Fox Squirrel on a fence

Species Profile: Sciurus niger – Fox Squirrel

Scientific Name: Sciurus niger

Common Name(s): Fox Squirrel, Eastern Fox Squirrel, Stump-eared Squirrel, Bryant’s Fox Squirrel

Typical fox squirrel © Markus Krötzsch

Typical fox squirrel © Markus Krötzsch

 

Completely black fox squirrel © Chris Fuller

Completely black fox squirrel © Chris Fuller

Identification:

The fox squirrel is the largest tree squirrel native to North America. It reaches lengths of 8 to 13 in, weighing 1 to 2 lbs. Both males and females look alike, exhibiting no sexual dimorphism in size or coloration. The fox squirrel’s fur is greyish light brown with a brownish orange on the underside. In some populations, fox squirrels have dark brown markings or various patterns of black fur. Fox squirrels have long claws and are natural climbers. They can be differentiated from the eastern grey squirrel by both size and color, with grey squirrels having grey fur with a white underside and being about half the size of fox squirrels.

Range map of United States

Range:

Sciurus niger is native to eastern and central North America and introduced to western regions of Canada and USA. For example, while there are naturally occurring populations in Colorado, many populations are because of introductions in the early 1900’s. Fox squirrel populations expanded naturally across Colorado by riparian corridors, invading urban areas.

Ecology:

Fox squirrels can occupy any sizable forested area. They tend to be the dominant squirrel species in smaller patches of wooded land and open park like habitats. Larger populations can be found in areas where nuts can be foraged from oaks (Quercus), hickories (Carya), walnuts (Juglans), and pines (Pinus). While their diet consists mostly of nuts and other available fruits, they will also readily consume insects, bulbs, tubers, roots, and tree buds. They have strong jaws that allow them to crack nuts and other hard forage.

Fox squirrels can mate anytime during the year, but estrus occurs in December and again in June. During this time males compete for mating rights. Females often mate with several males. Females become mature at 10 months and can have their first litter at one year. Gestation is about 45 days, and two litters can be had per year. Litter size is generally 2-3 offspring. Reproduction rates can be correlated with food and resource availability. Development in fox squirrels is slower compared to other rodents. Fox squirrels are born blind, with their eyes opening around 5-6 weeks old. Offspring are weaned around 8-10 weeks. Fox squirrels can live up to 18 years in captivity, but in the wild more commonly live to 8-12 years.

Very few natural predators can catch an adult fox squirrel. Most predation is opportunistic by large predators, such as bobcats, coyotes, wolves, and large birds of prey. Juveniles can be easily captured however, and face additional predation from raccoons, opossums, and snakes.

Special Notes:

Here, in Bella Vista fox squirrels can be found anywhere. A notable population lives on the Berksdale golf course. This population is unique because it has a high proportion of individuals with dark fur patterns. The photo above was taken of one of the completely black individuals. The abundance of nut producing trees here, such as oak, hickory, and walnut, make Bella Vista a prime fox squirrel habitat.

USGA Logo

The Truth About Green Speeds

George Waters is the manager of Green Section education for the USGA.
Email him at gwaters@usga.org

Green speed is one of the most sensitive and misunderstood topics in golf. Golfers see lightning-fast greens on television or hear claims about green speeds at a course they admire and think that’s an ideal that other courses should aspire to. What they may not realize is that those conditions require significant resources to deliver, may last for only a short period of time, and are not appropriate for the vast majority of golf courses or golfers. There is also a lot of misinformation about green speeds, so golfers shouldn’t believe everything they hear from their playing partners or television broadcasters. Here are five things every golfer should know about green speed:

Faster Does Not Mean Better

The appropriate green speed for a particular course depends on the putting green contours, grass type, maintenance budget and skill level of the golfers playing – along with numerous other considerations. Trying to make greens faster than they should be leads to higher maintenance costs, turf damage, lost hole locations, and rounds of golf that are slower and less enjoyable. Sacrificing other aspects of putting green quality in the pursuit of speed just doesn’t make sense.

Green Speeds Fluctuate

Putting greens are comprised of living plants that change and perform differently from season to season and even day to day. Temperatures, humidity, rainfall and routine maintenance practices all influence daily green speed. Maintaining the same green speed throughout the year is impossible and letting a target number dictate management practices is a recipe for damaged greens and undesirable playing conditions.

The appropriate green speed for a course depends on putting green design, grass type, golfer ability and other factors. (USGA/Kirk H. Owens)

Green Speeds Don’t Travel

One of the most important things to know about green speed measurements is that they should not be used to compare one golf course with another. A green speed that is perfect for one course could be way too fast for a course down the road that has steeper green contours or golfers with different skill levels. There are simply too many variables involved to make reasonable comparisons.

