The Audubon International-organized BioBlitz, a species-counting competition that creates awareness about the environmental value of habitats, was hosted at Austin Country Club.
Golf course properties are always looking for ways to get people together, and the inaugural “BioBlitz” organized by Audubon International (AI) provided a way to unite golfers, environmentalists, and community members for a common cause.
|THE GOAL: Austin (Texas) Country Club (ACC) participated in Audubon International’s inaugural BioBlitz – a species-counting competition designed to create awareness about the environmental value of habitats at golf courses while discovering the full extent of plant, bird and animal species on the property. The staff also hoped the event would encourage the volunteers to come back to the golf course during the off-season to look for more species, and provide information to help them set up the correct types of nest boxes for the birds on the property.
THE PLAN: ACC enlisted volunteers from the local Travis County Audubon Society to help with BioBlitz. The staff reviewed safety rules on the golf course, which is under construction, with the volunteers and gave them golf cars and papers to count the species on the property and record their findings.
THE PAYOFF: Austin Country Club is pursuing Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification, and the species count will help the property meet some of the criteria required for the designation. By being aware of the different types of species on the property, the staff also can build the types of environments that the various species like, so they will stay on site.
BioBlitz, a species-counting competition designed to create awareness about the environmental value of habitats at golf courses, took place earlier this year during the week of Earth Day, April 19 – 25. The event was open to golf courses worldwide, whether or not they were affiliated with Audubon, and Austin (Texas) Country Club was one of more than 100 courses to participate.
A club could invite any number of participants, including golfers and their families, students, youth groups, members of local environmental organizations, and local experts, to count plant and animal species on the property.
Austin CC enlisted the aid of five volunteers, including a park ranger from the local Travis County Audubon Society, to help with BioBlitz, and the inventory provided the property with educational and environmental benefits.
“We want to actually know what kinds of birds we have on the course,” explains Adriane Horne, the club’s horticulturist. “We want to set up nest boxes for them, so we need to know what we have so we can set up the correct boxes. We also want to maintain a good relationship with the volunteers, so they will come back to the golf course during the off-season to see what species we have then.”
In addition, the property is pursuing Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification, and participation in BioBlitz helped the facility meet some of the criteria required for the designation.
“By knowing what we have, we can build environments that some of the species like, so we can continue to keep them on the course,” notes Horne. “The golf course covers a big chunk of land, and Audubon certification will help us keep it natural and provide habitat for different species. Our members enjoy that.”
Austin CC identified 245 species, including 169 plants, 65 birds and 11 animals, on the property. The volunteers primarily focused on the bird count because that was their area of expertise, Horne reports, and she identified the plant species.
“We didn’t see any exotic species, but we were all surprised that we had that many varieties of birds,” she states.
Audubon International provided the courses participating in BioBlitz, which was also sponsored by the United States Golf Association, with an instructional toolkit that explained how to get started, how to organize the event, rules for counting, resources for identifying species, and submission instructions. To liven up the competition, AI also offered participants three different awards—a Biodiversity Award for the golf course that counted the greatest number of species, a Community Engagement Award to the property with the greatest number of participants, and the Best Photo Award.
Golf courses could set up events during the week for any length of time or any number of days; Austin CC conducted its count from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on April 20. Before the count got underway, however, the staff went over safety rules on the golf course, which is under construction, with volunteers.
“We told them to watch their surroundings and construction traffic and to stay on the golf cart paths,” Horne says. “We gave them recording sheets, and then we let them go on the golf course where they wanted to go, to see what they could find.”
All species including plants, animals, fungi and insects—dead or alive—could be counted. If multiple members of one species were spotted, however, the species could be counted only once.
According to AI’s Executive Director, Doug Bechtel, BioBlitz will provide the organization with information about the wildlife, plant life and ecosystems at golf courses around the globe. The program also offered naturalists and families a chance to see the natural beauty, recreational opportunities and environmental benefits that golf courses provide in their hometowns. Following BioBlitz, AI planned to compile lists of the plant and animal species recorded, and report on the findings.
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