Golf courses are not just great for a quick nine holes, they are also great areas for wildlife. STRI’s ecology consultant, Teneille Barwick, wades into the social media swamp to discover some amazing countrywide projects.
Remarkable ventures, both large and small scale, are being carried out on golf courses up and down the British Isles. So, in a bid to inspire golf course managers and greenkeepers, I’ve pulled together twelve brilliant wildlife projects being shared across the Nature on Course Facebook group.
1. Greenkeeper Clive Fisher has built this impressive bird hide at Drayton Park Golf Club where species using the bird feeders can be identified and photographed.
2. Avro Golf Club is providing safe havens for reptiles by building hibernacula along their waterways. Rocks, logs and bracken have been used to create refuges for amphibians and small mammals. Topsoil sown with wildflower seeds will, once established, create a wonderful area for pollinators such as our declining native bees and butterflies.
‘High rise’ style nesting boxes are perfect for starlings as they are communal nesters. If you’re having issues with leatherjackets or chafer grubs, do as Avro Golf Club has done and encourage starlings into the area to take care of them!
3. The first brood of tawny owl chicks to appear in a newly erected nesting box at Blyth Golf Course.
4. Penn Golf Club is playing its part in promoting lowland heath, a rare and threatened habitat type, by using heather brash for heather restoration works on course. Only one sixth of all heathland present in the 1800s remains today.
5. Along with several grass snakes, this slow worm was discovered shedding its skin under corrugated felt roof panels placed around Orchardleigh Golf Course. Slow worms may look like snakes but they are actually legless lizards, given away by their ability to shed their tails and blink their eyelids. Felt roof panels, rock and logs provide perfect habitat and refuges for reptiles and amphibians.
6. Lickey Hills Golf Course demonstrating the beauty and contrast of an area that was formally semi-rough, left to grow as ecology grassland. This unmanaged grassland adjoins wooded areas, which in turn helps to increase habitat size and connectivity. This allows for the movement of wildlife across the course and into surrounding land.
7. Burghley Park Golf Club is setting the right example by leaving this dead tree in situ as standing deadwood. Standing deadwood provides a fantastic array of microhabitats for a range of saproxylic organisms such as fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds.
8. A twin-spotted quaker moth making its first appearance at John O’Gaunt Golf Club, caught whilst moth trapping. These moths fly from March to April and feed on sallow blossom at night. The caterpillars can be found early summer feeding on various trees including oak, aspen and sallow.
9. A glorious bug hotel is already being established on a course under construction. The hotel will encourage ladybirds, who are a brilliant natural pest control for greenfly.
10. Rhododendron might be beautiful, but it’s a highly invasive species with negative consequences for wildlife. Its dense evergreen canopy shades out native species and its foliage is poisonous to most invertebrates and mammals. Loch Lomond Golf Club is controlling rhododendron and seeding with native fescue and wildflowers which will support a wide range of biodiversity.
11. A marsh-orchid adding colour, interest and biodiversity value to the managed roughs at Whitley Bay Golf Club.
12. Young long-eared owls at Sleaford Golf Course with head feathers (known as ear tufts) raised in alarm. These ferocious predators are medium-sized. They inhabit dense vegetation and open forest. Although up to 6,000 pairs breed annually across they UK, they are secretive and difficult to come by. It’s fantastic to see them breeding at Sleaford Golf Course.
Sites such as ‘Nature on Course’ encourage those within the golfing community to engage in ecological and environmental initiatives on the golf course.
In a similar vein, the Golf Environment Awards demonstrate and recognise the good work carried out on courses around the UK. No matter the size of the golf club or scale of the ecological projects, why not enter the 2018 awards. Through actions big and small we are all helping to safeguard our precious habitats and species for future generations.
I’m looking forward to meeting with GEA entrants over the coming months. Fellow STRI ecologist Sophie Vukelic and I will be involved with course inspections. We will also be hosting the awards during BTME next January.
If you want to enter the 2018 Golf Environment Awards please sign up here. Deadline for entries is Friday 21 July 2017.