Nesting Boxes and Scribble Maps

I was speaking with Russell Vandehey from the Oregon Golf Club today and he mentioned that he has three pairs of Western Bluebirds setting up house in his bird boxes. Russell has had nesting pairs since I worked for him back in 1995. Since the two courses are only 5.2 miles apart as the crow flies, I assumed that we would have pairs flying around here too. So one of the first things we did here at Stone Creek was to install nesting boxes. Unfortunately we have yet to be discovered by the Western Bluebird but we do have an abundance of swallows and nuthatches.
Following our conversation I realized that I haven't cleaned the boxes yet this year and got right to it, hoping that I wasn't to late and the birds had started nesting. I was just in time and didn't disturb any new construction. While cleaning out the boxes I  evaluate the condition of each one and look for wear around the opening. Sometimes starlings, or squirrels will gnaw at the holes and invade the boxes, so we either replace the opening like the one shown above or simply cover it with a new one. The templates are are made with the proper sized opening so only allowing bluebirds and swallows to enter.

English Sparrow
When cleaning them out we can also tell what kind of bird has nested in each box. I found four different nests this year. Most of the boxes were violet green swallows but there were two nuthatches, an English sparrow and a starling nest. The starlings and the sparrows are not welcome since they are not native to our area and they are very aggressive and out compete the more tentative bluebirds.
Violet Green Swallow
A typical English sparrow nest will be packed to the top with grass and will almost have a tunnel down through the center. Swallows like to use goose and duck feathers and will make a nice bowl shape in the middle. Starlings are full of coarse grass and are usually a mess and the little nuthatches will build there nest out of small twigs and lots of green moss.

This year I decided to employ the Scribble map program to catalog the location of all the boxes. Simply by clicking on the icon a picture will appear and show it's location. This will make it easier in case someone else would like to check on the boxes and see where they are all located.

The Oregon Golf Club
As the season approaches lets keep our fingers crossed for a pair of bluebirds. I have seen them once here but they never checked in. If anyone feels they have seen a bluebird please don't hesitate to tell me. These guys have a beautiful blue back and a rust colored chest similar to a robin only these are the size of a swallow. I took this photo when I worked at The Oregon Golf Club, a real bluebird haven!

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I think I am starting to feel like spring is getting closer. We may still be getting low elevation snow but I think the golfers are getting the itch. The parking lot seems to be more full and the tournament calendar is filling up!
It was nice to feel the sun for a couple days, with the little rain that we received we took full advantage of it and got quite a bit done.

We were a little nervous Monday with the Verde-Cal application but all went well. I can't believe how light the actual foot print is of this beast, you can see in this picture how he drove right through the wet spot only to leave a muddy track. This was probably one of the worst areas on the course. With that said, I couldn't be more pleased with the service Wilco offers with this buggy.

We are continuing to roll as often as we can. Last weekend we rolled each day and the greens were perfect. I took this photo this week and after Gordon sent me an email on fuel saving practices I noticed that the two pictured here could probably be sharing a cart. If we weren't so pressed with golfers in the morning, (a good thing) one guy could probably be doing both duties. What I like about having two guys is one can change the cup and fix ball marks while the other rolls.

With the break in the weather we were able to get the dust off some equipment that hasn't been used in a while. We managed to mow almost the entire rough as well as all the fairways with the exception of 12, 15 and the back half of 11. We are still getting lots of good complements on the new pins and flags. I tend to agree, change is good!

Sustainable practices at
Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City now include an energy efficiency upgrade.
How about some news of things done right? Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City underwent an energy audit, upgraded its facilities and reduced energy costs by 11.4 percent in its clubhouse and nearly 27 percent in its maintenance shop.

Course Supervisor Dave Phipps wrote about the project.
Environmental Institute for Golf: Improving the Bottom Line with Sustainable Practices 

That wasn't the first time Stone Creek has turned the golf course stereotype - privileged, snooty, environmentally harmful - on its head. I wrote about them in 2009, when they were among the Oregon courses certified as sanctuaries by Audubon International.
The Oregonian: Driven by cost and conscience, Oregon's golf courses are going green

Mooooving on, a trio of dairies were recently honored for protecting water quality.
Oregon Department of Agriculture: Oregon dairies receive award for good stewardship

