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Crow Damage on Bowls Green

Crows, usually useful messengers about other problems are the problem at Paul's green

Paul in Wimbledon has a problem with some very streetwise crows.

So far Paul has investigated for leatherjackets and has ascertained that thatch levels are under control.

I’ll let Paul tell the story here and then continue the conversation in the comments area.

All input and ideas or experiences from other readers very welcome. Let’s help Paul get to the bottom of this frustrating problem.

 

 

John
I read your articles with great interest and find them very informative and helpful. We have combined much of the information into the last couple of years winter maintenance programmes with considerable success, so please keen them coming. However, it’s now that we need your help and advice more than ever on how to eliminate the damage being done to our green by a family of crows.
Our club “West Wimbledon Bowling Club” is located in a residential area of Raynes Park in Surrey, not far from Wimbledon Common. Like most clubs over the last 10 years membership has decreased and we now function on a limit financial budget, hence we, or at least four of our member have taken over 75% of our green mamagement, under the watchful eye of a consultant.
Our green has been fully enclosed with an electric fence for the last 20+ years, which was installed to detered the urban foxes and we had been damage free upto about 3 years ago when the crows arrived.
Over the last 3 years we have been effected by a family of about 6 crows damaging our green. Initially the damage began with small holes appearing randomly all over the green, these we managed on a day to day basis with top dressing and seed and though inconivent and annoying we were able to limit the damage.
Over the last two winters and during last summer the crow damage has become considerably worst all over the green, which leeds us to beleive that they are not looking for food. In is not uncommon for holes of 8″ to10″ in dia and 1″ deep to appear in the green overnight with the turf scattered all around, both summer and winter.
Frequently in the mornings we find food on the green where the crows have been scavenging and left bits of bone, half eaten fruit and even twigs stripped of their bark on the green, accompaned by the dreaded holes.
I know the first line of thought could be Leather Jackets, however the green is treated 3 times a year, autumn, spring and summer with Lorsbant, a broard-spectrum insecticide and we regually check for insect larve by covering large areas of the green with clear plastic to intice anything to the surface.
Worms are kept under control on a regular basis.
As the damage is wide spread and in large sections all over the green it again leads us to beleive that it is not insect larve or food they are looking for. We feel we are dealing with a family of crow vandles and we have no idea how to handle them.
Currently we have tried for protection reflectors, CD’s, windmills, bottles filled with water, tapes & plastic bags on poles, hanging basket cages to protect newly seeded areas (the crows even move them if the are not secured). Although partly successful the crows just move to another part of the green that is not protected.
As one of the four of the team looking after the green it is now becoming sole destorying. The condition of the green is good, but for the crow damage.
In all your experience have you come across this problem before?  How would you deal with the problem and what would your recommendations be?
Looking forward to your recommendations
King Regards
Paul Hunt
So far Paul has investigated for leatherjackets and has ascertained that thatch levels are under control. 

I’ll let Paul tell the story here and then continue the conversation in the comments area.

All input and ideas or experiences from other readers very welcome. Let’s help Paul get to the bottom of this frustrating problem.

John
I read your articles with great interest and find them very informative and helpful. We have combined much of the information into the last couple of year’s winter maintenance programmes with considerable success, so please keen them coming. However, it’s now that we need your help and advice more than ever on how to eliminate the damage being done to our green by a family of crows.

Our club “West Wimbledon Bowling Club” is located in a residential area of Raynes Park in Surrey, not far from Wimbledon Common. Like most clubs over the last 10 years membership has decreased and we now function on a limit financial budget, hence we or at least four of our member have taken over 75% of our green management, under the watchful eye of a consultant.
Our green has been fully enclosed with an electric fence for the last 20+ years, which was installed to deter the urban foxes and we had been damage free up to about 3 years ago when the crows arrived.

Over the last 3 years we have been affected by a family of about 6 crows damaging our green. Initially the damage began with small holes appearing randomly all over the green, these we managed on a day to day basis with top dressing and seed and though inconvenient and annoying we were able to limit the damage.
Over the last two winters and during last summer the crow damage has become considerably worst all over the green, which leads us to believe that they are not looking for food. In is not uncommon for holes of 8″ to10″ in diameter and 1″ deep to appear in the green overnight with the turf scattered all around, both summer and winter.
Frequently in the mornings we find food on the green where the crows have been scavenging and left bits of bone, half eaten fruit and even twigs stripped of their bark on the green, accompanied by the dreaded holes.

