Birdies in the News
There will be lots of talk about birdies at The 144th Open Championship at the Old Course.
It started at about 6.40 this morning when Englishman, Greg Owen, carded the first birdie of the Championship on his opening hole and it will continue until Sunday night when the new Champion is anointed.
Birdies will be much in the news this week and in more ways than one.
On Wednesday, the morning before the Championship started, there was an incident which illustrates just how serious The R&A is about protecting the birdlife and the wider environment at its Championship venues. More specifically, it concerned a family of Meadow Pipits found to be nesting in a small area of long grass close to the back of the fifth tee.
Let’s allow Bob Taylor, The R&A’s official ecologist for The Open, to take up the story.
“The greens staff who had been assigned to cut the area were the first to realise there was a problem,” he said.
“They called out James Hutchison, the Environment Manager for the St Andrews Links Trust, and as soon as he saw the nest with three young birds in it, he got the greenstaff to cordon off the area. Later, when we realised the young birds were still being disturbed by the crowds, we got permission from the Championship Committee to extend the cordon. That was important because it allowed the adult birds to come back to the nest to feed their youngsters. The feeding is so important because the more insects they can give their young, the quicker they can get them away. This isn’t just a people problem, we have crows too and they will attack as soon as they have the opportunity. It’s a dangerous time in the life of a young bird.”
Taylor, the STRI’s Senior Consultant on Ecology and the Environment, sees this incident as a good example of how passionate The R&A is about protecting the environment at its Championship venues.
“We look long and hard at all the ecological sensitivities at all our Open venues and set up the sites accordingly,” he confirmed. “It is a great opportunity and a privilege to work alongside The R&A in staging the Open, knowing The R&A is fully behind what we are attempting to do. It shows the positivity, the enthusiasm, and the will of The R&A to ensure they do everything within their power to protect the local environment.”
This year, for the first time, The Open has its own specific programme for sustainability. It’s called GreenLinks and it has been established in recognition of the growing challenges facing our natural environment. GreenLinks addresses a wide range of wildlife issues and also tackles the broader sustainability considerations around staging a major sporting event. In catering for hundreds of thousands of spectators during the week of the Championship, The Open is implementing sustainable procurement policies which focus on ethically produced food and drink from local suppliers. To minimise the volume of waste material sent to landfill, The Open is collaborating with partner organisations to deliver effective waste segregation and recycling initiatives.
“The Open is committed to conserving the natural links landscapes which play host to the Championship,” said Philip Russell, The R&A’s Manager – Golf Course Affairs. “Taking into account specific site sensitivities and wildlife considerations, great care is taken to protect nature throughout the entire event staging process. Working closely with an appointed ecologist and the St Andrews Links Trust, The Open ensures that the links is safeguarded for the enjoyment of future generations.
“We’re delighted to be working with Bob Taylor in his role as the official ecologist for The R&A Championship Committee,” he added. “We know that, in staging an event of the scale of The Open, the event impact has to be carefully managed.
“Bob is on site at The Open each year to make sure that issues are handled as they arise. This is a core part of our work now. We are all aware of the sustainability issues surrounding staging The Open and are very serious about ensuring we leave as light a footprint as possible.”
More information about The R&A's new GreenLinks programme can be found here.