Red Egret, Blue Crabs and Tiny Dosinias

We took the boat up to Disappearing Island the other day and spent some time in the water. On the way, we passed this huge yacht. (Disappearing Island is at the mouth of Ponce Inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on the East coast. I hate to read blogs when I have no idea where people are, so thought I’d just include that bit of into.)

The ocean and Indian River water temps are now in the mid to upper 80’s, and hotter in shallower water. The air temperature was also very hot, so I pretty much stayed submerged in ocean water as much as I could. It was not refreshing, but at least I didn’t feel like I was baking in an oven!

However, I did walk around a bit and got some photos of a few interesting bits of wildlife, which is all mentioned below. I saw the usual crown conchs, lightning whelks, shark’s eyes, pear whelks, which were being carried along by hermit crabs. I write about those endlessly, so search my blog posts if you are interested.

I also found many tiny Dosinia shells, which are a favorite seashell find of mine. Usually the ones I see are much bigger. Maybe the back of this island is a good place for the babies to hatch, I don’t know, but something ate these. It could have been a red egret, like the one I watched feeding in this area. Actually I don’t know if they eat mollusks.

Tiny Dosinia seashells
Little Dosinias

This Egret Was Fun to Watch

The top photo is mine, and the bottom, much nicer photo, was taken by another Floridian who shares his photos on Pixabay. Since I am not at all a good wildlife photographer, I had to show my readers what a pretty bird this is.

I watched as this egret danced around, apparently to confuse the fish, then he would grab up a little fish to eat. He worked hard for his meal!

The Fiddler Crabs

Fiddler crab
Fiddler crab

The Fiddler crab lives in sandy grass areas and we see them quite a bit out on the islands. They are very small – maybe an inch across – and scurry into their holes as soon as a human approaches. I had to stand very still to get the photo of the crab just emerging from his hole. I don’t have patience, but soon enough the little crabs would peek out.

Sheepshead fish love to eat the Fiddler crab, and fishermen use them as bait when targeting Sheepshead. I’m guessing that hundreds of fiddlers live in this grassy area. I see them run as I approach!

Grass and sand where fiddler crabs live
This is home to fiddler crabs

The Blue Crab

This crab with the blue legs and claws must be a Blue Crab, but it doesn’t look like the other blue crabs we saw, which were bigger. It was either a juvenile or a female – at least that is my guess. I don’t know much about these crabs.

blue crab young juvenile
This little thing made himself all big and bad by showing me his outstretched claws!

As I approached this little crab he / she stood up on back legs and spread her claws. As I got closer she tried to spread them out wider to fend me off. Pretty brave little thing! I didn’t want to bother her too much so took a few pics and left him / her alone.

Water, Water Everywhere

Florida is a state that exists just above sea level. I feel like one big tidal wave could wash us all away.

Beached behind Disappearing Island
Enjoying the hot summer at Disappearing Island

This last photo is looking east, toward the ocean beaches, with the high-rise condos. Before we beached our boat here, we rode out the inlet (Ponce Inlet) into the ocean (photo below). Our Hewe’s Redfisher flats boat is not made for ocean boating, but my son likes to go out, just off the inlet, when the water is calm.

Below is the photo I took looking back at the beach from the ocean. So basically these photos are front and back of the condos.

Little Island Beaches, Get There Only By Boat

The beaches of Florida are talked about a lot. They attract tourists year round, but those are ocean beaches. Waves and sand and even drive-on beaches make Florida a unique beach vacation destination.

My favorite beaches are not on the ocean. They are far from the crowds and tourists and often have no people present. We find these beaches while boating along the Intracoastal Waterway and the backwaters of the Indian River.

boat docked at the beach
Docked at a little beach in Mosquito Lagoon

A recent trip to Mosquito Lagoon took us to an out of the way beach which turned out to be a bit scary. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but later I realized the chances I had taken by strolling through water that could have had alligators!

Photo Below: Disappearing Island is a place well known to boaters. It’s a big wide sand bar that disappears at high tide, but is usually full of people at low tide when the island is visible. Boaters can pull up at the Inlet side, or go around to the shallower back side of the island (where I took my photo). Only boats with a shallow draft, or kayakers, can easily navigate the little canal that runs along the back. And we all have to watch the tide, as it’s easy to get stranded! I think that every time I’ve been, at least one boat had people pushing on it to get it off the sand where the tide had left it high and dry.

floating in the ocean disappearing island
Feet up and floating in the beautiful, warm water behind Disappearing Island.

The water around Disappearing Island is fairly clear as is it located at the inlet that goes out to sea. There will also be waves on the front side of the island. However, I have not found many shells here.

Like the beautiful Disappearing Island, some beaches in the backwater are underwater when the tide is in. But backwater beaches can be mucky and suck you in like quicksand. Others are encrusted with oysters, and boaters have to be careful of that. Oyster shells can tear up a boat hull, and your bare feet! It’s one reason I always wear water shoes.

Low tide in the backwaters

These backwater areas are wonderful for view nature. We always see interesting birds, and have found live horse conchs on shallow sandy areas like this. Other shells that are regularly seen are the Shark’s Eye and Crown Conch.

oyster bed
Oysters and mud and lots of shells with hermit crabs inside!

I found a lot of pear whelks in this area, and watched hermit crabs scurry along in the shallow water.

The beach below is also on an island near Ponce Inlet. It is across from Disappearing Island. I found some unique little seashells here and saw a lot of shore birds.

Royal Terns
Royal Terns on island beach near Ponce Inlet

An island we always pass backs up to the main waterway. Sometimes boats are docked here, but if they aren’t, we stop. I love to walk along the entire beach and have found some awesome shells here. Some I kept, but most had to go back due to the fact that they were homes to hermit crabs.

island beach
One of my favorite backwater beaches to explore

beach sand on an island
Tide is halfway out – good time to search for seashells

Below is a little beach where we stop sometimes to take a swim. The water is deep in that cut through, but boats can fly past, so it’s best to keep an eye out. Also the current is strong in the pass.

beach on ICW river
This is a good place to stop for a swim

blog about seashells
Low tide with clouds building, which means thunderstorms soon

Summer months in Florida bring afternoon thunderstorms. The heat of the day causes clouds to form over land and those clouds will build and build. They can suddenly turn dark and pour rain, but the dangerous thing is the lightning. Boaters have to be vigilant so we won’t get stranded out on the water in a bad storm.  Even a storm far off in the distance can be dangerous.  It doesn’t have to be raining either!

Some backwater “beaches” only appear at low tide and they can be mucky.

I do love the ocean beaches, such as New Smyrna Beach, but island beaches also have a lot to offer.  Locals with a boat have the ability to enjoy the real, wild Florida.  Except for the high rise condos in the distance, it would be easy to believe I was truly in the wilderness.

Found a Big Horse Conch to Take Home

horse conch big seashell
Horse Conch

Yesterday, while walking the low tide sands around Three Sisters Islands, I came across a big seashell that was empty! I saw a lot of nice crown conchs, small pear whelks, and a nice big sharks eye shell, but all were occupied by hermit crabs. Until I saw the horse conch, all I had collected were bivalves, which were filled with sand, and not living creatures.

I found a giant Atlantic cockle which is joined, so I have two perfect, connected halves, and a pretty flat white shell which I believe is a dosinia.

Dosinia shell

We piled into the Gheenoe – three of us – which was a tight fit, and headed out in the heat to do some fishing and island hopping. Being the middle of the week, we had the river pretty much to ourselves. Since the tide was just beginning to come in, there was plenty of exposed sand to explore.

The only types of shells that are abundant are the clumps of oysters which are the bane of boaters. So finding some collectable shells means searching. It was a 95 degree day (actually cooler than what we’ve been having), and even the water was hot – yes, like a hot tub – but I shuffled around the edges of the island in search of something good that was close enough to see and reach. Continue reading “Found a Big Horse Conch to Take Home”