Speed Costs Money

While golfers hear a lot of discussion about courses with fast greens, they don’t hear as much about all that goes into providing those conditions. Lower mowing heights, regular topdressing, verticutting and hand watering are just some of the practices involved in maintaining faster greens. In addition, courses that maintain faster greens typically invest heavily in improving putting green growing environments by removing trees and enhancing drainage. The investments required on a daily and yearly basis to deliver faster green speeds are substantial, and beyond the budget of most golf courses.

Speed Can Kill

Periods of high heat, humidity and other environmental stresses can push putting green health close to the edge. Trying to maintain a particular green speed during difficult weather carries a serious risk of causing lasting damage that could negatively impact smoothness and speed for weeks to come. To protect putting green turf, golf course superintendents may raise mowing heights or reduce the frequency of mowing and rolling during stressful weather. These adjustments mean temporarily slower green speeds, but they will help preserve good playing conditions for the weeks and months ahead.

It’s easy to understand how golfers can place too much emphasis on green speed. Numbers invite comparisons and faster can easily be mistaken for better. However, if we can keep the big picture in mind and remember that speed is just one of the many factors in putting green quality, we’ll save ourselves and superintendents a lot of headaches.

Watering Alert (Watch Out For The Greens Checkers)

Battling the Summer Heat on Bentgrass Putting Greens

By Rob Dreesen, BVCC Golf Superintendent

As the temperatures continue to rise, you will notice our attention to greens rising as well. You will often run into “greens checkers” as you play your round. Contrary to popular belief, we are not trying to get in your way and ruin your round! We are simply just protecting the plant from dying. It is a complex process that is much more complicated than just watering the greens at night. We have to maintain adequate moisture throughout the day and also cool the plant when necessary.

Some of the courses throughout the POA use moisture meters to help determine what amount of water the plant needs. You will see the greens checkers carrying devices that look similar to a pogo stick. Other courses have different techniques that they use to determine what needs to be watered and what doesn’t. But we all have a common goal in that we strive to keep the greens as dry as possible without causing stress to the plant.

Another similar technique is “syringing” the greens. Syringing can also be called, misting. When we mist the greens we are simply keeping the plant cool. Research has shown that when you disperse a very light layer of water over the surface, it cools the plant by 10-15 degrees! Think of a misting fan or machine at outdoor restaurants or on the sidelines of a football game. These are there to keep people cool. This is the same approach we are taking on the greens, which can have a huge effect on the health of the plant.

By spot watering and misting greens throughout the day, we prevent the greens from being overwatered. If we only used our irrigation heads at night, we would be overwatering the plant which would lead to the following effects:

  • Plant Health
    • Roots shrink, causing the plant to be stressed
    • Areas with excessive water are warmer than areas with adequate water, causing the plant to be stressed
    • Greens are soft causing the mower to scalp, causing the plant to be stressed
  • Golf Playability
    • Greens are soft, causing more ball marks
    • Greens are soft, causing slower and inconsistent speeds

As you can see, hand watering and syringing throughout the course of the day is necessary for all of us to achieve our goals of having firm, healthy, and smooth putting surfaces. Please keep that in mind on the next round that you run into a greens checker. It is our goal to have the healthiest and best putting surfaces than we can, while also staying out of your way and letting you enjoy your round. However, time is critical, and sometimes we will need to get the green watered before you hit your shot into the green. We try our best to not disrupt the same group over the course of your round, but in the case this does happen, we apologize and it is certainly in the best interest of keeping our turf healthy. Thank you for your patience during these hot and very critical days.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to talk to us while on the golf course. We will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Thank you!

Charitable Giving Committee Applications

A teddy bear with a red bow

The Charitable Giving Committee is inviting Applications for the POA Charitable Giving 2020 Project. Submission Deadline is July 31, 2020, at 4 p.m. For all criteria and application click button below: Please submit all applications to CorporateSecretary@bvvpoa.com.

Administrative Offices Closed

A lit sparkler glowing with a night backdrop.

POA Administrative Offices will be closed on July 3 in celebration of Independence Day. Offices include: Member Services, Water Department, Offices at the Country Club (General Office, Accounting, Human Resources, Legal, Marketing and Information Technology).

Highlands Course Update

Greg Jones, GC Superintendent

Highlands greens are notoriously difficult to manage in the summer months due to the underlying soil structure and drainage issues. And, many greens are in locations with little to no natural air movement or sunlight. The fans we have in place give an edge and provide some air movement but nothing like natural air movement across the greens surface. We utilize these fans to mimic natural wind movement which can never be truly copied.

