Well a “White Throated Swift” if I read my audubon ID correctly. They are silly fast birds. Getting one launching from it’s home…. lol. My reaction time isn’t as fast as in my youth. As a geologists I’m less interested in the bird instead of the WONDERFUL geology behind it. I’m always thinking about Cretaceous river systems operating up here in the rock record. Geologists read rocks like a book. The local rocks make for a great story ! ..
Transition to geology:
Indeed this Swift is a cliff dweller exiting that dark subsoil homestead built out of the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance formation Cretaceous River bottom sediment exposed here. Those various “rocks” are all different kinds of mudstone “pebbles”. These were rolled down a very large paleo-river. Each rock torn up from the clay river bottom up stream then rounded along the way. There is a nice mix of clast sizes represented in the wall. The current velocity in that paleo-river obviously carried these pebbles to cobble sizes down river only to dump them here at this spot. That river lost it’s ability to carry this material leaving it behind for me to observe 66 million years later. No fossils in this debris which represents the source’s likely-hood of having bones in the clay. (way long discussion ommitted).
Somewhat more recently, rain water has very carefully washed the sand away from the pebbles showing this well exposed “cobblestone surface that is resultant from that pre-historic river depositional event. Notice I didn’t say “flood”. Floods wash sediment down stream as well as scouring clay chunks out of the floor of the stream. It’s the cessation of that flood that leaves this kind of debris as these transported mud clasts behind. Slower velocity drops the suspended and saltated load instantly. This pile of river gravel was eventually covered by another river cycle of deposition. The next depositional event overlapping rinse and repeat millions of times. The same river swept back and forth across the Cretaceous piedmont filling the epi-continenal sea at the time. Dinosaurs skinny dipped in these rivers sands/cobbles.
I am literally shooting across the Montana/Wyoming border taking this shot. The trees in the foreground are in Wyoming. The range to the north in Montana. This is a favorite overlook of mine. A view to the north of the Mud Hills which is the first range north of my ranch across the Ranch Creek Drainage.
Called the “treed” pasture this fraction of the ranch is about 2 square miles of grazing patch of mixed pine trees and grassy hills and gullies. It is a land of many uses: Cattle grazing during the summer pasture is a major use here obviously. Cattle can’t be pastured around pine trees in the winter as they will eat the needles. Those needles contain turpentine which will cause the pregnant cows to spontaneously abort. Several hundred cow/calf pair hang out around here for a month or two during Late May through Early July.
We move cattle out of this pasture in early July. This facilitates the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship courses 3 and 4 use. This ground has been home to a nationally ranked Team Tactical Rifle Championship for 18 years. Almost 4 miles of groomed rifle courses in 16 shooting stations. All exposing 150 fixed reactive steel Targets out to 1200 yards. This location is the last (or first) station on course 3 lolol. Snipers nest with literally thousands of precision rifle shots at those reactive steel targets down range.
There are a few dozen locations (I’ve found so far) within this “Pasture” that has Hell Creek/Lance Formation. These rock contain dinosaurian (and others) fossils. I found my first dinosaur tooth in this pasture 18 years ago. I knew they were here, I just didn’t know where. You do have to look though occasionally I stumble on dinosaur bones laying in the grass. Just like any other stone in the middle of the prairie lol.. I have found several fossil locations that way. You can’t find them if you can’t see them lolol.
We even have had a nationally released 4×4 video in 2008 filmed here. Peterson’s 4 Wheel Drive and Off Road Magazine filmed part of their “Ultimate Adventure” video series here that year. It’s out there if you want to watch several high end jeeps flip over. All trying to climb out of some of the soft sandstone lined gullies. As I say, a land of many uses…
This a view northeast from one of my favorite overlooks just in Wyoming looking across the border north into Montana. Sunrise is seconds away to the right of frame. The far ridges name, 10 miles distant, dubbed the Mud Hills. Those reside inside Montana. I’m standing in Wyoming with my cameras. Currently as I type this, the snow is melting with a 50 degree day and melt water is running in the fields. The winds are blowing and the cold front is incoming. The next time I go the three miles of drifted two track roads, it will crunch along the way from the ice patches.