More good people are on the way up. The conservation group 1000 Friends of Oregon honors a bunch of young farmers, land-use activists and others who care about our air, land, water and food.
1000 Friends: 1000 Friends Announces 35 Innovators Under 35
In eastern Washington, Battelle announced it has granted a license to Encryptor of Plano, Texas, to produce a computer chip that will protect the electrical grid when rolling blackouts threaten. The device monitors frequency and voltage and can turn off household appliances for a few minutes or even a few seconds, allowing the grid to stabilize.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Battelle Licenses Grid Friendly Appliance Controller

--Eric Mortenson

Stone Creek Birds of Prey

Over they years we have seen a number of birds of prey at Stone Creek and just recently we have begun to see a bald eagle visiting the course. I managed to get a fairly good shot of him way on top of a Doug fir and had to zoom in with Photoshop to get a good view. Just for fun here he/she is along with four other birds of prey that I have taken pictures of over the years. Another great example of golf courses providing an excellent habitat for wildlife!

American Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Red Tail Hawk
Coopers Hawk


Monday, March 21st, 2012

Course Conditions

Not a shortcut
I don't think it warrants reminding everyone how wet it has been but I would like to remind everyone that care must be taken when operating carts and equipment on the golf course. Some times we can be quick to point the finger at the golfer who is taking advantage of the "blue flag" but more times than not it can be the beverage cart in a hurry to get around a group on the tee box or the players assistant in a hurry to get the water coolers out in the morning and taking the fastest route between two points. The same applies to the maintenance staff as well. Many times it is unavoidable like parking next to the green with the roller in tow or getting out to a remote place to pick up a pile of debris. The bottom line is the course is about as wet as I have seen it and we need to realize that care must always be taken when operating equipment on the golf course. It is a matter of aesthetics as well as safety. Please think twice before venturing off the path.

The storm clean-up continued all week. We are sorry we couldn't have everything picked up by the pro am on Friday but at least the fairways were cleaned up. The greens were firm and we were able to get a nice clip on them anyway. Over the weekend we rolled each day and I thought we had some of the best putting conditions all winter. We are trending for some, lets just say "reduced amount of precipitation" this week and hope we will start to firm up a bit more.

Out with the old and in with the new
On the brighter side of things, last weekend I decided to put out the new pins and flags earlier than I had planned. As I was changing pins Saturday I noticed that the ferrules were so worn out that I couldn't get a pin to stand straight in the cup. It was such a nice morning aside from the 2 hour frost delay that I decide to pull the trigger. This year we opted for a new color and design. So far it appears the golfers like it. They say it is much more visible. We actually put  the 30" stripe on the bottom of the pins ourselves. We used a product called Vinyl Guard, which I saw at the show this year. I love the idea, we simply placed the plastic tube over the pin and using a heat gun it shrunk tight around the pin. We actually started with an all white piece and covered the entire pin then added the red piece on the bottom last. We will be able to save money in the long run by simply removing it and freshening it up next year with a new ferrule on the bottom. As apposed to purchasing new pins all over again.

As wet as things have been, we have been relatively dry over the weekend and I am hoping it continues through today (Monday). The long range forecast doesn't really look all that dry and we need to get our Verde-Cal out on the fairways and rough. We are going to give it a go and hope for the best. I have confidence in Wilco's equipment. Their spreader is nothing like I have ever seen on a golf course. The buggy barely leaves a footprint, given the tires are about four feet wide. I will have an update next week on the application. We will getting an early start in the Morning and will try to stay ahead of play.

Finally, I am proud to report that I am the proud owner of a brand new Nikon D90. It has always been a dream of mine to own a high quality digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera and I finally found the nerve, or should I say cash, to purchase one. I am excited to put it to use and start sharing some more photos of the course.

Toro Turf Guard Soil Sensors

We recently had two demo soil sensors installed in our nursery outside of our shop to see how we could implement them in our day to day irrigation activities. So far it has been interesting comparing the data from our weather station to the data from the soil sensors. I have printed the graphs from March 1st to the 15th and you can definitely tell where the spikes in rainfall have occurred but more importantly the soil temperature graph definitely shows a gradual increase in the two week period.

The Toro Turf Guard Sensors are designed to give readings at two levels. The upper level which is set about 2" below the surface and the lower sensors are 6" below that. When you look at the moisture graph you will see two lines. The lower line is actually the upper sensor and the upper line is of course the lower. Our nursery is only built on about 8" of sand so you will naturally see a higher amount of moisture accumulate there before it drains away with the subgrade. It appears to be pretty steady around 45 to 50%.  What we would normally like to see would be a number around 25 to 30%. On our regular greens, which are built on 12" of sand, that lower number would be much closer to that. What I am excited about seeing is how well the greens are draining from the surface. As you look at the rainfall graph above and correlate it to the moisture levels, you will notice how steep the line is going up and back down. This tells me that the surface is draining very quickly. This winter we decided to use Revolution by Aquatrols throughout the winter to see if we could keep the surfaces of the green better drained and what I see so far it looks like it is beneficial. Revolution helps insure balanced moisture levels throughout the root zone in dry and wet conditions. I must admit that this is not a scientific trial since we didn't have a check plot but the data sure looks good to me.

