Park Open, Boating Again, May 2020

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.

Low tide in backwater view from Hewes
Enjoying the view from our boat

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.

Two living crown conchs moving along the sand
These crown conch mollusks are alive.

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.

Four hermit crabs in the wild
Four hermits in various seashells

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!

Atlantic Giant Cockle pair
Beautiful coloring on this bivalve

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.

Spiky dark colored crown conch in mud
This crown conch is alive and half buried. Love that shell color!

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.)

Crusty horse conch living on flats
Horse conch disguised

View my living horse conch post where you can see more of this awesome creature of the sea or take a look at the huge empty horse conch shell a friend found while wading around out here.

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. 😉

Beautiful shark's eye seashell
Shark’s Eye

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.

Tulip shell in wild
Spotted a big Tulip shell

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.

Whelk egg case in sand
Egg case!

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!