On a grey, snowy day, Deb and I paid a visit to the annual London Rock and Mineral show. Shows like these are heavily dominated by vendors who specialize in minerals, jewellery, healing crystals, etc., but there are tables with other stuff as well, including space rocks, microscopic crystallization displays, the local rock club, and the local university's earth sciences department. Vendors specializing solely in fossils were uncommon, and one could encounter a few fossils among the sale items by the mineral specialists as well.
In terms of fossils, a good bulk of them are the typical fare of polished Moroccan orthocerids, polished Madagascaran ammonites, eminently displayable Green River fish from Wyoming, and standard trilobites (common Moroccan phacopids and proetids, mostly, and the usual flush of Elrathia kingii from Utah). Some neat stuff like shrimp from Solnhofen, petrified wood, and the like as well.
The real highlight was in speaking with two vendors, both fairly aged, who are still collecting, and with one collecting locally. There are certain names of collectors, sites, and species we know as we talk shop. It is a small world! One vendor actually knew Charles Southworth personally, so that was a local bit of history.
I didn't buy much, as there wasn't much of interest I wanted to buy (or prices were marked up far higher than what I could acquire them for elsewhere). But, I did buy two things.
A sealed, new copy of what is a kind of trilo-bible for NY collecting (with some significant overlap with similar species in Ontario). I already had the digitized copy of this in my rather robust trilobite book and article library, but sometimes nothing quite beats having a physical book. The photo plates are very nice, and I suppose it may be better to drool on paper rather than on a screen.
And the other purchase: cephalon of an Eldredgeops iowensis southworthi. I don't usually purchase fragments and partials, but it just so happened after all the conversation about Arkona and Charlie Southworth that I figured I'd pick up the trilobite named in his honour. These ones are quite rare to find in the Hungry Hollow Member (a collecting comrade managed to find a full roller of one last October, the lucky duck!). The sheer size of this phacopid is impressive, even in fragmentary form. It differs from the standard Eldredgeops rana mainly in terms of the highly tuberculate sculpture. I do have a small pygidium of one collected some years ago, but this seemed too special to pass up. The vendor I bought this from extended an invite to visit his shop up the highway, and maybe an opportunity to collect with him.
And that's about it this time. With ongoing labour strife with Canada Post, I have a few items coming that will likely be delayed for some while. So far, I am still waiting on some Milliput for restoration work, and two Russian trilobites to prepare (one a new species of Illaenid for me, and the other an asaphid I already have two examples of, and will probably prep and flip).
Until next time...
Unless by dint of some miracle the snows melt away, I think I'll have to call the season. This year has had its highlights and its challenges, and so I would class it as mixed in terms of collecting success compared to 2017. There were some notable challenges this year:
* Late spring and early winter definitely truncated the season.
* An overly hot July and rainy August + scheduling conflicts meant less trips
* My backyard honey hole is pretty much tapped out
* A premium Ordovician collecting site was shuttered to collectors this year
Trilobite collecting diversity was a bit low. Whereas last year I had managed to collect 14 new species, this year's total was only 4. The surge in species acquisitions was mostly supplied through purchases and trades.
Of the trips made this year, a roundup:
* 10 trips to the backyard honey hole with one exceptional find
* A combined 6 days at Penn Dixie (late April, early October)
* My first trip to Deep Springs Road (late April)
* 2 trips to Bowmanville (May and October)
* A combined 15 or so days in the Arkona area
Due to a lack of more local viable sites this year, it meant many of us had to fall back on focusing our efforts on the Widder beds near Arkona, and we managed to excavate extensively this year. The finds were quite good (numerous full Greenops widderensis, placoderm plates, pyritized cephalopods), but somewhat repetitive.
Serious collectors up here in Canada are a little like squirrels. We try to collect as much material as possible for preparation over the winter. Pictured below is 4 of about 5 or so beer flats of material for preparation.
There is more than what is pictured here, but it isn't preparation riches.
Two new areas of focus certainly mark the year. The first has been in the gradual improvement to both my preparation tools/area and skills.
