James Hutchinson is the Membership Services Manager ( Ecology & Sustainability) and writes the Ecology Roundup for Greenkeeper International. By popular demand, we include a monthly article here on the BIGGA website. If you are a BIGGA member and are interested in a visit from James, please contact him:
The obscenely beautiful Isle of Man was on our hit list this past month with all nine courses visited over the three-day recce. If it’s views, history and wildlife you’re after then I really do suggest heading over to play the golf on offer, in fact, one of the courses has the incredibly rare chough bird in good numbers but you’re likely to hear it before you see it though.
The majority of courses I visit have some kind of mascot, wildlife or other form of animal to lighten the mood on a rainy day, some are called “Director of Happiness” and other such light hearted stuff;
Douglas GC are no different with their adopted moggy called Missy - aint she a beauty! She regularly brings in rabbits so pest control is high on the list for this furry feline.
The GEO (Golf Environment Organisation) are doing some fine work of late with their OnCourse and full Certification programme – have you given a thought to joining up? If not then here’s a link for further info: https://sustainable.golf/get_involved
Their yearly steering group meeting was held in North Berwick recently with many super ideas for the future of greener golf being bandied about. Super work GEO! Here’s a snap of the group representatives from Switzerland; Italy; Scotland; Sweden; England and Portugal.
All the Isle of Man courses; Blackpool Park; St Andrews Eden Course; Rothes; Banchory; Stonebridge; Gathurst; The Hertfordshire; Harewood Downs and The Warwickshire were all recipients of a visit from myself with Gathurst taking up a full 18-hole environmental report.
And finally, It wouldn’t be a blog from your MSM for Sustainability and Ecology without a picture of a tree, would it? So, here’s one. A ripper of a sweet chestnut at The Hertfordshire GC.
Measuring almost ten metres in girth. Who knows how old she is, but there was a monastery next to it almost 1 thousand years ago and we know that monks used to plant these trees for the fruits they gave off. A nice thought to have a millennium old tree growing on your course isn’t it?
It’s happened! I knew it would sooner or later. Something had to show up given the amount of time I spend mooching in the woodlands and the roughs of golf courses. This particular happening happened at Burford GC on 22/08/2019 at about 11:30am where a grand total of 16 of them were found.
First-Nature, a hugely respected online magazine mentioned ‘don’t expect to find a carpet’…but that’s just what we did, a carpet of stunning rarities which are now in the process of being recorded by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland as we speak. I suppose you are wondering what I am on about? Rare orchids, White Helleborines to be precise.
These beauts only grow in certain habitats and it appears that Burford GC has them spot on. As a rule, they only grow in chalk or limestone mediums and under veteran beech trees where disturbance is minimum.
Here’s an interesting snippet about white helleborines, they can take up to eight years to grow from seed (which is microscopic) and an additional two years to flower – how interesting is that!? Unfortunately, we were to late in the year to see them in flower but fear not,
I shall return next June/ July to photograph these obscenely pretty wildflowers. Here’s the best snap we got.
A recent jaunt to Coventry GC unearthed a smashingly large oak tree thought to be about 450 years old, give or take a few years. What made it more interesting is the practice of filling in cracks with concrete.
This particular oak had cement poured into a large fissure at some point in the past and it appears to have worked a treat!
I am certainly not suggesting that you pour cement into your trees at all, but that is just what past arboriculture chaps used to do to fill a decaying cavity, just like a dentist does.
However, modern research suggests that it can potentially damage the tree further because trees are always moving whereas the cement does not – this just causes more fissures and cracks as the tree moves in the wind.
Anyway, Coventry GC has one on show, and aint it a corker!
The club’s who took up visits this past month were Grange Over Sands, Worsley, Blackley, Chorley, Myerscough, Romford, Burford, Wilmslow, Coventry and Kedleston Park.
If you’re a BIGGA member and require advice on environmental management then let me know and I may be able to help.
July Visits and Painted Lady Special
July saw what can best be described as an influx of painted lady butterflies from North Africa with the majority of golf courses visited suggesting they have them in good numbers.
