Those Members who live locally and enjoying walking on the course at the moment have watched this winter's work programme unfold. Much of this has already been described in our Course Managers Report and which may be found under "Extras". Whilst the scrub clearance works adjacent to the 15th green and alongside the 6th fairway and in other places around the course has been largely welcomed by Members there have been questions as to the need for the work and the potential consequences for loss of bird habitat for example. The detailed reasoning is all to be found in the STRI Ecological reports which have been made available to Members. However, it has to be admitted that these documents are long and not very exciting as a bedtime read. This short piece hopefully answers some of the more common questions.
Q. Why is the scrub clearance necessary ?
A. The scrub is invasive and is not indigenous to the dunes. It was not present originally and has been allowed to spread over the years. This is obvious when the old black and white photos of the course are seen – no scrub, no trees anywhere. Natural England have been clearing scrub in the SSSI area of the dunes for several years now and are doing so again right now.
Q. Will the scrub clearance continue in future ?
A. Occasionally. STRI recommend no more than 15% total cover of scrub. However, this winter's programme is now complete and it is unlikely that more clearance will be needed next winter.
Q. What about nesting birds ?
A. Our ecologist says .. “In terms of nesting birds, the presence of Skylark Alauda arvensis is of particular interest as, although relatively common within the area, this bird has undergone a dramatic decline nationwide. Skylark is now a priority species in the UK biodiversity action plans. The more tussocky species-poor fixed dune grasslands will provide breeding habitat for this bird. Areas of species-rich grassland will provide good feeding habitat for the Skylark by supporting locally important populations of butterflies and other grassland invertebrates. Scrub and gorse encroachment will, if uncontained, restrict and possibly exclude skylark and other species from utilising these grasslands. Meadow pipits (Anthus pratensis) were also noted as present during the on-site inspection, they share a similar habitat to Skylarks and are currently of amber conservation concern.”
Q. What about other fauna ?
A. By increasing the amount of bare sand on the course we will encourage the endangered sand lizards and other invertebrates, these in their turn will encourage breeding birds including the song thrush, peregrine falcon and the otters. There have already been some recent sightings of kingfishers and an egret along the 10th fairway.