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

My Latest Stories from the beach

Your Pictures Of Shelling This Week!

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in Uncategorized | 32 comments

kids air shells

It’s raining shells! Caroline and Jackson from New Jersey wanted to show us how much fun they were having on the beaches of Sanibel Island this week. Since I’m staying out of the sun this week, thank you for sending these adorable pictures so I can let others know what it happening on our beaches. They even made a collage of their favorite shell finds…. one being a WORMIE!

shell collage

Okay, this is awesome… They saw the hundreds of live SAND DOLLARS too so sent me a video. There are such cutie pies!

CLICK HERE for video

kids with sand dollars

Jonathon was really lucky this week! He found not just one HORSE CONCH at Blind Pass… he found TWO empty HORSE CONCHS and sent this photo! Boom Shellalaka!

jonathon horse conchs

Barbara Russell loves her mini shells so sent in her photo not only of her minis but some other great finds… and her sweet OLIVE BRACELET!

Barbara Russell mini shells

 Ilka even sent a photo of shells from the panhandle of Florida!

ilka cole panhandle seashells

I loved this sign Lisa Frederico sent in…

advice from the ocean sign

Last but not least… Our friend Susan from Guantanamo Bay Cuba sent in this video of why she loves shelling. Susan’s daughter Ellen filmed this as a surprise to her husband Lee who loves shelling just as much as Clark and I do. I think all of us who love shelling caught the shelling bug from someone else some time in our lives. It’s contagious! (Errrr “Contashellous”?) Ha! I think I watched this next video about 10 times and cracked up each and every time. LOL


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Good Feeling About Seashells

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in Community Outreach, Lighthouse Of SWFL | 57 comments

6 types of Seashells from Sanibel

Look very closely at the seashells in this top photo. Look at the patterns. Look at the colors. Look at the architecture. Look at the different species. Do you see six different types of shells? Yes, I’m sure you found LIGHTNING WHELKS, APPLE MUREXES, SHARKS EYES, LETTERED OLIVES, FIGHTING CONCHS and KITTENS PAWS, right?

Now, I’m going to show you the same photo but instead of just looking at the shells, I want you to look at it closely again, then close your eyes and imagine feeling them in your hands and rubbing them with your fingertips.

Feel the slick, smooth texture of the bullet shaped OLIVE. Feel the round ball shape with a wide opening of the SHARK’S EYE. Feel the long pointed tail of the LIGHTNING WHELK. Feel the rough, almost pine cone like texture of the MUREX. Feel the small flat shell shaped like a KITTENS PAW. Then feel the short, squat, pointy topped CONCH.

6 types of Seashells from Sanibel

I took almost 400 of these shells to a local organization called Lighthouse Of SWFL that provides visually impaired and blind persons with the skills necessary to allow them to achieve their chosen level of independence. We had a shelling day! They wore Hawaiian shirts and sun hats to dress for their day at the beach…. that we brought to them. We made one “beach” with just sand and shells so they could feel what it’s like on the high and dry part of the beach.

feeling for shells lighthouse swfl

It’s really amazing how differently each of these shells FEEL!

feeling lightning whelk seashell

We “made” another beach that feels like we were right at the shoreline where the water meets the beach. We had sand and shells plus added water- How fun!

beach shelling day vision impaired

I can’t tell you how cool it was to be with Judy in her big flopped sun hat while feeling in the water and sand then hearing “Hey! I found an OLIVE!”.

Judy finds seashell pam Swfl lighthouse org

Virginia pulled out a big LIGHTNING WHELK and knew she found a special one.

virginia holding whelk seashell

Our last part of the beach was just water and shells. Just like when you get in the water to shell, this is where you might find the bigger shells.

finding seashells vision impaired

The day was even more special because of Kathleen. Kathleen started losing her vision 3 years ago and now she is legally blind in one eye. She explained that her other eye is like swiss cheese… some days she can see through some of the holes but other days those holes move so she can’t see much. They don’t know why or how this happened but she finally found a doctor that introduced her to Lighthouse Of SWFL where she is learning to deal with her vision loss. It turns out that I already knew Kathleen Hoover! She was the Public Relations Director for the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum for 5 years so I used to talk to her about… well of course… about shells.

kathleen pam swfl lighthouse org

She has since had to leave the museum to seek answers about her vision but she has not lost her passion for shells. She loves shelling and is a wealth of scientific information about shells. She used to write the articles in the newspapers, yall remember that? I was thrilled that I got to talk to her again and work with her to help organize our shelling day. She taught everybody so much about shells but I’m also grateful to her for teaching me so many things that will stay with me forever.

vision impaired beach day

Many of the folks said it brought back so many fond memories of being on the beach as a child or being on vacation. As I always say “Once you get that sand in your flip flops, it’s hard to get it out”. It’s a happy feeling that you never forget.

vision impaired beach day

I  know most of you have a bowl of shells somewhere within reach, so reach in there to touch them. Feel them with your fingertips. It’s almost magic. Thank you Lighthouse SWFL for inviting me to your Lunch ‘N Learn so I could Shell ‘N Tell with you!

Lighthouse SWFL org

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Bittersweet Baby Sand Dollars

Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Live Sand Dollar, Sand Dollar | 49 comments

hundreds baby sand dollars algiers

 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.

dried white sand dollars weeds sanibel

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).

live sand dollars sanibel Clypeasteroida

Then we started to get worried after seeing thousands of them washing up in the surf.

live sand dollar mass sanibel florida

We could hardly find a place to walk as they got thicker and thicker in density.

live sand dollar bed sanibel

Clark walked out to the sand bar and yelled back at me that they were even out there densely covering the sand.

sand dollar dotted sanibel beach

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…


PS- I had a big hat, long sleeve cover-up and sunglasses! I’ve figured out evenings are fine!


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