This golf club has done something amazing for local wildlife
Boston West Golf Club in Lincolnshire won the ‘Green Award’ at the 2013 Boston Business Awards and its head greenkeeper, Richard Owens, earlier this year was named ‘Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year’ at the STRI Golf Environment Awards, for creating a ‘mini nature reserve’ featuring a diverse range of wildlife at the club.
Several thousand trees and woody shrubs have been planted on the site, log piles have been created within woodland areas that are used as a refuge by invertebrate species and 100 nest boxes and have been built and installed throughout the course with annual occupancy at around 80 percent.
Richard is a registered nest recorder and monitors several of the boxes during the nesting season to provide vital information for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Bird ringing is carried out on site providing further information to the BTO for scientific research regarding species range, populations and growth. One nest box is even used by the local bees to create and store their honey.
The highlight of last year was recording the progress of five kestrel chicks from eggs to successful fledgings.
The longer grassland on the course is now alive with short tailed voles, field mice and shrews, which in turn has attracted kestrels searching for a meal overhead. Common buzzards have been seen taking rabbits.
Great spotted woodpeckers and the UK’s smallest bird, the goldcrest are now regular sightings at the venue. In the summer months the woodlands become home to many migrant blackcaps, chiffchaff and willow warbler, and during the winter months the alder attracts large flocks of goldfinches, siskin and lesser redpoll.
The guelder rose berries in the planted shrubs have been appreciated by many visiting waxwings, with 29 spotted at the same time recently. In 2008, the first sighting of a tree sparrow was recorded out on the course, so several communal nest boxes were installed in the area. The following spring, as a result, many juveniles were observed, and now there are high numbers of this RSPB red-listed species finding refuge in the 3,000 metres plus of reinstated hedgerows. This has also led to occasional visits by the local sparrowhawk.
The largest of the club’s water features is managed as a reed bed and is always alive with amphibious activity. Mallards, coots and moorhens are all resident and little grebe, teal and tufted ducks have visited with the latter nesting on site for the first time in 2013. Grey herons, little egret and common tern also visit making good use of the hazards’ healthy fish stocks!
Kingfishers are occasionally seen and mute swans have nested on the course. They even infamously made the travel reports on local radio after contributing to Boston’s traffic problems by twice closing the A1121 whilst taking their cygnets for a stroll along the road – complete with police escort!
Cuckoo flower, yellow flag and ragged robin all thrive and a relaxed approach to the management of ditch banks was rewarded with the appearance of a southern marsh orchid.
The reeds attract nesting pairs of reed warblers, sedge warblers and reed buntings in the summer, plus elusive species like water rail and water voles. Many dragonflies including brown hawkers fly in this area too and during the summer months, large numbers of sand martins and swallows can be seen hawking over the reed bed feeding.
Over the past 10 years, a thriving wildflower meadow area has been established on the site, thanks to sympathetic mowing, with several wildflower species now providing a vital resource for bees. Common blue butterflies are also attracted to the birds foot trefoil and the knapweed attracts the six spot burnet and silver y moth. A second wildflower area has been created on another part of the course and will hopefully be as successful.
Butterflies thrive along the woodland edges and 17 species have so far been recorded. The large skipper and green veined white have been the two most recent in occurrence.
Regular moth trapping is also carried out during the spring to autumn period and in excess of 120 species have been recorded so far, including several species of the impressive hawkmoth family. The UK’s largest moth, the privet hawkmoth, has been a regular capture. Once recorded all are released unharmed.
In March 2011, Richard embarked on his most ambitious project to date, with the self-build construction of a barn owl tower made from reclaimed bricks and pantiles.
Initially, three kestrels showed an interest, and then at the beginning of September, the first barn owl entered the tower, which has since been used as a roost with nesting surely only a matter of time.
Away from the course, Richard publicises the conservation efforts of Boston West via an illustrated talk, presenting to local wildlife and friendship groups and also recently to around 100 members, raising funds for the RSPB Boston Wildlife Explorers Group. Richard is also a volunteer RSPB youth leader, educating children about nature and the environment.
Boston West employs three dedicated greenkeepers; Richard and his assistants Tom Luffman and Andrew Barber, who have introduced a conservation management plan to provide future development. More projects are planned including new tawny owl nest boxes and possibly the construction of a nesting wall for sand martins.
“The course is demonstrating that with careful management, its commercial interest of golf and its conservation projects really can live side-by-side, compromise free,” said a spokesman.