Tag Archives: Ponce Inlet

beach sand at low tide

Collecting New Types of Shells in a Deserted Area

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, and tourists don’t come out here.  It’s the best part of Florida.

beach sand at low tide
An island created by low tide

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.

seashells in marsh grass
I found most of these shells up along this grassy edge of the island.

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.

clam shell in sand
Big clam shell buried in sand

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.)

Florida seashells
Broken Crown conch, mussel, clam, tagelus, dosinia, little shark’s eye, and tiny marsh periwinkles (one sits on top of a penny).

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!

 

tiny sharks eye and periwinkle
Tiny Seashells (and a penny)

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!

mourning dove in sand
Mourning Dove

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.

coconut shell
Remains of a coconut, with partial outer and inner shell.

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.

marshland island florida
Looking toward the Ocean, with a view of high-rise condos beach-side.
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The Guy Who Caught The Bluefish

One late afternoon we headed over to Ponce Inlet so the boys could fish and I could search for some good seashells. It was a successful visit (for me), as I came home with lots of nice shells. I have some pictures of the seashells that I collected on my post, Take a Closer Look When Seashell Collecting.

The tide was going out, which is perfect if you are a beachcomber. The water was very rough, and the only people in the water were a couple of surfers, and some fishermen who stood thigh deep. My boys fished from the shore – and caught nothing.

One man, who was fishing out in the channel, did catch a nice big fish, and I asked his permission to take this picture. He was proud to show off his catch, and rightly so! What a gorgeous Bluefish he had!

fishing bluefish
This man caught a big bluefish

I’ve cut off his head on purpose to show the fish, yet keep his identity private. It was a long walk back to the cars, but he didn’t seem to mind that.

Now we have a boat and will be out fishing from the boat more so than onshore.  On our  second day of boat ownership, we lounged in the water around Disappearing Island which is in this same general area of this inlet.

east coast florida beach shells

Take A Closer Look When Seashell Collecting

If you are not a regular beach-walker and seashell collector, it may seem that the good seashells (usually we think they will be big too) will be easy to find.  If only you find them first.   But heading to the right beach, at the right time, is not all it takes to find unique and wonderful shells.  Often a closer look at the sand beneath your feet will give up surprises.

In my photo below, it seems as if there are few shells here to find.  But that is not true.  All the seashells in my photo (next one down) were collected in one day here.  But I had to look closely, and I picked up a lot of stuff I didn’t want, in order to find them.  I also walked back and forth along the breakers more than once.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 9.56.39 AM
The water was gorgeous, but it was very windy with rough seas

As I walked the beach at Ponce Inlet yesterday afternoon, I didn’t see many people looking down at the sand. Most people were hanging out in chairs, or walking and talking, or in the water fishing. It occured to me that searching for unique shells takes some intense looking. I had to closely scan the sand around me in order to collect some unique, smaller keepers.  It made me wonder if anyone ever looks closely at the shells beneath their feet.  I know they would scramble to pick up a whole starfish or sand dollar, but I doubt many people give much thought to other inconspicuous shells, or the creatures who made them.

 

The beach was full of shells, with more being exposed as the tide went out quickly. Most were the commonly found arks and cockle shells. They are thick bivalves, which make them easy to find in one piece. Don’t get me wrong, they are nice looking, but can be found all over this area. I was looking for something that would be relatively rare to add to my collection.

My sons and I spent nearly three hours on the beach, fishing and beachcombing (they fished), and today my back aches from the constant bending and standing. Who knew that shell collecting could be a workout?

I found many beautiful shells, and a few I have not collected before. Unfortunately the surf is rough and finding whole shells is difficult. So I collected some shells that were nearly whole, knowing that I may never find a perfect specimen.

east coast florida beach shells
The collection, pre-washing

A few of the shells I found were easy to see, just beneath the waves, or stuck in the soft sand. The big, white Angelwings immediately attracted my attention, and although pieces were missing along the tops, I took them home.

I also brought home three Channeled Duckclams, which I see a lot, but are always broken. Usually I only find bits and pieces not worth collecting. Yesterday I did take the big broken ones. Their shells are thin, like the Angelwings, so finding a perfect shell is tough.

Other shells that were fairly easy to find were the black ones. Black stands out against the beach sand, and against the others. Happily, most of the black shells I went for ended up being Jingle Shells! One black shell was a piece of what looks like a whelk of some kind, but I loved finding all those jingle shells.

But some of the most awesome shells I came across were very small and could only be found by looking closely at the sand. They blended in with all those arks, but every now and then something different would catch my eye. It helps to know a little about seashells. They are not all the same, although at first glance they may seem to be.

I was able to add two Dosinia shells to my bag. I love the feel of their smooth flat surface. And I rarely see them. A little gray sharks eye was sitting on the sand, and although it was broken, I collected it. I’ve found big beautiful sharks eye shells while out boating but they are always inhabited by hermit crabs.

Other unique (to me) shells were the Stout tagelus, slipper shells, cross-barred venus, a black scallop, and two lettered olives (one alive).  And I found some things that have baffled me.  I’m still researching photos in my seashell book, Florida’s Living Beaches, to discover what they are.

As I write about each of the shells I found, I will link back to this page so you can click to see the photos of the shells.

Pictures of Ponce Inlet For National Lighthouse Day

As I was finishing up this post, I discovered that today, August 6th, is National Lighthouse Day. And I just happen to have lighthouse photography to share from our recent trip to the beach.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse jetty
Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet

Ponce Inlet is a place that is well known to Florida residents who head over to the Atlantic beaches. The name is short for Ponce De Leon, and the lighthouse is an attraction.  These photos were taken from the south side of the inlet at New Smyrna beach.  To get to the lighthouse you must travel up to Port Orange and come in from the other side.

The lighthouse is one of the tallest in the U.S. and is the tallest in Florida.  Pay the price and you can climb to the top, which I have never done. It’s on my to-do list / bucket list.

Jetty at Ponce Inlet
Jetty at Ponce Inlet

The day I took these pictures we were spending time at New Smyrna Beach and decided to drive up to see the jetty area.   The long rocky trail juts out into the ocean and is a popular place to fish.  Often surfers like to catch waves near the jetty, and it’s known as a shark infested area.  On our visit a complete stranger began telling us that because of the full moon, the tide was extra high and was washing out the area. You can see that in my photo below.

beach erosion florida
Beach Erosion at Ponce Inlet near the Jetty

This area is at the tip of Smyrna Dunes Park, which contains a long boardwalk that goes out to the beach area and jetty. The day we visited the stairway to the boardwalk was taped off because the sand had been washed away from the pilings.

Inlet from Atlantic ocean to ICW
This photo was taken on the inlet side of the jetty, looking out toward the ocean.

View the official page of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.

The Jetty at Ponce Inlet

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The jetty at New Smryna Beach / Ponce Inlet, on the east coast of Florida, is one of the few places in the state where you’ll see big rocks. It’s popular for surfers and fishermen and it’s the most likely place to hear that a surfer has been being bitten by a shark – at least in that area of the state. A number of years ago, a friend of mine’s son had to go to the hospital with a shark bite when he was boogie-boarding near the jetty.    Continue reading The Jetty at Ponce Inlet