Snow-free until January 10, and then it clobbered us. More time spent indoors and thinking that it will take a while for this snow accumulation to melt and get the collecting season back into gear. So that leaves prep and postal formation.
This is a return engagement with a bug I started a few months ago. It is a giant for the location (Penn Dixie) that measures over 45 mm from genal to folded over genal. What is not shown in this image is the folded over/under side that took a ridiculous number of hours. I also took the time to level and smooth the matrix -- something I am learning to get better at, and which also takes a lot of time and patience.
A very lovely full prone Scabriscutellum furciferum from Morocco.
The seller was also kind to add an unexpected brachiopod surprise to perk the package.
My 100th trilobite species! Asaphellus fezouataensis from a really nice seller who also threw in a little enrolled phacopid.
Still trying to relearn my old drawing skills that have been neglected for nearly 20 years, a pencil rendering of an Isotelus.
A Greenops widderensis...
And an Eldredgeops rana with all the crush/distortion flaws.
So, for now, that's about it. I'm somewhat running out of trilobites to prep, and only expecting one or two bugs in the mail. I really hope winter won't be too long!
A belated birthday gift, but only by a day. Had the rock cut and away I went to prepare one of Deb's most prized finds.
From the field to the final product.
Over the weekend, I was trying to prepare an Eldredgeops rana roller so that it would be nicely presented in pedestal fashion (just to get some practice with that approach). The roller itself was flawless with no cracks from crush damage, and fully inflated. It was going very well until it popped off the last remaining bit of rock that had been holding it in place, and... rolled away. Cleaning out my entire prep area did not result in me finding it, so it has likely been absconded by the same little demons who steal socks from the dryer. Six hours of work gone.
So a few days later I decided to prep my way through that disappointment in completing a trilobite I had prepared before, but not to the full extent. This is another Eldredgeops rana from the Penn Dixie site, and measures on the upper end of the size they appear at this site.
Before and after. I had prepared this halfway months ago, but it still needed more work. When I initially found it, the rock had split right through it, resulting in the loss of some segments. I glued it together in the field. In this round of prep, I applied acetone to get rid of some excess glue, performed some restoration of the missing parts, scribed and abraded a bit more, and this is the result. It may not be perfect, but it is a lot better than how I found it! This one measures 47 mm (sag.).
My next task is to complete prep on one of Deb's finds -- another prone E. rana.
Before my teaching duties resume tomorrow, I was able to squeeze a few more preps in the last couple of days. Nothing significant, but certainly learning moments for me as I better refine my nascent skills.
Already, I can count a few preparation bouts that turned out fairly well: an Illaenus sinuatus, Asaphus lepidurus, Flexicalymene croneisi, and the Flexicalymene senaria / Fusispira nobilis association. So far, so good, and it seems the normal state of things is to be covered in a fine coating of dolomite!
I probed other finds as well to see if there were other things there, and even popped out a headless Thaleops sp. from Bowmanville. Working with sometimes less than ideal equipment can be its own challenge, but I manage. There are still inefficiencies in my preparation "style" whereby it will take me twice or three times as long to complete a specimen than it would a more seasoned professional preparator with a wider array of tools.
So my task queue has been shortening, but by no means at the point where the lab will be going idle for the rest of winter. My next task was to "fill in a gap" in my "prepertoire": restoration. My first attempt was a mixed result on an Isotelus "mafritzae" back in November that has since been finished but I have been remiss in posting said result. This second attempt would be making use of Milliput again, but on a smaller and more expendable trilobite, the commonly found Eldredgeops rana from Penn Dixie. I've got loads of these in just about every orientation.
This bug was never going to make the cover of Trilobite Vogue. It is twisted with tons of crush damage to the glabella and the right side. For added "character," it is also missing a lot of shell. For preparators, this would be the kind of example one would find in a box of rejects to be harvested for parts.
At this point, a bit of scribing around and blasting followed by applying a good glob of Milliput. Some carving and let to cure for a day.
And the last two stages of the process. If you're wondering, the genal area of the cephalon is largely tucked underneath at an angle (super fun to prep - not!). As far as a clean restoration attempt, it is a pretty obvious attempt (but in certain lighting conditions it is a bit tougher to tell). In my weak defense, I don't have tiny tools or tiny fingers to do this kind of detail work. What this needs is a a pin-sized sander to grind and smooth down the transition between the restored area and the original shell. The pygidium itself is a real mess. But, hey, this was already consigned to the chuck-it bucket anyway, so may as well take the opportunity to practice on a piece that I could royally botch.
