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In 1962, a special issue of British Birds alleged that the number and pattern of records of rare birds from around Hastings, in southern England, between 1892 and 1930 were so improbable that fraud was the only reasonable explanation. A press conference resulted in absurdly exaggerated reports that encouraged general acceptance of the alleged fraud and in particular that George Bristow, a local taxidermist, was responsible. There are potential weaknesses in the statistical analysis of the purported fraud, and the case against Bristow was based on probability and innuendo, not solid evidence. Plausible information from Bristow and the respected ornithologist Norman Ticehurst was largely ignored, as were the practicalities of fraud, especially during wartime and in the absence of modern deep-freeze facilities. The lead author was apparently prejudiced against taxidermists. The allegations unfairly tainted Bristow and his profession, and have encouraged some distrust of historical datasets.
We report the first record of Forbes-Watson's Swift Apus berliozi for the southern Africa region from coastal southern Mozambique. Identification was primarily based on vocal characters using sonogram analyses, which show that voice is diagnostic compared to all seven possible confusion species in the region. Current knowledge of the distribution and life history of A. berliozi is summarised, which shows that the Mozambique record extends the non-breeding range c.1,700 km south and suggests that Forbes-Watson's Swift is a migrant to the littoral of Tanzania and northern and central Mozambique. Field identification of Forbes-Watson's Swift using visual characters is challenging, but information is presented to aid separation from the most likely confusion species, Common Swift A. apus.
After escaping from the burning East Indiaman Fame, but losing all of his possessions, Sir Stamford Raffles, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen, hastily re-collected as many natural history specimens and drawings as he could before leaving Sumatra in April 1824. On his return to England Raffles was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society and, with Lord Edward Smith Stanley and others, founded the Zoological Society of London. In 1825 Raffles gave 21 Sumatran birds to Stanley. Upon his death in 1851, Stanley (then 13th Earl of Derby) bequeathed his collection to the people of Liverpool, founding what is now the World Museum, National Museums Liverpool. Here I record these birds, 11 of which are still extant in the collection, including links to: the names and types from Raffles' (1822) ‘descriptive catalogue' of a zoological collection from Sumatra; Raffles' post-Fame zoological drawings; and Nicholas Aylward Vigors' catalogue of Raffles' specimens in the Zoological Society Museum, published in Lady Sophia Raffles’ memoir in 1830.
We present evidence demonstrating that the combination Columba gularisQuoy & Gaimard, 1832, is not preoccupied by Columba gularisWagler, 1827, and is available. It should be used as the valid specific name of the taxon rather than the replacement name Leucotreron epiaOberholser, 1918.
We present non-breeding season records of the recently named Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis from Bangladesh (four individuals) and northern Thailand (one). Identification was based on mitochondrial DNA assay of feathers or blood from birds handled during ringing. Tickell's Leaf Warbler P. affinis (sensu lato) was abundant in scrub and scattered trees at the margins of wetlands in north-east Bangladesh, whilst the record from Thailand represents a significant eastwards extension of the previously recorded wintering range. Further sampling in South and South-East Asia will be necessary to resolve the winter ranges of the taxa affinis and occisinensis.
The discovery of an overlooked skeleton of Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring (NHMUK) is documented, one of very few known to exist worldwide of this almost certainly extinct species. We present evidence that, on balance of probabilities, it is one of two collected by Alphonse Forrer in 1882 near the settlement of La Ciudad in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Durango, western Mexico; the whereabouts of the other, which did not come to NHMUK, appears currently unknown. During research into the NHMUK specimen, we demonstrated that the supposed Imperial Woodpecker skull held in the collection of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, must in fact be that of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker C. principalis.
The Adelbert Mountains, one of ten outlying ranges along New Guinea's north and north-west coasts, surprised ornithologists when their first exploration by Western scientists yielded the striking endemic Fire-maned Bowerbird Sericulus bakeri. It was then another surprise when further exploration revealed no other distinctive endemic. We summarise previous Adelbert studies and our four explorations including a survey of the highest summit. A total of 71 upland species has been recorded from the Adelberts, all of them also present as the same species or (in the case of S. bakeri) same superspecies on other outliers. The Adelberts are exceptional among low-elevation outliers in harbouring populations of seven upland species shared only with much higher outliers. The Adelberts are unique in supporting populations of ten upland species compressed at the highest elevations into a narrow elevational band below the summit. The elevational floors of those species lie a much shorter distance below the summit than for any species on any other outlier. In explanation, we propose the hypothesis that, among outliers, the Adelberts are especially accessible to colonisation by upland species from other upland areas, with two consequences: endemism is almost non-existent in the Adelberts except S. bakeri; and high-elevation populations of the Adelberts may be subsidised by colonists from other upland areas. The highest-elevation populations may have disappeared during the mid-Holocene hypsithermal and subsequently recolonised, further contributing to the lack of endemism. The Adelbert upland avifauna is more closely related, in presence / absence and taxonomic relationships, to that of the nearby Huon Mts. to the east than to the avifauna of the more distant North Coastal Range to the west. That suggests why the Adelberts support S. bakeri as such a distinctive endemic but the rest of their avifauna is undifferentiated: Sericulus is the only upland superspecies of north New Guinea that reaches its eastern distributional limit in the Adelberts; and its low elevational floor permitted it, but not higher-elevation species, to survive upwards shifts in range during the hypsithermal. An appendix summarises all 235 species recorded from the Adelberts, our observations of their elevational range and abundance, and their names in two local mountain languages of the Adelberts.
In a recent paper, I demonstrated that the original description of Turdus ustulatusNuttall, 1840, was likely based on a specimen of Catharus guttatus (Pallas, 1811). Herein, I resolve this anomaly by designating a neotype that stabilises traditional nomenclature. Formal review by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature determined that intervention was not necessary because neither syntype from the original description is extant or traceable. This is the third in a series of papers concerning historical aspects of Catharus taxonomy and nomenclature.