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John Gilbert diary entry

23 April 1845 - 24 April 1845

Page 80. Volume 2

[in left margin]


migratory birds, when collecting just previous to taking their long flight, but the most singular circumstance was other species of the same genus were occasionally seen mixing with them, I several times made out very distinctly the dark bodies of A. superciliosus and minor553, there were certainly very few of the latter, the flocks may therefore be said as being that of A. cinereus, it will be interesting to observe which direction this species will now be wanting at the time of year now commencing, for that it was a migratory movement I feel satisfied, and as I did not on my visiting Port Essington observe this species at all, but afterwards killed at Timor554, it may prove to be a migratory bird from one island to the other. The whole days stage over fine flats, and open country.

[in left margin]

Thurs 24th.

10 miles

N.W. 7 miles


To days stage on the Burdikin has been a very winding one, at first four miles N.W. 2 miles North, 2 miles N.E. then a mile West, and the last mile south555; our medium course the Dr thinks about N.W. in a straight line probably about 7 miles, excepting on two occasions where small creeks came in, and made the banks broken our whole days route was over a fine open forest country. the opposite side of the river was similar in character, and from the general openness of the forest we could frequently see at least a mile around us. in travelling along so flat a country we are shut out from any view of the ranges on each side of us but occasionally a glimpse of a distant mountain is seen when crossing a slight ridge. where the river turned off suddenly to the Westward is a round topped hill on the east side of which comes in a large Creek556; and where we are camped557 a range of round topped hills are in view distant about 2 miles, probably in connection with those so near our last camp558. The river although on559 the whole much narrower in breadth of bed still preserves, its gen=eral appearance of steep high banks, with dense vegetation on its ridges, middle banks having Tea tree α Casuarina, the former however are not so large as first observed. the stream although still running freely in it small windings is rather more sluggish. To day I observed Circus Jardinii560, a species I have not before seen on the Burdikin.

Note 553

White-browed and Little Woodswallows.

Note 554

Black-faced Woodswallows in Timor are of the subspecies Artamus cinereus perspicillatus (HANZAB 2006 vol.7A: 439). A specimen collected in Kupang, West Timor by Gilbert in October 1840 is now in National Museums Liverpool (LIV D2224s)

Note 555

Should this be “four miles N.E. 2 miles west, 2 miles N.W. then a mile West, and the last mile south”?

Note 556

The “round topped hill” would probably be the peak marked at 441m at GR 248 010 on the Valley of Lagoons 1: 100,000 map 7960. The “large Creek” must be Perry Creek, which Leichhardt named after the Deputy Surveyor-General Captain Perry, who had later mapped the route of the Leichhardt Expedition from Leichhardt’s sketch maps. Samuel Perry (1792-1854), a career soldier, had been professor of topographical drawing at the Royal Military College from 1819 until 1823. Perry had retired to Hampshire on half-pay due to ill-health by the time he mapped the expedition route for Leichhardt.

Note 557

Leichhardt named this the “Camp of the High Hills”. McLaren placed this campsite at GR 234 976 on the 1: 100,000 Clarke River map 7959.

Note 558

These indeed must be the range running north – south from about GR 24 98 to 24 93, which they had seen from the east on the 23rd April. Gilbert had called them a “low range of round topped hills”.

Note 559

The tip of a pencilled arrow is on this word, and may be by Mitchell, unless it was inserted by Alec Chisholm and relates to the “Circus Jardinii” (Spotted Harrier) further down, adjacent to the wide part of the arrow. The arrow is unlikely to have been Gould’s – his entries for “Circus Jardinii” and “Circus assimilis” in “The birds of Australia” (vol.1, text and plates 26 and 27, published as part of part 10 in 1843) pre-date the Leichhardt Expedition, so neither account includes this sighting.

Note 560

Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis.