A beautiful shot of our historic barn at Leslie Park

A beautiful shot of our historic barn at Leslie Park
The Barn at Leslie Park

Monday, October 31, 2011

Native grasses

The deer have been really active for the past couple of weeks. These three were some of the nine different deer I saw on this day.

This is a picture of Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) a native prairie grass in Michigan. This picture is behind #17 green. You can see the weather station in the background.

This is another native grass called Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) It is also known as  "Turkeyfoot" due to the resemblance of the seedhead to a three-toed turkeys foot.

Here is a better picture of the seed-head.

More Indiangrass. (Near #14 tee)

A mixed stand of Big Bluestem and Indiangrass.

A picture from farther away of the stand of native grasses near #14 tee. 

These plant were seeded here after burning this section of rough in the spring. It is part of our efforts to re-establish native Michigan plants in our non-golfing areas. Some other native grasses that we have seeded are Switchgrass (Pancium virgatum) and Canada Rye (Elymus canadensis).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wildlife Sightings

Today, a couple of guys on the crew were excited to tell me about these two deer near the pumphouse at Leslie Park. They were only about 20 feet from the road and would just watch you ride by in a cart.

This heron was looking for an easy meal due to the high level of Traver Creek.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Progress

We just got the letter from Audubon International telling us that Leslie Park has received certification in 4 of the 6 categories required for full program certification. The categories we have achieved are Water Conservation, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Quality Management and Environmental Planning. We have to complete Wildlife and Habitat Management and Outreach and Education in order to become a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Red-Tailed Hawk

Thanks to Scott Hummel and Scot Rhodes for pointing out this hawk hanging out near the clubhouse this morning.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Out with the old......

In with the new. 

With the high winds we have had this week, some of the old cherry trees in the orchard between #6 and #8 blew over.

In the foreground, you can see one of the cherry trees that have "survived" while in the background you can see one that fell over. You can also see some of the 15 cherry trees we have planted over the last two years. It is our hope that we can rejuvenate the orchard back to the state it was when the golf course was built. To this end, we have planted the aforementioned cherries as well as nearly 40 apple and pear trees. We estimate that just to fill in the gaps of trees that have not survived, it will take another 30-40 trees. Once we have the gaps filled in, we will start to make decisions on existing trees.

Here you can see the rotted wood in the center of the trunk.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Survival of Bluebirds on Golf Courses

The following is an exerpt from the USGA Green Section Record, courtesy of Michigan State University's Turfgrass Information Library.

Researchers at the College of William and Mary document the survival of eastern
bluebirds fledged on and off golf courses to compare fledgling success rates.

By Allyson K. Jackson and Daniel A. Cristol
Birds are particularly visible residents of golf courses, and few are more attention grabbing than the eastern bluebird. Eastern bluebirds prefer to nest and forage in areas at the intersection of forest and field. Golf courses, with their juxtaposed fairways and trees, are prime real estate for bluebird nests. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters because they nest only in cavities that have been excavated first by another species. Historically, they nested in old woodpecker holes, but in the present day they nest successfully in artificial nest boxes. Many local bird clubs and golf course managers now provide nest boxes for bluebirds, which
attracts them to golf courses in high numbers. However, it is unknown how successful bluebirds fledged on golf courses are at surviving to produce offspring of their own, and how the survival of golf course fledglings compares to non-golf sites.

Early research on other species showed that fledglings die primarily due to two causes — predation and
starvation. Predation is common among young birds because they are not yet proficient at flying and depend
almost entirely on their parents for protection. As they get older and reach independence from their parents, the common cause of death is starvation because many do not have the experience to successfully find enough food to sustain them. The habitat that a bird fledges into could affect its survival, as fledglings
generally require complex vegetation structure to allow escape from predators. Because golf courses generally offer less dense vegetation, we wanted to test if there was a difference in fledgling survival rates between golf course and non-golf habitats.

We chose three local golf courses (all non-links style) and four non-golf sites (ranging from a college campus
to a state park) typical of bluebird nesting habitat in the area around Williamsburg, Virginia. We determined
nesting success on each site by checking each nest box weekly to establish how many eggs were laid
and how many babies survived to fledge.

