Second Stop on Our January Boating Trip – Three Sisters

Once we finished up at our first stop (read that post here), we boated up to Three Sisters which is a small group of mangrove islands in the backwater area of the Indian River. The tide was going out, which is my favorite time to beach-comb. We parked in behind the island and I searched for something to photograph.

Once again, as on the first stop of our boating trip, there were no larger shells and no hermit crabs. The tide was low and going out and the water was clear. Without a closer look, this area seemed to contain mud only and a few birds.

  • Three sisters island
  • Clear water in January along the Indian River
  • Bird tracks in the mud
  • Mud tracks
  • Weird hole in the sand

I thought the bird tracks were cool, and the other tracks may have been some kind of crab, but I’m not sure. There were holes in the sand so I suspect that crabs had dug them. I find this low tide landscape interesting, but much more so in the warmer months when living things are everywhere!

What I found was loads of very small sea snails. After finding the sand collar on my first stop, and now loads of “baby” sea snails, I’ve concluded that this is the time of year for babies to hatch. However, I have no idea where all the hermit crabs and larger snails have gone.

One of the little tide pools was teaming with life. All the tiny snails were mostly covered in mud and slowly wandering around. I carefully scooped one into a clam shell I found to take the video above. They looked like little clumps of mud. I cleaned the mud off to get the photo showing the actual tiny shell.

Lots of tiny shells
One of many tiny shells / snails I found

Babies or Simply Tiny Sea Snails?

As you can see, the tiny snail below looks different from the one above. Juvenile sea snails are hard for me to identify. All I can go by is what type of gastropods I usually find in this area – horse conchs (according to others it is bright orange as a baby), crown conchs, lightning whelks (opening on the left) and pear whelks. To a much lesser extent I see knobbed whelks, tulip shells, and have a few broken channeled whelks – usually shells only.

Because of the wide dark and light stripes on the shell below, I would guess it’s a baby crown conch. The shell above, no clue. Maybe it’s just a small snail and not a juvenile, but because there were so many tiny shells all together I was thinking that they “hatched” recently. I found no type of egg casing, but that could easily have washed away with the tide. I’m pretty much admitting that I just don’t know!

Tiny sea snail with striped shell
Tiny striped sea snail – could this juvenile be a crown conch?
crown conch
Stripes and spikes of the crown conch shell

I did find one buried Southern quahog clam shell. I carefully dug at it to see if it was alive, but only one part of the clam was there, so I took it home.

Buried seashell
Pretty buried bivalve shell
Clam shell dug out of the mud
Southern quahog clam shell
Stout tagelus bivalve shell
Tagelus shell

All this photo sharing and research on juvenile snails has my brain hurting, so I am signing off for now. What I do know is that these backwater areas look very different (shell-wise) during the winter season.

If you haven’t read the first part of this story, check it out here.

January Boating Along The Indian River Estuary – First Stop

The air temp was in the 70’s and the water in the Indian River was in the 60’s. It was a windy day, so not good for fishing, but we took the boat out for a quick trip.

We stopped at our first spot (second stop link below) and I got out and walked on the mud flats and in some shallow water looking for wildlife. I’ll call this place the Tributary. Water was rushing out fast on the outgoing tide.

The Tributary

We have stopped at this little sandy area many times, but the last time we were here I met my first spider crab. Today it was very quiet and mostly free of living things. Even people / boaters were scarce on this windy day. The usually scurrying crabs were nowhere to be seen and the shells were sparse. I decided to photograph the beautiful mangroves and their crazy roots.

  • Mangroves
  • Mangrove roots
  • Mangrove roots and oysters in mud
  • Mangrove roots and a single clam shell

One thing that struck me was the lack of hermit crabs. There were none that I saw! Usually it is all I see, but today I saw no big shells and no scurrying hermits. I did see a few shells that seemed to be empty, but they may have had hermit crabs.

It reminds me that I have a lot to learn about my local environment.

And then I found an egg casing called a sand collar.

Moon Snails Make Sand Collar Egg Casings

I honestly was not sure what this was, but there were two of these things, so I suspected it was some sort of seashell / sea snail related thing that had to do with eggs. To touch this, you would think it was some discarded piece of trash because it feels like rubber. It is the egg casing of a moon snail (which I usually label a “shark’s eye“).

Sharks eye seashell
Shark’s Eye shell

That collar I am holding is made up of eggs and sand. I didn’t know this when I picked it up, but wanted a photo to identify it on my blog. I had no idea I was holding hundreds of babies! I put it back, and then found another sand collar (link to Wikipedia) nearby to photograph under the water.

