Sunday, January 27, 2013

Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach #3

...continued from... Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach #2

The third day of the excursion, the second full day of fossil and agate hunting, began where the previous day ended: the lower section of Moolack Beach. Again when we arrived the path to the beach was very frosty, and again we started our fossil hunting before the tide was at it's lowest.

Low tide opened a large expanse of beach for exploration, but as you can see there wasn't much beach rubble exposed on the low tide beach...

... but while we didn't find as many fossils/ agates, we did find some very interesting fossils and we had a great time exploring lower Moolack Beach! [IBL]

We photographed this fossil concretion "in place", since, under all that sand, it is still attached to the rocky substrate! (Please enjoy this fossil concretion in place so others can enjoy it also!) The quarter in the pic gives an idea of the size (a quarter is ~ 1" across).

 If you're in the Newport, Or., area at low tide and you're interested in fossils, here is where this^ fossil is attached to Moolack Beach...

A close-up of the scallop-type fossil in the above concretion >>>
Below is more of the type of rock that this fossil is in...

The beach was amazing...

We found these large concretions moderately high on the bank.

< This ~9 1/2" concretion appears to be made up of mostly mollusc fossils.

The concretion to the right has a few bivalve fossils and some interesting crystalline type "fillings". We'll be taking a closer look at it once we get it home!

We found some additional pieces, including a concretion with pieces of bone, agate, and gastropods (snails); additional photos, identification, and discussion of the fossils found during this excursion will be posted in an upcoming blog posting  [IBL][Ii].

 After exploring Moolack it was time to head back to Lost Creek to see what the tides had done to the beach since yesterday... would there be more beach exposure? or would the tides have brought sand up to cover the beach?

The change in the beach was immediately obvious! [IBL]

There was definitely more sand on the beach than there was at the same point in the tidal stage than the day before.

Some of the "mushroom" type rock formations we had looked at the day before were completely covered by sand, others were still showing but not nearly as much...

After checking the area of the beach we "hunted" yesterday, and finding only a few pieces, we moved south of Lost Creek to explore further down Lost Creek Beach.

Sands of Lost Creek...

The southern section of Lost Creek is also interesting; it seems not to be as deeply eroded as the area northern section (compare exposed section below to the exposed section above).

We picked up some more fossils and agates, but in this area more of the fossils were gastropods ("snails") rather than bivalves ("clams"). [Iv]

...and we found some interesting mud stone formations...

As the tide rose we ate a very late lunch on some well positioned rocks and enjoyed the view...

Since I knew the heights and times for the tides (make sure you collect this info before you set out on a coastal excursion, and watch the weather and tides closely! : ) I knew we did not need to rush back up the beach; we took our time and wandered back up the beach , enjoying our finds, the weather, and the incredible views, along the way...

... since we wanted to take some pics of the sunset from Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and the sun was quickly dropping to the horizon, it was time to say goodbye to Lost Creek... and to this winter-time fossil hunting excursion.

Join us in our ongoing Quest...
... continued in... Coastal Fossils- The Winter Collection #1 (1 of 2)[IBL]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach #2

We arrived at the central Oregon coast late in the afternoon, just in time to enjoy a few coastal stops (Otter Rock, Devil's Punchbowl) and sunset at Yaquina Head Lighthouse [IBL] where we saw some of the local wildlife [IBL][II]. Not wanting to waste daylight, we settled in to our hotel [IBL] in Newport and went out for dinner [IBL]  after the sun had set. We swam to loosen up from the long drive and prep for the next day.

Photos: Chiara DeNeve

I had several likely beaches in mind for our winter fossil excursion, and after talking with a few locals settled on the beach we would start with.... We hit the beach before low tide the next morning ~> Lost Creek!

The low tides, waves, and the storm from several days before had done their job on this beach, stripping the beach of a LOT of sand and exposing a lot of loose rock and rocky substrate. Warning: there is never a guarantee that low tides, storms, or waves will expose fossils; when beach fossil hunting you are definitely in peril of just enjoying the beach!

But the January weather and tides had conspired to give us a beautiful day (50+°F) and a wonderfully exposed beach. The picture to the left was taken after the tide had started to rise again. You can easily see the expanse of beach rubble and the exposed rock formations.

By the end of the next day the rubble on this beach and the exposed rock in the picture to the left was covered by sand again, see photo on the right >.

Eroding bank

The ground was still icy when we got to the beach, and it was cool enough that the shaded eroding bank stayed icy for several hours.

But, we started finding interesting pieces as soon as we got to the beach...

A curious fossil, but I think...

