By Malcolm Ellis
First Published in The Avicultural Magazine Vol. 116 No. 4
Copyright © 2010 Avicultural Society, Published with Permission

Having decided to attempt to write some biographical notes about the late W. J. C. (Wilfred) Frost, I found it difficult to know where to begin and very like trying to find the pieces ofajigsaw and then fit them together.

Frost was one of the small band of men who, in the days before air travel became commonplace, sailed to the tropics and returned with collections of exotic birds for patrons such as E. J. Brook, Alfred Ezra, Jean Delacour, John Spedan Lewis, Herbert Whitley (the founder of Paignton Zoo) and London Zoo. He seems to have only ever written two articles, one which was published in the Avicultural Magazine in 1910 and the other in 1930. In addition, a letter from him to a member of the society was quoted from in the magazine in 1925 and a long letter from him was published in the magazine in 1936. Otherwise, he seems to have shunned publicity. My old Head Keeper, Don Newson, who began working in the Bird House at London Zoo in 1935, told me that when Frost arrived back at the zoo with his collections, there was always a pile of mail awaiting him, which invariably included requests from newspapers and magazines for interviews, he also remembers him being invited to be on the popular Saturday evening BBC radio programme In Town Tonight, but said that Frost always threw such invitations and requests straight into the bin.

I have failed to discover when and where he was born, but judging by the fact that he was said to have been aged 82 in November 1957, he was probably born in 1875. Similarly, I have failed to discover precisely when and where he died, except that it was in the first half of 1958, perhaps in Singapore or Borneo. I have also failed to find a photograph of him. There are no photos of him in the zoo archives or any letters from him, or anything else arising from his long association with London Zoo. Don Newson is convinced that Frost would never have let anyone take a photo of him. It came as a great surprise, therefore, to discover from Don, that when Frost and Ted Tanner (who worked at the zoo from 1908-1956) argued about exactly when Frost had brought back such and such a bird, Frost would consult notebooks and diaries in which he kept meticulous records - and was usually proved right. Unfortunately, it is likely these were lost during the later years of his life or following his death.

To compile these notes I have relied heavily on reports of his collecting expeditions in the pages of the magazine (and may have missed one or two), his two articles and the letters referred to earlier, as well as references by authors to birds brought back by Frost - or "Mr Frost" - as they often called him. Raymond Sawyer, who bought birds-of-paradise from him, remembers him well, so too does Don Newson, who I have already mentioned, and one or two others who worked at the zoo during that era. It was there that I met him fleetingly in 1957, on what turned out to be his last trip back to England. He was then an old man of 82. He was about 5ft l0in (not quite l.8m) tall and probably weighed about 11st (154 lbs or 70kg), or perhaps a little more, but not much. He wore an old, brown trilby hat, horn-rimmed or tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses and had a nicotine-stained moustache, from constantly smoking cheroots. Like Raymond Sawyer, I remember that his skin was pale and silky, without any hint of a suntan - you would never have suspected that he had spent much of his life in the tropics.

He was a character who everyone seemed genuinely fond of - because he was such a character - yet nobody trusted him. He was, Don says, an "old crook." He recalled how Frost once asked him to swap one of his (Frost's) less than perfect birds for a far better one belonging to the zoo. Don said, that even ifhe had been inclined to do so (which he was not), he would not have done it for Frost, who he is sure would have "shopped him" if it had suited his purpose.

In The Birds of Paradise by Frith & Beehler (1998), Appendix 2 lists collectors of birds-of-paradise - it refers mainly to museum specimens, but also includes some live birds. Frost figures mainly as a collector of museum specimens and through these it is possible to trace a number of the places where he collected and the dates. The most interesting revelation is that in November 1906 he collected specimens on the island of Salawati (one of the islands off the coast of western New Guinea), specimens that are now in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. It is the earliest published reference to him that I have been able to find. Whether he went to these places specifically to collect birds for museums, I somehow doubt, I suspect that he was collecting live birds, but if any died, they were skinned and along with any other specimens he may have acquired, were brought back for Lord Walter Rothschild. He is not listed as having collected any bird-of-paradise skins after 1937, the year that Lord Rothschild died. Frost told a fellow keeper in the Bird House at London Zoo, that he used to bring back young cassowaries for Lord Rothschild, which grew up at the zoo and acquired their adult coloration, and eventually ended up in Lord Rothschild's museum at Tring. Lord Rothschild was particularly proud of his cassowaries. In the early 1930s, when he needed a large sum of money, because he was allegedly being blackmailed over an adulterous affair, he offered his collection of bird skins (the largest collection in the world) to the American Museum of Natural History for US$225,000 (roughly £150,000 at the current exchange rate), but refused under any circumstances to part with his cassowaries (and other ratites) (Mearns & Mearns, 1998; Beolens et al. 2009).

When Wilfred Frost joined The Avicultural Society in July 1908, his address was listed as 103 Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush, W. (London). The following year he had moved to Ravenscourt Park, which like two of his other later addresses, at Chiswick Park (1913-1920) and Fulham (1920- 1929), is also in West London. He had been proposed as a member of the Avicultural Society by Frank F. Andrews, whose address was listed as "Zoological Society Gardens, Regent's Park" and, in October 1911 (probably shortly after having returned from Guyana with a collection of birds that was deposited at London Zoo), his address was listed as "c/o Zoological Society," which point to Frost having been associated with London Zoo from early in his career. Don Newson thinks it was Alf 'Timber' Woods, his predecessor as Head Keeper of the Bird House at London Zoo, who told him that Frost had been a scenery shifter in the theatre (perhaps at the Shepherd's Bush Empire!) and as a sideline had trapped British birds, when bird trapping was still legal in the UK. This probably brought him to the attention of some of the men who were later to become his wealthy patrons, men such as Sir William Ingram, founder and owner of the Illustrated London News, and Lord Walter Rothschild.

Frost was not living at 103 Goldhawk Road at the time of the 1901 census, but interestingly, living at 105 Goldhawk Road, which was probably the house next-door, was an Edward Frost, aged 39, described as a carpet warehouseman, born in Brighton, Sussex, and his wife Sarah, aged 36, born in Cambridge. They were probably too young to have been his parents, but Edward could have been an older brother or other close relative. Don Newson told me recently how having read in a newspaper that Frost had arrived at London Zoo with another collection of birds, a brother who was in the Navy had got a train from Portsmouth to London and went to the zoo to see Frost, who point-blank refused to see his brother, who had to travel back to Portsmouth without having seen him.

In extracts of a letter from Frost published in the magazine (Crosse, 1925a) disputing an earlier statement about Yellow-backed Lories Lorius garrulus flavopalliatus associating in large flocks, Frost wrote of having been watching, trapping and caring for lories for nearly 20 years. So, his first overseas expedition may well have been the one to Salawati in 1906. At the same time as Frost was collecting birds-of-paradise on Salawati (November 1906), Walter Goodfellow was collecting birds-of-paradise on the nearby island of Waigeo (Frith & Beehler, 1998), which leads me to wonder whether this was merely a coincidence or whether perhaps Frost was working under the guidance of Goodfellow, who was already an experienced collector.

