Resident buy-in buoys BioBlitz biodiversity win

Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club counts 607 unique species as part of Audubon International contest.


Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club
Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club won Audubon International's 2023 BioBlitz Biodiversity Award. Photo courtesy of Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club

When Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Palm City, Fla., first started participating in Audubon International’s BioBlitz program, course maintenance employees did most of the work.

But Tim Cann, CGCS, Harbour Ridge’s director of greens and grounds maintenance, thought that defeated the purpose of the effort for golf courses to count and document the diversity of insect, plant and animal species on their properties.

“When we started doing this, we had more employees involved as a group,” says Cann, a 42-year GCSAA member. “As we got more residents involved with it, we were able to take a step back. This last one, they ran it on their own. I shared with them that this is meant for residents, for membership to really take hold of, so they understand what’s out there. We know as employees. They don’t know to the extent we do. It worked out really, really well this go-around. Mainly because of timing this year, we were just so busy on property. We didn’t help much. The residents ran with it.” 

And in one sense they ran away with it, or at least part of it. The annual BioBlitz — which was suspended for three years due to the pandemic — has three components: the Biodiversity Award, the Community Engagement Award and the Best Photo Award.

An eastern amberwing dragonfly at Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Palm City, Fla.

Eastern amberwing dragonfly against a green background

Harbour Ridge won the Biodiversity Award with 607 unique species, easily standing clear of runner-up Meadow Club, in Fairfax, Calif., with 444 species and third-place Ironwood Golf Course in Byron Center, Mich., with 405.

The big number was no surprise to Cann.

“No, because we’ve been working on this for a number of years,” he says. “We kept a database. After each BioBlitz, we’d update it so it was organized and easy to read and easy to add to. No, it’s not a surprise. We worked pretty hard on it.”

And they did so on an accelerated timeline. Back in 2019, the last time there was a BioBlitz, facilities had a week to hold their counts, and Harbour Ridge counted 475 unique species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, invertebrates, fish, trees, palm trees, plants, aquatic plants, grasses, wildflowers, fungi and lichens. This year, the counters had a 24-hour window to make their tallies. The biggest gains (132 in all) were in amphibians, crustaceans, fish, fungi, invertebrates, lichens, trees and warblers.

Mary Hutchinson, co-coordinator of the Harbour Ridge BioBlitz, credits the increase to more observers — 35 this year — and more “knowledgeable” observers. Hutchinson reached out early to Harbour Ridge residents and specifically targeted environmental groups, like the 380-plus-member Harbour Ridge Birding Society.

“Some dedicated participants even went out in the early morning, then again late on the afternoon/early evening to observe different species at different times of the day,” she says. “One member alone identified 202 different species. 

“Since we only had 24-hours for the BioBlitz versus one-week with previous counts, this meant we had to be even more organized and efficient.”

Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club covers 865 acres, approximately one-third of which serves as the setting for its two 18-hole golf courses. Another third is natural vegetation, while a third is developed.

“Audubon International’s BioBlitz has helped our members at Harbour Ridge clearly see that the golf courses, wet prairies and ponds, and naturally vegetated areas are wonderful places to golf, fish and enjoy,” Hutchinson says, “but provide a rich diversity of plants and wildlife, particularly important as surrounding areas become more developed.”

The other 2023 BioBlitz winners:

  • Southwinds Golf Course in Boca Raton, Fla., won the Community Engagement Award with 247 volunteers participating. Glencoe (Ill.) Golf Cub was second with 87, and the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park, Md., was third with 40.
  • University of Maryland Golf Course won the Best Photo Award for Adrienne van den Beemt’s macro shot of a long-legged fly. Glencoe GC took second, and Poplar Creek Golf Course in San Mateo, Calif., was third.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s senior managing editor.