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John Gilbert diary entry

2 November 1844 - 3 November 1844

Page 103. Volume 1

northern water if so may take us to a different character of country and clear of the scrub. a consummation devoutly to be wished by us all. To day I found the nest of Eopsaltria Australis contrary to my expectations it contained 3 eggs. the nest very similar to its conginer on the West coast, but in the latter I never found but two eggs. I also found the nest differently placed [from] that on the west coast E. parvula always choosing a small fork in a sapling within reach of the hand, while E. Australis was placed at the extremity of a horizontal branch of Rosewood at least 30 feet high64, I discovered the nest of Geophaps scripta if nest it can be termed, being merely a hollow in the ground, with a few dry leaves as a flooring, and sheltered by an overhanging tuft of grass it contained two eggs slightly set65. I shot a specimen of Anthus minimus66, in its actions and general manners as well as its style of note assimilates very much to the genus Acanthiza. I observed several of the new green Parrot67, it[s] pretty note at once distinguishing it from all the other parrots, it may be described as Tits-weet with rather a plaintive modulation, and I have never remarked it uttering any harsh or disagreable cry as is common to most of the tribe. the most abundant species we have all along seen is the Tropidorhynchus corniculatus68, which with its a=mazing variety of different cry's α calls, has amused us all. I saw to day a species of Strepera α Gymnorhina69 but could not get within shot of either. I saw many of the little Malurus cyaneus70, it will be curious to ob=serve how far this and many other Southern species ex=tend their northern visits.

Sunday Nov 3. Calvert α Brown set off early in pursuit of the Cattle. After breakfast, two of our people were busily employed cutting down a tree with a hollow branch of honey, of the little native Bee. while thus employed the Natives came out of the scrub, to watch our actions, at each successive visit they seemed to gain confidence and become more urgent to come nearer our tents, and in their enquiries for food. some of them have evidently been among the Settlers for they understand and speak many words, those who

apparantly [sic] have not seen white people before are less confident α more curious in their manners71. Hodgson α Charlie returned to day with their Horses having been as far

Note 64

As Chisholm points out (1945: 188), the Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis usually builds nests within a few feet of the ground. None of the robin eggs that Gilbert found can be definitively located - one could be WFVZ 179127, although this only has the locality “Australia”. There are other possiblilities in the Natural History Museum’s egg collection (check these). “E. parvula” is in fact a synonym of Eopsaltria australis; the two Western Australian species Gilbert was referring to were the Western Yellow Robin Eopsaltria griseogularis and the White-breasted Robin Eopsaltria georgiana.

Note 65

One of these Squatter Pigeon Geophaps scripta eggs must be WFVZ 178688, although it is difficult to read the exact date it was collected in November 1844 as it is now obscured by a glue spot. The other might be in the Natural History Museum (BMNH 1885.7.21.1690) - although this only has the data “Australia”. Need to check both sets of measurements against each other. Gilbert collected another clutch of two Squatter Pigeon eggs on 6th November, these are now in the NHM (BMNH 1865.2.3.[59] & 60).

Note 66

By synonymy Chthonicola sagittata, the Speckled Warbler. This specimen has not been located, although it could be one of the three specimens in the Gould Collection at ANSP from “New South Wales”.

Note 67

Another important allusion to the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus, and one of the few references to its call that exists.

Note 68

The Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus.

Note 69

Probably Strepera graculina, the Pied Currawong and Cracticus tibicen, the Australian Magpie.

Note 70

The mainland subspecies of the Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus cyanochlamys.

Note 71

Leichhardt (1847) describes these Aborigines as having in fact helped them locate the honey; they "particularly admired the red blankets, were terror-struck at the sight of a large sword, which they tremblingly begged might be returned into the sheath, and wondered at the ticking of a watch, and at the movement of its wheels". In his diary for November 3rd Leichhardt also mentioned the "glucking bird", which was subsequently often referred to by both him and Gilbert. John Calaby (pers. comm. 1996) thought this would have been Caprimulgus macrurus, the Large-tailed Nightjar, into whose range they were just passing. This bird's voice is rendered by Schodde and Tidemann (1986) as "t-chop, t-chop, t-chop", and likened to the distant chopping of wood.