I know the first line of thought could be Leather Jackets; however the green is treated 3 times a year, autumn, spring and summer with Lorsbant, a broad-spectrum insecticide and we regularly check for insect larvae by covering large areas of the green with clear plastic to entice anything to the surface.
Worms are kept under control on a regular basis.
As the damage is wide spread and in large sections all over the green it again leads us to believe that it is not insect larvae or food they are looking for. We feel we are dealing with a family of crow vandals and we have no idea how to handle them.

Currently we have tried for protection reflectors, CD’s, windmills, bottles filled with water, tapes & plastic bags on poles, hanging basket cages to protect newly seeded areas (the crows even move them if the are not secured). Although partly successful the crows just move to another part of the green that is not protected.

As one of the four of the team looking after the green it is now becoming soul destroying. The condition of the green is good, but for the crow damage.
In all your experience have you come across this problem before?  How would you deal with the problem and what would your recommendations be?

Looking forward to your recommendations

King Regards
Paul Hunt

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22 comments

  1. admin says:

    Hi Paul

    Thanks for your message.

    Do you actually see the crows causing the damage? If you can catch them at it, it might be possible to ascertain what they are finding of interest.

    I can’t explain the presence of food debris such as fruit, bones etc unless there are waste bins nearby for them to scavenge from, in which case it would be useful to eradicate this problem.

    Crow damage is quite a common problem on bowling greens, but it is usually only a symptom of another issue, namely leatherjackets or chafer grubs. These grubs are in-fact only a symptom of an even more fundamental problem, namely thatch. As I have said on the blog before, I reckon that there are only two real problems on greens; thatch and compaction and that the rest are symptoms of these.

    Even although you are using an insecticide, it is still possible that you have a population of leatherjackets for a few different reasons such as excessive thatch at the green surface, ineffective pesticide application (it is very important to apply at the right time and to ensure that it can penetrate the surface immediately by aerating the green prior to application). It is also important that the product comes into contact with the soil for residual effect. If there is excessive thatch at the surface the product might not make sufficient contact with the underlying soil and will only kill the grubs it comes into immediate contact with.

    If the crows have become accustomed to finding insects in your green and if it is thatchy or has excessive areas of moss, where it easy to dig, then they might be working on speculation of finding food.

    Whatever the cause it is unlikely that they would hang around very long if they weren’t finding food so I would first of all investigate for leatherjackets and other grubs.

    Perhaps you could do a bit more investigation and let me know what you find with regard to:

    thatch levels, compaction, moss, leatherjacket presence (you can check by soaking an area of the green with soapy water and covering with a plastic sheet for a few minutes; this will bring them to the surface and you can ascertain if they are abundant or not), Waste food bins nearby.

    Whatever you find I would always view the crows as the messenger rather than the problem so don’t shoot them just yet!

    Regards

    John

  2. admin says:

    Update from Paul:

    John
    Have soaked 5 different areas of the green this morning with soapy water and covered with plastic as you suggested, 2 areas where the crows have dug since yesterday and 3 areas at ramdon. We waited with bated breath, containers in hand for half an hour to catch the little blighters, nothing not a grub in sight!
    Where do we go from here?

    Regards
    Paul

  3. admin says:

    Hi Paul

    That would appear to be good news.

    Now can you take a sample of the turf out either with a knife or soil sampler and get an accurate reading for the thatch level (thickness). Please see picture attached for the kind of thing I mean.

    Unless they are just a bit more streetwise than the average crow, they will be digging for something or possibly because the digging is easy

    Cheers

    John

    • John says:

      Latest from Paul:

      We are currently waiting for the results of the latest test samples sent away for analysis. I will let you know the results as soon as they are available.

      On the thatch issue we know that we still have a couple of small areas where there is a layer of thatch two inches below the surface. We have been working on these for the last couple of winters as part of our winter programme. The rest of the green is thatch free.
      I could understand if the crows were attacting these areas, however they are not, they are attacking the whole of the green. What is strange though is they do not usually attack the areas that are under stress where the grass is recovering from fusarium, snow mould or dollar spot or where we have patched out damaged areas, which I thought they would do.

      The autumn before last the green was deep scarified to 1.5 inches and top dressed by contractors, this autumn we deep scarified and hollow tinned. We intend to re-top dress in the coming weeks.

