The largest women’s golf tournament in the world was held at the Lancaster Country Club, Lancaster, PA on July 9-12 this summer. This event has been anticipated since 2009 when the announcement was made that LCC was chosen as the 2015 host. 156 women from around the globe competed for the most prestigious tournament prize that women’s golf has to offer. 135,000 fans toured the course from the practice rounds (Monday to Wednesday) to the four days of competition (Thursday to Sunday). The course was lush and immaculate due to an unseasonably wet June and early July. I am fortunate to have a 43 box Bluebird trail at the Lancaster Country Club since 2010, and it is in my backyard (the 7th fairway). It is a real privilege to monitor this trail every Monday morning during the nesting season – 450 acres of the most pristine of bluebird habitats anywhere in the country. I will chronicle how this colossal golf tournament changed the environment of a nesting pair of bluebirds at Box #36, and how these captivating songbirds dealt with those changes.
In early May I began to notice a transformation of the LCC golf course. It was subtle at first with tractor trailers, flatbeds, and box trucks parked in remote areas. Then tents began popping up, and modular trailers began taking their assigned places in parking lots. Fencing appeared to cordon off areas, and regular parking lots were closed to parking as other grass areas were designated as temporary parking. Each week I noticed more tents, platforms, modular housing, double-wide trailers, scaffolding, huge air-conditioners, and box trucks. In early June three access roads were cut into a practice course off the main highway for parking, vendor access, porta-johns, extra-wide modular housing, and to enter staging areas with even more equipment on flatbeds. Stadium risers, television camera stands, leader boards, and GPS platforms would soon grace all 18 tee boxes and greens. The equipment necessary to stage a world class golf event is mind-boggling and the logistics is almost incomprehensible as is the manpower to install everything. By June 29th , I realized that a serious golf event was really going to happen.
On that Monday, as I approached the final 12 boxes of my trail in a golf cart, I had the shock of my life. As I looked southeast toward one of my most productive bluebird boxes on the course, I saw it: “Fox Sports 1 Command and Control Compound” rising from the landscape. It looked like a state fairgrounds site, and my first thought was —- “oh no! They have backed those tandem double-wides right over bluebird nest box #36 with 5 eggs.” As I checked boxes #32-35 and followed the heavy cables to the “new sports city” at the back of the driving range, I was prepared for the worst. On June 22, Box #36 had 4 BB eggs (the 2nd nest of the season for this bluebird pair), and I was anticipating a happy visit. When I arrived at the location of #36, it was NOT there — not good news. After walking between numerous double-wides, I found the box about 40 feet from its original location. It was stuck in the ground along with a rain gauge and was within 2 feet of a modular. It was tipped about 15 degrees from vertical, but it was not flattened!!! After a deep breath, I opened the box to find 5 bluebird newborn nestlings. WOW!! I saw the female up on the corner of one of the modular homes, and she seemed quite relaxed with her new surroundings. I placed some orange caution tape around the box and rain gauge and breathed a sigh of relief. I knew that we needed two more weeks for this to be a successful nesting, and the tournament would not be starting for another 10 days on July 9th. What I did not know was that 150 people were employed by Fox Sports 1, and their crews would travel on 40+ golf carts from 6AM to 8PM every day. Numerous 10’ by 10’ beach tents would be laced all along the fencing along the Rt. 30 Bypass to add color to the drab white portable housing units. Would this pair of bluebirds quit and give up, or would they stay the course and be successful? Let’s fast forward to July 13th for the answer.
On the Monday after the Women’s Open Golf Tournament, I checked Box #36. When I opened the front, I saw 5 healthy chicks inside, and they were ready to fledge. Two males looked at me and flew out of the cramped quarters into the fresh air. I closed the front and decided to let the parents call out the other three. Later that afternoon I revisited Box #36, and it was empty — a job well done by mother and father bluebird. They are truly resilient songbirds. This 2015 Women’s Golf Open changed the open environment that bluebirds enjoy, hunt for, and thrive on. This pair of bluebirds had to adjust to very cramped quarters for just over two weeks to feed, and care for their young family of five.
Dr. Dean C. Rust
President of the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania