Thursday, 15 August 2013

Hail palaeontologists!

Wherever there is a yin…there is always a yang. Manchester has had beautifully sunny weather these past few weeks…the rain has moved to South Dakota. This is great for the ranchers…as they can now look at their green pastures and fattened calves. The Great Plains are a sea of green, interspersed with ephemeral lakes, rivers and waterfalls…and that’s just the highway! Yesterday we saw stormy skies that hurled golf-ball sized hail with a soupçon of tornado. This is going to be a slippery field season.

On the downside, the mosquitoes have multiplied to biblical proportions and seem to be vying for position as top-predator in the local food chain. The said blood-sucking savages are so fat on the blood of cows, ranch hands, Sturgis bikers and now…me. Yes, the mosquitoes were so happy to smell the blood of an Englishmen; they did a fly-past in formation. I felt I was partaking in some bizarre air-show, in which I was the food-stall for the participants. The said beasties could choose to drink straight from the skin, or take an alternative slurp of haemoglobin through my T-shirt, hat or trousers…these vial creatures seem to disobey all laws of biting…quite unsporting!
The long and 'green' march from site to site.

As soon as our team exited our field vehicle, the swarms descended. Within a few seconds we were all swatting at anything that buzzed. This is the first field season for Dr. Nick Edwards and Dr. Charles Egerton…the rest of the team did not dare to say that the mosquitoes were worse than we had ever seen. Dr. Bill Sellers and Dr. Victoria Egerton batted the said beasties away…one even kindly bashed a mosquito on my left shoulder…reminding me of my torn rotator cuff…double ouch! The bite of the day had to go to Jennifer Anne (aka Indy), as she was bitten on the lip…soon swelling into a curious mix of snarl and pout. Once we had donned all our field gear, we headed to the ridge above our SUV where we had parked. We were greeted with a splendid view of beautiful Hell Creek Formation badlands, set amidst an ocean of green; gently swaying in the afternoon breeze…here begins another field season.

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