One late afternoon we headed over to Ponce Inlet so the boys could fish and I could search for some good seashells. It was a successful visit (for me), as I came home with lots of nice shells. I have some pictures of the seashells that I collected on my post, Take a Closer Look When Seashell Collecting.
The tide was going out, which is perfect if you are a beachcomber. The water was very rough, and the only people in the water were a couple of surfers, and some fishermen who stood thigh deep. My boys fished from the shore – and caught nothing.
One man, who was fishing out in the channel, did catch a nice big fish, and I asked his permission to take this picture. He was proud to show off his catch, and rightly so! What a gorgeous Bluefish he had!
I’ve cut off his head on purpose to show the fish, yet keep his identity private. It was a long walk back to the cars, but he didn’t seem to mind that.
Now we have a boat and will be out fishing from the boat more so than onshore. On our second day of boat ownership, we lounged in the water around Disappearing Island which is in this same general area of this inlet.
Finally the day arrived, and we picked up our new boat. It’s a flats boat, Hewes Redfisher and we are loving it! Our second day out found us behind Disappearing Island at Ponce Inlet in New Smyrna Beach. (That’s in Florida, in case you weren’t sure.)
The reason we chose this type of boat is because it can get into (and out of) shallow water, like this canal. We were able to gain access to the backside of the expansive sandy island, and stay a few hours, while the tide continued to go out. Parts of the canal were very shallow and the tide still had a couple of hours to go out. It would be easy to become stranded.
We arrived at the Inlet around noon on a Friday, so it was not overly crowded. On weekends I wouldn’t attempt to visit this place, as it is a madhouse from what I hear. But if you love the party atmosphere, and love to party with lots of happy strangers, who also enjoy the sun and sea, this island is the place to be.
The little backwater canal where we parked was not big, and we shared the space with only 2 other boats. A pontoon was pulled up onto the beach and he was obviously staying for the day. Once the tide was partially out, he was for sure stranded until the next high tide. The group had rafts, a smaller boat, and were doing some fishing.
The other boat near us suddenly realized they were stuck in the sand. As I was coming back from my walk across the island, I could see them rocking the boat trying to get it to move into the water.
A group of people from across the way came over to help, and so did my son. They got the boat free of the sand so the grateful boaters were able to leave.
Whenever the tide is going out, keep a careful eye on the water depth, or you’re stuck until the water comes back in again! Unless some friendly (strong) folks come by to give you a hand. I have a feeling it happens a lot.
We did some fishing as we left the area and traveled down the canal. We also saw sea turtles popping up for air. I caught a catfish (ugh) and some kind of little silver fish which got off the hook. Then I had a good bite, but the fish bit off my hook and got away. I don’t know my saltwater fish yet, but my son does. He thought it may have been a Bluefish.
It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday. Now I must work all weekend to make up for my time off.
By the way, I saw almost no seashells on the island. The crown conch I found had a hermit crab inside. I did find a cute little cerith seashell, and a little crab walked past us near the shoreline. Pictures on my next post.
The common jingle shell (Anomia ephippium) is easy to identify, but maybe not from a distance. While walking along the shoreline, spotting a black shell could mean you’ve found just about anything. Any shell can end up turning dark gray or black in color if the conditions are right.
On my latest visit to the beach, I gathered some jingle shells, of which most were black, as you can see in my photo. One is somewhat silver, and another has bits of lighter tan, which means it still retains some of it’s original color.
But jingle shells don’t start out as black. Just like the lightning whelk below, shells turn black because of sea and sand conditions. According to a comment left on another blog, The Ocracoke Island Journal, shells that have been washed into a low oxygen area will turn black due to the presence of iron sulfide. Click the link to see photos of an impressive collection of shells that were washed up on the beach after Hurricane Irene, many of which are black in color. Scroll down the page to read the comment about black seashells.
Jingle shells can be orange, yellow, white or off white, and gray. Because of the coloring and their flat shiny surface they are sometimes called “Mermaid’s toenails”. Once you hold a jingle shell, the difference between it and other shells is readily apparent. It’s a bivalve, but there is nothing to suggest it was attached to anther piece. The shell is irregular and somewhat flattened. They are rarely over 2 inches across in size.
In fact I did collect quite a few black shells that day. I’m not really sure what that black one is in the photo below. It was too thick to be a jingle shell, but had the right shape.
This piece of a whelk and the pointed bit of shell caught my eye also because of the unusual dark color. I have decided it is a Lightning Whelk. It is my best guess as the other side looks like the opening would be on the left.
I don’t think it’s rare to find a black seashell, but the shell was washed up from a place that had the right conditions to turn it into this, from it’s natural beautiful state.
