Saturday, 28 February 2015


A photo of Scurdie Ness lighthouse, taken from the right
 of the 4th Medal fairway.

This month I will focus on the burn that features on 5 of the Broomfield holes together with the Curlie pond which always has great deal to offer especially in regards to birdlife. A few other photos of birds taken around the courses this month can also be seen.

The Burn

The small burn that crosses the Broomfield course is the only water course that we have on the 2 golf courses. It enters the courses from the behind the 5th Broomfield green and runs underground until it reaches the 10th green, from here the burn can be seen flowing eastwards before again disappearing underground on its way out to sea.
 The burn looking East to West.
 Looking West to East as it flows towards the sea. This photo also shows one of the unmanaged areas where the 2 banks have been allowed to grow into rough grassland.
A photo of  where the burn meets the sea. The old pipe, which can be seen in the centre of the picture, is cracked and broken  but still carries the water from the course out onto the beach. 

Although the burn may be small and look insignificant it does add to the bio diversity that we have on the courses. In the past, the whole length of burn banks were cut regularly and the grass kept short. We now leave the 'out of play' areas as unmanaged rough grassland which should further help different flora and fauna prosper.

Aquatic weed.
In order for golfers to spot their ball we try and keep the bottom of the burn clear of weed, however in more out of play areas we leave patches of aquatic weed in place.
Grey Heron.
More often seen at the Curlie, but from time to time Herons can be seen hunting for Minnows in the shallow water of the burn. In the spring Frog spawn together with Tadpoles can also be seen along the length of the burn which would also provide food for the Heron.
Although not a great photo, this Greenshank was seen at the start of the month. It hopped in and out of the burn looking for food in amongst the mud.
The Curlie
The burn is fed from the Curlie pond. This man made pond is surrounded by the golf courses on 3 sides with the 14th medal tee on one side and the 6th Broomfield hole running along the opposite side.
 A curling pond was once located where the 1st fairway on the Broomfield is now, however this was filled in around 1910 when Traill drive was being constructed.  I believe that the current Curlie as we know it today was built sometime between 1864 and 1902. In days gone by it was used for curling, ice skating and ice hockey. During the summer months between the 1950's and 60's Arbuthnotts the boat builder hired out rowing boats to the public. Unfortunately none of these activities take place anymore but wildlife still visit or make it their home.
 Looking towards the Curlie from the 14th Medal tee area.
A photo of the Curlie taken from the right hand side of the 6th Broomfield hole.
Although not kept in its former glory it is a haven for a number of birds. About a third of the pond is now covered in tall reeds which are quite invasive however they do provide cover and nesting sites.
Tufted Duck.
2 pairs of Tufted Ducks have been seen on the Curlie for the last couple of weeks. This diving duck can often disappear under the water and then reappear a few seconds later.
  Mute Swans.
 Mute Swan.
Mute Swan.
Swans hadn't been seen on the Curlie for a number of months but a pair appeared during the middle of the month. A pair have nested and successfully raised a family for a number of years however last year they didn't nest at all with reports that one of the adult birds had died.
This small water bird can be recognised by the red marking on its beak and front of its head. They make their nest within the reed bed. They usually have more than one clutch a year each consisting of around 8 eggs.
Slightly bigger than the Moorhen, this bird has a distinctive white patch on the font of its head. Like the Moorhen they too nest within the reed bed usually laying between 6 and 9 speckled eggs, again they are likely to lay more than one clutch per year.
The most common bird on the Curlie. The top photo shows a male and female while in the bottom photo a male can be seen  sitting in the winter sun. I don't think the mallard will nest in the reed bed  but will look for nest sites on the ground in surrounding undergrowth.
Common Pochard.
Common Pochard
This colourful duck was seen on the Curlie on the 19th February, the lone bid only seemed to stay for the one day. I don't think I have seen a Pochard on the Pond before so it was a particularly good bird to see.

A few other birds that I have photographed this month can be seen below.
These well known birds can often be seen out on the links, The gorse bushes around the courses provide perfect nesting sites.
The smallest of all the British birds. This one was spotted feeding on the pine trees around the greenkeepers sheds.

 Greenfinch can often be seen on the Links, more often on the Broomfield course where there are numerous small trees amongst the gorse bushes that they like to perch on.

Carrion Crow.
This Carrion Crow was seen with what looks like a Gulls wing in its beak. These crows are well named as most of the time they will feed on carrion if they get the chance.
Finally I would like to thank Anne Reoch for letting me use the photo below that she took on the 16th February of a Peregrine Falcon with a Black Headed Gull. It was taken on the Mid Links around 200 yards from the I4th Medal Tee. By all accounts the Peregrine was defiantly defending its prey and not willing to give it up easily.

Next Month I hope to be able to show photos of the first real signs of Spring from around the Links.

