Spring is here at last, and the days are getting longer and warmer. Not only are these conditions better for golf, but also for the abundance of flora and fauna on the course. Some of you may have noticed changes in the growth of the grasses on the course and the appearance of spring flowers. It’s really good to see the cowslips near Trillo’s Green and Foxes Pond. Formerly a common plant of traditional hay meadows, ancient woodlands and hedgerows, the loss of these habitats has caused a serious decline in its populations.
Over the recent weeks some maintenance has taken place on the rough areas of the course (mainly the carries from the tees). These long rough grassed areas provide the prefect habitat for ground nesting birds at this time of year and therefore our approach has been sensitive to this. Several species of ground nesting birds have been identified, and the three detailed below have been classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).
Skylarks are a streaky brown bird, with a crest. Male skylarks can be spotted rising almost vertically from grassland. They hover effortlessly, singing from a great height, before parachuting back down to earth. These long and complicated song-flights can last for up to an hour and the birds can reach 300m before descending. Skylarks declined by 75% between 1972 and 1996 the population halved during the 1990s and is still declining.
Curlew are mottled brown and grey, with long, bluish legs and a long, downcurved bill that is pink underneath. The eerie, ‘cur-lee’ call of the curlew is a recognisable sound of wet grasslands, moorlands, farmland, and coasts. The UK breeding population of curlews is of international importance, with around 30% of the west European population wintering in the UK, and yet, there have been worrying declines in the breeding population throughout much of the UK.
The yellowhammer is a sparrow-sized, bright yellow bird. They are often seen perched on top of bushes singing their ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ song. Unfortunately, yellowhammers have experienced a considerable decline over the past 25 years. Much of this decline has been put down to variable farming practicing, such as the sowing of crops in autumn, thus reducing supply over winter.
Ground-nesting birds of all species will cope instinctively with the passage of golfers/walkers in the same way they cope with potential predators. As long as walkers/golfers do not remain in the area of the nest, but continue walking, the birds will either remain on the nest or will return quickly. It is worth highlighting that nests and eggs are often extremely well camouflaged which can make them very hard to see and avoid, so please be vigilant. Keeping dogs on leads and being mindful when you hear any parents alarm calling will help give these rare birds space to breed.