An incomplete Leviceraurus mammilloides that Deb found in October in Bowmanville. I may have screwed up in an earlier scribing attempt, not figuring that the tail spines would be sitting on top of the bug's plane, so all but the stubs vanished. It was already missing the left genal and part of the right genal, as well as the right eye that I could not save from the impression side, sadly. But it looks a lot crisper now that I've taken the matrix down on all sides and cleared up some of the inter-pleural gunk on this "zipper bug."
While I had the compressor running, why not do a quick blast of this long-tipped Mucrospirifer thedforensis? They clean up fairly easily, but are usually just a waste of dolomite and time.
And these are teed up for their time at the bench: four enrolled Greenops widderensis (one almost completely pyritized) that will be no picnic to prep. The goal with these will be to expose the other side and have them appear as if "draped" over the rock. These are incredibly delicate and flaky, so having at least four on hand to get it right is a good thing as I anticipate at least a few catastrophes with these ones!
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.
DAY 1: Penn Dixie
Returned Monday evening from four fabulous days swinging hammers, slabbing and splitting in the field. We managed to hit two sites, with plans for a third site falling through due to weather and site conditions.
We left home on the Friday morning to arrive at Penn Dixie, in Hamburg/Blasdell NY (south of Buffalo) by noon time. It was not a public collecting day at the site, but members of the Hamburg Natural History Society are permitted to enter the site.
A group of us digging through some fresh material
Of particular note was just how much PD had changed since last season, and that is due almost entirely to some well-directed excavations at some key spots to reveal more of the Smokes Creek trilobite layer, but also opening up other on-site locations such as the Bayview brach layer and the North Evans limestone. We had the excavator on site for the second day, with the previous day ripping up a new spot in preparation for the annual Dig with the Experts event. We did not touch those piles, and focused on other spots.
I found this piece of Devonian wood, and it is a fairly healthy size for this location.
One of the excavated spots we spent the most time working on was fairly thin on trilobites, which suggests that they appear in deposition pulses on the seabed. There's no way knowing in advance if there will be a lot of trilobites, and so you hope to hit paydirt by attacking the Smokes Creek layer.
A fairly large Goniatite, sadly all busted up.
Later in the day, we migrated to a new gully area where some of our other collectors on the Sunday previous had found a few examples of the rare Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi trilobite. Sadly, that lead dried up and no Bellas were found. For the most part, trilobites were mostly appearing as disarticulated bits and moults, with not much in the way of assemblages or complete prones and rollers.
Full prone, but containing shell on both sides of the rock. This will need to be glued together and prepared.
I did have some luck despite the parsimonious nature of the slabs we were splitting. However, the "trilo-bonanza" was still eluding us all. A little before sunset we decided to leave and check in to our motel, grab some pub food, and rest up for day 2 of our trip.
DAY 2: Deep Springs Road
At around 6 am the next morning, our friend Jay picked us up at the motel to begin our first ever trip to Deep Springs Road in Central NY (Madison Cty). DSR, as it is known, has a shale outcrop that rests at the farthest edge of the Windom Formation, but the fauna is quite different than what is found at Penn Dixie. For example, instead of bountiful Eldredgeops rana, they are much rarer here, and in their place are more Greenops sp. and Dipleura dekayi. Also, the real stunner is the enormous diversity of bivalves and brachiopods. It is also quite abundant in Devonian plant pieces, larger cephalopods, phyllocarids, and other goodies.
Our crew gearing up to work.
We arrived just after 10 am, having gone through the scenic rolling hills and farmlands of Central NY. We were greeted at the site by so many of our Fossil Forum friends, some of whom I got to meet in person for the first time. There was no shortage of fun-loving personalities here, and the amount of camaraderie, sharing, and helpfulness was exceptional.
Jay and me ready to start wrecking it all up to do some serious landscaping.
Within five minutes, I was ready to get to it. In the picture above, that wall behind me would be the first to be ripped out to generate a lot of slabs for splitting. By the end of the day, I would have cleared an area 2 m x 2m x 1.25 m.
This slab simply has to go, 150-200kg or not.
