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John Gilbert diary entry

22 April 1845 - 23 April 1845

Page 79. Volume 2

larger than the part of the Burdikin we are now upon where the Dr came upon it it was not a running stream but had a chain of fine detached water-holes and in general features closely resembled the Suttor it continued in a Westerly course.

[in left margin]


Wed 23rd.

10 Miles

N N W 9 miles

Peristera Camp546.


First Peristera histrionica


The river for the first 3 miles kept a tolerably even Westerly course, but from this turned occasionally North, then N.W. and the last Mile N.E. at four miles a high ridge on the opposite side bore about N.E. distant about 3 miles547, half a mile beyond on the Right bank, a round topped hill S.W548. when at four miles the Big Hill549 bore nearly due east. a tolerably large creek came in here from the South550, and about 2 miles farther a second from the S and Westward, running however for nearly a mile parrallel with the river551; at about 6 miles we came upon a chain of fine Lagoons, with the Blue Lotus, growing in fine per=fection, here the Natives had been very lately the grass was even burning as we passed, in the burnt parts, several flocks of a species of Pigeon, constantly rose but generally were so shy, I could not get near enough to make out the species, and I thought it a new bird, I chased them for some time without success when, thinking I should have a better chance in the evening tra=velled on with the intention of returning; about half a mile beyond we crossed a third creek coming down from a low range of round topped hills to the N.W. about 3 miles distant, the River now running about N.E. at two miles from this we camped. in the evening I α Charlie returned in pursuit of the Pigeons, after several inef=fectual shots we at length succeeded in procuring one, and I was greatly disappointed on finding it to be Peristera histrionica, it is a beautiful species certainly, and I had seen it before at the Namoi Plains, but there it appeared to me to be much darker, and was not at all shy, like this however it was always on the ground and when started always kept the character of close flocks. During the whole morning I was surprised to witness the immense flocks of Artamus cinereus552 soaring in the air and uttering the impatient cry, so common with regular

Note 545

“April” is inserted, but probably still in Gilbert’s writing. However, John Gould could have inserted this word to remind him of the date that Gilbert saw the first Flock Bronzewing Phaps histrionica of the expedition, a pigeon Gilbert had last seen on the Namoi Plains of New South Wales (where Gould had collected the type specimens in December 1839). Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, it could have been a date marker for Gilbert’s comments on the migratory habits of the Woodswallow genus Artamus and the Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus in particular. In fact there are also two arrows pencilled in over Gilbert’s diary entry for 23rd April, possibly by Gould but more likely to have been by Alec Chisholm. One arrow has its longer end over “Peristera histrionica” and the other over “Artamus cinereus”. Gould did not mention Leichhardt Expedition birds in his text in “The birds of Australia” for the Flock Bronzewing, as he had published this in 1841. However, he had based his account of “Artamus albiventris” (vol. 2, text & plate 30; this name translates as Artamus cinereus dealbatus) on two Gilbert specimens, one from the Darling Downs (collected in 1844) and the other from Peak Range Camp, which must have been collected on the 27th January 1845. Hence Gould might have been interested in any further comments Gilbert had written in his diary about Artamus cinereus; also see the footnote for such a comment written on 16th April.

Note 546

Peristera Camp (Flock Pigeon Camp of Leichhardt) was placed by McLaren at GR 276 937 on the 1: 100,000 Clarke River map 7959, but see remarks in another footnote for 23rd April, below; it might have been further north. Leichhardt named this camp after the pigeons, but also recorded four “varieties” of fish: firstly a “Gristes” about eight inches long and 1½ inches broad, of a lanceolate shape with bright yellow spots all over the body (possibly more Spangled Perch Leiopotherapon unicolor), secondly a fish smaller than “Gristes”, with dark stripes (Barred Grunters Amniataba percoides (Gunther), as the species of fish Gilbert had recorded on 16th April might be?), a third about a foot long and three inches broad, of the Percidae family and fourthly a small fish seemingly of the Cyprinidae (check these two last species with James Maclaine). They also saw shells and bones of turtles and a “common carpet snake” (probably a Carpet Python Morelia spilota) was killed.

Note 547

The “high ridge” about three miles away must have been “The Knobs”, which have two peaks, the highest being 458m, but it is difficult to trace on the Clarke River map 7959 Gilbert’s descriptions of the geographical features he saw that day.

Note 548

There is a small hill with two round tops centred at GR 250 840.

Note 549

This “Big Hill” must have been the “Big Hill” of their camp of 21st April, and this small remark of Gilbert’s leads to the possibility that this could not have been Mount Fullstop, but perhaps was the highest peak of the Blue Range (see footnotes for Gilbert’s diary for the 21st April).

Note 550

Possibly Four Mile Creek, which runs into the Burdekin from the south at GR 262 848. Could this be why it has its name?

Note 551

Marble Creek runs into the Burdekin from the west at GR 260 892, and just north of this another creek, unnamed on the Clarke River map, runs into the Burdekin from the north-west at GR 260 898 after running parallel to it for about three kilometres. North of this junction a series of lagoons is shown in the Burdekin River and on a watercourse to the east. A third and fourth creek run into the Burdekin at GR 277 937/938, from the low range of hills running north-south and about 2 miles west of the Burdekin. McLaren tentatively placed their campsite of 23rd April between the junctions of these two creeks, but from what Gilbert wrote the campsite was probably about two miles north of here, and actually it also looks further north on Leichhardt’s sketch map. This would mean the campsite of 23rd April would have been at about GR 280 960, perhaps opposite the junction with Spear Point Creek, which also equates better with the nine miles travel Gilbert recorded for that day. A substantial lagoon is shown in the Burdekin River just south of this point.

Note 552

See footnote concerning Artamus cinereus under 22nd April.