The teeny tiny SAND DIMES are back at Gulfside City Park!
Yahoo! There’s gold in them that SEAWEED hills. I found these sweet little white SAND DOLLARS high on the dry beach mixed in with the wrack line dry SEA WEEDS…. so far from the water. Dollar days are back.
I just followed the wrack line to find the money trail.
I walked down to the water’s edge to find hundreds of live SAND DOLLARS washed up in the low tide.
As the tide turned and the water started covering them up, all of the live ones all along the tidal line dug themselves back into the sand where they will hopefully grow into adult SAND DOLLARS.
Mother Nature had other plans for this fist full of dollars. She was giving out SAND DIMES by the dozen in the high dry wrack.
You wanted a video? Is that what I heard earlier this week after I posted photos of lots of living sea creaturesin the low tidal pools? If so…. I’m delivering! I captured some footage of the awesome SHARKS EYE, STARFISH, SAND DOLLAR, FIGHTING CONCHS, BABYS EAR and an incredible LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. Wherever in the world you might be, sit back and enjoy the beautiful life on the Sanibel beaches.
It’s really a shame I’m not a morning person. Everybody assumes since I’m an obsessed sheller that I’m always the first one on the beach every morning. Wrong! I’m a lazy bum in the mornings and I love to sleep in… but there are a few certain occasions I like to see the sunrise. One of those occasions would be a really low morning tide after some nice north winds. That’ll give me a little shove out the door every time.
Every single solitary time I’m on the beach to witness a new day as the sun rises up over a fresh new string of shells with a golden glow… I wish I was a morning person.
It’s the time to see live healthy creatures.
I didn’t even have to touch this SAND DOLLAR to know it was alive. Not only was it dark brown, I could see cilia (or what I call “fur”) lining the outside of its body as well as each of the key hole slits. So beautiful!
This live LIGHTNING WHELK had already done an excellent job of digging itself back into the wet sand to wait for the tide to soon cover him back up completely so I left him alone as well.
My sunrise morning trip to Gulfside City Park Beach to see the beautiful colors of dawn, feel the calmness and to pick up a few treasures was well worth hearing that alarm clock ringing in the dark. But when I think about it, every single time I’m on the beach whether its dawn, mid morning, noon, afternoon, early evening or at dusk… I find something that makes me happy.
A few minutes before I headed home, I admired my loot and realized that I didn’t need to take everything I picked up. So if my biggest decision of the day was to choose which shells made it home with me… life is good today.
As we celebrate new days watching the sun rise over the horizon at low tide in the new year on Sanibel…
We also shellebrate the gifts of the sea…
We also celebrate the gift of witnessing living creatures exposing themselves for just a short time as the water recedes.
With most animals, we are easily able to see if they are alive, healthy and breathing but with creatures of the sea that have washed ashore, it’s a little bit more difficult. We (shellers) take the time to to look for signs of life with respect. As soon as I saw this shell was occupied by noticing the body and OPERCULUM of the “snail” still intact, I gently placed it back in the water covered with sand making sure the opening faced down into to sand.
Even for some shellers, it’s hard to tell if a SAND DOLLAR is dead or alive so the best thing to do first is… slow down. Take a few minutes to look for any cilia which looks like fur or looks a little fuzzy in the edges. Any time a SAND DOLLAR is this color, assume that it is still alive… gently place it back in the water.
If a STARFISH is any where near the water or if the sand is still damp where you found it, always assume it is still alive too and let it be.
Shellers are very fortunate to have seen the miracles of Mother Nature as we comb the shorelines to discover the magic of the sea. We learn new lessons every day we walk the water’s edge. For most beach combers, we know the signs of life in sea creatures but inexperienced visitors may be overwhelmed with the beauty that surrounds them and not know to take the time to look for signs of life. Since I grew up on the water, I always assumed other folks knew shells, SAND DOLLARS and STARFISH live their lives close to shore but now I’ve learned that most people don’t know much about life in the ocean or gulf. First time visitors to the beach may have heard how amazing shell collecting is and unintentionally collect a live animal without knowing it. It’s an amazing experience to see the compassion on a new sheller’s face after learning they have collected a live animal then race it to the water where they found it to save its life. Most just don’t know… and are thankful to learn and appreciate the living ocean even more.
There have been so many live critters exposed during the morning’s low tide the last few days so with many newbies on the beaches, I’m sure I’ll get to see the amazement on someone’s face that just learned for the first time that shells, sand dollars and starfish are living beings and are still actually alive.
Come with me on a shelling trip! For upcoming dates … CLICK HERE
For those of us who love to look for mini shells at low tide near the Sanibel pier, last night was a perfect evening.
Gwendolyn, Hailey, Sarah and Viet from the Orlando area found some sweet minis too. I especially loved that little black and white WEST INDIAN FALSE CERITH Viet found.
For shellers who love to explore the water like Anthony, Ryan and Jose from Iowa, different treasures make them happy.
