S is for Seashell

Oh, the beloved seashell.

Inside lives a sea critter

for a short time

before leaving it

into the wild sea

to get picked up by another

or moved by the currents

and tossed by the waves

to end up in someones hand

and displayed on a shelf

to evoke a fond memory

of a day

at the beach.

Seashell, by Eileen Saunders (c) 2016

DSCN4751

photo (c) 2016 Eileen Saunders

How many seashells do I have in my collection? Thousands I suppose. I’ve given them to people as gifts, sold groups of them to crafters, made decorative items with them and display them in jars in my house. I found the book Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber by Blair and Dawn Witherington and challenged myself to find one of every shell listed in the book. I lost count but my check marks reveal that I may be missing about 20 from my collection.

I am now downsizing my collection, keeping at least 2 of each kind. My kids call this the Ark Collection. I still have jars on display with a variety of shells that won’t go into the Ark. What is left will go into my Etsy store for crafters to purchase and donated to some schools for science classes.  But I can no longer store in boxes what needs to be enjoyed by others.  I have jars of memories to look at.

P.S. I highly recommend the Witherington’s collection of books on living beaches and seashells.

S is for Sea Shell.

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Beachcombing

Yesterday was my older son’s 14th birthday so he planned the day.  First thing we did was ride our bikes to the Siesta Key Village and ate breakfast at the Broken Egg.  We have never eaten there; we usually go to the Village Cafe which has excellent food.  My husband has become friends with the owners which has enhanced our experience there even more.  The family that owns the Village Cafe is really so nice, please go in and meet them when you go to eat there.  But today we went to Broken Egg to break our tradition.  The food was great, the wait was not long at all.  I have a long list of food allergies, most of which include breakfast foods, so I had the fruit plate.  Everything else looked great.

After eating we rode to the beach.  We like riding to the 100 block of Beach Road which is the part you can’t take your car on.  The surf had pounded the road all week and it was currently high tide but we got off our bikes and walked around anyway.

There are somethings I wish I could find, others I have more than enough of.  I’ve been wanting to find a moon snail (or shark’s eye) egg collar and had read that about this time of year the moon snail lays its eggs, as does the lightning whelk.  Looking through the swash zone I found broken pieces of the moon snail egg collar.  Unbelievable! What luck!  There were 7 pieces in all, strewn about the small beach area.  So what does a moon snail egg collar look like?  It is sand-colored and rubbery.  The moon snail breeds in the surf zone.  From my favorite beach guide, Florida’s Living Beaches by Blair and Dawn Whitherington, the moon snail “cements its eggs with the sand into a gelatinous sheet that cures into a rubbery sand collar” with a hole in the middle.  Its stands upright on the shifting sand.  When the eggs hatch, the collar disintegrates.  So, if you find the collar on the beach is contains developing little snails.  sand-egg-collar

The pieces I found are too small to make a whole collar and are smaller than what is in the picture above.  There is one large piece so I kept it for our tank that we use for education (homeschooling and 4H. See my posts titled :Our Salt Water Fish Tank parts 1-6).  I took a piece with us to the 4H meeting later in the day to give to the other family in the club that has a salt water tank.  It would be really awesome to harvest these little guys.

We have been protecting a few sacs of a lightning whelk in our tank.  Since I taking a moon snail collar piece to the other family, I thought I’d give them a couple sacs of the lightning whelk egg case.   As I was cutting it to put in a container of water, a few little whelk shells fell out.  We’ve been so busy I hadn’t seen them since they were nothing but a gooey substance.  Taking a closer look at one of the sacs, I saw there were about 10 to 15 little guys inside, probably a centimeter or two long.

I also found a little blob of something on the beach.  I didn’t know what it was but I figured it was a living thing and might be able to live in our tank, so I took it home.  Later, I decided from a book it was an anemone.  We took a look at it in the tank and saw it had extended itself to be, I think, a grey, warty anemone.   Its really fun to watch, not that it does anything like a fish or sea urchin or hermit crab, but it is open and its little tentacles are swaying back and forth…very relaxing.

We headed home after this beach trip and went to the 4H meeting.  It was the last meeting of the year (other than the end of year party and awards night) and we ended it with a birthday celebration for my son.  Walmart had the coolest cake, which we bought for the party: 24 blue iced cupcakes with Spongebob laying on top and white icing surrounding him like water splashing.  The kids liked it. Yum.

