Oliver Bernard Ellis – Part 2 (Natural History)

This post continues from Part 1 and is a series for Explore Your Archives week.

Next I moved on to his photography and natural history interests. I found a collection of photographs by Oliver Bernard Ellis, which along with the natural history annual reports in the magazine, show the range of work he was doing.

OBEllis NatHist Album - LR Copy

The photograph above is from the collection of photographs (which is titled “O.B. Ellis Natural Science (Illustrations) Upper Senior 1914-15″) and is labelled “No. II Whinchat. Photographed half way to Skipwith in June 1914. It had a nest close by.”

Oliver was mentioned several times in the January 1915 Annual Report of Bootham School Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society. He won the Old Scholars’ Exhibition “with his interesting observations on the protective colouring of eggs and young.” He gave a talk on the subject, with lantern slides, at the Christmas Show. Later on the report mentioned that he showed “a number of bones collected from owl pellets, with the object of ascertaining the nature of the food of the owls of a particular district and of discovering whether they were responsible for an unusually high death rate, which had been observed among the young birds of the district.”

The Ellis family produced volumes of copies of letters and diaries by Oliver Bernard Ellis, and we have a copy of the two volumes in the archive. There is an enormous amount of material contained in the letters, more than I have yet had time to study properly. I did however notice a reference to bird photography in the diary entry of June 20th 1914. He got up when it was just light and cycled to Skipwith (just over 10 miles) to photograph a young cuckoo. He got back to school by 5.30am, and had an hour of sleep before getting up time.

The series continues tomorrow with the station buildings.

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