We are looking forward to watching the data this summer. We hope to be able to get a closer look at what is happening below the surface of the green and avoid over watering.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

As I write my Monday report here on Friday morning my heart is heavy for all those effected by the Earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Also heavy on my mind are the folks at Farm Links. Pat Jones from Golf Course Industry reported on Facebook first thing this morning that the entire maintenance facility was destroyed by fire. The cause is yet to be known but it sure opens your eyes of consequences of such a fire. As you can see by this photo nothing is spared. I am somewhat relieved that we have a sprinkler system installed in our barn and if this were to happen it may not be quite so bad. Non the less it is hard to imagine what they are going through. The one thing for sure is that local courses from as far away as Atlanta are probably stepping up to help them out. That is the nature of our business. If we were closer we would be there too.

On a lighter subject, early last week I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Turf Conference in Vancouver BC as a guest of Brett Young, a fertilizer and seed distributor from across Canada. Brett Young is introducing the Redox Turf line of products in Canada and asked me to share my experiences with the product. I would like to thank Brett Young for all their wonderful hospitality. They are a first class organization with a first class sales team. I met a bunch of great superintendents and had an opportunity to catch up with some old friends as well.

I have written about this line of fertilizer before and as you know have been very pleased with its performance. What attracted me initially to this product is the science that is behind it. As I have learned how this product works I have become much more aware of how inefficient standard fertilization is. With previous programs we seemed to be on a roller coaster ride, now our color is much more uniform and the growth is consistent without flushes. Without realizing what was happening, we basically cut our nitrogen inputs on our greens in half. The nice thing about the program is we control the amount of nitrogen that we apply. If we need a tenth we give it a tenth if we need more we do so. So far in August over the last two years we have completely removed nitrogen from the greens for as long as forty-five days. Redox doesn't sell nitrogen, they provide a carbon source combined with micro and macro-nutrients along with organic acids which react with soil to free up nutrients which are commonly tied up within the soil colloid. The program is based on your individual soil test so what may be prescribed for one golf course may not be the same as the other.

The one thing I must stress is we have not limited the nitrogen available to the plant by reducing our inputs, conversely, we are seeing that the plant receives the same or more but by means of providing the correct products to make the soil a more balanced medium. When we do this it simply amounts to less nitrogen needed as an additional input.

Since I am all for promoting sustainability, this product ranks on the top for reducing inputs while increasing turf quality. We have been so pleased that this year we are incorporating the fairways and the tees into the program. For now we will continue to use Staab to spray the fairways but will be looking into setting up our own sprayer with "Boominator" nozzles to allow us to spray with a forty foot swath.  I will post updates on the program as the season progresses. I would be more than happy to entertain any questions anyone may have on this program. I would not normally come out and promote one program over another but this one seems to be completely unique to any other I am familiar with, and it works.


Over all the course is in great condition. The staff has done a magnificent job picking up the debris and preparing the course for Saturday Men's Club season opener. You will notice a couple new drainage grates along the path on eleven as well as a drier than normal bunker on the twelfth hole. Friday the guys wrapped up the drainage for the third time in this bunker. As you can see from this photo there is a tremendous amount of clay along the bottom. When it gets wet it seems to collapse around the trench and seal off any way of water leaving the bunker. So to keep from this happening we will be hand raking this bunker during to winter to avoid having to dig it up again.

Carl was so impressed with this clay that he set some aside to build his own wood fire pizza oven. I could swear this looks just like the stuff we made pinch pots with in school back in the days. And to think this is what we are growing grass on! 

Finally, on Thursday Mike and I attended the OGCSA Chapter Meeting held at Landon Farm. The final speaker was Rod Hill, our local weather man from KGW News Channel 8. In addition to his roll as a TV "weather guesser" Rod hosts a local weather site called Rod Hill Forecast that gives a pretty darn good outlook for our local weather. He also gives a golfing forecast as well. We actually have a link to Rods site off of Stone Creek's web page. By clicking on the icon it will take you directly there.

