At over 7,000 pages and over 14,000 entries in the Species Index this resource is close to complete but new material surfaces from time to time and the site is continually updated. This section lists the changes under way. Suggestions of further additions and enhancements are always welcome.
The main event of 2019 was the nomination of John and Peter for the BTOs Marsh Award for Local Ornithology, principally for their work on this unique website; they both attended the event in London on 23 October. That followed John being awarded the Shropshire Ornithological Society President’s Award 2018 for his contribution to Shropshire’s Ornithology.
Over the last few years John and Peter’s time has been diverted into the production of two books about the history of ornithology in the county. Beckwith’s Nineteenth Century Birds of Shropshire contains the previously scattered published work of William E Beckwith (1844–92) which he did not live to complete. The other, Journal of Field Ornithology, Vol II 1888–1911, comprises Charles Gawen’s (1849–1940) journal, the manuscript version of which surfaced in 2015. John’s time has also been diverted into aspects of preparations for The Birds of Shropshire (Smith 2019), due for publication in early December 2019.
So, while much of the ninteenth and twentieth century material is already securely within Histo, some recently unearthed and recently published material is being added to the site. The site currently contains in excess of 700 items, 7,000 pages and the Species Index has over 14,000 entries.
Histo as a website is four years old and it is nearly three years since the last Latest Developments in which time the store of data has been greatly expanded. The system remains the same but the content has been vastly increased and now comprises over 7,000 pages in more than 700 items with a Species Index of over 13,000 entries. Histo remains unique – no other county has such a resource. The delay in updating the website was because of the pressure on time, diverted to the forthcoming Birds of Shropshire (BoS) due for publication in spring 2017. So what has changed and what is new?
What has changed?
In the All Historical Documents drop-down Items are listed chronologically with the option to call up the items and then pages onscreen. However with more recent additions the component items appear within single .PDF text files and you need to search through the document, chronologically, for the Item you need.
The Citations List Resources/THOS_CitationsList.pdf lists all Histo’s Items. Every Item has a unique number, essential to the 21-volume lever-arch file paper copy. Where Items are within a series, for example in The Field or the Wellington Journal, they are usually listed under their ‘parent’ heading, chronologically at the date of commencement, eg. The Field of 1853+.
The global search facility (it used to be top right on the main page) has been removed – it was liable to produce confusing and misleading results. Searches on species, perhaps the most frequent request to Histo, should always be initiated using the Species Index, provided as a .PDF file, where they are listed chronologically. The index contains more then 13,000 entries and is the quickest and most efficient way to find species records. Intensive users of the Species Index will probably find it easier to work using an original Excel file - a copy can be made available on request. The Excel search facility in Citations will find species, authors and other key words equally efficiently. The Notes field in the Species Index has some useful comments though they are not comprehensive. Enquiries about particular publications or authors are best pursued by searching the Citations file.
The User Guide has been revised to take account of the above and the few other minor changes.
What is New?
To identify the new Items of the 2016 revision, they total more than 170, look for red cells in the extreme right hand side column in Citations.
Histo has expanded hugely over the last two years, a function of the intensity of research for BoS and consequent discoveries together with the work of three non bird-specialist researchers to whom we are most grateful.
Ralph Collingwood published “Noyful Fowles and Vermin. The Statutory Control of Wildlife in Shropshire: 1532–1861” in 2014, a fascinating, extensive and scholarly work resulting from consulting all available county parish churchwardens’ accounts at the Shropshire Archives. It reports on the payments made for the destruction of wild birds and mammals (and adders) since the early 1500s. It is followed by his otherwise unpublished MS “Control of vermin after the repeal of the 1566 Act in 1861” also of 2014. Both appeared in time for writing BoS. Had Ralph not carried out and published the work then the data would probably have remained hidden for a long time.
Alan Brisbourne deserves a huge thanks for his contributions for while combing local newspapers during his own historical researches he kindly copies to Histo anything he finds about Shropshire’s birds. Usually single paragraphs, occasionally only single sentences, these often give wholly new records for scarce or rare species, on occasion giving specific details such as exact dates for records previously known only in broad terms. The exact date of the first county Curlew Sandpiper in 1836 (on 16 September) is an example, reported in the Salopian Journal of 21 September 1836.
Dr Andrew Pattison kindly drew our attention to the ca.1738 colour estate map/picture of Pickmore Pool with its two White Storks(?), discussed in its associated text. Andrew also pointed out the Shrewsbury street name commemorating the Rocke family.
