Wednesday, May 13, 2015

5th Annual Birdhouse Tour

We had a great Bird House Tour on May 11, 2015.  Had about two dozen Villagers and lots of birds show up.  We can report the following use of the Golf Course bird houses (using map numbers):


        Western Bluebirds using numbers 6 and 12 for sure and probably 10 and 11.  The pair at #6 (birdcam) have four young.

        Tree Swallows using numbers 2, 5 and 8.  The parents at #5 gave us a show of parental care and swallow aerial abilities.

        Violet-Green Swallows using number 7 – their young were peeping out the entrance hole, much to our delight!


Unfortunately #9 house is missing and the #1 house is damaged on the back although still in use as a perch by the Black Phoebes raising young under the club house roof just behind it.  There are also Tree Swallows nesting in a pipe nearby.  I showed the group where the Starlings nest in the poles around the practice range.


The tour group was also enthusiastic about the Red Tail Hawk on the Short Nine Course, the Brown Headed Cowbirds and Bullock’s Orioles near #3 house, and the pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers in the trees near #6.  Even though the tour didn’t go near the big ponds, we had a Snowy Egret flyover!  I think everyone enjoyed the birds and the walk.  Some may go back on their own to see the houses we didn’t visit. 


Thanks for all your efforts to help the birds and make our golf courses such bird friendly places.


Mary and David Fullerton

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Seven Trees Blow Over In Wind Storm

 On Tuesday, December 30, one of the biggest wind storms in recent memory blew through San Jose.  With maximum wind speeds of 31 mph and gusts reaching 40 mph, seven large eucalyptus trees blew over on the golf course. Below are pictures of five of the fallen trees. (If you look carefully you will see that two trees fell in front of eighteen tee.) 
Click on photos to enlarge
Sixteen Fairway

Three Fairway

Bocce Courts

In Front of Eighteen Tee

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Just Discovered a Great Website

 I recently discovered a great website, Birds of the Villages. Put together by Villages resident Bruce Blinn, this is a very useful resource for all those Birders living at The Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose, CA.
To go to the site, click the following link:

Below is an example of some of the useful information you will find on Bruce's website.

Villages Birds of the Villages

This web site contains pictures and information about the birds that can be found in The Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose, California. This web site is not complete; there are many birds that you may see in the Villages that are not yet included on this page. I will continue to add new birds whenever I can photograph and identify them.
You can click on any of the pictures of birds on this page to see additional pictures of that bird. You can then select any of those pictures to see a larger version of that picture.
Note: The pictures on this web site were all taken at the Villages, but the audio recordings of the birds were found on the web.

  • Bluebird, Western

    Western Bluebird
    The western bluebird is about 5-7 inches from beak to tail. The head, tail, and wings of the male are deep blue. They have a rusty colored breast and back and their belly is light gray. The colors of the female are much more muted. They are easily recognized; if you see a small bird and catch a glimpse of blue, it is probably a bluebird.
    The western bluebird is very common in the Villages all year long, but more so in the summer. It is one of the birds that nests in the birdhouses around the golf course. Their nesting period is from May and June. When you see a bluebird, there are usually several others nearby. You will frequently see them in the grass eating insects or flying back to a nearby tree. They frequently perch on upright posts or wires. You can find these birds all over the golf course, but they seem to be most abundant around the 9-hole golf course or holes #4 and #5 on the 18-hole golf course.
    Reference: Sibley (c2000) p401; Peterson (c2010) p288.
Some additional information that may be useful:

  • Villages Birdhouse Map - This is a PDF file of a map showing the location of the twelve birdhouses that are located on the Villages golf courses.
  • Birds of Santa Clara County - This is a PDF file from the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society showing the distribution of birds in Santa Clara County.
  • Birds of California - This is a link to a Wikipedia page that lists all the birds that can be found in Califonia

Monday, August 11, 2014

USGA Article on Wet Bunkers

The Saga Of Wet Bunkers

By Pat Gross, director, Southwest Region
August 5, 2014

                                                                                                                                                                 It happens just about the same time every year. Superintendents in the Southwest start to hear complaints from golfers about “wet bunkers.” One would think that the hot, humid weather over the past two weeks would have people concerned about the survival of putting green turf, but the sandy hazards seem to be a higher priority for some golfers.
There are several reasons why bunker sand tends to be wet during the summer, especially in the early morning hours:

  1. More water is being applied to surrounding turf areas each night, some of which lands in the bunkers.
  2. In some locations, it is necessary to occasionally water greens deeply – also called leaching – to flush harmful salts and sodium away from sensitive turf roots. Some of that water ends up in bunkers.
  3. Older bunker sand that is contaminated with silt, clay and organic debris tends to retain more moisture than newer, cleaner sand.
A misguided suggestion that is often made is to just move the sprinklers so they don’t spray into bunkers. This is a bad idea. Golf course irrigation systems are designed with sprinklers spaced in a 60- to 65-feet triangular pattern to provide the most even irrigation coverage possible. Arbitrarily moving sprinklers ends up creating a wet spot in one area (where the sprinkler spacing is compressed) and a dry spot in another (where the sprinkler spacing is expanded).
Instead of reconfiguring the irrigation system, it is best to concentrate on bunker drainage, sand quality and maintenance with the following activities:
  • Increase the frequency of raking and cultivation to help bunker sand dry quickly.
  • Check that subsurface drain pipes in the bunkers are working properly and are not clogged with debris or tree roots.
  • Check sand quality and replace sand as necessary.
  • Make a visit to the golf professional to see if you are using the proper sand wedge for the type of sand at your course and maybe get a quick lesson to brush up on bunker play.
Pat Gross (
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What is Wrong With the Redwood Trees on the Golf Course?



Why do so many redwood trees on the golf course appear to be unhealthy?  

Back in 1999 the City of San Jose contacted us about using recycled water on the golf course. At that time, the federal government was mandating a reduction in the amount of waste-water flowing out of the water treatment plant and into San Francisco Bay.  The City was in the process of building a piping system to distribute some of the water leaving the water treatment plant to several golf courses in our area, including Silver Creek CC, The Ranch GC and the Villages G and CC. 

We knew at the time that irrigating the golf course with recycled water would present both positive and negative results.   While we knew we would be guaranteed all the water we would need during drought years, we also knew that recycled water is also much higher in sodium and chloride, better known as table salt, than the potable water we had been using. Our main concern was that the high salt levels would adversely affect the annual bluegrass (poa annua), the primary grass type growing on the golf course.  Annual bluegrass is also one of the most salt-sensitive grass species. We decided that we would use recycled water to irrigate the entire golf course, except for the greens, because we didn’t think the greens would survive being irrigated with recycled water. As part of the project to irrigate the course with recycled water, a new pump station was constructed on the course by San Jose Municipal Water Company to pump the recycled water into the existing irrigation piping system. A new piping system was then installed so that we could continue watering the greens with potable water.  We did have some areas of annual bluegrass in the fairways that died after being irrigated with recycled water. Fortunately the problem was limited and we were able to adapt to the problem by planting bermudagrass in those areas where the annual bluegrass was doing poorly.

The first few years we used recycled water, the water department allowed us to water for a couple of months each summer with potable water. This helped lower the salt levels in the soil. After a couple of years the water department said they wanted us to use recycled water only.

Eventually it became apparent to us that the recycled water was causing big problems for the redwood trees. Redwood trees all over Santa Clara County were having similar problems when watered with recycled water. Santa Clara Valley Water District and the City of San Jose just recently finished construction of a reverse osmosis plant adjacent to the water treatment plant. Now, as the recycled water comes out of the water treatment plant, about 30% of the water is diverted to the reverse osmosis plant.  The reverse osmosis process removes almost all of the salt from the water. When this “clean” water is blended back into the recycled water, the salt levels drop by 30%.

Will the redwood trees be able to recover now that they are being irrigated with water that has 30% less salt? I recently hired two leading experts in the field of irrigating with recycled water to look at what can be done to save the redwoods.  They have not completed their analysis yet, but they are not hopeful that the redwoods can be economically saved.  Another huge factor in determining the health of the redwood trees is how much rain we will get. If we have another drought year, as we have had the past three years, it will affect the redwood trees in two ways. First, good winter rains are needed to wash the salt deep down into the soil beneath the roots of the trees, and second, the abundance of rain also helps dilute the salt levels in the rootzone of the trees. We saw a big spike in the number of distressed redwoods last year and an even bigger spike in distressed redwoods this year due to the drought.

You may have noticed that the redwoods have started greening up. Unfortunately this has nothing to do with the drop in the salt level of the recycled water. Redwoods normally put out new growth at this time of year. Over the past ten years we have seen what looks like dead redwoods suddenly turn green in the spring. We probably won’t have a clear picture of the long-term health of the redwoods for at least another year.

For this year we are thankful that we will have all the water we need since there are no restrictions on our use of recycled water to irrigate the golf course.


Friday, May 9, 2014

This Quote Could Have Been Written For Golf Course Superintendents

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong."
H.L. Mencken

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fourth Annual Birdhouse Tour

Come join the fun at the fourth annual Villages Birdhouse Tour. We'll meet at the Bistro at 9:00 AM on Monday, May 19th. We're very lucky once more to have Villages bird experts Mary and Dave Fullerton lead the tour. They will talk about the various bird species that are nesting in some of the 12 birdhouses scattered around the gold course. Additionally, they will discuss any birds spotted along the way and answer any questions you may have. You're welcome to walk or ride in your golf cart. We will be handing out maps of the golf course, showing the location of all 12 birdhouses, as well as a recently updated inventory of all birds ever seen at The Villages. See you there!

Here are some photos from last year's Birdhouse Tour:

Click on Photos to Enlarge