Unlocking fresh stuff requires some slabbing, something I tend to enjoy doing. After some overburden was cleared, it was time to maneuver this one off the ledge. As can be seen above,. the rock is heavier than me as I sit on the pinch-point bar which was bending. Eventually, I was able to work from the left wall, wrestling it out, and driving it with my boots down the hill for others to split.
Group shot. From left to right: Dave, Jay, me, Mike, Tim, Dave 2, Jeffrey, and Leila (who fed us scrumptious homemade cookies).
The weather had been promising to make this trip a real bust, but fortunately we only had some intermittent drizzle, with the rest of the time being clear and not too hot. Everyone came away with lots of interesting finds, and friendships were formed or strengthened in breaking rock together.
Bivalves and gastropods. I'm not really up on the taxa, but these are fairly typical finds for this site.
More neatly ridged bivalves.
Large spiriferid brachiopods are fairly abundant at DSR.
On the left is a nice association piece: a spirifer, a Greenops pygidium, and a Devonochonetes sp. . On the right is a high-spired Glyptotomaria.
A well-preserved Cimitaria recurva.
Deb found this wee Greenops that might be complete once I can remove some matrix. This one is barely a few millimetres long.
As Eldredgeops rana are not common here, I bucketed this roller.
Large cephalons from Dipleura dekayi. Finding them full as opposed to moults and disarticulated bits is an event. I think only one of us found a complete prone that day, while someone else found a complete one with the head disarticulated.
More Dipleura dekayi. I'll need to probe this piece a bit more to see if they might be complete (but I somehow doubt it).
A nautiloid and an ammonoid fragment.
With the collecting day over, it was time for us to get back to the Buffalo area. As is natural for us fossil collectors, we never miss an opportunity if we're collecting together to share some gifts. A massive amount of gift exchanges ensued! I was sure to hand out plenty of goodies from Arkona, as well as whatever Ordovician extras I had lying around. Pictured up here is a lovely Herkimer diamond from Dave. These quartz crystals are quite spectacular, and regularly have inclusions of anthraconite.
Another of Dave's wonderful gifts: an assortment of mostly brachs, bivalves, and gastropods from Cole Hill Road.
The other Dave put out a box for all of us to take whatever we fancied. This is a fern from the St Clair site, a site that is no longer open to public collecting.
Of course, little did I know that Tim remembered that Deb really liked those St Clair ferns, and so she received some pieces as well!
Tim gifted me a plethora of trilobites. Two new species on my list: Crotalochephalina gibbus (the Devonian phacopid from Morocco at the very top), Changaspis elongata (a wee corynexochid from the Cambrian, China), a full Greenops sp. from DSR in case I had no luck, and three nodular Eldredgeia venustus from Bolivia.
And the second bunch from Tim. A large Elrathia kingii with cheeks intact + impression, and the rest are Eldredgeops rana.
And Jay gave me a copy of the reprinted classic, Geology and Palaeontology of Eighteen Mile Creek by Grabau. The taxa listed in this one is pretty much the same as what is found at Penn Dixie, and some of those taxa are now outdated or reassigned. But it is indeed a classic from a real pioneer and giant of palaeontology.
DAY 3 - Penn Dixie
After two days collecting with Fossil Forum friends, it was now time for Deb and me to hit out on our own. Plans to visit another site on Sunday were nixed on account of weather... Yes, it was snowing in the Buffalo area! Deb went shopping in the morning, but by the afternoon the sun was out, so we figured we may as well play at Penn Dixie again. Although it was 10 C, the winds were bitterly cold.
Deb standing in the newly excavated zone we were all working on the Friday.
We decided to make a go of trying to find the elusive trilobite layer. This involved a great deal of hauling out slabs. Again, we treated the piles for the Experts event as off-limits.
The Smokes Creek layer is usually at or below the water table. This is what one of the gully areas looked like before I came in to rip out about 2 m wide of slabs. Sadly, the rock was far too dense, and shattered rather than split. Much of what was coming out was just bits and pieces anyway.
This trio of images shows the process required to access fresh material. As these slabs at the contact layer tend to interlock, it is important to kind the keystone slab to unlock them. In this instance, I've used the chisel to exploit and widen a crack running vertically. This one is tucked under another rock, so I had to use the pry bar to wiggle and jiggle it out. After that, I flip the rock over and scrutinize the underside; if there are trilobites or impressions thereof, I then carefully inspect the mini-domes at the site of extraction. As the water is muddy, this is largely done by touch. After that, it is time to remove another slab or split the ones I have.
