Monday, February 23, 2015

The use and abuse of birds in India

It is clear that that the earliest human settlers in India would have tried various sources of food including eggs and bird meat. Finding the former or catching the latter would have required observational skills and a great deal of knowledge of bird habits. The skills required would have been far greater before the advent of fire-arms. With increased hunting, population pressures and the availability of alternate food sources these skills have been lost along along with a form of indigenous knowledge. Some of these techniques have been documented by travellers and later colonial naturalists. 

One of the earliest illustrations of hunting in India is from around 1596 in a book edited by A. Philippo Gallaeo with art by Jan Van der Straet [=Joannes Stradanus] (1596) Venationes   Ferarum,   Avium, Piscium. A copy of this treatise on hunting can be found on the wonderful French digital library. One of the less fantastic scenes is one that shows the hunting of ducks/geese from the head of the Indus river. There are numerous other techniques illustrated including the use of owls to attract mobbing birds, throw nets, clap nets and nooses, falconry, traps and deadfalls, stalking with cattle as cover.

"Anseram agreste genus stagnante in aqua capit Indus.
Ipse cucurbita habet tectum caput illecebris
Allicit: esuriens anser visas involat escae.
Indus pascentem facile capit arte volucrem." 
This describes use of cucurbits/gourds as a floating mask under which the hunter hides and swimming among the birds, he pulls them underwater. Later observers describe how earthen pots are floated in water for a few days until the birds get used to them. A hunter then swims with his head in one to get close to the birds. (Folkard, 1864)

Another plate describes fishing with what definitely appear to be pelicans. May perhaps have been practiced given that fishing with anhingas has also been reported.(Stonor, 1948)
Fishing with pelicans(?)

An account on the bird market at Lucknow published in the Pioneer and mentioned in the Western Daily Press (5 Dec 1889 p.6) has this bit on folk medicine. The brain of the male sparrow was supposed to cure various diseases. The blood of an owl was supposed to make someone who drinks it insane. Eating crow was supposed to keep your hair black and prolong life! The Indian roller was used in rites and set free after plucking a feather. The feather was worn as an amulet that warded away the evil eye. Birds of good and bad omen were apparently in great demand. 

One of the people who documented the birds involved in superstitious beliefs in southern India was Edgar Thurston. Thurston was one of the later successors of Edward Balfour at the Madras Museum, a mad enthusiast for the mix of scientific racism and physical anthropology that was in vogue in that period. Strangely enough, he seems to have joined hands with Hamilton Davey, one of A.O. Hume's associates involved with the South London Botanical Institute upon his return to England. Anyway Thurston describes some bizarre folk beliefs such as the idea that a person who saw crows copulating would die unless a close relative broke into tears. He documents a case where a boy sent his father a telegram purportedly informing the father of the son's death - so as to jerk some tears and prevent imminent death (Thurston: 69)! 

A Ba:l chhathri (horsehair nooses on a trellis)

Harper writes in 1903 on bird-catchers (and again from Lucknow!) and their technique of using jointed bamboo sticks extended slowly over a bird before catching it in the birdlime smeared on the tip. A bird-catching technique that is popularly known in the scientific literature as the "Bal-chatri" and widely used by raptor researchers has its origin in India. It is amazing that the etymology of the name of this trap was widely misquoted in literature until William S. Clark visited India and heard the correct pronunciation from some Indians and published a note on its etymology in 1992. Some of us listened to his talk in Bangalore that same year.

We have already seen the sad story of the plume trade and its impact on India.
Trafalgar Square minus its pigeons

Another story of interest is that of the pigeons. In August 2014 I visited London and walking down to Trafalgar Square I was quite surprised by the actions taken to rid it of pigeons. A little more than a century ago, pigeons became quite an obsession for a man named W.B.Tegetmeier. He was interested in living a very frugal life, a Bohemian who raced pigeons and enjoyed cock-fights until he rose into the higher rungs of the local social ladder especially through his association with Charles Darwin. Tegetmeier recognized the value of homing pigeons as carriers of messages and he was instrumental in getting the army interested. One of the offshoots of that was the setting up pigeon posts in India. The Lincolnshire Echo notes in a news piece published on 13 December 1894 that the 19th Hussars had established the Assaye Flying Club in Bangalore with the aim of demonstrating the use of homing pigeons in war. There was later on something called an India Pigeon Service in the North-West Frontier. Not many might be proud of being an I.P.S. officer today but the Lancashire Evening Post (3 August 1945) carries a report on a proud local, Sergeant T. Walker of Kendal, working with the Service in the North West Province. It states that "no patrol now leaves any of the frontier forts without pigeons as an aid to their endless watch on the activities of the warrior tribesmen." (Those warrior tribes, incidentally, were brought upon the British by the "work" of Charles Napier, whose statue also stands in Trafalgar Square)
Quail trappers with decoy birds. From Harper (1903)

One of the strategies for ridding Trafalgar Square of its pigeons was the use of falcons. Falconry, it would seem was a Persian introduction to India as it was to Europe. There is however a single claim to the contrary based supposedly on a Sanskrit text called Shyenavinod by a Raja Somabhupati and dated to 1029 AD. The original and the provenance of this text is unclear/not demonstrated and it is much more likely that this is a contemporary of Syainika Sastra (available online) translated into English in 1910 and based on Sanskrit text by a Kumaoni Raja, it turns out that this is actually dated to a post Mohammedan conquest period. The translator even notes that the Syainika Sastra uses words from Turkish and Persian. One the most detailed sources on falconry in India is by Colonel Emilius Delme Radcliffe. Radcliffe also wrote the entry on falconry in the ninth edition of Encylopaedia Brittanica. However other methods of catching birds with birds probably existed in antiquity. The use of decoy birds to attract male partridges and quails seems to be traditionally well understood.
Syainika Sastra

An extract from Edward Balfour's Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia on birds was printed separately as Birds of Eastern and Southern Asia (I had made a request for this through the Biodiversity Heritage Library and it has recently been made available online from a copy in the Natural History Museum at Tring) and it has some very interesting bits of historical (and ethno-ornithological) information. A later encyclopaedist, George Watt also puts in some interesting summaries on the trade value of birds and their derivatives. I was particularly interested in the bits on guano extraction which however is included under "manures" (p. 769) which states that guano was extracted mainly from Kurnool and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands suggesting that the former was mainly bat guano and the latter mainly that of edible nest swiftlets.