2018 saw the inclusion of that handy trolley, the manifold block for the air tools, a blast chamber my fossil comrade Malcolm made for me, a shop vac, and a new sturdy stool (previously, it was a too-low kitchen chair where the seat was propped up by boxes of rocks with a cushion atop it -- hardly comfortable or convenient). Other stuff include the usual tools of the trade (not all pictured): scrapers, blast media, glues, blades, brushes of all sizes, portable cases, etc. I also now have a nice display cabinet for the trilobites in the living room.
The second area of focus has been extensive reading and research. As I make the transition from "weekend warrior" style fossil hobbyist to something more substantive, I have been consuming a large volume of academic literature on trilobites -- everything from studies on Isoteline hypostome function, biostratigraphy, ecdysis patterns, pathologies and predation, provincial faunalism, eye-blindness trends in evolutionary morphology, microsculpture variation, etc. I also managed to read through the entirety of the trilo-bible, "Treatise O" (the revised Kaesler volume of 1997, sadly not yet including the much-needed two other volumes to round out the rest of the taxonomic Orders). Courtesy of a trilobite worker's kind textual gifts and raiding my own university library, I am effectively training myself to be a subject matter expert on all things trilobite.
IN FOcus: Arkona
Before and after: excavation area #1 (January - October). End of season image does not do much justice to the work done as a lot of debris is already burying the work.
I have been tardy in photographing all the more recent finds from Arkona since my last post about it back in July or August, but there were a few more trips made where I made mostly similar finds as in previous trips this year. Excavation work was extensive this season (and, as I'm the human backhoe, my bar for what I consider extensive is fairly high!). Last season's work became entirely buried by several metres of overburden and debris after the usual processes of winter and the fall of the erosion-resistant widow-makers higher up in the Widder.
Effectively, we had to start from scratch. Pictured above was our first major multi-day foray to get a bite into the cliff from which we could clear out debris and extend benches. It took some doing to locate the productive trilobite layer given that the overburden was obscuring the visible facies, meaning we were flying a bit blind. At the point pictured above, we're still a bit high in the formation by about 1-1.5 metres. Not a bad guess, though, and we were able to work it down and across throughout the season, managing the usual issues of cross-bedding and complicated interlocking of the Widder.
The difference a month makes. In May, Malcolm unlocking new areas. In June from the same vantage point, during Roger's annual visit to Canada, the aftermath of much more removal. We finally hit pay dirt as some remarkable finds were being made at this point after about 7 combined days of clearing and slab hauling.
By the end of spring and into early summer, excavation site #1 is well over 2 metres high, 1-1.5 metres deep, and 10+ metres wide.
Many of us contributed time and muscle to dig this out, with most (solo) visits done by me given that I live the closest to the area and have more ready access. About 12 of us hammered away at this, with a dedicated core of about half of us making repeat visits. By summer, our first excavation was pretty much tapped out unless we wanted to repeat the long clearing process to dig in deeper, which would have meant having to work from the top. We then struck a new claim nearby to the east of the same exposure.
Excavation area #2 was a bit thinner on trilobite pulses. You can see the first area to the far left of Greg.
The slope below the excavation is littered with splits from previous visits. I was able to unlock everything to the right of Greg.
The extent of excavation area #2 just won't fit in a single photo. On this final day, I was able to clear out over 15+ metres to the east. Below the excavation, you can see the massive blocks of the encrinal Hungry Hollow Member. The Widder begins just atop of that and extends to the root of the trees above. The Widder is a strange (and sometimes frustrating) formation where certain faunal intervals repeat, including very dense brachiopod limestone, mushy shale, fossil-poor nodular calcareous shales, and stuff that just weathers to chips and nothingness with poor preservation due to underground water runoff.
In all, it was a substantive amount of focused work to get the site productive again, although I fully expect it to be completely buried by next spring, when the process will have to be started from scratch yet again.
A mostly pyritized and enrolled Greenops widderensis found on my very last trip to Arkona. I have a few rollers to prepare this winter, and such configuration does not lend itself to just basic preparation skills.
FINDS OF THE YEAR
As stated, collecting opportunities were not as plentiful this year due to site closures, weather, and scheduling conflicts. And, of course, the occasional injuries I would sustain from various physical activities. This year, rather than post my best according to taxonomy, some highlights of what made the year special. I am only including here the stuff that was collected, not purchased or acquired as gifts and trades.
