Monday, 12 November 2012

Apologies to Wilson

Isn't it amazing that when under domestic and professional stress one's mind can wander and so on Sunday evening I took to investigating why David Maddison would have listed Little Stint rather than any of the commoner sandpipers. The first point established was that Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) could not have been the influence as the Scot had emigrated to America in 1794 and most of his publications were in that country. The first relatively complete list of the Birds of Northumberland was published by Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) in 1831, a year after Maddisons work was published so no responsibility there but the fact that Selby was natural history artist sent me rumaging for my copy of Thomas Bewicks (1753-1828) 'A history of British Birds' and there in the second book on waterbirds published in 1804 the above plate was located. Given the date and popularity of Bewicks work this would certainly have been available to Maddison and perhaps even encouraged him in his own writings.
I would therefore assume Maddison used Bewicks description to identify the bird although the relative scarcity of the species is confirmed by John Hancock (1808-1890) in his work of 1874 which descibes the bird as a September visitor and that he knew of only a small number of occurences.

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