Historical Taxidermy bird sketches.


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Bird Sketches by both FM Ogilvie and TE Gunn.

These drawings are from the FM Ogilvie set of diaries for his compilation of a collection of British Birds. Perhaps the best written undertaking of this collection was written by Henry Balfour and more recently Mr Christopher Frost.

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Personal diary of F.M.Ogilvie.


Extract from the foreward of Balfours book dated 1920

Those who knew him as a friend will realize that, though friendship came to him slowly, when once it was entered upon, it was extra- ordinarily loyal and enduring. His affection, indeed, would tend to make him exaggerate the friend's capacity, whilst he invariably failed to take a just measure of his own. Ostentation and brag, in any shape or form, were so alien to his nature, that not only did he refuse to place his mental equipment " on view " for his own advantage, but it was actually brought to light with difficulty, and chiefly through the instrumentality of friends, who were aware that his ability was much greater than any to which he himself ever laid claim. Self-depreciation is not a common failing, but he possessed it in a high degree, and to his own detriment. Yet, with this depreciation, or want of appreciation, of his own work, there was no tendency to detract from the merit of others. Rather were his judgments generous to a fault. But generosity both in word and deed was one of his essential characteristics ; and this quality, together with his intellectual power, and his loyalty to a true friend, made him a man whose friendship, once gained, was worthy to be " grappled to the soul with hooks of steel." Those who have been numbered in the company of these, his friends, feel life to be duller, greyer and harder now that it is robbed of his presence. A straight man he was and a true. Another will not easily fill his place.
The eight chapters which arc contained in this book have been adapted from a series of eight popular lectures delivered to the Ashmolean Natural History Society of Oxfordshire, between the years 1902 and 1916, by my friend, the late Fergus Menteith Ogilvie. When Mr. Ogilvie died on 17th January, 1918, I was asked to write an obituary notice, with special reference to his work as an ornithologist ; and I found, in collecting material for this, that, although he was, as I well knew, a wide and original observer and an excellent authority, he had published very little. I could only discover a few short papers and notes under his name in various periodicals. It seemed to me very regrettable that so able and enthusiastic a student of bird-life should have passed away leaving so little from the great store of knowledge which he had acquired, in a form accessible to the public. Being aware of this series of lectures, several of which I had attended, I suggested to his widow that they might with advantage be issued in book form. To this, Mrs. Ogilvie readily assented, and I undertook to edit the volume as a slight tribute to my friend's memory. This has proved by no means an easy task, especially to one whose time and whose ornithological knowledge are limited, since a very considerable amount of emendation was necessary, the lectures not having been designed for publication.

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Index in part to the collection by F.M.Ogilvie.


