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Posts Tagged ‘beachcombing on Texas Gulf Coast’

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 »

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 »

The Spice of Life

Posted by Jody on September 16, 2013

Texas Gulf Coast Seashells

Texas Gulf Coast Seashells

Variety is the spice of life!

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Monday Miscellaneous, Sand and Shoreline, Today's Special | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Quintana Beach County Park on the Texas Gulf Coast – So Many Reasons to Visit

Posted by Jody on June 5, 2012

Quintana Beach County Park:

Our family gives this 51 acre beach and park complex a definite “two thumbs up!”

“Natural” Quintana Beach County Park

Quintana Beach County Park is located on the upper Texas Gulf Coast on the tiny man-made island of  Quintana, the “Gateway to the Gulf.” We think it offers one of the nicest beach experiences on the Texas coast. Here you’ll find a “natural” beach that is maintained by the tides and weather.  Expect to see seaweed and driftwood strewn across the sandy beach. This simply means that Brazoria County leaves it to Mother Nature to care for her Gulf Coast shoreline. You won’t find the county regularly raking or “cleaning” the sand, and this just makes beachcombing that much more interesting.

There are so many reasons to visit Quintana Beach County Park! Here are just a few:

Sea Bean Collection from Quintana Beach County Park, Texas

1) While beachcombing on the 1/2+ mile of sands within the county park’s boundaries, we found a wonderful assortment of seabeans (also known as drift seeds), driftwood and delicate angel wings.

The Quintana jetty, locally known as the west jetty,  is the eastern border of the county park. It offers plenty of fun on its own!

2) The fine folks at the county park told us that the jetty measures about 1/2 mile long.  It’s a lovely walk. While strolling along the Quintana jetty, you can try to find the shape of the Lone Star State embedded in the concrete. I think it was our 5 year old grandson who spotted it first!

The Lone Star State

3) One of my favorite activities at the beach park was just sitting on the rocks of the jetty, watching the tugs go out and the ships come in through the Freeport Ship Channel.

Watching the Banana Boat

4) Our family doesn’t fish, but it was easy to see that surf fishing, pier fishing, kayak fishing, and fishing from the extra long jetty are all the rage at Quintana Beach County Park.

View from the Quintana Jetty

5) Birding, too. Most notably, we watched pelicans in flight and the regal great blue heron.

6) Swimming – NOT from the jetty! (of course), although there are no lifeguards at the beach.

7 & 8) Surfing and kayaking are very popular sports here.

Kayaks on the Gulf of Mexico

9) Clean, well maintained camp sites and rental cabins are available just off the beach. Special event pavilions can be reserved for day use, too.

10) There are lots of amenities and a few historic sites just beyond the dunes. Be sure to use the dune preserving crossovers! Nice washrooms and showers are available, along with picnic tables and vending machines.

Dune Crossover

Pick a reason, any reason, to visit Quintana Beach County Park and your family will have a great day at the beach, too!

~~~

 

Posted in Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Surfing Beach, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Elusive Bryan Beach, Texas Gulf Coast

Posted by Jody on May 18, 2012

Bryan Beach is a beautiful strip of golden sand on the Texas Gulf Coast.  We found this fine, wide, “natural” beach by studying a visitor’s map of  Clute, Texas and its surrounding cities. The beach isn’t even specifically labeled on the brightly colored tourist maps of the area, and it’s even harder to find official information on the internet! Just ask one of the  friendly locals if you need help with directions. Take my word on this one… Bryan Beach is worth searching out!

Beautiful Bryan Beach, Brazoria County, Texas

Bryan Beach, with its wide expanse of soft sand, is the perfect kite-flying beach. You can walk for miles and beachcomb for a wonderful variety of beach treasures. But look out for the cars and trucks!  They are allowed on the beach here. I understand that weekends can be quite crowded, and it’s no wonder, since you can camp on Bryan Beach free of charge.

Bryan Beach, Texas

The Gulf of Mexico is very generous to the visitors at Bryan Beach. Our collected beach treasures ranged from colorful coquinas to sundials, sea beans and driftwood.  There are plenty of goodies to go around on this lovely, elusive strand.

Bryan Beach Treasures (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

Delicate angel wings adorn the sand at the water’s edge.

Angel Wings in the Sand

According to the  Texas State Historical Association, “The 878-acre park was acquired by purchase from private owners in 1973 and named for James Perry Bryan, who built a home there in 1881 and operated a store at nearby Peach Point. Covered with dunes, some up to ten feet in height, the undeveloped park is home to a wide variety of coastal vegetation, including various grasses, shrubs, and forbs. Native animals include ground squirrels, gophers, grasshopper mice, rice rats, cotton rats, rabbits, and opossums. Shorebirds are common, and waterfowl and other migratory birds can be observed.”

Take County Road 1495 for about 3 ½ miles south and west of Freeport, Texas and you’ll find Bryan Beach State Recreation Area.  We didn’t actually see any evidence that this undeveloped area was a state park. In fact, I was told by the helpful folks at the Freeport Visitor Center that Bryan  Beach is maintained by the City of Freeport.  The only official nod to civilization here is a couple of porta-potties placed near an entry point to the beach!

Have a great day at the beach!

~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Friday Finds, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Angel Wings: A Heavenly Find

Posted by Jody on May 10, 2012

“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, 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 lots 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!

