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!