several in the Waverley Rd. area have all disappeared.   Bats, stoats, weasels and snakes were always a common sight.

Wild creatures existed in the heart of Laindon as there was a large hawthorn thicket on the east side of the High Rd., stretching from opposite Manor Rd. to the cinema.

How many of the children of present day Laindon have ever heard the ‘dawn chorus’ which used to wake us from spring to autumn?

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  • Until I read Nina’s article, my knowledge of ornithology was minimal and it was just by common reference that I believed the ‘Basildon’ birds were Brent geese and I had never heard them correctly described as Canada geese. 

    I decided to learn more from the web, but became slightly confused and perhaps Nina can clarify the matter. From where do the Canada geese come? The web states that the Canada geese, (from Canada) migrate to the southern US states and Mexico, no mention being made of their crossing the Atlantic and they can only fly up to a maximum of 16hrs. It does say that there are many colonies in Europe and Britain which were imported and are now considered a nuisance with some councils suggesting a cull. 

    The Brent geese come from Siberia by a long overland route and arrive in huge numbers in southern England including south Essex and the Thames estuary. While their diet was originally eelgrass, in 1930 a fungus infection destroyed 75% of the worlds eelgrass and that from the 1950s’ the Brent geese had adapted to feed on other grasses and cultivated crops, plus insects.

    By W.H.Diment (21/07/2012)
  • Just like the others that have commented on wildlife above I am just as fascinated by the many varieties of British Birds which thrive around Essex. On my journey in to Chelmsford from Maldon I always take a daily ride winter and summer along the back roads rather than joining the throng on the main A414. 

    Quite often I will see Coot and Moorhen which stray from the many farmers ponds along the way. These were common during my young days in Laindon and it is good to see them now. 

    I always see Magpies either feeding on the ground or flying into their high nests. They are even nesting alongside my office window which is virtually in Chelmford Railway Station, off Duke Street. I watched them construct the fortress which is so typical of them, this reminding me of myself, age 10, climbing up trees in Tavistock Road Laindon, trying to reach the nests in the vain hope of finding an elusive Magpie egg. 

    I often see Jay, which are one of the most beautiful British bird varieties and the occasional Wagtail cheekily walking before fluttering out of the way. I have also seen Kestrel, sometimes alone, sometimes in a pair, viewing the verges from their perches, usually on overhead wires. This year the Collared Dove is very common, almost as much as the Crow which seem to fill every field at the moment. 

    In mum’s garden, in Tiptree, many other smaller varieties can be seen including Wren, Robins, Chaffinch, Blue, Great and Coal Tits as well as huge immaculately dressed Pigeons which seem to come down for dinner at a certain time. 

    In our own garden Blackbirds and Sparrows continue to be the most common birds but the once frequent House Martins seem to have gone elsewhere. We are lucky in Essex with our wildlife and long may it continue to thrive.

    By Richard Haines (21/07/2012)
  • All though I agree that the birds and other wildlife will adapt especially when we provide an attraction by feeding them. 

    When I remember back to my childhood there was a lot more wild life around. In a walk up the Avenues at Dunton in the summer there was always the sounds of bird songs with Skylarks, Swifts and Swallows overhead and the call of Blackbirds, Thrushes, Finches and Tits from the hedges. There would then be a flash of yellow from a yellow Hammer crossing you path or the bobbing of the black and white of a Wagtail. 

    An evening cycle ride across Bulphan Fen would inevitable be accompanied by the ghostly passage of a Barn Owl hunting and there were the staccato flights of the Bats. 

    The House Martins that used to nest in the eaves of our houses in Bourn Avenue have moved on. These changes are not unique to Laindon the erbanisation of the country obviously causes changes that do not suit all wild life or humans, but hopefully we will eventually learn how to find ways to reduce the impact we have on the environment.

    By Ian Mott (20/07/2012)
  • The geese near Festival Park that walk across Cranes Farm Road are Canada Geese. Brent Geese feed on eel grass and are found in coastal and estuary areas.

    Nature is constantly adapting to changes. The once depleted sparrow population has now returned to our garden here in Langdon Hills. We also get great spotted woodpeckers, goldfinches and greenfinches on our feeders and most days we have to chase off a squirrel. We get many chaffinches and wood pigeons in the garden. We also have occasional visits by long tail tits, herons and a sparrow hawk, collared doves, crows, starlings and magpies. I sometimes hear a blackbird in the trees at the end of the garden but haven’t actually seen one this year. I haven’t seen a song thrush or mistle thrush for several years. Perhaps like the sparrow they are going through a bad patch but will return at some point.

    This year we have been watching two cock robins having sparing matches. They are soon distracted when we do any digging and being very bold, they fly down to collect any worms that emerge. We erected a bluetit box about six years ago with a camera inside and have had the pleasure of watching right through from the nest building stage to the fledging of each brood. We sometimes hear an owl at night and in March this year, our feeders were visited every day for two weeks by about 6 redpolls before travelling north to breed. We hadn’t heard a cuckoo this year until we visited Watt Tyler Country Park early one Sunday morning. Sadly, there have not been many this year, although of course, that was good news for the little birds whose nests they steal.

    This spring, I had to close the windows around 4:30 each morning because the birds were so noisy. The dawn chorus is always there albeit not so audible in very built up areas. However, my sister-in-law who lives on the Kathleen Ferrier estate in Laindon has feeders in her garden and enjoys a large number of feathered visitors. Her little dog often stands at the back door in the evening, barking at hedgehogs. Foxes are now a common sight in most areas. They breed in a thicket at the end of our garden and have never caused any problems at all. There are badger sets further up in Langdon Hills and I have seen an adder when I go blackberry picking. Wildlife is still around us, if not exactly on everyone’s doorstep.

    As you have probably gathered, I am a wildlife enthusiast and my husband and I belong to Basildon Natural History Society. We recently went on a “100 wild flower walk” with the group in Langdon Hills and ‘yes’ 100 varieties were recorded within about two hours. We recorded at least 20 in the car park before we even set out to the meadow. We saw only one or two butterflies, the wet weather affecting their numbers this year. However, the two large buddleia bushes in our garden are about to break into flower and if the sun decides to shines we hope to see many more butterflies throughout August.

    The local wildlife is still there for all to enjoy. You don’t need much space to hang up a bird feeder or even a nest box and the birds will come along. Go out walking, there are still plenty of meadows and ponds to explore. Or even better, pay a visit to Essex Wildlife Trust at the Dunton Visitor Centre in Lower Dunton Road or join Basildon Natural History Society (all ages welcome) who will be able to tell you the best areas to visit. There’s no need for any child to miss out on the local wildlife which is there to be seen and enjoyed. Our 4 year old grandson recently went on a trip to the Dunton Visitor Centre with his pre-school. Upon return, he told us he had caught a lobster in his net during the pond dip. After investigation, we were told it was a dragonfly nymph – just wonderful.

    As I ‘speak’, I have just seen my first blackbird of the year. I glanced out the window and saw it in the tree flapping its wings and ‘pinking’ at a cat in the next garden.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (19/07/2012)
  • yes the brent geese do still come to us every year. Thay gather around the festival park then thay travel back and forth woddling across Cranes Farm Rd to Gloucester Park it’s a magnifcent sight all the cars come to a standstill their is hundreds of them.

    I think the answser to the question on the dawn chorus is very few.

    By Barry Ellerby (18/07/2012)

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