We know (Ingram, 1911) that in 1909, Frost took 48 Greater Birds of Paradise Paradisaea apoda to the West Indian island of Little Tobago, which Sir William Ingram had bought as a sanctuary for this species when he feared it might become extinct because of the large number of males being killed for their plumes which were being used in the millinery trade. Sir William wrote: "some years ago over 3,000 male full-plumaged birds were imported to Europe every year, but that number has gradually fallen off, until at the present time little more than two or three hundred skins are collected." I had believed that it had been Frost who had been responsible for collecting the birds for Sir William Ingram, but Sir William wrote that to collect the live birds for him he had engaged Mr Stalker "the well-known naturalist, who unfortunately lost his life while employed on the British Dutch New Guinea Expedition" (the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU) Expedition to New Guinea, led by Walter Goodfellow). He added that Mr Stalker received "much valuable assistance from Mr Frost" and that they were able to send home from the Am Islands over 56 live specimens.

A few of the birds died on the journey and some were retained in England, leaving 48 to be released on Little Tobago. The majority were freed at the end of September 1909. A few of the weaker ones were released later, followed by, according to his son (C. Ingram, 1914), two more in 1910 and a third in 1912, these having been procured from "M. Pauwels, the well­ known Belgian aviculturist."

On the voyage to Little Tobago, Frost was assisted by a sailor named Robert Herold, who was later engaged as caretaker to watch over the released birds and sent monthly reports back to Sir William. He reported, for example, that at the beginning of December he had found two males fighting. They had become entangled with each other and he had to separate them, but one died immediately afterwards, the other male's claws having lacerated its bowels. Later he found the carcasses of two males that he thought must have died two or three months earlier, possibly being weaker birds that had succumbed to the "boisterous weather" at that time. A weak male that would not eat died overnight, after having been given a dose of castor oil.

One of Sir William's concerns seems to have been that although nearly all the birds released showed no trace of male plumage, most would eventually turn out to be males. This was based on his experience of having imported into England and kept a large number of birds-of-paradise of different species, many of which when first imported had sombre female plumage, but very few of which eventually proved to be females.

Having at different times described his first caretaker as "a most intelligent Swiss sailor" and "a very intelligent Swiss sailor," Sir William (Ingram, 1917) offered no explanation and expressed no sorrow (at least when writing in the magazine) over the death of Robert Herold, noting only that having "gave out that he was Swiss," Herold when he was dying had disclosed that he was the runaway son of a Bohemian Professor.

Robert Herold's successor, who objected to a lonely life on the island, took with him for company someone else's wife. The woman's disgruntled husband came after them and murdered her and the man's son, and left the man himself "with very little breath in his body."

In 1917, his third caretaker was an ex-policeman and Sir William reproduced in the magazine extracts from the man's diary. His routine duties seemed to consist mainly of bringing water for the birds, patrolling the island and shooting hawks. May 1st 1917, Jno. H. Hamilton (the caretaker) wrote of having seen several young birds-of-paradise feeding on the berries ofthe parasol trees which were plentiful on the island. He drew attention to what he said had been a great increase in the number of young birds since he had taken charge 13 months earlier. He continued to give glowing accounts of the increasing number of young but expressed surprise that he had failed to find any nests. He also made much of the number of hawks he had shot, though noting that the birds-of-paradise seemed unconcerned by them. Am I being cynical in suggesting that he was perhaps telling Sir William what he thought he wished to know?

It seems safe to assume that from Little Tobago, Frost travelled to mainland South America, for at the beginning ofml91O he was in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, enquiring where he might find Cock-of-the-Rock Rupicola rupicola?

His account of his quest (Frost, 1910) is notable for its description of the species' nest and eggs, the nest site and, most importantly, his description of the courtship dances performed by several males which gather together at what he called dancing places but which we now call leks. Just over 50 years later it remained the only first-hand description of the courtship display that could be found by C. J. O. Harrison, when he was trying to explain the strange behaviour of the hand-reared male Cock-of-the-Rock living in the Bird House at London Zoo (Harrison, 1961).

Frost revealed little about his method of catching these birds other than that he used his nets in preference to the methods used by the Indians. They used a blow pipe and poisoned arrows to shoot them, then administered an antidote, which in the majority of cases, according to Frost, failed to work; or snared them in fine string nooses that when they were sprung were apt to break or dislocate their limbs.

Some of Frost's freshly captured birds would sulk and no matter what they were offered, would refuse to eat, others would feed on berries and chopped banana as soon as they were caged. One took the end of a cigarette from between Frost's fingers, when he was holding the bird in one hand and resetting the net with the other. They despised the insectivorous mixture and were indifferent to mealworms and other insects, but would eat any and every berry, ripe or unripe. They also liked papaya (pawpaw), mango, banana and boiled pumpkin. Some grew fond of boiled rice sweetened with condensed milk, especially if it had been coloured with blackberry or blackcurrant jam.

Later in the magazine it was reported (Anon., 1910) that Frost had been collecting in Guyana for Sir William Ingram. The birds he returned with were deposited at London Zoo. These included four adult and two immature male Cock-of-the-Rock which attracted great attention. This species had, however, been exhibited at the zoo before and the "greatest novelty" was a female Blue-backed Manakin Chiroxiphia pareola, the first example of this group to have been imported into the UK.

Frost next it seems arrived back in England in May 1913, when he arrived back with what was described (Anon., 1913) as "Major Horsbrugh's Indian Collection" ... "a wonderful collection of birds which were principally inhabitants of the Himalayas." Major Horsbrugh (about whom I know little more than what appears here) had travelled to Genoa, Italy, to meet the ship and had brought back some of the more delicate birds by rail. The writer (whose identity I have failed to discover) had joined him at Milan and acted as interpreter and "had the privilege of seeing the collection of 400 birds on board the steamer after she had come alongside the quay." Those who remember Frost will surely be amused to know that when the writer shouted up to him "Any Red-headed Titmice?", his response was to hold up two fingers!

All of the birds were housed on the upper deck under canvas, with one end of the improvised tent open. By the time they got on board it was late and there was no electric light. Through the gloom the first things they saw were three large cages full of sunbirds. One held no fewer than 40 Crimson Sunbirds Aethopyga siparaja. There were also Purple-rumped Nectarinia zeylonica and Black-throated Sunbirds A. saturata. The writer, who "carried off" a splendid Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida, thought he or she could remember having seen one some years before at the Crystal Palace Show, and thought that this one brought back by Frost was probably the only one in Europe.

The account included a list of birds that were brought back. A number, including the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis, were said to have been new to aviculture. Some of the new species he had earlier been said to be returning with (Anon., 1913), such as the Spotted Forktail Enicurus maculatus and tiny Chestnut-headed (-crowned) Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata, were missing from the list, suggesting that they did not survive the long sea journey.

In April 1914, he collected a Greater Bird-of-Paradise at Bian River in southern New Guinea and unspecified birds-of-paradise in May 1914, at Golili in the Aru Islands, the former is in the Royal Ontario Museum and the latter are in the Natural History Museum at Tring (Frith & Beehler, 1998). Later that year the First World War broke out and there seems to have been no further mention of him until 1920, when it was reported (Anon., 1920) that for some months past he had been in New Guinea and surrounding islands collecting for London Zoo and in October had arrived there with some 130 mammals and birds. Amongst the latter were 13 King Birds-of-Paradise Cicinnurus regius, two Greater, three cassowaries, eight Nicobar Pigeons Caloenas nicobarica and various parrots including Rosenberg's Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus rosenbergii. It was probably the first importation of this subspecies. Maxwell (1940) wrote: "Mr. Frost brought the first living example home in 1910." He must have meant 1920 or it may have been a typographical error, as in 1910 Frost was collecting in Guyana.