We are in-between years of drill and fill, and this is the year we have to be a little more attentive with our soil moisture due to the lack of 10” deep sand filled channels to help with air, water, and nutrient movement and uptake. Any extra water can have a negative impact on roots and soil temperatures. The greens have been Drilled and Filled six times in the past ten years, and while that has improved our greens, it hasn’t fixed the underlying soil structure completely.

In mid- April we core aerated our greens like we do every spring and fall. Regular core aerification helps to remove thatch and allows water and air movement into the top 5” of the soil. This is beneficial and necessary at least twice annually, but it does not solve deeper soil issues. The drill and fill practice does a much better job of that. This spring, I decided to drill and fill selected areas in corners and low spots where water will collect and sit longer, and this has made a positive difference in these areas. The holes are almost covered over with turf; you may notice them on 1, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 18.

The weather starting in 2020 looked like a carbon copy of 2019. In 2019, we recorded over 96 inches of rain on the golf course. Our normal annual rainfall is a little bit over 46 inches. In 2019, January through the end of May, we had 39 inches of rain. January through the end of May 2020 we have had a bit over 36 inches, with endless days of clouds and cool weather. The concern along with everything else Covid-19 related, was to make sure we didn’t back ourselves into a corner by having the greens too short, with too little help on hand to manage them. The excessive rainfall and cloudy days don’t promote a very good weather pattern to promote deeper rooting, which in turn helps us manage heights and green speeds and any water we apply with our irrigation system.

And then came COVID-19. Nobody was expecting a virus to essentially shut down the world for an extended period. We were told to hold-off on hiring our returning seasonal and summer help for the time being. My summer help usually starts coming on staff around the end of March, and on into April and May, with the last one or two by June 1. The POA had to hold-off hiring for about six weeks, which put us behind. The Golf Maintenance team did not have the normal number of employees during spring aerification, but we all helped each other out and managed to get it done in a timely fashion around mid-April.

It was at this point, not knowing when we would ever be fully staffed, a decision was made to keep the greens height a little bit higher initially in case we didn’t hire as many people back for the summer season. This increase in height would and has allowed us to manage water a little better earlier, which in turn benefits the bent grass greens roots going into summer. Right now, our actual height of cut is less than where we are at the end of August on average, and not much more than where we keep it in the spring, fall and winter months. By doing this now, I have high hopes that we do not have to increase the height later in the summer.

We are using turf groomers that are on the John Deere greens mowers from our fleet. The groomers help control lateral growth movement of the leaf blades, and by doing so, the grass tends to stand up a bit more, improving ball roll and eliminating “grain” in the turf. We groom on a regular basis, and this simple attachment is probably one of the most useful in our Superintendents tool bag.

Lastly, we are in the hand watering part of the season. The staff you see hand watering greens are paying special attention to soil moisture across every green, and only cooling the surface if necessary. We are also hand watering any dry spots so the turf can rehydrate and recover within a few days. Dry spots in random places are a normal occurrence on greens no matter what kind of grass is on them— bent grass or Bermuda. Dry spots and off-color spots mean we are doing our job correctly by not watering too much with sprinklers, and possibly over watering the turf.

Osprey on a branch

Species Profile: Pandion haliaetus – Osprey

Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Common Name(s): Osprey, Fish Eagle, Sea hawk, River Hawk, Fish Hawk

 

Osprey on a branch

Wikipedia.org/Yathin S Krishnappa

 

Identification:

The osprey Pandion haliaetus is a large predatory bird. Males and females are similar in appearance, although males can be distinguished by narrower wings and body compared to the female. The underside is white, and the back and wings are a dark brown. Their head is white with dark brown surrounding their golden eyes extending to the back of the neck. They have a black, sharply downturned beak and white feet with sharp, black talons. They have distinctive wings with four long feathers; the fifth feather is shorter. Their tail is short and has both brown and white coloration. Adults average 20-26 inches long, weight 2-4.6 lbs., and have a wingspan of 50-71 inches.

Range of Osprey Map Chart

Range:

The osprey is found almost worldwide. It is very adaptable, able to live almost anywhere it can find fish to feed on and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Florida and the Gulf Coast tends to have permanent residents who do not migrate.

Ecology:

Osprey can inhabit both freshwater and saltwater environments. They are very adaptable and are often seen on coastlines, or by large rivers and lakes. Virtually anywhere that has fish can by inhabited by osprey. The osprey has many adaptations that help it capture fish including reversible toes, sharp spines underneath the toes, a membrane to close the nose when diving, backwards scales on the talons that hold prey when flying, and dense, oily feathers that will not hold water when they dive. Fish ranging from 1.8 oz to 4.4 lbs. can be captured by osprey. Although their diet is 99% fish, they also consume rodents, rabbits, amphibians, other birds, and small reptiles.  

