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John Gilbert diary entry

11 June 1845 - 13 June 1845

Page 119. Volume 2

[in left margin]

First Dendrocygna [eytoni deleted] arcuata

Dendrocygna [eytoni deleted] arcuata676 for the first time; I saw another example of Climacteris677 - but was unable to procure it, several of the new personatus like finch678 were also seen. a new Pigeon α a new Parrot679 have been observed, but as yet none of us have been able to shoot either.

[in left margin]

Thurs 12th.


9 miles.

10 miles for day

First Microeca flavigaster680


10 miles more of the Lynd was travelled down to day, at the first starting for about 3 miles, there were the Sandstone hills α ridges again but all so very low that from the tops of the highest we could not see a mile around. from this the last 7 miles was over grassy flats, at a short distance back from the river slightly rising ridges could be occasionally seen, the river during to days stage, changed considerably. at first it narrowed very much between high banks, and the whole breadth of the bed perfectly clear of trees or banks. but where we camped it became broader, and assumed its original appearance of long banks, with thickets of Tea Tree681. To day I killed for the first time in the expedition Microeca flavigaster a Port Essington species. *Dendrocygna arcuata had the irides reddish orange, eye-lash red - bill mottled with dark brown α greenish grey, legs α feet, reddish flesh colour682: Our dog to day succeeded in capturing 2 Kangaroos, which will be a very agreable change to our diet of hard beef.

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Friday 13th.

10 miles

9 miles N W by N.


10 miles down the Lynd without any striking change in the character of either the river or the country; As we marched along I again met with the new Poephila, and Climacteris - the latter has exactly the actions α note of the other species of this genus683: Brown who has been well employed during the last week, in keeping in the bed of the river shooting ducks and generally very successfully to day exceeded his usual quoutour684 of game by bringing in 15 Teal, while Charlie was equally fortunate in shooting a Bustard, which appears to be on the increase with us; at our Camp685 in the evening we were visited by large flocks of Cacatua Eos686. To day and yesterday during the day we had the benefit of a cooling N.E. wind, and at night several puffs of a squall from the N α Westward, while the strongest wind is yet during the evening from the East α Southward.

Note 676

Dendrocygna arcuata is the Wandering Whistling-Duck, Dendrocygna eytoni is the closely related Plumed Whistling-Duck. Although Gilbert had crossed the latter species name out, the birds he collected on the 11th and 12th June 1845 were Plumed Whistling-Ducks, as the eye, bill and feet colour he recorded on the 12th June fit D. eytoni rather than D. arcuata. As support for this diagnosis, a pair of Plumed Whistling-Ducks collected by Gilbert on the expedition are in National Museums Liverpool. Both bear original Gilbert labels: "Port Essington Expedition. Male / Female. June 1845 River Lynd" (LIV D0143c & D143d). Another old specimen of the Plumed Whistling-Duck in Naturalis Leiden (RMNH Old Catalogue No.1, an adult male) is labelled “Gulf of Carpentaria” and could also be from the expedition. Gilbert’s reference to “Binoe” was to Benjamin Bynoe, Surgeon on H.M.S. Beagle during her third voyage under John Lort Stokes. Gould had quoted Stokes extensively under his entry for “Leptotarsus Eytoni” in “The birds of Australia” (vol.7, text to plate 15) as Stokes (and presumably Bynoe) had seen this duck in great numbers on the north-west coast of Australia. Gould had used a single specimen he had obtained from Bynoe from this area to describe the species to science, naming it after the eminent duck expert Thomas Campbell Eyton (who had once employed Gilbert as his curator). Eyton is actually credited as the author of this species, as he formally published Gould manuscript notes on the species in 1838. Bynoe’s type is now missing.

Note 677

Presumably another Black-backed Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus melanotus, the new species which Gilbert had first seen (and collected) on the 9th June.

Note 678

The “personatus like finch” was another specimen of Gilbert’s new subspecies of the Masked Finch Poephila personata, the “white-eared” race Poephila personata leucotis of the Cape York Peninsula area, which Gilbert had first collected on 2nd June 1845 (see the footnote for that date).

