Golf courses can provide a place where wildlife and people can live and play together.
Mark Twain once said “Golf is a good walk spoiled”, but at Acer Ecology, we disagree! Golf course development and management can be easily intertwined with wildlife conservation. What could be more enjoyable than putting a birdie while a blackbird sings in the bushes?!
Our experienced and licensed staff at Acer Ecology offer a range of services to help golf courses carry out their developments and allow them to progress through the planning system whilst simultaneously achieving local and national wildlife conservation goals.
Golf Courses and Wildlife
Which of our wildlife can benefit from golf courses? Well, the range of habitats of golf courses provides somewhat of a microcosm of the wider countryside where wildlife can flourish.
For example, did you know that nearly 100 SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) in England cover all or parts of golf courses, whilst other courses are covered by non-statutory designations?
Not only do they provide reservoirs for wildlife, but they can also act as important corridors for wildlife to cross the countryside through urbanised areas. What species use golf courses? A whole range! Read on for species we often encounter when working with golf courses.
Great Crested Newt – Par for the Course
Newts, including the protected and charismatic great crested newt, all use golf courses. Golf courses often have multiple ponds on their grounds and, as amphibians, newts return to ponds to breed between March and June, which is the only time to survey for them. You can read more about their annual life cycle here.
At Acer Ecology, we offer a range of services from HSI assessments, bottle trapping surveys, Dewsbury trap surveys, egg searches, torching surveys, natural refugia searches and netting. We also offer eDNA testing services of pongs, which can prove to be an effective time saver!
As well as having suitable ponds for newts to breed in, we can help golf courses manage and enhance ponds for newts, as well as undertake license applications for development projects. The surrounding terrestrial habitat needs to be suitable for newts to live in for the rest of the year. Banks of rough, tussocky grassland dotted with lost golf balls are ideal! Newts tend to stay within 500m of a breeding pond but can venture further if there are suitable habitat corridors. Our experienced staff have devised many terrestrial habitat management schemes on golf courses to allow newts to thrive throughout the year. Things we like to encourage are rough, tussocky grasslands around ponds which connect to features such as hedgerows, woodland or artificial hibernation areas we have constructed.
However, great crested newts have been known to make use of the green and fairway themselves! Under the cover of night, newts have been known to utilise the closely cropped grass to travel faster between habitats.
Nesting Birds – Birdies all Round
Birds are the most obvious and easily seen animals on the course. Some birds, such as the skylark, are regular and welcome residents on golf courses. Their melodic and complex songs with amazing aerial displays are often enjoyed by golfers and add to the experience of a round of 18.
At Acer Ecology, we understand that you may need to clear vegetation when developing, extending or altering your course. We can undertake nesting bird surveys and checks and provide you with advice on how to undergo vegetation clearance and manage it in such a way as not to impact nesting birds during the breeding season which runs from March to August, but also to enhance your course for birds.
Management of the rough is key to maintaining and enhancing a wildlife-rich course. Rotational hay cutting of rough grassland in September not only provides nesting sites for skylark and meadow pipit, but also encourages a diversity in plants and butterflies which can bring a splash of colour to a golf course. We also like to encourage an area of semi-rough between the real rough and grassland and the fairway, so that speed of play is not affected and disturbance to nesting birds is avoided. The management of rough grassland also allows small mammals to thrive which may bring stunning birds of prey such as barn owl or kestrels to your course…spotting a fluttering kestrel suddenly diving on a vole is certainly work a mention back at the clubhouse.
Attracting other nesting birds to your course is very simple: maintaining thickets of bramble, hawthorn, rowan, gorse, willow and broom will create the soundtrack of your golf course all year round. Species such as linnet, dunnock, wren, blackbird, robin, warblers, song thrush, fieldfare and redwing will all frequent your bushes. Erecting bird boxes can also be a quick and easy way to attract birds and temporarily compensate for the loss of nesting habitat during vegetation clearance.
Bats – Bats in the Clubhouse and the Trees
Extending, re-roofing or demolish and rebuilding the clubhouse? Clearing trees or woodland? You may need a bat survey.
Golf courses can make very good foraging grounds for bats. The diversity and mosaic of habitats on golf courses which are often well connected with each other and the wider landscape can attract bats from far and wide. Of course, the advantage of living so close to a fantastic food source is a ‘no-brainer’ and bats will often roost in both buildings and trees which are present on most golf courses.
If you are proposing works to your clubhouse, or any other buildings on site where a bat survey has been requested, then Acer Ecology can help you.
The first stage of a bat survey can be undertaken at any time of year, this involves a site inspection where one of our experienced and licensed ecologists will search the building internally and externally for evidence of bats and look for any potential roosting features that may be used by bats.
The second stage of a bat survey is seasonally constrained and must be undertaken at a time when bats occupy summer roost sites. For building surveys, this is from May to August, and from May to September for tree surveys. These surveys involve positioning observers around the building, tree or structure at dusk and/or dawn to determine if bats emerge or re-enter the structure and are using it as a roost. Ultrasound bat detectors are used during this work to assist with species identification.
If a proposed development will affect a bat roost, a European Protected Species Licence may be needed prior to the start of works. The licence application process requires the agreement of a method statement which will ensure that bats can continue to occupy the site after the development has been completed.
Our licensed bat survey specialists are able to undertake all aspects of bat surveys including initial bat scoping surveys, dusk emergence and dawn re-entry flight activity surveys and remote monitoring. We have many years’ experience in the design and implementation of mitigation strategies for bats. This includes the construction of bespoke bat roosts, bat exclusions and bat roost enhancement, as well as applying for European Protected Species licences for bats.
Reptiles in the Rough
The rough once again! A well-managed area of tussocky rough grassland is a favourite home to our beloved native reptiles. Slow worm and common lizard are often found on south-facing banks of rough grassland on golf courses.
If you are extending, altering or clearing vegetation on your golf course, then we can help you avoid killing or injuring reptiles in the process. At Acer Ecology, we regularly undertake reptile surveys. Reptiles hibernate over the winter months and so surveys for reptiles are performed when they are active. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for detecting reptiles, but they can also be picked up by surveys in the summer months. Our experienced staff survey for reptiles utilising the two main and proven techniques for finding reptiles which are direct searching and artificial refugia surveys, which takes a total of 7 visits to a site.
We have also formulated many reptile mitigation strategies involving fence, trap and clear translocation schemes; however, golf courses lend themselves to much less invasive forms of mitigation. At Acer Ecology, we will aim to encourage reptiles to move away from development footprints, using species deterrence and destructive search techniques to move on to other areas of suitable adjacent reptile habitat which are plentiful on golf courses. This allows reptiles to stay and thrive on golf courses and is also a much more cost effective form of mitigation. We also encourage golf courses to install simple forms of reptile enhancement such as artificial hibernacula to provide over-wintering sites for these critters. Everybody wins!
Golf Courses – A Great Opportunity
So there you have it! Birds, Bats, Newts and Reptiles. These are the most common species we encounter with golf course developments. Obviously other species we work with such as badger, dormouse and otter are not excluded from golf courses either and can sometimes appear too! That’s why at Acer Ecology, we provide you with every ecological solution to successfully develop and manage your golf course.
If you would like to discuss more about the ecological services we offer, call us on 029 2065 0331 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.