Tom Wall, Simon Holloway and Allan Dawes have made many contributions, usually previously overlooked books and papers, plus a variety of welcomed corrections. Tom has carried out overdue work on estate game books and we now have summaries of bag records, in some cases back to the 1830s, for estates at Downton Hall, the Gatten estate on the Stiperstones, Hopton and Walcot Park. Tom published his own ”Singular Stiperstones” in 2014 – the bird-related pages are here. Many others have commented on specific errors and omissions, all now rectified.
The 1955 Shropshire Bird Report (the first, unearthed in 2014 and not otherwise published) is now available as is the last volume (No.17, 1968-72) of the CSVFC Transactions. The extensive MSc thesis of 2004, by Mike Wallace on the counts of birds on the Severn/Vyrnwy confluence, is also now available. SMAD the Shropshire Migrant Arrivals Database, is here – all know migrant ‘first record’ or ‘arrival’ dates, for 32 species, some back to the 1880s. Another sizeable and previously little-known addition is Forrest’s 1907 catalogue of the then Peplow Hall collection, the collection purchased from Hawkstone where it belonged to Lord Hill.
It is anticipated that from now on additions to Histo will be rather few and far between but new material is always welcomed.
Probably the largest single remaining untapped source of additional material is The Field, which began as a weekly publication in 1853. The few volumes JT has examined, from the 19th century at the Bodleian in Oxford in September 2013 while consulting the then known material, threw up several wholly new and significant records (one of Pallas’s Sandgrouse), so they all issues need a thorough check. However library access to The Field is painfully slow and the task is a long way from complete. The ideal answer would be convenient access to a complete collection of The Field for a thorough search of its relevant pages but regrettably there is currently no prospect of this happening. A complete national bird items index to The Field, however desirable, would be literally a life’s work. A comprehensive search of The Zoologist is however more feasible and is pending – there is a complete hard copy in the county and it is online.
We also want Histo to be correct. So if you find an error or if the system misbehaves in some way please write to tell us, via Contact; we will endeavour to correct things as soon as possible.
And if someone would like to tackle a Sites or Places Index, which would double the value of Histo, please get in touch!
John & Peter Tucker, June 2016
Much has changed since the last update six months ago. The new Citations List attests to the changes in that it now spans 13 pages, twice that of six moths ago http://www.lanius.org.uk/sos/Resources/THOS_CitationsList.pdf. Most of the additions are in the nature of Short Notes rather than articles or papers but many of these are valuable additions as I will relate below. So, though the number of references has expanded considerably, the total number of pages has hardly changed. Correspondingly the Species Index has also extended and now contains over 11,500 entries website
One reason for the increase in material is that in April Simon Holloway discovered Mullens et al. (1920), A geographical bibliography of British ornithology from the earliest time to the end of 1918, arranged under counties, being a record of printed books, published articles, notes and records relating to local avifauna, website
The Mullens work took some time to unravel and contains 132 works many of which are wholly new to Histo. For example I have a day in September booked at the Bodleian Library in Oxford examining Pennant (1770) for the first Avocet record. And there will also be the issues of The Field which contain such gems as the original records of the Pallas’s Sandgrouse and White’s Thrush and a new apparent American Bittern record, the latter presumably a shot specimen and thus perhaps well documented.
Also stemming from Mullens, Simon has kindly extracted the new material from his own collection of The Zoologist. But there remains my belief that further Shropshire references remain in both The Zoologist and The Field (I know that there are some which they missed) and that both require a thorough search. I am working of the logistical challenged that both require.
One important (and fascinating) example of a note missed by Mullens in The Field is by Beckwith (1885 & 1886) in which for example he gives a tantalising glimpse of what might be a Great Bustard breeding record from around 1813; website
Mullens also extends Histo back to the mid 1500s with an observation by John Leland of Black Grouse on Clee Hill website
Briefly, otherwise. The case of the alleged Marsh Warbler goes on with its DNA apparently suggested that it is a Garden Warbler – there must be mistake somewhere and the case is still pending. The examination of the skin has confirmed it as a Marsh.
British Birds references to Shropshire are now all available, from the first issue in 1907 to 2010. The pages of Volumes 104 and 105 (2011 & 2012) are not available here; they are species indexed but, at the request of BB, they will not be posted here until they are a calendar year behind. If you need access to the latest material you should subscribe to British Birds (which you should do anyway) – or borrow.
The User Guide has been updated to explain access to the BB material.
The Species Index, now with 11,205 entries, has been updated here with all currently available material and is online.
