Purple Martin Nesting GourdsThis former sod farm of The Landings Club is the only field environment within our community attracting species of birds not commonly found elsewhere on the island, including many species of migrating Sparrows. In 2004, a new species of bird was found here which led to efforts by the birding community to preserve this atypical natural habitat.  With support from TLC maintenance, who mow the field a couple of times a year, nesting gourds for Purple Martins were established and, over the years, other ideas for attracting birds were started.

In 2008, strategies were considered to open the field to broader uses and widen its claim as a community asset.  Sowing a meadow of wildflowers was given a trial run in an area of the field that was disked and mowed.  Too little rain and the significant presence of invasive plant species, Chinese Tallows, Dog Fennel and Vaseygrass, stymied the effort.  A year later, seeing the field was a mess of invasives, concrete rubble and stick piles, a group gathered to review its purpose.  The idea of a meadow was abandoned as it could not naturally thrive without constant and expensive intervention.

From that gathering an oversight committee was formed under the auspices of Skidaway Audubon, with Caryl Warner as the project champion, and a plan of action was initiated and funded that included, first off, the removal of enormous Chinese Tallow Trees on the Magnolia Golf Course adjacent to the #15 green (now #6) which were replaced by the specimen size Live Oaks you see there today.

Fitz MonarchsFor the next three years, the oversight committee made and developed plans for improvement to these 3 1/4 acres, building, irrigating and planting a berm with pollinator friendly plants, in partnership with garden clubs and volunteers.  Photographer Fitz Clarke began documenting the insects and birds in this location. The University of Georgia’s Monarch Health Project brought a doctoral candidate to the site to study overwintering butterflies in 2011.  Early volunteers were joined in 2013 by a graduating class of Master Gardeners, under the direction of Shirley Brown, who have to date planted 90 different species of plants and continued butterfly research with UGA as well as joining the University of Minnesota’s Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project.

In the fall of 2015, the Sparrow Field Pollinator Berm Garden received the Martha Miller Butterfly Award from the Oleander District Garden Club.  This was followed by two awards for Butterfly Conservation in April 2016 presented at the Garden Club of Georgia awards banquet by the Garden Club of Georgia, Inc., and the Deep South Region of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.

The Monarch Health Project and Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project are ongoing and you are invited to participate.  If you would like to become involved with these research projects and/or help maintain the garden, come to the Sparrow Field any Friday morning at 9 am.  We start earlier in the hot mornings of summer.  The Sparrow Field is located off Bartram road north of the north gate, across from the second Pettigrew Road intersection.  Contact Shirley Brown with questions at  sabatsav@comcast.net.

For additional information about the Monarch Butterfly projects we are involved in click on Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project and Monarch Health Project on the right.






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