Bivalve (clam) concretion

Gastropod fossil - Agate

Bivalve (clam) concretion of fossils and boring worms

We were so busy looking for fossils and agates that we didn't take a lot of pictures of what we were collecting while we were on the beach, but we did keep the fossils separated according to collection sites so we could group fossils/ photos later. All of the fossils collected were photographed before and after cleaning and will be discussed in detail in an upcoming blog! [IBL]

We spent most of the first day at Lost Creek, but we took a little time to check out Moolack Beach.

The very short winter days found at this latitude are very frustrating to the fossil hunter when the beach is good...

Even though it was near high tide we took the time to check out the beach so we had our plan for first thing in the morning. We also took this time to look at the erosional banks and at the beach rubble higher up the beach.

The fossils we found in the sandstone along the eroding beach bank were very interesting...

... we found a lot of charred wood (right click and open the image in a new tab for a better view)...


... and a few mystery fossils...

It was getting too dark to continue our hunt for fossils, so we knew it must be time to find sustenance, stretch our backs out in the pool, and get ready for tomorrow!

Join us in our ongoing Quest...
... continued in... Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach #3 [IBL]

Monday, January 21, 2013

Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach

Fossils? January? Oregon?
of course!

Fossil hunting along beaches is best during the stormy time of the year, especially when the tides are cooperating. The storms and tides cooperate to remove tons of sand from beaches and leave large rocky, and rock laden, expanses [IBL]. We got lucky, not only did the storm season and the tides cooperate, but we also had perfect weather!

We've been planning this trip for a while, Dana and me. December was too busy, so we were hoping for January... maybe February (but leaving it that long we were concerned something else would come up and we would miss the winter beach). The low tides in January fell during good daylight hours during the first and 3rd weeks of January (we had good weather the first week too). We had the time for a longer trip, so we considered the Pacific Coast of Washington and Oregon. Since the total time to get to the areas along the Pacific coast that I know have fossils would take anywhere from at most 1 hour difference-in-drive-time and it was expected to be 10+ degrees warmer (F, of course) on the central Oregon coast, I chose Oregon... it seemed worth the extra drive!

While our excursion was short, away only 3 days including drive time, it was very successful so several blog posts will be used to discuss this excursion.

Here are a few preview images to hold you while I go through a short checklist of "things to bring" (for the scientists out there this is the "Materials" list!) and basic prep for those who would like to plan their own beach fossil excursion:

Things to Bring (Materials)

sturdy bucket(s)
rubber tub w/ lid
small containers /ziploc bags
toothbrush (old)
magnifying glass
rock hammer*
fossil book(s)*
tape measure / ruler*
tidal chart/ info

*not necessary but nice to have!

Preparing for fossil hunting on the winter beach is generally very different than "going to the beach" in summer. Make sure you prepare for the weather (usually cold and wet), dress in layers so you can adjust for changing weather, and have a plan for getting you (your group) warm and dry. Water and snacks are very important as you are likely to lose track of time (I can't imagine why ; ) and suddenly find that you are, or someone in your group is, very depleted! The items on the list above will generally make your fossil hunting expedition easier and more enjoyable, especially if you have a group with you that may need to take breaks from the actual fossil hunting. Some science / educational activities associated with this will be discussed in a separate blog on this excursion.

A couple quick notes on this type of activity if you are new to it or "it has been a while":
> if you are not a yoga enthusiast and/ or under 30, bending over repetitively over the course of hour(s)  may make you sore ; ) .
> watch the tides and waves closely! The general rule is "do not turn your back on the ocean". There is good reason for following this rule of thumb while fossil hunting, it is very easy to "forget" that waves/ surf is unpredictable and that you have a changing tide when you are distracted by fossils and agates luring you across a beach and you can end up very wet, at the least.
> extra care/ attention needs to be taken when taking young children and individuals with health issues on this type of excursion.

OK, enough of the "prep" information! If you'd like more info about that feel free to ask/ e-mail and more can be provided.

Join us in our ongoing Quest...
... continued in... Coastal Fossils - Gifts of the Winter Beach #2 [IBL]

Friday, January 18, 2013

News: Asian Small-clawed Otter Arrives at Woodland Park Zoo

The male of a pair of Asian short-clawed otters has arrived at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo from Zoo Atlanta. The 7 year old male will be joined by a 3 year old female from the Bronx Zoo, and after quarantine and exam will begin adjusting to their new exhibit in "Asian Tropical Forest".

The otter exhibit is expected to open in May 2013. 

Woodland Park Zoo press announcement.