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digit

Peacefull Day on the Peace River--2018-03-18

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digit

I've been wanting to get back to the Peace River since I first ventured out this fossil hunting season back in early February. Back then the water was over a foot higher and much colder--the air temps were in the mid-60s and the water was a chilly 62F. I decided this was a good day to test my new chest-high waders. I ventured into a spot I like to visit when I'm on this section of the Peace as it has some pretty coarse gravel. While it doesn't produce a lot of finds they tend to me more interesting. I waded out to the small patch of gravel at the leading edge of a sandbar but before I could reach the spot I found myself on tippy-toes trying to find a shallow path while the water rose to within an inch or so of the top of my waders. Somehow gathering more than my usual amount of common sense I decided to turn around rather than risk scuttling my new waders with a catastrophic flood. While searching around for another path to this gravel exposure I tried various approached though none were successful in attaining the desired location in the river that was tantalizingly close. While I walk the river I usually have my fiberglass probe (The Probulator 3000TM) in one hand pushing the tip into the sand with each step to test for any gravel crunch. Much to my surprise I was detecting a decent layer of gravel well downstream from the tiny outcrop on the leading upstream edge of the sandbar where I usually hunt. I have probed around this area before and only detected sand save for this one tiny area. Though I had found gravel in water that was a bit shallower I couldn't stay long as I had to be real careful to not bend over much while digging for gravel as it would have meant cold water down the waders. I couldn't lift as much with my legs and my lower back was soon very vocal in its complaint of the shifted workload. My upper body was also getting quite chilled as my long-sleeved shirt (good for solar protection) was getting soaked as usual but the brisk breeze was doing an efficient job at evaporative cooling quickly dropping my core body temp. I could only work for about 15-20 minute blocks before having to sit in the canoe and try to warm up my gradually numbing fingers. Instead, I conceded and made a mental not to return to investigate this increased exposure of gravel next time.

 

I had hoped to get out last weekend but there was a bit of a cold front moving through Florida and the chance for rain shifted from late Saturday and on into Sunday to instead start mid-morning. I've been on the Peace when passing showers have opened up and spilled some precipitation down from above--not so bad on a warm day but not optimal for preserving core body temperature on a cooler day. Saint Patrick's Day weekend looked to have weather much more conducive to standing around half submerged in a river. The water temperature had risen to a relatively balmy 70F and the air temp was forecast to be an unseasonably warm 85F--unexpected as this was still technically winter with the Spring Equinox still two days hence.

 

I had guests visiting and staying over on Friday night so it was not possible to get to the river on Saturday as I usually do but Sunday was clear. The morning started off a bit cool. I was up at 3:30am and out the door by 4:00am. The trip cross-state over the top of Lake Okeechobee and on into Arcadia was quiet (as it usually is that time of morning). I usually monitor the outside air temp on the car thermometer and watch it dip as I leave coastal Florida and cross over through its less populated center. I usually expect the temps to dip several degrees but this time I went from 67F as I left my neighborhood to the usual dip to near 60F. This time it continued even more and bottomed out at the nadir of 49F for a brief moment before rebounding into the 60s as we approached Arcadia. Most of the trip on two lane highway 70 was made more interesting by a thick coat of fog that approached white-out conditions a few times. It can be rather difficult to locate the road when the oncoming headlights of an approaching vehicle light swirling fog in an effect worthy of a Pink Floyd concert from the 1970's.

 

We arrived without issue and went through the normal procedure of checking in at Canoe Outpost and riding the old blue school bus with canoe-laden trailer in tow to Brownville Park where we departed from the boat ramp into a white ethereal mist. For some reason the Earl Scruggs song "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" came to mind.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQIJuu3N5EY

 

Since we decided not to spend time at our normal spots further upstream, we soon left the rest of the canoes in our group as we headed off downstream into the dreamlike fog. The heavy mist also muffled sounds a bit so it was peacefully quiet and most befitting of its name. For some time we heard nothing more than the sounds of our paddles and a few species of birds calling. It was well worth the effort of the early departure just to experience this quiet time on the river.

