October 1, 2005 - Cretaceous and Tertiary Fossils, Butler Co, AL

Some Hardy Souls headed down to Butler County, Alabama with an overnight campout in mind. Great weather, hot, dry, made getting to the site a breeze. The Hardy Souls set up camp and settled into our tents, anticipating a great day of hunting. We fell asleep serenaded by the sweet sounds of coyotes howling. Around midnight, more strange noises began and we finally identified it as the pitter patter then deluge of a midnight rain, as Vicki frantically climbed out to put things under shelter. Claire slept peacefully through the whole thing. We stayed nice and dry but the chalk road didn't. This brought some reshuffling of cars and drivers to meet the rest of the gang up at the filling station.

It was an international gang this time, with 5 members from the Czech Republic, 3 exchange students from Sweden, one long-term member from Armenia and a couple all the way from exotic LA (Lower Alabama), along with the local members. We have had several debates as to whether we need to change our name to Birmingham International Paleontological Society, or Birmingham Paleontological Society, Internationale!

It was so gorgeous when we all got down there that people were sitting out in beach chairs and enjoying what could have easily passed for the Gulf coast's white, sandy beaches. Some folks got into the swim - literally - as one of those privileges of living in a tropical climate on Oct 1 in Alabama. A variety of fossils were found, including nautiloids, tiny gastropods, shark teeth and coquina stone filled with various shells including turritella. We also found a good amount of pottery shards, some other artifacts and a deer skull (recent, but included to show what the teeth look like). Several comments were made regarding the beach, on the order of "it didn't really matter whether we found fossils or not, this was a great place to hang out"!

The deer skull has a backstory. While wandering off for a solitary hike up the creek, Vicki managed to get herself thoroughly lost. In the dark. Forgot that trail-laying stuff from Girl Scouts, right Vicki? Well, it turned out well in the end, when Vicki took off and finally found the road, as well as gaining some nifty scratches. Things improved the next morning after Claire and Lea got out the weedeaters and cut a beautiful path down to the creek. Kudos, Kids! And Vicki is going to do a refresher course if she can find her old Girl Scout Handbook.

After a very full day, most of the group repaired to the campsite for a wine-tasting, while others continued the hunt. (It's not dark yet, right?) After forcing themselves to get up and moving again, most of the group headed back to home and reality. Claire, Lea, Paige, and Vicki camped another night, and enjoyed the peace of the creek for another day.
--Edited by Vicki Lais

(Photos courtesy Lea Martin, Jan Novak, and Vicki Lais)

unpacking exchange students lunch
Leisa thoughtfully provided our 3 Swedish exchange students with everything they needed to enjoy the day's trip.

preparing to hunt fossils
Due to rain the previous night, we left the cars at the entrance and loaded all our gear in Greg's truck.

hunting fossils in parking area
Scouting the parking area, which was newly bulldozed.

hiking to fossil collecting site
Some of the group on the long hike down.
hiking down to creek
Along the final stretch to the creek, members stop to check the limestone outcrops for nautiloids and gastropods.
Vicki and Sylvie heading to creek

newly blazed path to creek
Finally, the path to the creek, which is just over that ridge. There was no path here the day before, which is how Vicki got lost. A huge thanks to Lea and Claire for cutting all the underbrush for us!

snacks and sunscreen b4 hunting fossils
Sun and sand - on with the sunscreen!

hunting fossils in creek
Sylvie and Michael screening for shark teeth.
Greg in foreground
geologic layers in creek bank
The layers of years of flooding are clearly shown in this high bank.
found bone but not fossil
Loni's granddaughter has found a treasure, but they are new bones, not fossil.

hunting fossils in creek
The Novacks starting a long trip way up the creek.

showing fossil shark tooth found in creek
Two of our newest members from Mobile, Becky and Keith. Keith is holding a nice shark tooth that was found in the shell filled bank shown below.

fossil shells in rock
Vicki, Lea, John, Anca at the "beach"

fossil site
Lea and Claire

hunting fossils in creek
Lea examining one of her finds.
hunting fossils in creek
Screening for shark teeth.

showing fossils found in creek
Leisa has found a nice bone artifact, and some cochina stone.

showing fossil coquina found in creek
Closer view of the cochina. This stone is filled with fossil shells, including turritella, and is widely found in Florida, where it is cut into blocks and used as a building material.

taking a break from hunting fossils

hunting fossils in creek
Beautiful weather, temperature in the 90's (in October????), and we certainly took advantage of it!

hunting fossils in creek

hunting fossils in creek
Paige keeping cool while screening for shark teeth.

beautiful creek bank with ferns and white sand
South Alabama is a beautiful place, and our fossil hobby gives us wonderful opportunities to see such treasures as this fern bank.

spanish moss in trees
South Alabama is also known for the Spanish Moss hanging from many of the trees. It was used as packing material many years ago.

recent worm trails
Many times fossil worm trails (trace fossils) are found in sandstone and shale material. Here is the modern day equivalent.

James found recent vertebra not fossil
James has found a vertebra, but it is recent.
wave and wind patterns in sand
Many sandstones and shales show wave patterns, captured here in modern day sand.
deer skull with antlers
Nice deer skull found in the creek. Claire is now the proud owner.

deer skull teeth
"What kind of teeth are these?" is a frequent question. This should aid in identifying deer teeth.

rocky beach very few fossils
This area was covered with larger rocky material, and yielded many pottery shards, but few fossils.

coyote tracks
We weren't alone on the creek, these may be tracks of the coyotes we heard "singing" during the night.

fossil coquina and pottery shards
Vicki's collection.

fossil shark teeth
Paige collected quite a few shark teeth.
hanging out at camp area
Hanging out at the campsite, late afternoon. We also collected small gastropod specimens in this area.

hanging out in camp area
Discussing our finds for the day; hanging out and enjoying each others company.