August 1921, Frost arrived back at London Zoo with another collection from New Guinea. Under the heading Stray Notes (Anon., 1921), it was reported that there were 14 birds-of-paradise, including Greater, Lesser, Red P. rubra, King and Twelve-wired Seleucidis melanoleuca. The zoo was said to have been "particularly glad" to have obtained a fine example of the last species. Described as "another very acceptable addition to the collection" were five Aru Island Giant Kingfishers Dacelo tyro, this species having apparently never before been imported alive. Three other species that had not been seen before at London Zoo were the Chestnut-bellied Rail Eulabeornis castaneoventris, Brown-backed Emerald Dove Chalcophaps stephani and Orange-fronted Fruit Dove Ptilinopus aurantifrons. A Pesquet's Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus was sent to the USA.

It was four years later that extracts were published of a letter a member, Miss D. G. Crosse, had received from Frost. This was the letter mentioned earlier, that had been prompted in part by a reference in an ornithological periodical to Yellow-backed Lories associating in large flocks. He was emphatic that "lories never flock" but "invariably travel in pairs, or couples." Many hundreds may assemble in a tree or trees to feed on blossom or fruit, he wrote, but all eventually depart, as they arrived, in pairs. Nearly 20 years of watching, trapping and caring for lories of every species then introduced to aviculture had, he added, enabled him to form an accurate idea of their "little ways and temperament."

Frost's knowledge of the Yellow-backed Lory was though less than perfect. In his letter to Miss Crosse, when writing about her lory, which was obtained in 1918 and was illustrated in the magazine in 1925, he told her: "The bird to which you refer (L. jiavopalliatus) was probably purchased at Temate, and no doubt originally from Halmaheira" (now spelt Halmahera). Frost continued: "L. jiavopalliatus and L. garrulus occur also on Batchian, and I have even met with a few stray specimens on the north coast of Obi." Later, he added: "As far as I can gather, the Yellow-backed Lory is as plentiful on Batchian as on Halmaheira, but curiously enough I have never met with a specimen in captivity there." If he meant he had never met with a Yellow­ backed Lory in captivity on Halmahera, that would make sense because, of course, jiavopalliatus does not occur on the island of Halmahera. It is L. g. garrulus (the Chattering Lory) that lives on Halmahera.

Frost seemed to believe that flavopalliatus and garrulus, which appear to have been treated as separate species, occurred alongside each other on the same islands. This is, of course, not the case, but was perhaps an understandable mistake, as the two must look almost identical when seen flying overhead and feeding high in the trees. It is difficult to know how much of his information was based on first-hand experience and how much relied on what he had been told by others. Miss Crosse (1925b) was somewhat better informed, because she wrote that her Yellow-backed Lory had come from either Batchian (Bacan), Obi, Morotai or Raou (Rau). It could, of course, also have come from Kasiruta or Mandiole, though perhaps not Moratai or Raou (Rau). Birds from these two islands are now regarded as belonging to a third subspecies L. g. morotaianus.

Temate was, Frost told her, merely a more or less dormant volcano, with no resident lory of its own, where at any time scores of Yellow-backed Lories could be purchased from people from Halmahera who, when ships arrived, sailed across the bay to meet them in canoes loaded with White-crested Cockatoos Cacatua alba, Great-billed Parrots Tanygnathus megalorhynchos, Eclectus Eclectus rotatus, Yellow-backed Lories and immense numbers of Violet-necked Lories Eos squamata. The conclusion must be that if they were indeed brought across from the nearby island of Halmahera, they were not what we know now as the Yellow-backed Lory, but belonged to the nominate subspecies L. g. garrulus. However, nowhere did Frost use the name Chattering Lory, in fact, I suspect, the name did not exist at that time. His reluctance to use an English common name for garrulus may have been because, it seems, it was known then as the Ceram Lory, which as he pointed out was a misnomer, because it was (and remains) completely unknown on that island (now spelt Seram). He may have been correct about Temate having no resident lory of its own, for although Clements (2007) lists L. g. garrulus as occurring on Halmahera, Widi and Temate, there is a suspicion that birds seen nowadays on Temate are descendents of escaped caged birds.

Frost concluded by telling her that he had two old friends that always accompanied him, a Rajah Lory Chalcopsitta atra insignis and a Yellow­ streaked Lory C. scintillatus. The former was the first of its kind he had ever met with and talked and acted, and was altogether "a wonderful chum."

Referring again to Frith & Beehler (1998), I discovered that in August 1925 he collected birds-of-paradise on the Aru Islands. These are in the Natural History Museum at Tring as is, they record, a Greater Bird-of­-Paradise nest (BMNH N. 193.225) collected by Frost at Waboa in the Aru Islands in October 1925. He is listed as having collected a Lesser Bird­-of-Paradise at Yapen Island, Geelvink (Cendrawasih) Bay on April 15th 1926 and other birds-of-paradise on Batanta and Salawati Islands during July-November 1926. In May 1927, he collected birds at Wanumbai on the Aru Islands. The latter are in the Royal Ontario Museum, as are the Lesser Bird-of-Paradise and some of the birds collected on Batanta and Salawati Islands, other are in the Natural History Museum at Tring.

Later in 1927, he returned to England after what was said to have been an absence of three years. During that time he had amassed quite a collection. It included 33 birds-of-paradise of six different species, nine Palm Cockatoos Probosciger aterrimus, 70 lories, 40 crowned pigeons, 40 Fairy Bluebirds Irena puella, seven Banded Pittas Pitta guajana, two cassowaries, 11 egrets "and so on", wrote The Editor, David Seth-Smith, in his Avicultural Notes (1927). There were several birds that were new to aviculture, these included the Rajah Lory, Javan Kingfisher Halcyon cyanoventris, Rufous­ bellied Kookaburra D. gaudichaud and Black-legged Falconet Microhierax fringillarius. Rosenberg's Lorikeet had been imported in 1920, so should not have been included with them.

In March 1929, on Kobroor, one of the Aru Islands, about 7ft (approx. 2.1m) above the ground in a hole in a small tree, Frost discovered the nest of a King Bird-of-Paradise. Over 75 years later it appears to remain the only published description of a nest of this species in the wild. No other species of bird-of-paradise had been (or is) known to nest in a hole in a tree (Frith & Beehler, 1998).

The nest contained two eggs. Black and white photographs of one of the eggs accompanied his notes in the magazine on the nesting habits of this species (Frost, 1930). He expressed disappointment not to have got a "snapshot" of the female entering or leaving the nest and of letting her slip through his fingers when he was taking the eggs. He was obviously keen to provide as much proof as possible, following the extreme scepticism which had greeted his earlier suggestion that some birds-of-paradise might be hole-nesters.

Seeking further corroboration, on his "return" to Surabaya (which he spelt Sourabaia) on the island of Java, he provided a nesting log for the pair "deposited" at the zoo there. (In 1929 and 1930 his address was listed in the magazine as c/o Chartered Bank ofIndia, Sourbaya. The latter was, I think, yet another way of spelling Surabaya, which is a port on the east coast of Java.) It was not until he was "obligated to leave Java again for some months," that the female evidentally nested in the log and when a thorough investigation was made, two dead youngsters badly damaged by ants were discovered inside. Later the female nested in the same log, but in a larger aviary. On that occasion she laid only one egg and never sat on it. By the New Year (1930) he hoped to be in New Guinea again, and with luck collect further data.

In January 1930, he is recorded (Frith & Beehler, 1998) as having collected birds-of-paradise near Oliphantsburg, in the 'Bird's Neck' region of New Guinea, which is immediately north ofthe Aru Islands. February­ March he collected in north-west New Guinea and between February-May he also collected on Batanta and Salawati Islands. The specimens from these expeditions are in the American Museum of Natural History, Natural History Museum at Tring and Royal Ontario Museum.

They give no credence to Frost's claim (in Rothschild, 1930) that a Trumpet Manucode Manucodia keraudrenii egg in the nest of a Greater Bird­-of-Paradise was laid by a manucode behaving as an avian brood parasite. Frost was, they suggest, encouraged to believe this by his observation that Trumpet Manucodes often appeared to follow female-plumaged Greater Birds-of-Paradise. We now know, they state, that this latter activity typically has to do with mixed-species foraging and not with nest parasitism.

Later that year, D. S-S. (David Seth-Smith) (1930) reported that "Mr. Frost" had returned recently with several birds-of-paradise of four species, Wilson's C. respublica, Magnificent C. magnificus, Lesser and what was almost certainly the species we now call the Western Parotia P. sefilata. Perhaps of even more interest were several species probably never before seen alive in the UK, namely the White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti, Chestnut-capped Thrush Zoothera interpres , Black-browed Barbet Megalaima oorti, Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis, White­-naped Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis aruensis, Bronze-tailed Peacock­ Pheasant Polyplectron chalcurum, Yellow-fronted White-eye Zosterops flavifrons and Black Butcherbird Cracticus quoyi. I suspect that the "Am Boobook Owl Spiloglaux aruensis" may now be Ninox rufa aruensis, but have yet to identify the "Rose-breasted Fruit Dove Ptilinopus rosecollis."

Frith & Beehler (1998) record that in July 1931, he collected birds-of-paradise near Sorong, north-west New Guinea and on Halmahera during the same month. The former are in the Natural History Museum at Tring, as are some of the latter, others are in the Royal Ontario Museum and the Peabody Museum at Yale University.

In the Avicultural Magazine (Anon., 1931), it was noted that Frost had returned to London with another fine collection. It included 10 species of bird-of-paradise. He was said to have had "several examples of most of them" and it seems likely that among them were the two Wallace's Standardwing Semioptera wallacii "still in moult" and a young Twelve-wired "coming into colour" which Hopkinson (1931) saw at Paignton Zoo and a Wallace's Standardwing, a parotia and an adult King Bird-of-Paradise, that Gurney had at Keswick Hall in December of that year (Martin, 1931). Frost arrived back with three birds, the Ivory-breasted (or Giant) Pitta P. maxima, Red­ breasted (Macklot's) Pitta P. erythrogaster and Yellow-and-green Lorikeet T. flavoviridis, that had probably never before been imported. (Wallace's Standardwing had first arrived in Europe with Goodfellow in 1926 and was kept at London Zoo (Hopkinson, 1930).)

According to Sydney Porter (1933), Frost went specially to the island of Halmahera to get the Ivory-breasted (Giant) Pitta and, though several were obtained, only two, he believed, reached England. One was purchased by London Zoo but did not survive for long, even though the bird appeared to be in perfect condition. The white of its breast appeared "glossy and polished like the finest china" and the red of the underparts was like "port wine with a light shining through," wrote Porter.

As well as his notes on rare pittas, he was the author of a series of articles entitled Wanderings in the Far East. One of these brought a long letter from Frost (1936) wanting to correct what he considered were Porter's mistaken or misleading comments concerning conditions in Chinese bird shops in Singapore, the scarcity of lories on the eastern market, the leg shackling of lories and parakeets and the trapping of pheasants. There is little point in going over the arguments again here, except to say that Frost thought legs rings were a practical way of keeping lories and parakeets and had used that method to keep a Rajah, a Yellow-streaked and another lory. He wrote: "For several years, these three birds accompanied us through Malaya, Sumatra, and Java, Siam, Indo-China, the Moluccas, and New Guinea, eventually reaching England in 1927."

Frith & Beehler (1998) record that during April-May 1934, Frost collected bird-of-paradise skins on Batanta, Waigeo and Salawati Islands. These are in the Natural History Museum at Tring, as are those he collected in north­ west New Guinea during the same period.

Reviewing the history of the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi (formerly the Monkey-eating Eagle) in zoos. Block (2004) wrote that the second live specimen seen outside the Philippines was "captured in 1934 by Wilfred J. C. Frost" and sent to Rome Zoo for its reopening as a donation from Jean Delacour. It lived there until 1976 and holds the longevity record for this species in captivity.

The eagle outlived Frost by some 18 years. It is the first indication I have seen that he may have travelled to the Philippines. In the absence of further evidence though, I am inclined to believe that he probably bought the bird elsewhere. It seems that from about 1920 onwards, he regularly sailed to various Indonesian islands (then the Dutch East Indies), travelling as far east as New Guinea and the Aru Islands, and probably bought many of his birds in markets along the way and in Singapore. Don Newson said, Frost talked of having a network of contacts including ships' captains and crew members, as well various officials, from whom he obtained birds.

The next mention of him I have been able to find was by Sherriff (1937), when writing about a pair of Long-tailed Sibia Heterophasia picaoides simillima (called then the Grey Sibia Sibia simillima, a bird new to aviculture) that had been imported from Sumatra by "Mr Frost" in the early part of 1936. A painting of the birds by Miss M. Dovaston was the frontispiece in that issue of the magazine.

After a 16 day incubation period the pair hatched two chicks in an aviary belonging to the author, who having successful1y bred the Black-headed species H. capistrata by allowing the parents their liberty, repeated the experimerit with the Sumatran birds, only for the male to disappear on the second night, after which the female failed to rear the young without his assistance.

On November 17th 1937, Frost is listed as having col1ected bird-of-­paradise skins at Sorong, north-west New Guinea. These are in the American Museum of Natural History (Frith & Beehler, 1998). It was the last occasion he is listed as having collected birds-of-paradise skins, which may or may not have been related to the fact that Lord Rothschild had died on August 27th 1937.

Lord Tavistock (1938) referred to a consignment of seven Desmarest's Fig Parrots Psittaculirostris desmarestii occidentalis (which he called Desmarest's Dwarf Parrots and which the caption to the frontispiece of this species by Roland Green called the Western Golden-headed Dwarf Parrot) "brought over recently" by Frost, who had introduced "a species entirely new to aviculture." Lord Tavistock seems to have obtained four, which lived almost entirely on fruit - apple, pear, grapes and banana - the latter having been, he believed, the food they were imported on. They drank a little nectar, which he suspected they would have got on perfectly well without and would not look at seed. They did though like removing the bark from green sycamore twigs and were very fond of mealworms and chewed up iodine nibbles faster than almost any other birds in his collection.

