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John Gilbert diary entry

2 December 1844 - 5 December 1844

Page 125. Volume 1

from Penicillata the coast species, and [sic; an] old female weighed 10½ lbs142. Cloudy day wind east.

Tues Dec 3. Devoted the morning to shooting Rock Kangaroo's, but through one of the party persisting in taking his little Terrier dog only four were killed all females, to kill this animal in any numbers it is necessary to move about the rocks as quiet as poss=ible, instead of this the dog was not only constantly hunting before us but as soon as a shot was fired or one of them seen bounding over the rocks, he set up a yelping which not only frightened the animal in sight but reverberating among the glens α hollows where these animals [are] in general reposing during the heat of the day effectually set them all on the alert, thus after two hours wandering among the rocks not a Kan=garoo was to be seen. All the specimens killed were females, having young in the pouch, the largest killed weighed 10½ α the smallest a female apparantly of one year 7lbs. during the afternoon I skinned several specimens143. In the evening we again visited the Rock

and killed 3 more one of which proved a fine old Male weighing 13lbs. The whole day cloudy with light showers in the afternoon from the East.

Wed Dec 4. This morning we left the Valley of the Ruined Castles the name applied to it by the Dr from the number of extraordinary Rocks resembling the remains of old castellated buildings surrounding it on the hills around. in order to make as direct a course as possible and thus cut off the many angles of the creek, we kept a W.N.W. course up the valley, and making the river we saw on the 2nd followed it down to nearly a mile of the water hole we stopped at on that day, we camped at a small sandy water hole, which we did not observe when first exploring the river144, our days course α distance is the longest we have made in any day for some time past. W.N.W. for 6 miles α N.W. for 8 miles. the branch or first creek which runs into Zamia Creek however from its head to the junction is about a N.N.E. course for about 2 miles. 14 Miles. Day cloudy with intervals of fine warm weather and the wind Northerly. In the evening I observed many Birds of the Southern parts of the Colony particularly Falcunculus - Wonga Wonga pigeon - Estrelda temporalis - Stepera - Oreica [sic] - Dollar bird - the two species of little Turturs -

Tropidorhynchus α c and the Port Essington species of Bronzed necked Turtur145. Ptilotis like fusca α chrysops I killed146. Wonga Wonga Camp.

Thurs Dec 5. Lat. 25=5=0. one of the saddles required a good deal of repairing and the horses from all the feed being burnt up at our camp had strolled back, gave me an opportunity of strolling in the little patches of scrub sur=rounding, but I obtained nothing new although I heard many notes that were new to me, one of which one of the Black fellows recognized as the Satin bird147. the P. paliceps α new one were both observed here148.

Note 142

This tallies with Strahan's figure for the average weight of what he at that time called Petrogale penicillata herberti; 5.8 kg (Strahan 1983).

Note 143

None of the Rock-wallabies Gilbert skinned here seem to have survived the expedition. Quite possibly the pelts were used to make shoes, clothes or bags later on the expedition; the party became increasingly threadbare.

Note 144

Glen McLaren, although not completely satisfied with his own allocation of the location of Leichhardt's camp site in this geographically complicated area, puts "Vanga Vanga" (i.e. Wonga Wonga) campsite on Comely (Leichhardt's Zamia) Creek (Glenhaughton sheet 8747) at GR 151 219, about 3-400 yards south-east of the present Mapala homestead.

Note 145

Crested Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus; Wonga Pigeon Leucosarcia picata; Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis; Pied Currawong Strepera graculina; Crested Bellbird Oreoica gutturalis; Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis; Peaceful and Diamond Doves Geopelia striata placida and G. cuneata; Wattlebirds Anthochaera sp. and Friarbirds Philemon sp.; Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis.

Note 146

Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus and Yellow-faced Honeyeater L. chrysops: Gilbert had first collected these species on October 23rd and October 17th 1844 respectively (see footnotes for those two dates). There are no specimens which can be matched to Gilbert's comments here, although there are two undated Lichenostomus fuscus in the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter, which are recorded as being from the Port Essington Expedition and were probably collected by John Murphy. L. fuscus BMNH 1881.5.1.4244 from “New South Wales” in the NHM at Tring should be checked, as should two specimens of L. chrysops in that collection, neither of which have a proper accession number (one has “12c”), both are from “New South Wales”.

Note 147

The Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus is restricted to rainforest and the edges of sclerophyll forest - if indeed this was a Satin Bowerbird calling, then formerly they must have existed some way east and north of their present east-coast distribution, which now only extends northwards as far as the

Bunya mountains of south-east Queensland.

Note 148

Gilbert was observing the Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus palliceps - and presumably recording another sighting of the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus, giving us a crucial indication of its former range northwards.