This en masse arrival apparently happens once every ten years and guess when the last mob arrived? Yep, that’s right, 2009. If you have a buddleia (also known as the butterfly bush) onsite, and you probably do as these things are hugely invasive, can grow on the side of abandoned buildings and pretty much anywhere that has soil, then take a peek and see how many butterflies it has on it – tons I bet! I’m certainly not suggesting you plant buddleias on your golf course however, if managed, this shrub can be a great asset to the pollinating insects you have.
In terms of visits, it’s been busy with La Moye, Royal Jersey, Crewe, Whitley Bay, Boldon, Baberton, Morton Hall, Gathurst, Newbury and Crookham, Mendip, Cardigan Bay, Portmore Park and Moor Allerton taking up an eco-visit, with Mendip having the full treatment of an 18-hole ecology report. As always. Let me know if you’d like a visit or report and I’ll do my best to help out.
Now then, the mercury rose for @GK-Erwan when he found this poor deer on his course that had been tangled up in a sheep fence for who knows how long (photo via Twitter). Our hero gently cut away the fence and off went the deer, no doubt without thanks – fab work sir!
Another course sighting was this snorter from @gmway. I’d prefer to shooo the deer away than this big girl.
With orchid season in full swing, it’s hardly surprising that our inbox is jam packed with photos of these colourful beauties from your golf courses, but did you know that some are really common?
On the other hand, some are extraordinarily rare so let’s take a look at a few of these leaders of imitation shall we.
Starting with the most frequent type, the common – spotted orchid can be found anywhere where the ground is damp for a portion of the year (which is most golf venues).
This attractive wildflower has an aromatic perfume which attracts many day flying moths and pollinating insects making it an important part of our biodiversity – hooray for the common, common – spotted orchid I say. Here’s one from Crewe GC.
I mentioned leaders of imitation earlier on, and the bee orchid is a fine example why….it looks just like a bee!
This fabulous flower has evolved to mimic a female bee so that the blokes, when the flower has omitted its female bee scent, try to mate with it and as a result spread pollen out to other bee orchids – how smashing is that! However, the UK’s bee orchids are self – pollinated so I guess there’s no need for it to look like a bee anymore.
A beauty nonetheless. This one’s from Whitley Bay GC.
On very rare occasions, a real fizzer shows up. The lizard orchid can be found at a handful of sites and it just so happens that Royal Jersey GC has one. And here it is – aint it a belter! This type of orchid smells of goats apparently.
Once in a lifetime, an orchid shows up which takes everyone off guard and sends the botany world upside down.
There is one that haunts our woodlands when it can be bothered to - the ghost orchid is about a rare a wildflower as you can get with the Ghost Orchid Project team suggesting:
“In 2009, after an absence of 22 years, the Ghost Orchid was rediscovered in British woodlands, sending the Botanical world in to a spin. Last officially recorded in 1987, there have been many unconfirmed sightings dating up until 1999, and with periods of up to 37 years between flowering, there is every chance that one will turn up again.”
Do you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me at all if one showed up on a golf course this year, which brings me around nicely to an orchid which is so rare it has police protection.
The lady’s slipper orchid was once thought to be extinct here in the UK until one showed up a few years back launching orchid hunters into hyperspace. Take a guess where it was growing? That’s right, on a golf course. Silverdale GC had the pleasure of hosting this solitary spectacular plant; I understand the boffins at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew took cuttings etc. and developed a collection of new plants which are thriving at many locations in the North of England – fab work all.
Let me know if you have any orchids growing on your course.
You guys never cease to amaze me when it comes to passion, enthusiasm and sheer will to do what’s best for the critters which mooch around your golf courses when the golfers aren’t there.
How are these for examples: Sean Walker at Montrose got himself through a beekeeping course and now has a healthy population of the buzzers onsite – super stuff, Sean. Or the super proactive Richard Mullen at Banchory and his work with introducing wildflowers to the course…not just that though, Richard works with the local school introducing them to the benefits of having wildflowers growing on your course – Operation Pollinator at its best I say.
But what about the naturally occurring stuff? You know, the flowers that just appear when you weren’t expecting them to. The ones that you find when you have to keep out of the way of a golf shot where even the chap who’s hitting it has no idea where it’s going to go – these tend to be the tiny vars that crop up on @Ecology1BIGGA’s Twitter feed occasionally.
