Given the heavy grading work at the backend of this year, and the dodgy weather, I am having to call it on the collecting season. November has been a fairly poor month for collecting: if it wasn't raining (or snowing), the nicer days frustratingly coincided with days I had to be on campus.
But as I lay down my trusted tools in my move from labour to refreshment, I can look back on this year having been my absolute best. And, perhaps, much credit is due those reliable tools that have served me so well in breaking through hundreds of tons of rock. Of course, credit is mostly due my lovely partner Deb who not only added thousands of clicks to the car, but for being such an enthusiastic co-collector.
This year's trips included:
* 2 to Penn Dixie (Devonian)
* 2 to Brechin (Ordovician)
* 1 to Bowmanville (Ordovician)
* 1 to Collingwood area (Ordovician)
* 12+ to Arkona (Devonian)
* 30+ to my nearby honey hole (Devonian)
Many of those trips have reports posted here in the blog. It has also meant meeting plenty of new collecting friends with whom to break rock with. If that were not in itself fantastic, I also got into preparation courtesy of having purchased an air eraser and air scribe. I've upped my game considerably, turning a casual hobby into a true passion. It was not that long ago that I may have made a few short visits to Arkona and in my backyard with little more than a nail hammer and a wood chisel. Now, with the right tools, I carved out hundreds of feet of benches and cracked hundreds of tons of rock. The collection has grown by an order of magnitude.
I also purchased or was gifted several delightful pieces this year. Another aspect that has made this a banner year would be a surge of trilobites where 2017 added no fewer than 29 new species, a few of them very rare and not reliably reported in the literature.
Above is a snapshot of many of the new species in my display.
So, last year I made a "best of" post for each category. This year is going to be immensely difficult to make those choices as so many of them are deserving of the honour. But try I must.
Best trilobite of the year
Despite all the lovely ones I've purchased, received, and found - particularly from the Ordovician - I'm giving the nod to this lovely plate of three full Greenops widderensis. Certainly this species is not new to the collection, but the rarity of finding so many clustered together like this in a difficult matrix makes it worthy. My runners-up would be Mannopyge halli, and Isotelus, Ceraurus, and, well, all the other ones I found!
Honourable mention goes to this beauty, expertly prepped by Malcolm Thornley.
Best cephalopod of the year
It's a three-way tie. It could have been four if I included the the big nautiloid whoppers I found at Brechin. Clockwise from top left: a lovely Goniatite from Arkona, some lovely Jurassic ammonites from Roger, and an exquisitely pyritized nautiloid from the Widder shale.
Best PISCES of the year
Amidst some cool placoderm pieces, and some really neat Diplurus pieces from Tim, the prize this year goes to Deb and her huge chunk of placoderm armour belonging to Protitanichthys.
Best gastropod of the year
Plenty of contenders this year, including some nicely preserved Platyceras, and some rarer spired gastros from the Verulam Formation, but I'm settling on this long one from the Verulam for its size alone.
BEst bryozoan of the year
I always pick up interesting looking bryozoans, and this year saw quite a few. However, hands down, this Constellaria from the Verulam Fm will take the prize if only on account of its exceptional rarity in that formation.
Best ichnofossil of the year
I don't really get jazzed about ichnofossils, but this broom-headed one was so worth picking up that even Deb found one on our second trip to Brechin. This one is Phycodes ottawensis, and these are formed by worms burrowing from the same spot repeatedly taking different pathways in the muck.
best phyllocarid of the year
Another fantastic find by Deb at Arkona, a thick phyllocarid jaw. This would be our first.
best brachiopod of the year
No point making a decision. I've pulled quite a few nice brachs this year, but this smorgasbord of about 1,000 intact ones spanning 6 species from Penn Dixie will have to be the winner this year.
I'm begging off the best coral of the year, and a few other categories. I can say the fossil I collected that came from the farthest distance from home would be the Cretaceous oysters and sundry bits from Magoita Beach in Portugal.
But this year would not have been anywhere near as spectacular if it weren't for the people whose time, company, and generousity truly made it shine. Apart from Deb, I can certainly add to the roster of great fossil companions, Tim J., Malcolm T., Roger F., Jay W., Kevin B., Kevin K., Jason R., Ralph J., Marc H., Ron B., and others I may have neglected to mention.
Best year ever! And thanks to the visitors to this blog for reading. Perhaps more posts will be in the offing as winter time means being holed up indoors and engaging in some prep.
UPDATE: Malcolm just showed me a few bugs of mine and Deb's that he prepped. A true master. The left one is Ceraurus and the right one is a Greenops.
This past year has been precedent-setting for fossil collecting as it has also meant a staggering number of new and fascinating specimens added to a collection that seems to have colonized a lot of space in the house. No fewer than 8 trips to Hungry Hollow, countless trips to my nearby “honey hole,” some visits to the Ottawa and Rideau rivers, and 2 fabulous multi-day adventures at Penn Dixie. Deb and I have found numerous trilobites, including several full prone Greenops widderensis, well over a hundred Eldredgeops rana rollers and prone specimens (this in itself a major change from a few years back when I hadn’t bagged even one full specimen), and some fairly large and nearly complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. And that’s just the trilobites. Several new types of corals, gastropods, brachiopods, crinoids, and cephalopods were also added - and even a fish plate. So many were gathered, in fact, that I was glad to be able to sell off some excess in support of the United Way campaign at work.
The above trilobite, Flexicalymene ouzregui, was my first fossil purchase, a gift to Deb for all her great work and finds this past year. It is Ordovician in age and from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Coral of the Year prize is tied with this specimen and one acquired from a trail. Both are Devonian
A lot of contenders for Assemblage of the Year, but the usual stuff from Arkona can take a backseat this time. It is a tie between this gravestone-sized block of black shale from Ottawa with plenty of Pseudogygites latimarginatus trilobites (and nautiloids), and an assemblage of Eldredgeops rana from Penn Dixie
Among a lot of brassy-coloured Goniatites and sundry other Devonian goodies, this slightly pyritized nautiloid from the Widder shale weathered out whole and not in its usual crushed state in the shale, earning it Cephalopod of the Year.
It was a bit of a challenge to settle on Gastropod of the Year, what with some neat high-spired specimens, but let's give the honour to my specimen Naticonema lineata from the encrinal layer of the Arkona Fm.
Although I did find a crinoid "bulb," I'm giving this pyritized beauty from the Arkona mud-shale Crinoid of the Year even if it is just a stem.
Amidst hundreds upon hundreds of brachiopods collected this year, including giant spirifers and the like, I could have copped out and said all of them are deserving of the honour of Gastropod of the Year, but let's opt for this specimen that preserved the umbilicus.
And the only fish fossil contender of the year, a confirmed fish plate from the Widder Fm
Contenders for Trilobite of the Year are legion. Instead of simply picking the biggest or most "perfect" specimen, this year is a tie between a Greenops widderensis that Deb found in the brittle Widder shale of Arkona, and an Eldredgeops rana that had been twisted and wrenched into an odd configuration, found at the Hungry Hollow Mbr of the Widder.
What follows are some odds and sods I hadn't got around to posting. Until the 2017 collecting season!