Archive for Operculum
Can you believe all of these gorgeous shells were found in SouthWest Florida? Yep! I found all of these APPLE SNAILS (Pomacea insularum) at Harns Marsh Preserve in Lehigh Acres, Florida about an hour from Sanibel. For years, I’ve been wanting to go check this place out ever since I met Kathy from Colorado who showed me one of her APPLESNAILS I wrote about in my post “Finally, A Recipe For Finding A Junonia“.
I finally made it to the preserve and was thrilled to find my first one… they are huge!
Just trying to find Harns Marsh Preserve was quite an adventure since there are no road signs- I guess because it’s not a city or state park. So that started the whole journey as quite a treasure hunt in itself. Then once we found it…. On to hunt for APPLE SNAILS! Soul Sister Susan donned her hiking boots, satchel and bug spray while I armed myself with old tennis shoes, long pants and a very strong walking stick. We didn’t know what to expect to find but knew we were going to be walking near marshy water which means (in Florida) there could be lots of bugs, red ants and more importantly… alligators. Errrr… That wasn’t really a “walking stick” … I would be more inclined to call it my “harpoon” … or should I say “Shellpoon”. Ha! I am a nervous wreck being anywhere near the edge of any inland pond so I just feel a weeee bit more safe with some sort of weapon. It’s better to be safe, right?
We had to park our car at the entrance and walk about a quarter mile until we reached some trees by the water…
Empty APPLE SNAIL shells were lined up all along these trees. SS Susan turned that Sanibel Stoop right into the Snail Stoop.
These APPLE SNAILS are actually an invasive land snail that are not native to Florida and they have threatened native species. They grow and breed very quickly so maybe that’s why we saw so many empty shells laying in the tall grasses just like this….
Their were OPERCULUMS were laying right along the same path. This empty shell had it’s OPERCULUM laying right beside this one.
We got back to the car after a couple of hours and SS Susan dumped her shells out of her bag. OMG Look how many shells! LOL
So cool, right? Some of them may look like they were already cleaned but trust me… cleaning these shells was a grungy job.
I soaked mine for two days in a bucket of fresh water then emptied that nasty water to refill the bucket and shells with a round of fresh water and 1/8 bleach to soak for a couple of hours. You have to be very careful though. Susan said she had picked up some shells that looked like they had spider webs on them and while she was started cleaning them, she saw a big spider in the bucket. Yikes! I didn’t see any siders in mine so I rinsed them all, shot the aperture of the shell with the outside hose nozzle then scrubbed each one with a vegetable brush. I didn’t even have time to put mineral oil on them but I don’t think I they need it. They were naturally this glossy and colorful!
Each one has a different color pattern. So lovely.
This was the largest one and the smallest one I found for the day.
Here are a few of the OPERCULUMS I picked up…
We saw their pink egg clusters on the tree trucks and marsh reeds…
…And even laying in the grasses.
This preserve is really just a water retention area that has become a birder’s paradise since the area provides perfect conditions for so many different species of birds. The APPLE SNAIL is the favorite meal for the KITE SNAIL so you have a better chance of spotting this rarely seen bird at Harns Marsh Preserve … although we didn’t see one. But I did spot this LITTLE BLUE HERON which is the first time I’ve ever gotten to photograph this bird…
We also saw two SANDHILL CRANES!
SS Susan is a GEOCACHER so found a geocache while we were there too.
After signing her geocache booklet, she left one of her APPLE SNAILS in the box as a little trinket.
We brought home such amazing ISLAND APPLE SNAIL souvenirs to remember such a fabulous day exploring a new area, shelling, bird watching and geocaching and learning all while having so much fun spending the day with my friend Susan. Lovely!
Oh but wait… this is weird. Ironically, Clark’s business partner Joe Ginsberg was walking his dog last week in Fort Myers when our local CBS news affiliate interviewed him about these same ISLAND APPLE SNAIL EGGS. They told Joe the eggs are extremely toxic if they are eaten by pets and kids so they wanted to warn folks of what the eggs look like to keep a distance from them. I had no idea that these snails had invaded neighborhoods in Fort Myers … or that Joe was on TV. After Clark told Joe about the APPLE SHELLS I found, Joe told him about the interview. WHOA! Take a look for yourself about these toxic pink egg clusters (and to meet Joe)… CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK. And for more info on Harns Marsh Preserve CLICK HERE.
i Love to find a shell I’ve never found before! This might look like the regular TOP SHELL that we find on Sanibel fairly often but as soon as I picked this shell up, I knew something was different about it. It’ got a nice sculpture about it, right? Look closely and you’ll see the slightly rounded whorls in the side view. I found a SCULPTURED TOP SHELL!
Here is the SCULPTURED TOP SHELL on the left and our “regular” (to southwest Florida) TAMPA BAY TOP SHELL on the right. Now I can’t just say “TOP SHELL” any more… I’ll have to distinguish which one it is when I see it. Cool!
So when I found my SCULPTURED TOP SHELL, I called Clark over to look at it and showed him the wrack line (which is the same as where I found the BABYS EAR and WENTLETRAP in my last post) at TARPON BAY RD beach access. Not one minute later, he looked down and picked this up…
It’s a SHARKS EYE OPERCULUM! Wow! I know it’s not pretty but I’ve always wondered why we never find them on the beach like we find other OPERCULUMS. This is the part of the MOLLUSK that protects it from predators. It’s a MOLLUSK’S front door.
