Home

Cockroaches

Articles

Interviews

Archaeology

Fossils

Birds

Websites

 

Birds

 

This is my project that I did for school.  I went on a trip to the Natural History Museum in Tring to look at their birds specimens that Dr Livingstone (my great great grandmother's second husband's uncle!) collected in Africa.  The following section is the text on the second page of my book.

 

My great, great, great grandmotherís second husbandís uncle was Doctor Livingstone. Dr Livingstone is a very famous man.  He has collected thousands of specimens in his lifetime of many different varieties and types of all animals.  I saw, at a behind-the-scenes tour of the Natural History Museum in Oxford , a pinned specimen of a tsetse fly that he collected.  He collected many specimens from Africa , and a place was named after him.  

 

The Zambezi river is shown on the map of Africa because the expedition Dr Livingsone was the leader of was called the Zambezi Expedition.  The town called Livingstone is by the Zambezi river.  Some specimens were sent back as soon as they were collected, and others  were sent back when the Expedition was finished, and some, we found from the dating of the labels on the specimens, Dr Livingstone kept for ten years after the expedition finished.  They first went to the London Natural History Museum but then were sent to Tring.

 

There is a Natural History Museum at Tring, which is where I met Mark.  Tring is in the top two collections in the world for amounts of bird specimens.  Itís absolutely massive and contains 700,000 bird skins which cover about 95% of all known living bird species.  Mark Adams is a bird expert and he showed me and Daddy some specimens of birds with contrasting beak and foot adaptations.  He let us handle the specimens and draw and take photographs of them.  In total, we did eight birds.  The specimens Mark showed us were around 150 years old and were all collected by Dr Livingstone.

 

The bird skins are preserved quickly but efficiently.  The bird is slit down its stomach and the skin peeled off.  The eyes are taken out and replaced with wads of cotton wool.  Inside the skin is filled with cotton wool and the belly sewn up.

 

It was an absolutely amazing experience Ė something that you would call a once-in-a-lifetime experience - to actually hold the specimens that my ancestor collected 150 years ago in Africa .  Some specimens werenít in perfect condition, but all of them were wonderfully preserved, given that they are so old.  All of the feathers were extremely soft and none of the colours were faded in the feathers, but the legs, feet and other non-feathered places, like the skin around the beak, might have faded.

 

Mark has been very helpful and kind, talking to us and explaining about all of the different birds separately, and giving up so much of his time for us.  That and finding the specimens: there was a huge room on each of three floors, filled with bird specimens of different ages.