All posts by Dustytoes

About Dustytoes

I grew up in New England but spent most of my life living in central Florida and blog about seashells, beaches, gardening, boating, fishing, hiking, photography, PKD, and my work as a designer for Zazzle. I move around a lot and try to discover the best in all places I live. Life may be tough, but it's not boring.

jellyfish on beach

New Smyrna Beach Jellyfish, Seaweed, and a Bumpy Beach Drive

We are still waiting for the boat we ordered to come in and I’m dying to get out on the water.  For now I must be content with visiting the beach and river.

This morning I headed over to Flagler Ave. to see how the ocean looked.  There have been beach advisories lately because of the high winds, which cause high tides and rip currents. And sure enough, the waves were crashing and the beach was a mess.

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Messy Beach and Rough Surf

The tide was going out, so I decided to drive down Penninsula Ave. and get onto the beach from one of those drive-on spots.  The one I chose had a big puddle of sea water at the bottom of the ramp.  The toll-collector and I watched the car ahead of me navigate it along the edge, and he made it.  I have a 4-wheel drive Subaru, which always handled very well in the snow, so I was not afraid of a sea puddle (it was a BIG puddle).  I slid around a bit but made it out to the beach traffic lanes fine.  But the driving was very bumpy because of all the ruts in the sand.  For that reason I didn’t go very far before parking.

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Portuguese man-o-war 

The first thing I noticed, besides all the seaweed, was the blue jellyfish.  Yes, man-of-war jellyfish were scattered along the beach.  I got a couple of pictures and didn’t know what type they were until I got home and showed the picture to my son.  He knew right away it was a man-of-war.  Believe it or not, people (tourists?) were still going in the water!

I walked the high tide line of sand hoping to find some cool shells, but all I found was the regular variety.  My goal was to get close to the jetty and boardwalk of the Smyrna Dunes Park down by Ponce Inlet, but it was too far to drive on that bumpy sand.  I may end up getting a pass so I can drive to the park and walk along the boardwalks.

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Sea Bird in the Sand

I did see something odd though.  A sea bird was plopped down in the sand.  At first I thought it was dead, but it wasn’t.  I’ve never been to the beach when a bird was nestled in the dune area.  I snapped a photo without getting too close.

beach shells

The shells I found were the regular arks.  I was hoping to find some unusual seashells because of the high tide and rough surf.  I didn’t find any super unique shells, but I did collect a little slipper shell, a black rock, and a Sea Purse Bean (photo below).

There are a lot of sea beans mentioned in my “Florida’s Living Beaches” book.  Some have a much thicker ring, but they are all hard and roundish in shape.  This is the first time I have collected a sea bean.

sea bean

 

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crown conch seashell

Shell Inside a Shell, Could it Be a Baby Horse?

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Tiny Shell Inside Crown Conch

Recently I decided to clean up my seashells.  Honestly, I’ve never made a big production out of cleaning my seashells – just rinsed them well in fresh water and let them dry.  I have collected a few good ones while out on the Gheenoe and the few times I’ve been over to the beach.

Finally I got my Florida driver’s license… which was a bigger ordeal than it needed to be, but it means I can buy a beach pass and get a fishing license. Hallelujah! It’s a little thing, but it means I can go to the beach whenever I want as a resident and pay one low fee for the rest of the year.

Okay, back to the shells. After soaking my seashells in a bleach and water solution – I didn’t measure it, but just added a little bleach to a pail full of water – over night, they are looking clean. They also look a bit duller. The next time I get to Lowe’s I will get some mineral oil which is supposed to make them brighter again.

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Identifying the Little Shell

I have two pretty crown conchs, which are hard to find without a hermit crab living inside, and one had a tiny shell wedged in the opening. I was trying to figure out what type of shell the tiny one was, when I decided to take it out for a better look.

tiny broken horse conch seashell
Baby horse conch ?

My best guess is that it’s a broken horse conch. The Florida horse conch has a long spire like this little guy, but the tiny shell is missing the bottom half. In fact I have a large horse conch shell which I found out on the Indian River which I am in the process of cleaning. I don’t know if I will ever get all the black stuff off it, but I’m trying.

Sharks Along the Coast of Florida and Why We Don’t Care

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Shark (photo: derwerbepool @ Pixabay)

You may have heard the recent story of a half eaten shark washing ashore on New Smyrna Beach, in Florida. This is where I live, and it’s the beach I visit most often.  Usually shark stories involve people being bitten, but this time the shark got chomped, presumably by a much larger shark. And he did not live to brag about his shark bite scars!

