Sunday, April 22, 2018

Southern Bobwhite Quail Restoration Project--Earth Day 2018

Every day is Earth Day on a golf course and especially at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Each year we try to determine an environmental or wildlife habitat need on our course and design a project or program to try and address this need.  For decades the habitat for the Southern Bobwhite Quail has been in constant decline.  This decline is caused by many issues.  As smaller farms, pasturelands, and grass-woodline areas have disappeared in favor of larger open farms and sprawling neighborhoods the habitat for these small game birds is becoming scarce.

Over the years we have drastically reduced the highly maintained turfgrass acreage on our course allowing these areas to return to a natural grassy stage.   These areas are perfect habitat for these small birds as they are small in size and close to water and wooded cover.  The project for this year was designed and carried out by Bill Greene.  Bill, an avid hunter and outdoorsman throughout his life, has a passion for wildlife conservation.  After some detailed research Bill started constructing a brooding chamber to hold the quail chicks until they are large enough to be released.  The chamber is 3'x8' and 12" tall with feed towers and a watering system installed.

Feed and grit will be placed in the feed towers and water placed in the watering barrel.  This supply of food and water will be enough to keep them for the 33 days then need to stay in the brooding chamber before being released into the wild.  1/4" wire mesh was installed in the front half of the brooding chamber with the back half of the chamber solid to allow the chicks an area to get out of any harsh sun, wind, or rain.

A layer of pine shavings are placed in the bottom of the chamber and the chicks released into the chamber.  As you can see in the picture, the chicks, which Bill is holding in his hands, are very small and quite fragile at this young age.  It will take close to a month for them to become strong and big enough to release into their new habitat.

Our plan was to have the chicks out in the brooding chamber long before this time. The unpredictable weather that has kept the south in what seems like a never ending winter has changed those plans.  Since the chicks are so small and fragile and the weather keeps fluctuating so much we have decided to keep the chick in a nesting area at the maintenance building under a heat light and with food and water until the weather regulates.  This will give them some extra time to grow and be ready to be placed in "the wild".

We are blessed to have employees like Bill Greene at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Not only does he assist in maintaining the golf course grounds everyday but has taken a personal interest in the environmental projects and programs we have in place.  Bill took the time to research the needs of the quail, to speak with his  uncle who raises Bobwhite quail and to secure the donation of the game birds to our project.  If you see Bill out on the course (he will be the tall guy almost always wearing something promoting the Georgia Bulldogs) stop and speak with him and learn about the Bobwhite quail restoration project and say thanks to him for his commitment to the environment, our wildlife habitat programs, and to the golf course.

We are very lucky to be able to come to work on a golf course everyday, and even more for that golf course to be The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  Golf courses provide land that can be used in many ways.  For the golfers (humans) it provides a great place for exercise, stress release, and fellowship with friends and family.  For the wildlife and birds the golf course provides a home, a place where they can move and live and raise their families.

We hope that each of you have a fantastic Earth Day this year and remember that every day should be considered Earth Day.  Please do you part while on the golf course by keeping vehicles out of native grass areas, placing trash and cigarette butts where they are designed to go, and stopping from time to time and simply enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds of the course.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Aquatrols Conservation Award

Earlier this month our course was awarded the inaugural Aquatrols Conservation Award for the wildlife habitat management programs we have undertaken over the years on the golf course.  We are very grateful to Aquatrols for this award and for the recognition of our environmental stewardship projects.  It is our belief that golf course management and environmental stewardship go hand in hand and in all honesty it just makes the job more fun and interesting.

I would like to thank Mr. Steve Fasano of Aquatrols for being so gracious in his comments and his time in presenting us with the Conservation Award. Each year Aquatrols sponsors the Golf Course Industry magazine Super Social Media Awards at the annual Golf Industry Show.  The Super Social Media awards are presented to golf courses for their use of twitter, blogs, videos, and other forms of media which get the word out of all the great work being done on their course.

