Golf Course Management

JUN 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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30 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 06.19 Golf courses often go to great lengths to be environmentally friendly. Initiatives small and large — from plant- ing a discreet pollinator garden to massive solar installations — can entail countless labor hours and hundreds, or hundreds of thou- sands, of dollars. And then there's the Raptor Reloca- tion Network. "•ere's really not a lot we have to do on our end," says Chris Boyle, CGCS, superin- tendent at Mendham Golf and Tennis Club in Mendham, N.J., and a 24-year GCSAA mem- ber. "It's not a burden at all." "Really, there's no negative impact," adds Ryan Tuxhorn, superintendent at nearby Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernards- ville, N.J., and a 14-year association member. "I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to take part in it." •e Raptor Relocation Network, a part- nership between Audubon International and the United Airlines Eco-Skies program, began as a way for wildlife managers to re- locate trapped raptors — falcons, hawks and owls — from New York-area airports to golf courses that are part of the Audubon certifi- cation programs. Relocation sites must be at least five miles from an airport of any size, and a minimum of 15 miles (for smaller birds of prey) or 30 miles (for larger raptors) from a major airport. "In this area of New Jersey," Tuxhorn says, "that's difficult to do with all the air- ports around." •e network launched in the summer of 2017 and already is expanding. Audubon In- ternational in May announced plans to take the network west — initially to six courses that would serve as relocation sites for raptors, primarily barn owls and red-tailed hawks, cap- tured at San Francisco International Airport. •e RRN's West Coast debut is expected this month, and Audubon CEO Christine Kane says ultimately the organization would like to expand the network nationwide. "•at," Kane says, "is the goal." Boyle has been on board from the start. He's well-acquainted with Matt Ceplo, CGCS, superintendent at Rockland Coun- try Club in Sparkill, N.Y. Ceplo, a 33-year GCSAA member and winner of the 2013 President's Award for Environmental Steward- ship, is treasurer of Audubon International. When Audubon and United conceived of the RRN, Ceplo quickly thought of Boyle. "Matt knows we've got a very active bird program here at our club, with bluebirds and purple martins," Boyle says. "He thought it might be something I might be interested in." Boyle quickly learned just how low-main- tenance participation would be. One after- noon, workers built a handful of nesting boxes suitable for American kestrels, affixed the boxes to trees … and the course was ready for its first relocated raptor. Audubon deemed Mendham and Somer- set Hills to be good relocation sites for Ameri- can kestrels. "We have acres and acres and acres of fine fescue," Tuxhorn says. "Kestrels love that." And airport wildlife managers love to find ways to keep them away from the runways. It seems birds colliding with aircraft can be as costly as it is dangerous. •e Federal Aviation Administration re- ported 193,969 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft in the U.S. between 1990 and 2017, and 187,343 of those involved birds. Of those bird strikes, 14,374 were characterized as Relocated raptors call courses home (environment) Andrew Hartsock Twitter: @GCM_Magazine Raptors — like this American kestrel — caught at any of the five Port Authority of New York and New Jersey airports might be relocated to a golf course member of the Raptor Relocation Network. Photo courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey damaging. Combined cost of all damaging strikes: more than $765,000,000. Doves/pigeons made up 14% of the strikes, followed by raptors (13%), gulls (11%), shorebirds (9%) and waterfowl (5%). Wa - terfowl were to blame for the greatest number of damaging strikes. Canada geese were ID'd as the culprits in the 2009 emergency land- ing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson." •ough kestrel populations are on the decline in the Northeast — they're listed as "threatened" in New Jersey — they are the most frequently struck species at Newark and Teterboro airports. •ose two airports, plus JFK, LaGuardia and Stewart, fall under the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which traps, bands and relocates the birds within 24 hours. •ere are nine Raptor Relocation Net- work golf course release sites in New Jersey and New York. Each designates a "citizen sci- entist" to help monitor the birds. If said sci- entist (or an eagle-eyed superintendent) spies a relocated raptor, they report it to Audubon, which maintains an interactive map of sites and subsequent sightings at auduboninter However … "I can't get close enough, and they don't sit long enough, even through a 400-power spotting scope … I've never been able to see a band," Boyle says. "I think some of these birds have started to call this place home, but I can't say for sure. Before we started the program, it was very rare that I'd see a kestrel on the prop- erty. I've seen 30 or more in the last two years." "We have had a handful of sightings," Tux- horn echoes. "Unfortunately, they're not the easiest thing to see. And I'm focused on the ground. I'm always looking down, not look- ing up." Andrew Hartsock is GCM 's managing editor.

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