2023 BOC meetings

Monday 27 March (doors open at 6.00pm) in the upstairs room at the Barley Mow, 104, Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2EE

The talk will not be Zoomed live but will be videoed and put up on YouTube shortly after the event.

Robert Prŷs-Jones –  Wallace’s Sarawak bird collections and the development of his ornithological knowledge

Abstract: The integration of information from the diaries/notebooks of important 19th-century ornithologists with that from their specimens and accompanying labels can provide intriguing insight into the development of their interest in, and knowledge of, avifaunas. Two key examples, involving major collections now largely held by the Natural History Museum at Tring, comprise Allan Octavian Hume (see Prŷs-Jones 2022. Arch Nat. Hist. 49(2): 391-407) and Alfred Russel Wallace, the subject of this talk. Although already a highly experienced collector of South American fauna, Wallace had no first-hand knowledge of the South-east Asian fauna when he arrived there for an eight-year visit in 1854. From early November 1854 to January 1856, he was based in Sarawak, and this talk aims to integrate information from his specimen labels and his field notebook listing of “Birds collected in Borneo” to unravel how his skill in identifying the birds he collected there increased over time.

Biography: Robert Prŷs-Jones is now a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum (NHM), having been in charge of its bird collections in Tring for nearly 25 years, from 1992 to 2016. After studying for a D.Phil. at the Edward Grey Institute, Oxford, he worked on a diversity of ornithological research on Aldabra in the Seychelles, Dominica in the West Indies and in Australia, before taking up a lectureship at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Returning to the U.K., he was in charge of the British Trust for Ornithology’s estuarine bird research from 1987 to 1992, prior to assuming his post in the NHM. His ornithological career has been spent learning “a little about a lot”, though he now has a particular interest attempting to “add value” to the historic NHM bird collections through close study of the specimens in combination with wider relevant data associated with them.