Perhaps among my most scientifically significant finds would be this fragmentary cephalic fringe from Odontocephalus sp. found in the imported low-mid Devonian fill (Amherstberg - Bois Blanc - Dundee formations) of my backyard spot. Only a handful of fragments have been reported in the literature in terms of Ontario of a species that is more common in New York deposits. The last significant find of said fragments may be Stauffer's in 1915.
Not just one, but two examples of a new species for me from Bowmanville: Levicerarurus mammilloides. Specimen on the left was prepared by Kevin B., and I have the on the right in my preparation queue (the right eye is in the impression). This is an uncommon cheirurid initially identified by Bill Hessin in 1988, and is restricted to Bowmanville (Hiller Member of the Cobourg Formation). The first one was find in the May trip, and the second in the October trip.
Just a few samples of some placoderm pieces, some of which may be new to science (I still need to deposit them to the ROM along with previous years' finds). The middle one is certainly not new, but a typical placoderm armour plate from Protitanichthys.
This was more a bucket-list item for me. It took three trips to Bowmanville, but I finally found a full Isotelus mafritzae. This one is morph type 'A' due to the presence of the genal spine. I'm still in the process of preparing it, and will be restoring some missing shell. It is only slightly above average size for the species at almost perfectly 100 mm (sag.). I've not seen any specimens that also present such distinct muscle attachment scars on the axis.
Initially just a Greenops widderensis threesome, my friend Kevin's prep skills on my early summer Arkona find produced the surprise of a fourth one. All are enrolled in this gregarious assemblage. As these are body fossils rather than moults, it is likely they enrolled in response to a sudden catastrophic mudslide that effectively buried and smothered them.
Of the four new trilobite species found this year, this would be a short list:
* Odontocephalus sp. (?selenurus) - My thanks to both Scott M. and Dave Rudkin for confirming the ID.
* Leviceraurus mammilloides
* Thaleops sp.
* Flexicalymene croneisi
I was fortunate this year to make new field friends courtesy of their visits to my collecting localities, or to theirs. I was able to meet several new people from The Fossil Forum in person, and many others who are not on the Forum. I made new friends, and cultivated existing ones. In a niche passion such as ours, camaraderie is quickly established (and it helps that we can talk shop without our interlocutors becoming glaze-eyed!).
In the year since I took on a more serious approach to fossil preparation with specialized equipment, I've seen marked improvement in my skills, and I've had an embarrassment of riches in terms of getting guidance from veteran preparators. Some highlights of this year from my "lab":
Although the season has now dictated that I must down collecting tools, it means picking up the preparation tools while dreaming of what new and exciting opportunities for collecting may be in the offing for 2019.
I am reminded of one of Charles Southworth's statements about February, when we stop reminiscing about the collecting season that we've just had and start thinking about the season to come.
Looking ahead to 2019, there are already some new potential opportunities in central New York, in Ontario, and possibly even some digging when I visit Germany next summer. I am also hopeful that some of the sites that have been removed from our list this year will be available next year.
This blog will also not be taking a hiatus just because snow blankets the sites; I will be updating periodically as I acquire new specimens via purchase, and tackle my preparation piles. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.
After about 15 or so hours, this bug is coming along... but not without hiccups along the way. The first challenge was that the bug dips into the matrix on an angle, and this is not exactly butter matrix; my ARO clone was having a hard time planing down with a lot of stalls. Blasting it with the Paasche at 60-90 PSI was not an option either as it was not working to get off more than maybe less than a micron at a time!
Although a robust bug, bits would come off that needed to be retrieved and glued down. The second eye also popped off and needed gluing.
Still more work to do, but the scribing is pretty much done. Judging by the presence of a genal spine on the right, this is Isotelus "mafritzae" morph type "A" (not "B" like I initially thought). The cephalon looks like it should continue on the right, but it is folded in and crushed.
I'll be updating this post in the coming weeks.
1. The right eye has some serious issues that I need to tidy up.
2. Cyanoacrylate that was used to stabilize the right side pleura still needs to be removed.
3. Several areas that need restoration; I'm just waiting for my Milliput to come in the mail.
Below, I've greyscaled the image to indicate where some of that future work is required.
Amidst teaching and grading, I am spending some time at the prep bench. Deb got me an early xmas present: a much-needed shop vac as the fine dolomite dust covering everything in the basement is a sign that it is also coating our lungs! I'll be hooking up that bad boy this week.