Whether it is our Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project or our Mallard Duck Nesting Tubes or our Wild Turkey Feeders or our wood duck boxes or Establishing Native Grass Areas they are all done to enhance the golf course, to provide nesting and brooding  areas and to help promote the fact that golf courses can be, and are, safe and suitable habitats for a multitude of birds and wildlife.

It has been a busy winter with many improvements made to the course and we are ready to get going with the growing season.  It seems quite early but Spring has sprung at Harrison Bay with the trees blooming and the greens coming out of dormancy.  We hope this is the start to a great golfing season for all and we hope all will come out and enjoy the great weather and all the hard work that we will be putting into the course.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fence Renovation Project 2018

Last year we began working on improving the overall appearance of our golf course when we renovated the front sign on Harrison Bay Road. Front Entrance Face Lift Part 1 and Part 2  This year in continuing the work to make your experience even better we chose to renovate the old split rail fencing along the front entry road, surrounding the main parking lot, and along the back of the native planting bed which runs along #1 tee.

The project was a fun and exciting one that allowed us to hone old skills and tap into new talents some of us didn't know we had.  We began the project on January 22 and finished up today, February 15th.  In total we installed 249 4"x6" pressure treated posts with 2' buried in the ground.  We drilled and screwed in 2,304 3" galvanized bolts into 532 2"x6" pressure treated rails for a total of 4,256 linear feet of fencing.  Yes we counted it all. 😁

Here is a video we put together of the project.  Hope you like it.

Special thanks go to Bill Greene, Willie Hamby and Shane Shelton for their commitment and hard work on this project.  If you like the finished product and see them on the course let them know.  They suffered a few cuts and splinters along the way to make this project such a success.

Spring is just around the corner and we can't wait to get everyone back out on the links and enjoying the course that we all love caring for so much.  See you out there soon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Remembering Eloise--The First Lady of HBEC

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Eloise, the original female bald eagle at the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project.  She was spotted on the nest cam Saturday with an injury under her right wing.  On Sunday Harrison Bay State Park rangers responded to a local land owner reporting an eagle in distress.  She was captured and taken to the University of Tennessee Veterinary College for treatment but did not survive her injuries.

We have, as viewers of HBEC, had the distinct pleasure of watching her care for her nest and territory.  From watching her direct her mate Elliott as to where each and every stick should be placed around the nest perimeter to carefully and delicately rolling her eggs and feeding her chicks without the slightest chance of injury to them with her razor sharp beak or talons to protecting her nest from predators or other eagles that would like to take over, it has been a true gift to witness this.

Since 2010 Eloise has laid 12 eggs of which 10 successfully hatched and fledged from our nest to take to the skies and fly free.  Along that path we have had several close calls or frights including the premature branching and fledging of HB5 which lead to a capture and rehabilitation stint at the American Eagle Foundation before being released back at the golf course.  HB5 Flies Free Again

Watching Eloise care for her eaglets was a tremendous honor.  There were so many times where she would shelter them from rain and snow and stay awake all night long to make sure they were safe and sound.  It has truly been a blessing to get to see this magnificent animal in its natural environment and she will not soon be forgotten.

As many of you may remember Eloise left the nest last year and was replaced by Eliza.  Why this happened no one knows and we feared the worst but hoped for the best and we were all thrilled when she returned this year to reclaim her rightful place as the queen of HBEC.
Photo by Bret Douglas

Our eagle cam is a glimpse into nature at its rawest form.  We have witnessed all the elements that makes life, life.  From birth to death, caring to pain,  anger to love, all of these elements have been on direct display and many of them hurt.  We will miss seeing Eloise "boss" Elliott around about where to place the "furnishings" around the nest, seeing her care for her eaglets in the tender caring way she did, and being taken back by that distinct, heavy browed stare she had.

The Harrison Bay Eagle Cam ( will continue to function as an educational conduit to allow interested viewers to garner a view of an active bald eagle nest in the wild.  Elliott, as his natural instincts tell him to continue his species, has returned to the nest this afternoon with Eliza, the female that took Eloise's place last year.  We can only hope for continued success of the nest and for many more eaglets to be fledged in the years to come to fill the skies.