This happened recently when I was developing Chestfield’s ecology plan and I stood behind a tree waiting for golfers to play through. I noticed a collection of ant hills with small yellow flowers nearby, turns out the flowers were cow-wheats…wooohooo! After a little research, these fab wildflower’s seeds are eaten by ants and taken into the ant hills for the young ants to eat. Not all are eaten and some germinate into the what we see here. Everything has a symbiotic relationship with something or other but how good is nature? I wouldn’t have found them had I not had to take evasive action.
We really do get hundreds of snaps each month but some stand out a little more than others. Here’s an example: Lees Hall had a visit by a few bees…well quite a few bees actually. Last I heard they had cleared off into the woodlands so all’s good there.
Greenkeeper James Matthewman at Maesteg couldn’t resist helping a buddy out when he offered sugar water to this little fella. Ace work, James!
Or a real rarity! A green hairstreak at Purdis Heath GC. This one’s a beaut.
Many of you took up the member benefit of a visit from myself this past month with the likes of Clitheroe (eco talk), Myerscough (eco course walk), Woburn, Brampton, Silloth, High Legh, Kedleston (full eco plan), Chestfield (full eco plan) and Aldeburgh (eco talk) taking up one of the advantages of being a BIGGA member – looking forward to hearing from you but it’s unlikely I can make it to see you before July.
Another Island was on our radar and that was Arran. An obscene amount of wildlife was found to go alongside the stunning golf courses. Lamlash, Machrie Bay and Shiskine have diverse birdlife including pipits, redpoll and ringed plover but it’s their rugged remoteness that makes island golf so captivating. Here’s an example:
Other courses visited were Rugby and Worsley with the latter taking up an offer of a full 18-hole ecology report – let me know if this is something you are interested in for your course and I’ll head over for a chat.
Below is a selection of the fab snaps you guys have sent in recently.
Until next time,
Great news to start with, Alwoodley have just been awarded the GEO (Golf Environment Organisation) certificate for their continuing sustainable work within the clubhouse and golf course. Well done all and it was a pleasure to work alongside you! If anyone else wishes to become certified then let me know as I may be able to help.
February’s heatwave was never going to last was it with most of you reporting a ‘false spring’ with many butterflies and some reptile sightings…. well where are they now!? It’s hovering just above freezing and it hasn’t stopped raining for a week. The butterflies have gone back into hibernation not to return until the real spring springs, and as for the reptiles, well the sensible cash is on them tucked up back in their hibernacula for another month. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.
Harrogate, Auchterader, Stirling, Muckhart, Alwoodley, Gathurst, Trentham Park, Bowood, Kedleston, Salisbury and South Wilts GC’s took up visits from your MSM for Sustainability and Ecology (James Hutchinson) recently with Crewe taking up the membership benefit of a full environmental report from us. These reports take in the golf course habitats and any other surrounding environs which require comment on and usually reach the 8 – 9000-word mark. Contact James if you need further assistance or advice on these.
In terms of snaps sent in, wait until you get a load of these splendours. Ipswich GC are seeing three different types of butterfly on the wing (red admiral, comma and brimstone) and a slow worm.
Elsewhere, there's been many nest box and habitat creation schemes being built. Take a look at these beauts.
Portmore Golf Club have a stag beetle hotel up and running.
And to end with, Royal Mid Surrey are going that bit extra and donning waders to secure their floating duck box.
BTME took up a good deal of your Member Service Manager for Ecology and Sustainability’s time during January with a highlight being the Ecology Forum which was held in the Crown Plaza, Harrogate. A total of 40 inquisitive greenkeepers showed up and listened to presentations from Trevor Harris (Castle Course, St Andrews), Andy Riley (Warrington GC), Stephen Thompson (John O Gaunt GC), Ian Jelley (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust) and Bob Taylor (STRI).
Trevor gave us an insight into the great work the team are undertaking at the Castle Course along with information on their hugely successful kestrel box, whereas Andy offered advice on woodland management on a SSSI site.
Stephen Thompson had a smashing collection of footage involving otters and Ian let us in on the work Warks Wildlife Trust are doing with golf courses in their area, namely Coventry GC.
