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Birds and Birdies at Gull Lake View
By John Block

Golf courses and the environment are becoming partners, and all things concerned are reaping the benefits.

Most golf course superintendents today are extremely environmentally conscious. The goal is to make their courses pleasing to players as well as blending well with nature and the wild creatures using the area.

A good case in point are the five Scott courses in the Richland/Battle Creek area: Gull Lake View East and West, Stonehedge and Stonehedge North and Bedford Valley. All five courses are part of the Audubon Society program, but the Scotts have also entered into an agreement with the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

"Even though we were part of the Audubon program, we were concerned that we weren't doing as good a job as we thought we could," says Charlie Scott, who is in charge of overall maintenance at the five courses.

The Scotts had put out nesting boxes for birds, but wanted to do more if possible.

"We talked with the Nature Center," Scott says, "and the possibility came up about them monitoring the boxes. We made a donation to them to cover the costs of their work.

"The Audubon program is voluntary. The main purpose is to improve habitat for wildlife. You can do as much or as little as you want."

The Scotts erected bird houses and planted native grasses and flowers.

"We had bird boxes up 10 years before we got involved with the Audubon program," Scott says.

Ray Adams, director of research at the Nature Center, says the program at the Scott courses is working well.

"All five courses have good habitat and a rich population of birds," he says. "There are a lot of woodland birds and a good range from 37 different breeding species at Stonehedge North to 44 at Gull Lake View East. They range from birds of prey to bank swallows."

Adams says the nest boxes on the courses showed 163 young bluebirds, 171 tree swallows and 11 black capped chickadees.

Bird populations in this area have been in decline over the last 20 years, and a big reason for that, Adams says, is because of changes in land use. This spring, because of the unseasonably cold weather, has been especially bad for birds.

"They are running eight or nine days late," Adams says. "The cold nights hurt and their feeding patterns are goofed up."

In addition to birds, the Nature Center work looked at other forms of animal life, specifically amphibians, and water quality.

For a variety of reasons, amphibians, notably frogs and toads, have been in decline across the nation in recent years. Golf courses help these creatures.

"Golf courses provide excellent habitat for amphibians," Adams says, "They create ponds, that don't have the same predators that are found in lakes."

That's very apparent at Gull Lake View East and West, where frog populations are abundant.

"We don't have any obligations with this program," Scotts says, "but we do want to make our players aware that this is more than a golf course."

It's a concept that Adams is fully in favor of.

"It's an excellent program," he says. "It's a neat idea, the kind of partnership we should encourage. As long as the human population continues to grow and take up more space, we have to protect the habitat we have and make as much available as possible."

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