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Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

Angels On The Gulf Coast

Angel wing shells drb

Angel wing shells by Dovie Belmont

ANGEL WING shells are very special. If you’ve ever found one, then you know what I mean. They are pure white and so beautifully detailed to a degree that is astonishingly close to what we’ve imagined all our lives to be the wings of Angels. Yet they are so delicate we hardly ever see one completely intact.

Angel Wing seashell pairs

False Angel wing pairs by Dovie Belmont

This is why I was blown away when not just one blog buddy found lots of ANGEL WINGS completely in tact… but three! And 2 out of the 3 found most of them still together! Can you believe that? Both sides!

Angel wings sea shells drb

False Angel wings sea shells by Dovie Belmont

Lucky Girl Dovie found all of these FALSE ANGEL WINGS at Salina’s Beach on the Pan Handle of Florida.

She said  “… these are the tiny Angel wings that we found all over the beach at Salinas Park…there are Angel wings, Campeche Angel wings, Fallen Angel wings, and False Angel wings. We had to be very careful because they are so fragile.”

Angel wing seashells cb

Angel wing seashells and other beach treasures by Cheri

I saw this picture (above) from Cheri and knew you would enjoy this too. She found these two large Angel Wings on Sanibel but I don’t know what beach. I am so curious, please let us know. Look at all those other fantabulous seashells too!

Angel wing seashell dig mk

Angel wing seashell dig found by MurexKen and MurexAlice

Okay, this is what topped the whole Angel Wing week. This picture (above) is what an Angel Wing around 7 inches long (maybe 8- I forgot to measure since I was so overwhelmed) looks like when it is dug out of the muck in the low tide flats on the bay side of Sanibel. It is still perfectly intact and filled with mud and sand since the mollusk wasn’t in there any more. This is CRRR-AAAAZY. Guess who found it. MurexKen and MurexAlice.

Angel wing shells mucky mk

Angel wing shells found by MurexKen and MurexAlice

You see, that wasn’t the only one they found. If I remember correctly, they found around 30 whole ones still attached together filled with nothing but sand and silt from the bay side of Blind Pass at a low tide of minus .50 feet. They rented a canoe from Castaways and paddled to the sand bars that are rarely exposed.

Angel Wing shell pair

Angel Wing shell pair

I know they are very experienced shellers and have found lots of amazing shells but I think this will be an unforgettable memory. Angel Wings are special shells and it’s like there was a shelling Angel spreading her wings all along the gulf coast.

Speaking of special, a friend shared this beautiful poem that explains in such lovely words how we feel. Especially after seeing so many wings of Angels today.


I love a beach where seabirds cry,
Where the shining water meets the sky.
Where one can look for shells and things,
And gather the gifts that each tide brings.

I like to walk upon the sand,
Between the ocean and the land.
To breathe the wonderful salty air,
And feel the breeze blow through my hair.

I enjoy the pleasure these things bring,
They calm my mind and make my heart sing.
And even when I can’t be there,
I always remember what the beach had to share.

And if you happen to see a shell,
I hope this thought you’ll remember well.
As I have prized each beautiful treasure,
So I value my family and friends in even greater measure.

And when the times comes I’m no longer here,
Do not think I have left you, never fear.
Just picture me happy on some distant shore
Picking up lovely things just as before.

For I will not have died, nor will I sleep;
I will see you again, so please do not weep,
I’ll just continue happy in His peace and care
Until the time comes when you join me there.

-Betty Jean Piech

Angel Wings by MurexKen

Cleaned Angel Wings by MurexKen


  1. I got my wings (heehee) on Honeymoon Island. It was a cold windy day all the way on the north end. They were just laying on some debris – perfectly intact. Always love to hear from Murex Ken on his shelling tips and secret spots.

    • ‘At a girl, “Clarence”! LOL

  2. Dug up on the mud flats? Wouldn’t they still be alive?

    • ….. mollusks die and sometimes their shell remains in the same place where they die. Just like any other animal bones.

  3. Wow, how overwhelming. It’s been a couple of years since I found an angel wing, but I can’t even imagine finding so many! And I’d never heard of the false wings. Beautiful!

  4. Beautiful angel wings! One of my favorite shells! I love the poem, it reflects the sentiments of many of us who love the beach and all of it’s treasures! Thanks!

  5. Such a beautiful poem, thanks for shaing with us!

  6. Congratulations! what a fabulous shelling experience. I don’t believe that I have ever found a complete shell with both sides together like that. My shelling friend Debbie will be excited to know that she might actually fine some.

  7. I love the poem. It is so fitting for those of us that love shelling. I have been fortunate to find half a wing but never a whole angel wing. Congratulations!

  8. Those angel wing shells are pretty cool looking!

    I’m looking forward to hopefully finding some super treasures on Tuesday morning next week. Will be stopping in Sanibel for a few hours of shelling on our drive down to the FL Keys. I’m just dying to find a moon snail shell and hopefully a few little horse conchs. Planning on being there before low tide peak at 9am-ish … but wondered where our best bet would be for our treasure hunt… any sure fire spots for horse conchs?

    • The only sure-fire spots for horse conchs are the shell shops as you drive on the island. If I only had a few hours Gulfside City Park is where I would go. You have a minus .05 low tide @ 6:49 am so if you get up really early and hit the beach as the sun is coming up you should have some shelling fun out there. Definitely have breakfast/lunch at the Island Cow on Periwinkle. The shrimp tacos are yummy.

      • Thanks much!

    • I did it!!! I came back to St Pete with 1 horse conch shell (about the size of my thumb nail) and 1 moon snail shell about 3/4 inch in diameter. My niece and I (and my 3 pups) parked at the lot out near the lighthouse and wandered west along the gulf side… we found a lot of Sundial shells, a few Florida Buttons, quite a lot of murex shells but called it time to leave Sanibel after the 2 prize shells were found.

      On a side note… on my last morning in the Keys I found a Janthina… it’s a tiny one (only 1/4 inch in diameter) and it’s pretty rough (broken center and cracked opening edge) but it’s a lovely little shell… I’ll post the picture on ILS’s facebook page within the next couple of days.

      Sure wish I could visit Sanibel and the Keys on a weekly basis!

      • Weehoo! Congrats Leah- Yes- Candy! post the on iLS facebook page!

  9. You never know what you’ll find on any given day but to see all these Angel Wings is just fantastic. I’ve only found a few and never in pairs and one slighty green with barnacles that I call my “Fallen” Angel Wing. Great poem too. Horse conchs just show up when you least expect them like a little “candy” treat.

  10. Pam,
    I found one intact in July in front of Ocean’s Reach. It was about 4 inches long and very pretty, Didn’t find the other half of it, The poem is perfect. She describes how I feel about the beach wonderfully. Happy Holidays to you and Clark if I dont post anymore between now and then. Can’t wait to hear about the shellebrations!

  11. WOW, and WOW again. I’ve always been attached to Angels so imagine my delight to find that there were Angel Wing shells! I LOVE THEM!!!! My first trip to Sanibel three years ago I found a half Angel Wing right in front of the condo complex we were staying at! I’ve been in love with them ever since! Lord, Lord…and now we can dig for them! Look out, Murex Ken may have started something. Not sure I want to dig around in the muck, but hey, you never know. I just find them fascinating. Pam, that poem is really beautiful and expresses what us “shelling people” feel. I may just keep this to be read at my memorial service many, many years from now LOL!

  12. Love the poem! Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Where will you be located at the Holiday Marketplace on Dec. 10th?

  14. I want to do that—I think the shellers I observed on the Ft Myers side of the bridge digging in the muck at low tide were looking for angels. (you never know where you’ll find an angel) Where are the tidal flats in the bay? Near Castaways?

  15. That’s an amazing haul. We find those little beauties along the Texas coast. Sometimes, when the weather’s calm we find the intact ones… so delicate it’s often difficult just getting them home.

  16. Thanks so much for the post of my Angel Wings find. And that poem is so wonderful with such beautiful thoughts!!! I love it!!!

  17. I’ve never seen them before. They really are like perfect wings aren’t they… I’d love them for my dolls. That poem is so heart-felt. A sea passion is wonderful. Pruxxx

  18. How did MurexKen and Alice know where to dig on the sand bar? Were there any tracks or marks in the sand to indicate where the angel wing snails/shells were buried? I have found half shells on Honeymoon Island. I often explore the mud and sand flats of the coastal side of Honeymoon Island, so I am interested in looking for any marks or indications which might lead to angel wings there.

    • MK and MA said they saw the tips of the wings sticking up out of the sand/mud. Just like most shellers, they were probably just exploring for anything…. not intending just to find angel wings. They just happen to be there.

      • Anna, MurexAlice was actually the first one of us to find the angel wings. As Pam reported, we were just looking around the exposed flats for “whatever” and MA saw just the tips (about an inch) of each valve (or wing) sticking out of the sand. The tips were separated by about an inch of sand/mud and were facing each other. As soon as she saw them MurexAlice knew what they were. Since I was about a hundred feet from her, she unselfishly called to me and reported what she had just found. So, I immediately started to look for them and quickly found a number.

        What many shellers do not realize is that there are almost always many more shells present in a given area than they may initially see. When experienced shellers first find a highly desirable type of shell (species), they stay in that area and look for more. Often times they can find additional shells, if they go back over the same area where they had just looked, but now they have the image of the specific shell in mind and are now looking for that pattern, the size, shape and coloration of the shell. It is amazing how many more, similar shells one can often find just by doing that.

        One other comment may be appropriate. I have met so many shell collectors who jealously guard their “special” shelling spots and information, presumably because they do not want other shellers to come along and take all “their” shells. Although this attitude may have some validity for the collection of live shells or mollusks, it just does not make much sense on Sanibel Island, since only the collection of dead shells is permitted/legal. Most days millions of shells wash onto the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. My finding a few more shells will not decrease what another shell collector finds. There are just too many shells. It is not a zero sum game. Sharing good information about where to find some nice shells helps everyone and usually does not reduce the number an individual person finds. Often, sharing information will actually increase the number. Our angel wings are a good example. Once MurexAlice told me about the angel wings, I found a number and showed her some other tricks to find them and also how best to dig them up and transport them without breaking them, since they are so fragile. Both of us found more because we shared information.

        What was so amazing was not the presence of the angel wings (we had already seen a number of live ones with their siphonal canals in holes at the sand surface). What was truly amazing was that we found a bed of angel wings that apparently had died months ago, probably due to the very cold weather last winter, and they were still together as pairs. I have not previously seen that in all my years of shelling on Sanibel Island. If you keep looking for shells, you will constantly be amazed at what you will find. Sanibel and Captiva Islands are an incredibly rich habitat for shells/mollusks. We find something different everytime we visit Sanibel Island. We love it.

        • My husbands favorite shelling phrase is ” no one ever finds the last shell”. Sharing info is the way to go! Thanks MK!

        • Thank you MK for sharing the info. I looked at the north end of Honeymoon Island on both the Gulf and Coast side for any sign of siphons and or shell tips but didn’t find anything. I found living Pin shells buried vertically as you say but no angel wings. I was curious so I did a little more research. Did you know that people actually eat angel wings? They can be found all around the world. They are being considered for possible aquaculture here in FL. Also, they bury themselves up to 3 feet down when they are juveniles and never move, but stay where they “plant” themselves for the rest of their lives. In fact, if they are washed out of their burrow as an adult they no longer have the ability to replant themselves and they will die. Very interesting animal!

          Shelling is so much more than just picking up Shells!

  19. I frequently hunt for shells on South Padre Island, TX. You can almost always find as many angel wings as you care to pick up. They will always be one of my favorites.

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