Bob Taylor was last on (who can follow Bob?) and spoke about widening the brief around a golf site and into the surrounding habitat suggesting that courses can, and do, stretch out past their gates and into the wider countryside.
Many thanks all and we will see you again next year.
Also, at BTME, the STRI’s (lots of acronyms there but you know what they are) held their environment award ceremony on the Wednesday evening and the tension building up to the revealing of the winners was almost unbearable. Bob Taylor and Rowan Rumball hosted events seamlessly and the winners were:
- Environmental Golf Course of the Year – Aldeburgh
- Conservation GK of the Year – Phil Stain
- Outstanding Project of the Year – Wylihof
- Operation Pollinator - Corhampton
- Lifetime Achievement Award – Gordon Moir
Good luck if you enter this year – what do you have to lose? The way I see it, you have tons to gain and don’t be thinking you haven’t done enough… I hear that statement at most courses I visit and they are usually doing plenty to warrant a visit from the STRI’s ecologists.
A simple heather regeneration programme may do. Have you built a new pond which is showing new and diverse wildlife? Or have you created innovative habitats for pipits, stag beetles or something of a larger stature? I know you have so forms at the ready – the team at the STRI will let you know when entry is open and we’ll publish it in the GI mag and via social media – good luck.
What’s been happening around the UK of late?
Well here’s a snippet of the snaps of the eco work you guys have been up to last month.
Until next time,
Wait until you get a load of the fab sightings and eco goings on of BIGGA members of late – absolute rippers they are and it appears that 2019 picks up where 2018 left off…lots of wildlife projects from the UK’s greenkeepers!
Firstly however, your MSM for Ecology and Sustainability (James Hutchinson) has been on the road looking at ways of managing your places of work for the benefit of nature. Clitheroe; Altrincham; Garstang; Harrogate; Alwoodley; Hunley; Crewe and Moortown had visits with both Clitheroe and Crewe taking up our services in the forms of full course eco report/ plan for their respective golf courses – looking forward to working with you guys! BTW, if you ever find yourself at the stunning Clitheroe GC then spend some time looking in the tall hedgerow in the carpark…choc full of birdies it is including long-tailed, blue and great tits, thrushes, chaffinches and blackbirds.
Still on the subject of our feather friends, one of the most secretive birds in Scotland made an appearance for Les Rae of Montrose GC a few weeks ago. A water rail showed up on the pond adjacent to the courses and hung around long enough for its photo taken. These birds are hugely shy and stay hidden in the reeds for the most part. Great snap, Les!
In other feathered related news, Jim Fancey, Southwick Park GC’s Course Manager sent us a pic of an injured bird which one of his members collected from the course after it came in second place after a punch up with some crows. The falcon is now in the hands of the RSPB so keep us informed when you see it again, Jim.
If you feel inclined to help our birds out then you can take a leaf out of these chaps book and erect nest boxes in the woodlands or the maintenance facility building. Vale Royal and Rothes GC’s sent us these belters whilst Scott Corrigan has a mahoosive collection of starling boxes ready to go up. Here’s an interrsting fact about starlings, they eat chafers and leatherjackets whilst aerating the upper soil horizon – how about that! Natures very own pesticide right there. The hard part is attracting them to your course – a good place to start is communal nest boxes, just like Scott’s!
Not content on helping out the birds, the guys at Rothes GC have made this this beauty of a hedgepig habitat box. Wonderful stuff and please keep us informed if Mrs Tiggywinkle moves in guys - these prickly gaffers need all the help they can get.
Keep them coming.
James Hutchinson, Membership Services Manager – Ecology and Sustainability.
After the long and really dry summer we have had here in the UK, it is nearly time to manage your wildflowers so you can have a bumper crop next year. But how are you going do it? Here are a few tips to be going on with:
Firstly, you have to check whether you have any nesting birds or other such critters nestling down in the flowers. As we are aiming for a mid-autumn cut just after the flowers have finished, it is unlikely you will have any, but it’s always best to check isn’t it.
After you are happy there are no nesters, beat the wildflowers to remove the majority of the seeds. Depending on the size of the area, this can be done manually with a simple stick – what we are after at this point is to be sure we are giving the area the best chance of recovery next season by placing more seeds on the ground.