An unnamed author (1938), writing in the magazine about the Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris, which was the subject of Roland Green's frontispiece in that issue, wrote of having had a very fine male which had been brought over by "Mr Frost" and which had lived for over a year in one of the author's greenhouses and would probably have lived longer had it not been fed so many mealworms.

On July 2nd 1939, both Frost and Shaw Mayer arrived in London with large collections, having travelled from "the East" on the same boat. Shaw Mayer had been taken ill shortly before reaching London and on arrival had to be taken to hospital. Frost cared for Shaw Mayer's birds as well as his own and, on reaching London, took both collections to the zoo. A short note on the collections appeared in the August issue of the magazine (D.S­ S, 1939), followed later by a more detailed account by Mrs Wharton-Tigar (1939), which is the one I have relied on here.

Mrs Wharton-Tigar (who Raymond Sawyer thinks was South American and whom he recalls very much lived up to the second part of her double­ barrelled name) remarked on the fact that Mrs Frost had accompanied her husband on this occasion and that "perhaps may have contributed to the splendid condition of his collection." It included four species of birds-of­ paradise, the King, Wilson's, Western Parotia and Lesser. (Shaw Mayer had nine species including Wahne's Parotia P. wahnesi, Huon Astrapia A. rothschildi and Emperor P. gulielmi. His collection also included a Philippine Eagle, only the second ever imported into the UK, which went to Paignton Zoo, Bulwer's Pheasant L. bulweri and a "magnificent" Blue-headed Pitta P. baudii.) There were also what Mrs Wharton-Tigar described as the "big heavy crested" subspecies of the Victoria Crowned Pigeon G. victoria beccarii and "G. coronata" (presumably the species known now as the Blue Crowned Pigeon G. cristata), a pair of what she called "Molluscan Crimson Wings," Edward's and Mitchell's Lorikeets T. h. capistrata and T. h. mitchellii respectively, the Dusky Lory Pseudeos fuscata and Iris Lorikeet Psitteuteles iris, the last named being described as "a first importation." A baby Purple-winged Roller Coracias temminckii was another interesting importation. There were also some "lovely" Javan Kingfishers.

Described as "not previously imported" was Gracula religiosa veneratus; Frost also had examples of G. r. intermedia and the Black-collared Starling Gracupica nigricollis, as well as the Grosbeak Starling Scissirostrum dubium and several Bali Starlings Leucopsar rothschildi. The "King Crows" to which Mrs Wharton-Tigar referred were, as I suspected, not crows but drongos. Frank Woolham helped me identify them as Black Drongos Dicrurus macrocercus, a migratory species found on Java and Bali. Frost's "Javan Cissas" must have been Cissa t. thalassina, the nominate form of the Short-tailed Magpie and his "Sumatran Cissas" must have been C. chinensis minor, a subspecies ofthe Green Magpie. Similarly, his "Red Mesias" were probably the Sumatran subspecies of Leiothrix argentauris, the underparts of which are bright red. His "Yellow-headed Fruitsuckers (Chloropsis icterocephala)" look to have been what is regarded now as a subspecies of the Blue-winged Leafbird C. cochinchinensis icterocephala, also found on Sumatra as well as in southern Malaysia.

He again had Long-tailed Sibias, the bird he had been first to import from Sumatra a few years earlier. There were also scimitar babblers Pomatorhinus sp., Fairy Bluebirds and the "loveliest little" Purple-throated (Van Hasselt's) Sunbird Nectarinia sperata. He also had a number of Timor Sparrows Padda juscata, described as "new," Five-coloured Munias Lonchura quinticolor, described as "another new importation" and the "dwarf form" of the Zebra Finch Taeniopygia g. guttata or T castanotis (Clements, 2007) "from Timor." There was a Maleo Macrocephalon maleo and some Salvadori's Pheasants Lophura inomata, as well as quite a number of the plover-like "Nile Courser or Crocodile bird" (presumably Egyptian Plovers Pluvianus aegyptius he had acquired on the voyage home).

A note from P. H. Maxwell (1940), stated that Frost had brought back seven Grosbeak Starlings, of which he had been lucky enough to have obtained two. Later that year, E. H. (1940) added a few random notes on the recent list of birds new to the London Zoo collection. The list, taken from the Annual Report, included several birds brought back the previous year by Frost. Top of the list was the Grosbeak Starling, which E. H. (Dr Emilius Hopkinson) thought was new to any collection. The "Timor Zebra Finch," regarded then as a separate species "T. insularis" (and treated again as a separate species called the Chestnut-eared Finch by Clements (2007)), had previously been imported into the Netherlands, while there was a plate of the Five-coloured Munia in Reichenbach's Singvogel, but nothing was said there about it in captivity. Other species new to the zoo collection were the Long-tailed Sibia and the Timor Crimson-winged Parakeet Aprosmictus jonquillaceus (presumably Mrs Wharton-Tigar's "Molluscan Crimson Wings"), which E. H. thought might be the first importation anywhere.

Writing about how after four years of war, visitors to London Zoo could not fail to be impressed by the number and variety of parrots still on view, Prestwich (1943) noted that amongst those living in the flights outside the Parrot House were no fewer than five Timor Crimson-winged Parakeets (presumably brought back by Frost in 1939). (The flights also housed a pair of Spix's Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii.) Writing from the USA, Delacour (1943) mentioned that Frost had brought him "a cock and three hens" of the very rare Salvadori's Pheasant from Sumatra. These must have perished during the Second World War, Cleres having been heavily bombed during the last week of May 1940 and lost entirely by June of that year.

Following the fall of Singapore to Japanese forces in 1942, Frost was interned as a civilian in Changi Camp. Don Newson told me that Frost was put in charge of the rice store and because of his old age - he must have been about 67 when first interned and possibly as old as 70 when released - he was the only man allowed into the women's compound and used to take notes from husbands to their wives and vice versa. The rice store must have attracted lots of rats, which in turn attracted snakes. A report of his death by H.M.S. (Helen May Sidebottom) in The Daily Telegraph in 1958, noted that while interned in Changi, he had trapped rats and snakes to help feed his fellow prisoners and had his appendix removed with a "knife and fork"!

Miss Knobel for many years Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of the society, wrote (Knobel, 1943) that members would be glad to learn that after a wait of many months she had on September l0th received a long letter from Shaw Mayer confirming that he was safe and well, serving in the Army "somewhere in Australia." He confirmed that Frost was interned in Changi Camp and wrote that he had heard recently from Mrs Frost, who was with her son Michael in Western Australia.

Don Newson believes that Michael was about 12 years of age when he was taken to Australia. He remembers how after the war Frost frequently cut­out newspaper reports about bad weather in England, recalling particularly one showing part ofthe zoo flooded after a downpour one Bank Holiday, and sent these to his wife to discourage her from wanting to return to England.

There was an older son, who had lost an arm, who Don believes was from an earlier marriage and had been a photographer with an Army unit in Egypt during the war, who after the war worked for the BBC or some similar organisation. Towards the end, when Frost was no longer so welcome at the zoo, in the evenings he used to go back to this son's home in West London.

It seems that when Frost returned to England in 1939, he sent the British Museum a large collection of mammal specimens from what were then the Dutch East Indies. When he returned to England after the war, he found a few more specimens that he had failed to send in 1939. These included a fruit bat that he had collected at Tamalanti, western Sulawesi (Celebes) in 1938 or 1939, which was subsequently named the Small-toothed Fruit Bat Neopteryx frosti by Hayman in 1946. It remained the only known specimen until 1985, when three others were collected (Watkins pers.comm.). So far as I am aware, it is the only animal named after Frost.