 

P3186682.jpg    P3186683.jpg    P3186689.jpg

 

We saw some ducks who took to flight at our approach and enjoyed seeing some Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Little Blue Herons hunting for a fishy breakfast along the banks of the river. There were lots of Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, and Belted Kingfishers in the trees that we would frequently spot flitting about or calling out to each other. Tammy mentioned that in all of the trips down the Peace that we had never seen an owl and she wished that for once she could see one here. Apparently, the officials at the Wish Granting Department had a light schedule this morning as, within 5 minutes of uttering this desire, she looked up into a tree at the edge of the river to spot a Barred Owl watching from its perch as we floated by. I pulled out the camera and we circled back for the photo. As we were leaving we saw the bird take flight. It is amazing how a bird this size can move on such stealthy wings as to be so utterly silent in flight. Our morning was made and I hadn't even broken out the shovel & sifting screen nor dipped foot into the water yet. I figured if this was a day for wishing that I'd put in my order for a reasonably complete mastodon tooth. These teeth are seemingly as fragile as mammoth teeth and mostly I've only found small but very distinctive (because of their thick pearlescent enamel in cross-section) chunks. I was fortunate enough to find a complete Colombian Mammoth tooth a few years back with John @Sacha but mastodon in anything but tiny fragments has so far eluded me. I made my wish and we continued to our destination.

 

P3186687.jpg

 

In time we made it down to my favorite sandbar and spent this entire trip focusing on seeing what this gravel had to offer. I couldn't determine if this was a new extended layer of fresh gravel that Hurricane Irma had chosen to spread out more evenly across the top of this sandbar or if the storm (and ensuing raging torrent) had stripped off a thick cap of sand uncovering an older previously-inaccessible gravel layer underneath. The water was lower that last time (and quite a bit warmer). No waders this time and after a few minutes for by legs to acclimate (read this as "becoming numb") I slowly worked my way into deeper water probing around with the Probulator and mapping out the extend of this newly expanded gravel. Tammy (being the wiser of the two) decided the morning was still too chilly for direct skin contact chose to sit in the canoe at the side of the river and drink from her thermos of hot tea. The river flow at this point in the river was nearly imperceptible (my tethered sifting screen occasionally floating slowly upstream rather than downstream). Being creative, Tammy decided that she could paddle out and position the canoe nearby and see what I was doing without the discomfort of standing in a river on a chilly morning before the sun was able to warm things up sufficiently.

 

The sun finally burned off the morning fog and before long the sun's rays were counteracting the chilly water making the environmental conditions near optimal for standing around in a river. I got to work scouting out the extents of the gravel and picking some novel spots that I'd not dug before to see if I could detect some virgin gravel with worthy finds (nothing is worse than digging in spoil pile gravel with all of the work and none of the payoff). Before long some nice finds started appearing in the sifting screen. Because of the chunkiness of the gravel at this spot I choose to use my sifting screen with the 1/2" mesh rather than the finer 1/4" mesh screen. As a result, I found almost no smaller shark teeth (just a few larger ones that were not small enough to slip between the mesh back into the Peace). The gravel in this extended area was just as chunky as the former minor occurrence at the leading edge of the sandbar. It can bit a bit difficult to get a shovel into and a lot of wiggling around of the handle is necessary to slowly work the tip of the spade down between the stony chunks. Every now and then a shovel size chunk of matrix comes up on the shovel and threatens to sink the sifting screen with its bulk. I've learned to toss these behind me with reasonable care so as not to spray myself with the resultant depth-charge splash of chucking these bowling ball size chunks with too much vigor.

 

P3186695.jpg    P3186708.jpg    P3186697.jpg

 

There are some days on the Peace when even somewhat common items like horse teeth can be elusive. Today was not one of those days. The first horse tooth was a nice specimen of an upper Equus molar. It was soon followed by a nice lower Equus (the lowers are more thin and elongate to fit into the more narrow mandible). You can see the comparison of the two below.

 

P3186699.jpg    P3186701.jpg    P3186702.jpg

 

 

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Darktooth

Great report and awesome finds! Thanks for sharing this. And I loved the pics as well!:D

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WhodamanHD

Very nice finds, thanks for sharing your trip!

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jcbshark

Great finds Ken, glad you guys made it out:)

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Nimravis

Great report and finds- looks like you spent more time typing the report than collecting lol- thanks for sharing and taking us along.

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Tidgy's Dad

Terrific detailed report and interesting as well. 