Next task is to cut the area with a suitable cut and collect machine. It is imperative that as much organic matter is removed at this point; we do not want decomposing material lying on the surface as next seasons shoots will not be able to break through. If possible, the cut material should be allowed to dry undercover as there will still be a good number of seeds here – this can be used next season on new areas. If your course does not have a suitable machine then manual strimming down to ground level will suffice, but be sure to rake off any overlying material and dispose of it correctly.
When the area is cut and removed, then a light verticut should be undertaken. This will give the underlying seeds the best chance of survival next year, as many wildflowers are gentle and will not tolerate too much competition from grasses. If a verticut machine is not available then a hand rake with a spring bok or other such hand tool will be acceptable. At this point, we are not interested in deep scarification and the removal of matter. All that is required is to give the wildflower seeds a base of soil-to-seed contact. It is also important that the seeds are not buried but preferably lie on the surface where they will take root next spring.
Trees, woodlands and other related areas have long been an emotive subject and one which often causes the Course Manager/Head Greenkeeper the most issues during the winter time – this does not need to be the case as BIGGA can help with the majority of issues relating to this often troublesome problem.
Historically, trees were planted as a barrier from one fairway to another or for privacy reasons and the like - this is more than acceptable at the time of planting, however, land managers, particularly members of the committee and other golf club decision makers, forget that trees grow and as such require management, usually years and years later. The trees planted in the 60s, 70s and above are now overgrown and casting shade to the turf in the surrounding area/s beneath, not to mention that, if they have not been managed in the past and were planted too close together, have grown leggy and are all reaching for sunlight – it is these trees which often fail and fall over, at the same time prior to reaching maturity, and are now a Health and Safety concern.
There’s also the matter of trees being planted as a memorial to a past member or historical event – these are far more difficult to cut down for the obvious reasons and it may be that a green or tee has to be altered to accommodate their spreading growth or replanting with similar species is undertaken.
Other factors are ancient and/or veteran trees which are far too important to the local and visitor wildlife to cut down – I have often commented in my woodland management plans that trees such as this cannot be removed, thus the underlying tee, bunker or drainage system must be relocated elsewhere nearby.
Heathland courses are now in the minority as trees were planted onsite generations ago. Heathlands are equally as important for invertebrates and of course, golf play.
The point I am making here is that BIGGA can help with tricky woodland scenarios where a decision cannot be reached within the club. There is always a middle ground where we can meet.
A hugely busy month of eco presentations were undertaken by your MSM for Ecology and Sustainability with approximately 120 eager-to-learn greenkeepers presented to. Scotland was first up with talks at Kilmarnock (Barassie); Bothwell Castle GC and then Liberton GC and then down to Middlesbrough GC the following week. These talks cover topics such as grassland and wildflower management, woodland ecology, wildlife encouragement, and my personal favourite, fungus and the decomposition of timber so let me know if you would like one at your golf course (for members and/ or greenkeepers).
Along with the talks, many course visits were carried out to places like Ashton in Makerfield; Caldy; Formby Ladies; Formby Men’s; Worsley and Shaw Hill with more already booked in for December - these visits always throw-up interesting sightings including grey wagtails and dippers although the grim weather has made clear photography difficult of late so we’re a bit thin on the ground in that department I’m sorry to say…maybe next month I’ll have beautiful snaps of rare and exotic birdies for your enjoyment. There were however, lots of mushrooms milling around and take a look at these terrific fescues growing at the fabulously managed Caldy GC! This is Carl the HGK modelling his and the team’s hard work. Super stuff.
The @Ecology1BIGGA Twitter feed has gone berserk too with goodies sent in from all four corners of the UK. Take a look at some of the great work greenkeepers have been doing recently: Ipswich GC have been managing areas for the highly elusive harvest mouse and their work has resulted in three old nests found whilst cutting the reed back.
Perennial ecologist and past Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year winner, Stephen Thompson, has been out moth trapping and here’s what he bagged…12 mottled umbers, 2 December moths and a Feathered Thorn. Keep up the ace work and we’ll see you for your talk at BTME.