Monday, February 2, 2015

On the tracks of destruction

"... the terrible and wonderful ag-gadi, the fire-horse" - Edwin Arnold

Travel may be enjoyable, and adventure, exciting, but it leaves behind a wake of destruction. With a growing appetite for fast cars and straight, sterile, high-speed roads India is headed for assured destruction. In the shadows of this need for speed, those of us who have enjoyed and appreciated the wealth of wild India will have enough reasons to worry about the future. Reading about the past can either be an escape or a warning. Wild India was a great attraction and visiting and ruling it helped fuel its destruction.

India from an early sailing perspective was just a slim peninsula
Calecut Nuova Tavola by Girolamo Ruscelli, 1561  

Getting from Europe to the exciting riches of India was not easy. The early sailships needed six to nine months and this was gradually reduced with the invention of paddle steamers, screw propeller and the construction of the Suez Canal.

Rough seas and uncertain journeys (East Indiaman by Charles Brookings, cartoon by G. Cruikshank)
Teak was found to be particularly good for marine use. Apparently you cannot use iron nails in oak (not for long at least) but teak was just great. English oak had been over-exploited[Albion 1926] and by 1795 the decision was made that "Country-built" (=Indian) ships be used by the East India Company.[Chatterton 1914:171] Shipbuilding took its toll on the forests of India but good wood does not give you a fast journey. Steam ships needed coal but ships from England could only carry a limited amount on board and coal was needed by the hundreds of tons for just a single voyage. 

The railways in India were born to harvest the coal from the hinterland of India. As if that was not bad enough, the construction of tracks needed impossible amounts of strong timber for the sleepers and the steam engines needed firewood in addition to the coal that they needed to carry from the few places in the heartland to the ports where steamships waited. In the wake of all this destruction there were some influences on the study of India's fauna and flora.

The quest for coal, which enabled faster shipping from Britain to India, became particularly urgent after 1857. The slow sailships had also had their influence on the study of natural history, for the painful and often unhealthy journey required ship surgeons who were trained to appreciate the variations in the fauna of other lands and the medical value of flora. The need for speed, steamships hungry for coal (that had to stashed on St. Helena for reasons of economy and that island had been stripped of its wood, something that would catalyze other debates on the environment) brought in a slew of geologists, many Irishmen and one especially interesting Moravian. The geologists were trained to appreciate the past history of the earth, the signs of past life and coal, the result of long-gone vegetation. 

Early plans for the railways to harvest the coal and cotton bounty

The beards of the Geological Survey of India (1870), quite a few who also took an interest in birds.
Standing left to right: Ferdinand Stoliczka, Robert Bruce Foote, William Theobald, F.R. Mallet, Valentine Ball, Wilhelm Heinrich Waagen, W.L. Wilson. Sitting left to right: A. Tween, W. King, Thomas Oldham, H.B. Medlicott, C.A. Hackett.

Valentine Ball, F.R. Mallet and Ferdinand Stoliczka were especially interested in natural history, all three were correspondents of A.O.Hume and collected bird specimens. Ball was also responsible for identifying the best route for laying the railway links between the Delhi-Calcutta rail line and the Bombay lines.

It did not take long to discover that the amount of wood needed for sleepers for the railways could simply not be met by the available forests. And there enters the story of Hugh Cleghorn and the idea of forest departments and commercial forestry.

A major "railways ornithologist" and Hume correspondent was W. E. Brooks who was early to recognize the importance of bird song in species recognition. A great friend of Hume, he named his son, Allan Brooks, the great Canadian bird artist after him.

The railway infrastructure crisscrossing the country could not avoid an impact with other denizens. An impact in which the wild would most certainly lose despite the fact that it did not involve wanton killing as with the buffalo in North America. The stories of wildlife conflict only made India more exciting and enticing. The newspaper articles were sensational.

At a point between Sutna and Manikpur the engine surprised a couple of good-sized tiger cubs that had been amusing themselves on the line. They showed no alarm but just as they knew the speed of the train to a nicety, cantered along in front of the engine for a couple of hundred yards or so, and then turned off to the right and left.
And it was not just encounters but death for many animals whose stories have never been told.
Between Sahebgunge and Mirzapore at half-past eight p.m.,  a collision between an elephant and a goods-train causing an accident "perhaps unheard of since the establishment of railways, not only in India, but throughout the world" (December 1868)
"The mail train between Madras and Bangalore ran down and killed a full-grown panther on a recent journey. Terrified at the approach of the train, the beast ran in front until exhausted, when it turned, and, viciously leaping at the front of the engine, was dashed to pieces."
- Thursday 30 April 1903, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, Devon, England

A king cobra guillotined by a train on the Castle Rock line (November 2012)

Despite all this the railway system is a much better (see transport system than roads which probably have greater disturbing effect, apart from killing more people and burning up more fossil fuels. Here is however some beautiful prose by Sir Edwin Arnold that takes one back to another time. Extracted from the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic, October 26, 1901 and published before that, it does not seem to be available elsewhere on the internet.

Railway timetable 1918 (Photo: Senthil Kumar)
Railway travel in India.

by Sir Edwin Arnold 

Although constructively and mechanically so much the same everywhere, it is remarkable how greatly railways differ in different countries. For myself, I have always fancied that countries possess individual features-faces as special to themselves as those of men and women. I think if an Afrit of the Arabian Nights were to waft me asleep through the moonlight, like Bedreddin Hassan and to put me down in any part of India, Japan, Egypt, Africa - nay, even of Europe or America - I should know at a glance - by the general aspect of trees, fields, sky and landscape, let alone of the people and the birds and beasts- exactly where I had arrived.

So too, I think a close observer could always tell, if had travelled much, just where he was journeying by the look, the system, the style, the character, of his train and his railway carriage. He could know a Spanish train by its sluggishness; a Dutch train by the prevalence of pipes and tobacco; American trains by bell and cowcatcher; Egyptian trains by the dust and the dogs rushing on board for scraps; a Japanese train by its punctuality and disregard of comfort; a Russian train by its samovar, or tea-urn; and so on.

Indian trains are particularly sui generis, and for the benefit of English tourists who are contemplating a run through the wonderful Eastern Dominions of his Majesty King Edward I will her descant a little about travelling on Indian railway lines. 

