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A Golf Course Wildlife Update

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

It’s been a while since my last Golf Course wildlife update but I hope you enjoy what I’ve written, split into different sections to cover the vast array of wildlife news since Mid May.

Nestbox News:

With the weather the way it was in the spring - dry and cold, the birds in the boxes were later nesting this year, overall, about a week to 10 days behind what they normally are compared to the last few years. Overall, we ended up with 358 chicks fledged from boxes, down quite a bit from 2019’s total of 502 but still pretty good. The best news though is the return of the Barn Owl nesting in the box on John o Gaunt for the first time since 2012 and successfully too with 2 chicks fledged, fantastic news. They were ringed under supervision from a schedule 1 licence holder on 20th July and subsequently seen on and around the box some evenings in Aug. (see photo) We also had 3 Kestrels fledge from the box on John o Gaunt, more good news as Kestrels did not nest in the boxes in 2020. The rest of the chicks numbered like this:

Blue Tits 240

Great Tits 93

Nuthatches 14 (only the 2nd and 3rd time they have ever nested in a box here)

Jackdaws 3 from a box, 3 from a cavity in a tree

Also of note, for the first time the chicks on John o Gaunt actually faired better than Carthagena with far fewer dead chicks and unhatched eggs found when we rechecked them later in the summer.

Photos show a Blue Tit chick in the hand, a nest of Great Tits and baby Jackdaws

Young Kestrel, a member holding a Barn Owl Chick and myself ringing a Barn Owl. PLEASE NOTE that the ringing of these birds was done under supervision from a qualified ringer with a Schedule 1 permit

Bird News:

The best bird news was the appearance of a Pair of Red Kites taking up residence on John o Gaunt, they nested in one of the large Oaks by the 12th fairway and successfully raised 2 chicks. I had so many reports of delighted members seeing the Kites flying around, swooping down picking up nesting material and generally putting on quite a display. This was the first time they had nested on the golf course, and I hope they will return in 2022.

Our summer migrants were around from early Spring and could be seen or heard on both courses and the adjacent Pegnut Wood throughout the summer:

Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Cuckoo, House Martin, Swallow, Swift, 1 sighting of a Hobby seen by a member from the clubhouse terrace on 2nd Sept and a keen-eyed member of the public walking the edge of the course spotted an Osprey circling over the 4th pond on 26th Aug.

Other birds seen recently include: A pair of Pied Wagtails nested in a really strange place on top of a big gravel bag down by the tractor sheds raising 5 young,

Photos show the nest site on a gravel bag, the nest with 5 chicks and 1 chick on its own. All were ringed by licensed ringers.

Grey Heron on occasions down by the brook/pond area or just flying over, lots of Mistle Thrushes on JOG, Green Woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, A pair of Canada Geese with 2 goslings stayed around for a while earlier in the summer, Greylags sometimes flying over, Skylarks on both sides and Song Thrushes (always good to see). Also the odd Mute Swan flying over. Redwings started appearing in mid October followed shortly after by Fieldfares.


The best Butterflies seen were the Purple Hairstreak, one of our less common Butterflies with just 2 records, 1 on each side and just a few records of Marbled White on Carth, I normally see much more of this striking black and white Butterfly, maybe the weather has played a part in that. It does seem to have a good year for Gatekeepers though at John o Gaunt with probably one of the best years we have had.

Other Butterflies seen include Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Peacock, Orange Tip, Large White, Small White, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Comma, and a few records of Small Copper.

Comma and Gatekeeper


The weather has been nice over the summer months but not that hot and whilst I have seen quite a few Dragonflies, it has not been a great year for them with some species I normally see regularly either not seen at all or just seen a few times like the Black Tailed Skimmer seen just a few times and the Four Spotted Chaser not seen at all.

Several Male Emperors have been about the brook and a female was seen laying eggs but perhaps the most numerous has been the Banded Demoiselle, small dainty dark blue with dark patches on the wings often numbering 20-30 along the brook.