If you are not a regular beach-walker and seashell collector, it may seem that the good seashells (usually we think they will be big too) will be easy to find. If only you find them first. But heading to the right beach, at the right time, is not all it takes to find unique and wonderful shells. Often a closer look at the sand beneath your feet will give up surprises.
In my photo below, it seems as if there are few shells here to find. But that is not true. All the seashells in my photo (next one down) were collected in one day here. But I had to look closely, and I picked up a lot of stuff I didn’t want, in order to find them. I also walked back and forth along the breakers more than once.
As I walked the beach at Ponce Inlet yesterday afternoon, I didn’t see many people looking down at the sand. Most people were hanging out in chairs, or walking and talking, or in the water fishing. It occured to me that searching for unique shells takes some intense looking. I had to closely scan the sand around me in order to collect some unique, smaller keepers. It made me wonder if anyone ever looks closely at the shells beneath their feet. I know they would scramble to pick up a whole starfish or sand dollar, but I doubt many people give much thought to other inconspicuous shells, or the creatures who made them.
The beach was full of shells, with more being exposed as the tide went out quickly. Most were the commonly found arks and cockle shells. They are thick bivalves, which make them easy to find in one piece. Don’t get me wrong, they are nice looking, but can be found all over this area. I was looking for something that would be relatively rare to add to my collection.
My sons and I spent nearly three hours on the beach, fishing and beachcombing (they fished), and today my back aches from the constant bending and standing. Who knew that shell collecting could be a workout?
I found many beautiful shells, and a few I have not collected before. Unfortunately the surf is rough and finding whole shells is difficult. So I collected some shells that were nearly whole, knowing that I may never find a perfect specimen.
A few of the shells I found were easy to see, just beneath the waves, or stuck in the soft sand. The big, white Angelwings immediately attracted my attention, and although pieces were missing along the tops, I took them home.
I also brought home three Channeled Duckclams, which I see a lot, but are always broken. Usually I only find bits and pieces not worth collecting. Yesterday I did take the big broken ones. Their shells are thin, like the Angelwings, so finding a perfect shell is tough.
Other shells that were fairly easy to find were the black ones. Black stands out against the beach sand, and against the others. Happily, most of the black shells I went for ended up being Jingle Shells! One black shell was a piece of what looks like a whelk of some kind, but I loved finding all those jingle shells.
But some of the most awesome shells I came across were very small and could only be found by looking closely at the sand. They blended in with all those arks, but every now and then something different would catch my eye. It helps to know a little about seashells. They are not all the same, although at first glance they may seem to be.
I was able to add two Dosinia shells to my bag. I love the feel of their smooth flat surface. And I rarely see them. A little gray sharks eye was sitting on the sand, and although it was broken, I collected it. I’ve found big beautiful sharks eye shells while out boating but they are always inhabited by hermit crabs.
Other unique (to me) shells were the Stout tagelus, slipper shells, cross-barred venus, a black scallop, and two lettered olives (one alive). And I found some things that have baffled me. I’m still researching photos in my seashell book, Florida’s Living Beaches, to discover what they are.
As I write about each of the shells I found, I will link back to this page so you can click to see the photos of the shells.
The sharks eye seashell is easy to identify with it’s round, swirled shape. I have a few of them, but the big ones (they can be up to 3 inches across) are truly gorgeous.
The shell is smooth and usually a gray-brown color. It’s a chunky round shell and I’m always on the lookout for one when I am near the ocean.
While walking along a deserted beach on a little island I found a gorgeous shark’s eye! It was big and so lovely. Then, my excitement lessened as I went to pick it up and it moved. A hermit crab had taken up residence inside. Just like all the other awesome shells I had found that day, it was a home for the spider-like crabs.
Photos were all I could take with me, as I put the shell back on the sand. Darn, it was a beauty! I lightened up the image above so you could see the hermit crab tucked up inside the shell. They usually don’t come out unless left totally alone. Some of them are up inside the shells so far that they can’t be seen at all (which is why I took one home by accident). And almost every shell I find out on the Indian River has a hermit crab inside it!
I only had my cell phone camera and it’s difficult to see anything in the bright sun. I basically have to take the shots blind and hope for the best. This one didn’t come out so great, but I figured I’d share so you can get an idea of that “eye” in the center top.
If it had been empty, I’d have collected it in a minute! I think it would have cleaned up nicely.
While beach-combing in another area I managed to find a tiny shark’s eye shell in the sand. It was broken, but I snatched it up anyway. No crab inside this one!
I also found more interesting seashells that day. If you are interested, go read that post.