top of page

John McMeeking

1st March 1929 - 12th February 2019

John was always heavily involved with the Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature Conservation (now NWT). Treswell Wood was the Trust's first woodland reserve. As soon as the deeds were signed, John began ringing in the wood 'to see what was there'. The first ringing visit was on 17th December 1972.

With the passing of John we have lost a man with remarkable powers of leadership, inspiration, vision and influence. He will be greatly missed, but he has left a strong, coherent team and his guiding hand will continue to be felt in years to come.


John then engaged in exploratory ringing in the wood. By 1978 enough was understood to initiate a standard site regime. A Common Birds Census led by Margaret Price began in 1973. John installed a handful of nestboxes and in 1979 a major nestbox operation was instituted. That made Treswell Wood into an integrated population monitoring site, although the term integrated population monitoring had not yet been coined. Coppice management records were added to the already-unique computerised Treswell Wood data set. It is fortuitous that the work began before the present time of very rapid climate change. This gives a sound baseline for analyses relating to changes in phenology. This baseline is likely to prove vital in examining the impacts of other changes - such as ash dieback.

Over the years John made over 1,500 ringing visits to the wood - an average of three Sundays a month. There are 13,440 bird processings assigned to his name, although he will have taken part in very many more - extracting from mist nets, discussing ageing and sexing etc. The first bird he handled was a juvenile female Blackbird and the last, on 7th October 2018, was Blue Tit juvenile. Both these were of appropriately common species - John's ringing was about 'what is there, not what is rare.'


John initially hoped there might be 'a paper to come from the project'. This has been amply fulfilled with a dozen papers, a dozen more where Treswell Wood data have been

John had an eye for detail and was keen to record things in as much relevant detail as possible. The 'McMeeking' grid he superimposed on the wood enables bird encounters to be plotted at an appropriate resolution. The early field records include many cryptic records of moult which have all been translatable into the BTO moult codes which were not defined until over a decade later. This attention to detail often involved time spent digging into past data but always resulted in an improved dataset or interesting findings.

used in national or international studies, various posters, short notes and many student projects. Data from the wood have been used to develop identification and ageing techniques and results used in BTO guides. Particularly significant publications showed that constant effort techniques could, indeed, measure juvenile abundance; Wren survival is density dependent; Treecreeper mortality is greatest in winters which were both cold and wet; how coppice age relates to bird use.

Very many ringers have benefited from his knowledge, help, advice, critical encouragement, direction and friendship. How many? There are at least 200 people who have ringed with John in the wood and many more who John has influenced in other ringing operations. In addition he was well known in BTO circles having served as BTO Chairman and Chairman of the Ringing Committee and an ever-present force at BTO Ringers' and main conferences. John has made the group's operation an integral part of NWT management of the wood. His calmingand positive presence has ensured continuing constructive relationships with local landowners and visitors.

John had a fall in early November and was 'confined to quarters'. In mid-December advanced pancreatic cancer was diagnosed he was given a week or two to live. His wife, Jean, said he never did anything in a hurry. True to form, these two weeks lasted two months. He spent these months at home, mercifully free from pain and with a steady stream of visitors. He remained fully alert until the very last days and still had his beloved Treswell Wood high in his thoughts with copies of the weekend's field sheets by his bedside. He frequently expressed his gratitude
for the continuing work done by group members in the wood. In return we are most grateful for the many things he has done and for the inspiration he has been to us.


 John Clark & Chris du Feu

bottom of page