Les Rae,
First Assistant,
Montrose Golf Links Limited.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Winter sunshine over the links.
This month together with a couple of photographs of the course there are also a few other photos of flora and fauna that were taken during January. I was also recently asked by member Bob Scott why some of the gorse bushes on the courses were in flower during the winter months so I have written a feature on the gorse bush in general and its importance to life on the links.
A snowy 5th Medal hole.
Bleak conditions on the 4th Medal hole.
The first snow of the winter fell over the links on the 13th and 14th January. Although it was just a light covering and didn't stay long it still gave the links a proper winter look.

Extensive gorse cover between the 11th Medal tee and fairway.
Together with the different species of grass, Gorse ( Ulex Europeans ) is the main living feature on the links. This hardy native plant which can become quite invasive can live for around 30 years and grow to a height of 10 - 12 feet. It is quite at home on the sandy soils of the links where it has the ability to lock Nitrogen enabling the plant to colonise and dominate areas with poor soil. Other than the main tap root the majority of roots stay close to the surface and can travel outwards to a large distance. These shallow roots can also sprout new shoots allowing the plant to increase in size.
A patch of gorse flowering in January.
  Although the main flowering season is April - May there isn't a month of the year that there wont be some gorse in flower. There seems to be a couple of reasons for its ability to flower at any time of the year. Although insect pollination is important, gorse can fertilise itself without the help of insects also during any warmer winter days when there is any insect activity the gorse has very little competition for their attentions. It is also thought that the reason it flowers so profusely in the Spring is to ensure that  more than enough seed is produced to combat the effects of the seed eating weevil,  while any flowering during the winter will be left unaffected as conditions will be too harsh for the insect to be active. The plant produces grey hairy pods each holding 3 - 4 seeds. These seeds have a hard, water-resistant coating which allows them to remain dormant and viable in the soil for up to 30 years.
A close up view of gorse flowers.
 Gorse plays an important role on the 2 golf courses. From a golfing perspective it is used to frame and separate holes, it also provides a natural hazard which all golfers want to avoid.
  From an environmental point of view gorse bushes have a number of benefits. The large areas of gorse together with smaller groupings provide wildlife corridors where mammals etc can move around without venturing out into the open where they would be vulnerable to predators. Wildlife corridors in general are a vey important feature of the countryside allowing all types of life to move into new areas and allowing for a greater distribution and a widespread population.
  As well as providing homes and cover for a wide variety of life, the gorse bushes on the links also provide nesting sites for a number of different birds - these include Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Yellow Hammer, Dunnock, Linnet , Chaffinch, Greenfinch and members of the Warbler family.
   We also have a family of deer who have made their home on the golf courses, using the gorse for cover. Although quite timid, they can often be seen out on the fairways especially on the Broomfield course.
  We use different methods to manage the gorse. As it can be very invasive, we have to ensure that it doesn't start to impact on the sight lines of holes or start to encroach in towards the fairways. We aim to carry out all the gorse management work through the winter months so as to avoid disturbing any nesting birds.
The chainsaw being put into use at the 13th Medal hole.
  We have a number of staff qualified in the use of chainsaws and this is the main method we use in clearing larger areas of  gorse that have either reached the end of their life or are impacting on the playability of the courses.
Using the hedge trimmer beside the path at the 5th Medal hole.
 For keeping areas around tees and paths tidy and to the desired height, we normally use a hedge trimmer. If done on a regular basis this method is very effective in keeping the gorse tight knit and compact.

Clearing young gorse from the open grassland behind the 2nd Medal green.
  On the links we have large areas of  Marram grass which we try to maintain as open dune land however, as previously mentioned gorse can be very invasive and can soon turn these open grasslands into areas of gorse if left unattended. One such area is between the 2nd green and the 3rd on the Medal where we have been cutting out young growth with the use of a brush cutter. It is very difficult to kill off gorse and any re-growth will have to be cut out on an going process.
The service track to the right of the 11th Medal fairway prior to work being carried out.

The flail mower cutting back the gorse.
 This winter we also used a tractor mounted flail mower to widen the service track to the right of the 11th Medal hole which had grown to the point it was becoming too narrow for vehicles to pass through.
Other photographs taken this month

Blue Tit.
A bird most people will recognise and a common visitor to gardens, the Blue Tit can often be seen on the courses. They never seem to sit in the same place and are always hopping from branch to branch.
 House Sparrow
 House Sparrow.
I believe the top picture is that of a male and the bottom is either a female or a juvenile bird. The House Sparrow is a very sociable bird and is often seen in groups. Unfortunately their numbers have been in decline over the last 25 years.
This caterpillar, which was about 4cm long was seen crawling along the ground just outside the greenkeepers sheds. Not too sure what variety it is but it was quite unusual to see one at this time of the year.

Dog Lichen.
This lichen was photographed close to the 16th hole on the Broomfield. This plant prefers to grow in poor soil with low fertility and is usually seen growing together with moss. At this time of year when the grass has died back it is easier to see this distinctive lichen.

Next month I will highlight the small burn that crosses the Broomfield course together with the Curlie pond that feeds it. The golf courses surround the pond on 3 sides and there is always life of some description to be seen.
Les Rae,
First Assistant,
Montrose Golf Links Limited.