The Rough Is For The Birds

Schenley Park Golf Course, Hole 14, the rough is for birds (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park’s Bob O’Connor golf course (photo by Kate St. John)

5 August 2014

Last Friday The Allegheny Front featured an article on the Audubon certification of Schenley Park’s golf course.  I’ve watched this transformation and can attest that the program has made a huge difference for birds.

The 18-hole Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park is more than 100 years old and has seen its ups and downs.  Years ago it was not well maintained, though certainly well mowed.  Then in 2007 First Tee of Pittsburgh took over golf course management and things really started looking up.

For starters, First Tee decided to enroll the course in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf that focuses on habitat management, chemical reduction, water conservation, outreach and education to improve habitat for birds.  It was a cooperative effort with many partners and volunteers which culminated in their first certification award in 2012.  This year the course was re-certified.

The project’s design team created bird friendly places and saved the golf course lots of mowing because the roughs are really rough.  Planted with native species they are intentional habitats for birds.

Shown above and below is the 14th hole, bordered on the left by thick vegetation and two bluebird boxes.  Front and center is a thick swath of tall grass.  No need for a sand trap.

Here’s a view looking at the hole over the left-side rough.

Schenley Park Golf Course, the rough is rough (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park’s Bob O’Connor golf course, looking across the rough (photo by Kate St. John)

Birds really love the golf course, now.  Two years ago red-winged blackbirds returned to Schenley for the first time in my memory.  This swath of cattails, in the path of Holes #8 and #9, was claimed by several song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds this spring.

Schenley Golf Course cattail hazard (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park’s Bob O’Connor golf course, cattails hazard (photo by Kate St. John)

This month American goldfinches are feasting on the native thistle and using the fluff to line their nests.  And it’s no accident that rusty blackbirds made a stopover at the golf course during migration last April.

The rough really is for the birds.

Click here to read more about the golf course’s success and listen to the podcast at The Allegheny Front.

(photos by Kate St. John)

3 thoughts on “The Rough Is For The Birds

  1. Thanks, Kate!

    That’s our neighborhood golf course, now neighborhood Audubon Sanctuary. Riding our bikes up the golf course road, Julie and I frequently hear/see red-winged blackbirds. Their bubbling song is breathtaking.


  2. Hi Kate,

    You are right that golfers on the Bob O’Connor golf course are seeing a lot more birdies these days thanks to the steps taken to improve habitats there. But, you have misattributed the habitat improvements to me–I had nothing to do with those (others on our committee did). However, I did suggest locations where several bird houses to be erected in hopes of bolstering local populations of bluebirds, chickadees, and screech owls. We even optimistically erected a Purple Martin nest box and one for an American Kestrel!

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