This image over the “Ranch Creek” Drainage. Montana 544 follows the valley going over the pass on the right side of the frame. The Montana / Wyoming border area remains a beautiful unspoiled area. Way bigger than most states. Eastern Montana/Wyoming are highly under appreciated in the drive through tourist trade lol. Everybody stays on the interstate highways at 80mph. As a photographer I would way prefer to drive backcountry roads at 45 mph through an area I haven’t been to before. So many things appear around the next bend that are photogenic every time I travel backcountry.
The Mud Hills sediments composed of the Tullock/Fort Union Tertiary rock formations are younger than where I stand. They COULD contain fossils like crocs, mammals, trees, leaves, amphibians but NO dinosaurs. The ground I’m standing on however is highly likely to have dinosaur fossils within a mile of where I stand. . This ground is eroded Hell Creek/Lance formation and it is dinosaur bearing. Older than the rocks higher on the hills. Humm.
Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (looking across the border).
These are nose horns from various Triceratops with perhaps a dermal scute from Ankylosaur in the front row that looks like Apollo 11 re-entry capsule.
Each horn has it’s story regarding how I found it, the “Eureka” moment, the rush of adrenaline. I have only prepped the rear one. As they were found, the remaining stay. Restoration occurred on the BIG horn in the rear. It was in 80 separate pieces when I found it.. Restored to “pretty cool” condition. I’ll post it later. The best one is the smallest on up front row. It’s an amazing fossil.
Triceratops horns are like cattle horns in that they take on many different shapes even within the same group. These are all from the same bone bed I call “Horn Sieve Beds” as they have given up over 30 of them to me.
Hell Creek/Lance Formations are the Cretaceous River Sands/muds is where the last of the dinosaurs hung out. Both formations cover our ranch. We span the MT/WY state line. There the Formations change names formally. Same rocks, different name.🤣
I got my masters degree around most things Paleo-Environmental……. I might have been one of the first Pale-environmentalist ever minted lolol. There is another that will read this I graduated with. Hi Dave!
So, paleo-topography when this dinosaur roamed was a broad equatorial coastal plain sloping like the piedmont of North Carolina east facing toward the then interior sea way stretching from the current Gulf of Mexico across the continent to Canada.
Kinda looks like just rocks don’t they? “Leaverites” Knowledge is power I point out.
Dinosaurs often had chunks of bone growing on their skin to act as armor. “Osteoderms” are commonly known as Scutes. Many creatures have them. Crocs and Alligators come to mind. Skin surrounded these bony armor chunks They fit tightly in a network of armor to protect the turtle shaped dinosaur with the clubbed /spiked tail from bites. These are remarkably rare. I’ve found these three in 20 years. I’ve found way more T-rex teeth for example and they aren’t exactly growing on trees up here lolol. Ankylosaurs were 20 feet long and 5 foot high at the hips.
Out of curiousity I looked up some pricing on similar items on the commercial market (I have NEVER sold and never will sell a fossil). The smaller one would be in the 500 dollar range and the larger in the 1000 dollar range. I knew they were uncommon but I didn’t know there was a demand for them. Ankylosarids are rare in the upper Cretaceous. Again, they are NOT for sale. They are in the ranch collection of over 10K fossils at this point.
Disclaimer: The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch is 99 percent private land. Deeded ground is the only place it is illegal to collect ANY vertebrate material (if it had a backbone, leave it alone) on public land. BLM, state and Tribal land is off limits. See a turtle shell, leave it lay. On government ground, artifacts from humans are also best left alone. They can definitely get you in big trouble. Invertebrate fossils and wood are a different story. I suggest the Bureau of Land Managements website for further information.
Our ranch is completely covered by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Formation. Problem is, there is a lot of grass here too lolol.
I am literally standing on the Montana/Wyoming border taking this shot. This is a favorite overlook of mine. A view to the north of the Mud Hills which is the first range north of my ranch across the Ranch Creek Drainage. We call this place the “treed” pasture as it’s about 2 square miles of mixed pine trees and grassy hills and gullies.