Photo by Bret Douglas

Fly Free Eloise

We will miss you dearly

Saturday, December 30, 2017

That's a Wrap on 2017

As we put the greens under the covers to protect them from the freezing weather coming into the Chattanooga area to finish off 2017 we take a look back at what was a fantastic year.  We would like to thank all our loyal customers who made the year so successful and all the new comers who gave the golf course a chance, we hope you will all return next year.  To the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay staff, THANKS could not begin to express the appreciation we have for all your dedication and hard work.

There were many renovations or improvements to the golf course this year with the renovation of the front entrance sign kicking the year off. Front Entrance Face Lift Part 1 and Part 2  Other improvements around the course were the new bag racks for the driving range built by Bill Greene, limbing up of trees and creating walkway paths through the native grass areas, to new fencing around the golf course to replace the old split rail fencing.

After all the issues we had with our greens coming out of dormancy in 2016 Greens issue in 2016 we were thrilled with the conditions of the greens, and the golf course as a whole, this year.  The hours of blood, sweat, and tears poured into the golf course by our fantastic agronomy staff lead by Assistant Golf Course Superintendent Willie Hamby really began to shine and the course was the best it has been in as many years as I can remember.  

Summer Aerification of 2017 went off without a hitch and was the most productive we have ever had at Harrison Bay.  Over the five days we were closed we were able to perform many much needed cultural practices to improve the course including creating over 18 million new breathing holes in the greens, scalped down over 10 acres of tees and green surrounds to provide for better playing surfaces, sliced over 32 acres of fairways with the Aerway shatter tine aerifier, and applied over 150 tons of sand to greens, tees and surrounds to provide smoother, better draining, and better playing surfaces.  

On the environmental front, the beauty and peacefulness of our course was clearly evident again this year.  From the new fawns that curiously watched us go about our day, to the fledging of HB 11 and HB 12 from the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project, to renewing our environmental certification with Golf Environment Organization the benefits of being stewards of the environment were numerous.  We were honored this year to have our Electric Equipment Initiative featured in GCSAA's Golf Course Management magazine Can You Hear Me Now?.  

The future is bright and we are very much looking forward to another prosperous year in 2018.  We will continue to work to improve the conditions and playability of the course.  We have several projects in mind for this upcoming year including new fencing around the parking lot and front entrance, sod work on areas near #2 green and along the cart path on #16, bunker renovations as funds present themselves, and continued work on our greens to make them the best they can possibly be.  

Thank you again to everyone who made 2017 successful and we hope you and yours had a great year and we wish you nothing but the best in 2018.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Harrison Bay Eagle Cam 2017 Season Takes Flight

After a very frustrating season last year, HBEC Experiencing Technical Issues, where we lost all communication to the PTZ camera in the top of the tree.  We are happy to announce that after a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people and a tremendous amount of patience by our supporters and chatters, the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam Project is back up and running.  We are hoping that this year will be much more successful and will not have the issues we have experienced in the past.

Earlier this fall Angelo came down to the course and removed all the equipment from the top of the tree.  The equipment was inspected for damage but none was found.  We can't really say why the camera stopped communicating but we believe it was a wiring issue going up the tree.  In the past the wires were not protected from things that could have damaged them like an animal chewing through them.  This year all cables were run in flexible conduit all the way from control box to camera.  We also purchased a secondary camera which is also mounted in the nest tree which will serve as a backup, complete with its own microphone and infrared light.  Live and learn!!!

We get asked a lot about what all it takes to provide this great and unique experience and it takes a lot.  It takes a lot of time, planning, work, and expertise.  To the right is a photo of the communication and power connections at the base of the tree.  There is a lot of stuff going on in this photo including fiber optic conversion, IP camera Power over Ethernet adapters, data switchers, microphone power injectors, and more.  This is not your average "plug and play" set up.  So if you want to start a streaming website program I am not discouraging you, I'm just letting you know you can't go down to your local Walmart and pick this package up.