Richard Mullen up at Banchory has a smashing success story to tell us, and that is Heather reintroduction on the golf course. Heather seeds can remain viable for up to 50 years and will germinate given the correct environmental conditions, Richard is aware of this and is in the process of managing areas for Heather so this attractive member of the Ericaceae family….and it’s working! Take a peek at these snaps and see for yourselves. First class stuff, Richard.
As always, keep the snaps coming and please feel free to contact me via Twitter or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regulations regarding waste water here in the UK are there for a reason, namely human and habitat protection. Heavy fines and possible imprisonment (for the worst offenders) can be handed out by the Environment Agency. With this in mind, it is in a golf club’s best interests to develop a system to cleanse its waste water prior to entry into a water course or soakaway.
Numerous machines are available (which can be found in our Greenkeeper International magazine). However, if these are not suitable then BIGGA can assist by designing a reed bed for your site - BIGGA’s Sustainability Executive spent a good deal of his time researching natural methods of water remediation at BSc level and has already developed a good number of beds for our members.
Reed beds cleanse water holistically without the use of electricity, petrol and other fossil fuels by taking washdown water and using holistic phytoremediation (by means of herbs and aquatic plants to clean water) to return water back to the ground as bacteria free as possible.
Reed beds can be built in-house by the greenkeeping team and require minor yearly inputs to maintain. Costs to build, compared to other methods, are minimal and once running are an ideal habitat for small birds and invertebrates to use.
Contact James Hutchinson at: email@example.com or 07767242863 for further information.
Welcome to the latest blog by BIGGA’s Membership Services Manager for Ecology and Sustainability.
The last three blogs have covered ways to become more sustainable and wildlife friendly. This month, however, we will be mostly concentrating on some of our recent course visits and the methods you guys are using to maintain your ecology. Hope you enjoy!
The month started off with a mammoth journey to some of the most Southern regions of England, namely Poole in Dorset (awfully warm), then off to The West and then latterly finishing up in minus degrees Scotland…. but I cared not a jot as Caledonia is as beautiful a place as you are likely to find.
Ripon City GC; Northampton GC; Saddleworth; Belfry, Broadstone, Sherbourne, Cricket St Thomas; Gloucester; Willesley Park; Wakefield; Muckhart; Shrigley Hall; RAC Club; Chipstead; Hoebridge (Environment Agency meeting) were this month’s recipients of a visit from yours truly with Wakefield taking up the offer of a full course environmental report, whereas Muckhart are seeking assistance with a reed bed washdown system.
It turns out that one or two of these smashing golf courses have a hidden-in-plain-sight rarity in the shape of an ancient tree. You may have gathered from past blogs and Twitter updates that I’m a bit of a tree hugger and that I send information to the Ancient Tree Forum (a government backed group who aim to record all our large and gnarly trees) on a regular basis. Well wait until you get a load of Northampton and Willesley Park’s biggies! These are about 600 and 1000 years old respectively – what stories do they have locked away?
Let me know if you have an oldie on your course and I’ll record it for you.
The team at Chipstead, Surrey have four bee hives onsite and are in the process of developing larger wildflower meadows for the bees to forage in.
Two sites have been identified to be turned over from unwanted scrubland (rank grasses and old tipping grounds) this forthcoming winter (2018/ 19) and we look forward to seeing the results guys!
Cricket St Thomas in Somerset have been cracking on with a fine amount of woodland management of late which will only be of benefit to the course and its wildlife.
By removing selected trees, the chaps have allowed more air and sunlight through to the underlying grasses. The timber removed has been stacked nearby as ecopiles for saprophytes (decaying wood eaters and dwellers).
I never tire of the views you guys have from your offices and here’s an example why. Muckhart in Perth and Kinross are as good as you can get and the greenkeepers there are fully aware of this. One thing I often say is that it appears many trees were planted in the 1970s and are now reaching heights where they are blocking out views. That’s up to you whether you want trees or views but I always say that views are your USP (unique selling point), so do not lose them through incorrect tree choices and locations…think ahead 20 or 30 years and visualise what your course will look like after tree plantings – as mentioned, I’m a tree hugger, but only if they’re in the right place.
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