After the recent Bowmanville trip (post here), prep has begun on a few pieces while leaving much of it for winter. I've also been voraciously reading several trilobite papers as of late during my long bus commute. But this post is more of an odds and ends one.
Kicking it off would be ongoing work on my Isotelus (likely I. "mafritzae" morph type "B"):
The going is slow when the rock is dense, and the bug is flaky. During a quick exploratory abrasion, I had that heart-stopping moment of a piece flying off and miraculously located it in the dusty, bit-strewn blast box (that I can now clean out with the new shop vac!). It was some cuticle from the occipital ring that I glued back on. The eye is intact, and I suspect the other one will be as well. This one is tucked into the plane on an angle, so that means a lot of long scribe work to bring it down. Nothing can be easy! In this case, it will be worth it, as it is only missing a few tiny pieces from natural weathering, and already seems to measure 90 mm.
A few weeks ago, my fossil comrade from Texas, Kris, sent me hot peppers he grew and dried. We are both hot-heads and love our super hot peppers. This nice selection includes the famous Trinidad moruga scorpion that taps out at over 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (that is about 3-10 times hotter than a habanero). I am keeping a few in the freezer to seed and plant next year, and the rest were turned into hot sauce. The process is fairly simple: sterilize the jar in boiling water, reconstitute the dried peppers in boiling hot water for 15 minutes or so, cut off the stems, add vinegar and salt, puree in a small blender. But this is a fossil blog, not "Kane's Kitchen"!
Kris perked the package with some fossils! Here are some ammonites and a reptile vertebrae from the upper Cretaceous.
Some really neat fish and shark verts, as well as a shark coprolite -- also all from the upper Cretaceous.
A very cool pyrite piece showing the cubic crystallization state, and exceptionally well preserved and detailed leaves from the Eocene.
Those leaves truly deserve their own photo. In the interim, I've been putting a very Canadian package together to send his way.
I really hope to get out to collect one more time this year, likely to Arkona. That will depend on weather, opportunity, and the healing progress of an ankle I sprained pretty badly. If not, then I suspect the next few posts will be detailing preparation progress and a round-up on a year that has been hit and miss.
Had a pretty good time at the biannual collecting event in Bowmanville (east of Toronto). Although the first half was a complete and frustrating bust, the second half was when our luck turned. I've some prep work to do, but some field fresh finds should do for now.
Here's our crew. It seems that ever more people are coming out to this event. The quarry is so vast (six levels), that even with this many collectors poring over the blast piles there is plenty of space and opportunity to make some lovely finds. It's also nice to talk shop with other fossil-hounds. The main attraction are trilobites, and particularly large Isotelus.
Finding a complete Isotelus pretty much necessitates scanning and splitting through a lot of rock that are filled with moulted partials, some of which can be quite large. Pictured above is a few of the larger partials I took home, and one can imagine how big they might have been complete. And this is nowhere near as big as these can get.
Midway through the day, our luck started to turn. Pictured here is a Leviceraurus mammiloides of some significant size. Although the left genal spine is missing, the right eye is in the impression side, and I can prep out the pygidium to expose the long spines.
A not so great Ceraurus. As an added thrill, they can also be quite flaky. I can use this one for prep practice. The cephalon and thorax should be relatively complete.
Poorly lit photo, but I'll retake it once I give this one a quick blast with the air eraser. A fully intact, perfectly round and enrolled Flexicalymene croneisi -- a new species in my collection. You just have to love the duck-faced look of these.
Possibly a Thaleops on the left, and a Flexi on the right. Both obviously require some prep.
What I really came for: Isotelus! This being my third trip to Bowmanville, I had never found a complete one. This one has its head tucked into the matrix, so there is a chance the eyes are intact. In most cases (when the bug is exposed), the eyes are sheared off from blast damage or weathering. On the right was a small consolation specimen I picked up in case I didn't find a full one.
But wait, there's more! Well, not so much more in terms of trilobites (I have a few others I haven't added here yet). This big nautiloid chunk was worth taking home.
