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John Gilbert diary entry

30 November 1844 - 2 December 1844

Page 123. Volume 1

after travelling our usual time, we halted for the day in a beautiful open timbered valley, having most luxurious grass to the foots of the hills α ridges surrounding us on both sides.

a creek runs through it to the Eastward having small reedy pools136. The Dr devoted the afternoon to reconnoitering but retur=ned without accomplishing his object so far as finding a passage for us to the N or Westward, he describes the mountainous country he saw as being but a constant and rapid succession of bold ridges α with deep cut ravines α gullys, and rich grassy valleys like the one we are now camped on, but the courses of all the streams flowing to the Eastward. the result of his search is that we will be under the necessity of remaining inactive tomorrow, while the Mountains and valleys in different directions are ex=plored. Roper α Murphy rode out in the afternoon and did not return during the night. the whole day more or less cloudy with a Westerly breeze occasionally blowing fresh. in the evening however we had a thunder storm from S.W. with slight showers, it passed over us in about 2 hours α the night was fine and mild, with a clear cloudless sky. In a stroll with my gun I saw nothing but the most common birds, excepting a pair of Sericornis, which I think may be a new species137. Days dist for the day, about

8 miles, but only 5 in a direct N.E. course. * see Dec 8th.

Wallaby Camp.

Sunday Dec 1. While the Dr reconnoitered the hills to the Eastward, I followed down the creek we are camped on for about 6 miles, although it is very zig=zag in its course, its general stream may be said to be between S E α S S E. fine grassy Iron bark ridges and Apple tree flats for about four miles, when it be comes very much con=fined by the Rocky hills, which rise from its banks. as I followed down the creeks banks, I found that it increased in size, and the pools of water in its bed became larger and more frequent. while out I was rather surprised to see a pair of Cinclosoma, perhaps a new one, but I thought I recognized in it a new spe=cies it eluded my search in a deep ravine, where I could not follow it138. the Dr came in without having found any satisfactory break in the mountains, and had come to the determination of returning so as to explore the Boyd, but at my request he relinquished this idea untill we had explored to the N α W from this camp. to morrow therefore will be devoted to this. The whole day again cloudy and in the afternoon a severe thunder storm.

Mond Dec 2. The Dr α I left our camp early and took an N.W. direction following up the valley for six miles, which presented the whole distance as fine and luxuriant appearance from the rich green grass and open forest land as any similar extent of ground we have at any time seen, near this distance up the valley the Creek divides into branches which wind round a spur of stony hills up which we ascended to get a view of the country before, to our left we saw the walled moun=

Note 136

They moved north-eastwards to a waterhole Leichhardt had found while scouting on 29th November. "Wallabi Camp" was obviously at a junction between a south- and and east-flowing creek, and McLaren has fixed this point as being at the junction of Spring and Ruined Castle Creeks (Glenhaughton sheet 8747 at GR 244 156). This latter name was bestowed by Leichhardt "because high sandstone walls, fissured and broken like pillars and walls and the high gates of the ruined castles of Germany, rise from the broad sandy summits of many hills on both sides of the valley" (Leichhardt 1847). It seems likely that their route that day was fairly similar to that followed by the present secondary road. Leichhardt named this camp after the many rock-wallabies they had seen that day, inhabiting the deep holes and crevices in the fragmenting rock-faces.

Note 137

The “Sericornis” was indeed a new form, the Buff-breasted Scrubwren Sericornis laevigaster (now considered to be a subspecies of the White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis), which was formally described by John Gould in 1847 (in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London part 15: 3). He based his description on male and female birds collected by John Gilbert “near the Gulf of Carpentaria”. It is notable that Gould, unable to devote the time to reading Gilbert's diary properly, had only guessed at the locality; he stated in his Handbook (1865) that "there is no information whatever respecting them in his [Gilbert’s] Journal". In fact the types were collected by Gilbert near Ruined Castle Creek on 30th November 1844 and must be two specimens now in the collections at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (ANSP 17632 (Verreaux number 556), male, and ANSP 17633 (VN 557), female, designated the lectotype by Stone 1913: 164). Both are labelled "Interior of Australia". A.G. Campbell also discussed the collecting locality of Gilbert's specimens of his new bird in 1935 in the journal Emu (Vol.34, part 4: 255).

Note 138

Gilbert must have seen this bird at about GR 24 12 on Ruined Castle Creek. He may well have been right about it being a new species - according to Chisholm (1945: 190) the bird was probably the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castaneothorax, which was not formally described by John Gould until 1848. Gould's holotype was a specimen collected by Charles Coxen on the Darling Downs, further south. Another possibility is that the pair of “Cinclosoma” were Spotted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma punctatum, which Gilbert would not necessarily have been familiar with. The only presently-known Spotted Quail-thrush material suspected to have been collected by Gilbert are an egg and a nest.