It has, nevertheless, throughout, been my endeavour, in adapting the lectures for publication, only to make such alterations and corrections as seemed absolutely necessary, and to retain, as far as possible, the author's own words and individuality. I have added footnotes where further explanation seemed called for, and, as far as time allowed, I have verified and corrected quotations from other writers. The book will, I trust, prove interesting and instructive to more than one class of reader. Naturalists and others who derive pleasure from the study of British birds, their habits and economy, will find in its pages many shrewd and original remarks, based upon careful observations in the field, by one of the keenest and most cautious of ornithologists. Ogilvie 's field-work was characterized by an enthusiasm which ever led him on, and which caused him to spare no trouble and expense in the pursuit of his hobby. At the same time, his enthusiasm was governed and restrained by that invaluable " escapement " caution, which made him hesitate to accept deductions based upon insufficient evidence. His desire was, as far as possible, to investigate the facts for himself, and thoroughly. His scientific training stood him in good stead, and he worked on scientific lines. On the other hand, to the sportsman the book will, no doubt, appeal, since the author, himself an ardent sportsman and an excellent shot, offers much that is not only of interest, but also of practical importance, in his game-birds and wild-fowl. It is, indeed, difficult to determine whether his dominant passion was for natural history or for sport, since both of these pursuits seem to have had an equal interest for him, and each balanced and supplemented the other admirably. He was a thorough sportsman-naturalist of the best type, eager to weigh carefully the facts which he noted and to arrive at his deductions after a critical evaluation of the evidence.
Mr. Ogilvie's collection of British birds, beautifully mounted, carefully catalogued and formerly arranged in the Museum specially built at his home at Sizewell, on the Suffolk coast, has been presented by his widow to the Ipswich Museum, a fitting home, since the greater number of his specimens were collected in Suffolk. The collection certainly rivals the famous Booth collection at Brighton, to which it is little, if at all, inferior. The extensive series of British bird-skins were, at my suggestion, presented to the British Museum, where they will form, I understand, the nucleus of a special British collection of skins. Mr. Ogilvie had brought together a very fine library of ornithological works, and had spared no expense in surrounding himself with a suitable literary environment for the study of his favourite subject. At the time of his death he was engaged upon an important ornithological work, which, I fear, will never now be published.
In preparing this book for the press, I have received help from various sources, and desire to acknowledge this most gratefully. Firstly, I have to thank Mrs. Ogilvie for having so readily agreed to my suggestion that the lectures should be made accessible to the public, for lending me the MS. and photographs, and for undertaking the expenses of publication. To Mr. Donald Gunn I owe very cordial thanks for his sympathetic interest in the work, and for valuable assistance. He not only assisted me materially in adapting the MS., but to him I owe the best of the illustrations in the text. My wife, too, has co-operated in a variety of ways. In compiling the regret- ably short bibliography of Mr. Ogilvie's publications, I have benefited b}- kindly help from Mr. F. Martin Duncan, the Librarian of the Zoological Society, and from Mr. J. E. Harting, the well-known ornithologist. Mr. T. A. Morley, of Thorpeness, was good enough to supply me with information as to the alterations which have resulted in the draining of Thorpe Mere, operations which, alas ! have almost completely spoilt (from the bird-lover's point of view) what was, up to a few year ago, a regular ornithologist's paradise. The Mere was certainly one of Mr. Ogilvie's happiest hunting- grounds. To Mrs. Massey we owe the Foreword dealing with her brother's life and personality. The volume is published as a tribute to the memory of one whose death involved a great loss to ornithological science and to those of his friends who were privileged to know him at all intimately.

Personal observations

Set out below are images from Ogilvie's personal diary. They are a compilation of the images that were exchanged in correspondence with Ogilvie and Gunn to complete the set of British birds. This collection is currently housed at Ipswich museum and is open to public display. The diary is not currently located there. On the whole Gunn's images are somewhat cruder than that of Ogilvie's as perhaps merely to start the discussion as to case creation, whereas Ogilvie's tended to be more competent and detailed. What is nice here is that we can following albeit visually the progression of an idea, from discusssion to the final case. The diary provides an invaluable insight into historical taxidermy of that period.

From concept to creation, Golden Eagle case.

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Here is an extract from Ogilvie's diary writing about the Golden Eagle case creation, how the birds were obtained and also a drawing of the egg which is still extant at the Ipswich museum. We could enlarge the image to make the text readable but at the moment have elected not to.

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Victorian Golden Eagles by TE Gunn.

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Victorian Golden Eagles by F.M.Ogilvie.

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Victorian Golden Eagles by TE Gunn.

From concept to creation, Peregrine case.

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Here is an extract from Ogilvie's diary writing about the Peregrine case creation, how the birds were obtained and reference to his discussions with TE Gunn. We could enlarge the image to make the text readable but at the moment have elected not to.

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Peregrine case. This image was created by TE Gunn.

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Peregrine case. Finished case from the above drawing.

From concept to creation, Red Kite case.

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Here is an extract from Ogilvie's diary writing about the Red Kite case creation, how the bird was obtained and reference to his discussions with TE Gunn. We could enlarge the image to make the text readable but at the moment have elected not to.

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Victorian Red Kite by F.M.Ogilvie.

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Victorian Red Kite by TE Gunn.

From concept to creation, Glossy Ibis.

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Here is an extract from Ogilvie's diary writing about the Glossy Ibis case creation, how the birds were obtained and reference to his discussions with TE Gunn. We could enlarge the image to make the text readable but at the moment have elected not to.

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Case drawings by TE Gunn of Glossy Ibis or Black Curlews as once known, submitted to FM Ogilvie for his personal collection of British Birds.