FIrst with regard to stations, you will not see anything finer or grander in that way, go where you will, than the Victoria Station, the Bombay terminus of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Suppose we take a run from there, the beautiful Gothic palace of traffic, rising stately and splendid between the picturesque vistas of the Esplanade Market and the Boree Bandar Road of Bombay. With its noble faced, rich sculpture, and high commanding dome, that edifice cost a million and a half dollars to build and yet, for all that superb appearance, there is not a more roomy or convenient station in the world.

Victoria Terminus pre-1900 (Metropolitan Museum)

One starts royally on a trip it must be confessed, from such a "gare," and nowhere else can one see a crowd so bright in colour, or varied in nationality, as will be hanging about the steps of the entrance, or filling its huge hall and waiting rooms. Western crowds are dull in general tint-grey and black and ant-like, except for what women do with hats and blouses and parasols to redeem them. But this throng about an Indian depot is a veritable moving bed of flowers, with the many-hued turbans of the men and the gladsome dyes of the saris and cholis worn by the girls and matrons. Even the lowest castes are dressed gorgeously as far as colour goes, and all have silver or glass ornaments, many, even, valuable gems in their earrings and nose-rings.

Those who are intending to make a serious journey betake themselves very early to the station, and sit down in family groups, with their modest belonging,s tied in cloths or packed in bamboo baskets, placed in their midst. They are wealthy in one thing only, that is time, which they value very little, and cheerfully waste in chatter, while circulating the hubble-bubble, or slowly chewing the pan-supari - that is, the betel-nut quid, the universal and perpetual solace of India, which is so peculiar to her peoples.

You will try it once, but never again- chips of the areca-nut are broken up by a sort of steel nut-cracker and mingled with a pinch of lime, all wrapped in a leaf of the pepper vine[sic], and fastened with a clove. Masticating this turns the saliva red, of which signs are only too ubiquitous, and the taste of the compound is astringent and aromatic; the thing itself being indispensable to the Indian natives, every one of whom in that station-hall will possess his supari-bag, with a supply for the long road.

The women, poor gentle souls, will have some chupatties-cakes-in a cloth, with a "hand" of bananas or a basket of mangoes, for the trip, and perhaps a water-jar. But in that land of thirst the arrangements for drinking on the journey are very carefully made by the management. At almost every station a man of the proper caste will go up and down the platform, shouting aloud "Pani! pani" and dispensing draughts to the thirsty, or filling up their golahs and chatties.

You yourself must also make preparations for an Indian railway run, of any length, of a kind which would never be thought of at home. First of all you must and will have engaged a good man-servant, a "boy," on whom you will vastly depend for comfort. you cannot do without him at hotel, dak, bungalow, or even in private houses; and if he cheats a little he will, if reasonably honest, limit the peculations of others. Obtain a good "boy," and pay him fairly; it is he who will buy the tickets and take the places.
An "Etna"

Then the next thing is a good tiffin basket, which he will keep sedulously filled with potted meat, biscuits, wine, soda-water, etc., with doubtless the machinery to brew tea; an Etna, spirits of wine, and the like, for you must not trust unboiled water or milk in the land. Moreover, although some of the way-side stations have excellent restaurants, these do not always turn up on the route when the voyager needs them most.

Then, again, he must carry his own light bedding with him-two silk or cotton razais, well wadded, and a pillow. The guide-books justly counsel that there must be two razais. The ready-made ones are usually very thin, but they can be got to order of any thickness. To these should be added a pillow-case, calico sheets, and a blanket. A rough waterproof cover in which to wrap the bedding must not be omitted, or the first time the bedding is carried any distance by a coolie, or packed on a pony, it may be very much soiled. A water-proof sheet is a very valuable addition to the bedding.

Without such a modesty supply of covering as is here indicated, a traveller may at any time have to spend a night shivering in the cold, which would probably result in an attack of ague.

To his boy, his tiffin-basket, and his bedding the tourists will add a copy of the "Indian A.B.C. Guide," or the "Indian Bradshaw," and for the rest he may safely trust the companies. They do all they can for the well-being of travellers, and especially those of the first class. To quote the guide-book: "Every first and second class compartment is provided with a lavatory, and the seats, which are unusually deep, are so arranged as to form couches at night. There are refreshment rooms at frequent intervals, and some of them are very well managed and supplied. The station-masters are particularly civil and obliging, and, as a rule, are most useful to travellers in providing ponies, conveyances, or accommodation at out-of-the-way stations if notice be given them beforehand. They will also receive letters address to their care; this is often a convenience to travellers."

Of course, it must be in what is called the "cold weather"  that you traverse the various lengths and breadths of Hindustan. From the middle of November to the middle of March is the ideal period. Yet even then, and always, the sun must be respected from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m, and many a burning hot hour at best will be passed in the railway carriage. This may be foreseen by the method in which the railway-stock has been constructed.

The first-class compartments will have a double roof to them, to soften the fierce impact of noonday sunshine, and the windows will be duplicated, with pale purple or green glass and "jilmil"-shutters-to exclude, as far as possible, the hot winds and the dust. On those lines, too, where tunnels do not forbid the arrangement, the Transatlantic tourist will be amused to behold the third and fourth class carriages, devoted to the traffic of the common people, fashioned in storeys, so that, as with the Chinese pork-express, there are layers of humble travellers berthed over the heads of others- a kind of rolling Noah's Ark in floors.

In this luxurious fashion will the Hindu, with his family, contentedly journey day and night and go upon pilgrimages, being easily satisfied if he can only get over the ground cheaply. It was a moot point, at the commencement of railway-making in India, whether or not that Shastras, the Holy Books, would permit orthodox and devout Hindus to perform pilgrimages by the aid of steam.

Happily for the dividends of shareholders and for the convenience of the native public the pundits decided that there was nothing recorded against such a practice in Ved or Smriti; and it is the swarm of simple people which nowadays makes the Indian lines pay, together, of course, with the trade in grain, cotton, and general produce.

Remember that one must not expect good hotels in India. There are at Bombay, Delhi, Benares, Calcutta, and Madras some that are fair and sufficing, but not to him who has been accustomed to the magnificent accommodation provided by London hostelries. Here and there the railway depot will have bedroom as well as a restaurant, but along all by-roads, and in the Mofussil generally, the dak bungalow is just a plain white-washed shelter, with a "charpoy," a bed-stead or two, plus the services of a Khansamah, and the chance of a very tough fowl, which is caught, amid wild confusion, at the moment of the arrival of the guest and takes a tardy but desperate revenge for his death by the indigestion it bequeaths to this destroyer.

