This past 24 hours I have been slower than a narcoleptic tortoise, after putting my back-out whilst digging a trench to collect sediment samples for analyses in Manchester. All I could manage today was my backpack...which is more than yesterday!
We split into two teams (always in contact via walkie talkies) and agreed to meet behind a large butte that was west of our main site. We had not explored this area yet, as Site 1 and 2 had kept us so busy the past two weeks. Brandon (one of my graduate students from UPenn) found a Rattlesnake. He screamed loudly, his girlfriend calmly led Brandon away from the said snake. Cathy was brought up on a ranch and is used to dealing with squealing townies....and slithering snakes...often easily confused.
|Brandon in a less squeamish moment...|
The relatively mild winter and wet summer has made a great year for rattlesnakes. The weather and plentiful supply of food had allowed many more to survive and breed. The hemotoxic venom they are capable of delivering makes them potential field problems for all crews. However, the distinctive rattle, a series of modified scales at the tip of the tail, usually gives plenty of warning. I am always more worried about the very young snakes, which do not have a rattle and cannot gauge how much venom to pump into their prey, often delivering too much. Small snake does not always equal less venom! The availability of anti-venom has reduced the fatality rate of rattler bites to a mere 4 percent. I was glad that Brandon did not add to the statistics today!
One of the team from Catalonia (Spain) shouted over that he had struck bone. Arnau Bolet, a micro-vertebrate expert, spotted the tell-tale line of bone weathering from a sandstone ledge high on the slope of the butte. I was already marking another trackway horizon across the butte from Arnau and soon found a partial ceratopsian skull whilst walking towards him. However, I would have dragged myself over far quicker, had a known what he had found.
|Bernat's leg (left), then Judit, Arnau, Albert, Brandon and Cathy...all admiring 'Arnau's Ledge'|
|Bone, bone, bone, bone and bone :-)|
A very peaceful place.