A secretive and generally elusive species, spotted crakes are amongst many birders’ favourites. Spotted crakes tend to skulk in thick cover and walk with their body close to the ground and tail flicking. They swim with a jerky action like that of the moorhen. If surprised in the open, they run for cover or jump up and flutter away with legs dangling. They live in freshwater wetlands with shallow water and dense vegetation. It is rare in the UK and is difficult to see, as it spends most of its time in thick cover.
Robert Duncan (1837-1909) of Pilgrim Street, Newcastle specialised in immaculate taxidermy, using a primitive method dating from 18th century practitioners in France. Despite this, his birds are beautifully precise, presented in a plain scientific museum box display, lacking in vegetation (akin to J.Cullingford’s) with no decoration to distract from the specimens. Unusually, he sometimes signed and dated his cases, like an artist, rather than attach a trade label, and dated cases have been seen from the early 1860s through to the Edwardian period. Few taxidermists had time to shoot their own specimens, but Duncan was know to have both collected and mounted his specimens. John Hancock refers to him in a letter in 1880 as: ‘A good taxidemist, and his father was a good bird stuffer too’.
Spotless taxidermy from a spotted crake.