Blog

Here you can find all the latest Audubon International news! From the great environmental efforts of our members, to where we will be next, to helpful tips you can apply at your golf course, you can find it all here.
  • 10/03/2012 4:07 PM | Deleted user
    As the season draws to a close for many of our northern property managers and starts up for southern properties, now is a good time to think about collecting documentation regarding your outdoor stewardship efforts.

    Wildlife Inventory
    Spring is the best time to do a wildlife inventory, primarily because during the mating season the male birds are in full breeding display, both in color and in song, making them easy to identify. At this time of year many of the birds are a more camouflaged brown color or, for northern properties, have already left to go south for the winter. Still, if you are looking to document your Wildlife and Habitat Management this winter, you should not put off creating a wildlife inventory much longer.

    Photographs
    Take photos to document what your stewardship efforts.  These should include:
    •    Natural areas, such as representative woods, wetlands, ponds, and gardens.
    •    Maintenance facility, including: pesticide storage, mix and load areas, and equipment wash areas.
    •    Representative water features.
    •    Outreach and education activities- take photos of people in action implementing projects, resource committee members or meetings, tours if you host them, and your display.
    •    Before and After photos of project work.

    Property Map
    After making changes to the property, such as when you have added natural areas, update your map. Though there is no particular size requirement for your map, we recommend keeping it to 8-1/2 x 14 inches or, if your property is quite large, make one 8-1/2 x 14 inch map per each nine holes of golf.   You can do this by photocopying and reducing an existing property map, such as an irrigation map. Google maps or a similar online resource is also a good source for your base map.

    Integrated Pest Management Records
    •    Chemical Use Tables (Pesticide, Fertilizer, Aquatic Weed/Pest Control Reference Tables)
    •    Scouting Records

    Water Quality Test Results
    Testing must be conducted at least one time per year.  All irrigation sources must be tested for nutrients, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and specific conductivity.  Creeks/streams/rivers should be tested for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, specific conductivity, and either nutrients OR macroinvertebrates.

    Case Study
    We will accept case studies at any time. If you have an environmental project of any kind, from a new turfgrass management technique, recycling or reuse project, to an outreach and education project, please let us know about it. We use these case studies during presentations, in articles, and as examples when talking to reporters.

    Remember that your documentation can also be a valuable communications tool for your Outreach and Education efforts.
  • 09/27/2012 10:00 AM | Deleted user
    We often see maintenance facilities in serious need of upgrades, but even in the best of times it is difficult to get funding to improve these areas. Fuels, oils, and concentrated chemicals are the most hazardous elements of landscape maintenance. Spills can degrade the quality of surface and ground water as well as cause these chemicals to enter the food web. There should be spill containment for these materials where they are stored, mixed, and loaded.

    Luckily, there are some low cost options to improve spill containment. In the storage area, placing liquid chemical containers into plastic or metal trays or bins provide instant secondary containment. Available in large box stores, second hand stores, and garage sales, any waterproof container large enough to sit your bottles in will prevent drips and leaks from soaking into shelving or dripping onto the floor. Another option is to place shelving units inside of larger cement mixing tubs. These secondary containment options are especially important if you have wooden shelves or floors.

    Many maintenance facilities have a combined wash pad and mix/load station. The presence of the drain, designed primarily with the purpose of moving wash water from the pad to someplace else, will also move a chemical spill, making it difficult if not impossible to collect the spill so that the chemical can be handled as per the label or MSDS. We recommend building separate pads for washing and for mixing and loading, but when you have a combined system and building a new pad is not an option, a low cost approach is to purchase a drain cover. Putting the cover over the drain prior to opening the container of concentrated chemicals will ensure that a spill remains on the pad and can be collected with the most inexpensive of spill kits - kitty litter stored in a waterproof container.

  • 09/24/2012 2:19 PM | Nancy Richardson (Administrator)

    It never ceases to amaze me what necessity can help us to invent.  And I am quite sure that I would never have thought of using a vacuum in this particular way.   But when it came to dealing with a native honeybee swarm at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, a local beekeeper used a new method to exact the little critters from the wetland area where they were not wanted.  


    Golf Course Superintendent Brent Palich said the bees just showed up as a swarm one morning. “We didn’t think the bees would be harmful to the golfers, but, on the other hand, with the close proximity to the fifth green we didn’t want to cause any panic to golfers so we thought we should do something about them.”  With honey bees disappearing across the country due to Honey Bee Colony Collapse, beekeepers are always eager to get new bee populations.  But how do you find one of those  beekeepers?   You got it ….just Google ‘Beekeeper’.  Fortunately, one beekeeper popped up as being located nearby and came right out to Sand Ridge with a new instrument for removal of bees. 


