Mason, Ian J, Gilbert H Pfitzner

An outstanding reference for anyone interested in Australian ornithology. With 303 detailed biographical entries, complete with portrait photographs and other photographs, of anyone who has been prominent in Australian egg collecting. The well-known names are present, such as H. L. White, A. J. Campbell and Alfred North, but so too are many lesser lights from the 1930s onwards. The authors have presented a detailed treatment of many obscure egg collectors.

Passions in Ornithology is an acknowledgement of the invaluable contributions made to ornithology by legions of Australian collectors over more than a century. In a number of cases, data collected by these oologists ( Mervyn T. Goddard and Ernest L. Hyem) is more detailed than that recorded by amateur birdwatchers and even professional ornithologists. Many oologists were also ardent conservationists in their own right. A number were actively involved in the early development of legislation for the protection of Australia’s fauna and flora (Archibald J. Campbell and Arthur H.E. Mattingley), or were responsible for the establishment of many present day reserves and conservation parks (Leslie G. Chandler, John N. McGilp and Capt. Samuel A. White).

The authors do not condone the illegal collecting of native fauna and flora, but in hindsight, the various state authorities’ summary actions towards collectors in the 1930s and 1980s had unfortunate outcomes. With a lighter-handed approach, they could have garnered the knowledge and resources of these collectors to improve conservation management of Australia’s dwindling biological resources. As Derek Ratcliffe (2002) concisely wrote “they (egg collectors) belonged to a time when nearly every serious ornithologist collected eggs and, should be judged according to the ethos of their day”.

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Ian J Mason (Privately Published), January 2020.  572 pages, hardcover, colour and black and white photos, includes CD-ROM