Probably my best find of the day. The split runs right through the trilobite, but some crazy glue and prep will make this fairly large one turn out just fine.
This one came with a small price to pay. As I was tossing down a slab, it hit the pick end of my rock hammer, which then came at my face like a bullet. It struck and split my cheek, not far from my eye! It could have used a stitch or two, but I simply clamped it together with a bandaid.
Day 4 - Penn Dixie (Again)
After three days of slabbing, splitting, pounding with sledges, wrestling with pry bars, shovelling tons of overburden, my body just about had it! It was also our departure day, which meant we needed to get back on the road by 2 pm at the latest. So we agreed to inspect the newly excavated Bayview brachiopod area where, last October, we were pulling out buckets of brachs.
This stuff splits fairly easily - sometimes just with your hands. Trilobites like Greenops are much more common here, but the shale is so thin and fragile, and the trilobites usually only come out as disarticulated bits.
Brachiopods come out easily from the shale, if they haven't already weathered out and make for some easy picking. These are from about a minute of searching. Inasmuch as we agreed that we'd just do some light surface collecting, after 20 minutes we were getting bored with the brachs (we still have several hundred of them from October's visit),.so we went exploring back to the trilobite beds in search of a plentiful area.
Going through my splits, Deb finds this beauty.
A spot-check on some nearby rocks indicated that this particular area on the site might prove productive. Pictured here, after I removed the covering slab, is a very large dome. Domes at PD can either be full of trilobites or full of nothing.
Paydirt! We finally found the productive part of the layer. Although none of these are complete, it is strongly indicative of the presence of more assemblages in the depositional environment. Of course, it was almost time for us to leave just when we found the sweet spot. But we did manage to pull out a few rollers and near-completes that I haven't had a chance to photograph yet, but I think I've got the real highlights here in this post anyway.
And so it was back to Canada after a four day adventure. I was beyond sore, of course, but overall it was great to collect with friends old and new, enjoy the outdoors, and come away with treasures found and gifted.
Upcoming digs will likely be in the Arkona/Thedford area, and a trip to Bowmanville at the end of this month. Until then, time to manage some new backlog on the prep bench!
We had started around 4 pm the previous day in "brach city," an area that is close to the small tributary. This is an ideal spot to find a lot of Spinatrypa spinosa, Mucrospirifer audaculus, Athryris sp., Orbiculoiodea sp., Pseudotrypa sp., Rhipodomella sp., and Mediospirifer... The shale here is very crumbly, so these ones pop right out of the matrix. Trilobite pieces can be abundant here, but very rarely complete (comparable to the high energy coral biostrome of the Hungry Hollow member). The Mucrospirifers can be quite fragile and a challenge to find intact, but we got a bunch. We filled a bucket and planned to spend our final half day before leaving just focusing on this area. It is also filled with crinoid stems, bryozoans, occasional pelecypods, and other marine bits.
And thank goodness for easy pickings! My hammering arm was sore and my grip strength felt pretty weak.
A bit of a mucky layer, but you can pick out the shells in these pieces, along with the impression of a Greenops cranidium and an Edredgeops cephalon.
Not the most exciting picture, but it gives insight into what the layer looks like with all the brachiopods just waiting to pop right out.
There are clustered areas in the layer where the bigger shells congregate, and this is one of them.
A sweet and uncommon find in this layer: a full Eldredgeops rana that is very tough to find in these crumbly layers. Pictured on the right is what it looks like after some delicate work with a dental pick.
We filled buckets with brachs. This is just one of them.
We managed to collect about a thousand intact brachs. It will take me some time to clean and sort them all.
A small pile of spirifers (Mucrospirifer and Mediospirifer). For scale, most of these are almost two inches wide.
A small pile of Spinatrypa spinosa. Some can be quite large (about the size of a silver dollar) and came out either thin or plump, single or dual valved.
A small pile of Pseudotrypa sp. They come out either somewhat flattened or very plump, a bit bigger than cherry tomatoes.
Again, hardly representative of all the examples collected of each species, but cleaning and sorting of 1000 brachs will take time! We have here some Athyris sp., Rhipodomella sp., and another species I have to double check.