So let's give some credit to the people that make this project work.  Matt Vawter, pictured with Mr. Jim Morgan of The Friends of Harrison Bay State Park, is a Park Ranger at Harrison Bay State Park and is the brains behind the entire project.  Without Matt being willing and able to create our website, determine which equipment was needed and how to make it all work, and be able to program the cameras to get out to the internet we would all be looking at a blank screen.  When you sit around your computer screen and enjoy the eaglets hatching out of their eggs it is because of Matt's hard work.

The other piece to the puzzle is Angelo Giansante. Angelo is the Park Manager at Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Park and has been involved in the project since the beginning.  Angelo is in charge of installing and maintaining the cameras and everything else up in the top of the tree.  Without hesitation when we call and ask Angelo to come down and climb the 100' to the nest he never turns us down and says it is one of the best projects he's worked on.  So much like Matt when you are enjoying the sights and sounds of HBEC Angelo is a vital part of the project.

We are extremely happy to be back online and streaming and hope to have a much better year this year.  We have learned some very hard lessons over the year and although we are not the biggest eagle cam project out there, nor do we want to be, we do everything we can to provide this glimpse into the nesting life of a bald eagle family.

Again we want to thank all our loyal followers who have patiently waited for us to be back on line.  If you have not experienced this great project we encourage you to join us at as we hopefully watch Elliott and Eliza lay a couple eggs and raise a new brood of bald eagles that will take to the skies.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Late Season Improvements

We are starting to put a wrap on what has been a very successful season at the course.  Hard work by the agronomy staff and some great weather has allowed us to experience one of our best years of conditions ever.  The issues that we had with the greens last year are a distant memory, but not forgotten, and the greens are in fabulous shape.  The course has recovered from all the work done during summer aerification and the surrounds which were shaved down have smoothed up nicely.  All in all it has been a great summer.

As the temps start to drop some of our work will switch from mowing grass to the inevitable leaf war that we fight every year but we also have a few late season projects that we have been working on around the course.  The first one we have completed is replacing the netting at the back of the driving range.  The old netting was torn in several places and was basically useless for stopping range balls from going in the woods and was dangerous to the wildlife, mostly deer, as they walked through in the dark.

We decided to use a woven windscreen this time as we believe it will last longer and would not be a danger to the wildlife as they can hopefully see this screen easier.  Willie and Shane spent several days replacing and adding posts that needed to be replaced and secured new wires along the posts to secure the windscreen to.

The other project that we will be working on over the next couple of weeks is the replacement of the old short split rail fencing which is rotting and falling down and the unsightly rope barriers located around the course.  It would be ideal not to have to have traffic barriers around the course as the distract from the appearance of the course and add extra work for the agronomy staff but unfortunately they are necessary as not everyone follows the cart rules and drives where they are supposed to.
We rented an auger to drill new holes for the posts for new fences which I am sure you have seen around the course.  We have chosen to use 6" x 4" pressure treated ground contact posts this time so they will not rot and will not likely get broken or knocked over as the untreated pine split rail posts tended to.  Buried 2 feet in the ground this will leave us with 2 feet exposed to create the fencing look that we are going after.

Pressure treated 2" x 6" railings will be used this time for the same reasons as the posts, less likely to rot and will last for a real long time.  36" openings will be left in the railings at the walking paths for our guests who walk and/or use push carts but are not wide enough for golf carts to travel through, so please don't try.

Projects like these two are simple ways to keep the golf course protected and looking good.  It isn't always a complete greens rebuild or a 5,000' drainage project that can make a big impact on the appearance and playability of a course.  Sometimes it is the little details that make the difference.  We will hopefully be done with the fencing project in a few weeks depending on weather and play and we hope you like the new additions and the look.  Other projects in line for this winter will be renovating the timbers around the steps leading up to the clubhouse, installation of crossties along cart paths on a few holes, and if we get the time before it gets too late we would like to renovate and sod the area between the fairway and the cart path near #2 green.  All projects designed to improve the course that we all love so much.