Pictured here is Randy Schults, from Tualatin Country Club and Rod Hill. If you ask me Randy kind of has a smug look on his face as if saying, "Can you believe how short this guy is?" Thanks for the picture Randy!

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Course Conditions
The rain once again makes the headlines in this weeks report. Monday was the wettest day receiving almost 2.25". Much of that was mixed with wet snow. The total for the week was just over 3.5". Needless to say the course is in pretty soggy condition. With all the rain we also received quite of bit of wind this week. The course was so wet that we had to wait until Friday to get the debris blower out to clean the fairways. Most of the weeks work was spent picking up large branches and chipping the woodpile. We did however manage to get through the majority of the course Friday and got quite a bit cleaned up.

Our small drainage projects were completed as well. Special thanks to Zeferino for staying with it through all the difficult weather and getting it all completed on Friday. Hopefully this will help firm up some of those wet areas along the 11th fairway.

For the most part, our customers have been phenomenal about keeping the carts out of areas where they don't belong. Sometimes things happen that are simply to bad to be true so I had to snap a picture of it to prove that stranger things do happen. This shot was taken Thursday after a customer felt that it was okay to drive off the cart path. Not only did he drive off the path he felt his cart must have had four wheel drive and tried to drive between the two fairways on the ninth hole and slipped backwards while spinning the tires. I can think of simpler ways to get back to the path. Steve actually caught this gentleman in action and I must applaud for keeping his cool.

While many of the guys were out picking up debris Mike and Steve spent their time insulating the office ceiling. It's not always the best job to do when your dealing with fiberglass but they did a fantastic job.  We have submitted the required forms to The Energy Trust of Oregon and now just have to wait for our credit of 30 cents a square foot. If I have done my calculations correctly and filled out the forms to the ETO's satisfaction the entire job should cost us less than $170.00! I just paid a gas bill for $323.00. Let's see what it ends up being next month. Hopefully we will see some savings.

Friday we managed to go the entire day without rain but that didn't mean the day was perfect. The wind was blowing just right as Water Environmental Services (WES) was applying sewage sludge to the hay field across the highway. So in case you were wondering what you were smelling, this is what it was. WES is very proactive in notifying the neighbors of their activities but nothing really prepares you for the odoriferous bouquet left behind. Once it gets washed onto the ground the smell will subside and all will be back to normal. (Can you imagine using that on a golf course?...ugh) 

More Superintendent Propaganda!

The time of year is quickly approaching when many golfers question the need of aerating the greens, especially when they are in such great shape. Here is a great article written by Darin Bevard, senior agronomist of the Mid-Atlantic Region. This will help explain the need for our biannual disruption of play. Hopefully golf shop staffs can read this and help educate customers as well.
March 04, 2011 -- Volume 49, Number 9
Putting Green Aeration
It is more important than you think
by Darin Bevard, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
No maintenance practice on golf courses receives more scrutiny and golfer ire than core aeration, and the role of aeration in the management of high-quality putting greens is often misunderstood.
Harsh winter weather may lead to golfer requests to eliminate or reduce spring putting green aeration programs. The spring golf bug makes many golfers desperate to get out on the golf course. Snow cover, cold weather, and wet, sloppy conditions lead many courses to close for the entire winter in many areas. Golfers are anxious to try out a new driver or other equipment accumulated since the end of the golf season, and when the weather breaks, the golfers soon follow. Superintendents and their staffs are cleaning their courses and beginning to establish grooming programs for the growing season. As the weather warms, the grass starts to grow and the greens are ready to go. Golfer comments then follow: "Now the superintendent is tearing up the greens with core aeration and covering them with sand. Can't we just skip aeration since the greens are so good?"

Most commonly, golfer requests tend to range from eliminating core aeration from spring programs to, at least, reducing the size of tines and disruption created by the process. Eliminating or reducing spring aeration programs will not cause an agronomic catastrophe in the short-term, but it is important to realize why aeration is an essential process and to understand the ramifications of eliminating any planned aeration.

From Golfdom, "On the Green", Tips for Putting Green Maintenance

This came across my computer this morning and I thought it would be well work sharing

A key to good greens in the summer -- patience now
It has been a long winter and golfers are battling cabin fever. They are anxious to play their first rounds of the year. Despite the yearnings of golfers to play and the calendar showing March, the snow on the ground and the weather tell us winter is not over. Early spring play has the potential to damage greens and put you in a position of playing "catch-up" all spring when trying to provide good putting surfaces.

Golf's Environmental Blogosphere

My Quarterly column in Golf Course Management on Superintendents use of Blogs.
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