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Case drawings by FM Ogilvie for his personal collection of British Birds. These two images demonstrate the letters that would have gone back and forth from Ipswich to Norwich to get the case depiction right. Gunn would have worked on this image to create the final case.

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Victorian Black Ibis by TE Gunn. Finished case to the drawings above.

From concept to creation, Bewick Swan.

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Bewick Swan case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Victorian Bewick Swans by TE Gunn. Finished from the drawing above.

From concept to creation, Spoonbills.

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Spoonbill's case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Victorian case of Spoonbills by TE Gunn. Finished from the drawing above.

From concept to creation, Great Crested Grebes.

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Bewick Swan case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Victorian Great Crested Grebes by TE Gunn.Finished from the drawing above

European Bitterns case.

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Bittern notes. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Bittern case. This image was created by TE Gunn.

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Bittern case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

European Curlew case.

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Curlew with chicks case. This image was created by TE Gunn.

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Curlew with chicks case. This case was created by TE Gunn.

European Kestrel case.

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Kestrels with chicks. This image was created by TE Gunn.

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Victorian Kestrels with chicks by TE Gunn.

Some more random images, however the completed cases can be viewed at the Ipswich Museum.

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Raven case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Little Owl case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Greenshank case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Following on from the appreciation of the bird sketches and historical watercolour paintings, above is another image from a set of some 250 images. Kittiwakes in winter plumage. This image was created by FM Ogilvie and is dated circa 1885-1895.

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Rough Legged Buzzards, better painted by George Herd, see page on his work on this site. That said this dates each bird to cira 1891. This image was created by TE Gunn.

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Dabchick case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Peregrine case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Grey Plover case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Redstart case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Tawny Owl case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Montague's Harrier case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Marsh Harrier case. This image was created by TE Gunn, showing nowhere near the same level of detail.

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Razorbill case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Rough Legged Buzzard case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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Oystercatcher case. This image was created by FM Ogilvie.

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European Shags or as they were known at the time "Green Cormorants". This is a case drawing from FM Ogilvie's collection housed at the Ipswich Museum and created by TE Gunn. Christopher Frost has created a book on the subject, with selective case drawings and images. We have the entire collection recorded both of cases and the book. Perhaps we should re-create a book on the entire subject????, wouldn't that be nice?.

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Victorian Shelduck with chicks by TE Gunn for the FM Ogilvie bird collection housed by Ipswich Museum. Christopher Frost has written perhaps the best description of this work, Gunn and Ogilvie himself. Very interesting but scarce book to acquire. Frost as you may know wrote the bible on taxidermy, a history of and given when it was done, it certainly is a noteworthy effort. One wonders what someone could do today with the availability of information to compile. As yet it has never been bettered.

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Victorian Shelduck with chicks by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction.

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Victorian Shelduck with chicks by TE Gunn. Diary notes denoting place and date of capture. Would blow it up so that you can read it but it may be subject to "borrowing", so you just have to either view the book yourself and or guess what it might say.

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Victorian Puffins with chicks by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. It is amazing that when you see the completed case (located on this site also) it is almost an exact representation of the case as drawn here.

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Victorian Coots with chicks by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. It is amazing that when you see the completed case (located on this site also) it is almost an exact representation of the case as drawn here. All of the above information and in particular the cases can be seen at the Ipswich Museum. Google their address and contact details. Well worth supporting this museum by attending.

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Victorian Dabchicks with chicks by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. It is amazing that when you see the completed case (located on this site also) it is almost an exact representation of the case as drawn here.

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Victorian Ptarmigan by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. These drawings are not unlike the one's I do for my exclusive creations. My work can be seen all over the site if you know where to look, I have a unique style also.

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Victorian Raven by TE Gunn. Close up of part of this case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. These drawings are not unlike the one's I do for my exclusive creations. My work can be seen all over the site if you know where to look, I have a unique style also.

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Victorian Red Backed Shrikes with eggs by TE Gunn. Case concept that was sent to Gunn for construction. It is sad to consider that these cases represent social and agricultural changes as in less than 110 years, these birds are now extinct from the area they were collected for FM Ogilvie in the 1890's.

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