Nice finds, too! :drool:

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digit
3 hours ago, Nimravis said:

Great report and finds- looks like you spent more time typing the report than collecting lol

As is my nature. ;)

 

There are many TFF member who can provide better ID's and who have larger knowledge stores of arcane fossil knowledge. I can only provide occasional information on types of fossils that I've encountered personally but I can tell a story with the best of them. As a result, I choose to do my part to contribute to the TFF community by taking others on virtual fossil hunts. My goal is to inspire others to make similar trips or at least to provide a feel for these trips to people who may never be able to visit these places. A story teller loves a good audience and TFF provides a great one.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Plantguy

Hey Ken, nice report. I always enjoy seeing what you all are finding and the extra outdoor photos. Thanks for showing us. Regards, Chris 

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ynot

Way to go Ken!:thumbsu:

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old bones

Great report with excellent photos, Ken! Thanks for taking us along. :)

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digit

Thanks. You know all this encouragement will only cause me to write more long-winded reports. :P

 

Will follow-up with some additional pictures of the finds now that I'm hope and the pieces are clean and dry. I've got a few curious bits that I'll need some collective help from the forum to figure out.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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MeargleSchmeargl

Not bad at all! :meg:

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digit

Here's a few photos of some of the take home fossils from this trip.

 

I mentioned that the 1/2" screen lets many of the smaller shark teeth slip back through into the river. I've used a 1/4" screen at this site before (to see what I was missing) and found that there really were not a lot of smaller teeth, possibly because of the much chunkier size of the gravel here. The only two smaller shark teeth that turned up in my sifter were a pair of tiger teeth--the left appearing to be the more recent Galeocerdo cuvier and the right one looking like the extinct Oligocene/Miocene species Physogaleus contortus.

 

P3206744.jpg

 

Here's my broken (but rooted) tapir tooth:

 

P3206737.jpg     P3206738.jpg

 

This spot has (in the past) delivered an insane number of whale tympanic bullae (over 30 in a single day). This trip they were not hyper abundant but there were several of these distinctively shaped bones that turned up in the screen. Several were broken or worn down to being barely recognizable but there were a few nicer ones including the smallest I've ever found which still had nice detail. 

 

P3206736.jpg

 

Speaking of whales, one whale tooth did show up (at least I think that's what it is) but it was fairly beat-up so that I don't think even @Boesse could say much about this.

 

P3206741.jpg     P3206742.jpg     P3206743.jpg

 

Also, had a nice chunk of softshell turtle carapace turn up. Most pieces tend to be about half this size.

 

P3206739.jpg     P3206740.jpg

 

 

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digit

Now for a mystery piece (or two). When this first piece showed up in the sifter the pock-marked top surface instantly triggered the crocodilian osteoderm search image but the more I looked at it the more un-crocodilian it looked to me. The material was much more dense than I'm used to for croc/gator "scutes", the holes seemed a bit more separated and distinct, and the bottom of this much thicker piece was beveled at the edges. Here is mystery piece #1 in three views:

 

P3206745.jpg     P3206746.jpg     P3206747.jpg

 

Here is a typical croc/gator osteoderm (from an earlier trip but from the same location) for comparison:

 

P3206751.jpg     P3206752.jpg     P3206753.jpg 

 

Then there is mystery piece #2 which more closely resembles a partial croc/gator osteoderm but broken in such a way that the raised keel is missing:

 

P3206748.jpg     P3206749.jpg     P3206750.jpg

 

Any help with these mysteries would be appreciated. The two new finds may just both be crocodilian but at least the first one looks highly unusual to me and doesn't really match my search image for croc/gator.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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ltrapper

Very interesting finds and great photos. Thanks for sharing your trip!

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smt126

Wow great report Ken and some wonderful finds. 

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digit

Thanks.

 

Maybe @Harry Pristis may have a comment on the unusual "cookie" mysteries shown above?

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Harry Pristis
3 minutes ago, digit said:

Thanks.

Maybe @Harry Pristis may have a comment on the unusual "cookie" mysteries shown above?

Cheers.

-Ken

 

It's difficult to ignore the similarity of #1 to 'gator osteoderms -- they are not all perfect in life.  The #2 doesn't give me a similar impression.

 

 

gato_rosteoderms_patho.JPG

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