Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia is as remote as it is comparatively unpopulated, and if you want to get away from it all, this is the place to go. Halifax is the capital, and from here a long drive north will get you to Cape Breton Island, where the spectacular coastlines and abundant wildlife, including Black Bears and moose, abound.

For ornithologists, the bird life is impressive, and the sight of two Bald Eagles flying overhead of which one swooped down next to the boat to take fish is one to remember.  On the more remote and undisturbed sandy beaches, you may be lucky enough to see the threatened Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus, a species in decline due to loss of habitat.

Nova Scotia is famous for its fossil localities, and Joggins fossil cliffs with associated museums are an absolute must.

Canada is expensive, including the cost of fuel, and as driving anywhere is an absolute necessity, getting around is by far the costliest part of the trip. Nonetheless, the country is beautiful, the people friendly, and the seafood out of this world.

Excavation of Mare aux Songes, Mauritius

December 2017

excavation-of-mare-aux-songes-mauritius_0The Mare aux Songes (MAS) fossil site was discovered in 1865, and has been excavated on a number of occasions. Almost all of the world’s dodo fossil specimens were discovered at this one site. The MAS has been excavated from 2005 to 2010, and spectacular discoveries have been made (see my publications list).

Books by Julian Hume

Lost Land of the Dodo Anthony Cheke and Julian Hume

Lost Land of the DodoUninhabited by humans, the Mascarene Islands of the Indian Ocean were once home to an extraordinary range of birds and reptiles: giant tortoises, parrots, skinks, geckos, burrowing boas, flightless rails and herons, and, most famously, dodos. But the discovery of the three isolated islands in the 1500s, and their colonisation in the 1600s, led to dramatic ecological changes. The dodo became extinct on its home island of Mauritius within several decades, and over the next 150 years most native vertebrates suffered the same fate. This fascinating book provides the first full ecological history of the Mascarene Islands as well as the specific story of each extinct vertebrate, accompanied by Julian Hume’s superb colour illustrations.

Lost Land of the Dodo original artEach copy will be signed by the author, Julian Hume, and also contain an original stippled ink dodo drawing by the author on the title page, so each copy is unique.

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Extinct Birds Julian P Hume and Michael Walters

Extinct BirdsThis is the first comprehensive review of the hundreds of bird species and subspecies that have become extinct over the last 1,000 years of habitat degradation, over-hunting and rat introduction. Covering both familiar icons of extinction as well as more obscure birds, some known from just one specimen or from traveller’s tales, the book also looks at hundreds of species from the subfossil record – birds that disappeared without ever being recorded. Julian Hume and Michael Walters recreate these lost birds in stunning detail, bringing together an up to date review of the literature for every species. From Great Auks, Carolina Parakeets and Dodos to the amazing yet completely vanished bird radiations of Hawaii and New Zealand, via rafts of extinctions in the Pacific and elsewhere, this book is both a sumptuous reference and an amazing testament to humanity’s impact on birds. A direct replacement for Greenway’s seminal 1958 title Extinct and Vanishing Birds, this book will be the standard reference on the subject for generations to come.

Each copy will be signed by the author, Julian Hume, and also contain an original stippled ink extinct bird drawing by the author on the title page, so each copy is unique.

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The Dodo

Dodo Heads drawingMany spectacular island terrestrial vertebrates have disappeared over the past few centuries – a minutia in terms of geological time – yet the pitiful epitaphs of these vanished species comprise frequently just a few bones and a handful of inadequate historical accounts. Prior to the discovery of sufficient skeletal material, Strickland & Melville in 1848 presented a most fitting summary in their now classic monograph on the dodo Raphus cucullatus, highlighting the complications that study of a species so recently lost to the world could entail.

In the case of the didinae, it is unfortunately no easy matter to collect satisfactory information as to their structure, habits, and affinities. We possess only the rude descriptions of unscientific voyagers, three or four oil paintings, and a few scattered osseous fragments, which have survived the neglect of two hundred years. The paleontologist has, in many cases, far better data for determining the zoological characters of a species which perished myriads of years ago, than those presented by a group of birds, which were living in the reign of Charles the First.

DodoFollowing the discovery of Mauritius by the Dutch in 1598, tales of the idyllic paradise soon spread around the maritime powers of Europe. Year-round fresh water, lagoons teeming with fish and dugong, an array of tame birds together with immense quantities of valuable ebony made the island an important staging post between west and east. Sadly, this paradise was altered beyond recognition and within a hundred years, many of the endemic species including the dodo became extinct. Virtually nothing was recorded about the dodo’s life history. After the discovery of the first skeletal material in the Mare aux Songes in 1865, the dodo received its first full anatomical description by Richard Owen, founder of the Natural History Museum, London. Subsequent dodo research resulted in a number of publications; however, most were founded on speculation, an unfortunate practice that continues to the present day. The main basis for the assumptions lay in contrasting discrepancies in the early accounts, including contemporary and non-contemporary illustrations, and too much emphasis has been placed on these inaccuracies. Strickland and Melville were not misled by the available literature and their dodo monograph is testament to a cautious approach.


October 2001

Mountain view from SilhouetteLa DigueThe Seychelles comprise five main volcanic islands situated north of Madagascar in the south-west Indian Ocean. The largest island and central in the group is Mahé with tiny Aride Island to the north, the most easterly are Praslin and La Digue, with Silhouette and North Island to the west. If it is true paradise you are looking for then these are the islands to visit.

Fossil discovery on SilhouetteLa Digue is where many exotic adverts and films are made and the beauty of this island is exceptional. I surveyed all islands for fossils (honest) and found the first bird remains in a marsh on North Island and giant tortoise remains in a cave on Silhouette; the first for the archipelago. The choice places to visit are the haunting Coco der Mer palm forest, Silhouette Island for mountain views, Aride for the seabirds, Seychelles Magpie Robins Copsychus sechellarum pecking around your feet, and Seychelles skinks Mabuya sp. scurrying all over your legs. La Digue of course, for the whitest sand, most turquoise sea and the most graceful coconut palms overhanging the shore. Add giant brown granite boulders and the picture is complete.

More photos from this expedition.

The first fossil discoverySilhouette from North Island