During breeding, osprey build large mounds of sticks, brush, or vegetation that they use as nests. They are monogamous, breeding with the same partner for life. Both parents help raise young. Females lay 2-4 white eggs with dark brown spots. Eggs hatch within a month. Eggs weigh around 2.3 oz and depend on the large nest, and their mother, for warmth. Young will get their flight feathers in 8-10 weeks after hatching.

Osprey commonly live 7-10 years, and rarely survive for 20-25 years. Great horned owls, golden eagles, and bald eagle are all predators of ospreys. These predators’ prey on eggs as well as adults. Eagles most often harass ospreys and take freshly killed prey from them. Raccoons are another predator, killing young or eggs if they can reach their nest.

Special Notes:

Here in Bella Vista, osprey can most likely be spotted flying near the lakes or Little Sugar Creek in search of prey. In Arkansas, they are not permanent or breeding residents, so breeding behavior cannot be observed.

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Species Profile: Aix sponsa – Wood Duck

Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
Common Name(s): Wood Duck, Carolina Duck

Wood ducks

Nextdoornature.org

Identification:
The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is a medium sized, unmistakable North American duck most known for its beautiful colors. Males have the most color in fall through early summer, with iridescent feathers of multiple colors. Their heads are green at the top, then transition to purple, pink, and blue. They have multiple white outlines on their head, neck, and body, distinctive red eyes, and a red, white, and black bill. Females are more grayish brown in color, with their sides a lighter shade than their backs. They have some bluish feathers on their wings and white that surrounds their eyes. Females’ bills are gray. Both males and females have long feathers that hang off the back of their heads. Out of breeding season, males resemble females but often keep their red bills and have light blue feathers on their wings. Adults average 19-21inches with a wingspan of 26-29inches.

Wood duck species range map

Range:
The wood duck is a North American migratory species, moving south for the winter in northern parts of its range. They remain as year-round residents in southern parts of their range.

Ecology:
Wood ducks prefer water bodies that have forest habitat nearby. They can be found near lakes, marshes, rivers, and streams. Wood ducks like to perch in trees to avoid predators, especially during breeding season when they are nesting. The male call sounds like a squeaky whistle, while the female call is louder and longer.

Juvenile wood ducks consume aquatic bugs and small fish. Adults feed mainly on plants, seeds, berries, and nuts, although they will eat insects as well.

During breeding season, males attract females with their call and iridescent colors. Once paired, they build nests in tree cavities. Sycamore trees overhanging water are common nesting choices. Where nesting sites are scarce, they will nest up to one mile away from water. Hatchlings routinely jump from heights of up to 50 feet landing on leaf pack unhurt. Parents then lead them to the nearest water body. Nest boxes are readily used. Females line their nest with soft feathers or other materials and then lay eggs. If a female cannot find a nest of her own, she will lay her eggs in another female’s nest. This can decrease survivability because one female is unable to adequately incubate a large number of eggs. Females normally lay 7-15 eggs and incubate them for around one month. Egg dumping in nest boxes with no intention of incubation is also a fairly common practice.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 has helped wood duck populations recover from threateningly low numbers. This Act regulates the hunting of migratory birds and prevents them from being sold. Before this Act, many wood ducks were killed for their feathers to make women’s hats. Widespread harvest of mature timber more than 100 years ago also limited nesting sites. Eastern forest lands have sense recovered, and so has the wood duck.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, wood ducks can potentially be seen on any lake, stream, or pond. They tend to be secretive and enjoy the water line at the back of coves. With plenty of water and surrounding forested habitat, Bella Vista is a great place for wood ducks.

Birds and wildflowers on Berksdale Golf Course

Recognition for Resilience

Berksdale has undergone numerous transformations over the last decade, but our dedication to stewardship has been unwavering. Our commitment to pursuing the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf provides an independent assessment of our efforts.

We are pleased to announce that Berksdale has been certified in all categories required to qualify for full status in this global partnership. After a year of data collection and assessing site parameters, we were awarded recognition for Environmental Planning in September of 2016.

Devastating floods led Berksdale to transition from an 18 to a 9-hole course, yet we persevered to receive certifications for an Environmental Case Study and our Wildlife and Habitat Management in May of 2018. With sampling and testing assistance from the POA’s Lakes Department, we were recognized for Water Quality Management and for Water Conservation April 2019. March 27th of this year, we were informed that our Chemical Use Reduction and Safety and Outreach and Education efforts meet all of Audubon International’s criteria.

A site visit will be conducted when travel constraints ease, hopefully this fall. Berksdale will then become only the second course in Arkansas and one of the few in the region to be receive this prestigious Cooperative Sanctuary designation.