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Archive for the ‘Seashells’ Category

A Stroll on Bryan and Quintana

Posted by E.G.D. on November 29, 2014

Last month, I drove down to Lake Jackson to do a Halloween Mad Science event at the mall there, and I couldn’t possibly justify not going to the beach while I was at it!  Now, as some of you probably know, there are a good number of options in the area, but I wound up going to Bryan and Quintana because it’s the drive with the best signage (I didn’t need a map to get there, and I didn’t have to ask directions).  Now, I have no idea what part of the beach is Bryan and what part is Quintana.  The signs sit on opposite sides of the sand road leading onto the beach highway: quintanabryan

Basically, insert road here.  These signs are even angled so that they sort of face each other.  Anyhow, it was a spectacularly beautiful day!  I found a remarkable number of beautiful shell treasures, none of which I took home (I was in the middle of a move, and when I’m moving I have a pretty strong aversion to the acquisition of things, even if they are small things), and I saw a really amazing array of birds.

Seashells galore! (E.G.D.)

Seashells galore! (E.G.D.)

So many nice shells! (E.G.D.)

So many nice shells! (E.G.D.)

I saw plovers, pelicans, and a family of seagulls that included chicks!  At least they looked a lot like the seagulls in coloring, and they were hanging out with the adult gulls.  What do you think?

Baby Gulls?  (photo by E.G.D.)

Baby Gulls? (photo by E.G.D.)

Whatever they were, they were super-cute!  Anyway, aside from shells and birds, I came across a good many people picnicking, fishing, using metal detectors, walking dogs, and swimming, and I also came across a very clever and enterprising ice cream truck.  Here in Texas, a lot of our beaches are actually designated highways, so this system actually works:

Ice cream at the beach, anyone? (photo by E.G.D.)

Ice cream at the beach, anyone? (photo by E.G.D.)

I didn’t wind up buying anything, but I was amused.  In all, it was a really delightful walk, and I certainly get the impression that everyone on the beach that day was having a really wonderful time.

Fun times! (E.G.D.)

Fun times! (E.G.D.)

Right before I left for home, the shadows were getting long, and I got artsy with my camera.  I’m not going to insert a slide show here (though I probably could!  I got a whole series of seriously artsy shots), but for fun, here’s an interesting shot of a buried driftwood branch/log. DSCN0230Aaaaaaaaaand that’s the story of my most recent trip to Bryan/Quintana.  Fun, right?  It’s a lovely beach, and I recommend it to anyone, but bear in mind that there are no restroom or shower facilities, and there didn’t appear to be a lifeguard on duty.  On the other hand, there was ice cream!  If you’re going to have to choose your amenities, that might be the better way to go on a hot day. Have a great and beachy holiday weekend, everyone! Thanksgiving, not Halloween.  Better late than never- E.G.D.

Posted in Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Summery Day on the South County Shore

Posted by E.G.D. on July 22, 2014

Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Robyn Waayers: 

Gary and I took a little trip yesterday to explore the beach just north of Imperial Beach and south of Silver Strand State Beach. A lot of organic material had washed ashore, including masses of California Mussels, as well as much kelp.

Mussel mass with surf grass

Mussel mass with surf grass

Some of the mussels had Leaf Barnacles attached.

California Mussel with Leaf Barnacles

California Mussel with Leaf Barnacles

This is a beach popular with clammers due to its concentration of Pismo Clams. What I presumed to be immature clam shells were here and there on the shore.

A small clam - about 30 mm in length

A small clam – about 30 mm in length

 

A larger specimen, but nowhere near the final adult size!

A larger specimen, but nowhere near the final adult size!

Most of the shells on this beach are heavily wave-worn, like this Chestnut Cowrie.

Chestnut Cowrie, after much rolling around in the sand and surf

Chestnut Cowrie, after much rolling around in the sand and surf

The beach was surprisingly bird-filled, with Willets, Marbled Godwits, and Forster’s Terns being present in numbers (the Forster’s Terns in large numbers as they fished in the huge anchovy schools off shore). We also saw the occasional Royal Tern in full breeding plumage. A lone Long-billed Curlew graced the beach and we saw several more in the Tijuana Estuary area later.

Long-billed Curlew, with the Silver Strand and downtown San Diego, as well as the Coronado Bridge, visible in the background

Long-billed Curlew, with the Silver Strand and downtown San Diego, as well as the Coronado Bridge, visible in the background

We saw easily over a half dozen Snowy Plovers skulking in the higher, drier portions of the beach as well. Signs discourage people or dogs from walking in their territory, but no fences exist, as we saw in Oregon last month for the protection of this species. The plovers are extremely well camouflaged, and tend to move in short bursts of activity, as opposed to just meandering around as the Willets do.