It's always good to break rock with good folks. It is always a great pleasure to meet up with Kevin B. with whom I've had collecting adventures. A professional preparator by trade and trilobitologist, I had entrusted him with a very delicate and challenging preparation job of three notoriously thin-skinned, enrolled Greenops widderensis from Arkona. The genal spines and lappets were flying. In the process of prep, Kevin found a fourth one on the plate. This is incredible and painstaking work. Here are a few other closeup images:
So, in all, a great time in the Lindsay Formation. And now the prep season begins...
While I had the compressor running, I figured I'd do a quick blast on what will probably be a very challenging prep this winter, as well as preparing some "low-hanging fruit" in the form of a prone.
First, the investigative quick air abrasion blast on this Greenops widderensis roller with flying genal spines. This one will certainly be a major challenge to do without screwing up. I'll probably end up cutting the rock a bit above the spines and delicately work my way down to reveal the other side.
This was the low-hanging fruit: a small Eldredgeops rana prone from my Penn Dixie weekend. The matrix is very thin on one side, so there was the risk of the trilobite flaking.
For this post, I will be showing the progress on preparing the largest Eldredgeops rana that I have ever found at Penn Dixie. This post will be updated once the preparation process is complete.
Taxonomy: Eldredgeops rana (Green 1832)
Geology: Mid-Devonian (Givetian). Hamilton Gp., Moscow Fm., Windom Mbr.
Provenance: Field collection (K. Faucher), October 13, 2018. Hamburg, NY, USA
Specimen is a large individual for the species and location, likely latter holaspid stage as opposed to simply being of an anomalous size at an earlier phase of development. Evidence of pronounced and widespread pustular sculpture may attest to this. Specimen is oriented in a semi-prone attitude with high convexity to mid-posterior thorax, with posterior thoracic area pointing downward. Specimen is also oriented transversely with a shift or dip leftward into the matrix. Compaction damage to the glabella evident, in addition to apparent crack in palpebral lobe (left side). Specimen measures (from anterior tip of glabella to final posterior thoracic segment) 60 mm along the dorso-saggital axis, and 42 mm on the transverse axis.
Windom Member shales present the conditions of rapid mud burial. Such catastrophic events result in more ideal conditions for preservation of well-articulated specimens, both body and moult fragments. Enrolment is a common feature as a defensive behavioural response to the sudden stimuli of these mudslides. Field observations (anecdotal) put the ratio of full prone, semi-prone, and enrolled specimens of E. rana in these layers as roughly 1::5::10.
Frequent ecdysis of the species furnishes several moults of isolated cephala, pygidia, and intact thoracic exuviae. These are commonly aggregated due to currents, or moulting grounds in gregarious groupings. Fused cephala (no cephalic sutures) meant that this species would commonly exuviate at the weakest point in the exoskeleton, between the cephalon and the thorax.
Taphofacies of this section of the Windom Member ("Smoke's Creek Layer") indicate a relative degree of bioturbation of muddy sediments, the presence of worms, and significant pyritization. Groupings of trilobite remains are generally sorted according to similar size, but this is not always the case.
It is so far assumed that the specimen appears as it did in its life position. No presence of predation marks, parasitism, or disarticulation due to hydrodynamics or decay. Being of a significant size, it also presents some distortion on its left side likely due to compaction.
Preparation of the specimen was undertaken using an ARO-based air scribe to remove bulk matrix, while a Paasche air abrader set at various pressures and using dolomite as the blast medium was used for detail work.
Specimen as found in the field.
After 1.5 hours
After 2.5 hours
After 4 hours.
Another few hours will be required to complete the preparation, including matrix sculpting and scribe mark removal. A smaller enrolled specimen was discovered during the preparation process, which will also require preparation.
2.5 hours later.
And pretty much as far as I want to take this one. Not perfect, but pretty close as I continue learning the art of preparation.
posting this on the final day of a three day dig at Penn Dixie in Hamburg, NY. Earlier in the week I dug with Fossil Forum friends in the Thedford area, and have been amassing finds over several trips. No pics of those hunts yet, but that will happen once the season is over.
We moved a lot of rock this weekend, and found a lot of trilobites. Pics of those when I get the chance. For now, site pics to show our work.
This shows the state of the dig area cleared out after Friday when I joined the other crazy Canadians. As soon as I got there, the human backhoe that I am went right into ripping out large slabs. The fresh stuff is where the best preserved fossils can be found, as opposed to the stuff that has been left to weather out. We do serious earth moving! The trilobites appear mostly at the Smoke’s Creek layer of the Windom Member, or the bottom 15 cm from the contact with the Bayview, just below the water table.
