Category Archives: Sea Shells

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]

Thursday’s treasures from the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach

© Copyright 2012 | | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Catch of the day!

I decided to go back to the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach this afternoon, to see what I could see. Directly to the right of the fishing pier was a Sea of Stink – all the beached pen shells where heaped in a tidal pool, slowly dying. There were some pickin’s to be had in there, but the stench was nauseating, so I continued down the beach. A pair of young ladies, one of whom I’d seen engaged in the same activity yesterday, were on a mission to rescue all of the lightning whelks that were once again stuck in between the roots of the mangroves. They had one of those GIANT beach bags, bright pink, and they were filling it up and relocating the stranded souls to a tidal pool, closer to the surf.

Monster lightning whelks

Right smack dab in front of the lighthouse, I found this pair of monsters, all snuggled up together just below the surface of the sand. They were right under the breaker line, so I did not see them – I felt them through my shoes. I took my trusty net-on-a-stick and used the aluminum edge to pry them up. I was SHOCKED that they were empty. Hadn’t seen any empties of this size since Tropical Storm Debby dumped them all there.

Multi-toned lightning whelk

I always wonder what makes a whelk change colors and patterns midstream in the making of the shell. Was it something she ate? Did the environment change? I have not come across any really good answers about this phenomenon.

Mac 'n cheese

After hunting a little longer in front of the lighthouse, and finding the tulips there, I walked back toward the pier. When I got close, I found this mac ‘n cheese (juvenile horse conch), and it made me smile. It’s a good shelling day, whenever you find mac ‘n cheese. I found the rest of the whelks you see in the first picture in rapid succession after that, just to the right of the pier, in the breaker line. I was pretty happy with my treasures, and made my contented way home shortly thereafter.

I might go back tomorrow, too 🙂

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More Sanibel Island, post-Tropical Storm Debby

© Copyright 2012 | | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Egret reflectedI’ve got just a few more pictures to share from my afternoon foray onto the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, plus some videos that are percolating on YouTube and should be ready shortly.

Here’s the parking lot again, the one closest to the fishing pier. Normally, there are abundant spaces in this lot, but today they are limited by the flood left behind by Tropical Storm Debby.

Chemicals called tannins are exuded from the roots of mangrove trees growing on the beach, which is what gives the water its reddish hue. I thought the reflection of the egret was pretty; wish I’d had something other than an iPhone in my hand, so I could have zoomed, but it is what it is! The reflection from the gnarled trees looks especially spooky in the red-tinged water.

Teaming shores

I thought it curious that so many banded tulips were clustered around these two pen shells. It seems unlikely that they are preparing to feast. Banded tulips would typically go after much smaller fare. Curiouser and curiouser!

Trap set adrift

This trap, which washed up directly in front of the Lighthouse, didn’t appear to have snared anything before coming ashore.

Poor wee turtles :(

Poor wee turtles! Storms are not good for turtle nests. They can change the temperature of the nest, causing the eggs to fail. Storms can compact the sand, making it impossible for hatchlings to dig their way out. They can also remove sand from the nest, exposing the eggs to the elements and to predators. It is not likely that a washed-over nest is viable any more.

OK, here come some videos. SUBSCRIBERS: If you do not see any videos below this sentence, please click through to the blog at

Crossing the causeway, jamming out to No Doubt on the radio. SO, so happy that there’s sun!

A live horse conch rolls around in the surf. I estimate it was about 14″ long. Never get over the shock of what color they actually are, underneath the shell and the dark black periostracum that covers it.

I saved the best for last – unbelievable quantity of live shells in the tidal pool and well above it! I posted it to Facebook; should be visible to all

Hoping to go back again on Thursday and maybe even on Friday, to see what happened to all the live ones – stay tuned!

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Everglades adventure! Part 3, The Finale

© Copyright 2012 | | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 3/the “finale” of a series, 2012-06 Everglades Adventure


We’re continuing our beach walk from last time on the Everglades adventure – we’re still on Pavilion Key in Everglades National Park. We came to a part of the beach where we would have to make a decision to either start wading to get around this tree, or else turn back and head for the boat. In the interest of time, we turned back. No residents of this osprey nest were evident; they might have been off hunting, or else it was just abandoned.


On our way back, we came upon this tree with dark, shriveled berries hanging from it. Bruce, our guide, speculated that it might be related to citrus, judging from the configuration of the leaves. I sent a photo to Leafsnap, but it didn’t come back with anything helpful. When I returned home, I emailed one of my instructors from the Coastal Systems module of the Florida Master Naturalist program, Roy Beckford of the Lee County, FL Extension Offices. Roy responded that it’s soapberry; “Fruits are a dead giveaway”, he explained. Further research indicates that the fruits are also referred to as “black pearls”, and are used to make soap, as their name would imply.


I just thought this was cool, so I snapped a picture of it. A hollowed-out tree stump, still planted in the middle of the beach, provides a hidey-hole for all manner of sea debris – and probably a few critters, now and then 😉


Some chicks are more popular than others; I get that, but this is sort of ridiculous, given that they don’t actually copulate! Also wondering about all the barnacle-like things attached to her… jewelry? I’m betting neither of the dudes bothered with dinner and a movie!


Na na na na, na na na na,

Na na na na, na na na na,


OK, now that you all know that I grew up watching TV in the ’60s… he was dead, and just kind of floating around in the surf. I’d never seen one before.


On our way back to the boat, we passed the kayak expedition; they’d just made shore. We spoke briefly about the turtle nest and then each party went their separate ways. Closer to the boat, we passed these three whelks lined up on the beach. Someone in the kayak expedition must have arranged them there, for I hadn’t noticed them when we started out. Doing some googling around about Pavilion Key, I found some claims that there are THOUSANDS of empty, ancient whelks in the shallows, all bearing evidence that humans had eaten them – the tell-tale hole punched in the shell, through which something sharp would be poked and wiggled around to detach the muscle from the shell. I guess the Calusa were not interested in collecting shells, and therefore did not share our dismay at defacing them in such a manner!


The batteries in my camera gave up the ghost while we were still on the beach, but I was able to take this dramatic shot with my iPhone once we were back in the boat and amongst the mangroves headed home. Bruce pointed out some butterfly orchids growing on it way up high, which you can’t see because it’s an iPhone. I still like the shot, though – it’s sort of spooky and mysterious.


The trip around the Ten Thousand Islands ended, and I drove back to Everglades City to check into The Ivey House. On my way to the office, I saw this guy and knew right away that he was too bulky and walked too ungracefully to be an anole. He’s a curley-tailed lizard, and he’s not a native of Florida. He’s from the Caribbean. I believe I might have seen one before, at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve; however, it could have just been an anole holding his tail in a curled-up position. Once I was checked in, I pretty much RACED through taking a shower and headed out to the Everglades Seafood Depot, where the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE) was about to commence.


The Everglades Seafood Depot was once actually a train depot. The inside is all done up in beautiful exposed beams, and there’s a lanai, bar, boat docks outside.


The host waits to greet guests and seat them….


Look at those teeth!


We had an inspiring meeting, and I was elected to the board. I’m not sure I know what I’ve gotten myself into… I guess I’m going to find out! It was a nice little overnight escape, and I met some terrific fellow nature geeks. Would love to visit again when I’ve got just a bit more time to poke around the various local attractions.

Thanks for tagging along on the 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!

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Everglades adventure! Part 1

© Copyright 2012 | | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 1 of a series 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!


On Friday, I ventured further south in Florida than I’ve ever ventured before, to participate in the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE). The above map, captured from Google, shows where I wandered. “A” is Everglades City, Florida. Not many people are aware that part of the Everglades is Gulf-front, in Collier County. This map clearly shows the proximity of Everglades City to Marco Island, which is just off the coast of the city of Naples, Florida. “B” is Chokoloskee Island, which is partly comprised of a shell mound built by Native Americans over the course of a couple of thousand years. Chokoloskee is in Collier County. “C” is Rabbit Key; there’s a tinier island right next to it (can’t see it on the screen shot, but trust me, it’s there) that’s affectionately, if unofficially referred to as “Bunny Key”. “D” is Pavilion Key. Rabbit and “Bunny” and Pavilion are all in northern Monroe County. All three islands (B, C, D) are part of the Ten Thousand Islands area; Rabbit and Pavilion are part of Everglades National Park.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Chokoloskee from my house up in Lehigh. As you can see from the previous “on the road” mobile post, I had to pass through the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, which is made of of bits and pieces of other lands, including the Fakahatchee Strand, Everglades National Park, and the Big Cypress National Preserve. I went through Everglades City and straight on to Chokoloskee because I was scheduled for an ecotour with Everglades Area Tours, one of the ecotour operators certified by Florida SEE. I was excited to be meeting up with fellow members of Florida SEE and spending time out in the natural world with them. LET’S GO!


After sitting and chatting a few minutes with the other members scheduled for tours, we split up – some were going kayaking, and two of us had opted to tool around the mangroves with a guide looking for birds. Almost right away, we came upon a group of royal terns named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Kidding, I just gave them those names about three seconds ago. 😉


The osprey is one of my favorite critters to look at – they’re just so handsome, physically incapable of taking a bad picture! Naturally, they’ve also been a favorite blogging subject


Tiny shore birds frolic on a sandbar; we saw a bull shark idling by our boat while we were stopped here. The large landmass to the right is Rabbit Key. The tiny cluster of mangroves to the left is the “Bunny”.


The advantage of having a guide whose experience with the area extends back some 25-ish years – he knows where to go in the backwaters to find the pretty critters 🙂 How many roseate spoonbills can you count? Click the picture to see the full size version in Flickr!


A group of 3 (I think) dolphins did a drive-by and started hunting around our boat. This is one of the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get more than a fin while watching dolphins hunt.


Our Pavilion Key welcoming committee 😉 We spent some time walking the beach and mourning that shelling is not permitted there.


There was lots of “yard art” on the beach at Pavilion Key. This beat up whelk was longer than my foot and twice as fat. Some of the ones we found were clearly former Calusa tools, with a hole in the side into which a handle was fitted.


If there was one empty, still-attached set of Venus clam shells, there were a hundred. My friend Christene would have gone NUTS on this beach.


Mossy yard art! I could have gone on forever photographing these ginormous old lightning whelks, but I’ll spare you more of them.

NEXT TIME: more stuff from the beach on Pavilion Key!

Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 2

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A Groupon for The Sanibel Cafe! #swfl

Follow the link below for a really good deal on a meal at the Sanibel Cafe.  Aside from the fact that the Cafe is operated by some dear friends of mine, you can also find good food and friendly service at a decent price all year round.  And I love the shell tables!  This is more than 50% off so don’t miss it – the offer expires sometime early on Saturday 06-18-2011

$7 for $15 Worth of Breakfast or Lunch Café Fare at Sanibel Café in Sanibel

Some photos I’ve taken of the Sanibel Cafe – enjoy 🙂

Shell table – with a junonia in it!
Coffee at the Sanibel Cafe

Shrimp quiche:
Sanibel Cafe's shrimp quiche

Pina colada french toast – SO wicked-good!
Pina Colada French toast at the Sanibel Cafe - WOW

The always-attractive Sanibel Cafe Official Coffee Mug:
Brunch on Sanibel Island

$7 for $15 Worth of Breakfast or Lunch Café Fare at Sanibel Café in Sanibel

Favorite shelling find of the day

Favorite shelling find of the day, originally uploaded by Erin aka Tink*~*~*.

This was the first find I made on the slope I named "Whelk City" between Access 4 and Access 5 on Sanibel. Now, don’t everyone go running there – first of all, I got ’em all 😉 Second, it’s a different beach every day. Who knows where today’s best finds will be?

Sent from my Nokia N97

Stinkers In A Bucket

Stinkers In A Bucket, originally uploaded by Erin aka Tink*~*~*.

Some of the shells I found during the full moon are "stinkers". They were found in what we called "the death pool", which stank to high heaven.

Stinkers are often beautiful, perfect specimens (well, so would you be, if you died very young and very recently), but they are high maintenance. Probably, what makes them stink is that there is a little piece of the dead occupant still caught up there in the inner chambers of the shell.

Mine will stay in a bucket of 50/50 solution of bleach and water until I feel like trying again to get ’em all empty and clean.

Sent from my Nokia N97

Treasure From San Carlos Bay

Treasure From San Carlos Bay, originally uploaded by Erin aka Tink*~*~*.

I found a nice, shiny, pointy-headed olive glistening on the beach at "Coney Island" (see Foursquare – I’m the Mayor!") – it’s one of the spoil islands that supports the Sanibel Island Causeway. What a treat! I figure a bird had it for an appetizer and left the shell for me to find. Thanks, random bird!

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Day trippin’ on Sanibel Island

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

09032010609-Fort-Myers-Beach-truckLast Friday, just before the three-day weekend festivities here in the United States, I took myself over to Sanibel Island for the day. I am very lucky to live within easy driving distance of the island (half an hour from driveway to causeway), and I really should do this more often.

As I approached the causeway, I encountered this truck on Summerlin Road. Considering all the “Mickey Mouse In The Wild” encounters I’d already experienced that week, I thought the “Don’t Mess With The Mouse!” slogan on the back of the truck was apropos 😉 click photo to see it bigger

Looks like Vera Bradley threw up in here...

I was a little early for my appointment so I popped into a few shops. This one has a corner where it looks like Vera Bradley threw up!


Finally, it’s time for my massage – can we say, “Ahhhhh!” now? 🙂


After the massage, I poked around in a few more shops and found this wall hanging at “Pandora’s Box”. I liked the sentiment and the presentation, but didn’t think it was worth what they were asking for it. The artist’s name is Anahata Joy Katkin, in case you are interested in looking her up.


My last stop was Gulfside City Park aka Algiers, one of Sanibel Island’s public beaches. I stayed about two hours, hunting the shoreline for treasures. It was mostly “kibbles and bits” shelling, but I did manage to score a couple of macaroni and cheese shells (aka, those little orange juvenile Florida horse conch shells).


It was low tide by time I crossed the causeway again, and the sailboat that had run aground a few weeks back was now visible on that crescent-shaped sand bar just off the south side/”sad lane” (you’re sad cause you’re leaving Sanibel!). I wonder when someone is going to finally remove it – or is it destined to become a relic with all sorts of local legends attached to it?

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Sea shells at the Boardwalk Inn

© Copyright 2006-2010 Tink *~*~*
Click the photos to see if a larger version is available in Flickr

I was taking photographs in and around Disney’s Boardwalk Inn when my camera ran out of juice. Fortunately, I had a set of fresh batteries with me, and scouted a place to sit down and swap them out. I found this chair and side table in the lobby of the Boardwalk.


I knew right away that after the batteries were changed, the first picture I would snap would be of the table. It was decorated with images of my OTHER, non-Disney passion – sea shells! Not so surprising – the whole Boardwalk at Walt Disney World has a seaside resort and amusement theme. Sea shells fit right in.


The reason I moved to the Lee Island Coast in particular was to be close to Sanibel Island, where many such shells can be found. The two smaller ones pictured on the table appear to be keyhole limpets. The larger one is a true tulip. It’s always a treat to find a true tulip – they are so bright and colorful, and they come in an array of patterns.


I found a literal bonanza of true tulips on Sanibel Island the first year I lived here in Southwest Florida. Sometime in June of that year, Tropical Storm Alberto blew through. A tropical storm is not as severe as a hurricane, but it’s just enough to push a bunch of treasure up onto the shores of Sanibel. At the top of this photo, you can see the tops of two pear whelks. Below that, three banded tulips. And in the last row – an assortment of true tulips in various patterns and sizes. The largest one measures 5.25 inches from end to end – about as long as a pen.

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I didn’t mean to go shelling, really I didn’t!

I didn’t mean to go shelling, really I didn’t!, originally uploaded by Tink*~*~*.

I am not dressed for it and don’t have my gear, but once I saw there were a few things rolling around, I got a plastic bag out of the car and a long tree branch from up at the high tide line and went shelling the hard way! I got a few good things – alphabet cone, horse conch, and my first-ever baby’s ear. It was too cold to stay very long.

Ring-billed gulls, and “the circle of life”

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Ring-billed gulls, and “the circle of life”

(a Camera Critters post)

click any photo to see the bigger version in Flickr
IMG_0101-ring-bille-gull-marchingEarlier this week, I posted a photo of shore birds feasting upon some scallops that had been stranded by the tide. I realized that I didn’t know what the birds were called, so I went through some recent photos to see if I could find a close up. Here’s a shot from early in January, and according to my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida, this is a ring-billed gull. You can see that there is, indeed, a ring around his yellow bill. According to Audubon, this bird migrates north for the summer, but non-breeders will probably stick around here.
IMG_0204-Ring-billed-gulls-feastingLast week, when my friend Kim and I were at the beach, we encountered a pile of shells that had been tossed up onto the shore by the tide. As we pawed through the pile for treasures, we found many scallops had been stranded with the empties. Some were still alive, as evidenced by their nervous chattering as we came near. Yes, they do that thing that you see them do in the old cartoons – they open and shut rapidly, trying to scare us away with the clatter, I guess. Usually, when I find a live one, I will endeavor to place it back in the water. But then I began to notice that humans aren’t the only ones interested in a pile of shells.
IMG_0207-ring-billed-gull-tasty-scallopThe ring-billed gulls were feasting! And here I thought, with all the hubris and inflated sense of importance that a human can muster, that we were doing the scallops a favor by giving them a “second chance”. It’s not really a carnage that humans need to “fix” (oh, we are such fixers, we humans, aren’t we?). As often happens, it dawned upon me in the lyrics:

Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life…

Yeah, I did. I burst into song. I think Kim laughed at me, but I don’t mind. If you’re embarrassed 😳 by people who are prone to bursting into song, don’t go shelling with me 😆 . The point is, the scallops had found “their place on the path unwinding”. It was right there, on the beach, waiting for a ring-billed gull to come along and decide it looked tasty.
The scallops, they have their purpose. They don’t have to think about it, or struggle to discover what it is they are meant to do. The Circle Of Life just kind of takes care of that for them. Not so much for us humans. We often struggle to find our place. For many of us, it’s not all that clear what we are meant to do with our lives.
Sometimes, I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. If “when I grow up” should ever happen, I’ll be sure to let y’all know.

  • Cornell University has a cool bird site, with sound samples.  Click here if you want to hear ring-billed gulls laughing (it opened Quicktime for me; your mileage may vary!).
  • Download The Circle of Life MP3 file from Disney’s THE LION KING, performed by Elton John. Amazon also has DVDs of the film and its sequels, the entire film soundtrack (CD or MP3 download), and my personal favorite, the original Broadway production sountrack.
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The Remains Wash Ashore on Sanibel Island

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

The Remains Wash Ashore on Sanibel Island

(a Wordless Wednesday post)
(also a Watery Wednesday post)
click the photo to see it in Flickr


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Plunder from the 2:00 AM sea shell raid

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Plunder from the 2:00 AM sea shell raid

Hi there, I’m back among the land of the living! After pulling the all-nighter to go on a beach raid at Blind Pass, I put in what turned out to be a challenging day at work. Chris called circa lunchtime and said she was sick! So she could not come down for the weekend.

It’s probably just as well. Although I do not want her to be sick, I crashed and burned really early last night – around 7:00 PM! I woke up at three and amused myself for a few hours, then went back for a few more hours and didn’t get up again until 9:00. Boy that felt good!

And now for the shells (ta-da!). Below you can find the whole haul. As you can see, many, many whelks and figs were found. The dark things in a sort of zig zaggy column on the right are the OPERCULII (hi, Gary!). In the lower left corner, there’s a bivalve – I have no idea what this shell is. It’s sort of like a jingle, only thicker and not transluscent, but it is shiny like a jingle is. I’m going to have to drag out the shell books and investigate. If anyone reading this knows what it is, would you please leave a comment, or else email me at BellTinkR at gmail dot com? Thanks!

NOTE: Labeled version of this photo can be found in my Flickr Photostream

Below, a couple of close-ups of the biggest whelk. It’s around 5 inches long and 3 inches wide – just a hair or two larger than the big whelk I found at the same beach on Labor Day.

Here’s the “rejects” or “junk” pile. As mentioned before, sometimes with night shelling you cannot really judge with just a flashlight. You might miss a rough edge or a crack, and then you get the shell home and realize it’s not up to par. Other times, you toss things in the bucket and break something, or else jiggling on the way home breaks it, In any case, these will be put to good use outside as erosion control, in the place where rain water shoots off the roof and tries to dig a hole in my lawn.

Man, I’m STILL tired! I think I need a hearty breakfast and screw the calorie count for today (trying to lose the “I haven’t smoked in 7 months” weight). I’m tempted to take myself to Denny’s or Perkins for brunch!

BIG pile of sea shells at Blind Pass!

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
BIG pile of sea shells at Blind Pass!
NOTE: if you are looking for Skywatch, please scroll down to the next post!

Strategizing with Tootie via email, text, and finally just a plain old phone call last night. We noted that high tide at Blind Pass (between Sanibel Island and Captiva Island) would be more or less midnight, and low tide would be more or less 4:00 AM. Thus was born the idea of a 2:00 AM Booty Raid. We agreed I’d get to the house around 1:15 AM.

Earlier in the evening, it had been determined that Friday after work, Chris would drive down to hang out with me here in Lehigh, and we could drive out to the beach and la di dah all weekend. So I whiled away some of the time by making sure the guest room was dusted and vacuumed, and that it had clean sheets on the bed, and I also cleaned the guest bath and added fresh towels, etc. Texted Chris to let her know what I was doing and got back a “w00t!”

Got in the car at 12:30 AM. Going over the causeway toward Sanibel Island, I realized that not only was it coming off of high tide, but the sea was just FULLER somehow. I guess that is compliments of Hurricane Ike (God bless and save those poor people in Texas), and I wonder how long it will take to recede. Arrived at Gary’s a wee bit too early, but that’s ok because I got to take the tour of the amazing sea shells they’d found the night before. There’s at least one eye-poppingly huge whelk among their treasures, and I got to see some of the incomplete junonias but the whole one was buried in the bucket somewhere. Tootie had gotten some operculums, which she gave to me, and I went back and forth with Gary a bit on whether or not the plural of “operculum” is really “operculii”. At the very least, it made him giggle, so I think I shall say “operculii” from now on. He accuses me of liking and collecting operculii because I like saying the word. There might be some truth to that. I just remember being thrilled the first time I found one and it suddenly dawned on me what it was! I thought it was way too cool for words to find an operculum.

Finally it was time to go. We all piled into the car and made our way down San-Cap Road to Blind Pass. I looked at the clock on the dashboard as we drove; it said 1:38 AM. The tide was still pretty high, and one section of the parking lot was roped off due to storm erosion. I decided to be on the cocky, confident side and left my mesh bags in the car in favor of a large blue bucket. It’s not a sand pail. It is the size for mopping the floor. I wanted to send a strong signal to The Universe that I was prepared to haul in quite a bit of booty as we raided the coast of Santiva.

The pile was MUCH more vast than it had been on Labor Day. It stretched from the rock jetty all the way back to nearly the start of the Sanibel side of the bridge, and it was very wide. The backside of the pile thinned out but still kept going a fair distance toward the bridge. On the surf side, it was like cliffs that dropped abruptly and steeply toward the sea. The waves were not huge, but they were rougher than normal.

Once again, the order of the day for me seemed to be whelks and figs. If pen shells were worth something on the open market, I could have retired on what could have been picked up there last night. Pen shells, pen shells EVERYWHERE. If you dared to wade in the surf, they would pelt you in the shins when a wave came. The other thing that was present in abundance was live cockles. They were just everywhere. If they showed some initiative (chattering, actually pedding about), they got a rescue. Also found several live mac and cheese, banded tulips and whelks – and one LIVE paper fig! I’ve never seen one of those live before.

There was one spot we kept watching as the tide went out. There was some sort of natural split in the pile, about in the middle I guess – certainly, aligned with about the middle of the bridge – and right after that split, there was a spot where you could see stuff in the surf, but you could not really get to it because of the aforementioned shin-pelting that would result if you tried to stand out there and scoop. Those pen shells REALLY become the secret weapons of the sea. It’s her way of saying, “Oh no, you did NOT just try to plunder my booty!” However, it was possible to scurry down there during a receding wave, snatch something, and scramble back up to the relative safety of the top of the pile before getting “shelled” with missiles again. One such time, Gary was able to scoop up a great prize with his claw – a moon snail/shark eye the size of a doorknob! WTG, Gary!

As the tide went out, it dragged stuff off the pile, revealing other stuff, and then it would fling still more stuff back up onto the pile. Tootie found more OPERCULII for me there at the sea-side edge of the pile, and there was a constant fresh supply of figs – figs, figs, everywhere you looked there were figs and more figs! It’s been like this since Hurricane Fay several weeks ago – abundant supplies of paper figs from the Lighthouse all the way out to Blind Pass. It makes you wonder what could have happened out there on the bottom of the sea to cause SO many of one species to die and send their exoskeletons up to the shore for collection.

Finally, we were pretty much done. My bucket was more than half full. At no time did we see the pile last night in daylight, so there are no photos. I think Tootie might have some on her blog from the day before (and you should go there anyhow and see if she has posted a photo of her junonia!).

We piled back into the car and headed back to the house. I did a pee break and headed for home. Put the bucket right in the kitchen sink and added water and bleach. Stripped off salty clothing, showered, and fell into bed at 5:55 am, first setting the clock for 7:30 am. Was online to work by 8:00 am. Have been working on this report between phone calls most of the day.

I don’t have any photos yet. After the shells are clean and laid out to dry, I will photograph them. I have the feeling I need to go buy more bleach….

Sea Shells – Labor Day Gifts From Gustav

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*


Here’s what the beach looked like in full daylight. It was not the biggest pile I’ve ever seen, nor the most prolific in terms of whole gastropods in tip-top shape, but it was pretty impressive.

So, here’s the whole haul after they gave up their beachy stink to the bleach bath.  You can see that the majority crop today was lightening whelks.  It’s amazing to me that I found so many paper figs intact, considering how violent the wave action had been during the high surf advisory.
NOTE: a labeled version with the common names of each type of shell can be found on FLICKR by clicking here.
Here’s that big lightening whelk laid out on the tape measure.  I’m really happy with this fella.  Tootie got one even bigger!  Hoping she’ll post a few photos, too.

These are “junk” shells.  Well, not really junk, but there are those shells that you get home and realize that you can’t get the barnacle off after all, or you find a fissure or a chunk missing or whatever.  In my case, the majority of these will end up outside doing erosion control.  My friend Chris uses “junk” shells to create arts and crafts stuff.  She’s quite crafty, that Chris!
OK, so that was the Gustav adventure.  I’m really happy with this haul, and glad that my friends think of alerting me when they see a big pile of lovely gifts from the sea!  Insert clappy smiley guy here.  😀

The Teach asked a question about photo size

src=””I’m hoping the above line will post as text and not as a photo! This is part of the code from when I posted the photo of the Crackberry the other day.When I mobile blog, the photos are going to show up small, usually. But when I am blogging photos from my computer’s hard drive, I resize them to 800×600 before I upload them. Still, blogger will usually post them small, initially – no matter if I check small, medium or large. I don’t really know why they give you the small, medium or large option if they are just going to post them tiny…. but you can fight back, dammit! :DSee the part in the line of code that says “/s400/” ? After I upload a photo to a post in Blogger, if the photo posted tiny, I edit the post – I switch to the Edit Html tab, find that S400 part, and change the 4 to an 8. That gets them back to the 800×600 that I intendedSee, I selected “large” and it still posted small! But I’m going to change the 4 to an 8 now, and see what happens –Glass bowls filled with sea shells found on Sanibel Island, including true tulips, banded tulips, Florida horse conchs, lightening whelks, king's crowns, moon snail, nutmeg shell, alphabet cone and many others.Now that’s more like it! BTW, these containers of shells are sitting on top of my piano, and that’s a bust of Wagner. I don’t really care an awful lot for Wagner, but he was sitting on my grandfather’s piano my entire life, so when my grandfather passed on, I took old Richard home with me.I hope this explains the photo size thing in Blogger. I don’t really know a lot of Html, but that size thing was driving me batty, so I experimented and eventually figured it out.

My First "Fun Monday"

So, there’s this meme called “Fun Monday” which is being hosted by Mariposa this week. Her theme is “Collections”.
You know what’s coming, don’t you?

I have far too much material for just one day of fun, but I’ll try to keep it to maybe 3-4 photos.

FIRST UP: my favorite shell, the horse conch – aka “macaroni and cheese”, because when they are juveniles, that’s what color they are. I was looking around for something around the same size as one of them to put down for scale – hope y’all like Tootsie Pops!

Florida horse conch sea shells found on Sanibel Island.

A juvenile Florida horse conch found on Sanibel Island.

The biggest of those horse conchs was found during my 2005 house hunting trip. In fact, it was the day that I saw this community I’m now living in for the first time, and decided that I would contract to build a house here. If you are interested in reading about the day I found it, there is a report plus a photo of what the horse conch looked like when I first pulled it out of the water (very different!) on my old web site, which is under reconstruction but still read-able if I give you a link like this.

Next up – my second favorite shell, the true tulip. While banded tulips, which I like too, tend to be pastel brownish-pink and gray-colored, true tulips can be a deep red bordering on black and cover the red spectrum all the way through orange and a rusty brown that reminds me of that old, retired Crayola color called “Burnt Sienna”.

True tulip sea shells found on Sanibel Island.

Close up of true tulip sea shells found on Sanibel Island.

I found most of these true tulips at the Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island. Occasionally, I’ve found one somewhere else, but my experience has been that the Lighthouse Beach is the place to find true tulips.

One time, I found lots of true tulips in a strange cache of excellent shells that seemed to be just waiting there for me to find them, near a pylon under the fishing pier. You can read that story here on my old site. That was during the house hunting trip, too.

The other half of these, including the big red one in the upper left of the first photo, were found at the Lighthouse Beach right after a tropical storm named Alberto blew through here in June of 2006. This was about a month after I moved here to Southwest Florida. I couldn’t believe the treasure trove after that storm; you could not help walking on the shells, they were so piled up, right there just to the right of the fishing pier. If you’re interested in that story, you can check it out if you click here. and scroll down to June 14th.

OK, there we have it – a collection of two of my favorite shells.

If anyone else has photos of their shell collections, I’d love to see them! Please feel free to post a comment with a link.

If you want to see some more shell photos, there’s a link in the header to all my blog entries that are tagged “sea shells”.

Bon Appetite!

Awaiting lampage

Colander full of sea shells found on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, including king's crown, paper fig, pear whelk and moon snail.

So, this is the collander full of haul from last Sunday. And for good measure, I rescued all my king’s crowns from the lanai and oiled them too. I figure after being in the freezer for weeks, and then on the lanai for weeks, if something was going to hatch from them, it would have happened by now. The colors popped nicely after oiling, and they didn’t need much blotting; soaked it right up!

Anyway, now that every banded tulip in the house is oiled up, I think the next group will be lightening whelks. I already have a glass cookie jar filled with the bigger ones that I’ve found, so what’s due for a shining are palm-of-your-hand and smaller sized whelks.

I’m never going to leave all the shining for “later” ever again! It’s a domino effect; I can’t fill these lamps and such without the shells looking as purty as they can, so I have to wait until all the shells are shined. *sigh* Never again! Shoot me if I put shells away without them being shined first!

Other stuff

A collection of sea shells found on Sanibel Island; lace murex.

ABOVE: While I was rummaging around for all the tulips, I stumbled across and liberated a cache of lace murex, including the one on the bottom right that looks like toasted coconut. I love the little pink tips on them when they are small-ish like these are.

BELOW: There were a few true tulips hiding out among the banded ones. As soon as they have soaked up sufficient oily goodness, they shall join their brethren in the vat of true tulips on the breakfast bar. Also found an angel wing, the first I ever found. I found two others. One is small and sits on the breakfast bar. The other one I gave away to a young kid I met shelling with his mom at the Lighthouse Beach right after TD Alberto in June 2006. That’s a dime down there for scale.

A collection of sea shells found on Sanibel Island, including an angel wing and a few juvenile true tulips.


You know, in those early years of shelling, I had no freakin’ clue what I was doing. Subsequently, I picked up a lot of crap! Well, here’s a vat of some crappy ones. They will make good “filler”. See, only the shells on the perimeter of the lamps will be seen, not what’s behind them. So the crap shells can be the “filler” behind the good stuff.

Shell Shining Operations Center

I sorta got a bee in my bonnet about those lamps I bought at Target (pronounced “Tarzhay”) last week. I want to fill them with shells. I bought some long BBQ skewers to use like chopsticks to manipulate the shells around inside the lamps. And then I shined all the shells that I collected last weekend during the All-Night Shelling Extravaganza. For smooth shells, you can just oil your palms and roll the shell between them. However, I’ve recently discovered the efficiency of a basting brush for shells with a lot of nooks and crannies, such as king’s crowns.

But after I was done, they only filled that there collander you see on the breakfast bar in the photo above. Well, that won’t even fill ONE of the lamps, never mind the matched set.

So then I decided it was high time I shined all the shells I’ve been collecting all these years, so I would have more shells to help fill these lamps. I started with the tulips. I had to go into the closet in my office and pull out the big Rubbermaid bin with all the stuff from 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2005; all those years I vacationed down here before deciding to relocate from NY. The stuff from 2006 and 2007 lives in bins in a kitchen cabinet, since I got that stuff while living here, so I pulled that stuff out too.

So, here are a fair quantity of banded tulips of all variants and sizes, soaking up a bunch of oily goodness.

Some booty from the weekend (SHELLS!)

Got a text message from Gary around 1:30 am on Sunday (actually, it was 2:30 am, since that was when we “sprang ahead”, but I hadn’t changed my clocks yet). Amazed, actually, that I even heard the cell phone announcing the text message, since I was asleep! Lo and behold, the message said, “Get your ass out here” and showed a photo of a flashlight beam illuminating a mountain of shells!

So I drove out to the beach, stopping at 7-11 for coffee. It was windy, it was cold, there were SHELLS like you wouldn’t believe! We shelled for probably 2.5 hours and then went to Jerry’s for breakfast and to get warm. We came back when it was light out, but by that time our defenses were down – we hadn’t really slept, and we’d been cold for a LONG time, so we decided to pack it in. However, we were glad that we went back because I quickly found about 2/3 of a junonia, just rummaging on the surface of the pile.

The Pile at Blind Pass

Above, the pile at Blind Pass. This is to the immediate right of the rock jetty as you face the Gulf. Probably the biggest pile I’ve seen to date in my life!

Above, Gary digs into the pile with his claw. We’re not long for this beach; at this point, we’ve been awake too long and our defenses against the cold are WAY down. I think the initial adrenaline was protecting us somewhat, but when it wore off, we were toast!

The haul is going into a bleach bath (minus the olives; don’t want their shine to wear off). That shiny thing in the center is a dime sitting on top of a moon snail.

Break out the blue towel!

Above, we have the entire haul. Not bad for a couple of hours work. The amount of tulips was amazing, and I was surprised at how very little live stuff was in the pile. It was all basically very clean; I didn’t rinse anything before putting it into my collection bag, as the sea was EXTREMELY rough and I didn’t want to get soaked. When I got it all home and rinsed it in the dishpan, I was surprised at how little sand came back with me.

Ah, what makes me happier than mac-n-cheese? Insert hand-clapping smiley here! These cleaned up really nicely; a little mineral oil went a long way on the slightly chaulky look of some of them.

The pile was kind to me in terms of mac-n-cheese and cones, too. And let’s not forget my first-ever junonia! You can see above, he’s a little dude, and if I turned him over, you’d see a hole. I’m reckoning that’s about 2/3 rds of a junonia. I also found a random piece of one (not pictured).

More crafty things

Above we’ve got some very creative uses for dried starfish!

I’ve got LOADS of cockles, matched sets even – and I never thought of using them to make bunnies!

I definitely want to make a shell nightlight someday. I think a pear whelk or paper fig makes a good “lamp shade” but we can’t figure out how they make the paper fig so sturdy-feeling. I’m thinking Elmer’s glue and water, brushed on – maybe a few coats?

Crafty stuff

We both bought some Native American trinkets while listening to the band, and then headed over in this direction to see some crafty stuff. Above, a suncatcher like the one I gave to Gary.

Look at all those SHELLS!

We thought Kim would be interested in knowing that her beloved fan shells have another name – Irish Flats!

Toured the resort

We went for a walk around the resort, stopping in at Picabu at the Dolphin to get some supplies for the room (milk, water, iced tea and bananas). I just can’t resist taking a photo of shells wherever I see them.

My haul from The Rocks

Above you can see that as many live tulips that had to be thrown back, there were that many empty ones. Those pear whelks are for my flower pots out on the lanai.

Above, I’ve put down a quarter to show the size of the lone true tulip I found.

Above: Some of the olives are still wonderfully shiny. I was happy to have gotten the two crab carapaces home intact, as they tend to be a bit on the fragile side, in my experience. The alphabet cone is sort of weirdly shaped; has a bulge in one side. As you can see, I found mac n cheese, and you know what that means – it was a good shelling day! Note the tiny, nearly translucent natica near the two little mac n cheese.

Again with the quarter, to show the size of the nutmges and the moon snails. The build-me-up-buttercup was picked up for the express purpose of putting that song into Gary’s head when he sees this. You’re welcome! :-p

Mac n cheese that’s seen better days

Someone had tossed this old horse conch up above the pile. I put my net down for scale. I’ve taken one of these home before; labored over it, slaved over it to remove all the barnacles, and it ended up that the barnacles were what was holding it together! Needless to say, I passed.

As we were walking back to the access path to go have breakfast, we encountered this poor soul without a home. Bonnie said maybe it was a lightening whelk; this is not a good enough picture to display what we saw when turning it over, but it did look like it had once been in a shell. I hate to think that some tourist ripped it out of it’s shell… but how else would it have become detached?

Beachy Scenes

Above, a bird feeds on whatever it is that shore birds feed upon. Below, Bonnie patrols the shore near The Rocks.

Below, an amazing array of colorful sponges and other vegetation. We both refrained from picking up any more sea urchins, as neither of us has been able to bring ourselves to deal with the ones we picked up several weeks ago. Neither of us has figured out how to properly dry/preserve the various types of sponges without them smelling up a storm. Bleach just takes their color away, and maybe even makes them disintegrate. If anyone knows how, please post a comment!

Look at that wave approaching to crash over The Rocks – no wonder there was a pile!

Amazing true tulip!

Bonnie found this amazingly active true tulip. If you can get over the fact that they are actually slugs with really pretty housing, you can appreciate the beauty of the animal itself.

This critter was so active, it inspired Bonnie to get brave and take some video with her camera. I think she’s going to try to figure out how to post it on YouTube or somewhere (I think PhotoBucket does video, too).

"The Rocks"

Finally, I am introduced to the infamous “The Rocks” place! Tidal pools had formed before them, with more live critters burrowing around. They are covered with vegetation, and looked like they would be slippery, so I refrained from climbing upon them.

Right in front of The Rocks, there was a pretty substantial pile. Upon seeing it, I was immediately regretful that I’d left the rake back in the car. It seemed like all the bigger stuff had slid down the back of the pile, so that’s where we began picking through it. Lacking the rake, I squatted a lot and used the stick end of the net-on-a-stick to move layers aside and find good stuff. There were a LOT of live banded tulips, and quite a few calico clams chattered at me from the depths. If it had an animal in it, I returned it to the tidal pool in front of The Rocks. Yes, Tink’s *~*~* “Second Chance” program was in full force today!

Bonnie and I spread out for a while, attacking different sections of the pile. Here she is, with the sun rising behind her.

Yep, it’s another early morning foray

Made arrangements last night to meet Bonnie at the rendezvous to take advantage of the full moon low tide. There had been wind and waves yesterday, and the published time of low tide at the point was 6:43 AM, so we decided to meet at 6:30 AM. At first, we went to Gulf Pines, but there was absolutely NOTHING going on there (again! That happened to me and Kim, too. Maybe I’m a jinx?), so we headed out to Access 7.

There were lots of live things in the sand; above, some lightening whelks, and below a banded tulip.

There’s definitely something stuck deep inside this "stinker"

I took the mac n cheese out last night (PS – it’s roughly the same length as the deep orange one). Look how cloudy the bleach became overnight, with the “stinker” lightening whelk still soaking! Below you can see that the bleach has also frothed up a bit. Yep, definitely something in there…

Mac n cheese!

I’m pretty happy with these two; can’t wait for the third one to be done bleaching, so I can measure that one too. Look at the one on the left – that brilliant orange color!

I really need to get some shut eye….

Time to measure

Above, the two longest true tulips; below, the largest lightening whelk. This photo does not do the color justice; it’s a beautiful salmony-orange.

Tulips, tulips, tulips!

Above top row, true tulips. A few of them could stand a touch-up with either mineral oil or water-based polyurethane. That chaulky look will go away, and the colors will be truer.

Above, two variants of the banded tulip. I used to think the pinker ones were just faded versions of the browner ones, until I read in one of Gary’s shell books that they are actually a variant.

Above, top row: the first five are paper figs. The next 4 are pear whelks.
Bottom row: lightening whelks, and the corner of the venus ray.

Venus Ray Clam

I’ve never found a venus ray this big, much less both halves still stuck together. I can only pry it apart maybe a quarter of an inch; I don’t want to force it for fear of breaking the hinge.

Extended Bleach Bath

This is pure bleach. To the left is one of my three mac n cheese (juvenile horse conchs) that I pried the barnacles off, only to find it spotted with periostracum, so it needs to sit a little longer. To the right, one of the most perfect lightening whelks I’ve ever found, but it’s a “stinker”. There must be some of the remains of the animal stuck deep inside. The mac n cheese might be ready to come out by tonight, but the stinker will stay until it doesn’t stink any more (probably a week or so).