A land of many uses:
Cattle grazing during the summer pasture is a major use here obviously. Cattle can’t be pastured around pine trees in the winter as they will eat the needles. Those needles contain turpentine which will cause the pregnant cows to spontaneously abort. Several hundred cow/calf pair hang out around here for a month or two during Late May through Early July. We move cattle out of here in early July to facilitate the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship courses 3 and 4 use.
This ground has been home to a nationally ranked Team Tactical Rifle Championship for 18 years. Almost 4 miles of groomed rifle courses in 16 shooting stations exposing 150 fixed reactive steel Targets out to 1200 yards. This location is the last (or first) station on course 3 lolol. Snipers nest with literally thousands of precision rifle shots at those reactive steel targets down range.
There are a few dozen locations (I’ve found so far) within this “Pasture” that has Hell Creek/Lance Formation that contain dinosaurian (and others) fossils. I found my first dinosaur tooth in this pasture 18 years ago. I knew they were here, I just didn’t know where. You do have to look though occasionally I stumble on dinosaur bones laying in the grass like any other stone in the middle of the prairie. I have found several fossil locations that way. You can’t find them if you can’t see them lolol.
We even have had a nationally released 4×4 video in 2008 filmed here. Peterson’s 4 Wheel Drive and Off Road Magazine filmed part of their “Ultimate Adventure” video series here that year. It’s out there if you want to watch several high end jeeps flip over trying to climb out of some of the soft sandstone lined gullies.
Perspective: Rock Ledge Shelter is a capture that I put myself into the mind of a mouse to compose. I find that compared to scale of the backcountry here in the borderlands, I’m a mouse anyway😋 Everything is proportional which is the game with photography. This is about 2 miles into the backcountry. I know of another one that I can walk under and stay very dry. The Hell Creek/Lance formation this ledge is a part of, is not known for large caves. That’s limestone that dissolves away to make caves. This is sandstone so we get Rock Ledge Shelters here.
You can’t build a fire under one of these safely though. Many a person has been killed by rocks falling from above a fire build under a rock ledge shelter. The rock expands from the heat and a dead fall trap ensues. It will keep you dry and out of the wind though, pull up some leaves and pine needles and relax.
Angles and leading lines. I am always thinking compositions when I click the shutter. Sure you focus (last thing). You worry about your settings. (With a mirrorless camera you see what your getting BEFORE you take the photo BTW). The Proportions of 1/3rds, and a “hero” which here is the sunstar. This defraction star is light bouncing around in the lens off of the edges of the aperture (the pupil) of the lens. The aperture is known as f-stop.
You need to learn that fstop is a double edged sword. Turning it up high like this (F22) gives you very deep fields of focus from up close to infinite. The sword part is where you really shut the lens down to light (pin point pupil). A LOW fstop nubmer (f2.8 say) will give you a very narrow field of focus say the grass but not the sky. A blurry background is good sometimes but not in my landscape perpectives. By nature they are close/far focus as it’s all about the close details. The background is important yes but its the detail I’m after.
While finding a Cretaceous age Triceratops Vertebra with Processes still attached is possible, it doesn’t happen very often with an isolated fossil not attached to another bone.
I spent many years working on determining paleo-environments. It the environment of deposition that produced rock deposits. This can be determined from any number of clues left in the rocks. (Wrote a Masters thesis on this). I am biostratigraphically and sedimentologically very aware of how this Triceratops vertebra with processes got to be here…cer. There are many indications to what was going on during it’s deposition. This Bentonitic Clay rich Mud was on the edge of a lake. This deposit consisted of what was then Volcanic Ash as a “dump” was washed into the lake hydraulically. That washed in volcanic “mud” made a “deltaic” intrusion into the much larger lake.
This particular bed of sediment I have traced over about 2 square miles. I loose visual on the bed as it disappears either underground or has been removed by erosion. So this was a pretty big lake and a big delta deposit into that lake. Represented is not a high energy Splay deposit that might exist next to a big natural river levy (highest things on the landscape probably). It’s not high energy like a splay proven from the lack of larger chunks of plant matter….
There were BIG rivers sweeping back then. Sweeping back and forth carrying LOTS of sand during this time in Wyoming/Montana. The sand was mixed along with this finer material (clays) by the boat load and dumping it. Low energy let the fine clays settle out (like in lakes). Otherwise the clays (size term just like sand) would stay in suspension in agitated water. This had to be a calm environment like a lake. Most of my Hell Creek Fossils are found in RIver NOT lake deposits by the way lol.