Sand collar made up of baby moon snails and sand

The sand collar egg case is laid in such a way so it will stay upright and in place. I wish I had not picked up that first case, but I honestly did not remember what it could be. I should have left it and taken a photo, like I did with the second one. Photography was tough because of the wind and rippling water.

Sand collar under shallow water

The Only Shells I Found Here

As I have mentioned the area was quite different from what I find in summer. There were barely any shells at all of any kind. I took photos of the few shells I did come across. The photo titles are at the bottom of each picture.

  • Broken juvenile horse conch
  • Interesting crown conch shell
  • Pear whelk
  • Ribbed mussel shell

Thanks for reading about our first stop finds. Please go on and read about what I found on our second stop.

Beach Dunes and Jellyfish in January

My last post was about the beginning of my January walk at Smyrna Dunes Park when I took some photos from the two-story pavilion along the ocean side of the walkway.

Two story pavilion
View from the 2-story pavilion

You may wonder why I don’t just drive onto the beach (because New Smyrna has miles of drive on beach accesses) and walk along the beach. Honestly, you must time it right. If the tide is too high the beach may be closed to traffic, or there will be very little beach to drive on.

Not long ago I drove to the beach one morning and could see from the entry booth, where I have to stop and pay or be scanned for access, that the tide was quite high. Once I got down to the driving area I saw that there wouldn’t be much time left before the water was up to the parking places. So I drove to the next access ramp and left the beach.

In short, access to the Smyrna Dunes Park and walkway is not affected by the tide. I can visit at any time of day, high tide or low, because I will park in a paved lot and not on the sand. It’s a little further for me to travel, but worth the trip.

View from boardwalk to Ponce Inlet from Smyrna Dunes Park.

The Park offers more to see, in my opinion. In truth, I am not really an ocean lover. I think the ocean can get quite boring when enjoying it from shore. Don’t get me wrong, the beach is beautiful, and I never get tired of hearing the waves crash. In hotter months, the warm Florida ocean water is wonderful for floating and swimming. But the crowds can be smothering in summer when I really want to enjoy the water.

The ocean holds dangers as well. Rip currents are common in this area. Sharks have been known to bite the occasional surfer and New Smyrna Beach is actually called the “shark attack capital of the world“. However, unless you are surfing near the jetty, you are probably pretty safe.

Cannonball jellyfish on Florida beach
Cannonball Jellyfish

Something else to look out for at the beach is jellyfish. At times many will litter the beach, and most are harmless, but some are not. I have been stung by a jellyfish, or the tentacles, while swimming. I never saw it, but one of my legs had squiggly welts all up and down the back which did sting like crazy. After a storm I found man-of-war jelly fish on New Smyrna Beach.

The Cannonball jellyfish, shown in my pictures here, are relatively harmless. In fact, someone saw a man on the beach collecting them and putting them in his car. The Asian population in particular enjoy jellyfish as food. This type of jellyfish was all up and down the beach, and when we went boating a few weeks later, we saw many in the water as well.

Plover checking out the jellyfish near Ponce Inlet.
Plover and Jellyfish

This cute little shorebird, a Plover of some kind, inspects one of the jellies washed up by the tide.

January doesn’t seem to be an excellent time of year to find seashells. I collected this little bundle, but found nothing really interesting. Beginning with the long white shell and moving clockwise I have: A jackknife clam (that’s the long one), a yellow jingle shell, one of two Channeled duckclams, a chunk of striped acorn barnacles, duck clam #2.

Seashells and barnacles collected from Ponce Inlet beach.
Florida seashells and barnacles

As I rounded the bend in the beach that takes me to the River side of the water, I got this pretty photo of the sun setting behind the clouds. If I’d been able to stay a bit longer I may have seen the beautiful pinks Florida is known for when the sun goes down. It was just beginning along the horizon.

Almost sunset on the ICW side of the Inlet
Beach along the river side of Smyrna Dunes Park

Walking the boardwalk, and beholding the amazing swirls of the dunes is more interesting than walking along the beach. Occasionally the gopher tortoise will be out eating or roaming it’s protected area. While walking the sandy paths, it’s possible to see some pretty wildflowers or interesting plants and tall grasses that can grow in these salty conditions. The setting is ideal for any photographer, amateur or professional.

Read about Florida’s Gopher tortoise.

Sand dunes Ponce Inlet, Florida's east coast
View of Ponce Inlet

I visited on a rather cool day and there were no crowds. I met a couple visiting from out of state (as thousands are this time of year) and we chatted for a while as we strolled the shoreline.

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