Snowy Plover standing at the edge of a tire track!

Snowy Plover standing at the edge of a tire track!

We also saw a merganser hanging around the edge of the water, and occasionally entering the shallows. A scoter (probably a Surf Scoter) was seen fishing in the shallows, as well.

Scoter in shallow water.

Scoter in shallow water.

About the author: Robyn Waayers has lived in San Diego since 1977, and teaches biology at three local community colleges. In her spare time, she is a lover of all­ things ­natural­ history, roaming the region with her camera and an eye for new things. Her website is Shoreline Ramblings, to which she has also posted this articleAll photographs are the property of Robyn Waayers.

~~~

Posted in Beach Birding, Featured Guest Writer, Pacific Coast Beaches, Seashells, Southern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Most of the Way to LA: McFaddin Beach

Posted by E.G.D. on June 17, 2014

Beautiful Day at McFaddin Beach (Photo by E. G. D.)

Beautiful Day at McFaddin Beach (Photo by E.G.D.)

The Sign (Photo by E.G.D.)

The Sign (Photo by E.G.D.)

The other day, one of my many jobs sent me to Nederland, TX, which is about two hours east of the part of Houston in which I live. I needed to be in Nederland for a grand total of two and a half hours. Crazy, right? I drove a total of four hours for a job that lasted fewer than three! Suffice it to say, I felt the need to justify all that driving with a bit of fun, and I wound up driving an extra 20 minutes east so that I could visit McFaddin Beach (and I highly recommend you click that link, because the article is EXTREMELY worthy of note, especially if you are interested in finding fossils on a beach). McFaddin Beach, also known as the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, was on fire last time I passed it by. Mom (known more commonly here as Jody) and I tried to visit Sea Rim State Park on our way to Louisiana last summer, and we didn’t make it very far because there was an extremely smoky brush fire raging there. McFaddin is immediately past Sea Rim State Park on the same road, and I am happy to report that it was absolutely fire-free this time around.

High Tide (Photo by E.G.D.)

High Tide (Photo by E.G.D.)

In fact, I had the great good fortune to enjoy it on a truly beautiful day! I was at first disappointed that I arrived at high tide (the water was all the way up to the knee-high, three-yard-wide pile of seaweed that separates the parking area from the water), but over the course of the two or three hours I wandered there, the tide receded somewhat, and I found a startling array of truly remarkable shells! I found no fewer than nine whole and completely undamaged angel wings, two brightly colored and unoccupied shark-eye snail shells, and some very nice whelk pieces, among other things. I even found a very nice piece of green sea glass.

While I wandered, I passed kids playing in the silt, a good number of adults wading, swimming, and sun bathing, and an older gentleman searching the beach with his metal detector. I watched whole flying and floating flocks of some sort of very large bird I never managed to identify. I discovered a weathered coconut, looking rather lonely and a bit out of place on a Texas beach. I startled a few ghost crabs back into their holes, and I returned a couple of beached, live snails to the water (those were actually before I discovered the two unoccupied shells). I will say, though, that I did not pass anything at all along the lines of bathroom facilities, showers, or lifeguard towers. If you plan to visit McFaddin beach (and if you happen to be anywhere near Port Arthur, you really should), bring a jug of water to rinse your feet off and go to the bathroom before leaving town! While you’re at it, I recommend that you pack a picnic, sun block, a hat, and an extra large bag in which to stow your shelling treasures. You’re in for a fun and productive day at the beach!

Anyone Know What These Birds Are? (Photo by E.G.D.)

Anyone Know What These Birds Are? (Photo by E.G.D.)

Treasures (Photo by E.G.D.)

Treasures (Photo by E.G.D.)

Fun stuff!  Have a great day, hopefully at the beach. -E.G.D.

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Posted by Jody on June 10, 2014

Calico Scallops

Calico Scallops

It’s easy to see why these beautiful bivalves are the seashell collector’s dream. Each and every Calico Scallop (Argopecten gibbus) is a colorful, unique, and fun-filled piece of eye candy! They can be found in variations of pink, white, orange, brown, purple. Keeping only one is virtually impossible for even the most tried and true beachcomber! Commonly found on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, they range from Delaware Bay to Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, and south to much of the Caribbean Sea.

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

These variegated seashells are especially plentiful and very easy to find undamaged on Florida’s sandy Gulf Coast beaches. The color-splashed Calico Scallops in this collection all hail from the world-renowned shelling beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida.

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Picture Perfect Calico Scallops

Growing up to 2 1/2 inches across, Calico Scallops are almost circular in shape and very easy to identify. These seashells have about 20 strong, well defined, smooth (non-scaly) ribs. Look for each shell’s “ears” to be about equal in size.

Seriously, who wouldn’t be tickled pink to have a basket full of these picture perfect beach treasures in their collection?

Happy Beachcombing!

