The Treswell Wood Ringing Programme
Interim Report and Plans for future work
Treswell Wood was acquired by the Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature Conservation early in 1973 as an important area of primary woodland, and to preserve its structure of mixed deciduous coppice with standards.
Immediately it was known that the Trust would be purchasing the wood, John McMeeking sought and obtained permission to commence a programme of ringing as a contribution to the assessment of the fauna of the new reserve.
The first ringing visit was made on December 17th 1972 and, by the end of 1977, a total of 262 visits had been made involving some 40 ringers, trainees and helpers. A total of 6,453 birds had been ringed of which no fewer than 2,117 have been recaptured from one to 13 times.
A total of 27 birds ringed elsewhere have been caught at Treswell Wood, and a further 58 ringed in Treswell Wood have been caught or recovered dead elsewhere. Most such movements have been local.
After the first few visits, it became obvious that most of the birds which were recaptured were found very close to the point of original capture, but that some species appeared even more sedentary than others. From the first visit, a careful record was kept of the location of each mist net, and of the net in which each bird was caught. This has made it possible to develop the study on the following basis.
There are approximately 5.5 km of rides or other suitable sites for lines of mist nets in the 47 ha of Treswell Wood. We have endeavoured to move round the wood in a systematic manner, covering most of the 5.5 km several times a year. Most visits involve the erection of 180 – 400 metres of mist nets (10 – 30 nets), depending on the number of ringers present, weather conditions etc.
A ‘grid’ has been drawn on a plan of the wood, dividing it into squares of side 70 paces (this is 63 m) and the squares are then approximately 1 acre. It is then possible to determine the square in which every net has been sited and thus the square in which every bird has been caught. ‘Retrap’ cards have been prepared for every bird caught a second time, and all data are recorded for each capture including the location, so that these cards build up a ‘life history’ for each bird’s movements.
Work is now commencing on an analysis of these five years of data, which should produce information concerning:
• Relative numbers of each species for comparison with CBC and Transect findings.
• Degree of sedentariness of residents of each species.
• Seasonal movements within the wood, locally, and long-distance.
• Survival/Mortality after date of ringing.
• Numbers of very young birds caught as a measure of nesting success within the wood.
• Varying proportion of juvenile birds in the Autumn population as a more general measure of breeding success.
• Effects of extreme weather conditions on local populations (e.g. 1976 drought).
• Effects of woodland management (e.g. coppicing) on bird population structure.
• Data on weights, measurements, moult etc.
Details will be made available as soon as possible.
Future development of the ringing programme
Since a small proportion of the birds ringed in the first few months of the study are still alive, and because we now have a population with a relatively high proportion of ringed birds, continuation of the existing programme would produce further interesting results, but we propose three modifications to increase its value.
1. It is known that the BTO Ringing and Migration Committee is considering experiments with ‘Fixed Site Ringing’ to discover whether this can provide an additional means of monitoring changes in populations. It is crucial to such a programme that as many variables as possible should be eliminated if they are likely to influence the number of birds caught. It is therefore proposed to select and mark about eight 180m lengths of ride in the wood, where a fixed pattern of nets will be erected at predetermined heights and operated for a fixed period of time six times or more per annum. These fixed sites will form the core of future ringing effort, but additional nets will be erected in other sites, as before, to augment the general programme.
2. Owing to the scarcity of old timber in Treswell Wood, the population of tits is relatively low, as shown by both Common Birds Census and the ringing programme. Until now, no significant number of nest boxes has been erected, as it has seemed important to establish the ‘natural’ levels of populations of each species before taking steps likely to increase them. It is now hoped that boxes can be erected in the near future in some part of the wood; this will provide an opportunity for monitoring nest success, ringing the resulting nestlings and then monitoring their survival and dispersal through recaptures and recoveries.
3. There are several small woods within 5 km of Treswell Wood to which birds might move if dispersing locally (and vice versa). Some ringing has already been done at some of these sites and it is hoped to extend this effort to assess the extent of such movements. Information from other ringers operating locally will also be used for this purpose.
The ringing team is most grateful to the Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature Conservation for the opportunity to work in Treswell Wood, and to neighbouring landowners for their assistance. I should also like to thank all the ringers and helpers who have assisted in this programme for their strenuous efforts at unearthly hours and often in difficult conditions.
J M McMeeking January 1978
Footnote added by Chris du Feu, September 2020
A draft of this document came to light when working through John’s collection of papers. We do not know if it was ever completed and submitted to the Trust. It was written just before the standard site operation was started and which became completely formalised in the mid 1980s.
I have retyped the document as it was written except for a very few additions and amendments. John had left some blank spaces where he would add the exact numbers (birds, visits, ringers etc.). I have extracted these numbers from the computerised data set in rather less time than John
would have taken had he extracted to data from six years’ worth of field sheets. I have also converted his imperial units to metric units except for the area of one of what we now call the McMeeking grid squares – one acre. By chance, or more likely by John’s intuition, this grid square has proved remarkably suitable for recording bird activity. In a year when Wrens are at their most numerous, the average territory size is one acre – one Wren territory to a McMeeking square.