My next post will be the "aftermath" portion where I actually go through the large number of buckets filled with fossils, and get those to the prep table! Stay tuned...
The weakening vestiges of Hurricane Nate had made its way northward and gave Western NY a bit of a soaking. The weather forecast up to this point had been inconsistent to say the least, so it was really a gamble on what this day would bring. So we did a little bit of shopping in the morning, and by 11 am or so the rain finally stopped. So it was back to the site. However, so much rain had fallen that we were met with a fairly flooded area. That bench I carved out the day before? A little lake.
Those slabs I cut out the day before were on top of piles of overburden, so we were able to spend some time breaking those down and finding some good rollers and the occasional prone.
Although the torrential rains had stopped, the drizzle was constant. Rocks got covered in mud, my gloves became slick and muddy along with the tools, so it made work very challenging. I spent about and hour bailing the muddy water out of the bench with a bucket, and we spent another hour or so scraping and shovelling off goopy, sticky overburden. I was then able to hack out a near shopping cart sized slab that took a lot out of me. With some artful use of a wedge and pry bar, I was able to lift it just enough to get my fingers in and do a mighty pull by securing one boot on a ledge and the other stabilizing it so it wouldn't fall on top of me. It took about five or six tries, but I was able to get it on its side and start carving. The stuff was very dense and not cooperating as bedding planes just weren't a thing for this rock. Still, I managed to turn a boulder into shards, probably bagging little more than ten or so trilos. Not a great return on investment!
By about 4 or so, there really was no point continuing with this bench. Water was filling back in and I couldn't determine where the bottom of the slabs were except by touch. Also, the water had seeped into the cracks creating additional suction. I was just too pooped with the big slab anyway, so off we went to the brach area.
The not so great lakes. Wet, muddy, drizzly, and almost impossible to work.
This layer was "sticky" and dense, so some of the carapace got stuck to the impression side. That's a real bummer as this one is a complete prone.
On the left, a trilobite peeking out at the contact edge of a slab. It came out full and fine. On the right, a headless one, but fairly large at about an inch wide.
Deb and I came back from three half-days at the Penn Dixie site with an ok mix of finds despite some weather and site challenges. This is usually an ideal time for us to get out and collect as Monday was our Thanksgiving, and my university has implemented a new Fall Reading Break. However, not everything went according to plan!
We arrived around 1 pm and left before sunset.
The site itself is vastly different from when we were on the big TFF dig back in April. After the Digging with the Experts, a lot of overburden seemed to have been dumped on areas we had been working. About 5 or more feet of the stuff, actually. Usually one will find a spot where a bench has been started, and that becomes the starting point for expansion. Not so much this time around as it more meant starting a bench from scratch at the right spot where the trilobite layer is. I found an entry point about a foot and half wide and we got to work moving about a foot or more of overburden. I then starting carving out slabs and placing them on the piles of debris we were scooping up (I'm glad I did as Day 2 will make clear).
There was a slightly higher proportion of Greenops bits at this spot as I suspected from the general area we had covered last year. Pictured here are some slabs. The first one with my rock hammer dangling was resting on a very smooth inclined layer that ran about 4-5 feet wide and about 3 feet deep. The bottom half of that slab is about a foot and the top tapered part is only about a few inches. The one I pulled out the next day was a real monster at about 2.5x larger and about 400 lbs, and it took a heck of a lot of energy and several tries to wrestle it into an upright position. My back was pretty sore after that! The other slab pictured has some promise as there are some trilobite parts showing.
Ultimately, I was in search of a trilobite party, and the stuff at the base of the inclined layer seemed to hold a bit of promise for a multi-plate.
Some of the slabs I was talking about. The second one has some trilobite promise.
These pieces above have trilobites. The one on the right is a little trilobite party!
Who is that peeking out? Judging by the broad and uniquely styled genal spine, it is none other than the very rare Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi in an awkward diagonal position through the bedding planes. This will take some preparation finesse!
This is how I left the bench at the end of Day 1. Looks promising, doesn't it?