We used small radio transmitters to track fledgling survival on golf courses in 2008 and 2009. After the birds
fledged naturally, we tracked survival of the birds for up to 40 days after they fledged by relocating them every other day. Every time a fledgling was found, we took a global positioning system (GPS) reading to record its location. The transmitters also enabled us to document the cause of mortality in cases where a bird died before the end of the study.

We tracked 156 bluebird fledglings over the course of the study and documented 57 mortality events. Bluebird fledglings died primarily due to hawk predation, with a subset dying due to starvation or disease, snake predation, or window strikes. Hawk predation is a common cause of death for many species of songbirds. Because bluebird fledglings are such weak flyers, it follows that they could be easy sources of prey for raptors such as red-shouldered hawks, redtailed hawks, and the most likely culprit, Cooper’s hawks. Cooper’s hawks are specialists at songbird predation and are raising their own nestlings at the
time of year when we observed peak bluebird mortality.

The second most common cause of death was starvation or disease, where we recovered the body of the fledgling still intact and attached to the transmitter. This cause of mortality was more common for older fledglings after independence from their parents. We recorded six instances where fledglings were killed by snakes, either black rat snakes or black racers — both common edge specialists in Virginia. There does not appear to be a difference in causes of mortality between golf course and reference sites, indicating that similar predators are found in both habitats.

We detected no difference between golf course and reference sites regarding survival to 40 days post-fledging, indicating that golf course fledglings did no worse than their reference counterparts. Both groups of fledglings averaged about 65% survival to 40 days post-fledging. Our golf course sites were surrounded by suitable habitat, however, so we cannot comment on what would happen on golf courses in more urban landscapes where  the birds do not readily find habitat nearby. When we looked at other factors that may affect survival, we found that there was a large difference between the early and late portions of the breeding season. Birds that fledged early (May and June) were more likely to die than birds that fledged later (July
and August). This could be due to the decrease in hawk predation later in the season. In the late summer months when raptors are no longer feeding their young, we saw a decrease in the number of hawk-related mortalities. We also found the habitat around the nest box was an important determinant of early survival. Immediately after fledging, most birds did not move far from their nests and were constrained to whatever habitat was nearby. Fledglings were more likely to be killed by hawks if they fledged from boxes surrounded by little or no forest cover. If cover was not found near the nest box, reaching safety required a longer and more dangerous journey. Birds that survived had significantly more forest cover around their nest
box than those that were killed.
This study is the first to document that bluebird fledglings on golf courses do no worse than their reference counterparts, despite the potential threats of human disturbance, pesticides, and intensive turf management. Our data also provide for implementation of easy and sound conservation strategies for helping bluebirds on all heavily manicured sites — be it a golf course or a city park. By placing nest boxes in areas where there is sufficient forest cover with undergrowth, we can significantly improve survival of fledgling bluebirds during their most vulnerable early weeks of independence.

We would like to thank the golf course and park managers who allowed us extensive access to their sites. This project was funded by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Links grant (funded by the USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Program). Supplemental funding was provided by the College of William and Mary Biology Department, the Association of Field Ornithologists E. Alexander Bergstrom Memorial Award, Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research grant, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory
Joy Archer Student Research Grant, Williamsburg Bird Club Student Research Grant, and W&M Arts and
Sciences Graduate Research Grant. Field assistance was provided by J. P. Froneberger.



Allyson K. Jackson, M.S.,
BioDiversity Research Institute, Gorham, Maine;


Daniel A. Cristol, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology,
Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies,
Department of Biology,
The College of William and Mary,
Williamsburg, Virginia.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cattails - "Love 'Em And Leave 'Em"

It's no secret that most golfers don't put cattails high on their list of favorite plants. In fact, when it comes to lakes and streams on the course, many players continue to demand the formal look of closely mown turf right to the water's edge. Unfortunately, while neat in appearance, this is a serious mistake environmentally and economically.

Common sense should tell us all that allowing vegetation to grow between the closely mown turf and the edge of the water will result in the interception and slowing of drainage runoff into the lake or stream. This runoff water has the potential to physically carry fertilizers and pesticides into non-target areas. This common sense theory has been substantiated through a great deal of scientific study. It just makes sense - allowing the turf to grow higher at the water's edge helps prevent environmental damage.

