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John Gilbert diary entry

16 April 1845 - 18 April 1845

Page 75. Volume 2

Australis - Campephaga humeralis - Graucalus melanops - Malurus - --- - Sericornis - Cincloramphus cantatoris - Petroica bicolor - Zosterops dorsalis - Gerygone brevirostris - Gerygone albogularis - Rhipidura albiscapa? - Seisura volitans - Rhipidura Motacilloides - Myiagra plumbea - Microeca macroptera - Pardalotus melanocephalus - Dicaeum hirundinaceum - Estrelda annulusa - Estrelda Phaeton - Climacteris ----? Calyptorhynchus ---? Platycercus paliceps - Trichoglossus Swainsonii - Nymphicus Novae-Holl. while out I fortunately succeeded in shooting a second example of the yellow Ptilotis I remarked it utters a very loud α clear whistle like note, but its more common note is a burring sort of cry very similar to Megalurus, during the whole time we have been on the Burdikin, I have daily observed the Maluri, but as yet have not seen a male bird in full colour, but I believe the species to be melanocephalus521. Large creek about a mile down from Camp, with water running into the Burdikin coming in from N α E522.

[in left margin]

Thurs 17th

N W by N

12 miles

Travelled over the same general style of country as yesterday, the river however was much more zigzag in its course than usual, although still preserving its same average breadth of bed, and same stream of water, at five miles we crossed a considerable creek523 coming in from N.W. into a bend of the river where it turned off to the Northward. both sides of the river during the whole days stage very open and having fine trees of Box - Iron bark - Flooded Gum α Bloodwood. Lunar observations taken yesterday α worked to day place us at 143=44=0 of Longitude thus giving us rather more than a mile a day more than we had allowed for each stage on the Burdikin524.

[in left margin]

Friday 18th

N by W


10 miles up the Burdikin was to days stage525 at the first mile we came upon a large annabranch of the river, on the banks of which we kept till we came upon the main river a distance of about a mile, thus for the first mile the river took up a northern course, then turned off a good deal east, till the outbreak of the Annabranch when it again took to the westward from this to about 3 miles when it was met by the

Note 521

See Appendix 1 for a translation of all Gilbert’s bird names, a document which was compiled with the help of now-retired Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service naturalist Bruce Lawrie (see his article “In the footsteps of Gilbert” in Wingspan 2007 vol.17 (1): 46-49). Gilbert’s list of birds sighted on 16th April 1845 translates as follows: Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans, Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus, Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens, Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus, White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus, Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus, Melithreptus sp., possibly the White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis, Squatter Pigeon Geophaps scripta, Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus, Square-tailed Kite Lophoictinia isura, Southern Boobook Owl Ninox novaeseelandiae, Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii, Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus, Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla h. harmonica. Gilbert’s use of “Pachycephala pectoralis” is probably not as in the Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis, which was originally named as “M pectoralis” by Latham in 1801, but as in Turdus pectoralis Lewin, 1808, which is a synonym of the Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris. This identification is supported by the fact that a specimen in Liverpool, LIV D1640g, is a Pachycephala rufiventris which was collected at the Burdekin River on 5th April 1845. Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus, Little Woodswallow Artamus minor, Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis, Australian Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca, White-winged Triller Lalage sueurii tricolor, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae melanops, Fairy-wren Malurus sp, which Gilbert later supposed might be “melanocephalus”, which is the Red-backed Fairy-wren. According to Peters Checklist of the birds of the world 1986, volume 11, page 395, the two subspecies of Malurus melanocephalus (M. m. melanocephalus of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland and M. m. cruentatus of northern Australia) intergrade between the Burdekin River and Cape York Peninsula, which is possibly why Gilbert was unsure of his identification. White-browed Scrubwren (Buff-breasted Scrub-wren subspecies) Sericornis frontalis laevigaster, Brown Songlark Cincloramphus cruralis, Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata, Silvereye Zosterops lateralis, Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris, White-throated Gerygone Gerygone albogularis, Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa, Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta, Willie Wagtail Rhipidura l. leucophrys, Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula, Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans, Striated Pardalote (black-headed, cinnamon-rumped form) Pardalotus striatus melanocephalus, Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum, Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia b. bichenovii, Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton. Of the two latter species, Leichhardt recorded on 16th April (1847: 220) that “the isolated waters near grassy flats were visited by swarms of little finches”, and that these had been seen by Gilbert at Port Essington (Fisher & Calaby 2009: 194 (Neochmia phaeton), 196 & 198 (Taeniopygia bichenovii annulosa)). “Climacteris ...?” must either be the Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus melanotus or White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea, neither of which Gilbert would have encountered until 1844 (at the earliest) and were therefore unfamiliar to him. Note that a White-throated Treecreeper now in Liverpool (LIV D5472s) could be from the Leichhardt Expedition. Another now in Oxford (OUMNH B/12181) was once in the Natural History Museum (BMNH 1881.5.1.4233) and could also have been collected during the expedition. Black-Cockatoo species Calyptorhynchus, Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus palliceps, Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus, Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus. The “second example” of the “yellow Ptilotis” was another Yellow Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavus (see footnote for the Gilbert’s first record of this bird, on the previous day, 15th April 1845), this individual is almost certainly one of the specimens now in museums in Liverpool, Tring, Exeter, New York and Philadelphia.

Note 522

The Star River.

Note 523

Walkers Creek.

Note 524

Gilbert did not record a name for their camp of 17th April. On Leichhardt’s sketch map it is rather clumsily called “Camp where the stream crosses the riverbed”. McLaren gave the co-ordinates of this camp as GR 770 552 on the 1: 100,000 Ewan map 8059, just south of the junction with Ethel Creek. The “stream [which] crosses the riverbed” must be the watercourse which crosses from the east side of the river to the west, at the junction of an anabranch and the Burdekin within GR 76 57, but also crosses the Burdekin from west to east at GR 770 564. From Leichhardt’s sketch map (which does not show the junction with Ethel Creek, but does show the anabranch) it appears that the campsite was actually north of Ethel Creek, probably adjacent to the west to east crossing, about a kilometre north of McLaren’s position.

Note 525

Their camp of 17th April was again not named by Gilbert, but was Leichhardt’s “Porphyry Range Camp”. McLaren put this campsite at GR 746 684 on the 1: 100,000 Ewan map 8059, just west of Mount Foxton.