Anthony was amazed by the live LIGHTNING WHELK he found so while showing his family this live creature he made sure he held the shell so the MOLLUSK still had water covering the inside until he walked it back out so return to the sea- so thoughtful! He and Ryan found lots of other loot (including that gorgeous LACE MUREX) while Jose found two SAND DOLLARS that were still grey but without any cilia/fur/hair/breathing apparatus so he knew these were dead. Jose told me he saw hundreds that were still alive so he left them alone but knew these two were ones he could keep.
As the sky opened up and it began to rain (without lightning), I met these three beautiful ladies Christine, Lindsey, and Caren from Connecticut just as we were heading off the beach.
We got to talking while I looked at some of their sweet minis, and I completely lost their names! Ack! So embarrassed! Thanks for reminding me! Yes, I remember so much about y’all (first time finding wentles, watching the vids and even a first time sheller) but names? psh- sometimes they get lost. Sorry!
Notice what unusual colors the changed in all of these photos before and after the rain? Every 15 minutes it seemed as if I had sepia toned glasses on then back to colorama glasses. As I was running off the beach, a rainbow appeared for a few minutes when I saw Holly from Fort Myers again.
I snapped a photo of some of her mini finds since they were waaaay cute. See that BABYS EAR on the right? We had talked about BABYS EARS earlier in the evening… saying we haven’t seen many at the Lighthouse Beach lately… then got on another subject… walked a few feet … I looked down and screamed in mid sentence. A BABYS EAR right at our feet. LOL We both laughed and I told her that happens on the iLoveShelling cruises all the time and I swear people think I plant them. Theres NO WAY! I would NEVER do that. It’s just happens .. and yes, it’s weird but it happens… a lot (but never with JUNONIAS- dang it!).
I was now soaked…and happy… so I decided to just walk instead of run to the beach access ramp to the parking lot. That’s where Ingrid and Pat from Missouri and I laughed at ourselves for hanging out in the rain. Look at that big bag filled with shells! That’s why Ingrid said it was hard to be torn off the beach- Die-Hards!
These are just some of the shells she whipped out of her bag to show me. Fun!
As I was talking with Ingrid and Pat, Clark showed up drenched too but with a pocket full of minis and SAND DOLLARS. Clark found some of those grayish bald SAND DOLLARS too… and more minis- yay!
Just to make sure we don’t confuse the dead SAND DOLLARS with the live ones… we always check to see if there is anything that looks like “fur” or “hair” on them when they are gray-ish like this. Nope! These are all very smooth and bald- not a “hair” in sight.
You can compare them to these live SAND DOLLARS to easily see the cilia/fur/hair on the edges of all four SAND DOLLARS in the next photo. See?
Even after getting drenched, it was a lovely evening at Sanibel Lighthouse Beach.
We couldn’t believe our eyes! Hundreds of tiny dry SAND DOLLARS were folded into the weeds in the highest wrack line at Gulfside City Park Sunday evening. We saw one or two…then another… and another… and another one. Clark and I only had to walk a few yards to collect all of the these.
We knew these were not alive since they were completely dried, mostly white and had little to no “fur” on them. It was so much fun to be able to collect so many in one spot on the beach… but after walking closer to the water to see many LIVE ones in the surf, it was a bit overwhelming. Clark reached down in the water and picked up this many SAND DOLLARS in one scoop. They are all alive! You can tell by the dark color and the cilia or hairs all along their bodies (tests).
Then we started to get worried after seeing thousands of them washing up in the surf.
We could hardly find a place to walk as they got thicker and thicker in density.
Clark walked out to the sand bar and yelled back at me that they were even out there densely covering the sand.
But Dr Jose Leal of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum has told us before that it is natural for mass mollusk die-offs or masses of animals exposing themselves (when we had concerns about masses of FIGHTING CONCHS on the beach) in low tide situations like we are having this week with the full moon. So before we jump to any conclusions, y’all, I’m doing some research. I have been in contact with Kristie Anders and research scientist Dr. Richard Bartleson of Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation to find out if they might know a reason for this very unusual occurrence. Kristie said “It is possible the sand dollars are trying to move away from water that has little oxygen in it (hypoxia). The little bit of surf agitates the water and increases the oxygen much like a bubbler in an aquarium”. Dr Bartleson said he will try to get some oxygen readings this week and will let us know if that is the reason this is happening.
When I hear anything from SCCF’s research, I will update this post to let you know as well.
UPDATE: July 24, 2013- I received a message from Kristie Anders from SCCF tonight. She said… “The marine lab did salinity studies along the beach. Apparently the water releases and the rain run off from our own area dropped the salinity down to less than a third of was is tolerated by animals like the sand dollars.” So it looks like this unusual situation is because of the freshwater influx rather than the lack of oxygen in the Gulf.
But meanwhile, you can watch this little video I shot while I was in total amazement by this site…