When we go out boating in the backwaters along the Intracoastal Waterway in my area I love to stop at islands do some beach-combing. It’s been cold here in Florida (okay, you don’t feel bad for me, I get it) but finally we had a sunny day in the 70’s, so we went out on the boat.
Among the larger seashells I have found while checking out the wrack lines (up where the tide deposits stuff) is the knobbed whelk (Busycon carica). Usually they are partial shells, or nearly unrecognizable from wear and tear.
The one featured on this page was found just off-shore along a camping island which was deserted the day I was there. I’ve never found one this whole and beautiful. It was exciting to see.
The water that day was clear, and cold for Florida at 62 degrees. It was January but in the 70’s and sunny. I was wading in the shallow water along the beach when my son spotted this knobbed whelk under the water. This shell was sitting at the edge of that black area of water you see in the photo. Continue reading About the Knobbed Whelk Seashell and Mollusk→
Our beaches on the East coast of Florida are not as well known for shell collecting as they are over on the Gulf Coast. Visit Sanibel Island and you are likely to go home with a fabulous assortment of beautiful seashells.
We have to work harder to find shells on the East coast beaches, and then, many shells are the same. Arks, clams and coquina shells can usually be collected in the New Smryna Beach area. But, travel off the beaten path – out to the islands and backwater – and it’s possible to find something more unique. Only boats can reach this place so it’s mostly tourist-free. It’s the best part of Florida.
We took the boat out toward Ponce Inlet and stopped at a sandy island which appears when the tide is out. The water was just beginning to come back in when we dropped anchor in the shallow water.
I love to be out here, away from people… as you can see, we had the place to ourselves. It helped that the weather forecast was cloudy with possible storms – and it was the middle of the week. Most boaters stayed home….lucky us.
Across the waterway, to the left of this photo (above), is Disappearing Island. It’s like this place, only larger, and the name says it all. At high tide these islands “disappear” beneath the ocean, with only some of the scrub trees left above the waterline – or so I think. I’ve never been here at high tide.
I waded ashore and began to scour the shoreline, searching in all that grass, hoping to find a cool shell.
I found a lot of large clams, partially buried in the sand. In fact, most of the shells were either whole, or pieces of big clams. Also the Southern quahogs were numerous, which are white with vertical lines along the shell.
But I did find a nice Dosinia shell. It’s the flat, roundish shell at the bottom of the photo below. I also happened upon that cute little shark’s eye which was partially buried. It was pure luck that I noticed it! I’ve come across much bigger ones, but they always have a hermit crab inside.
I do collect broken shells, because they are unique in their own way. In my photo below you can see a broken crown conch… if it was whole, there would be a hermit crab inside, no doubt. Crown conchs are everywhere in areas like this, but they are always inhabited. (I found a live Fighting Conch, and hermit crab inside a little shell I couldn’t identify. More to come about those, on a later post.)
The little shark’s eye shell (below) has a hole drilled into the side. That is how the mollusk inside was killed. Something came along and bored into the shell to eat what was inside. The thing is, Shark’s eyes ARE predatory, and this guy would have done the same to another shell!
As the water came up, I headed up onto the sandy dune area to search among the scrub brush. I wondered if I’d find some sort of seashell treasure up there.
And I did! This is where I found those three little white Marsh Periwinkles (photo above) – or at least I think that is what they are. They were all found close together and nothing was inside except sand, so I picked them up. I’ve never seen these before, so I had new shells for my collection. Nice…. I had to be careful not to lose them, as they are tiny!
I found some trash, of course, and what looked like an old campfire pit, and saw some mourning doves – that was a surprise! I really thought that all I would see were shore birds.
I came across the remains of a coconut. It had traveled from the mainland or beach peninsula, because there were no coconut palm trees on that island.
We left later in the day when the clouds were thickening up. The water had come in quite a bit by then. Soon the all that sand would be covered, until the tide began it’s journey back out to the sea.
I wonder what treasures it will leave behind. Can’t wait to return here.
One of the shells in my photo below contains a creature hiding within. He was so secretive that I never knew he was there for a full day after bringing these shells home. So here’s the story…
My sons and I went boating in our little Gheenoe a couple days ago. It was not windy at our house, but once we got over to the River we saw whitecaps and knew we would be dealing with wind. Windy conditions and rough water are not a big deal unless you happen to be traveling in a canoe with a motor. With three of us in the little boat it won’t go fast, and because it sits so low in the water, we tend to get wet.
Because of this we didn’t travel far. The closest big island is where we stopped, and I got out to search for seashells. The boys used the trolling motor and went just offshore to do some fishing. We had the place to ourselves.
The shell hunt began. First I walked the inner side of the island which was extremely windy. I saw a lot of horseshoe crabs – alive and dead, and of course oysters. More than once I’ve been faked out when I think I’ve discovered a big shell in the shallows only to find it’s a nasty clump of oysters!
All the cute little shells along the shoreline were moving. Hermit crabs take up residence and steal all the good seashells for themselves. Each beautiful specimen I came across was inhabited, so I took photos and had to be happy with that. Those seashell finds I will share on my next post.
On the inland side of the island, where I was more sheltered from the wind, I found something that made my heart race. A big yellow seashell was up on shore and looked to be buried in the sand. A shell on the shore means the mollusk is not inside. Sea snails live in the water. The fact that it was not moving gave me the impression that a hermit crab was not inside. I was excited, but I should have known better. I took this photo before picking it up. Doesn’t it look like it could be a great find?
Unfortunately the underneath of that shell (which I believe is a knobbed whelk) was completely broken open, so what I saw in the sand is all there was to the shell. The mollusk had died and the broken shell did not give shelter for a crab. In other words it was useless to sea life. I took it home, along with the other broken shells I found.
But the big surprise came the day after our trip to the island, when a hermit crab appeared in the opening of one of the broken shells! Can you guess which shell, from my first photo above?
When I got home I soaked all the shells in water with a small amount of bleach to clean them off. I left them on the cement deck outside all night and then cleaned them one at a time the next day. When they were dry, I set them on the table and that is when my son noticed a big hermit crab emerging from the one below!
Yup, a good size hermit crab is inside the top of this broken, faded and worn Channeled whelk shell. The inner top of this shell must be hollow and he had scrunched himself into that area. We could see a bit of his legs through that top broken piece.
We did the only thing we could do to help the crab survive. We drove over to the River and tossed the shell back into the sea water.
You can see pictures of the Channeled Whelk as it is before it becomes as destroyed as mine is on the “i love shelling” site, where Pam (the blog owner) is fortunate to live and travel to great shelling places. She writes from the fabulous Gulf Coast, Sanibel area, where gorgeous seashells are everywhere.
I have to work hard just to find these broken ones! But it’s fun, and who knows, one day I may find something spectacular out there.