In whatever direction your Indian train may be moving, the landscape on either side, even as seen through the rapidly shifting frames of the windows, will be new to the Western visitor. If he be at all a botanist, or should he have any companion with him who can name and explain the details of such leafy and flowery vistas as may be seen in Guzerat or the Concan and Deccan, those leagues of moving plain, jungle, and village would not pass without instruction and interest.
1930 tourism poster of the G.I.P.

It adds immensely to the charm of any country when you understand a little of its flora and fauna. Along the Bombay lines it would go hard but that one might point out to him the white and golden star-flowers of the champak; the custard-apple, Sita's fruit; and the lotus, blue, rosy, or white, the flower par excellence of India, which has one hundred and thirty-five various names, and springs so pure and sweet from the black slime.

Then there will be the bil trees, and the neems with purple blossoms, and the bher- Zizyphus jujuba -which Mussulmans say is the Sidra, that grows in Paradise; together with the dark green mango (amba), and the gold mohur tree, and the bawa, the bloom of golden rain, and long pods like sword blades. There will be also countless acacias, babul, full of swinging weaver-birds' nests, and endless clumps of aloe and of prickly pear (nagphanna), as well as the classical kadamba and bright green karanda bushes; not to forget the banyan, the pipul, and palms of many kinds. One might see also the fragrant pandanus; the sandalwood (chandan); with everywhere bushes of erandi, the castor-oil plant, of which a Sanskrit verse says so contemptuosly:
"In the land where no wise men are, men of little wit are Lords.
And the castor-oil's a tree, when no tree else its shade affords."
If we could leave the train, and wander amid that dark deep thicket, there are many other strange plants and flowers which might be found, adding terror, or beauty, or marvel to those wild gardens of Asia. There is the deadly datura, with her flowers so milky-white and fragrant and her poison so quick; the samspan, which the little mongoose is believed to eat when the cobra has bitten him; and the charbaje, that opens her blooms exactly at four o'clock every afternoon, as punctual and almost as curious as the Desmodium gyrans, which twists and untwists her pink stem twice every twenty-four hours.

The tourist in India must not expect to see tigers and leopards, nor bears and bisons, from the windows of his carriage, but there will be something to interest any lover of nature all the same, and more, perhaps, than any other kind of swift travelling could supply. The sky will be full, especially near towns and stations, of kites and vultures, soaring aloft, and wheeling round and round with shrill cries. Over the pools and rivers he will mark the fish-tiger (muchi-bagh) hovering; a white and black halcyon and the pretty snow-white egrets will everywhere be noted stalking about among the grey cattle, and the king-crow flitting with his long black tail, and the jungle-dove with pearled and jewelled neck, cooing from every bush; as well as the green and bronze bee-eater hawking the butterflies, the "seven brown sisters" feeding and chattering in the bushes, and, perhaps, some grey thievish jackals stealing home at dawn.

There are many railways in the land along which he would be very likely to catch glimpses of the beautiful and graceful Indian antelopes, the black-buck, which are still plentiful in the central plains. I was riding myself once on a ballast-engine in the Deccan to get back more quickly to my educational duties, when we surprised a wolf in the entrance of a deep and long cutting, and never shall I forget how "Lupus" put on the pace as we rattled behind him between the steep embankments.

In passing through the green flats and forests of Guzerat, there are districts where for miles and miles you may beguile the journey by watching the monkeys, the bandar-log, those strange four-handed folk who come down to sit in the babul trees and to look at the passing trains and the travellers. Secure from all interference-for the white man must not molest them, and the brown man will not- they perch by families on the branches of the trees lining the track, and with their long tails swinging and their furry jaws busy with the fruit which they have stolen, like meditative Asia herself, they "let the legions thunder past." Or they squat demurely, in companies, about the fields of millet and grain, the old gossips together, and the youngsters merrily playing- all as confident and cool as if they were citizens of the place, and had votes.

In Rajpootana you may often notice, from the passing train, the beautiful dark blue peacocks break in a thunder of jewelled wings and lightning of purple plumes from the white marble rocks at the edge of the jungle, and you will pass many and many a spot notoriously frequented by tigers and panthers; no more visible, of course, on that account than if the wild green fastnesses concealed nothing except porcupines and mongoose.

The engineers along the various lines are mainly Europeans. There are not many Hindus or Mohammedans who have as yet the courage or the knowledge to drive the terrible and wonderful ag-gadi, the fire-horse, of which the Panjabi verse sings:
"Now is the devil-horse come to Sindh,
Wah, wah, Guru! that is true.

His belly is stuffed with the fire and the wind."
In parts of India the wandering tribes will still be offering tributes to the flying locomotives, and even prostrating themselves before the telegraph wire, which they style "sheitan-ka-rashi," the "devil's string."

Most of the stationmasters are Bengali Babus or Deccani clerks, or else some other Hindus educated at the schools and colleges. Such quiet duties suit them well, and they are very attentive and sedulous, but strictly given to carry out to the letter their bye-laws, and to refer on all possible occasions for directions from their superiors. Thus it is really no myth, but a solemn fact, that once, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, the Chief Superintendent received at the central depot from a member of the staff of a minor station in the up-country this telegraphic message:"Tiger on the platform, has killed station-master; is now devouring tikkit-wallah, Please wire instruction"!

"Tiger jumping about on platform, men will not work; please arrange."
(Copy of telegram received at local office of the railway company)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bird protection in India - some historical bits

Observations on the decline of birds in India go back quite a bit. Given that most of us seem to see a decline in our own short spans, it seems like bird numbers and diversity were a lot higher in the past. Here are some bits and pieces from old sources on the motivations for bird protection.

