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John Gilbert diary entry

8 March 1845 - 9 March 1845

Page 46. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Gerygone culicivorus? - Gerygone brevirostris - Rhipidura Motacilloides - Myiagra - Seisura volitans - Microeca macroptera - Pardalotus melanocephalus - Dicaeum hirundinaceum - Climacteris - Platycercus paliceps - Euphema pulchellus - Trichoglossus Swainsonii - Acanthagenys rufogularis - Tropidorhynchus both species - Entomyza cyanotis - Myzantha garrula - Melithreptus - Phaps chalcoptera - Geophaps scripta - Otis Australis - Oedicnemus - Turnix varius - Coturnix - Perdix Australis - Little striped necked Dove. Centropus Phasianellus αc αc385. Roper returned and reported that the Suttor took a decided Southerly course, we shall however move farther down tomorrow.

[in left margin]

Sunday 9th.

Whip Snake Camp386

6 miles

W. by S.

We only made about 6 miles stage down Suttors Creek, the medium course about W by S. - after our lunch Charlie α I started off prepared for a long reconnoiter, I took a course varying between N W α W. for the first 3 or 4 miles over plains, then through open forest for 2 miles, when we entered a belt of Scrub, before entering which I had seen some rather elevated ridges, to one of these I steered and after passing through a very thick scrub came upon a clear open ridge, from this I saw to the West what appeared [to be] a low range apparantly about 12 to 15 miles distant, from the general appearance of the country I had already traversed, I saw but little chance of finding water, and I determined therefore to push on to the low range in expectation of crossing a water course, from the ridge we saw that we had a great extent of Scrub to push our way through, and as we progressed, we came to a succession of low ridges, divided by deep rocky gullys, and so clothed in scrub, that frequently we found it so thick and impenetrable, we were frequently obliged to retrace our steps, and we thus made a very devious course, as night was approaching I was anxious if possible to get into open country as much for our Horses sakes as ourselves but in this we were completely foiled, we kept off south thinking we could find an opening in that direction, but all our endeavours were fruitless, and as it at length became so dark, that objects could not be seen a yard before us I thought it time to halt, and as there was no feed for our horses, or water, I had both horses tyed up to prevent the chance of their wandering during the night, and had ourselves the disagreable necessity of camping without water, and thus making our evening meal without our accustomed Panakin of Tea, so much wished in an evening by a Bushman387. the whole day Cloudy, with an occasional slight shower, but the whole extent of country perhaps ten miles from our camp appears as if it had not been visited at all by the late Thunder Storms or showers.

Note 385

This list was one of the five long lists of birds Gilbert made during the expedition which were used by Queensland naturalist Bruce Lawrie to make comparisons between the bird species he found present between October 1977 and May 1978 and those listed by Gilbert in 1844-1845 (see Lawrie, Bruce C. In the footspteps of Gilbert. Wingspan 2007 (March): 46-49. The full list of species that Bruce saw is available on request). An appendix to this transcription gives a full list of the species recorded by Gilbert during the expedition, with their modern names and where they were recorded. No bird specimens from Suttor Creek or Suttor River have so far been found – perhaps the expedition members had too many recurring problems with keeping their guns and ammunition dry. However, this would not explain why no shells have been found from either of these watercourses, and indeed Gilbert wrote in his diary on the 10th March, when he had come across the Suttor River itself, that “in the sandy bed were lying dead shells of Unio - Cyclas - and two species of Limmeus and shells of Crayfish”. Murphy also recorded in his diary for the 10th March (Sprod 2006: 44) that he had shot “a red bill or large Rallus”. Sprod (2006: 119, endnote 80) identified this as a Red-necked Crake Rallina tricolor, but they were not far north enough for this species. Murphy’s description is undoubtedly of a Purple Swamphen Porphyrio poprhyrio, a much larger bird (which they probably ate).

Note 386

McLaren put Whip Snake Camp at GR 025 397 on the 1:100,000 Byerwen map 8455. This is adjacent to the present-day site of Suttor Creek station and landing ground. The “Whip Snake” referred to was “A slender snake, about five feet long, of greyish brown on the back, and a bright yellow on the belly, was seen nimbly climbing a tree. The head was so much crushed in killing it that I could not examine its teeth” (Leichhardt 1847: 174). Most true Whipsnakes, of the genus Demansia, are under a metre in length, but the Greater Black Whipsnake Demansia papuensis reaches five foot in length. This snake is found in tropical woodlands, however. The Lesser Black Whipsnake Demansis vestigiata does occur in subhumid woodlands and heaths, and this area of the Suttor is within its distribution (Wilson & Swan 2008. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia. 2nd edition: 434). This snake reaches 1.2m (about 4 feet).

Note 387

Gilbert and Charlie’s campsite of 9th March must have been in the scrub about halfway between Whipsnake Camp on Suttor Creek and the point on the Suttor River where the two men came across it on 10th March.