If you’re like me, and occasionally look up in the middle of your swing, you may have noticed a wide variety of wildlife on the course this year. Our Management and Turf Teams are environmentally aware, and they are committed to taking advantages of what the Audubon Society refers to as “Golf’s Environmental Opportunities”. Read More>>
Of particular note, there has been a plethora of raptors on the course. These birds of prey have been taking advantage of the abundance of rabbits and other small game that have proliferated this season. A couple of weeks ago many members may have noticed a northern goshawk, on top of one of the posts on the driving range, chowing down on a squirrel The goshawk was also seen in a tree on the west side of ten fairway. The local falcon took great exception, buzzing the hawk repeatedly.
Earlier this summer we saw a red-tailed hawk with a rabbit in its talons. The rabbit was quite a load for the hawk and it had to stop to rest in a tree along 16 fairway. There’s been an adult bald eagle on the course as well as an adolescent eagle. The eagles can often be seen in the afternoon, soaring high above. At dusk you can see a great horned owl hunting for rodents and other game. There have been also been grey owls and snowy owls on the course, especially along the east side.
Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in the world and during almost every round at Niakwa you can hear their calls and hear the males drumming for a mate. There are downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, sap suckers in the spring, and flickers in the fall.
There are the usual blue jays, nuthatches and chickadees (the turf team has put up chickadee boxes). Wood ducks nest in the duck box along 12. We have kingfishers on the Seine by 13 tee, red winged blackbirds in the reeds, and (Shawn Major’s favourite) great blue herons wading along the ponds and riverbanks hunting for fish. In the spring and the fall, warblers, songbirds, waterfowl – and all manner of migratory birds – stop by for a visit.
Our ponds are also home to painted turtles, and of course, the prehistoric snapping turtles that can often been seen lumbering down the fairway.
As we all know there are many deer living on the course. Newborn fawns are always a hit in the spring months and this time of the year there are often bucks on the course, expressing an interest in our does.
There are many other mammals making a home on, and around, the course. Our foxes are looking sleek and healthy this year and coyotes can be spotted in the early morning. Foxes like to bury their dinner leftovers in the sand traps and one sly devil keeps digging a hole in our turf nursery. Racoons are still making their homes in our trees. Beavers, muskrats, minks and even a pine martin frequent the river. The turf team has erected bat boxes, which helps with insect control.
The Audubon Society has been actively promoting golf courses as wild life sanctuaries, and as areas where native plants can be maintained within urban areas. The Club has taken the first steps to achieve Certification under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. In doing so, Niakwa is committing to Environmental Planning, Habitat Management, Water Conservation and Management, Chemical Reduction and Safety, and Outreach and Education.
Examples of projects which could be part of an Audubon Certification Program include a “Monarchs in the Rough” area with milkweed and native wildflowers; naturalization of the ponds; an outreach program with local schools; and managing our irrigation with a weather station monitoring water evaporation and transpiration.
Here’s a link to the Audubon Fact Sheet that describes the program. https://auduboninternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/GE-Golf-and-the-Environment.pdf
Certification under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program will require input and effort from both Members and Management. Obtaining Certification will be a significant feather in Niakwa’s cap.