Among the earliest observations of declines is one from Lucknow by George Reid who wrote in 1887. He speculates on the drought of 1877 as a cause of the decline in the populations of waterbirds. He then points out that the famine following it led to an increase in Singhara cultivation in the few wetlands left leading to a disturbance of waterbirds while also noting the disappearance of bird-trappers in the market. 
"With the average sportsman it is different. Usually one of the here-to-day-and-there-to-morrow type, he has no memories of the past to haunt him (except, perhaps, memories of another kind), and is content if he gets a shot now and again, and brings home a dozen birds composed of equal parts of teal and shovellers. Ye gods ! What a falling off is there!"
"For my part I have never even heard it whispered that wildfowl visit India in less numbers now than they did, say, ten years ago."
"The Crested Grebe, too, is another bird that has become exceeding rare in localities where formerly it was very abundant, but its scarcity now is due to another cause. Slaughtered wholesale and systematically for the sake of its beautiful skin, we now seldom see its silvery-white breast glistening in the sun. Slowly, but surely, too, our beautiful White Herons and Egrets are sharing a similar fate. A price has been put upon their feathery snow-white plumes, and man must needs debase his manhood by pandering to the insatiable vagaries or depravities of fashion." 
"If I have written strongly it is because I feel strongly on a subject that requires immediate attention. The destruction not only of Grebe, Herons, Egrets, Pheasants, &c, but of beautiful small birds of every description, is going on apace, and while the depredators are reaping a rich harvest by pilfering the nation's property—its game birds and the beautiful songsters of its woods and fields—those who ought to protect them by holding aloof are simply participating in their destruction. This state of affairs can only lead to extermination, when, of course, every one will regret the result, but—who would have thought it ? Echo then may well answer—who ?" (Hume adds an editorial footnote here - "An Act has now been passed to put a stop to this wicked and wanton destruction.")
George Reid apparently died on 16th March 1901. (A picture of his gravestone from Lucknow is here). Reid published a catalogue of the birds of the Lucknow museum. The story of the Lucknow decline does not stop there. Enter William Jesse, at the La Martiniere college, who received most of Reid's notes and wrote on the continued decline in 1902.
At the time that Reid wrote, the cultivated area was 2520 square miles, the remaining 1960 being taken up by usar plains, dhak-jungle, jheels, groves, and village sites. In the last twenty years, however, much land has been reclaimed and laid under cultivation—excellent, no doubt, from a political and economic point of view, but disastrous to the sportsman and the naturalist. Even within the last six years I have watched many of my favourite snipe-jheels replaced one by one by "smiling corn-fields," and, doubtless, as time goes on, the area of arable land will increase still further.
After identifying these habitat changes, he also points out the effect of guns:
"The principal offenders are the lower caste Hindus, Chamars, Pasis, Ahirs, and Bhatus, the Mahomedan shikari, and the poorer classes of Europeans, Eurasians, and native Christians. Numbers of gun licenses are issued in India, nominally to protect the crops; but no one, except the man who will not see, ever supposes that a native fires off shots to scare animals ; shouts and yells and hand-clapping do quite as much good, and at a far cheaper rate. Were the gun-barrels for crop-protection reduced to fifteen or eighteen inches, we should have fewer weapons slaughtering the living creatures, male, female, and young without discrimination, in and out of season."
By 1906, William Jesse seems to have become more of an activist and we see him noted as the honourable secretary of an Indian branch of the RSPB and managing a scholarship (£15) at the Meerut College. This leads us into a little bit on the RSPB and its relations to British India. The appetite for plumage in hats had resulted in significant hunting in India. It turns out that the law that Hume was referring to in his 1887 footnote was a bit of a failure. The Wild Birds' Protection Act of 1887 apparently did not do much to prevent smuggling, in fact it was so profitable a trade that it became a routine matter of bribery. As for Jesse's Indian SPB chapter, it was just one of three. There was in 1899 one in Bombay with the secretary E. Comber and another at Junagadh under Labhshankar Laxmidas. Jesse's unit was started a year later in 1900 (Palmer, 1903).

Jesse's note also points out rather tangentially that there was a certain amount of traditional protection to the wild birds provided by the sentiments of locals. He complains:
The native press has only to hint that the Indian is being-unfairly treated to call forth a storm of indignant protest from well-meaning people in England who are totally ignorant of the East and its ways, and are unable to form a proper estimate of the views of both parties. The European is constantly being forbidden to interfere with certain species which the native cherishes, and it does not seem too much to ask that he in in turn should be made to refrain from destroying birds and animals wholesale during the breeding-season. -  Ibis 44(3):478

As for traditional protection, there appear to have been rules among native trappers. Lt.Col. Phillott notes Kashmiris who used heron plumes in their wedding headgear would be allowed to trap on the condition that they would pluck the feathers and release the bird.

The Society for the Protection of Birds was started in 1889 with mostly wealthy ladies as members. A rule was that "Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted". In 1904, the Society was granted a royal charter and got its Royal prefix. They also received support from several ornithologists, including Alfred Newton. The Society published many pamphlets and among them was "The Protection of Wild Birds in India" by Surgeon-General George Bidie.* Bidie was in the Madras Medical Service and a successor to Edward Green Balfour at the Madras Museum. He was also a bit of an ornithologist (among many interests including studies on the coffee stem borer in Coorg, the influence of trees on climate) and contributed to the Stray Feathers (where his initials appear to have been misprinted) 

"F. Bidie" = George Bidie (Stray Feathers 9:208)
Bidie seems to have been one of the early members of the RSPB who were working out of India. He seems also to have been quite active in the creation of the laws for bird protection. In 1879, the Madras government had passed some protection laws, a game law, that oddly enough protected exotics and aimed "to provide for the protection of game and acclimatized fish in the district of the Nilgiris." There was also an older Elephant Preservation Act 1873 (& 1879). Balfour provides some information on the scale of the feather trade in the Madras Presidency while George Watt's book provides some idea of the species involved in the plumage trade. 
(1911) Feathers and Facts. RSPB.

"India exported during the trade year 1900-1, £ 9029 worth of feathers and £ 1148155 worth of skins, the later not, of course, all bird skins. That the agitation against hte humanity of the trade has taken effect is shown by the facts that in the year 1896-7 the value of the feather export was £370,990, and that in the year 1897-8 the value of the skin export was £6,935,320." (Daily Mail quoted in Western Daily Press 26-Nov-1902 p. 7 "Bird Protection in India")

The problem with the 1887 law was that it did not prevent the smuggling of skins which had great value in Britain. 

