Photo: Tim Gallagher/Courtesy of The Natural History Museum
I apologize for going so long without writing a new blog post. For almost three weeks, I’ve been traveling around England, visiting friends and relatives, birding, sightseeing, and exploring various museum collections. One of my most interesting days on the entire journey was spent at the Natural History Museum at Tring—about 30 miles northwest of London—where the bird collection is housed.
What’s most remarkable about this collection is the number of type specimens, or syntypes—an individual or set of specimens upon which the scientific description and name of a new species is based—housed there. I saw the first specimen of a California Condor, collected more than two centuries ago by Archibald Menzies as it dined on a beached whale on the Monterey Peninsula. Menzies was surgeon during Captain George Vancouver’s epic voyage of discovery from 1791 to 1795. I marveled at the full standing skeleton of a Dodo, and I was delighted to see the finches and other birds collected by young Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands during the voyage of the Beagle.
(Photo by Tim Gallagher/Courtesy of The Natural History Museum)
Robert Prys-Jones (above, holding one of Gould's Imperials), curator of birds at the museum, was kind enough to give me a behind-the-scenes look at the collection and let me photograph the specimens that most interested me. It was an unforgettable morning.