    Historically, beekeepers just shake bees down into an empty box hoping to capture the queen within the mass of worker bees.  This creates a lot of flying,  unhappy bees in the air and is not always completely successful.   With the specially designed bee vacuum in hand, the removal is more methodical and upsets the bees less.  As you can see from the photo, the bees are just sucked up through the hose and into an awaiting box or hive.  Since this first swarm, Sand Ridge has had other noticeable swarms to fly in, but Palich said “we have just allowed them to stay as they have always moved on by the next day.”  Guess they heard about the vacuum, huh.

  • 09/22/2012 5:15 PM | Deleted user
    Three years ago, someone had an idea to help The First Tee chapters across the country to conduct environmental improvements at their host golf courses. With support from the FedEx Cup and now Toro we have done course improvement projects at fourteen golf courses and have a number more planned.

    Today, because of that idea, over a hundred people got up this morning and headed to The Bob O’Connor Golf Course in Pittsburgh, PA. Today, because of that idea, we planted wildflowers on the course in an area that used to be maintained turfgrass. Those wildflowers will provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife.

    Because of that idea, we were all connected to the red-tailed hawk, who perched in a nearby tree to watch us improve its home. We educated over 100 individuals about habitat, turfgrass management, and how each of us is connected to everybody and everything else.

    What idea will you wake up with tomorrow that will change the world?
  • 09/14/2012 2:55 PM | Deleted user
    On a recent trip in Minneapolis, I had some time before I had to head to the airport and was thrilled to find a National Wildlife Refuge close by. It was a pleasure to stretch my legs while checking out the local flora and fauna.

    Refuges and nature centers are not only great places to visit, but they are fantastic local resources as well. Near the visitors center there were numerous gardens with educational signs displaying the benefits of rain gardens, highlighting different butterfly attracting plants, and identifying local wildlife.

    There is also a plethora of useful information inside. The exhibits highlight local ecosystems and wildlife. I picked up brochures on a variety of topics including native plants, prescribed fires, and invasive species. Most importantly, however, are the knowledgeable staff. I strongly believe in the use of controlled burns to maintain natural areas, but find that most of our members do not know where to start. Knowing that they use burns in the refuge I asked if they ever work with private landowners. The answer was not only "yes", but they knew about Audubon International and were already working with some of our members.

    I also want to mention, for all our Twin City members, that Karen Shragg and the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield is also a great friend of Audubon International and our members. I am NOT a fan of Wikipedia, but they seem to be the only site that has a list of nature centers in the US. You are likely better off using Google to find somewhere local.

    According to the National Wildlife Refuge System website, there is at least one wildlife refuge in each of the 50 states and one within an hours drive of most major U.S. cities. You can find the refuges nearest you by visiting www.fws.gov/refuges/zipCodeLocator/index.cfm. It's worth the trip!
  • 09/07/2012 10:20 AM | Deleted user
    Preparing an environmental plan has many benefits including: illustrating how environmental conservation activities complement one another, paving the way for improved property management, facilitating communications about environmental stewardship, helping managers set goals and objectives, and providing a means to evaluate progress.  The environmental plan process should begin with a site assessment and an important part of this process is taking pictures.  Pictures provide a visual record of projects, help communicate your plans, and help promote your work.

    Pictures provide excellent documentation of your stewardship activities and can be used as an educational tool for both your patrons and the general public.  The most effective photographs are before and after pictures, taken from the same vantage point, of various projects, such as naturalization, garden improvements, water enhancements, or facility improvements.  Photographs of people in action working on various projects will also help you tell your story in a personable way.  Photographs allow you to show others not only the progress you have made, but also the aesthetic value of stewardship projects.

    Photo credit:
    Before and after pictures of lake littoral shelf plantings at The Everglades Club, Palm Beach, FL
  • 08/30/2012 3:54 PM | Deleted user
    I often hear people lament about the focus that we put on Outreach and Education, especially prior to beginning these efforts. Many of our members would prefer a tooth canal to public speaking. If you fall into this category, fear no more! There are plenty of ways to get your environmental message across without standing in front of a podium.

    Signs and displays offer a passive method of communicating ideas. We are collecting pictures and putting them in a photo folder on our Facebook page. You should find an example that will fit your budget and environment. If you have a great example of something you have put up, be sure to share it with us!
  • 08/27/2012 2:56 PM | Anonymous
    Recently Designated
    Audubon International is proud to announce the following recently designated Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries:

    Wynn Golf Club - Las Vegas, Nevada

    Wynn Golf Club is the ninth course in Nevada and the 987th in the world to be designated by Audubon International. With terrain once thought impossible on the Strip, this 7,042 yard, par 70 course offers 18 holes of challenging beauty. The staff at the Wynn Golf Club have done an excellent job of incorporating environmental training modules into their employee handbook to educate and give purpose to their stewardship efforts. For more information, visit: http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/Activities/Golf/WynnGolfCourse