      Look forward to heaing and getting desperate for any help with the new season approching

      Regards
      Paul

      • John says:

        Thanks Paul

        What soil analysis have you had carried out? Are these samples for chemical (nutritional) analysis?

        Meantime 2 inches of thatch, even if only on part of the green would normally be considered severe.

        You mention fusarium damage; is this a common occurence and if so, how severe does it get?

        I ask because these problems combined usually point to anaerobic conditions below and this is almost always accompanied by poor rooting, which would make the turf easy to dig up, so maybe an atractive proposition for the crows also?

        Thes issues are usually closely related, please see my previous article here

        Meantime look out for a more in depth article on thatch coming soon.

        Any input on this from other readers welcome.

        John

  4. Darren Henderson says:

    I had the same problem at Dunfermline Bowling Club in Scotland with crows digging up one end of my green. This started at the end of last season & continued after the the snow had gone. The green was sprayed with crossfire & applied as John has previously said. Canes with string attached were inserted in the problem areas & plastic streamers were attached to the string. I have had no problems since & now the canes have been removed for mowing the birds have not come back (fingers crossed).
    Hope this helps,
    Darren

    • admin says:

      Thanks Darren
      Great to have your input
      Now come on folks if there are crows in Fife and crows in Wimbledon, there must be some in the space in-between!
      any experiences, advice or views on this would be much appreciated
      John

  5. Paul says:

    John
    Sorry haven’t replied earlier, however answers to some of the questions you posed.
    We are still waiting for the soil analysis results to be confirmed and you are quite correct they are testing for chemical nutritional. I will let you know when they are returned.
    Just to clarify thatch problem we, we have a couple of small areas where we have a layer of thatch 2″ down. These used to result in dry spots, however we are managing and reducing them with TLC. Incidentally these areas have not been attacked more than any other areas of the green.
    Although we have suffered some fusarium and snow mould damage this winter it has not been as bad as a lot of the green in this area, so I do not think that is a major problem.
    On the chafer beetles problem, last year our green consultant set 2 traps round our green during May and June as we had reports that they were going to be a big problem, however we only caught bees. Believe me, I have first hand experience of May bugs.
    On the positive front we have recently had a visit from one of the Bowls England green maintenance advisory scheme, who congratulated us on the general condition of the green. Other than the crows seeking food he also has no answer for the problem.
    I have also spoken to the RHS Wisley and have several different names of tapes that they use to protect the turf.
    The best peice of news I have left to last it is now over two weeks since the last crow attack, which coincides with the green hardening of, being rolled and cut to playing length. Could it have been easy digging? I’ll keep you informed
    Paul

  6. David Gregory says:

    Ref: Bowling green damage by rooks/jackdaws

    We have some damage, not heavy, almost every day and over the past two years I’ve noted three things. One, the damage is worst in autumn when they are certainly after leather jackets. Two, when we solid tine the green, many of the holes have spider’s webs over them a few hours after tining and the rooks/jackdaws seem to dig into the tine holes, presumably after the spiders within. Thirdly, when we replace a worn area with a patch of turf, the rooks/jackdaws are very adept at finding and lifting the patches. Why they do this I can’t work out because there doesn’t appear to be any reward for their effort.

    • Paul Hunt says:

      John
      Just an update on the Crow Damage at West Wimbledon BC
      The good new is we suffer no crow damage during the summer months, although they were about in the surrounding gardens. The bad new is as soon as we deep scarfied in the autumn, prior to hollow tinning the crows started attacting the green again and turning over strips of turf.
      In desperation I contacted RHS Wisley and after visiting I discovered a tape they use to keep the birds off newly sown grass and shubs. The tape is available on the internet at £23.00 for 500m
      We have erected the tape 6ft above the green at approx rink width in in both directions.
      The good news is we have been crow free since the tape has been in place and we have been able to continue our winter programme unaffected. Our intention is to leave the tape in place until just before our first game in April

  7. Syd Kennerley says:

    We had the same problem last season with crows, our green is out in the country so following Johns advise i now vertycut at two week intervals, This season we have had no problems at all so far, Keeping fingers crossed , Syd

  8. Darren Henderson says:

    Hi,
    Just a quick update about the crows at Dunfermline Bowling Club.
    We did not suffer anymore damage throughout the 2011 playing season & the newly sown grass has taken. We decided not to erect canes with plastic strips during the closed season as it would hamper us brushing the green. So far only two small holes from crows have appeared & this was far away from the original damage, crossfire insecticide was sprayed in this area & there has been no further damage.
    I believe the birds are looking for food but when they find none they leave the green alone. The damage last year was carried out soon after the snow had melted (February) & maybe they were desperate for food, this winter has been milder with no snow fall, just frost, & maybe food is more plentiful.
    Hope this helps,
    Darren.

