Friday, August 21, 2015

Nestling labels

This photo of the labels on one of the nestlings shown in the previous posting is COPYRIGHT Natural History Museum.

The top label appears to be the oldest and may have been an original label. The spelling 'Wangun Hills' uses the Aboriginal name for the hills that John Gilbert first visited with much enthusiasm in Sept. 1842 as he was eagerly awaiting his first encounter with Malleefowl. He used a similar spelling on other specimens from that area though his spelling was often 'Wangan'.

Gilbert was very familiar with Western Ground Parrots as he collected Aboriginal names for them in four different regions of Western Australia. These were Swan River (Perth), north of the Swan River settlement (where the nestlings were collected), south of Swan River, and King George's Sound (Albany area). Ground parrots are no longer found in any of these localities. Heavy clearing for agriculture took place in the Wongan Hills area in the early 1900s. Gilbert did not distinguish the Western Ground Parrots from Eastern Ground Parrots, both being named Pezoporus formosus

In those early days there was no settlement or clearing out that way and Gilbert's expedition, which included members of the Drummond family and Aboriginal guides was through bush. 

The extract above from the RAOU Journal The Emu, 1938, shows handwriting of John Gould'secretary (first paragraph), and John Gilbert (second paragraph). Gilbert's handwriting does not appear to match up with the label. However,the authority on John Gilbert, National Museums Liverpool's Clemency Fisher, Senior Curator of vertebrate zoology (World Museum), who has researched the work of John Gilbert over 35 years, is confident that the top label was indeed written by John Gilbert.

Gilbert was meticulous at keeping notes and also wrote detailed letters to his employer, Gould, but no mention of the nestlings has been found. However, some of Gilbert's letters to Gould were lost.

It is significant that 'Sandplain' is specifically mentioned as sandplain with its low but diverse vegetation is the preferred habitat of the Western Ground Parrot.

The second label is the original label of registration into the Natural History Museum collection. It appears that the date was 15 Feb. 1844 and the specimens were 96 and 97 entered on that date.

It is not clear why the third and more recent label questions that the collection was ever part of the John Gould Collection. The bulk of Gould's Australian Birds collection was sold to Dr Thomas Wilson, patron of The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, in 1847. 

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