    Recently Re-Certified
    Audubon International is also proud to recognize the following members for their continued environmental stewardship efforts:

    Century Country Club - Westcher, New York

    Griffin Gate Golf Club - Fayette, Kentucky

    The Wilderness Golf Course - Lake Jackson, Texas


    New Members
    Audubon International would like to congratulate the following new members:

    The Links at Challedon - Mount Airy, Maryland

    Pipestem Resort & State Park - Pipestem, West Virginia

    Redgate Golf Course - Rockville, Mayland

    Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club - Lewiston, New York

    Wind River Golf Club - Lenoir City, Tennessee
  • 08/24/2012 10:37 AM | Deleted user
    I absolutely stunned one of our members last week. We had just completed a site visit and were enjoying lunch when he asked, "If there was only one thing you would want me to do, what would it be?" My answer? "Remove your nest boxes." After recovering from his shock, he stated that was the absolute last thing he would have expected.

    It is probably the last thing many of the people we work with at Audubon International would expect. Many are surprised to find that we don't require nest boxes for certification. I find that many people, upon making the decision to be more environmental, start with installing next boxes. But that is usually when the project basically stops. As in the case of this member, nest boxes are usually cleaned out once a year, typically as a winter project. I will now, therefore, take the opportunity to stand up on my soap box and state for the record:

    If you are not going to monitor your nest boxes and remove invasive species, then you should not have nest boxes.

    The reason is that house sparrows and European swallows will almost always out-compete our native species. When allowed to nest successfully, their increased numbers can cause a decrease in the numbers of bluebirds and tree swallows, exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish.

    Don't get me wrong. I love nest boxes when done properly. I have them myself and love to show off the romantic bluebird couple, followed by the eggs, then the young, and, during good years, we might even get a second nesting. But my current success was preceded by years of only kicking out house sparrows.

    One way to decide whether you should have nest boxes is to ask yourself if you or anyone on your crew has time to monitor each nest box at least once every two weeks during the nesting season. How about someone that visits the property regularly or a neighbor that will take on the project? If the answers are no, ask yourself if there is a local birding group that might welcome the opportunity to start a new nest box trail. Some members have been successful in creating an "adopt-a-box" program where patrons monitor "their" box. If all your inquiries yield no one willing to monitor, then a nest box project is not right for your property.

    Why bother at all then? Nest boxes can provide you with an excellent way to tell your environmental story. But, and this is a very strong but, only if the boxes are carefully monitored. Knowing exactly what species (Eastern Bluebird) and how many young fledged (5) is a great way for me to highlight the importance of my tall grass areas and convince my husband, who loves to mow, why we don't need more lawn. So think about nest boxes as fitting more in your outreach and education efforts. It's an opportunity to include people in your stewardship efforts, justify your natural areas, and provide a great story. Nestcams are a new fad and members have live feeds into their clubhouses or on their websites. Exciting stuff!

    For more information on nest boxes and monitoring, I recommend visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch program and clicking on the Learn tab.
  • 08/17/2012 8:53 AM | Deleted user
    Integrated pest management involves a variety of management strategies to keep pest populations below levels that are economically and aesthetically damaging without creating a hazard to people and the environment. One control method is hand pulling weeds. At Shadow Wood Country Club in Bonita Springs, FL they required all maintenance employees to pull at least 100 weeds per day. The results of this program led to less chemical applications, which also reduced costs, while protecting the environment. The practice has been found to be most beneficial when weeds are pulled near lakes and natural areas.

    When the economy forced them to do away with overtime, they changed this practice of scheduling hand weeding to an incentive program.

    From Eric Ruha, Director of Golf Course Operations:
    "Employees are encouraged to constantly be on the lookout for weeds in the course of their other daily tasks rather than the job of pulling weeds being a scheduled task. They turn in their “weed bags” daily and receive credit for that day. All employees who turn in at least 4 bags weekly are given a raffle ticket for that week. Once a month we hold a raffle and give away several prizes. Prizes are vendor appreciation gifts or items that we order in the vendor point rebate programs.  In this way we have kept the practice going strong while keeping the staff motivated to participate and without spending any extra money."

    The incentives program has been ongoing for a few years now and Eric considers it a great success.The cost is minimal since Ziploc bags and raffle tickets are low cost items, vendors supply the raffle prizes, and employees are hand weeding during the course of their regular activities. The incentive is good for morale since everyone gets involved and loves to win stuff. Environmental benefits include a reduction of chemical use and lake banks are maintained without the use of chemicals. Members love to see course employees being environmentally friendly and enjoy the lack of weeds on the playing surfaces.

    This is a great example of how a superintendent was able to motivate his staff to get a task done. What activity do you want to accomplish that you might be able to provide a similar carrot to your staff?


    From left to right - Alexander Alvarez, Felix Ortiz and Rolando Alcon with their “weed bags” and the board used to track them.
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