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John Gilbert diary entry

19 December 1844 - 21 December 1844

Page 141. Volume 1

opening from the scrub was shown us by which we were enabled to escape our prison and arrive at as fine a spot for our long camp as we could desire, and in to days instance our Bullock found, if these three last providential discoveries following up our whole progress of good fortune is not sufficient to [about 6 words deleted] deeply impress in the mind of a man with his Maker then must he be callous to all religious impressions.

As yesterday we have again had a very busy day, in rendering out the fat, α in greasing our Saddles, Boots α shoes, and in fact all our straps and leather.

We may now be said to have become quite accomplished Bush Cooks, yesterdays dinner being a Roast heart, very well stuffed, and beautifully cooked, today we sat down to as fine a piece of roast Beef as any of our friends in more comfortable circum=stances could desire, we certainly could not boast of a great show of etcetera's, but we enjoyed it with only our Damper as such and perhaps even more than many with a similar joint surrounded by all the luxuries man can invent to make it palatable.

Friday 20 Dec: Our drying proceeding as well as we could wish; Charlie α Murphy rode out to the NW about 6 miles they came upon a small water hole in a creek running along the edge of the Scrub, at which place was a large Natives Camp. although they saw no Natives, yet from the fires being still burning and many of their implements lying about, and Cloaks hanging about the trees, they were evidently only ab=sent for a short time, probably hunting in the adja=cent Scrub; that there are Natives and tolerably nu=merous in this part of the country, we have seen many evidences every where as we have travelled on from day to day, and as we have not seen them we must conclude they purposely keep out of our sight. Today I obtained the Donacola castaneo=thorax178, that is to say if it is the same as Gould des=cribes, for he makes no mention of the black flanks

and under tails coverts which my specimens have. Thunder Storms at the close of day.

Sat 21 Dec. It was intended we should break up our Camp to day, but some of our meat not being perfectly dried we thought it better to re=main another day. In a ramble with my gun I saw nothing new, I shot the Calamanthus minimus and the small species of Pomatorhinus179, all the birds I saw were precisely the same as those observed for the most part during the whole expedition. In a tree above our tents were

Note 178

Lonchura castaneothorax, the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. Note that Gilbert mentions specimens‚ in the plural. These birds are probably still identifiable in the form of a female in the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (ANSP 14560 (VN 602), from "Interior of Australia", which seems to be a typical Verreaux Catalogue notation for birds from the Leichhardt Expedition), and two sub-adult birds (both are streaked light brown on the top of the head, and have a very light brown breast, therefore being out of breeding plumage) in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, from Murphy's "Port Essington Expedition 1844", donated by "Miss Fox" in 1944. There is a bird collected by Gilbert which has a label bearing the date 20th December 1844, but it is a Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens (BMNH 1881.5.1.5587, an immature male). John Gould referred to Singing Honeyeaters having been obtained by Gilbert on the Leichhardt Expedition in his Handbook to the birds of Australia 1865, volume 1: 504.

Note 179

The first of these two birds, "Calamanthus minimus", must be the Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata - otherwise known as the Jenny Wren or Blood Tit. I cannot at present find any individuals of this species which could have been collected on the Leichhardt Expedition. The three in the Academy in Philadelphia are all marked New South Wales, so one of those could be a possibility. The "small species of Pomatorhinus" is not easily equated with one particular bird. Alec Chisholm (1945: 190) thought it was possibly the Chestnut-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus ruficeps, or even the White-browed Babbler P. superciliosus (which has been seen in South Queensland). Leichhardt mentioned in his journal (1847: 80) that Gilbert had seen a "species of the genus Pomatorhinus, a Swan River bird". No specimens of this genus which appear to have been from the Leichhardt Expedition can be found at present, but a specimen of Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis from “New South Wales” in the NHM at Tring (BMNH 1881.5.1.473) needs to be checked, but this species is the biggest, not the smallest, of the genus Pomatostomus.