Note 679

The “new Pigeon” could have been from any number of species, but perhaps it was one of the fruit-doves, a group with which (apart from the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus regina) Gilbert was not that familiar. Could the “new Parrot” have been the now-endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot (or Ant-hill Parrot) Psephotus chrysopterygius? This only exists in Cape York. Or perhaps it was a Pale-headed Rosella of the nominate race of north-east Queensland, Platycercus a. adscitus, which is subtly different from the race Gilbert would have been familiar with, Platycercus a. palliceps of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Note 680

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster. This species had been described by John Gould from specimens Gilbert had collected at Port Essington and Van Diemens Gulf, around the Cobourg Peninsula of the Northern Territory, in 1840 and 1841. The type specimens are now in Philadelphia, Liverpool and Leiden. This was Gilbert’s only record of the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher during the Leichhardt Expedition. The specimen Gilbert collected on 12th June 1845 has not been definitively identified, but is likely to be one of two adult Gould Collection birds now in the Natural History Museum (Tring Outstation): BMNH 1858.12.2.17, which has no data and is a poor specimen, or BMNH 1881.5.1.1123, from “N. Australia”. The latter is more likely, as several of the 1881.5.1. accession of Gould Collection specimens, received shortly after Gould died, have proved to be from the Leichhardt Expedition.

Note 681

McLaren estimated the campsite of 12th June to be at GR 640 280 on the 1: 100,000 Bulimba map 7564, which is about 3 miles south of today’s Bulimba homestead, but was unable to be precise about its location. Leichhardt had indeed written on 13th June that “a very fine lagoon [was] … scarcely three miles from our last camp”, and clearly showed on his sketch map the crescent-shaped lagoon on the left bank opposite Bulimba; however he appears to have placed the junction of Bridge Creek and the Lynd to the north instead of the south of this lagoon. Leichhardt named the campsite Lepidostius Camp, presumably after the garfish (needle-like, predatory fish) present in the waters of the Lynd. The members of the genus Lepisosteus are American gars, so Leichhardt must have been referring to an Australian garfish species such as the Snub-nosed Garfish Arramphus s. sclerolepis (see footnote for 11th June).

Note 682

These were actually Plumed Whistling-Ducks Dendrocygna eytoni rather than Wandering Whistling-Ducks Dendrocygna arcuata, see footnote for 11th June.

Note 683

“The new Poephila” was Poephila personata, the “white-eared” race of the Masked Finch Poephila personata leucotis, found only in the Cape York Peninsula area and first discovered to science by Gilbert on 2nd June 1845 (see the footnote for that day). The “Climacteris” was another new species to science, the Black-backed Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus melanotus, which Gilbert had first seen (and collected) on the 9th June (see footnote for that date). Interestingly Gilbert, still thinking these treecreepers were Black-tailed Treecreepers Climacteris melanura, wrote that it “has exactly the actions α note of the other species of this genus”; he must have been referring to birds of the nominate subspecies Climacteris picumnus picumnus, known as Brown Treecreepers and distributed from South Australia east to New South Wales and north to the Rockhampton area of Queensland..

Note 684


Note 685

McLaren tentatively estimated the campsite of 13th June to be on the left (west) bank of the Lynd at GR 593 445. He did not record a campsite name, but Leichhardt had written on his sketch map next to the star denoting the campsite: “13 June – the tree with loose racemi of seeds – monosperm winged”. In his Journal for 13th June (1847: 289) Leichhardt wrote that “A species of Stravadium attracted our attention by its loose racemes of crimson coloured flowers, and of large three or four ribbed monospermous fruit; it was a small tree, with bright green foliage, and was the almost constant companion of the permanent water-holes. As its foliage and the manner of its growth resemble the mangrove, we called it the Mangrove Myrtle”. “Mangrove Myrtle Camp” would therefore be a good name for the campsite of 13th June. Rod Fensham et al (2006: 483) identified this tree as Barringtonia acutangula, a tree sometimes known as the Freshwater Mangrove and widespread in Australasia and Asia.

Note 686

Galahs Eolophus roseicapillus.