By the end of Saturday, it was mostly just me and Deb, with Jay popping by. Thanks to him for supplying me with wedges. I carved out the slabs while Deb broke them down. Pictured above is the view from one end of the excavation. I managed to double the area (to the shovel handle in the background). The photo hardly does the size of this much justice.
There are a lot of fossils to photograph (about two 5 gallon buckets so far), giving me a lot of winter prep material. This one above is among the largest Eldredgeops rana trilobites that can be found here. This is going to prep out beautifully. A semi-prone position with pygidium tucked underneath. Rollers are common, but prones are not as frequent. I also found a Bellacartwrightia (looks like a Greenops on steroids) in ventral position. Lots of rollers and prones were found.
Some snaps of me caught by our shutterbugs on the Friday. Top two photos by Monica P., and bottom two by Ken M.
And this is how we left the place on the Sunday. Some serious excavation as about 250 cubic metres of rock were extracted and split.
Several buckets of goodies were collected, and these are a few of the better pieces. These are being kept as-is until winter prep time.
Full prone Eldredgeops rana in an assemblage with partials/moults of similar sized specimens.
Ventral side Bellacartwrightia sp. with doublure and intact left genal spine in evidence. Although a ventral prep is possible, I may stabilize this and prep it dorsally. It is uncertain if this is complete beneath the matrix, or just the cephalon.
Pygidium showing of a Greenops sp. Unclear yet if it continues into the rock, but the presence of thoracic pleurae is a positive sign. Sadly, some of the lappets are missing. These asteropyginae trilobites are far more delicate with thinner cuticle than the Eldredgeops rana, and so are more prone to disarticulation due to hydrodynamic forces
Two prones. The one one the left will be an easy prep. The one on the right was Deb's first in the field repair. She had accidentally flicked off the piece (shown with the whitish residue of cyanoacrylate) and I miraculously pulled it out as the first shard from the muddy, opaque water where it fell! It has not been reattached incorrectly; it has become disarticulated at the fourth pleural segment, possibly on account of compaction (which has also flattened it).
Two semi-prones. The one on the left is missing a bit of the glabella.
Assortment of rollers and semi-prones. Unless the rollers appear as more than one in the matrix, I tend to free them from their shale confines.
Although the split sheared the cuticle, I kept this complete roller on account of the large calcite grains in evidence.
Another full, albeit small, prone to prep. On the right is what remains of the throrax of the rare Bellacartwrightia sp.
In all, not a bad few days, but far from my best haul from this location. Gregarious trilobite assemblages were not much in the offing as we chased through the slabs for pulses in the Smoke's Creek layer of the Windom, coming up with a lot of very dense, blank or mostly coral-littered shale with no apparent bedding planes. Without the latter, it becomes mostly guess-work and luck with the hammer to bash the slabs open at the right spot.
My next post will follow the process of preparing my largest bug from this dig, and then it's off to Bowmanville for the biannual Ordovician quarry visit in search of Isotelus and Ceraurus.
If much of August wasn't too scorching, it was raining, either of those conditions pretty much kiboshing plans to get out and dig. And now, with a heavy teaching load this semester, I walk into prime fossil collecting season with more demands on my time.
But I still managed to get out twice in the past month and some. Nothing too dramatic in terms of finds, and no exotic/new locations - just my Thedford area spot. I may as well roll the finds from both trips into one. Both trips were six hours in duration, and a lot of rock was moved.
Some Greenops partials that may be good for restoration parts.
A few shiny Tornoceras.
Nearly full, but missing the right eye and disarticulated.
A heartbreaker multi piece, impressions only. I managed to only find the positive side of the lower one.
The positive side, with the rest of the cephalon on the negative side.
Semi-prone on its side.
Complete, but tiny (about 1 cm). This one will be a challenge to prep as these tinier ones have much thinner skin.
There are a number of other partial Greenops I won't post here. Nothing pristine has been coming out of my spot for a few months now, but there is promise to extend my benches and access fresh blocks if I'm willing to throw a good shoulder into a lot of overburden digging in sticky clay.
