Monday, 23 February 2009

Old fossils

A different day saw some of us scrabbling on the beach and over rocks at Folkestone's Copt point. The geology of the area provides easy pickings as the sea and rain wash out the soft blue-grey Gault clay, between the harder Lower Greensand (below it) and the chalk above.
I was inspired in the seach by reading the relevant chapter in a book found in a second-hand bookshop: Some Aspects of the Natural History of the Folkestone District - a little gem. It describes the coast here as being 'a cross-section through much of the Cretaceous system'.
The Gault clay was laid down in the Albian (or Selbornian) stage of the Cretaceous period, about 100m years ago, when the seas and rivers were warm and slow, creating a murky sedimentation. The old continent of Pangea had by now split into sub-continents, but the current pattern was still far from completed, and the Yukutan catastrophe was some tens of millions of years ahead, so the dinosaurs were still in charge.
Our finds were of smaller animals of course - ammonites being the most easily recognisable.
The area is an SSSI, so excavation is not allowed, but it's not necessary as finds were laying on the sand where the clay had been washed away. It is very squidgy, especially where streams passed through it, and the cliffs ran like lava flows in places - a good description of the site is here.

At the water's edge, the usual flock of Mediterranean Gulls stood, calling noisily. This is usually the best place in Britain for this species in winter - I counted only about 20 though, so maybe they have started back to the breeding grounds.
As an antiodote to the grey fossils, clay, sea and sky, here's a reminder of spring:

Winter Aconite, with an early bee.


NW Nature Nut said...

I got some photos of Honeybees the other day too. It was not raining and mild enough that they were out looking for pollen. Spring is coming soon!

Warren Baker said...

If I wasn't a birder I think I would be a fossil hunter. I used to smash open big rocks as a kid, and chip out fossils, very exciting, to think I was the first person to see that fossil - ever!

Mary said...

Lovely post!...fossils, gulls, yellow reminders of spring! You must have a fascinating library of wonderful old books. Thost fossils are great.