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John Gilbert diary entry

18 April 1845 - 19 April 1845

Page 76. Volume 2

[in left margin]



range I saw 2 days back526, in making its way through the range the river be=came narrowed to about 200 yards in width, and very devious, but on the whole about North. from four to five miles in the Mountains were travelled over on the imme=diate banks of the river which now became very much broken by the ravines α gullies, running down from the Mountains, which here run parrallel with the river, while previous to this, we travelled over a fine extent of rich grassy flats527, receding a considerable distance back from the rivers banks. several large creeks or branches from the opposite side were seen528. while travelling to day I observed the Elanus which I first killed on Darling Downs; I succeeded in killing another of the new Eopsaltria. some Maluri in colour were observed, and ap=pear to be either the Port Essington species or melanocephala529.

[in left margin]

Sat 19th.

N 50 W

11 miles

Miseltoe [sic] tree Camp530

For the first two miles we had very bad travelling ground, to avoid the steep rocky banks of the river, we had recourse to the sides of the hills, and in consequence had very many gullies to cross, and stony ridges to climb, after this distance was accomplished, the banks of the river spread out into extensive flats, and we now continued on very smoothly, at about five miles we crossed a considerable creek coming in from the South α West, having pools of water, but not running531, about a mile beyond this when travelling among a low flat back from the river, we saw smoke from a very recent fire, and as we approached saw it was the grass burning, the Crows α Milvus isurus532 were here collected in great numbers attacking Lizards and other animals as they are driven out of their covers by the devouring element, the Kites in particular were soaring and skimming just above the grass, and every now α then darting down, which strongly reminded me of the Petrel family as seen from a ships deck. just as we were passing the end of the smoke a single Native was seen, but as soon as Brown attemp=ted to approach him, he as usual took to the best use of his heels. In travelling along to day I observed Oreica α Myrafra533. At 8 miles the Burdikin divides into two distinct branches, both of nearly equal magnitude one taking a Northern and the other a Westerly course534, the latter was of course followed by us, both branches have running streams yet the western does not show a diminished supply of water, our medium course about N.50 West. 11 miles, in a straight line perhaps not more than 8, the latter part of the stage since the division of the river has been more undulating, some of the ridges and hills have sandstone with Balsaltic or Phonolite summits. the rock on the immediate bank of the river is Porphyry. To day I obtained specimens of the new

Note 526

Mount Foxton on the east bank of the Burdekin would have been part of this range.

Note 527

One of these is marked as Road Camp Flat on the Ewan 1: 100,000 map 8059.

Note 528

These watercourses would include Dingo Gully and Granite (Lassies) Creek, which both run into the Burdekin from the east. Both have numerous watercourses running into them from the ranges.

Note 529

The Elanus Gilbert first killed on the Darling Downs was probably a Letter-winged Kite Elanus scriptus, although this species does not occur in this area of Queensland and what Gilbert saw was more likely to be Elanus axillaris, Black-shouldered Kite. The “new Eospaltria” was another from Gilbert’s new species to science, the White-browed Robin Poecilodryas superciliosa. See the footnotes for Gilbert’s diary for the 14th April for a discussion of the whereabouts of the several surviving specimens of this new bird. The “Port Essington” (northern) species of Maluridae (Fairy-wrens) would have been Malurus melanocephalus cruentatus – Gilbert collected at least four individuals of this subspecies of the Red-backed Fairy-wren at Port Essington in 1840-1841, but only suspected they were one and the same as the birds he saw by the Burdekin River. At the time Gilbert collected them at Port Essington the northern subspecies was known as Malurus Brownii. The Red-backed Fairy-wrens Gilbert would have seen in the area of the Burdekin River are from an intergradial zone between the northern subspecies and the nominate subspecies of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland.

Note 530

Mistletoe Tree Camp was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 660 816 on the 1: 100,000 Ewan map 8059. Gilbert spelt it “Misletoe” twice, which may indicate this is an old spelling, perhaps from his parents’ county Kent.

Note 531

Marshes Creek & Long Gully.

Note 532

Square-tailed Kite Lophoictinia isura.

Note 533

Crested Bellbird Oreoica gutturalis and Horsfield’s Bushlark Mirafra javanica horsfieldii.

Note 534

Oaky Creek runs into the Burdekin from the north at GR 698 799, but the watercourse named as a branch of the Burdekin by Gilbert and marked by Leichhardt on his sketch map must be Running River, which comes in from the north-west. Leichhardt called this “River with running stream from the north” – does it still bear Leichhardt’s name?