One of the plumes termed as "osprey", actually the nuptial plumes from an egret, was a particularly valuable commodity. It was even part of standard army hat until it was removed by an order passed, thanks to the activists of the RSPB.
The amazing device of the "artificial osprey" is another phase. During twenty years this stratagem wan employed to dispose of Egret plumes to women who did not wish to wear them. It was blazoned abroad in face of repeated exposure from scientific men ; and hundreds of young women in stored and shops were hidden to utter the falsehood and keep up the fraud. All manner of materials were deliberately cited as composing these indubitable feathers ; they were flatly affirmed to be made in factories that were never located, by workers who never existed. The deception was such as to discredit fatally any honest imitation which might be put on the market. A further illustration of the same phase is furnished by the story of imaginary egret "farms," where birds were said to be bred for plumage; of "moulted plumes" which whitened imaginary plains and were avowed to supply the sale-room ; - Bird notes and news
In 1900 there was also a review of the 1887 Act - and the conclusion was that it was a failure since the law applied prohibitions only around towns and cantonments. There was nothing to protect birds in rural areas. It is interesting also that the British government collaborated with the Portuguese in Goa and the French in Pondicherry to prevent smuggling of bird feathers. (Dodsworth)

The idea that egrets could be farmed without harming wild bird populations apparently went on for a while and we see a note published in 1914 by George Birch which shows egrets held in cages.

A shocking description is provided by Dodsworth (1910):
From all parts of the country came the same cries of destruction and diminution, which amounted to virtual extermination. Of Impeyan and Argus pheasants throughout the Himalaya, of Peacocks and Black Partridges from Bombay, of Egrets from Sind and Burma and of a host of others including Jungle-cocks, Paddy-birds, Kingfishers, Jays. and Orioles throughout India g enerally. So lucrative was the trade that single districts such as Lucknow in the United Provinces, and Amritsar in the Punjab contributed between them nearly 16,000 Lbs. of plumage annually. Taking as an average 30 skins to the pound, the figures indicated the destruction of nearly five hundred thousand birds in a single year from two districts alone! From Bombay it was reported that a single Railway Station to the north of Sind had exported within a few months 30,000 skins of Black  Partridges, and that over many square miles in the Rohri Division these birds had, within two seasons, been absolutely exterminated by a single  party of professional trappers. Various other reports showed that birds  were netted and trapped, not by thousands, but by millions, without any  regard to season or sex. 
Dodsworth notes further that a "notification, No. 5028 S. R., dated the 10th September 1902, was issued. under the Sea Customs Act, 1878, (VIII of 1878), prohibiting the taking by sea or by land out of British India of skins and feathers of all birds other than domestic birds, except (1) feathers of ostriches, and (2) skins and feathers exported bona fide as specimens illustrative of Natural History. As this prohibition was issued without notice or warning, a large number of representations were received, notably from a trader in Simla, who had in stock skins of Impeyans and black Argus to the value of Kb. 6,000, and from two firms in Calcutta who had in hand 6,000 skins of Impeyan and Argus pheasants, and six cases of Kingfishers' feathers, and to enable them to dispose of their stocks, and to wind up their businesses, the operation of the orders was suspended until the 1st January 1903."

Rhodes Morgan, District Forest officer of North Malabar notes that the White-throated Kingfisher was snared almost to extermination. He noted seeing 5000 skins in a case at Steven's auction rooms sold at sexpence a skin. (Cheltenham Chronicle 27 February 1892, p. 10)

James Buckland, a prominent writer and activist who led the cause of bird protection is quoted as having said:
"As an object lesson on the respect which the feather-dealer pays to the wishes of India—or of any other country, for the matter of that—that she may be allowed to keep her own birds for the benefit of her agriculture and of her people, it may serve a useful purpose to let you know that the plumage of all that is held most sacred in Hindu mythology, all that is most prized for beauty or utility, in the wild-bird life of India, is, to this hour, smuggled out of that country and sold in the London feather mart." - Bird-lore (1914):76-79.
In a news piece in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 April 1925 (p.5) runs a piece titled "Late Lord Curzon and Bird Life":
In the many tributes paid to Marquis Curzon little or nothing has been said of his love for Nature and his fine work for the preservation of birds. He was the first Statesman, says the spring number of "Bird Notes and News," to bring within range of practical politics the suppresion of the trade in wild birds' skins and feathers. It was in 1900 that the newly formed Indian branch of the Society for the Protection of Birds appealed to Lord Curzon, then Viceroy, on the subject, and the result of his investigation was the Order of 1902 prohibiting the exportation of bird skins and plumage from British India. On his return to England Lord Curzon became a Vice-President of the Society, and made a most powerful speech on the plumage question at its annual meeting in 1913; a Cabinet Committee was subsequently appointed and a Government Bill introduced. A donation from Lord Curzon also headed the Society's fund for erecting bird rests at lighthouses which have saved the lives of many thousands of feathered travellers

Punch Magazine, as usual had its wisdom in the form of a poem and a cartoon in September 17, 1887.

A Plea for the Birds.
(To the Ladies of England)

Lo! the sea-gulls slowly whirling
Over all the silver sea,
Where the white-toothed waves are curling,
And the winds are blowing free.
There's a sound of wild commotion,
And the surge is stained with red;
Blood incarnadines the ocean,
Sweeping round old Flamborough Head.

or the butchers come unheeding
All the torture as they slay,
Helpless birds left slowly bleeding,
When the wings are reft away.
There the parent bird is dying,
With the crimson on her breast,
While her little ones are lying
Left to starve in yonder nest.

What dooms all these birds to perish,
What sends forth these men to kill,
Who can have the hearts that cherish
Such designs of doing ill?
Sad the answer: English ladies
Send those men, to gain each day
What for matron and for maid is
All the Fashion, so folks say.

Feathers deck the hat and bonnet.
Though the plumage seemeth fair,
Punch, whene'er he looks upon it,
Sees that slaughter in the air.
Many a fashion gives employment
Unto thousands needing bread,
This, to add to your enjoyment,
Means the dying and the dead.

Wear the hat, then, sans the feather,
English women, kind and true;
Birds enjoy the summer weather
And the sea as much as you.
There's the riband, silk, or jewel,
Fashion's whims are oft absurd;
This is execrably cruel;
Leave his feathers to the bird!

The history conservation of bird habitats is less well documented. It seems like many heronries have been traditionally protected in southern India (and not as hunting reserves for rulers). These include Ranganathittu (referred to the colony near Palahally or Seringapatam in older literature) and Vedanthangal.


Other links
* Another pamphlet published by the RSPB was India and her Wild Birds by Sir Charles Lawson


  • Just finished reading a verbose newspaper account - SNIPE SHOOTING AT BANGALORE. (Western Times, 23 March 1839. p. 2) - 302 pairs of snipe shot in 23 days around the cantonment area by J. R. S....Y, A south hammer (nicknamed Devon) as a bet.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Catching flies

A botanical mystery

In southern India, the idiom "catching flies" refers to idling. It is hard to find a reliable source for that! Many years ago Zafar Futehally wrote about the flycatchers in a newspaper article that was titled "It's hard work catching flies". In the course of some idle browsing, I discovered this interesting bit from the pen of an Indian Medical Service officer, someone who clearly had some spare time for thoughts beyond the call of duty. Science as pastime was so common for them that they even had a journal for it - and we can all thank the National Library of Scotland for making these available online.