Listing additions to the London Zoo collection, Prestwich (A. A. P., 1947) wrote that in the month of September the most important new arrival had been a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa, a species new to the collection, brought home by Frost. In the first magazine of 1948, he was listed as having rejoined the society and his address was again given as "c/o Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, London N.W.8." Later that year, under the heading Personalia (1948), it was reported that W. J. C. Frost the "indefatigable collector," who had returned recently from Singapore with a collection of birds and other creatures, had left for New Guinea in search of birds-of-paradise and did not expect to return to England until the following summer.

Towards the end of the following year, again under the heading Personalia, A. A. P. (1949) wrote that Frost had returned from New Guinea with a good collection of birds. Included were 13 male birds-of-paradise, 10 Greater and three King birds, along with 12 crowned pigeons, "four Pleasing Lories and six Gold-crowned Bulbuls, etc." The Pleasing Lories were what we now call Red-flanked Lorikeets Charmosyna placentis, I learned from Rosemary Low. The bulbuls were, I presume, the species now called the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zelanicus, a non-New Guinea species he must have picked up along the way.

November 9th 1949, His Grace the Duke of Bedford, Lady Spencer-­Jones, wife of the Astronomer Royal, pianist and actress Yvonne Arnaud and Frost, were among the guests at the British Aviculturists' Club dinner in London, after which Gerald Iles showed films of animals at Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester, Vincennes Zoological Park in Paris and the zoos at Zurich and Bas1e.

Eddie Orbell, who in the late 1940s and early 1950s worked in the zoo's quarantine station, a former indoor riding school in nearby Park Village East, remembers Frost's nicotine-stained moustache and how he used to store a lot of his "kit," including spears and bows and arrows which he brought back to sell, up on the balcony of the quarantine station. The late Joe McCorry remembered Frost having a fold-up wooden camp bed covered with an old, tiger skin, on which he slept in one of the dens of the Sanatorium (the old animal hospital behind the Bird House). When the keepers in the Bird House took their morning and afternoon tea breaks, he would come across and join them for a cup of tea. Joe, who insisted that Frost was called William or Bill, wrote (pers. comm.) that he did not confide in many people at the zoo, but if he did talk to you, he had lots of stories to tell. Unfortunately, those that Joe told me, are unsuitable to repeat here.

Don Newson said that Frost did not have much time for "chiefs and bigwigs" and much preferred to have a "wet of tea" and "swop yarns" with the lads (the keepers). Frost was, he said, careful with his money and did not give much away. The only thing he ever gave Don was a can of Australian Red Cardinal beef dripping, which Don still clearly remembers. He also recalls how, when Peter Rice, who was working at the zoo and had helped Frost, told him he was getting married, with uncharacteristic generosity, Frost gave him £5 (approx. US$8 at the current exchange rate), which was probably the equivalent of about two weeks' wages in those days. Frost had, said Don, a special arrangement with the manager of Barclays Bank at nearby Camden Town, allowing him to take his money down to the bank in biscuit tins. Afterwards, Don said, he would go around the corner to Inverness Street, which was (and still is) lined with market stalls selling cheap "fruit and veg" and would collect the bruised and discarded fruit to take back to the zoo to feed his birds. Don remembers how, after the war, Frost complained that people out in the Far East were no longer willing to work for a "handful of beads," but wanted the "full union rate of pay" for making the travelling boxes and crates for his birds.

There appears to be no record of him having brought back a collection in either 1950 or 1951. Perhaps to make up for that, he brought back two collections in 1952. He was listed as having been amongst the guests at the British Aviculturists' Club meeting in London on March 12th 1952 (Prestwich, 1952) and in the March-April issue of the magazine, in his London Zoo Notes, John Yealland (l952a) wrote: "As to be expected, the arrival of Mr. Frost with a collection of Indo-Malaysian birds resulted in the addition of some attractive specimens to the Society's collection." These included a Sri Lanka Mynah G. ptilogenys, a species new to the collection, a pair of Blue-winged Leafbirds C. c. nigricollis, a subspecies new to the collection, plus two Fairy Bluebirds I. p. turcosa, a Greater Bird-of-Paradise, a Timor Crimson-winged Parakeet and a Green Junglefowl Gallus varius.

In the May-June issue, P. H. Maxwell (1952a) wrote of having recently acquired a young Rosenberg's Lorikeet from Frost. In News & Views in the September-October issue that year, it was reported that Frost had returned recently from his "49th" collecting expedition with 26 birds-of-paradise, comprising Greater, Red, Twelve-wired, Wilson's and King. There were four species of hombill, the Great Buceros bicornis, Rhinoceros B. rhinoceros, Wrinkled Aceros corrugatus and Plicated A. plicatus, as well as Nias (Island) Mynahs G. robusta and what we now call Purple Swamphens Porphyrio porphyrio, plus single specimens of the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius, Pesquet's Parrot, Black Lory C. atra, Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda, Pink-headed Fruit Dove P. porphyreus and Red-breasted (Macklot's) Pitta. (A. A. P., 1952)

One of the Nias (Island) Mynahs was presented to the zoo by Frost (Yealland, 1952b). It was a species that had not previously been represented in the London Zoo collection. It may have been the bird with only one eye, that was living in the Bird House when I began working there in January 1956. I remember it being almost the size of a small crow and having an enormous gape and an ear-splitting screech. It would incline its head to one side and with its long wattles hanging down, would chatter away in what must have been an Indonesian dialect.

Writing about his new Pesquet's Parrot living in the Parrot House at Whipsnade Zoo, Maxwell (1952b) noted that the bird was collected by Shaw Mayer and brought to England with the rest of his collection by Frost in July that year. Shaw Mayer had for some reason been unable to accompany what must have been his last collection to reach England. The following year he took charge of Sir Edward Hallstrom's aviaries at Nondugl in the Wahgi Valley of Papua New Guinea.

There appears to be no record of which of the birds on the above list were Frost's and which were Shaw Mayer's, but Shaw Mayer's involvement helps explain how Frost managed to bring over a second collection - and a sizeable one at that - so soon after his "Indo-Malaysian" collection. It may have been the occasion that he arrived back with several Wilson's Birds-of­ Paradise. Raymond Sawyer cannot remember the exact number, but thinks that Frost had more than 10 of these.

In the 1950s, Raymond was enjoying great success with his birds on the show bench, where they regularly took the top awards at "the National" and other leading bird shows. Determined to beat him, his main rival, a scrap metal dealer from "the Midlands," arranged to buy all of the Wilson's Birds­ of-Paradise from Frost. However, living in London, Raymond usually got first pick of Frost's best birds and Frost agreed to sell him one of the male Wilson's Birds-of-Paradise so long as he did not tell his rival that he had got it from him. Raymond was amused by this because, as he said, it would be obvious that he had got it from Frost. Despite Raymond's rival having bought all the other birds, however, it was Raymond's bird that won the class for birds-of-paradise and bowerbirds at that year's National Show.

