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JBLM golf course doubles as wildlife sanctuary

Scott Hansen/JBLM PAO Katie McCarver, of University Place, left, John Ford, Eagles Pride superintendent, David Wienecke, FMWR golf course enviromental management system manager, and Denis DeSilvis, a Seattle Audubon Society master birder, count birds o

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Many people are familiar with Eagles Pride Golf Course outside Joint Base Lewis-McChord. But the 27-hole course makes up just a part of the 431-acre property. The course is also surrounded by 227 acres of native woodland forest just waiting to be explored.

David Wienecke, golf course environmental management system manager for the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, worked on a project to introduce the community to a part of the golf course many aren't exposed to by organizing monthly nature walks.

"It's a wonderful thing for families and I'd like to get schools involved," Wienecke said. "There's so much we could help people learn about."

Wienecke, along with Valerie Elliott, natural resource planner from Directorate of Public Works, and Denis DeSilvis, retired Navy master chief and master birder from the Seattle Audubon Society, organized and led JBLM's first nature walk April 18. Despite the wet conditions a small group started at the driving range and embarked on a trail walk where they spotted nearly 30 different bird species on the property certified an Audubon Society Wildlife Sanctuary.

DeSilvis spotted numerous birds by sound alone before the birders caught a quick glimpse through their binoculars. From robins, hummingbirds, ducks and jays, a colorful variety of birds were seen and documented. John Ford has worked at Eagles Pride for more than two decades, but last week's nature walk gave him his first chance to explore the wildlife around the course he helps maintain.

"I hear the birds all the time," the Eagles Pride Golf Course superintendent said. "This is my first time concentrating on individual species and listening to someone who knows what they're talking about."

DeSilvis, who can identify 60 to 70 bird calls, helped the group identify the bird species and offered information about the bird's history.

Katie McCarver and Diane Ellison often go birding together with a bird book and binoculars in hand. McCarver's husband is a golf cart mechanic at Whispering Firs Golf Course on McChord Field and he brought home information about the nature walk. McCarver and Ellison took part in their first "official" guided walk.

"Usually it's just us going out not really knowing what we're doing," McCarver said. "It has inspired me to get a better bird book. It's nice to be with somebody who knows the calls of the birds and identifies them. I don't always know what bird I'm hearing."

Ellison has always enjoyed watching the birds who visit her yard at home and on the walk had the opportunity to see a variety of birds that don't typically stop by her residence.

"This is very interesting," the University Place resident said. "I've learned a lot of information I didn't know before."

Birders caught glimpses of birds on the ground gathering nest materials, stationary in the trees, flying overhead or floating on Lake Hodges.

The monthly nature walks will continue every third Thursday throughout the year, and the organizers hope to schedule a Sunday walk each quarter starting next month. As the seasons change so may the birds. The woodlands include many different maintained trail routes to add variety to each walk. If the walks generate enough interest they will continue in 2014.

The next walk is Thursday, May 16 at 8 a.m. at Eagles Pride Golf Course driving range.

If you go

What: JBLM Nature Walk

When: Thursday, May 16, 8 a.m.

Where: Eagles Pride Golf Course, exit 116

More info: 964-0341 or email David.L.Wienecke.NAF@mail

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