Our local park and boat launch area has been closed due to the Covid flu lockdown, but recently re-opened. Of course everyone was anxious to get out… to swim, boat and get fresh air. It was a beautiful day in May and we headed out in our Hewes Redfisher to cruise around.
The tide was super low and still going out when we pulled in behind Three Sisters islands and got out to explore. Water temp was around 80 degrees, and I went for a swim – really a “float” since it was quite shallow. How nice!
The water was very clear, so finding interesting sea life was not difficult. I couldn’t take more than a few steps without coming across moving seashells. Most were inhabited by hermit crabs (as usual), but I found a few with the mollusk inside.
The two little crown conchs in my photo below are showing little black siphons at the end… which means the snail is inside. The University of Florida has an informational page about the Crown Conch.
Sometimes the hermits gather in a little group and seem to be examining each other’s shell homes like in my photo below. I was drawn to this gathering because of the color of that small horse conch shell.
The brightly colored bivalve I am holding below caught my eye. It was just underwater on the sand and really stood out. This is the Atlantic Giant Cockle and can grow to be very large. It was one of the few shells I collected that day. All the whelks and conchs contained living creatures!
With such a low tide, the “beach” was huge. This is not nice sand, but rather mucky, squishy mud-like stuff. Many creatures were just offshore in the shallow water, but some also drag their shells across the flats, or bury themselves in the mud.
Look at the colors on that crown conch below! Just lovely. I didn’t touch him, as I knew he was alive, just got this photo to show his dark coloring and spiky crown. Once the tide comes back in, all this will be covered in water.
Large lumps in the horizon are always worth checking out. Sometimes it’s just a piece of a tree or clump of seaweed, but it can be something of interest, like this crusty old horse conch! Boy was he covered in stuff….barnacles and oysters were stuck to his shell. To check for life, I nudged the shell and sure enough I knew right away it was inhabited. I could feel the suction, and then I saw a sliver of bright orange (see him at the bottom of the shell in the photo below.)
I found two super gorgeous Shark’s Eye shells which were not covered in gunk so I could see the coloring. Both had hermits inside, but they were kind enough to allow me some photos. 😉
I hate to have to watermark my photos, but thieves abound. I’ll write anther post showing more photos of these cool round shells. They really are quite amazing.
Spotted Something Under the Water
The most fun I have out on the flats is when I spot something in the water, or on the sand, which is big enough to stand out. In this case it was a big Tulip shell. I’ve found some huge Tulips out here containing huge hermit crabs. And once I found a Giant Red Hermit Crab in this same area. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen.
Saving the best for last, I want to share this photo of an egg case I found. This is the first time I have seen an egg case on my travels around the flats, beaches and rivers.
When I touched it I found that both ends of the long spiral were buried in the mud. Next to it was this Florida Cerith (containing a tiny hermit crab), so you can see the size comparison.
I know next to nothing about egg cases, but I suspect it was from one of the common whelks or conchs I always see in this area. I didn’t mess with it because it could be full of babies for all I know. The sections looked closed.
We finished up our day of boating with a little fishing (I caught, and released, a big Sail Catfish) and we remarked at how many people were out on the water for a Tuesday!