Category Archives: San Carlos Bay Bunche Beach Preserve

The first sea shell I ever picked up in Southwest Florida

Who could forget the magic of finding something so small, so perfect, so enchanting? This sea shell is the Florida cerith, also known as the dark cerith, if you are reading about them on the Bailey-Matthews Shell museum web site.

This was the first kind of sea shell that I ever picked up in Southwest Florida. I’d come for an extended weekend with my three best friends from high school. We were celebrating a milestone birthday with a few nights in a beach cottage on Sanibel Island. I sat down in the sand, with the tide nibbling at my feet, and started examining all the bits and pieces around me. The joy of finding something so tiny and whole and miraculous cannot be adequately described.

Of course, back in my early days of shelling, I wasn’t so discerning and tended to not realize when a cerith was missing it’s “ear” – my term for the aperture. This one is perfectly intact. These little beauties like to hang out in the sandy bottoms and the grass flats of the Gulf, so it’s not uncommon to find them near inlets and bays, and not at all surprising that I spied this one sticking out of the wet sand on Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, FL. To this day, I still get down in the sand to find small sea shells like these. It’s one of my favorite things to do at the beach.

Sand collar on the shore at Bunche Beach

Sand collar on the shore at Bunche Beach

I feel lucky to have finally discovered one of these – it’s a sand
collar, or more accurately, the egg mass of a moon snail. "Moon snail"
is the common name for a family of gastropods known as Naticidae. The
snail uses sand and it’s own mucus to make these collars, which consist
of two layers. The eggs are between the layers. It’s pretty sturdy
until the babies start to hatch; then, it just disintegrates. This
means that no one should really have a sand collar in their
beach-combing collection, for if it’s intact, that means it was still
carrying babies. If you find one, by all means examine it, but then
leave it where it is so the eggs can hatch.

sand collar from Bunch Beach in Fort Myers, Florida

A random act of shelling at Bunche Beach

I have a lot of shells; make that a whole LOT of shells. They live in
Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar containers in a big kitchen
cabinet. They clutter book shelves, fill up bowls on the piano and the
kitchen breakfast bar, and generally hang out in odd places here and there,
all over the house. I’m going to say something that would have been unheard
of 10-12 years ago when I first started to collect sea shells. I have TOO
MANY shells.

Still, I love to trawl the beach, and I cannot break myself of the habit of
looking for them and picking them up. But I know that when I get them
home, I will have to perform some combination of washing, de-sanding,
de-stinking, barnacle removal, drying out, sorting, shining, and putting
away. You know, in those Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar
containers in the big kitchen cabinet.

So last week, I freely looked and hunted and collected, but stopped just
short of bringing them home. Instead, I went up a little way beyond the
high tide line, wrote a message in the sand, and left my gifts from the sea
for some (hopefully delighted) tourist to find.

I think I’ve discovered a new hobby 🙂

[image: sea shells for you Bunche Beach Fort Myers Florida]

Striped burrfish at Bunche Beach

After photography class the other day, during which I was treated to a dizzying array of fun facts about my digital camera, I went for a walk at San Carlos Bay Bunche Beach Preserve in Fort Myers. The Gulf coast has suffered a recent spate of red tide occurrences, ranging from up in Sarasota to as far south as Naples, on the northern tip of the west Everglades. This, combined with a series of cold fronts, has resulted in some fish kill. While dead fishes washing up en masse isn’t fun for anyone, it does afford an opportunity to examine species that a non-fishing enthusiast (like me) would not normally get to see.

This is a *striped burrfish*, also called a *spiny boxfish*. The first thing I noticed about it, aside from the painful-looking spines, was his black spots. This reminded me of some butterfly species who have “false eyes”, dots on their wings that fool predators into thinking it’s a much larger “something else”, something not so tasty as a butterfly.

According to some quick research, the striped burrfish seems to like warmer waters than we’ve had; although they range up to New Jersey for spawning, that usually happens only when the water up north is warmer, typically July. The southern end of their range is the West Indies. The beaches were cleaned of dead fish after last week’s episode with red tide, so I’m leaning toward the possibility that this little dude expired of the cold.

Late autumn in Southwest Florida – paradise!

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What a beautiful time of year it is to live in Southwest Florida!

The summer can be unforgiving – the heat and humidity are relentless, the rain is capricious, and there is always the threat of a hurricane or two hanging over our collective heads.

However, as October melts into November, a kinder, gentler Southwest Florida emerges. Blue skies and refreshing breezes reign in the late autumn and early winter days. It’s a little cooler, a little drier, and much more enjoyable. It’s time to take it outside in Southwest Florida – let’s go!


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I got a call earlier in the week from friends who were going to take a boat out of Fort Myers Beach, and did I want to come along? You bet I did! We did a leisurely tour through Matanzas Pass and Ostego Bay, then emerged into the Gulf via Big Carlos Pass, near Lovers Key. That’s the bridge over Big Carlos, behind us (above).

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We decided to head for Nervous Nellie’s in Fort Myers Beach after our excursion. The town is all done up for Christmas. As a native New Yorker, it still gives me the giggles to see Christmas decorations juxtaposed against palm trees and blue skies.

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Here I am, enjoying royal status for about three minutes – Princess Without A Country 😉 You will find this over-sized bench with the cutout near the gazebo beside Nervous Nellie’s, should you have a princess you’d like to photograph.

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At Moss Marine, I saw this egret standing on a post and took aim with the camera. I saw the pelican come in for a landing behind him, but did not see the little shore bird on the post in front of him until I got the picture up on the computer screen later on.

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A closer look at the egret – handsome fellow, isn’t he?

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The sun was setting as I crossed back over Matanzas Pass and made my way toward Summerlin. I decided to take a side trip before heading back to Lehigh, and made my way to Bunche Beach Preserve, where I saw this little blue heron hunting for his supper.

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The little blue wasn’t the only one looking for dinner – pelicans and an egret hunted as well. A misty glow enveloped the Sanibel Causeway in the distance – one of those scenes that makes your heart go “ahhh!”

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The sky is streaked in Creamsicle shades as the sun descends upon Sanibel’s east end.

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A side trip to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve the next day yielded the delight of finding a cute little two-foot gator sunning himself in the vegetation along the banks of the gator lake. He would not be the last gator I would see this week!

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Saturday found me at the C.R.E.W. Bird Rookery Swamp, where I would participate in a geocaching event. It was a glorious day to be tramping around in the cypress swamp’s wide trails. Here’s a balsam pear we found growing wild alongside the path. It’s a relative of the cucumber.

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I haven’t identified this moth yet, but I liked the angle of his upper wings against the lower “tail” part of his flying apparatus.

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It’s that time of year, when the beautiful but destructive lubbers turn into lovers. These grasshoppers go through several colorful stages before they reach the cooked-lobster hue you see here.

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See? Told ya there would be another gator! Actually, there were two, on opposing sides of the path, but the other one was a bit too far away to get a decent shot. I’d say they were about 4 feet or so. We observed them for a while and when we were ready to move on, they quite agreeably slunk into the swamp and let us pass unmolested.

So that was my post-Thanksgiving week. How was yours?

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