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John Gilbert diary entry

23 June 1845

Page 2. Volume 2

[in left margin]


June 23rd


10 miles N W by W

First Mimeta714

First new Ptilotis pectoralis715

First new Ptilotis like fusca716

1545 [presumably at beginning of day]

Lat 16=0=0

First Mimeta [repeated]

1555 [presumably at end of day]

Travelled on ten miles more, the country in our immediate track pres=sented a strong contrast to that of yesterday, nearly the whole stage being over swampy land, on either side of us, however, were slight ridges, where there was finer grass α timber, occasionally we travelled nearer the river than we have before done, although it does not yet show any indication of being near the coast it is certainly changing, in its great belt of brush, and its immense breadth of bed being not less than from a mile to a mile α a half, presenting however the same white sand, and the stream taking up not more perhaps than one tenth of its bed. The Palms are becoming more frequent. To day I killed a new species of Honey-sucker, the specimen is an immature bird, and I cannot rightly determine which genus it belongs to, but from the appearance of its cheeks I believe it will prove to be Ptilotis, it is a small, but elegant addition to the genus. I also killed for the first time in the expedition Mimeta - ? the dark coloured species. during the days route I observed vast numbers of Artamus superciliosus; great num=bers of Otis were observed during the day. In the evening I visited the brush of the river and shot a second new species of Honey sucker, it is very like Ptilotis fusca, but is in its whole style of colouring much lighter, having a good deal of yellow about the head, and in being much smaller in size. at the Lagoon beside which we are camped717 the Collocalia ariel was collected in great numbers, and Hirundo neoxena or it may be that it is a different species. while in the scrub I killed a second specimen of the banded Ptilotis, however it is scarcely a true Ptilotis, having the short body α tail of the genus Myzomela, but it has exactly the character of ear feathers common to Ptilotis. the bill perhaps is rather too slender for the latter genus. I also killed Mimeta viridis? the dark variety. Great numbers of Dendrocygna, Charlie α Brown kill 17718.

Note 714

“First Mimeta”: Gilbert called this “the dark coloured species”, by which he must have meant the Cape York subspecies of the Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus, which is greyer than the other subspecies. No such specimen has been found (there is a Yellow Oriole O. flavocinctus at the NHM Tring from Cape York, BMNH 1881.5.1.”1830”, it is probably worth checking this specimen, and to see if there are other orioles from Cape York in the 1881.5.1. series there).

Note 715

“First new Ptilotis pectoralis”: These were Banded Honeyeaters Cissomela pectoralis, a species found across norther Australia. The first bird Gilbert collected on 23rd June 1845, which was an immature, is probably a specimen now in the Natural History Museum’s’ collections at Tring, BMNH 1881.5.1.4251, an immature which bears a small beige label in Gould’s secretary Edwin Prince's hand: "near Gulf of Carpentaria Gilbert June 1845". The other specimen which was collected by Gilbert on 23rd June was probably the specimen sent to the museum in Melbourne by Gould in the 1850-60s, listed as "Myzomela pectoralis. Gulf of Carpen. Y[oung] F[emale", but this is now missing.

Note 716

“First new Ptilotis like fusca”: this may well have been the specimen that Gilbert lost to a kite a few days later … “The Milvus isurus is on the increase as well in numbers as in boldness. In the afternoon while sitting at the entrance of my tent skinning birds, I had a tin case with specimens between my legs, the lid of which I had opened to air the specimens enclosed; among which was the only specimen of my last new Honey sucker. this was lying on the top and had deceived the bird so much that he darted down, and to my surprise & vexation fairly carried off my specimen, and flying into a neighbouring tree, instantly plucked it in pieces, whether he swallowed any I could not tell, but at all events I should imagine that the Arsenic will not at all agree with its stomach, although they display so little nicety in what they pick up” (Gilbert’s diary vol.1 page 7). From Gilbert’s description, that the bird was like the Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus but “having a good deal of yellow about the head”, it may have been a Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavescens, a species with which Gilbert was unfamiliar. This however is not “much smaller in size” than the Fuscous Honeyeater. Due to the thieving Square-tailed Kite we shall never know what species it really was from.

Note 717

The campsite of 23rd June 1845 was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 587 308 on the 1: 100,000 Koolatah map 7366, on the north side of a lagoon near the left bank of the river. Phillips described this lagoon as a lake (Sprod 2006: 73). Again this campsite has no name. Perhaps “Banded Honeyeater Camp”?

Note 718

Probably Dendrocygna eytoni, Plumed Whistling-Ducks. Two ducks of this species now in National Museums Liverpool (LIV D143c & D143d, adult male and female) were collected by Gilbert on the River Lynd in June 1845. Some of Charlie and Brown’s 17 “Dendrocygna” could also have been individuals of Dendrocygna arcuata, Wandering Whistling-ducks. Leichhardt also recorded (1847: 300-301) that Roper had shot a wallaby on this date, the hind quarters of which weighed 15 ½ lbs (7.5kg), it was a light grey colour and like those the expedition had seen at Separation Creek. This latter campsite was their stop of 19th February, when they were on the Isaac River. The wallaby was probably a Euro (Common Wallaroo) Macropus robustus.