Golfers to help with conservation

GETTING a "birdie" is taking on a whole new meaning at some of Suffolk's golf courses as the result of conservation initiatives encouraged by the county wildlife trust.

GETTING a "birdie" is taking on a whole new meaning at some of Suffolk's golf courses as the result of conservation initiatives encouraged by the county wildlife trust.

For the roughs into which some golf balls inevitably find their way are also being sought out by skylarks for nesting.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has now produced a factsheet in conjunction with the Suffolk Golf Union which seeks to encourage the thoughtful management of roughs in order to attract and protect the birds – now in the midst of a major decline.

Nationally, skylark numbers have fallen by more than 50 per cent over the past 20 years – largely as a result of changes in agricultural practices.

The trust is not suggesting that golfers be excluded from the roughs – merely that cutting of the vegetation is carried out at times which will not only degrade the usefulness of the habitat but destroy nests and kill young birds.

It is also encouraging the minimum use of pesticides. Skylarks feed on insects found in long grass and spraying it can wipe out the food supply.

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Tony Tyrell, who owns the Fynn Valley Golf Course at Witnesham, previously farmed the same land and recognises the changes in agricultural practices which have contributed to the decline in farmland birds.

His former farm – once covered in intensively grown wheat – is now a golf course planted with thousands of trees and sustaining areas of rough grassland as well as short-cropped greens and fairways.

"Skylarks have been singing away here this morning. We have always had them nesting on the course and we do our best to keep them here," he said.

Getting a birdie on a golf course means taking one stroke less that the official "par" for the hole.

Copies of the Skylarks on Golf Courses factsheet can be obtained from the wildlife trust at Brooke House, Ashbocking, Ipswich, IP6 9JY, telephone 01473 890089.

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