I did, however, treat myself to two affordable Corynexochiids:
This first one is Ectillaenus benignensis, mid-Ordovician, from Morocco. A robust and fairly well preserved specimen.
And this one is Ectillaenus giganteus from the mid-Ordovician Valongo Fm, Portugal. It makes a big difference whether they are in limestone or shale, with the latter pressing specimens flat.
So my two forays into the Widder did not yield up any pristine bugs, but that is the nature of the Widder shale: for every 100 pygidia and cephalons, there may be one 2/3 complete; for every 100 2/3 complete you might find one complete. None of the trilobites I've found in these two trips are good enough for my cabinet, but they may do for some prep to function as parts for restoration, trade, or for sale on eBay.
I hope to get out there again as the autumn collecting season kicks into high gear, but I'm also due for the biannual quarry visit to Bowmanville on October 21 for the usual seven hour clambering over piles and splitting of dense limestone layers in search of large, complete Isotelus. This past May trip was not an entire bust, but all the Isotelus I found were partials. Finding a near complete Leviceraurus mammiloides (just missing the long tail spines) was the highlight, as that is among the rarer bugs one can find there. This time, I'm going to wander less and split more, I think. I haven't been out to Penn Dixie since late April, and unsure if I'll fold that into my hectic schedule this fall... The US border has become a bit more problematic these days, and it is a bit of a hassle to find the same old Eldredgeops rana. So unless there is a side trip to another location with different fauna, I'm unsure if we'll be making the trip.
Last October was fantastic as I got to make three site visits on three consecutive days: Arkona, Brechin, and Bowmanville. It would be great if something similar could happen again!
I just came off a fairly disappointing dig in the field where the group of us pretty much got skunked. It would appear our grand bench we created and extended so well this season has been tapped out. It was tough work, and several visits, but I think we extracted some real gems there this year, so I'm not too sad. But between that, my own nearby honey hole tapped out as well, and a quarry that is now shuttered to collectors, the trend moves steadily toward collecting sites going the way of the extinct arthropods I collect. That doesn't leave many local options, and so more trips to the US become an inconvenient necessity.
But apart from the doom and gloom of all that, a few items of note on the home front.
I haven't really taken pencil to paper in about 20 years, so sketching feels as natural to my hand as trying to sew a button with my toes. This was a 15 minute sketch of Asaphus punctatus using a 9B pencil. I can see where I goofed, but to be fair I am out of practice. Perhaps this is something I should take up again? I gave it up long ago with the advent of art-making software that seems to have rendered obsolete the old hand/pencil/paper triad.
What is this strange box sitting on top of my prep bench? That is a much-needed blast box so that I'm not filling the air (and our lungs!) with dolomite powder when using my air abrader. I needed a blast chamber with a flat top, not on an angle, but stores like Canadian Tire and Princess Auto only sold the latter type. I got in touch with my collecting comrade Malcolm who custom made this box using his ingenuity and an affordable array of parts. Using a double-sided press-board, getting the cuts just right, using weather-stripper and latches on the side to secure the top, adding picture glass (you never use plastic as it will scratch and fog), and sealing in an attachment for a shop vac to create negative pressure, this box is ready for some serious work. I'm going to need a sectional on the right for some of my other tools etc., but I've already connected my air tools that are now sitting ready in the box.
About 7 bucks in parts here. This is definitely something that makes preparation that much more convenient. I purchased a manifold blue block and two double-ended male 1/4" attachments so that I can run both my scribe and eraser from the same line without having to swap them out all the time. Now the only thing I have to do is remember to adjust the pressure when switching between the two (I run the scribe at around 100-110 PSI, and the air eraser at 10-50 PSI).
I'm almost there! The last big thing I need is a much bigger capacity air compressor. Other things like a Chicago Pneumatic 9361 for bulk matrix removal would be nice, but I can probably get by without one for the time being. I still need to do a serious reorganization of the prep area to optimize on the small space.
So with site locations drying up, not quite sure when my next dig will be. Still, there will likely be fossil-related activities in the offing, so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.
I'll end with a nod to Don McLean:
Bye bye, Devonian pie,
Drove my chisel in the Widder, but the Widder was dry.
Us good ol' boys who hunt Arkona now cry
saying 'this'll be the shale that won't supply.'