Weird and wonderful wildlife

James Kimmingsin Wildlife & Ecology

As many in the industry are looking to invest in wildlife projects and sustainability drives, we wanted to explore some of the rarities within wildlife by highlighting some unique species that have been popping up around golf courses.

Many will remember former world number one Luke Donald being chased by a mischievous baboon back in 2014 at the Nedbank Challenge. Of course, outside of the UK, greenkeepers encounter kangaroos, crocodiles and other exotic animals on a weekly basis.

Looking a little closer to home, Nick Lawson from Sleaford Golf Club told us about the rare animal that he has had on his course: "The long-eared owls (LEO) live in mixed and coniferous woodlands and love to hunt over long grass, hedgerows and, in particular, railway tracks. How lucky we are, that we have all these at Sleaford Golf Club.

The LEO's look long and thin with head feathers (known as ear tufts, even though they are not ears) which it raises when alarmed.

They breed from February onwards and it was back in 2017, purely by chance, that I came across them. Whilst out checking small bird boxes one May evening, I came across three owlets sitting side by side on a tree branch and fortunately I had my camera with me. Having posted the photo on our Club noticeboard, almost immediately I was contacted by a bird enthusiast who advised they were LEO;s and very rare to see.

They like to nest in old unused nests of other birds such as magpies or rooks. The following year we started looking for possible sites and three out of the last six years, we have identified the nests used by them and have been able to keep the areas safe. On one occasion, we even managed to hide in an adjacent tree and watch them rear their young. We believe them to be the only recorded nests in Lincolnshire.

Sleaford Golf Club is an SSSI and, as such, the grasses and areas are protected. We witnessed ample food being brought to the nest by the adult LEOs including small rodents, a young rabbit and a frog.

Bradley Adams from Kirkcudbright Golf Club also told us about his unique wildlife: "We've had kookaburras coming onto the course for the past year. There is an old Wildlife Park just behind the boundary of the golf course.

My guesses are that during a storm, a tree or branch has fallen onto the aviary and they've managed to escape from there. There are rumours that some of the meerkats have also escaped and are thriving just outside the golf course, but sadly I can't 100% confirm that though!"

In terms of addressing wildlife and conservation on golf courses, there are two key issues that come into play:

  • Protected habitats and species - these may be found on a golf course and could have legal implications for management and development.
  • General biodiversity value - there is potential to manage golf courses such that they maintain and increase the wildlife they support.
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GolfWildlife & ecology