Writing about the show, presumably held in December 1952, E. N. T. Vane (1953) noted that on show were no fewer than four Wilson's Birds­-of-Paradise, as well as a pair of Twelve-wired. Raymond was disappointed not to have got the Red-breasted (Macklot's) Pitta brought back by Frost, which went to Viscount Chaplin (who at the time was Hon. Secretary of the Zoological Society of London and in 1935 edited the Avicultural Magazine) who, Raymond said, did not have the £10 (approx. US$16) to pay for it and, eventually, tired of the bird and gave it to the zoo.

Raymond remembers how, on another occasion, when paying Frost for some birds, his rival overpaid him by £20 (approx. US$32). It was a lot of money in those days and Frost pocketed it without saying a word. However, Raymond's rival was Frost's equal and, when Frost returned from the Far East with his next collection and, he again bought some birds from him, he underpaid Frost by £20 (approx. US$32) and, again, Frost pocketed the money without saying a word.

In early June 1953 Frost returned to the UK with yet another collection. A. A. P. (1953) reported that it consisted mainly of birds he had purchased from local people in the Far East, where bad weather had prevented him from using his "usual trapping methods." This made me smile, as several times Don Newson has told me: "Of course, Frost never trapped his own birds, he used to tell us that he had a string of contacts who he got his birds from." This is hardly surprising, however, as in 1953 he must have been about 78 years old and must have long ago stopped shinning up trees to set nets.

The list of birds included five cassowaries, eight crowned pigeons (probably G. eristata), 16 Pied Imperial Pigeons Dueula bicolor, three Plicated or Blyth's Hornbills, a Ceylon Grey Hornbill Oeyeeros (formerly Toekus) gingalensis, two Nias (Island) Mynahs, two "Sunda Island Mynahs" (G. r. venerata), two Bali Starlings, a Green-billed Malkoha Phaenieophaeus tristis longicaudatus, what was listed as a "Large-billed Blue-winged Pitta" (possibly the Mangrove species P. megarhyneha rather than the smaller billed P. molueeensis) and five "Golden-crowned Bulbuls" (again probably the Straw-headed species). Also on the list were six Purple-naped Lories L. domieella, four Black-capped Lories L. lory, four Black Lories, four "Ceram Lories" (this seemed to be the common name of L. garrulus but was, as Frost pointed out, a misnomer, because it does not occur on the island of Ceram, now spelt Seram), two Red Lories E. bornea, two Black-winged Lories E. eyanogenia, three Violet-necked Lories, five Forsten's Lorikeets T. h. forsteni, five Ornate Lorikeets T. ornatus, four Plum-headed Parakeets P. eyanoeephala, two Emerald-collared or Layard's Parakeets P. ealthorpae and a Moustached Parakeet P. alexandri.

In his London Zoo Notes in the first issue ofthe magazine the following year, Yealland (1954) wrote that four Ornate Lorikeets, five Forsten's Lorikeets, a Black Lory, three Black-capped Lories, three Purple-naped Lories, a Chattering Lory and three Yellow-backed Lories (probably the "Ceram Lories" on the above list) had been deposited at the zoo, together with four Crowned Pigeons G. eristata, 10 Pied Imperial Pigeons, a Javan Mynah (probably G. r. religiosa) and three "Yellow-crowned Bulbuls Traehyeomus ochrocephalus." The suspicion must be that these were the unsold remnants of the above collection. It is difficult to understand why so many of the lories and lorikeets remained unsold, unless it was due to restrictions leading up to the ban on the importation of parrots, which was imposed on November 1st 1953. It was relaxed a little later but not fully revoked until 1966.

Describing the first breeding in the UK of the Purple-naped Lory in 1954, Tom Spence (1955) wrote that his pair was imported for him "under license by Mr Frost" and along with three others appeared to be the only specimens of this species brought to the UK for many years.

Frost was amongst the guests at the 43rd meeting of the British Aviculturists' Club in South Kensington on September 8th 1954, at which Walter Higham showed his film of birds of the Scottish Highlands (Prestwich, 1954). This points to the fact that Frost had probably arrived back with his latest collection in August or the first week of September, but for some reason it was not until the November-December issue that the list of birds was published in the magazine. It reveals that he returned with a "Westermann's Cassowary" (which if I understand correctly has a white occipital patch on the head and comes from the Vogelkop region (also known as the Bird's Head or Cendrawasih Peninsula) of New Guinea and should, some believe, be assigned the scientific name C. bennetti westermani), a Northern (One-wattled) Cassowary C. unappendiculatus, a Palm Cockatoo, a Salawati King Parrot Alisterus amboinensis dorsalis, a Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina, five "Black-chinned Laughingthrushes" (probably the Black-throated Garrulax chinensis), 15 Painted Quail Coturnix chinensis, a Plicated Hornbill, three Nicobar Pigeons and 20 birds-of-paradise - Lesser, Twelve-wired, King, Hunstein's Magnificent C. magnificus hunsteini and Wilson's (A. A. P., 1954).

By the time the list was published, Frost had already set off on another expedition. On November 9th the following year, he attended the 49th meeting of the British Aviculturists' Club in South Kensington, at which Iris Darnton showed a film of her and her husband's two-month safari to Uganda the previous year (Prestwich, 1955), so I am assuming that he had probably returned to England with another collection towards the end of August or in September. I have, however, been unable to trace any details of such a collection.

I think it was probably at the end of 1955 or early in 1956 that Tommy Sangster, a keeper in the Lion House at London Zoo, took some Pere David's Deer Elaphurus davidianus from Whipsnade Zoo to China and during a stop at Singapore visited Frost. He was, I think, shocked by the conditions in which he found him living. He went to the address he had been given, only to discover that Frost was living in what was described as, "a shed at the end of someone's garden" in the poorest part of Singapore. Whereas Raymond Sawyer recalled (pers. comm.) that when Jean Delacour visited Fred Shaw Mayer in the highlands of New Guinea, Shaw Mayer got out his best bone china, Frost offered Tommy Sangster tea in an old tin can or mug and seeing his reluctance to drink it - because there were so many insects floating on the top - took it from him and with a stick, flicked them off and handed it back to him. I would love to have asked Tommy Sangster about the occasion he visited Frost, but to my great regret, by the time I got his phone number and called it, it was no longer in use and I subsequently discovered that he had died a few months earlier.

When I began working in the Bird House in January 1956, keepers often talked about (and laughed about) an incident when a man named Jack Indge, who was both an aviculturist (he was awarded the society's medal for breeding the Red-sided Eclectus E. r. polychloros) and a dealer at the time, came to see Frost's latest collection. Apparently, he was peering into the various boxes and suddenly stopped, turned around and said, "Ah, Rothschild's Grackles eh, Frost, how much?" A deal was quickly concluded and he triumphantly carried off the box of birds, no doubt convinced that he had got one over on his rivals. It was not until a few days later that he discovered that they were not the much sought after Rothschild's Grackles (i.e. Bali Starlings that were far rarer in aviculture in those days and consequently commanded a high price), but the then still common Black-winged species Sturnus melanopterus, for which there was little or no demand. He immediately returned to the zoo with them and demanded his money back. Frost took great satisfaction in pointing out that it was him (lndge), who had said they were Rothschild's Grackles (Bali Starlings) and, he had therefore not misled him, and had no intention of giving him his money back.