So what else did I find on the beach?  Coral pieces, moon snails, lightning whelks, a whole sand dollar, a bright orange scallop, jingle shells of all colors and some channel duck clams and some trash.  I always pick up trash from the beach.  It just goes in  my shell bag.  Hope you do the same.

  It was a good day for beachcombing.

Jellyfish

I’ve been wanting to write about jellyfish so here goes:  I’ve stated before that there are tons of moon jellies washing ashore since the last hurricane.  They’re pretty big, too. 

I took the boys on a 4H field trip last Friday to South Lido Beach near the park.  The instructor was Keith Wilson from the Extension office.  The children (there were 8 of them in this group) were throwing nets in the grasses along the shore.  They were scooping up fish, grasses and moon jellies.  Keith told the kids that moon jellies were ok to touch and showed them how to pick them up.  Of course the boys that did pick them up got slimed but that was fun for them.  Moon jellies are saucer-shaped and clear.  They have a 4-lobed “flower”-like shape in the center.  It can be pink or yellow.  They have short tentacles that look frilly.  We learned that some people can have a reaction to the slime of a moon jelly, some don’t.  Only one of the children had a reaction to the slime.  You can touch the top but if you’re not sure about having a reaction I wouldn’t recommend touching the tentacles.  The jelly I’ve seen that I wouldn’t recommend touching at all is the Sea Nettle.  This one has red radiating stripes.  Jellies prey on zooplankton so there must be a ton of zooplankton by our coast right now for them to come in swarms.

Some jellies are bioluminescent so if you are at the beach at night, maybe star-gazing, check the surf for a pulsing light from the jellies.

Last Thanksgiving, we spent the holiday with my in-laws on the east coast of FL.  They live on Singer Island.  The afternoon we arrived we all took a walk along their beach and saw these purple balloon-like things all around us.  At first we had just thought maybe someone had a party and didn’t clean up after themselves but then realized they were Portuguese Man-o-War.  It was really cool to see them (I had never before seen one in person) but at the same time, since there were so many, it was creepy.  Their tentacles are so long and even though they are beached, they can still sting so we had to be careful walking so not to step on one.  We headed to the public beach just south of their condo for some shelling.  Amazingly there were a lot of people swimming where these Man-o-War jellies were.  Children included.  I guess people either don’t care or they’re just oblivious to the dangers.  According to Florida’s Living Beaches by the Witheringtons, Man-o-War live in the wide-open sea and beach themselves in the winter at the end of their journey.  Beachings are most common December through May (we saw them the end of November).  I shouldn’t call them jellies, although they do look like jellies.  They’re actually colonies of individual polyps, each doing something to help the colony like collecting food, reproducing etc.  They from the class Hydrozoa, phylum Cnidaria.

The tentacles of the Man-o-War can be 6 feet long when beached and up to 150 ft fully extended at sea.  If you get stung, the tentacles stick to you, so don’t rub, just pick/peel it off.  Then treat with meat tenderizer or urine. 

We’re heading, once again, to Singer Island for Thanksgiving so I’ll post an update if we see them again.  Maybe we’ll see another sea critter this time.

More Bones on the Beach

Oh, I laughed so hard last night.  My husband enjoyed the joke, too.

As you probably know from previous posts, I enjoy beachcombing and picking up nearly anything on the beach from shells, egg cases, corals, surf-beaten toys that we’re left behind, and bones.

Well, I had been on the beach earlier and came home with a handful of bones.  Some I recognized as bird bones, and a few fish bones but there are some that look like either a bird’s coracoid or the tarsometatarsus.  I keep finding them and probably have about a dozen to date.  I had googled bird skeletons trying to figure this one out.  But as I was looking through one of my favorite books, “Florida’s Living Beaches” by Blair and Dawn Witherington, I saw a picture of these particular bones.  So there I read to my husband from page 202: ” Pigs have their feet used as bait in stone crab traps.  Most of these remains are fingerlike and stout (figure O [which was identical to the dozen bones I’ve collected with wonder]).  These pig’s knuckles are common on many southwestern Florida beaches.”

I laughed so hard I was crying.  My prized, yet mysterious beach find was nothing more than pig’s knuckles.