Scientific memoirs by medical officers of the Army of India

From the Scientific memoirs by medical officers of the army of India (1887)

I have spent a fair bit of time trying to understand its significance but it seems that someone should re-examine this. I know Wrightia tinctorea but not Wrightia coccinea. In the process of reading this I had to re-examine what I knew of insects and flowers. This resulted in my creating a Wikipedia article to cover the subject of trap flowers,  rewardless and deceitful pollination - - but it still leaves the question open - is this really a case of a trap flower? Or is proto-carnivory?

Further reading

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An artist ahead of his time

As someone interested in the birds of India and the history of their study, I decided to make best use of a brief visit to the UK in August 2014 to see the Hodgson and Tickell archives at the  Zoological Society of London. I was not prepared for the surprise it held for me and it was clear that too little had been written about these works, particularly in a medium that was accessible to the people of South Asia who ought to know more about this legacy.  My three hour perusal threw up many questions that need further research and it seemed worthwhile for me to leave some comments for future researchers. 

A bust of Hodgson in the library of the Natural History Museum, London.
Oddly, this bust is not mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
"...It must also be remembered that, while Gould himself was a skilled craftsman, many of the books that bear his name were illustrated by others, including H.C. Richter, Edward Lear and Joseph Wolf. Indeed, some would regard the last-named as the greatest bird illustrator, particularly in his birds of prey, which combine accuracy with power. One must, I think, qualify this statement by 'of the western world', because the bird paintings from India and China surpass anything that the West has yet produced, and only these, perhaps, come in the category of great art.- David Lack, Review of Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900 in New Statesman 1953, reprinted in Enjoying Ornithology. p. 176
For years, I have been wondered what those examples of Indian art might be and I finally have a candidate. Having seen other works from India belonging to the Mughal and Company schools of art, the claim seemed inaccurate. Most of the pictures of this period are flat, lacking perspective and often too small to be accurate. The draft drawings by Hodgson's artist(s) in the 1850s are however entirely different and do indeed rival the best works (including for example, those by Joseph Wolf) of the period, not only in artistry but for the care taken in capturing accurate postural detail from life.

Have you got the latest batch of drawings - twenty two sheets? And are they not wondrous work for a Nipalese? I have some more now executing which I dare any artist in Europe to excel and they are rigidly correct in their minutest detail.- Hodgson to James Prinsep cited in Datta & Carol, 2004, p. 138.

I only examined some bird plates in Volume I of Hodgson’s folios  (of 8 volumes, 1125 sheets on birds and 487 on mammals [Cocker & Inskipp (1988):33-34]) and it is clear that these paintings are drafts, but they probably offer more for the researcher than clean final plates (the ones held at  the Natural History Museum, which I have not seen). It might help if the draft versions and the final scanned images can be brought side-by-side to compare the styles and corrections incorporated. The draft illustrations in the ZSL are particularly interesting because of the numerous notes and corrections around the images as well as on the back of the sheets. These offer insights into the nature of the collaboration between Hodgson and his native assistants.

?चुरि थे?/ हे?. भौरा वास - some association with bees? for Microhierax

तरि वास - “inhabitant of the terai”

(Plate 40) A typical plate with multiple views, anatomical insets, notes. [Image rights belong to the ZSL]
Inset showing structure of sternum, furcula, toes and wing emargination details [Image rights belong to the ZSL]

Morphometric notes taken by the artist

मादिन (female)
  • चुच् से पुछ (bill) tip to tail
  • चुच् मुख से (bill) tip from face
  • चुच् माथ से (bill) tip from forehead
  • दीचा ? दीचा=ऊँचा =height of bill (A.Pittie)
  • चौरा - width (of what?)
  • पुछ tail
  • दाहिना (right? what?)
  • फैलाड? spread (wing span)
  • गोर
  • अंगुली नखसमेत toe with nail
  • पिछे अंगुलि rear toe
  • वजन weight

* the script used is not modern Devanagari. It appears to be somewhat similar to “Kaithi” as described by Eastwick but does not seem to match the description of Grierson.

Close up of the head of Falco peregrinus peregrinator - detail even in the pattern on the iris (and this is a draft)
[Image rights belong to the ZSL]
Hodgson published several notes on anatomy in the Journal of the Asiatic Society, particularly relating to mammals such as the red panda, Ailurus and the pygmy hog, Porcula. In a paper on Elanus (which he refers to in the text by its native name of Chanwa [Hodgson, 1837a]) published in the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, he shows some interest in the use of anatomical traits for bird classification. His foundations of taxonomy were based on the Quinarian system of Swainson which believed in a hidden order followed by the Creator, one based on a repeating pattern involving the magic number of five. The same Elanus paper is also interesting in that Hodgson explores behavioural similarities for the purpose of classification. It is possible that he never published such notes in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal where he would probably have deferred to Edward Blyth as the expert. Many of the illustrations include peripheral sketches of the furcula, sternum, tongue and feet. He was certainly well aware of the use of comparative anatomy in classification, but it seems like he trained his artist to look at these aspects as well.

Caption for illustration of Porcula salvania

लुफा भोटिया वॉली (? Bhotia valley)छोटा जंगली सुवर (small jungle pig)साल वन वास (dweller of Sal forests)

There were several script variations in use in Nepal and India in the mid-1800s. As someone with a working knowledge of Hindi, Sanskrit and modern Devanagari script, I was readily able to follow most of the writings and to understand the content. The fact that I was among the few that could read it indicated that these artefacts were not available to those who could appreciate it and to my mind there must be no shortage of interest particularly in the South Asian region. Based on the success of several online crowd-sourced transcription systems, one can expect that these can be readily transcribed if scans of the material were available online.

