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John Gilbert diary entry

27 June 1845

Page 7. Volume 2

[in left margin]


First Monarcha trivirgata.

To days march I again met with Myzomela nigra741 being a male bird in the change of Plumage I did not recognise it untill I shot it. 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 sucker742. this was lying on the top and had de=ceived the bird so much that he darted down, and to my surprise α 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. as yesterday Natives fires all around us. While out with my Gun I shot Monarcha trivirgata? or a nearly allied species743 for the first time in the expedition. as I was returning to Camp, reports of the Black-fellows Guns were heard in the direction I had just come from, and immediately after we heard the shouts of numerous Natives, and when Brown and Charlie soon after returned, they told us they had caught the Natives in the act of creeping up to our Bullocks, with their spears ready poised to kill one, they ran after them, and fired off their guns to frighten them off in which they succeeded; I am almost inclined to doubt the truth of the whole tale, for I had but just before returned from among the Bullocks, and I neither saw or heard any thing of the Natives. That they may have been creeping up behind trees in order to satisfy their curiosity as to the nature of such (to them) an extraordinary animal I think is very probable but that they should, at first sight attempt to spear one, or even approach so near is I think very doubtful, bold and fearless as the Natives of

Note 741

Another pencilled arrow, probably Gould’s, points to Gilbert’s diary entry for the Black Honeyeater Sugomel niger, which here is rather north of its present range. This individual is probably a specimen now in the Natural History Museum’s Tring Outstation, which is labelled with a small beige label in Edwin Prince's hand: "near Gulf of Carpentaria Gilbert June 1845" (BMNH 1881.5.1.4252). It was labelled by the NHM staff as a female but Australian Honeyeater expert Wayne Longmore checked it in June 1994 and says it is a subadult male – which fits exactly Gilbert’s description of the bird he collected on 27th June 1845.

Note 742

This must have been Gilbert’s “First new Ptilotis like fusca” of 23rd June, which may have been a Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavescens, but due to the Square-tailed Kite (which probably developed a stomach ache), we will never know.

Note 743

Spectacled Monarch Symposiarchus trivirgatus. This is probably a specimen in the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia: ANSP 1077 (VN 1135). It is a male which is listed in the Verreaux Catalogue as being from “Port Essington”, but this species does not occur in Nothern Territory, only on the east coast of Australia (including east and north Cape York). John Gould wrote in "The birds of Australia" (vol. 2, text to plate 96) that he had never seen a female bird of “Monarcha trivirgata”, and all his males had been procured at Moreton Bay, except for a specimen collected on the Leichhardt Expedition, which did not have rufous on the flanks. This must be one and the same specimen as the bird Gilbert collected on 27th June 1845 and probably one and the same as ANSP 1077. It was one of the last specimens that Gilbert ever collected and possibly the last one still to survive.