Deb and I just got back from an intensive four-day dig at Penn Dixie in Buffalo. We were joined by several Fossil Forum members, and it was great to put faces to names. We probably spent about 30 or so hours at the site in total, and cleared well over 150 square feet of virgin matrix of the Windom shale. I was also able to make use of some of my new tools, and by far the most valuable one was the 5 lb wedge. There simply wasn't a slab I couldn't yank out. Apart from just a brief bit of rain on the Saturday, the weather was ideal.
On the first day, when it was just me, Deb, and Tim, we plucked some pretty amazing stuff.
We arrived at the site on Thursday, meeting up with Fossil Forum friend, Tim. The site isn't officially open for the fossil collecting season until the following weekend, but as members we can enter any time. Pictured here is the entrance, and Deb's very great idea of adding a wagon to our collecting kit - which makes ferrying tools from the car to the north part of the pit much easier (and in bringing loads of fossils back to the car after a long day of turning rock into rubble!).
As we approached the productive trilobite pit, some white-tailed dear and wild turkeys in full display.
Below are some shots of our crew/chain gang at work if you ever wondered what it's like to work as a team breaking rock in search of great fossil specimens. Between everybody, we had all the right tools for the job and then some.
On Easter Sunday, while others ate chocolate, it was just me, Deb, and Jay working the pit - but it was by far the most productive day with shale that kept on giving. Quite literally hundreds of trilobites were collected on that day. Easter in 'Murica wouldn't be complete without the percussive sound of the shooting range next door, cuz... 'Murica! Guns!
Below, Jay and I get into the real stuff by clearing out large shale slabs at the productive Smoke's Creek trilobite layer. There's a lot of overburden to remove, and some of those slabs can be stubborn... But stubborn is no match for my reputation of being a human backhoe. There's always a nice and satisfying crunch/pop sound when the slab is freed (and a sound you hope isn't coming from your body!).
Deb splits the shale for the win: a nicely articulated Michelinoceras. We were pulling out a lot of nautiloids that day, as well.
We're absolutely exhausted. It's hard to tell with all that rubble that we made, but that entire circle formed of our bodies and tools represents the removal of a heck of a lot of shale (8" - 15" slabs). We dug right down below the water table. These onlookers had just come by and were curious what we were up to.
A find from the very first day, a rare - yet beat up - Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi. If there is 1 Greenops boothi per 100 Eldredgeops rana, there is probably 1 Bellacartwrightia for every 100 Greenops. The Bellacartwrightia are similar in appearance to the Greenops, but with some key differences in the glabellar furrows, spines along the axial lobe, longer pygidial spikes, and more robust genal spines. A nice catch, if I say so myself!
This is hardly representative of the number of Eldredgeops rana rollers and semi-prones I pulled out. I still have a lot to go through and prep. I estimate that I probably found about 250-300 specimens of E. rana.
This one is kind of funny. On the left is a cephalon covering a full prone, making it look like it is wearing one of those oversized masks. To the right of that is a piggy pile of rollers.
This gorgeous full prone popped right out of the matrix. I stabilized it on site with crazy glue to prevent any accidental breakage in transit.
An example of a full semi-prone still in matrix. Won't need too much prep to bring it out, but there may be two rollers also buried in here that need some preparation work.
These two pictures hardly do justice to the number of trilobites that still need some prep attention. Some of them are quite large, too. This will keep me busy for a while!
A fairly representative array of brachiopods one can find at Penn Dixie.
This is an interesting one as it has a black trilobite on top of a brown one. If I can prep it right, it should really stand out and reveal some of those chromatophores.
Top row: a crinoid calyx and a horn coral with encrusted calcite. Bottom row: three fairly well preserved Platyceras.
The group dig provided our members with a great opportunity to trade finds native to our respective areas. Tim very generously gave me a big box of incredible stuff (fish, gastropods, trilobites, ferns, coprolites, etc.) that I will photograph and post as a separate blog entry. For now, I'll post a few new trilobite species for my collection that Tim has given me. This one is a Phalangacephalus dentatus.
And these are fragments of Dipleura dekayi, a very interesting Devonian trilobite. These were collected by Tim at Deep Springs Road, NY.
This has been a memorable and possibly the best fossil collecting trip I've ever been on. Meeting new people, working together to haul rock, sharing our finds, perfect weather, and an abundance of quality specimens really made this a remarkable one. The aftermath - apart from nursing a very sore body! - is to process the finds I have. I expect to be posting a few more entries on the finds I've yet to prep and photograph. Thanks for reading!