Where have all the birds gone?

They didn't tell me when I took on the role of Chairman that I'd be quite this busy. We'dd only just returned home from Harrogate and we were packing up again to head for the States and the GCSAA Conference and Show in Atlanta, Georgia.

But it was well worth the effort. It was a very successful week, particularly from BIGGA's perspective, as our stand was extremely busy with overseas members and prospective members while we spent a great deal of time fielding questions on BIGGA, and particularly the Master Greenkeeper programme which is very popular with American Superintendents.

There were a tremendous number of British greenkeepers in Atlanta this year. In addition to the BIGGA Scholarship Delegation of 10, and thank you to Bernhard for sponsoring the Delegation for the third time, there were many others there as guests of other companies, including Ransomes Jacobsen.

And it wasn't just as visitors that we made our presence felt. Eddie Adams, Head Greenkeeper of the Old Course, St Andrews, delivered a fine presentation on revetting bunkers.

I also spent a few hours in the company of Murray Long, Coombe Hill's Head Greenkeeper, and the winner of the Toro Student of the Year Competition in 2002. Murray visited Atlanta during a break in his studies at the University of Massachusetts which formed part of his prize. He was having an unforgettable time and is extremely grateful to both BIGGA and Toro for making it possible. It is a superb competition and the prize is well worth becoming a target to work towards. Look out for information on the 2003 Toro Student of the Year Competition and you too could be experiencing what Murray is currently experiencing.

One of the highlights of the week was the Banquet at which renowned golf course architect Pete Dye was presented with the Old Tom Morris Award. Seeing someone who is such an influential figure in the game of golf receiving the award makes it all the more special that our own Walter Woods received it last year.

One incident in the shuttle bus on the way to the hotel from Atlanta Airport really made me think. There were two Americans sitting just across from me who were strangers but who I took to be Superintendents. Once we'd settled down the first question that one asked the other was, 'How much is your fungicide budget this year?' Now I know they experience different conditions to us and that their climate can be completely different but it really does sum up much of what Jim Arthur talks about and has written in Practical Greenkeeping.

It's probably not connected but in all the time we were in Atlanta, and it was over a week, I only saw two species of bird. A couple of old crows and some pigeons in the park and the Mall. If someone had said that to me before we went I would never have believed them. It was lovely to get home and hear all the birdsong.

As I write it is still February and the weather is very mixed. We are still cutting greens occasionally and are nearly finished the revetting of the bunkers on both the Ailsa and the Arran courses at Turnberry. It's the same with the aeration and turfing programmes and although the bunkers need topping up with sand it is too early as the March winds are still to come which would soon empty them again. Those winds will be very handy, though, when it comes to drying the course out and we have our fingers crossed for some early growth to enable the top dressing to smooth out the winter scars and even the putting surfaces.

By now, of course, all your course furniture should be ready - tee markers and flag pins painted or replaced while your irrigation systems should have been overhauled and ready to spring into action. Don't leave it until it's needed before finding out that there's a problem. Planning ahead is the secret.

Good luck with your final preparations for the new season and I'll keep you up to date with the work we are doing at Turnberry.

George Brown, Chairman