That volcanic ash was altered over the 66 million intervening years into “Bentonite” which is an incomplete description of the sediment. Bentonite is just ONE Clay mineral that is represented here. Dozens of clay minerals are in this mix. Digging in this stuff is like pushing a wood awl through very thick hard modeling clay. Sometimes you can get it in a few inches, others just a quarter of an inch. You stick and pluck the awl and slowly clear off sediment to facilitate this treasures removal. It’s all very moist and most of the fossils have a white crust around them. They usually clean up beautifully brown.
Maybe 20 percent of this Triceratops was recovered nearby this isolated Triceratops vertebra with processes. We finally all gave up looking for more of the carcass. It could be 1 inch down and we wouldn’t know it lolol. It’s bones were obviously scattered/fed on and stepped on after it floated into the lake at least once. I noted that ALMOST all the bone fossils in this deposit were laying flat horizontal to the lake bottom. One rib was obviously stepped on as it was broken in half with 1/2 of it being vertical. It was pushed down into the mud by someone walking over. I’ve found coprolites (fossil poop) here too. This would be indicating that active feeding and pooping was happening for a while. Also found a smaller raptor tooth in the mix. (Dromaeosaur richaroestacia. (sic).
The soft organic rich mud covering the fossil was rich in small fragments macerated plant matter. This is an obvious lake deposit covering several square miles at a minimum. The energy was very low here. Calm water, no doubt shallow as the wading dinosaurs confirm. There was not a lot of topography on the Hell Creek Formations mostly sandy river deposits on a broad sweeping plane. Much of a rib cage was recovered along with a scapula and several other very nice fossils from this animal. I found this site by tracing a big chunk of Triceratops Brow Horn back up hill to where it came from. Took a few looks lol.
There is a reason we are called the “Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. T-rex’s Middle Toe Bone, Just before the HIGHLY desirable killing claw is a rare bone being on 2 per T-rex. The T-rex’s only constitute 2 percent of the fossil volume found in the Hell Creek Formation. This is about 1/400th of the volume of a t-rex’s skeletons proportionality so 1/400th of 2 percent.
Here the bone is still moist and has sand all over it from it’s excavation from a burial of 66 million years or more. . It was quite perfect (still is), needed NO superglue to hold it together or repair it in any way. (way unusual) It is also rare for a river water deposited bone to be “perfect” after being washed unknown miles down an ancient river, buried, washed away in a scour or channel change, rinse and repeat for 3 million years of this sand being dumped by huge rivers from the highlands to the west of here transported by water and left here for me to dig in.. I earned a Masters Degree along the way in a related geologic field to Paleontology and have been a geologist/paelontologist since I was 5 years old. It was no coincidence I moved to this spot 20 years ago. The geologic maps said this ranch was covered in younger rocks than the dinosaurs. I knew they were wrong when I asked the guy who dug all the wells in the area how far down it was to Fox Hill formation which is the local aquifer (he had worked in the area of our ranch) where everyone around here gets their water. Hell Creek is 700 feet thick. Fox Hill is the Beach Sand that the DInosaurs walked on and is stratigraphically lower/under the terrestrial Hell Creek DInosaur Bearing sand. 700 feet of Hell Creek minus 500 feet to Fox Hill made me suspect there was at least 200 feet of Hell Creek fossiliferous (possibly) layers on the surface. I was right and it was a few years before I figured out where 25 micro-sites and a bone quarry were . I also located a partial triceratops on a neighboring ranch. There are a few other spots I know of…🤔
There are in excess of 10K fossils in the ranch collection currently. Before you ask, I do not nor ever will sell fossils. They will go as a collection to a museum some day.
FYI, it is illegal to collect vertebrate remains on public/BLM/State/Indian land. Leave them be. You can only legally collect such fossils from private deeded land. So before you look, ask the landowner for permission…preferably written and no I don’t have people randomly come up here to look around on their own. No horn collectors, no hunters please. This is a private ranch.
The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.