  9. John Hannah says:

    Hi, We have a bowling green with a USPGA Specification and would like to find out if there are any other Greens in Scotland with this Spec.
    I am trying to find out if our maintenance is causing our problems ie lack of growth,grass not holding onto soil and other things.
    I would be grateful if there is anyone with some help and advice.

    John

    • John says:

      Hi John

      Thanks for using the site.

      USGA greens need a lot of specialised maintenance in order to perform to a high standard.

      Could you provide a bit of information on your current maintenance regime?

      Feel free to email directly if you prefer.

      Regards

      John Quinn
      john(at)bowls-central.co.uk

  10. inch by inch says:

    Hello John,
    I’m having the exact same problems with crows as Paul had,to pre empt some of your questions Ido not have any leather jackets but we did have in oct WE do have thatch abt 1″ I TRIED a CD with hawk calls on it it was no good .Ihad some success stringing an old video tape around the green wehad no damage for abt 2 weeks then this morning they came back again.WHERE can I GET THE TAPE that Paul mentioned.
    What is USPGA SPECIFICATION?

    • John says:

      The birds are rarely the root cause of this type of damage in my experience, so its probable that the thatch is harbouring grubs or merely that its easy digging!
      Paul might be able to update us on the tape supplier.
      The USGA (United States Golf Association) has a specification for the construction of golf greens that has been copied for bowling green construction in some places. You can download a copy of the specification here
      Cheers
      John

  11. Paul Hunt says:

    John, the tape we use was recommended to me by the RHS Wisley & believe it or not it only costs 22.98 for 500m, supplied by gardening naturally under the product Buzzline Birdscarer. We have found very very effective indeed and money well spent. This is our second winter using the tape and carefully stored during the summer it can be re-used the following winter, although we are still using an insecticide as a precaution. We have suspended the tape 6ft above the green allowing us to continue working on the green during the winter months

    • John says:

      Thanks Paul
      This will be really useful for a lot of readers, and at £22.98…dare I say…going…wait for it… Cheep!

      John

  12. Rob Moores - Grange Club says:

    Hi John’
    I have just been reading the previous comments on crow damage to greens. We had the same problem at the back end of last season and it started again just recently.
    Having just filled about 40 holes varying in size up to about 2″ by 6″ we got fed up and decided to dig down and see what we could see. We found a hazelnut, so we dug another 5 or 6 more crow holes and found another hazelnut and peanuts and monkey nut husks. This coincides with the fact that last year we suffered quite badly from sqirrel damage to the green.
    Have you heard of this before?

    • John says:

      Hi Rob
      Haven’t seen this before, but it might explain some of the many emails and comments we get about crows pecking up turf when there is no sign of leather-jackets or other grubs.
      John

  13. Alison says:

    We have the same problem, and have used pin wheel, cds, etc has helped a little, we have been told it is St Marks Fly, the crows are going for the grubs, everytime we think we have found something to use it gets band, we found this year putting netting between bamboo sticks has helped
    It’s the sole destroying that’s the worst you have the grubs first, crows second, rabbits third

    • John says:

      Hi Alison

      Getting thatch under control is important. The bird activity is a sign of other problems.

      There are no effective insecticides allowed for turf use anymore, but that would probably be overkill anyway. There are nematode based products, but again, a bit patchy in their effectiveness.

      I’ve seen some positive results with heavy metals like copper and iron as well as sulphur , but best result seems to be a very aggressive scarifying , maybe not the first thought in week turf, but it pulls a lot of the grub and eggs out before the do any real damage.

      Another, possibly more gentle (and possibly more effective) approach would be to get them to the surface on a dry day where they will desiccate or can be collected. So, on a dry, preferably sunny day you might want to try sarrell rolling, before applying a high dose of wetting agent (Hydroaid at 3 litres in 150 litres of water). A good number of the grubs should come to the surface where they will desiccate or can be manually removed. Try this on a bad patch with a watering can first to see how effective it will be.

      Thanks

      John

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