A Muddy River Walk To Identify a Clump

Last September I had a good day out on the boat. Low tide offered some interesting sea life finds. I was so excited by getting a really good hermit crab video, that I neglected to write about another aspect of the trip. I took a long walk across the muddy flats to inspect a large object in the distance.

Our day out on the water proved to be one of discovery.

First, at the boat ramp, while my son parked the truck and trailer, I found a bubble shell. It’s the only shell of it’s kind I’ve ever seen.

We stopped at an unnamed island along the Indian River where I’d previously seen some very large Tulip shells. This is where I took the hermit crab video and began to wonder if hermit crabs could oust a mollusk from it’s shell.

Three Sisters islands

After we enjoyed that little island, we went just north a bit to Three Sisters. This is one of my favorite places to beach-comb and take photos when the tide is low. It’s also a good place to get into the water to cool off on a hot day.

Must Identify That Clump

The tide was very low and we could walk a long way. Lots of muddy ground was exposed which meant there would be lots of marine life to see.

Off in the distance, in an area where I’d never walked, there was something large sitting on the mud. Any time something stands out like that it’s worth a look. I figured it might be a big horse conch and hoped it was not a dead animal.

It turned out to be a clump of something I can’t identify. It was hard and jagged, like a piece of coral maybe. I took these photos and then walked back toward the boat.

Truthfully, the walk across the mud to identify the clump was a bit nerve-racking. The mud can be very soft. As you can see in the photo below, it’s easy to simply sink and get sucked in. It’s why I am careful about where I jump out of the boat.

Not only did I have the mud to worry about, but there were bumps just sticking out of the water. Anyone who knows what an alligator in water looks like would agree with me that these bumps look similar. Supposedly there are no gators in this area of the river, but they do live in the river just south of here near Cape Canaveral. I once discovered an alligator skull down there. I’m always on the look out, because you never know in Florida.

Seashells and Oysters

I sometimes find interesting seashells among the oyster beds but the mud is especially soft and the oysters are sharp. The hermit crabs like to carry their shells into these beds. The oysters are constantly snapping and gurgling while they feed and filter the water.

This area is loaded with oysters which mostly grown in clumps around the base of the mangroves. Oyster shells are sharp and can damage boat bottoms, not to mention feet! This is not an island paradise.

Mangrove island surrounded by oysters

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Boating Around The River Islands in May

This week my son and I went boating around the river islands. May is a very good time to go boating in Florida. The water temp has warmed to 80 (or close) and the afternoon thunderstorms are not yet a thing.

I try to get a lot of text into most of my posts, but after being out on the boat for two days, I have so many photos to share. All those photos convert to specific posts about my beach-combing finds, but getting the pictures sized and ready also takes time.

Because I end up with many photos of the landscape, like the ones below, I’m sharing a big block of scenes from the Indian River backwater area. Soon I’ll write more in depth about these boating trips because there is a lot to report. For one thing I found more tulip shells in one place than ever before.

Discovered a New Island to Explore

The water temp was between 75 and 80 depending on where we went. The first day out we stayed in Edgewater and Oak Hill and found a new, low tide “new island” to explore. I found some really awesome marine life here, which I will be writing about!

Then we headed over to Three Sisters where I found more to photograph. That tiny sea star was a fun discovery!

After a while my photos all begin to look the same… mud, water, and mangroves! But each area holds wildlife that is interesting and beautiful. I never know what I’ll find out there.

Day Two and Boating North to Ponce Inlet

On our second boating day we headed north to Ponce Inlet to explore the sandy islands left exposed at low tide. It just happened to be a day when a rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral and we could watch.

Unlike our first day of boating, there were more boats and people. Also, there were fewer seashells and lots less marine life. But the water was a beautiful blue and the islands were hard packed sand instead of mud.

What a Discovery! A Tiny Sea Star in The Mud

While beach-combing at Three Sisters islands I made a fun discovery. This tiny sea star was just lying in the mud, upside-down. He is so small that I had trouble figuring out which was his top and which was his bottom. He is about the size of my fingernail.

sea star, starfish, five-legged, tiny sea star, Florida nature, sea life
The under part of a tiny sea star.

This is exactly how I found him. He was out of the water and turned over. The sun was hot and as I gently moved him, he seemed to be alive. It could have been my imagination, but as I turned him over I think his legs were curling in. He wasn’t hard and brittle.

sea star, tiny starfish, upside-down, sea life, nature, Florida
Found this tiny sea star just like this – upside down in the sand.

I had to assume he was alive, but needed water. The tide had gone out and left him stranded. All Florida starfish live in sandy shallows and can become stranded when the tide goes out, or if waves from a storm wash them ashore. I don’t like to mess with nature, but I’m sure he would have dried out and died if left upside down in the sun.

tiny sea star, starfish,

After getting these photos I took him over to a pool and set him down. I don’t know much about sea stars (or starfish) and never find them out on our island excursions. But, I did find a lined sea star a few months ago. That was my first. This one was so small I nearly overlooked it.

I hope he lived.

sea star, starfish , tiny sea star, sea life, echinoderm

It might be time for me to do some research into sea stars. According to my Florida’s Living Beaches book (this is an Amazon affiliate link), none of the typical starfish found around Florida are super common in my area. The only ones mentioned are the Lined Sea Star, Nine-armed sea star, and the Thorny Starfish. This one is obviously not 9-armed, and my guess would be it’s a baby Lined starfish. It doesn’t look like the Thorny variety.

Video of a Thorny Starfish, Naples Florida (West Coast)

The man in the video doesn’t say, but this sea star is a Thorny starfish according to my book. They are more commonly found in south Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

This type of starfish feeds on clams and mussels by suctioning the shell open enough to fit its stomach inside to digest the animal.

The Shape of Life website has time lapse videos about starfish and how they hunt and what they eat. View it here at Echinoderms: the Ultimate Animal – For Online Learning

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