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A golf course wildlife update including nestbox news, and other nesting successes.

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

There is lots of wildlife news to talk about since my last update but I am going to start by talking about the successful breeding of Red Kites on the golf course for the 2nd year running. Back in March the Kites started to appear more regularly and in April things were starting to look very promising when the Kites were observed flying into the nest they used last year, things progressed when they were witnessed bringing more twigs etc to the nest and I later saw the female sat on the nest a lot more regularly giving the impression that she might be sitting on eggs. It was looking really good but I wanted to be able to see in the nest to see what was happening which could prove a little tricky as the nest was 20-30 m near the top of an Oak tree. I got in touch with a friend of mine who had previously spoken to the British Trust for Ornithology in 2021 and got permission from them as part of a pilot project to use drones to survey nesting birds. My friend was fully trained and licensed to be able to do this. (you have to know what you are doing and seek permission with regards to possible disturbance of nesting birds) The first time the drone went up in April we filmed just an empty nest but it was still early and all the signs were looking very positive when he came back at the end of May the drone took fantastic footage of 3 Red Kite chicks about 21 days old.

you can make out 3 Chicks in the photo, 2 on the right & 1 on the left.

This was amazing, 2nd year in a row and 1 more chick than the previous year

This next photo was taken on 16th June, all 3 chicks are still in the nest and looking much bigger and very healthy. you might notice what looks like a fourth chick on the right which is actually just a piece of wood pretending to be a Red Kite.

On the morning of the 22nd, a colleague saw what he thought was a kite sitting on one of the branches. I hadn't seen it but looked around and saw the 2 adults flying around then the young kite that was on that branch flew from the tree and joined the adults. Amazing, the Kites had fledged, well one of them had anyway. Yippee. I returned later with my camera and took a few pics of another of the youngsters branching out from the nest in preparation for fledging. The third chick was still in the nest.

I never thought we would get Red Kites breeding on the golf course and now they have done it 2 years in a row. Hard to believe that the Kites were extinct as a breeding bird in much of the UK and restricted to a small part of Wales, but thanks to several re-introduction schemes across the country this fantastic bird can grace our skies once more. Check these links for more info on the Red Kites and the re-introduction schemes.

Other fantastic nesting success came in the form of a pair of Grey Wagtails, confirmed breeding at the club for the first time, nesting in quite an odd place no where near any water with which you might associate them but on the corner or a steel girder in one of our buildings where we store soil/sand. I started seeing a Grey Wagtail hanging around the buildings and thought that's a pretty good sighting then I started to see a pair in the yard, on the buildings, and with beakfuls of food, I immediately thought that they must have a nest somewhere, It took me a while to find it but eventually, I did in the corner of a building on a steel girder with 3 chicks. I was surprised at the location of the nest and the fact I hadn't even seen them building it. It wasn't long after I had found the nest that the young fledged, they could be seen hopping around on the piles of soil being fed by the adults, they hung around for a few days before moving on.

The top left photo shows 1 of the youngsters on the nest, the middle right a fledged chick, the other 3 photos show the male Grey Wagtail

The Nestboxes had a good year with a total of 329 chicks recorded from both courses. They nested earlier than last year so actual number was probably much higher as a lot of boxes we got to the young had already fledged and left the nest. We did find some dead chicks and unhatched eggs.

The first check on Carthagena was done on the 9th May and found a mixed bag of very young chicks only 2-3 days old, some with the adult still sitting and 1 with 8 Blue Tits that were about ready to fledge. There were 3 Blue Tit nests of 13 eggs, 1 failed at egg stage, 1 the chicks sadly died and the other they fledged. There were some very busy parents around this spring with several other nests having broods of 10 and 11.

When checking a box near the 13th tee I was drawn to some noise that seemed to be coming from a hole in a tree next to the tee, a few seconds later I saw an adult Great Tit fly over with a beak full of food to feed some hungry chicks. this was witnessed numerous times by myself and golfers . Photos below show the hole in the tree and an adult Great Tit visiting.

John o Gaunt course was a similar mixed bag when we started checking on the 19th May finding nests with very young chicks and some with much older chicks. We also found quite a few boxes that had not been used at all. Brood sizes in general were much smaller on John o Gaunt, but it wasn't just Blue Tits and Great Tits in the boxes, several of the bigger boxes were in use too. 2 Boxes had a total of 7 Jackdaws between them and one with 2 Stock Doves.