Other Dragonflies seen: Large Red Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Small red-eyed Damselfly, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter, Common Darter and it has been a good summer for sightings of Brown Hawker. Also the 2nd ever record of Willow Emerald Damselfly, almost exactly 2 years since the first. (see photo) and the 1st record of a Southern Migrant Hawker, a rare migrant in the UK and a welcome addition to the golf course. (sadly no photo this time)

Willow Emerald Damselfly and Ruddy Darter


I ran 2 moth nights on Carthagena & John o Gaunt on 31st July and 10th August looking in particular for the rare White Spotted Pinion Moth (WSP). In July I counted around 190 Moths/63 species with 4 traps on CARTH & 2 on JOG. Sadly no WSP on that occasion but we did see its close relative the Lesser Spotted Pinion, Large Twin Spot Carpet, Nut Tree Tussock, Scorched Carpet, Red Twin Spot Carpet, Peach Blossom, Slender Brindle and Box Moth to name a few. The night of 10th August proved to be quite fruitful, I counted 150 moths of just 60 species, I ran just 2 traps, a 50w MV and an actinic. It was getting towards the end of the night and a White Spotted Pinion suddenly appeared right in front of me, fantastic the target moth acquired & good to know it is still present but I managed to trump that with 2 Jersey Tigers (only the 2nd & 3rd records of this Moth). Other moths seen include Canary Shouldered Thorn, Garden Dart, Coronet, Black Arches and a Tawny Barred Angle. I ran 1 more moth night on 23rd August for local people in Potton which was well attended, we saw around 70 moths, the best of which was a White Line Dart, another Jersey Tiger and an Old Lady. If you want to find out more about mothing then drop me an email or check out this link:

The Moths above: Jersey Tiger, White Spotted Pinion, Green Brindled Crescent, Blood Vein, Merveille du Jour, Angle Shades, White Line Dart and Frosted Orange all seen on moth evenings this year (2021)

The Caterpillar of the Grey Dagger Moth found near the greenkeeper sheds. One way of telling whether you have Grey or Dark Dagger moths is by seeing the caterpillars as the adult moths are very similar and difficult to tell apart.

I also tried a Pheromone lure a few times to try to attract some of the Clearwing Moths on warm sunny days in July. It worked very well attracting the first record of an Orange Tailed Clearwing to the golf course.

Box Tree Moth and December Moth

(The caterpillars of the Box Tree Moth are very damaging to Box hedges and trees).


The Otter was caught on camera for the first time this year in April but just a brief glimpse as it disappeared into the darkness. Hopefully It will come back soon and I can get a better photo.

Muntjac Deer have been caught on Trailcam on numerous occasions as well as occasionally being seen during the day. The long rough and wildflower areas as well as being a habitat for pollinating insects are also a valuable habitat for small mammals such as Field Voles, a valuable food source for Barn Owls. Numerous of these voles were seen in August and September when the rough/flower areas were being cut and collected.

Bat walks

I ran 2 Bat walks in August for members and local people with the help of a local expert which were both well attended. The first saw just 3 species: Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s and all 3 species were flying all over the pond on 4th. It was a fantastic site with Bats often flying quite close to us. The 2nd walk late in the month counted 6 species with the addition of Serotine, Noctule & a probable Natterers Bat and again the pond was alive with Insects and the Bats feeding on them. I was amazed by the response from the local community and after these first 2 Bat walks I did several more including one for the local Girl Guides. 30 of them + the Guide Leaders and 2 local experts Marie & Sara to help lead. The girls had a great time, a great educational experience for them learning all about bats and actually seeing some too.

The 2 photos above show the local Girl Guides enjoying a short talk before the start of their Bat Walk and a group checking out the moth trap at the end of their Bat walk.

For more info on Bats and the local Bat group check these links out.

As the winter is now upon us our familiar summer birds like the Swallows or House Martins have already taken the long migration route back to Africa and replaced by winter migrants from Scandanavia such as Fieldfares and Redwings often finding them feeding on berries such as Rowan along with other thrushes such as Blackbird and Mistle Thrushes. At John o Gaunt we have plenty of Rowan trees on both sides and they are always popular during the Autumn and Winter months. Occasionally we get a very special winter visitor called a Waxwing, About the size of a Starling, orangey in colour with Black, Yellow & Red in the wings, We don't get them every year but if it is very cold in Scandinavia and their Berry crop is not good then they can often arrive in the UK in large numbers, the largest flock recorded at the golf club is 33. I will be looking out for them.

A late Autumn sunrise and the magnificent London Plane by the 18th fairway on John o Gaunt Course still with lots of leaves to drop at the end of November.

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