Monday, 1 July 2013

A great week's fieldwork

Last week quite a few of us spent the whole week up in Northumberland and the Borders Region of Scotland doing fieldwork as part of the TW:eed Project.  Eight of us stayed in the same wonderful rented cottage a little way west of Berwick where we stayed in March.  There were four of us from Cambridge, three from Leicester and one from Southampton. On Tuesday afternoon we had a team meeting, so three from the National Museums, Scotland and two from the British Geological Survey came down from Edinburgh to join us.  It was a little cosy in the living room while the various teams reported their progress.

We had obtained permission from the relevant authority to remove about a square metre of rock from a specific site at Burnmouth, so Tim had hired a rock saw which he used to cut around the bit he wanted.  It was mounted in a cradle, which actually made it much harder to use than he'd hoped.  Here he is on day one, being assisted by Stig Walsh from the NMS.

Jenny and I didn't spend much time there, as there was nothing we could do to help, so we'd just have been sitting around. We extracted a couple of large bones from the same bed we've been digging through ever since we first started coming to Burnmouth.  The rate of erosion is quite fast, so this week's bones were completely invisible when  we were here in March.  One was a 15cm diameter lungfish operculum, but we don't know what the other one is.

Two geologists went to a new site to log the beds there, and Jenny and I went along just to take a look.  We were delighted to find some bits of rhizodont fish on the river bank at the foot of the cliff.

We found a bed in the cliff with more rhizodont and lungfish bones eroding out, but could not collect that as the bones were so friable they just disintegrated as we tried to remove them.  We bought some superglue, which the Americans sometimes use to consolidate the bone in the field, though UK conservators frown on that, since it's not reversible.

In the event, we couldn't use it anyway as it started to rain, and kept raining until the end of the week.  Superglue doesn't work well in the wet!  We're planning to go back later this month or
early in August for a couple of days to extract the bones, but will need to get the land owner's permission before we do so.  Not sure quite how we'll go about that, but I'm sure it's do-able.

We saw grey wagtails feeding chicks and also a pair of dippers, which were visiting this nest which we had to walk past to get to our site.  You could hear the chicks peeping when the parents went in with a beakful of tasty invertebrates!

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