We had finished checking the boxes for young by the end of May. They will all be checked again to make sure the young all fledged and for possible 2nd broods. There were no Barn Owls nesting on either course this year and the Kestrels did not nest in the boxes.

We ringed a lot of the chicks that we found in the boxes. Please note that you have to undergo training and have a license to be able to do the ringing. The Ringing scheme is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Please check this link to find out more about it and why we do it.

Chick Numbers

Carthagena Blue Tits 177 Carthagena Great Tits 44

John o Gaunt Blue Tits 71 John o Gaunt Great Tits 28

Thanks go to my friend Alex Inzani, fellow bird ringer for his help this year with checking the boxes, carrying and holding the ladder and for help with the ringing.

A short story about some not so intelligent Blue Tits:

When checking the boxes on Carthagena I came across a box with a big hole in the roof, I wasn't expecting to find anything in it but when I looked there was an adult sitting. The next check it had very young chicks. The adults were observed in and out of the roof so I left it as it was for now. On one day it started raining so i decided I had to try and protect the chicks and cover the hole up. When the coast was clear and the adults had flown off I went in armed with some tape to wrap around the roof and box to cover the hole and hold the roof down. When I had done that I waited at a safe distance to see what the adults would do. Bearing in mind the normal hole in the front of the box was still there for the Blue Tits to use when they came back to the box they were trying to go through the roof again and completely ignored the front entrance hole. I observed for a while and the parents just could not work out how to get in the box to feed the chicks. I couldn't leave it like this and risk the parents abandoning their young so i went back to the box and had to recreate the hole I just covered up. First attempt wasn't good enough as the parents still wouldn't go in so I tried again and made the hole slightly bigger, this time I watched the parents go in with food and I could leave them in peace.

The story of not so intelligent Blue Tits did end in success and all the young fledged. The box will be replaced in the winter. See the photo below to see the holey box!

Blue Tits in the nestbox at various stages and a chick in the process of being ringed.

A young Blue Tit at the entrance just before fledging

An adult Blue Tit at the nest box entrance then exiting and removing a fecal sac

A young Jackdaw on the left whilst being ringed and a Stock Dove just before going back in the box.

Other birds seen or heard in recent months:

Some Canada Geese were seen on the pond with some chicks for a while in May but unfortunately the chicks did not survive, they seemed to disappear overnight, possibly taken by a fox. Here is a video I took when they first appeared.

Some common birds in the photos above, Woodpigeon on the nest near the Kitchen, Jackdaw, and Magpie.

The Summer migrants started to arrive in early March with Chiffchaff on the 9th and Blackcap on 21st (both on John o Gaunt) followed by a Willow Warbler singing on 13th April on Carth, a bird easily recognized by its beautiful song. Check this link to check it out:

Swifts have been seen flying on both sides but have yet to take up residence in the nestboxes. One summer migrant that seems to have been a bit quiet this year is the familiar Cuckoo, Its usual place is in Pegnut wood alongside the 5th fairway on John o Gaunt but I have only heard it on Carthagena along the side of the 14th fairway. Perhaps its found a new place to lay its eggs or I need my hearing tested! The only other summer migrants recorded were Whitethroat, 1st heard singing behind the 9th green on 30th April and a Garden Warbler by the 15th tee Carthagena and a group of 5 Swallows flying over the 7th green on John o Gaunt on 30th June. I have not recorded any House Martins or Sand Martins on either course which is unusual, we usually get some of each.

As the weather started to warm up Insects began to take the limelight and Butterflies, Dragonflies and Moths were soon being seen.


The first Butterfly of the year was the Brimstone, (a very obvious bright yellow large Butterfly) seen on 6th March by the 6th fairway on 6th March followed shortly after by a Comma and Small Tortoiseshell on 14th March and an Orange Tip on 14th April. One of our Scarcer Butterflies at John o Gaunt, The Purple Hairstreak was seen in good numbers in July on Jog with the first on 18th July near the 8th green and also the following day on the 15th green.

Other Butterflies seen recently include: Small White, Large White, Green-Veined White, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper, Peacock, Red Admiral, Common Blue and Ringlet. Check out the photos below of some of them. Sadly I have not seen one of my favourite Butterflies, the Marbled White on either course so far this year.