Here the artist's notes that the species is found only in winter (and migratory) [Image rights belong to the ZSL]

Reading through these notes one finds most often a statement on the habitat of the bird at its foot. They sometimes include one or more local names and sometimes notes on seasonality which make use of the English month-names transcribed in Nepali. Hodgson often made use of the distinctive local names in his scientific publications. He was perhaps among the few ornithologists in the region to incorporate local names into his proposed binomial names. Examples of these include his genera Sacfa, Lerwa, Cochoa and such species names as "salvania" (for little pig of the “sal van” or sal forests as in Porcula salvania). He was also, of course, among the major opponents of Lord Macaulay's idea of education through the medium of English and making his opinions known through such notes as his "The Preeminence of the Vernaculars, or the Anglicists answered". His use of local names to form binomials however did have opponents (mainly Jerdon) and he was forced to offer substitute classical names in 1841:
Although I think the prevalent humour of the day, which cannot tolerate any other than Greek and Roman names of genera in Zoology, is, in good part, absurd and pedantic, yet as I am told that continued non-compliance therewith on my part will be considered by most persons as a sort of excuse for past and future appropriations of my discoveries in this branch of science, as described in your Journal, I have now the pleasure to transmit to you a series of classical substitutes for my previous local designations. - Hodgson, 1841
The habitat notes include generalizations such as "always found in the mountains" or "always found in the Terai" which suggest that these are based either on the artist who had intimate knowledge of the bird or a hunter. Carol Inskipp pointed out that the artist and the hunter were different people. That Hodgson had trained hunters to collect specimens, we know from the notes of J.D.Hooker published in the biography by W.W.Hunter. He had to use hunters to obtain specimens from some areas as there were restrictions on his travel. [Cocker & Inskipp (1988):27-28] We do not know the identity of the artists for the specific plates, although it may have been Rajman Singh. There are however two styles in the depiction of the eyes in the birds which suggests more than one artist being involved. On the back of each plate, one finds a table of measurements. These were clearly made by the artist to aid in drawing the bird to scale, however the measurement also includes weight. It is clear that the plates were made to scale, and noted in Gray’s catalogue for each plate associated with specimens. On most pages, this table of measurements is translated into English presumably by Hodgson, however this does not appear to have been done with care. On one plate, matching by the unique numeric measurements, I found that the [peeche ka ungli] (=hind toe) measurement was copied into English against “weight”.  This comes as a bit of a surprise given that Hodgson was an eminent orientalist and Tibetan scholar, but we see in some of his Asiatic Society notes that he had someone else do the transcriptions in Devanagari.

Plate 35. A different artist? Note feather shapes and highlight of eye. 

Hodgson was interested in local research on the flora and fauna and it was quite clear that he did not enjoy the fact that most of the ornithological expertise, based only on skins and no field knowledge, at that point of time was in London (or Paris). He complained quite openly about this:

“...Whilst the face of our land is darkened with skin-hunters, deputed by learned Societies to incumber science with ill-ascertained species, no English zoological association has a single travelling naturalist in India; nor has one such body yet sought to invigorate local research, numerous as now are the gentlemen in India with opportunities and inclination for observation such us need but the appropriate aid of those bodies to render the investigations of these gentlemen truly efficient towards all the higher ends which the Societies in question are constituted to forward !" - Hodgson, 1837b

Is there then a possibility that Hodgson wished to include the names of the birds in Nepal for a work on birds that would also aid the people of Nepal? The book he wished to produce did not get enough subscribers in any case. [Cocker & Inskipp  (1988):35] Carol Inskipp pointed out to me that the idea seems unlikely given the cost of producing such a work apart from noting that the final plates lack the Nepali notes.

Structural details, relative positions of the feathers -
line of scapulars and tertiaries indicated
[Image rights belong to the ZSL]

The notes and corrections on shape pencilled over or alongside the paintings are also quite revealing. Plate 155 showing the Black Baza is particularly interesting. The feather patterning is shown with great care (a biography of Joseph Wolf for instance points out that prior to him, raptors were drawn with many errors in feather patterning - however as pointed out earlier the ancient Egyptians were exceptionally good artists) and along the edge there are line marks indicating the end of the scapulars and the line of the tertiaries and it seems to me to be one of the earliest illustrative works that takes structural differences into account. Modern field guides of course routinely make use of such relative positions of the wing tip and tail for identification. Plate 161 has a note that the colour of the iris is conjectured to be brown. This being the rare exception, one would presume that all others were made from either live or freshly killed birds as mentioned in Gray's 1846 catalogue (also in the 1863 second edition, preface ii).

The way the highlight of the eye is drawn to produce a lively effect is done in style that could be specific to the artist. Some of the earlier (by numbering) paintings show a very different style, sometimes seemingly off-scale. These appear to be the work of a different or less well-trained artist. The toes on the feet are always drawn with good perspective, and they stand in contrast to the art of the same period in the so-called Company style [Archer, 1964]  of art (compare the positions of the toes for instance in the works of Shaikh Zain al-Din or Bhawani Das for Impey)

There is clearly a lot to be examined and discussed but making the material accessible to researchers in other parts of the world would be a great step to take.

Image rights notice

All images other than the bust of Hodgson are property of the Zoological Society of London and may not be copied or used in any other publication without the prior permission of the Society. These images are reproduced here with the kind consent of the Zoological Society of London.

I am grateful to the ZSL for permission to view their holdings, librarians Michael Palmer, Emma Milnes and particularly Ann Sylph for her encouragement and assistance. Carol Inskipp provided many comments and insights from her earlier studies of the paintings. In no particular order - Ganesh Paudel, Nepal; Dr Jaysankar Jayaraman (CIFT, Kochi), Aasheesh Pittie and Lathashree Kolla (and her friends) helped in understanding the writings and the nature of the script. Wikimedia Foundation, USA supported my visit to London to attend Wikimania 2014; and Wikimedia UK's work at the ZSL was useful in making me plan my visit.


4-November-2014: I discovered a line of text by Hodgson where he calls S.R. Tickell as his brother-in-law. A little further digging, aided by Henry Noltie, led to the fact that Hodgson's brother William who was in Bengal was married to Samuel Tickell's sister Mary Rosa. William died in 1840 and Mary went back to England and remarried. Tickell was an excellent artist and was with Hodgson in Nepal and it is possible that he may have worked with Hodgson's artists. Of course his wife Ann Scott was also a bit of an artist as indicated in his description of Sacfa hodgsoniae (dedicated to his wife "... whose accurate and tasteful delineations of Himalayan scenery will do much to attract attention to this fine field of scientific research.")

3-March-2015: Noticed that Hume had access to many of Hodgson's paintings and he uses a few anatomical ones in his notes on flycatchers (mentioned in the Yarkand notes - with Henderson).


Grierson's script illustration
Eastwick's script illustration

More links to explore