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Archive for the ‘Beach and Coastal Wildlife’ Category

Drum Roll, Please!

Posted by Jody on May 24, 2016

Casperson Beach, Venice, Florida

Caspersen Beach, Venice, Florida. Yes, collecting shark teeth is allowed.


The best of our finds (so far)!

Have a great day at the beach!


We’re off to Sanibel Island!

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Sand and Shoreline, Sharks, Today's Special | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »


Posted by Jody on May 23, 2016

There is a camaraderie among beach treasure hunters in Venice, Florida, that charms folks into returning over and over again.  Locals and repeat visitors are quick to lend a hand along with plenty of advice. Perfect strangers will plop a load or two of scooped up seashells onto the sand in front of you to get you started. I’ve seen more than one longtime treasure hunter simply pick up a shark tooth on the sand and gift it to someone they’ve never met before. Everyone has a system of finding the treasured shark teeth on the shores of Venice. Some of us have a whole beach bag full of how-tos.

Here are a few tips, tricks, and how-tos we’ve learned along the way. They’re all tried and true!

1.The Dig and Sift

The Dig and Sift is accomplished by simply reaching into the water to get the biggest portion of settled shells possible, then sifting through the seashells and fragments in hopes of spotting the perfect shark tooth specimen. You can buy a fancy pants scooper (sold at the local Walmarts for just under $18.00) which is simply a little wire basket on a pole. Folks ’round here have been known to attach a kitchen sieve to a $1.00 thrift store golf club to achieve the same results. Clever! Right? The cheapest bet: scoop with your own two hands, although you should plan on chipping the polish off of any prettily manicured nails. (Come to think of it, this may indeed be the most expensive option of the three!)


The Dig and Sift

2. The Sweep and Trap

The Sweep and Trap system doesn’t require braving the surf. You just need to find a section of the beach where the surf is washing over a patch of smallish seashell fragments. Crouch on the sand and start to run your hand back and forth across the small bits and pieces while the surf comes and goes. Now, with this system, you’ll likely see a treasure or two get away before you can actually grab what really did look like a shark tooth. Hence the “trap” part. Quick reflexes are necessary to trap any dark, suspicious form before the waves wash your suspected precious beach treasure back into the sea.


The Sweep and Trap

3. The Scoop and Toss

Can’t find a place where the waves are washing across a section of seashell fragments? Have a friend simply scoop a colander, bucket, or basket of seashells and sand from the water and plop the load along the surf line for you. Follow the “trap” part of technique #2 from here.

4. The Dig Like Heck at the Shell Banks Left Behind After High Tide

🙂 Self explanatory:


The Dig Like Heck at the Shell Banks Left Behind After High Tide

5. The Walk and Scan

Enjoy a lovely walk on the beach and just look down. I can’t tell you how successful this system has been for many a beach treasure hunter on the beautiful beaches of Venice. Yes, this how-to is too obvious, but we just had to mention it!


The Walk and Scan


The Ultimate Venice Beach Treasure!

Good luck & have a wonderful day at the beach!!


Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Sand and Shoreline, Seashells, Sharks, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Morning at Caspersen Beach

Posted by Jody on May 22, 2016

Here’s a look at our awesome Saturday morning on Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida. What a fabulous day it was for beach treasure hunting!

Hunting for shark teeth is a lot like “Where’s Waldo?” Scroll through the photos and see if you can find a shark tooth or two with us. >>>


Everyone is out to find those treasured shark teeth on Caspersen Beach


Dressed for success!


Anything in there?


Caspersen Beach, Florida


Wonderful shelling too!


We were told by a local fisherman that this character is a Yellow-Footed Bait Stealer.


Wooohooo! My Beach Treasures!

It’s great to have a waterproof camera. Isn’t it? We have a couple of Fuji FinePix XP70 neon colored wonders just for these occasions!

Have a wonderful day at the beach!

