I haven't been able to get out much in July, partly because of the heat and partly due to a lack of opportunity, but two non-consecutive days at my spot yielded some modest treasures. This is going to be a long post...
It has taken a lot of work over the cumulative time of about 10 days and having up to about 6 or so people at various times to create a bench in our hidey-hole from virtually nothing but buried slump. It took several outings just to drop the bench to the appropriate layer by about 1.5 metres, and cut out about ~75 tons of rock. We are serious diggers!
A closeup of one small section of the bench. By Monday's solo trip, I was able to remove a lot of what is visible here. At the layer in the Widder I am working, there is a slightly productive grey layer of about 10 cm above the beige stuff, which then grades into the hard, orange-stained brach layer that is mostly... brachs and trilo-bits. Below that is another interval of about 10-20 cm of productive layer that eventually grades toward a more nautiloid/ammonoid softer layer as you proceed down, until you hit a kind of mushy/clayey layer with thin "fingernail" brach hash with poor preservation.
On the Friday visit, Deb was able to draw first blood in finding a partial Greenops. I followed suit shortly thereafter. These are useful for parts to be used in restoration.
This was by far the prize trilobite of Friday's trip. A full prone Greenops widderensis partially buried in matrix and beneath a brach. When they are covered like this, there is a better chance that they will come out okay as opposed to when they are more exposed and tend to flake off. As is the Widder shale's way, it did crack as it dried despite trying to control for that in the field. Some superglue wicking of the cracks saved the day. This one is a fairly large example of the species that usually come out around 2.5 or so centimetres; this one is 3.5+ cm. I've done some preliminary prep since (pictured to the right), but I'm gifting this to a collecting comrade as an added bonus for his building me a blast box.
Complete, but folded over with the genal spines "flying." Preparing these is very challenging, and I don't yet have a black belt in trilobite preparation yet!
The Widder shale is fickle. You can charge through reams of blanks and bits, or try chopping through blocks that shatter rather than slice neatly through bedding planes, or - as in the cases above - encounter trilobites with problems. The first one was just on the weathered edge of the block. The second one is likely complete, but spreads itself between the positive and impression side, so will need to be glued together and prepped from the top down. The third is missing some of its lappets and was in a big bloc with no neat cleavage for good extraction.
Distorted and contorted, partially disarticulated and missing a few bits from its head shield, this one will be for spare parts.
Friday saw a lot of nautiloids. Pictured on the left is what one looked like in situ (chisel tip on its right). The second image is a closeup of its cross-section. The rainbow-hued pyritization is quite lovely, but also the fact that it is almost perfectly inflated as opposed to how they usually come out in various degrees of being crushed or flattened.
Ammonoids like Tornoceras were also quite abundant. Sadly, the one on the left did not turn out to be complete.
A quick blast reveals its detail a bit. It has been dinged a little, but effectively complete.
And more ammonoids. The tiny one free of matrix looks quite promising and should clean up nicely. The one on the right is a fairly large, but flattened, living chamber.
A long piece of carbonized Devonian plant matter. Smaller fragments are much more common, so this was an interesting find. This is not all of it, either, and I've collected more of the pieces so that I can attempt a reconstruction.
Closeups of the piece(s) to show detail.
So what is this? Top image is how I find it in the field before removing some matrix at home. I've outlined the left boundary in red, indicated an interesting feature in yellow that is zoomed in on the right picture, and the blue arrows indicate where I might uncover more of it beneath the matrix. It is a phyllocarid, possibly Echinocaris sp. Its orientation is odd, as it looks like the telsen is folded and sitting on top of the bulbous front plate of this bizarro proto-shrimp.
This might be the most exciting find: a placoderm plate showing what may be a sensory canal. An expert has tentatively identified this as being possibly Macropetalichthys. I'll be donating all my fish/placoderm pieces to a museum at the end of August for proper study.
Not a fossil, but just neat! When I got back from the Friday trip, this phasmid friend was on my back patio.
I'll sneak these two in. On the day before the trip, I stopped in to see my favourite rock shop in the village and decided to pick up a large Platyceras from Sylvania, Ohio, and this Green River Knightia eocaena from Wyoming.
Not sure when the next trip will be, but I figure there will be a group of us spending a few days at our hidey-hole in the coming week(s), and some other outings before the clock runs out on summer. Thanks for reading!
No rest for the weary! After the big multi-day dig, I was up in Barrie helping to downsize a house and got to keep some supplementary tools that will help at the prep bench and in the field. A selection of awls, sandpaper, tiny screwdrivers, and even a fish knife all come in handy when paired with the precision tools I use.
So began a bit of prep.
This is the placoderm plate that I chased to its end. I'm thinking it is a plate from Protitanichthys rockportensis.
I'm always looking to hone my preparation skills, so practicing on less than perfect trilobites is ideal. The one on the left is by far the best of the two, but could still use some restoration on the right side by grafting a bit of cephalon and the right genal spine.
Small and battered, this goniatite is now clean.
Although incomplete, this Tornoceras unioangulare has some stunning detail after I put it under heavy abrasion.
A pity this one is missing a few pieces, but not a bad preliminary prep if I do say so myself!
Some of the other trilobites are going to be much tougher work, and they are also missing pieces. The main thing is that my prep skills are improving with practice. Beyond that, someone from the University of Calgary has shown some interest in the placoderm pieces I pull from the Widder Formation. There is a remote possibility that I might have something new to science, but who knows? Just as a refresher, two previous placo pieces that might be worth studying:
It's just too darn hot to go out collecting these days, but I'm really hoping to get out there relatively soon, if not also a possible trip to Western NY pending Deb's work schedule.