~~~

Related links:

Sanibel Island, Florida: A Beachcomber’s Bonanza

The Sanibel Shell Guide

Beachcombing Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!

Christmas with Sanibel Style

~~~

 

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Angel Wings: A Heavenly Find

Posted by Jody on May 28, 2014

“Angel wing” is the perfect name for this beachcombing favorite! Easy to identify, these beautiful seashells are well-known collector’s items.

Angel wings (Cyrtopleura costata) are very fragile seashells. Somehow, quite a few of them seem to make it to the beach unchipped and in one piece, but it can be a bit of a challenge to get one of these brittle beach treasures all the way home intact!

Angel Wings, Bryan Beach, Texas (Brazoria County)

Angel wings can be found along the Atlantic Coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the northern West Indies. Their range includes the Gulf of Mexico and reaches as far south as Brazil. Our family found many of these wing-shaped beauties on Brazoria County’s Gulf Coast (Texas).

These delicate, snowy white bivalves are members of the burrowing Piddock family.  Angel wings bore deep into the soft sandy mud (up to 3 feet below the surface). Filter feeders, they feast on the microalgae and tiny zooplankton in their mucky home, where they can grow up to 8 inches in length.

Angel Wings

Angel Wings

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”  – George Eliot, English novelist

Have a heavenly day at the beach!

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Lightning Whelk, A “South Paw”

Posted by Jody on May 8, 2014

The whelk family is a rather large and far-reaching family!  It includes over 1500 species, and whelks are found in all seas from the Arctic, through the tropics and to the Antarctic. This means that on any given day our family can hope to find this family at the seashore.

The lightning whelk is a relatively common seashell which is native to the Atlantic coast of the United States from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. This predatory sea snail can be found in the sand from the near low tide line to water about 10 feet deep. They feed primarily on marine bivalves (clams, scallops, etc.). 

Even though it’s a somewhat frequent event, finding an empty lightning whelk seashell is always a delight for us! We’ve been fortunate enough to find numerous perfect, uninhabited specimens of the lightning whelk along the Gulf Coast beaches from Florida to Texas. We have also left a whole passel of them behind on the sand because they were either still alive, or they had become comfy little condos for hermit crabs!

Lightning Whelk

Lightning Whelk

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says: “Lightning whelks reach a length of 2.5 to 16 inches (6 to 40 cm). Their distinguishing characteristics include their off-white to tan or gray shell with narrow, brown “lightning” streaks from the top of the shell to the bottom. The shell is white on the inside. The animal inside the shell is dark brown to black. Lightning whelks are unusual in that they have a counterclockwise shell spiral (lightning whelks are usually called “left handed”).”  The related Perverse Whelk is also a “south paw” but has a heavier and stouter seashell.

Lightning Whelks from the Gulf Coast

Lightning Whelks from the Gulf Coast

“Like snails, the lightning whelk is in the class Gastropoda which means “stomach footed”. Gastropods are univalves (have only one shell). Hermit crabs often make homes of unoccupied lightning whelk shells. A lightning whelk leaves behind a trail when crawling. It is often easy to track them. The shell grows very quickly when the whelk is young as long as food is abundant. As it gets older, the shell grows more slowly. The color of the shell depends greatly on light, temperature and age. Older whelks have pale shells.” (TPWD)

Lightning Whelk Whorl

Lightning Whelk Whorl

In 1987, the treasured lightning whelk (Busycon perversum pulleyi) was appropriately honored by being designated the official state seashell of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a short, interesting article covering many details of this beautiful sea creature including its life cycle, diet, and ways this gastropod has been utilized by man through the years.

From our family to your family: Happy Beachcombing!

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

New York City Beaches Make the Grade!

Posted by Jody on May 5, 2014

A while back, Greg and I visited New York City to attend a fabulous wedding at Terrace on the Park in Queens. Having decided to make a vacation out of the long trip from Albuquerque, we squeezed in some of the typical touristy stuff. You know, enjoying the hubbub in Times Square, strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, going to a ballgame. There is so much to do and see in New York City. The one thing we couldn’t miss, of course, was a trip to a Big Apple beach! The bride and groom highly recommended Rockaway Beach, the city’s only surfing beach, in the borough of Queens. So… we checked with our handy, reliable HopStop phone app, hopped on the bus, and set out to enjoy the day! And enjoy the day we did.

Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York City

Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York City

Rockaway Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand that was strewn with super sized Atlantic Surf Clam (Spisula solidissima) seashells the day of our visit. And I mean they were huge! NOAA‘s FishWatch site says that Atlantic Surf Clams are “the largest bivalves in the western North Atlantic.” They actually range all the way from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. These popular beach treasures can grow to over 7 inches across, making them the perfect soap dishes!

Seashell hunting was no challenge. The real challenge and fun of the day was the friendly beachcombing competition to find the most jumbo seashell specimen we could. It was a win-win day!

Rockaway Beach (Atlantic Surf Clam in the Foreground)

Rockaway Beach (Atlantic Surf Clam in the Foreground)

Running the length of the beach was  a well-kept boardwalk with maintained public restrooms. It’s easy to see by the early morning activity that Rockaway Beach is indeed one of New York City’s most popular beaches.  This favored municipal beach rated a “very good” in the 2011 biennial survey compiled by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks. Along with Rockaway Beach, Coney Island also rated “very good.” (In the survey, no beaches were rated “unsatisfactory,” as was the case for a couple of beaches in the previous two reporting surveys.) It’s always nice to bring home a good report card!

Rockaway Beach Boardwalk (Pre-Superstorm Sandy)

Rockaway Beach Boardwalk (Pre-Superstorm Sandy)

As you can imagine, in October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused great damage to New York City’s coastal areas, boardwalks, and beaches. Happily, progress is being made in the restoration of Rockaway Beach. In an April 2014 update, The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation announced:

“After Hurricane Sandy, more than $140 million was invested to repair and restore Rockaway Beach. As part of this work, intact sections of boardwalk were repaired, damaged beach buildings were renovated with new boardwalk islands constructed around them, public restrooms and lifeguard stations were installed to replace destroyed facilities, and interim shoreline protection and anti-erosion measures were created. Thanks to this work, more than 3 million people visited Rockaway Beach throughout the 2013 beach season.”

 ♪ ♫ “Start spreading the news…” ♪ ♫ New York City’s beaches are Grade A!