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Sand and Shoreline, Seashells, Sharks | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cabrillo Beach, California: a Monday Evening Walk

Posted by E.G.D. on February 21, 2015

Aloha, Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches world!  I know a good many of you have been asking “Hey, why haven’t Jody and Greg been posting as often?”  It is time for the big reveal: they were super-busy getting their business affairs in order so that they could go on the cruise of a lifetime!  Of course, now that they’re actually on said cruise, we all get to enjoy the fruits of their labor through their quite delightful photographs. Behold!  Cabrillo Beach:

Have a great day, preferably at the beach- E.G.D.

Posted in Beach Birding, Beaches of North America, Pacific Coast Beaches, Southern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Walking With the Winter Waves at Sylvan Beach

Posted by E.G.D. on December 31, 2014

All the cool birds hang out here.  (photo by E.G.D.)

All the cool birds hang out here. (photo by E.G.D.)

Sylvan Beach in La Porte, TX, always a treat in the warmer months, can be equally awesome in the winter.  The waves crash with a little more violence and froth, the seashells are as abundant as ever, the clean public restrooms are still open, and the birds are a heck of a lot bolder than they are when there are more people around.  The other day, the kids and I literally had a pelican fly right up to us.  I warned the kids “don’t touch it!  It’s a wild animal,” and it was so close that it was actually necessary to say that.  Liam held up his fingers in a square and said “CLICK!” but by the time I went back to the car for a camera, the blue guy who’d nearly landed on our feet was gone.  We saw a yellow one by the bait shop later, though, and I did get a picture of him.  Anyhow, the entire purpose of this article is actually to give the kids a bit of the limelight.  I invited Liam (currently a second grader) to write an article on his winter beach experience, and this is what he wrote:

We had a great time at the beach.  We collected shells and saw two pelicans.  It was cold and windy.  We also saw baby seagulls.  The ocean was trying to catch me, but it couldn’t.  My feet stayed dry.  The end.

Tada! The second pelican (photo by E.G.D.)

Tada! The second pelican (photo by E.G.D.)

Oona can only write her name without a reference, so she is going to dictate a story:

We collected shells.  We picked purple shells, and shells that are cool, and big shells, and clear shells, and it was a windy day.  I found, what is it called again? A sea bean.  I saw pelicans.  And we had a wonderful time.  And we went to the beach to also play in the sand.  At the water, the sand was cold and wet.  We had a nice time there, and I want to go again with Nana.  I hope we can go with Dadu, also.  We are going to do is making crafts out of the shells, like necklaces, and like paper and shells art, and coloring the shells on the paper with the shells.  We hope we have a nice time there again next time we go to the beach with Aunt Elisa.  I love the beach because it has the shells that I want to see.  The end.

Oona's shell collection from our winter day at Sylvan Beach (photo by E.G.D.)

Oona’s shell collection from our winter day at Sylvan Beach (photo by E.G.D.)

OH, THE GRAMMAR!  Oh, to be five again and not to specially care about grammar!  As you probably already surmised, I edited both for spelling, but not for grammar or syntax.  They are totally authentic.  In any case, Happy New Year, everybody!

Gray, but great (photo by E.G.D.)

Gray, but great (photo by E.G.D.)

See you at the beach- E.G.D.

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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 »

By the Wind Sailor

Posted by Jody on August 23, 2014

Greg and I recently returned from another fantastic visit to the Bay Area (and points north).

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach

While strolling Stinson Beach one perfect July afternoon, we happened upon a large number jelly-like oval-shaped creatures washed up on the sand.😦 They were the most striking deep blue in color. I recognized them right away, even though I had never seen one of these strange little life forms in person before.

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

Their distinctive “sail” was the give-away!

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

Nobody (except the scavenging gulls) seemed to pay them any mind at all. Harmless to humans, these amazing marine organisms are called “by the wind sailors” (Velella velella ). They live on the surface of the ocean and can be found on both the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast of the United States. By the wind sailors are commonly seen scattered about the sands of Stinson Beach during the late spring and early summer, and along the west coast as far north as Washington State, when especially strong winds can cast counteless numbers of these ill-fated critters ashore.

