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The Blue Mountain Birds

If the world of science ran a daily paper, one of the most fascinating features in it might be a "Lost and Found" column in which the naturalists of every country would list their missing rarities. Perhaps the names of many of the greatest travelers and explorers of the day would appear there, as these argonauts and mariners set forth for distant lands and seas.

If the world of science ran a daily paper, one of the most fascinating features in it might be a "Lost and Found" column in which the naturalists of every country would list their missing rarities. Perhaps the names of many of the greatest travelers and explorers of the day would appear there, as these argonauts and mariners set forth for distant lands and seas. Thus, instead of advertising for a missing watch or diamond ring, contributors might inquire for the whereabouts of some lovely flower last seen in the mountains of South Carolina. Or, perhaps, some great scientific institution, like the British Museum, might insert a conspicuous notice after a tremendous storm at sea, "Please notify our Curator if large and complete sea devil is found on beach. Handsome reward if in good condition."

There are other rarities that the scientists have been interested in, for many years. One of these was a small warbler known as the "Aurora" or eoa, that was thought to be a resident of the West Indies. This was a species of yellow and orange songster that had originally been noticed by Gosse in the 1830's, at Crabpond, Jamaica, and described by him in his account of the trip that appeared several years later.

A pair of the birds were sent to the British Museum, but for many years, the question was a great problem, lately solved, Then there were the four species of birds discovered by Audubon and Wilson at various times, dating back as far as 1812, which seem to be still among the missing, and are so listed in the files of the ornithologists with the interesting statement: "Supposed valid species . . . which have not since been met with and of which no specimens are known to exist in collections."

One of these elusive birds was Sylvia montana, which Wilson reported from the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania one hundred, and nineteen years ago, while a kinglet, taken by Audubon on the banks of the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania, and named by him Regulus cuvieri has never been duplicated. Another, Muscicapa minuta, or small-headed flycatcher, seems to be little more than a name and a vain hope to the searchers of today.

Science does not know the answer to the loss of these and similar missing rarities, and thus the little tin box that holds the sole specimen of the Townsend's bunting, is an object of great interest to the collector. This rare bird that was sent to the Smithsonian Institution bears a little red tag, on which is marked the year, 1833, and the name of John K. Townsend, who found the specimen near New Garden, Chester County, Pa.Article Search, early in May of that year.


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