The story was out there to read on many sites. Some made a big deal out of it, and others (mostly Florida based) did not.  That is wildlife for you.  The bigger stuff eats the smaller stuff.  This time the smaller stuff was a five-foot shark.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-11-04-amI have a friend who finds it difficult to believe I will go swimming at Florida beaches. (He lives in Michigan) He’s read all the stats about Florida having the most unprovoked shark attacks, and (incorrectly) believes anyone who ventures into the ocean, or any water, in and around Florida will be putting themselves in danger.

Florida is full of creepy stuff. Animals AND people make up that category. We live among alligators, poisonous snakes, and big nasty spiders, and yes, predatory ocean life. But, just like the land creatures don’t keep us out of our yards, the sea creatures don’t keep us from swimming, surfing, and waterskiing.

We have to be careful and observant. Sharks can be found close to the coast all around Florida, but the bites tend to happen in certain spots more than others. The jetty, where the waves break, attracts surfers, and surfers tend to be the ones who get bit.
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I have been lazing about in the warm ocean water just offshore only to see a large fish silhouetted in a wave.  It’s pretty cool really. Or suddenly we spot a fin only a few yards away… is it a shark fin? We are not sure, so we hightail it out of the water. But we can’t stay out.  And that fin may have been a dolphin or some other non life-threatening fish.  We splash back in, our fears forgotten.

The weather is too hot to NOT go swimming. The water is too beautiful and warm to NOT enjoy it. The beauty and wonder overtakes the fear. So we swim and don’t worry about what might be out there swimming around near us. For the most part we are left alone and get back home unscathed, except for the sunburn where we missed with the sunscreen.

As I float in the unbelievably warm ocean, and feel the waves roll me up and down, it is my own little paradise.  No negative thoughts allowed, and that includes sharks!

I can only pity my friend who does not know what he is missing.

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A New Love

(All photos on this page came from the free, public domain site, Pixabay)

Early Morning Visit to Beachside

This morning I had the urge to drive over to the beach. I live close enough now that I can do it, so I should! But the weather was cool and cloudy so I didn’t go for a walk, just got a few photos on my phone.

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Heading over the causeway to beachside
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27th Ave. parking lot

The parking lots, like this one, now charge people to park there! But, as a resident of Volusia County I can get a Free pass, which I plan to do soon. If the tide is high, I would prefer to park in a lot and not on the beach when I go for my morning walk.

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Sunrise over the Atlantic

Late in the Day Trip to Smyrna Dunes Park

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One of the long boardwalks that make up the park.

Recently I went to Smyrna Dunes State Park to walk, visit the beach, and take photos. My camera was full, so I had to keep deleting photos to take more, which was annoying.   I would have taken a lot more photos.

My son had his girlfriend visiting over the Christmas break. She lives in New Hampshire and had never been to Florida. Well, the Christmas break is NOT the time to visit as everyone in the world is visiting Florida then…. or they are waiting to come for the spring break, which is also a horrible (touristy) time to come here.

We went to Smyrna Dunes Park late in the day and had to leave by 6:00PM or be locked in, so I was constantly checking the time. I was the odd man (woman) out accompanying the young sweethearts on a romantic stroll among the dunes, but I did come in handy when it came to photo taking.

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We ended up on the west side by the Intracoastal (Indian River) where the sun was beginning to set and my son wanted pictures. So I used the girlfriend’s cell phone to take most of them, and got some very good photos (if I do say so myself). The sun was setting and they posed in silhouette… ah, young love!

The Park is a long boardwalk over the dunes that leads to the ocean and river  in several places, and Ponce Inlet. I had visited this place years ago – probably 15 or 16 – and it has changed. Now there are trails just for dog walkers, and there were many people taking advantage. The dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks except at certain places.

seashells

At one point we walked down to the beach by the rocky jetty. The tide was out, and lots of little shells were caught in seaweed along the beach. My picture here shows some of the seashells I found. Pieces of shells that were once quite big, and the regular finds of the incongruous arks and cross barred venus clam.

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We saw a gopher turtle (tortoise) snacking on some weeds in the dunes (no photo, camera issues), and I was reminded of the one that used to live in the corner of my yard. They are big turtles and slide down into their dens that are a maze of underground tunnels. My daughter volunteered at the Central Florida Zoo (named differently now) and learned all about them. They are quite amazing wild animals. With all the building going on constantly in this state, they are threatened. The gopher turtle, like much wildlife in this state, has lost a lot of it’s natural habitat.

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Ponce Inlet lighthouse and beach at the end of the boardwalk.

We had a lovely time walking the boardwalk, and I was sorry I didn’t just buy the $20 yearly pass. I may go back and use this place as my exercise area. But I do have a beach pass, so I can drive onto the beach and then use the boardwalk, or simply walk along the beach. I’m lucky to live so close to this beautiful area.