Off the Beaten Path Beach-combing Treasures to Photograph

My son is a creature of habit and whenever we go boating we usually end up in the same places. However, the other day we stopped the boat at a new little island which was off the beaten path. The tide was going out so the beach area got bigger and bigger as the day went on, and I discovered many treasures to photograph.

As is always the case, there were many seashells inhabited by hermit crabs of all sizes. This island also contained lots of living mollusks in comparison to what I usually see.

crown conch, low tide, mud, beach, florida, mud flats, beach combing
Some hermit crabs tip their shells up like this crown conch shell in the sand.

Sometimes hermit crabs will be buried down under the sand inside a shell. Other times they are gathered in clumps just under the water. And recently I’ve noticed that some hermits tip the shell up, like the crown conch in my photo above. I did see lots of hermits, but I’ll save that for another post.

A Promising View From the Boat

As soon as we docked the boat, I could see shells scattered across the sand and two large whitish shells in the water. They turned out to be a Quahog clam and Elegant dosinia. Further down the beach I found a whole, live quahog clam which was big! I usually find these shells already broken open so finding that whole clam was a treat.

The side of the clam that had been sitting in the mud was turning black. I’ve written a post about why seashells turn black. The Dosinia nearly fooled me as I thought it was the other half of the clam – it was so large. Then I found another just under the water. These are the only two shells I brought home with me.

More Random and Interesting Shells Found on the Island

This Shark’s Eye had some nice coloring with a very blue “eye”. A hermit crab was inside.

Beautiful sharks eye moon shell

This lightning whelk was a beautiful and unique pink color with a gray top.

lightning whelk seashell in the wild
Pinkish lightning whelk

This little muddy island was home to many tulips, both banded and true varieties. They were stunning shells in the most gorgeous colors, and always home to a hermit crab.

In the photo below two hermit crabs meet up. One has a crown conch for a home and the other owns a banded tulip shell.

banded tulip shell crown conch hermit crabs

I will be writing a whole page about the beautiful tulip shells I saw on this island. Later in the day we stopped at Three Sisters where I found more awesome wildlife. The following day we did some boating near Ponce Inlet which is also a place to find islands to explore. Those islands are made of hard packed sand without the variety of shells and wildlife, but they are beautiful in other ways.

Once I get home and begin to go through my photos I always wish I’d paid closer attention to each shell. I’m getting into the habit of taking more photos, but it’s hard to tell out on the water how they look. I need to be better about conveying sizes. I’ve packed a pencil to use next time I get photos.

Why I Love to Find a Dosinia Clam Shell

Where I live the white, very flat, dosinia shell is a rare find. On the west / gulf coast of Florida they are more abundant. It’s one reason I love to find them on my beach-combing adventures. Also, they are simply very pretty shells.

The Dosinia below is an Elegant Dosinia, I believe and it was collected from Sanibel Island years ago. The beginnings of a hole on top was probably made by a predatory gastropod of some type. They drill into shells and eat the insides, killing the mollusk.

Dosinia in black and white
Elegant Dosinia

The Differences Between Disc Dosinias and Elegant Dosinias

Dosinias are easy to spot because they are nearly flat, unlike other types of clams which are more sloped. One major difference between the Disc and Elegant dosinia shells is the ridges. Both types contain tightly spaced horizontal ridges, but the Elegant dominica’s ridges are more easily seen. Most of the shells I collect here on the East coast of Florida are disc dosinias. They are very smooth with small ridges – see the shells below.

disc dosinia seashells
Disc Dosinia Seashells

I’ve added more Dosinias to my collection as time goes on. The large white one below was picked up by my youngest son on New Smyrna Beach. He knows I have an interest in shells so he always keeps an eye out for something I may want. I was very excited when he showed it to me.

Dosinia clam shells in all sizes
Dosinia seashells

The smaller shells in my photos were collection on an island near Disappearing Island at Ponce Inlet. I don’t know why, but that area had a large collection of very tiny Dosinias. I think it may have been a hatchery for the mollusk.

Dosinia, jingle shells, Lightning Venus clam
Dosinia, jingle shells (white and black), Lightning Venus clam

Sometimes the Dosinia is found in one piece, with both parts of the bivalve still attached. It’s rare to find a shell like this near rough surf as the waves tend to break shells apart. The Lightning Venus clam in the photo above is a rare find for me as well. I think it’s the only one I have in my collection.

dosinia seashell
A Dosinia in one piece

At least the bivalves cannot be inhabited by hermit crabs so when I find one, I am able to collect it without worry. Since I have quite a few in my collection at this point, I only collect the outstanding Dosinias I find these days.

Below is a collection of shells that include a Dosinia at the bottom with a hole in the shell. Shark’s Eye mollusks are a gastropod that will eat Dosinias. Other clams shown here are arks and a channeled duck clam. Read more about black seashells on my post here, and see shells that are commonly found along the Florida coastline.

Collection of seashells
Black shells: Jingle shell, Ark, Channeled Duck Clam, and also: broken Olive shells, yellow arks, Dosinia shell

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.

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