Our thanks for Simon Holloway for pointing out a number of typos and for unearthing a copy of Horan (1989) The birds and mammals of Shrewsbury. Simon also discovered the 1968 edition of the CSVFC Transactions (Volume 16) and has given us to believe that there is also a final Volume 17 for 1972. Neither 1968 or 1972 are in the bound volumes of the Transactions at the Shrewsbury Archive and until Simon found them we were unaware of their existence. 1969 is now posted here and we are seeking a copy of the 1972 volume. Simon has also found two references to WE Beckwith from 1885 and 1886 in The Field and we are seeking copies. There is another reference to him in the Shrewsbury Chronicle in July 1892, probably an obituary, which we are also chasing.
Another Histo supporter is Tom Wall who has recently provided us with Merry (1979) The Rock. Reminiscences to share with those who enjoy the Stiperstones. He also provided Waterfowl at Walcot from 1938 which gives and account of the claimed first breeding in Britain of Ruddy Duck on the estate lakes in 1936.
Simon Holloway and JT have begun to examine Rocke’s notebook giving the provenance of specimens in his extensive collection of British birds – there are some interesting specimens from Shropshire.
Thank you Peter for all your work on the website.
We recently added the Shropshire pages of David Ballance's magnum opus “Birds in Counties” (2000) together with relevant pages of his two supplements of 2002 and 2009. A task now is to follow up material listed in Ballance but not yet part of this site. Most are local reports, a low priority for us but they will be dealt with in due course. We thank David for his comprehensive work and his permission to put the Shropshire pages on this website.
Early in December we issued a press release about 'Historical' to the bird-related press and county bird clubs; among known responses is this from British Birds, a verbatim copy of the press release: website. The site is unique – no other British county has such a resource, so a challenge to the others.
The Gallery is now enhanced with an image of a clutch of rare erythristic rook eggs from Ellesmere in 1958 (with thanks to TA (Tony) Waddell). Also new to the gallery are several of Eaton Constantine church and William Beckwith's grave there. The image of the mystery warbler (is it really a Marsh?) reminds me that we may be close to getting a decision from DNA – watch this space.
Indexing British Birds. Shropshire references in BB articles are currently dealt with, in the Species Index, to the end of 2007, the end of entries on the first century's CD. Work is underway to index subsequent volumes to the end of 2012 and our thanks go to Colin Wright for the loan of these issues from his personal library. The material will then be made available on this website, hopefully by the end of January 2012 when the site’s Species Index will be updated.
With best wishes for the season, John & Peter
No system problems have been reported and a small clutch of typos has been dealt with – please let us know of others which I’m sure will lurk.
(a) As outlined in the last update all Shropshire references in articles in British Birds (to 2007) have now been processed and feature in the updated version of the Species Index. The User Guide will later be amended to explain how to access the online pages of BB but suffice to say here that it is free and requires only that you register. For each reference you need the volume number and page-range of the article and these are given in the Species Index.
(b) Shrewsbury School Ornithological Society. Since the last update Dr Mike Morrough, the school archivist, has kindly made available further material. All the available SSOS material is now Species Indexed and available in the latest version; in particular there is a rather fine array of Hawfinch records and the first reference (1938) to the House Martin colony on Atcham Bridge.
(c) The first published reference to the Shropshire (the first British) Short-toed Lark in 1843 was kindly pointed out by Mark Adams of the British Museum, Tring, who confirms that the specimen is not in the BM collection; I wanted to use a photograph of it in the Gallery.
(d) I have started correspondence with The Field about a search of its pages, 1853 onwards, for Shropshire material and have begun work on obtaining references from Balance (2000).
The website was officially ‘released’ in Shropshire in May primarily for county use and field-testing. No problems have been reported on ease of use and a few additional items have come to light. Following some additions currently being worked on a national release is scheduled for this autumn via reviews and articles.
Additional material currently being processed
(a) All Shropshire references within articles and papers in British Birds (BB, 1907 onwards) are being indexed. The material is available, gratis, via the BB website.
(b) Shrewsbury School had an Ornithological Society in at least the 1930s and a Natural History Society in at least the 1960s and with the kind permission and help of the school’s current and past archivists annual reports have been scanned and indexed; they will be available in September. Currently we have four editions and an appeal is being made for others.
A note unearthed in the 1966/67 report by a pupil Andrew Laurie on Dippers on Downton Brook on the Shropshire border quickly lead to interesting comparisons with the current situation by Tom Wall who has worked there more recently and the two were very quickly in email contact, Andrew was recently in Mongolia working among other things on Dippers – website
(c) Leads are being followed up from David K Ballance’s Birds in Counties (2000) and its two supplements – needless to say he includes a few works currently not on this site – and this site includes a few not on his lists.
JJT & PGT 20120719