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John Gilbert diary entry

2 June 1845 - 3 June 1845

Page 113. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Mon 2

8 Miles


New Poephila

Starting off at daylight and following up the tracks of our whole train, we came up with them just as they were preparing for a further start, they had made at least 8 miles instead of 4 as the Dr originally intended. Crossing the river near their camp we proceeded on my reconnoiter642, and Charlie in his fondness for cutting off Angles took us too far back, and thus, not only escaped the tolerable line of good travelling country but got into such a maze of rocks, that took us a considerable time to get clear of; the Bullocks were as might be expected very much fagged, and instead of going the whole extent of my reconnoiter as intended, we camped just as we got through the gorge at least three miles short of my farthest point643. The most interesting circumstance of the day to me, was in obtaining a new species of Poephila, very nearly allied to my new Port Essington species P. personata, but the bill of this instead of being orange as in the latter is a light yellowish horn colour, irides dark brown, legs α feet red, it is in every character a true Poephila having the black flanks, black throat, the lengthened middle tail-feathers, and the general style of light brown plumage, like the others too of the Genus, this feeds in open spots of country, feeding on grass seeds644.

[in left margin]

Tuesday 3.

N.W. 6 Miles


To day, from the river now promising to give us a good supply of water we recommenced our travelling without the necessity of previous reconnoitering, at four miles, after travelling over a tolerably good and open country we came upon the foot of a range through which the river makes its way, about four miles of regular mountain travelling was now travelled over, and certainly for the distance equal in severity to any thing we have previously had to make our way over, the last four miles the whole river bed presents one mass of rock, and the hills which come upon the river present in numerous places perpendicular walls, on the right banks the hills wind round with the river in a tolerably elevated range, on the opposite side, the ridges running parrellel with each other all come upon the river. they are all stony, and thus rendered our travelling to both Bullocks α Horses most painful, he[re] we fortunately found a little spot on the opposite

Note 642

Presumably this meant “on the path of my previous reconnoiter”.

Note 643

McLaren placed the un-named campsite of the 2nd June by a large, permanent rocky pool in the river just beyond the gorge and the point where Blackfellow Creek runs into the Lynd, at GR 068 440 on the Lyndbrook map. Has this campsite subsequently been given a name? Leichhardt recorded (1847: 278) that they “crossed three good sized creeks, joining the Lynd from the north-east”. These must be the three creeks Gilbert noted on the 1st June (Trolley, Eight Mile and Blackfellow Creeks).

Note 644

This was a new subspecies of the Masked Finch Poephila personata, the “white-eared” race Poephila personata leucotis of the Cape York Peninsula area, described by John Gould in 1847 from birds Gilbert collected between the 2nd and 21st June 1845. Gilbert’s types are assumed to be amongst specimens now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (Murphy’s collection 1944.5) and in Philadelphia (ANSP 14632 & 14633, “Interior of Australia”), and there is possibly one in the BMNH (1884.01.10.234, per Eyton’s Museum and Forbes, W.A.). They are assumed to have been collected in the vicinity of the River Lynd. There is an original watercolour by Gould in the 13th Earl of Derby’s library at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool (“Gould, Richter and Co.”, vol. 2, picture number 54), which is inscribed “Poephila discovered by Mr Gilbert on June 2nd 1845. Port Ess. Expedition”, in Gould’s handwriting. Both the birds in the painting are adults and clearly show the white cheeks of the race leucotis. According to the text to Gould’s published plate in “The birds of Australia” (vol.3, text to plate 92, which is taken from - but reversed - from the original watercolour at Knowsley), Gould had found Gilbert’s account of the new finch within his diary entry for the 2nd June (although Gould incorrectly records this as 3rd June). However, Gould does not seem to have found the sightings of the Masked Finch mentioned in Gilbert’s diary under 11th, 13th and 21st June 1845. Gilbert undoubtedly collected type specimens of the new subspecies on more than one of these days.