It looks like a brown piece of SEA GLASS, doesn’t it? Well thats what Clark thought it was too when he picked it up and then we figured it out. Call me a geek but I got so excited to finally find one…. errr… well… that Clark found one. But it still comes home with me so I feel lucky too.
It has the shape and pattern of a BABYS EAR but it is paper thin with a slight curve. Now I know why we dont find many. They are very very fragile once they separate from the MOLLUSK. The edges on both of these are very chipped and ragged and seem like the whole thing will disintegrate any second.
But then he found another one! Dude! We’ve gone forever without ever seeing one and then he pulls out finding 2 of them. Ha!
This past December, I shot a little video of a LIVE SHARKS EYE with his OPERCULUM doing its job of protecting him but I never even showed you because it’s the same day Mimi found her SEAHORSE. The video got lost in the shuffle with all the excitement of the SEAHORSE and then of course, the Christmas holiday. But I have never forgotten what it looked like and I want you to see it too.
Okay, lets go back to the “sculpture” bit…. if you arent as thrilled as I was to finally see what a SHARKS EYE beach washed OPERCULUM looks like, I’ll show you some cool BEACH ART we saw while at Tarpon Beach over the weekend. This artist had quite a sense of humor, man. Funny sculptures!
I am still in awe of how many different seashells we found on our vacation to North Caicos and Middle Caicos of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I’m also in awe (okay, let me tell the truth…. “overwhelmed” would be the right word) because I took over 1100 photographs. Yikes! So this is what I’m going to do since I can’t smoosh all of these amazing shells, photos and info in just this one post. I’m going to show you our best finds now and then in my next post I’ll show you where we found them and a few maps just in case you ever want to go there on one of your shelling vacations too. After that, I’ll show you where we stayed on North Caicos and a few restaurants and other things we loved about the islands. But for now, lets get on with the seashell show! I showed you Clark’s KING HELMET, my ANGULAR TRITON and some QUEEN CONCHS on my last post but these PARTRIDGE TUNS for sure made it on our “besties” list. They look like really fragile scotch bonnets without the thick lip.
Here’s a close up the bottom of our LONG-SPINED STAR SHELL I showed on my vacation “teaser” (heehee) post. I say “our” shell because Clark and I were snorkeling side by side when we both spotted this beauty as the same time. Gorgeous, right?
Here are the different colors of the GAUDY ASAPHIS I talked about…
We could have gathered hundreds of doubles! Clark collected so many different colors then picked through them to get the best to bring back…
The double SPECKLED TELLINS were such a treat too! We are always tickled to find beautiful bivalves when both valves are still attached…
Believe it or not, this is my first BLEEDING TOOTH NERITE. I saw oodles of NERITES, but since I was trying to be very selective in what we brought home, I chose this one I’ve never found before to bring home and it’s one of my faves!
And of course the SUNRISE TELLINS. Oh my. They really look like they have been colorfully painted then sprayed with a high gloss coating. It was astonishing to find a perfect double SUNRISE TELLIN laying in the shallow water half covered by sand. A true gift of the sea.
Oops! I forgot to put my MILK CONCH in my bestie photo but this has to be part of my favorites list too!
I found this MILK CONCH and a juvie QUEEN CONCH the first night we arrived… which was my birthday night. YAY! We didn’t want to waste a minute so we walked the beach as soon as we arrived and these washed up at my feet. YAY Again!
I love the minis!!!! Just like here in Sanibel, if we are visiting a beach and we aren’t finding the larger shells in the wrack line, at the shoreline or in the water, we start looking for miniature shells. We found them! They are just so stinkin sweet, arent they?
But wait! There’s more! I want to share Jane and John’s besties too!
You saw John Johnny Rescue’s QUEEN CONCH and Jane’s ANGULAR TRITON yesterday and they found the SUNRISE TELLINS and PARTRIDGE TUNS as well…. But… John found this very cool CONE!
It really doesn’t match exactly with that thin lip, high spire and a few other details and I havent had time to research further, but our best guess is that it’s a CROWN CONE.
UPDATE! Deenie just commented to tell us that this is not a CONE at all! It’s a juvenile HAWKWING CONCH! How cool is that. Now that I know what it is, I can completely recognize the shape and now I know why the lip is so thin unlike a CONE and the spire is so tall. Thank you so much Deenie!
Well how about that… John found an adult HAWKWING CONCH as well so you can see what that juvie will look like when it grows up.
And look at the color and lines of this RETICULATED COWRIE-HELMET!
It is a spectacular shell! Good find John!
What? Why haven’t we ever found these on Sanibel??? We have gobs of COLORFUL MOONS (GAUDY NATICAS) so why don’t we find their OPERCULUMS more often? Weird. Plain Weird. Thanks Susan for the heads up on this beaut. So now we have something new to look for in SouthWest Florida too so look at the exterior of this SHIVA SHELL to put this in your shelling brain. Anyway, John found this one in the high tide wrack line mixed in with some other Beach Bling and a few days later I found one too but it wasn’t perfect like this…
So how cool are these shells from The Caicos, huh? Let me show you the whole kit and caboodle of shells Clark and I brought back. Keep in mind, after rinsing and inspecting the shells we collected each day, we didn’t bring home the majority of our shells to Sanibel. We inspected for cracks, critters, crud or replaced them for better specimens. We want to respect the islands, sand and beaches so we have to be conservative with the shells we take. We only kept the ones we knew we would either display in our home or research for the blog. Look how beautiful they are! I could just sit and stare at all of these treasures for hours at a time!
I’ll try to give you as much information as possible about our stay in a short time so I’m already working on a map to show you where most of our shells were found on our exshellent adventure!