Look closely for the By the Wind Sailors.

Look closely for the By the Wind Sailors.

Harmless to humans: blue stinging tentacles around the rim.

Harmless to humans: blue stinging tentacles around the rim.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s SIMoN website:

Velella velella is incredibly stabile and seaworthy by design. The sail is triangular, slightly thicker at its base, stiffened by superficial thickened ridges, and yet still quite flexible. This incredible design allows smooth bending when its sail is under load, recoiling when the wind lets up, and overall minimizes the risk of kinking. The whole animal tilts when under sail, hull broadside to the flow of oncoming water.

Velella velella drifts before the wind, almost always tacking about 45 degrees to the right of the prevailing northwesterlies. This is normally enough to keep them offshore, however southerly or extremely strong onshore winds can cause them to spin around and follow the wind at a much closer angle that brings them toward land. Once washed ashore, the animals die and disintegrate within a few days.

And here’s a little something extra for your next beach/trivia party! According to Oregon State University: The sail is set diagonally to the long axis of the animal. On our side of the north Pacific Ocean, their sails are set in a northwest to southeast direction. On the other side of the north Pacific, the sails are set in a northeast to southwest direction. In the southern hemisphere, sails are reversed.”

Apparently, 2014 has been a bang-up year for the beaching of these remarkable, translucent, ocean-going creatures. Stories of mass sightings abound.

Here are a couple more helpful links in case you’d like to learn more about the (often hyphenated) by-the-wind sailor.



Serenity, Sand and (yes) Sharks of Stinson Beach (Stinson Beach)
















Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Northern California Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

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 »

One Perfect Cold, Rainy, and Windy Day at the Beach!

Posted by Jody on March 29, 2014

Welcome to Padre Island National Seashore

Welcome to Padre Island National Seashore

Cold, rainy, and very windy! That’s how the day unfolded on our recent visit to Padre Island National Seashore, “the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.” You can probably guess what we did! Our family simply layered up, snapped together our raincoats, and went on a lovely morning walk along the park’s Malaquite Beach with Ranger Lee (who, by the way, didn’t even wear a jacket). He was way tougher than we were!

Entrance to Malaquite Beach

Entrance to Malaquite Beach

One of the first things we noticed was that picnickers had left their trash behind at the picnic tables. Seriously? We had our family-requisite handy dandy extra bags in our backpacks so we pitched in and helped clean up. You’ll see one of the full bags in Ranger Lee’s hand. FYI: The Visitor Center hands out free bags so folks can pack out anything they bring into the park and/or pitch in with collecting seaborne trash.

The National Park Service explains: “Padre Island’s location in the northwest corner means that the southeasterly winds prevailing in the Gulf blow many objects, both natural and artificial, onto its shore as well as creating longshore currents which can bring much material for good or bad. Probably the most serious damage to the National Seashore’s environment is done by trash, which washes onto the beaches from offshore. The trash comes from a variety of sources including the shrimping industry, offshore natural gas platforms, and washing out of rivers and streams surrounding the Gulf. Much of the trash is either plastic or styrofoam.”

Our Morning Walk with Ranger Lee

Our Morning Walk with Ranger Lee

I was a bit concerned about getting blowing sand and salt mist on (and in) my camera, but I did try to capture some of the most interesting seashore treasures the Gulf of Mexico tosses ashore along this wild and unique 70 miles of South Texas coastline.

Here are just a few of the interesting sights and beach treasures we found:

Animal tracks ~

Dunes Covered with Tracks

Dunes Covered with Tracks

Pocket Gopher Tracks

Pocket Gopher Tracks

A rainbow colored selection of  Coquina Clam (Donax variabilis) seashells ~

Coquina Clams

Coquina Clams

Squadrons of Eastern Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentali) gliding over the surf ~

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) skull bone ~

Skull of a Black Drum

Skull of a Black Drum

Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata) hole ~

Ghost Crab Hole

Ghost Crab Hole

This next example causes quite a stir, much debate, and even some consternation amongst the seashore’s visitors. Is it a shoelace? Is it pieces of fishing net? Some sort of rope wrapped wire?