He did not come to England in 1956, but returned the following summer. In News & Views A. A. P. (1957) reported that on the last day of August, Frost had arrived back on the P&O vessel Shillong with the results of his "53rd" collecting expedition. The list of birds included Greater and King Birds-of-Paradise, Great, Wreathed A. undulatus, Plicated and "Malayan Pied Hornbills" (the last named presumably Anthracoceros albirostris convexus), New Guinea Bronzewings Henicophaps albifrons schlegeli (see later), Nicobar and Partridge Pigeons (Geophaps smithii, presumably, from the northernmost part of Australia), bleeding-hearts Gallicolumba sp., Bronze-tailed Peacock-Pheasants and Bornean Crested Firebacks L. ignita. Other birds on the list included Banded Pittas, Blue-winged Pittas P. moluccensis, Fairy/Bluebirds, Bali and Black-necked Starlings, Fire-tufted Barbets Psilopogon pyrolophus, rosefinches Carpodacus sp. and Mitchell's Lorikeets.

Frost's collection was housed behind the Mappin Terraces, in a building which until recently had been the Chimps' Nursery. On the left-hand side as you went in, there were three (or possibly four) white-tiled chimp cages behind glass screens (like those in the Monkey House). Frost's collection, still in its travelling crates, was stacked in one of the cages. I can remember four male Greater Birds-of-Paradise, their plumes stained red by the wood shavings on the floor of their cages, some Fire-tufted Barbets, Blue-winged Pittas, possibly one or two hornbills and, I think, a Binturong Arctictis binturong. (Raymond Sawyer remembers buying Binturong and Mouse Deer (or Lesser Malayan Chevrotain) Tragulus javanicus from Frost when he (Raymond) was in charge of the LCC (London County Council) Parks Department zoos at Crystal Palace and Battersea Park.) Raymond and Don Newson have both commented on the fact that when Frost was feeding and watering his birds, probably because off ailing eyesight, he put a finger into the water pots to check that there was enough water in them.

As an inexperienced 17 year old keeper, I was instructed that should he come to the Bird House when I was there alone, I should not let him help himself to mealworms, I should keep the fruit cupboard locked and should make sure that he did not creep along the passage and help himself to seed - such was his reputation. I was led to believe that if I turned my back on him for more than a few seconds, he would almost certainly empty the mealworm bin and clear out the fruit cupboard.

Sure enough, the first Sunday afternoon I was left on my own for an hour or so, the smell of a cheroot came drifting along the passage and a few moments later Frost appeared. He was wearing an old, brown trilby hat, horn-rimmed or tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, a white or creamy-white shirt, a tie and, I think, a waistcoat, with perhaps a watch or pocket watch, a green tweed jacket, grey flannel trousers badly stained with fruit juice or something more unpleasant, and brown shoes and was, of course, smoking a cheroot. He did not introduce himself or anything like that, he simply handed me a tin, I think it was an old cocoa tin, and said, "put some mealworms in this." Mindful of what I had been told, I carefully rationed out some mealworms and handed the tin back to him. He took one look in the tin and handed it back to me and said, "you will need to put in a lot more than that otherwise they will get in the corners and sweat."

Writing about the birds at Darenth-Hulme (her and Arthur Prestwich's home at Oakwood, North London), Bonner (1957) wrote that the most important recent arrivals were four "Black Bronze-winged or White-capped Ground Pigeons" brought from the Aru Islands by Frost. This species is known now as the New Guinea Bronzewing.

In mid-November 1957, Frost, aged 82, and with failing eyesight, left London for Borneo on yet another expedition. I am surprised that it did not strike me as in any way extraordinary at the time. It is only now that I am considerably older, that I realise how extraordinary it really was that at the age of 82, Frost was setting off back to the rainforests of Borneo. It was, or would have been, his "54th" such expedition, though it is difficult to work out how he, or perhaps Prestwich (A. A. P.), arrived at that figure. Either he began well before 1906, or, more likely, it included a number of mini-expeditions perhaps from Singapore or Java to other parts of the region; for example, I found a reference in the magazine to him taking a collection of crowned pigeons and other birds to the zoo in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but failed to note it down and have failed to find it again.

In January 1958, Frost continued to be listed as a Hon. Life Member of The Avicultural Society, but by the September-October issue of the magazine, when writing in News & Views, A. A. P. (1958) referred to the "late W. J. C. Frost." I cannot recall how news of his death first reached us in the Bird House at London Zoo, but remember that there was a brief report of his death in The Daily Telegraph, which was cut-out and saved, but not even that, so far as I can recall, stated when and where he died. Nobody ever mentioned whether or not his wife and son Michael returned to the UK after the war, or whether he ever went to Australia to visit them.

In News & Views the following year, A. A. P. (1959) referred to a lorikeet brought back by Frost on his last expedition. The lorikeet which went to Wassenaar had it seemed been bought by Frost at a small port on the west coast of what was then Portuguese Timor. It was quite new to him and it seems it remained unidentified until 1959, when E. N. T. Vane identified it as Trichoglossus haematodus flavotectus, confined to the islands of Wetar and Roma, just to the north of Timor. Apparently there was no reference to any previous importation of this subspecies, no illustrations, and no skins of it in the British Museum (Natural History) or the museum at Leiden in the Netherlands. A. A. P. wrote that it is somewhat similar to Weber's T. h. weberi, though larger in size. Forshaw and Cooper (1973) described it as similar to Edward's T. h. capistratus.

Of Frost's contemparies, Walter Goodfellow died in 1953, C. S. Webb died aged 66 on April l0th 1964 at his home in Nairobi, Kenya and Fred Shaw Mayer died on September lst 1989 in his native Australia, 25 days short of his 90th birthday. Charles Cordier died in September 1994 in Switzerland. He was aged 97 and had sent his final collection from Bolivia in 1983.

I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Cecil Webb. Don Newson said that if he had a fault, it was that he was too nice - he was a gentleman. Webb and Shaw Mayer were, he said, far more discerning than Frost and brought back only the choicest birds and, by all accounts, always landed them in perfect condition without a feather out of place. Cliff and Dawn Frith told me that Shaw Mayer's bird-of-paradise skins they have examined in museums are beautifully prepared and have a lot of important details (more than you usually find) recorded in his own handwriting on the labels.

Author's note

I have in most cases used current common and scientific names in place of the older names used in many ofthe older published accounts. I have also in most, though not in all instances, used the modern names of the countries in which Frost collected.


I have relied heavily on reports of Frost's collecting expeditions by D. S-S. (David Seth-Smith), A. A. P. (Arthur Prestwich), Mrs Wharton-Tigar and a number of other authors, some of whom I have failed to identify. Without these and Frost's two articles, the letter quoted by Miss Crosse and Frost's letter to the magazine, along with the more recent annotated list of collectors of birds-of-paradise in Appendix 2 of The Birds of Paradise by Frith and Beehler (1998), the above biography (albeit incomplete) would have been impossible to compile and there would have been virtually no record of Frost's long career. I am also grateful to Don Newson, Raymond Sawyer, Eddie Orbell, Joe McCorry and others for sharing with me their memories of Wilfred Frost; to Fred Barnicoat, Paul Boulden and Stewart Pyper for providing me with copies of articles, letters and reports of Frost's collections in back issues of the magazine that I do not have easy access to; to Michael Watkins for the information on the Small-toothed Fruit Bat; Rosemary Low and Frank Woolham for help identifying birds; and Russell Tofts for providing a reference I had failed to retain.


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