~~~

 Do you have a favorite New York City beach?  We’d love to hear about it!

Posted in Atlantic Coast Beaches, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Monday Miscellaneous, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Seashell in My Pocket

Posted by Jody on March 10, 2014

Jody:

Pocket Seashells

Pocket Seashells

Happy Monday! I just found some of these little beauties on Maggie’s site and thought it was a great time to share these pocket-sized stress-busting beach treasures once again.

Originally posted on Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches:

We’re always looking for ways to use our special beachcombing finds. Here is just one more idea for putting those beach treasures to good use ~ everyday!

You may have heard of worry stones (or pocket stones) – those little, highly polished pieces of gemstone with a slight indention for your thumb.  I’ve often seen them for sale near the cash registers of gift shops and kitschy boutiques. They can be kind of pricey.

Rumored to have originated in Ancient Greece, when held between the thumb and forefinger, worry stones are supposed to relieve stress and reduce worries. Light enough to keep in your pocket, you can readily fidget with one in stressful or nerve-racking situations.

There is another version of the pocket stone that doesn’t have the smooth indentation for the thumb.  They are called  reflection stones and are used as a reminder to stay calm, balanced, grateful, etc. …

View original 199 more words

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Monday Miscellaneous, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tiny San Diego Beach Treasures: It Pays to Look Closely!

Posted by Jody on March 7, 2014

Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Robyn W.

Tiny San Diego Beach Treasures: It Pays to Look Closely!

Some special little shells have washed up around the county in the past few weeks. I’ve been lucky to be able to sneak off to the beach here and there in the midst of a busy schedule, and was thrilled to find my first­-ever tusk shell in January on the sand at False Point, on the northern end of the Tourmaline Surfing Park. It is a Six­-sided Tusk shell, and there was only one. After looking for tusk shells on and off for the past 37 years in San Diego, this seemed pretty special.