Buffer strips of higher mown turf can make a big difference. However, these areas do not do much to enhance bird and amphibian populations. That's where those cattails, willows, and other taller plants come in. In addition to helping to intercept fertilizers and pesticides, these plants provide food, safe cover, and habitat for many different creatures. Who would disagree with the beauty provided by the increased presence of Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, cranes, ducks and other birds? And how about more frogs, lizards, cicadas, fish and even the occasional snake? Bodies of water simply look healthier when they are populated with an abundance of living organisms. The ideal program is to utilize both methods. Mow the turf higher, creating buffer strips, and allow a variety of vegetation to grow along the banks and in the shallows of your course's streams and lakes.

Most golf course superintendents are aware of the benefits of buffer strips and aquatic vegetation. The hard part is convincing golfers that it is the right way to go. Note to golfers - consider one more not insignificant benefit - it is much cheaper to opt for the natural look! Supporting this program will allow your superintendent to concentrate available labor-hours and dollars where they can improve playing quality. This is certainly good news in these economic times.

A Red-winged Blackbird ventures from the nest to forage for insects in the nearby fairway.
So, to take a positive step environmentally, increase wildlife on your course, make the course more attractive, and save money in the process, put those weed whackers away! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May Apples in May!

These wildflowers are called May Apples (Podophyllum peltatum). They are native to Michigan and have appeared for the first time in the natural area between #6 tee and #9 tee.

In among that group is some Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) also a native of Michigan.

This is a picture a the hill between #13 tee and #11 fairway. This area has been managed through prescribed burns, handled by the City's Natural Areas Preservation, for several years and is becoming an example of a native savanna. Savannas are characterized by low, native plants growing under large, mature oak and hickory trees.

Here is a close-up of some of the irises that are starting to bloom in the gardens at the clubhouse.

And a picture of a Great Blue Heron (Aredea herodias)near #17 green.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring-time is Bloom-time!

Some photos from the last couple of weeks at Leslie Park Golf Course.

Cherry blooms near #5 tee.

Pear orchard between #6 and #8.

May apples (Podphyllum peltatum) and trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)along the left of #9.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) near #8 pond

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) on railroad tracks by #3

Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on #9

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Golf Courses Benefit People and Wildlife (taken from the USGA)

What Are the Principles?

Although many Americans enjoy working in their yards and maintaining an attractive landscape, they may not realize the tangible benefits of their efforts. These same benefits are available on the golf course where the combination of mowed turf, trees and natural areas provides a diverse environment for people and wildlife. Preserving these green spaces improves the environmental quality of the entire community.

As the game of golf has become more popular, people have become interested in how golf affects land resources and the environment. Many organizations in golf are actively answering these questions. In the past several years, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has supported more than 90 university studies and research projects to evaluate the relationship between golf and the environment.

This document highlights the benefits of turf, trees and natural areas as commonly found on golf courses. The information presented about these benefits is supported by factual, unbiased university research. Further information about any specific benefit - and the research from which it was drawn - can be provided by the USGA.

The golf course ecosystem:

  • Provides wildlife habitat
  • Protects topsoil from water and wind erosion
  • Improves community aesthetics
  • Absorbs and filters rain
  • Improves health and reduces stress for more than 24.5 million golfers
  • Improves air quality
  • Captures and cleanses runoff in urban areas
  • Discourages pests (e.g. ticks and mosquitoes)
  • Restores damaged land areas (e.g. former landfill or mining sites)
  • Makes substantial contributions to the community's economy

1) Golf Course Roughs and Trees Create Good Wildlife Habitat
More than 70 percent of most golf courses are rough and non-play areas including natural grasses, trees and shrubs. Combined with the open areas of fairways and greens, the golf course is an attractive wildlife habitat. The USGA and the Audubon Society of New York State have developed the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. This program enhances wildlife habitat on and around golf courses. From osprey to deer, an amazing number of species are making golf courses their home.

2) Turf Protects Topsoil from Water and Wind Erosion
Our nation's topsoil is not a renewable resource. Wind and water may erode the topsoil into rivers, lakes and oceans. Once gone, it cannot be replaced in our lifetimes. Turf controls erosion by capturing and slowing fast-flowing water from storms.

