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John Gilbert diary entry

25 November 1844 - 27 November 1844

Page 120. Volume 1

the Dr in reconnoitering found that the deep rocky gorge is the head of the Robinson, the Dr thinks and with good reason that this river is a tributary to the Condamine, although run=ning so close to Palm tree creek, running as it does through such a great extent of sandstone, it must carry with it a large deposit, and no collection of sand could be detected either in the Palm Tree Creek or the Dawson but on the contrary both of these courses have clay or mud bottoms as far as we travelled on them, the former was seen by us from its junction to the head. In the evening very great numbers of Pigeons came to the Rocky water hole at our Camp, 17 of which were shot in a very short time. The Platycercus paliceps and New124 were both common here. Pigeon Camp.

Tuesday 26 Nov Morning very Cloudy, our Bullocks strayed away beyond their usual distance, and kept us waiting till ten o'clock, in the interim four Emus came within view of us evidently intending to drink at the little pool be=side us, they however took alarm at our preparations and before we could get a Gun in the hand they had gone off several hundred yards, three of us mounted our horses and after a Gallop over a horrible stony piece of country, our dog weak as he was succeeded in catching it. on our way, we came upon a small herd of Kangaroo's, α were again successful in catching one, the greatest a=mount of Game we have yet obtained in one day was thus obtained when we least expected it. We travelled on in rather a zigzag course over the table tops of the range for about 6 miles and camped in a very ro=mantic α secluded spot at a small pool of water in a creek which runs to the southard doubtless one of the lateral branches of the Robinson. along its banks the white Melaleuca was in blossom. Our middle course about N.W. 5 miles. The Kangaroo meat cut up for drying, the whole day very cloudy with a moist atmosphere, at night we had squalls from the West with light showers α thunder. Melaleuca Camp125.

Wed 27 Nov. Morning Cloudy α sultry, with a light air from West. Ascending a table top we moved on 6 miles and descended into a beautiful valley, thinly timbered undulating hills rising on each side and most thickly clothed with grass, the principal Timber Silky leaved Iron bark, Apple tree, α flooded Gum. We are now evidently approaching a new style of country, in our descent we may fairly consider that we have left the Ranges of the Robinson, from the clear flat tops on which we travelled for the first four miles we were enabled to steer a direct N.W. course till we came upon the N.W. extremity, to get down from which we had to push our Bullocks down the worst and most perpendicular hill we have yet attempted, it was not the steepness of the sides which rendered it so very bad, but from its loose rocky α stony sides giving way with almost every step each Bullock or horse made, that it seemed almost miracu=lous how they could escape falling headlong down into the gully beneath them, however fortune smiled on us again, for the Bullocks with a great deal of pressing succeeded in getting to the bottom without accident or display of ill humour. after they were safely below

Note 124

“Platycercus paliceps” is the Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus palliceps. Gilbert's "new" parrot - unless it was the hybrid Platycercus splendidus - was the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus, another important distributional observation of this now extinct species, which he first discovered on the Darling Downs (see Gilbert's diary for 17th May 1844). It does seems very likely that Gilbert collected Paradise Parrots while he was on the Leichhardt Expedition. Possible skins from this expedition include BMNH 1881.5.1.4807 and 1881.5.1.4808. BMNH 1889.1.20.40 is from the Tweeddale Collection and more likely to be a later Charles Coxen specimen. Check whether any of the Gould Collection Paradise Parrots in Philadelphia are more “rough” and flat than the others. There are no Gould Collection Paradise Parrot eggs in the Gould Collection in California, but there is a need to check for any of these in the Natural History Museum. Leichhardt made several observations about vertebrates in this section of his Journal, notably that "Mr. Gilbert's Parrot, which he first met with on the downs, was very frequent" and he continued that "the glucking-bird and the barking-owl were heard throughout the moonlight nights .... Quails were abundant, but not worth our powder; flocks of spur-winged plovers were living at the lakes and swamps, and a shy hornbill (Scythrops) was seen and heard several times ... a species of Gristes [fish] was abundant in the water-holes, but it was of small size: the eels have disappeared". Under 25th November, Leichhardt added that "According to Mr. Gilbert, rock wallabies were very numerous ... the water holes are frequented by the bronze-winged pigeons in great numbers. Mr. Gilbert shot eight of them, and Mr. Roper, John Murphy, and Charley, added to the number, so that we had a fine pigeon supper and breakfast, each having his bird".

Note 125

The site of Melaleuca Camp has been located by McLaren at GR 274 947 (Glenhaughton sheet 8747). They were then on Walker Creek, a tributary of Rosey Creek. In 1991 McLaren found this area full of sharp ridges and loose boulders, making travelling extremely difficult, and applauds Leichhardt and his men for traversing it with all their pack-animals.