Dentalium neohexagonum from La Jolla, California

Dentalium neohexagonum from La Jolla, California

Dentalium neohexagonum, the Six­sided Tusk shell. It is a little under an inch long. (January 2014)

Then, last week, I took a walk south from the southern end of Imperial Beach, and found a LOT of tusk shells in the drift debris at low tide. These were almost all the Indian Money Tusk, the shell that was prized as currency by the native peoples of the west coast in the past. Two little Six­-sided Tusks were found that day also.

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk

Antalis pretiosum, the Indian Money Tusk. The largest is a little over an inch long. (February 2014)

Back at False Point in January, there were tiny Tinted Wentletraps washed up here and there on the sand. The largest in the photo is about ¼ inch long.

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap

Epitonium tinctum, the Tinted Wentletrap. (January 2014)

One more San Diego beach treasure…but from a while ago, are these trivias found in the shelly debris at low tide way back around the year 2000. They were found at Torrey Pines State Beach, and I have never seen them since. They are about ¼ inch long.

Trivia californiana from Torrey Pines, Califoenia

Trivia californiana from Torrey Pines, California

Trivia californiana, the “Coffee Bean”.

Keep an eye out for San Diego’s tiny beach treasures ­ you’ll find them where you least expect them!

~~~

Robyn, what fun! You have quite an eye. These tiny beach treasures are absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your beachy times and your amazing treasure trove with us! I feel as if I’ve just had a great day at the beach too! ~Jody

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Featured Guest Writer, Friday Finds, Seashells, Southern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

The Royalty of San Diego’s South Bay: Imperial Beach

Posted by Jody on February 19, 2014

Imperial Beach, California – Heading for the pier.

When I think of Imperial Beach, California, I think of everything surfing: from genuine Southern California surfers riding the waves to the community’s public art, the outdoor “Surfboard Museum” and even the surfboard shaped bus stop benches!  This town always brings to mind classic Beach Boys surfin’ tunes.

Imperial Beach, California

Imperial Beach has so much more to offer than surfing, though.  Here you’ll find 3 ½ miles of clean, white, sandy beach stretching southward to the US-Mexico border. With splendid views of San Diego and Coronado to the north, somehow Imperial Beach never seems crowded. It’s less than 13 miles from Downtown San Diego, so Greg and I are always happy to either make the drive or hop on the bus and head on down to this lovely stretch of beach. If we had to choose, we’d likely tell you that this is our favorite strand of San Diego’s “South Bay.”

According to the their official website, the City of Imperial Beach is “the most southwesterly city in the continental United States.  Flanked by the Pacific Ocean and South San Diego Bay, our town is nestled between miles of uncrowded beaches, big surf and unparalleled open space and wetlands teeming with wildlife. Because this town is one of the last untouched beach towns in Southern California, we are known as Classic Southern California®.”

Imperial Beach, California

Beachcombing is lots of fun here. We always find something interesting on the sands of Imperial Beach.  Once Greg and I came home with a lovely collection of multicolored Donax clam shells, very typical of Southern California beaches. The last time we visited, we found large, heavy clam shells, sand dollars and California mussels.

From what I have been able to search out, these sturdy clams are Common Washington Clams (Saxidomus nuttalli), also known as Butter Clams. Our largest Washington Clam find on Imperial Beach measures 4 ¾” wide,  but we have found these particular seashells up to 5 ¼” wide on other South Bay beaches. Their range is from Humbolt Bay, California to northern Baja California.

Imperial Beach Treasures (California)

This area is well-known for year round coastal birdwatching (a printable map of birdwatching areas is available online).  For the botanist,  there is an interesting variety of coastal vegetation, too. Of course, swimming and sunbathing are also very popular pastimes!  With all that Imperial Beach has to offer, I’d say it’s “One Shell of a Find!”

“Spirit of Imperial Beach” by James A. Wasil, 2008

If you’d like to learn about the interesting history of surfing at Imperial Beach and the big wave break “Tijuana Sloughs” that made this area famous in the surfing world, you’ll want to check out “Riders of The Tijuana Sloughs,” at LegendarySurfers.com.

Bus Stop Bench in Imperial Beach, California

Surfin’ USA

If everybody had an ocean
Across the U. S. A.
Then everybody’d be surfin’
Like Californi-a
You’d see ‘em wearing their baggies
Huarachi sandals too
A bushy bushy blonde hairdo
Surfin’ U. S. A.

~Brian Wilson/Chuck Berry

We’d love to hear about your favorite Southern California beach!

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells, Southern California Beaches, Surfing Beach | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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