How does turf stop erosion? Turf has a dense system of roots and shoots. Its normal growth patterns create organic matter. Together, the dense shoot and root growth slow surface water runoff. For example, during most rainstorms, very little soil is lost from areas covered by well maintained turf. However, there is a considerable loss of soil from bare ground and cropland. Even during extremely intense rainstorms (three inches per hour), studies show that turf holds up to 20 times more soil than traditionally-farmed cropland.

3) Courses Improve Community Aesthetics
Turf not only keeps things cooler on a hot day; it also reduces noise pollution. Turf also reduces the glare of bright sunlight more than pavement or buildings. Plus, the community gains beauty and function when areas damaged by mining or landfills are reclaimed by professionally designed, constructed and maintained golf courses.

4) Turf Absorbs Rainwater
Rain is an important source of clean groundwater - which supplies much of our drinking water. Yet, during severe storms, water may run into streams and lakes, where it can't move through the soil to reach the groundwater.

Turf easily absorbs and filters runoff water during and after storms. Turf absorbs water because its growth habitat creates many tiny spaces that trap and hold moisture. In addition, well maintained turf encourages as many as 300 earthworms per square yard. The tiny tunnels the earthworms provide create even more places for the water to go. As water soaks into the grass and the soil below, it is filtered and cleansed. This process is so effective that many golf courses have become water recycling sites for their communities, using treated wastewater for irrigation.

5) Golf and Turf Reduce Stress, Improve Physical Health
Many types of turf were developed specifically for golf courses and other recreational uses. Golf provides over 24.5 million Americans the opportunity to exercise outdoors.

In research studies, participants lowered their cholesterol levels by walking the course when they played. An average 9-hole course covers about two miles and an 18-hole course about four miles.

In addition to benefits from exercise, research has shown that looking at a pleasant outdoor view can be healthy. In one study, hospital patients recovered faster when they had a view of turf, trees and open spaces. In another study, employees of businesses with well-designed landscaping and well-maintained turf had a more positive job attitude.

6) Turf Helps Beat the Heat and Improve the Air We Breathe
It's cooler in August in the park or in the country than on city streets. This cooler temperature is due to more than the shade. The grass itself can reduce the temperature. Synthetic turf can be twice as hot as green, growing turf - and asphalt is hotter still. Around urban areas, these green areas of grass and trees can actually reduce the energy needed for air conditioning.

Turf also improves the air we breathe. The turf growth process takes carbon dioxide from the air and releases the oxygen we need. A landscape of turf, trees, and shrubs about 2,000 square feet in size generates enough oxygen for one person for one year. Some studies have shown that certain types of turf can even absorb carbon monoxide. This is especially beneficial near roads where carbon monoxide is most concentrated.

7) Turf Captures and Cleans Dirty Runoff in Urban Areas
In urban areas, the water collecting in parking lots, streets and vacant lots can be full of pollutants. Turf areas provide a good growing environment for many microorganisms. These microorganisms, in turf, help cleanse water by digesting the pollutants in the trapped water and speeding up their normal breakdown.

8) Pests, Pollen and Disease
Dense, well-maintained turf helps reduce the weeds and pollen that aggravate allergy sufferers. When turf is mowed regularly, it seldom produces flowers that release pollen.

Closely mowed turf also discourages pests like mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers. Controlling ticks helps reduce the threat of Lyme Disease.

9) Turf Can Help Restore Lost and Damaged Land Areas
Turf is an excellent choice to restore areas damaged by landfills or mining operations. Turf has a very dense root system that holds the soil and rainwater, reducing erosion. As turf grows, it adds organic matter to the soil. This allows it to absorb even more water and hold it.

Many communities have found that a golf course is an excellent way to restore damaged areas. Beautiful golf courses exist today where abandoned quarries, strip mines and landfills once stood. Golf courses combine the benefits of turf with the beauty of landscaping. The result is a total reclamation of land for the community.

10) Golf Contributes To the Community's Economy
Golf has grown in popularity. It now appeals to a broader range of people than ever before. United States golf course facilities impact the economy at an estimated $18 billion each year. Today, more than 24.5 million men, women and youth spend 2.4 billion hours outside, playing one of the 14,500-plus golf courses. The USGA is working to make golf accessible everyone. Over 78 percent of the rounds played are on public golf courses.

For more information, contact the USGA Green Section:
The United States Golf Association Golf House
P.O. Box 708
Far Hills, NJ 07931-0708
(908) 234-2300