Top Left going clockwise: Small Skipper, Purple Hairstreak, Small Tortoiseshell and Ringlet + a video clip of a slightly tatty looking Purple Hairstreak, perhaps looking for moisture amongst the grass. (You might want to mute the sound of a nearby engine running!)


The first Dragon of the year was the Large Red Damselfly seen on 5th May by the 13th bridge. The next and I think my favourite was the Banded Demoiselle on the 1st June. The Male is a gorgeous metallic blue colour and the female is a beautiful green. These very quickly increased in numbers and could be seen up and down the brook during June. I even saw one on the Carthagena course )well away from any water) flying over long grass near the 2nd green on Carth on 15th June

From top left: Dragonfly Stack on the reeds, Large Red Damselfly, Male then Female Banded Demoiselles.

The 2nd week of June started to see more Dragon & Damselflies with many more species being seen. On the 9th ofJune, I had a fleeting glimpse of a Hairy Dragonfly as it flew past me rather quickly. This is a dragonfly I do not see very often. I was pretty pleased with this sighting. Check this link for more info: By the 10th of June there were Azure Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies, and Emperor Dragonflies along the brook. The best area is probably between the 4th and 14th bridges. A male Southern Hawker appeared by the 5th fairway on the 17th and by the 27th I added several more species, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Four Spotted Chaser, and Common Darters. By this stage, the most numerous Dragon was the Banded Demoiselle with 20-30 along the brook on a good day. The first Migrant Hawker was seen on the 18th of July. There were definitely a lot of Dragonflies/Damselflies about by mid-July but at the time of writing there are two species I have still not seen that have been quite common over the last few years, the Small Red-eyed Damselfly & the Black Tailed Skimmer. Fingers crossed they put in an appearance soon. Check these links for info on these 2 missing species and how to recognize them.

Some more photos of recent Dragons on the golf course:

From Top Left Clockwise: Azure Damselfly, Four Spotted Chaser, Common Blue Damselfly, and Common Blue Damselflies mating.


On one night in April, I was mothing with a friend on Carthagena, It was a pretty cold night, 1 moth appeared next to a trap even before we switched it on and in fact, It was the only moth we saw all night but It wasn't a complete disaster. Instead, while wandering around amongst the trees we found lots of caterpillars I had not previously recorded before, here are two of them.

Sprawler Moth Caterpillar on the left and Orange Sallow Moth Caterpillar

Possibly a Winter Moth Caterpillar

Orange Sallow Caterpillars all over this tree trunk

Below is just a small selection of the moths I have seen on the golf course in recent months from moth trapping on Carthagena & John o Gaunt.

From the Top row: Elephant Hawk Moth and Pine Hawk Moth, Light Emerald, Lime Hawk, Barred Fruit Tree Tortrix followed by Buff Tip and Green Oak Tree Tortrix, and on the bottom row Brindled Beauty and Scarlet Tiger.

Check this link for more info on the Scarlet Tiger which was a new edition to the golf course in 2020 and was also seen in 2021.

Other Insects:

There are lots of other insects around the courses such as grasshoppers & Crickets, various hoverflies and everybodys favourites, Wasps and Hornets! Below is a fascinating video clip of a wasp eating a fly, first spotted by a colleague when we were working on a tee, it completely dismembered the fly. #natureinaction

And now for something a bit bigger, Mammals:

There have been numerous sightings this year of Muntjac Deer, appearing in the middle of the day running across fairways, particularly on John o' Gaunt. A Fox was being seen fairly regularly on Carthagena in the mornings between 6 & 8am earlier in the year. The trail cam hasnt been out much recently but it did catch a Muntjac Deer and slightly blurry photos of an Otter on Cam in May a couple of times, the first time I had recorded it in May. Badgers and Stoats have been seen too.

A Grey Squirrel enjoying a tasty treat.

And finally...............

At the time of writing we have just got through a fairly hot spell with temps of around 40 degrees C for a couple of days in July. Carthagena in particular is looking a bit dry. The greenstaff may have to resort to doing a raindance soon! There are 2 new wildflower areas on John o' Gaunt that are looking full of colour although quite patchy due to the lack of rain, 2 great bits of habitat for our pollinating insects.

1st and 3rd photos by Phil Rowlett

I hope you have enjoyed this wildlife update, if you have any questions about anything you have read or seen just drop me an email on

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