No, no, and no. It’s Sea Whip coral!

Sea Whip Coral

Sea Whip Coral

Here are a couple of bone remnants from Hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis) along with bits of Sea Whip coral and rope ~

Remains of Hardhead Catfish with Sea Whip Coral

Remains of Hardhead Catfish with Sea Whip Coral and Rope

The kicker: The other side of the catfish bones look like this. It’s why the Hardhead catfish is also called the Crucifix fish!

Hardhead Catfish Remains

Hardhead Catfish Remains

So many miles of beach, so little time to explore!

70 Miles of Beach at Padre Island National Seashore

70 Miles of Beach to Discover at Padre Island National Seashore

Now for a cup of hot cocoa (with five little marshmallows)! Care to join us?


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Hermit Crab: A Different Kind of Beachcomber!

Posted by Jody on February 4, 2014

Whether you’ve been tidepooling, beachcombing or have simply enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the sand, you have probably come upon a hermit crab or two! Hermit crabs are abundant in tidepools and along the seashore. They can be found living in abandoned marine snail (gastropod) shells and, less commonly, in other hollow objects (e.g., coral, rock or wood).

Look closely! Do you see the legs of the hermit crabs scooting around in this LaJolla tidepool?

Hermit Crabs in a La Jolla Tide Pool

Hermit Crabs in a La Jolla Tide Pool

Cool, huh?

Animal Planet states, “Unlike true crabs, hermit crabs have soft, vulnerable abdomens. For protection from predators, many hermit crabs seek out abandoned shells, usually snail shells. When a hermit crab finds one of the proper size, it pulls itself inside, leaving several legs and its head outside the shell. (A hermit crab has five pairs of legs, but not all of them are fully developed.) A hermit crab carries the shell wherever it goes. When it outgrows its shell, it switches to a larger one. Most adult hermit crabs are from 1/2 inch (13 mm) to 4 3/4 inches (121 mm) long. Living on the seashore, in tidepools, and on the sea bottom in deeper water, hermit crabs scavenge their food.”

Liam's find is a hermit crab's home!

Liam’s find is a hermit crab’s home!

According to a Marine Parks Western Australia webpage, the biggest threat to hermit crabs is people!

1) While beach goers are often searching for the most beautiful seashells to carry home, they might also accidentally collect the little shore critters who have carefully selected the same shells as their beachfront condos! One hermit crab’s home, in turn, unintentionally becomes a beachcomber’s “beach treasure.”  Hermit crabs are amazingly good at hiding inside their shells to protect themselves from discovery. Before we put those seashells in our brightly colored plastic pails, we really should inspect each shell very carefully for signs of a resident hermit crab.  When our 5 year old grandson, Liam, found an absolutely gorgeous moon snail shell on a beach near Galveston Island, TX, we didn’t see a little hermit crab inside. Then we did. Then we didn’t!! Hermit crabs are very clever and quite skillful at stealing themselves away in their homes.

2) It’s no surprise that the prized larger seashells are favored by shell collectors. This sometimes leaves slim pickings for growing, house hunting hermit crabs. *This is one very practical reason that beaches sometimes have collection limits for unoccupied seashells of 1 gallon, 5 gallons, etc. per person.*

3) Other hermit crabs are taken home deliberately to become pets. *It’s important to remember that live collection of  shore life is prohibited on many beaches!* Marine Parks WA reminds us: “Hermit crabs make popular pets, but you should never ever take one from the wild. They should remain in its natural habitat to form an important part of the marine food chain and, if removed, are likely to die within days in any case.”

Alaskan Hermit Crab (Photo: Jan Haaga, PD-USGov-NOAA)

Related beachcombing posts: Tidepool Etiquette 101

Beachcombing? Shelling Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!

Beachcombers Beware ~ Regulation Variation at National Seashores

Happy beachcombing to you and to our little ten-legged seashore friends!


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells, Tide Pools | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

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