~~~

*Republished on May 28, 2014*

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

“Where can I find sea glass?”

Posted by Jody on May 1, 2012

Collecting sea glass is such a fun hobby. Many an eager beachcomber has headed to the seashore in hopes of discovering the ideal piece of sea glass (also called beach glass). Finding that perfectly frosted, wave tumbled jewel can make the very best day at the beach even better!

Often times people will ask, “Where can I find sea glass on _(fill in the blank)_?” My answer goes something like this:

“That’s a great question. In my experience, the best beaches for finding sea glass are near the more populated locales, especially around areas with bars. Party scene locations tend to produce more glass in the surrounding water. Check for low tides, too. You will most likely find more sea glass when the tide is out and the beach is lengthened. Have a wonderful time! Let us know what you find! ~Aloha”

Surfside Beach Treasures

Surfside Beach Treasures

A colorful assortment of surf tumbled sea glass is generally easier to find near beaches where the regulars hang out (as opposed to tourist packed strands). Why? I’m sorry to say, that’s where people often leave their empty bottles on the sand or toss them into the water. Let’s face it,  glass doesn’t naturally come from the sea, and you would be hard pressed to find a beach where glass containers aren’t prohibited.

We recently spent some time on the Texas Gulf Coast, southwest of Galveston. I have to admit that I have rarely seen such a selection of glass on the beach! Some of it was beautifully tumbled and worth bringing home, but so much of the glass looked newly broken by both tides and tires (cars are allowed on many of the Texas beaches which line the Gulf of Mexico). The adults in the group carefully picked up some of the sharper shards of glass and carried them to the nearby, oh-so-conveniently placed municipal trash cans (seriously, you couldn’t miss ’em). But we had to warn the children not to pick up any beach glass because they weren’t old enough to discriminate between the sharper edged pieces and the more aged, smoothly polished beach treasures.

©Jody Diehl

Keep your shoes on! (©Jody Diehl)

There may have been a day, long ago, when beachgoers didn’t “know any different.” But in today’s world, we really do know better.  We at Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches are all for collecting sea glass!  It’s one of our favorite things to do at the shore. We do not, however, want to contribute to the sea glass treasure troves of future generations.  It’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but with sea glass, it takes a while to get from point A to point B, and in the meantime, it can pose a serious hazard to those of us who want to be barefoot on the beach with our little ones.

Wishing you many happy sea glass hunting days at the beach!

Do you have a favorite sea glass collecting beach? We’d love to hear about it!

Related link: North American Sea Glass Association

Posted in Beach Safety Tips, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Sand and Shoreline, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Not your garden variety tulip!

Posted by Jody on March 15, 2012

You won’t find banded tulips in the garden, but if you’ve been beachcombing on the Florida Gulf Coast, you might have one in your seashell collection!  The banded tulip (Fasciolaria lilium) has a beautifully decorated, spiral shell. This prized beach treasure can grow to over 4″ in length.  Banded tulips can be found from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida to Louisiana and Texas, extending to Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. They live on sand and muddy sand in water from 2′ to 150′ deep.

Banded tulip snail on muddy bottom (Photo credit: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS)

The closely related Florida banded tulip (F. l. hunteria) is a more common find than the banded tulip (but equally gorgeous). Found on the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida and around to Alabama on the Gulf coast, this seashell is generally smaller than the banded tulip.  It’s spiral lines are spaced a bit wider than on the banded tulip.

Question: How do you tell the difference? Answer: This is where it gets tricky. Conflicting information abounds!

When I checked our collection of beach treasures from Sanibel Island, I referred to my Audubon Field Guide and looked for the telltale shallow grooves  near the top of the seashell, at the “third whorl.” I understand that the banded tulip is the one that has little depressions that run around the shell there.  These little ridges are easily detectable if you are looking for them. The Florida banded tulip, on the other hand, is missing these little grooves. ~Maybe~

Florida Banded Tulip and Banded Tulip (?)

I’ve seen a very respectable source (The Baily-Matthews Shell Museum) use the entire Latin name Fasciolaria lilium hunteria, but then only refer to their site’s pictured shell as a banded tulip. I’ve also seen photos of both banded tulips and Florida banded tulips with their names all mixed up in a variety of shell guides. Please, don’t even get me started on true tulips!

Florida Banded Tulip

When it comes right down to it, collecting  a bunch of tulips on the beach is awesome fun in every season!  ~Come tiptoe through the tulips with me.

Happy Spring!  Happy Beachcombing!

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

The Lightning Whelk, A “South Paw”

Posted by Jody on November 10, 2011

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. That 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 from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas. The lightning whelk can be found in the sand from the near low tide line to water about 10 feet deep. Finding an empty lightning whelk seashell is a beachcombers delight! We’ve been lucky enough to find so many perfect uninhabited specimens of lightning whelks along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Texas. We have also left a whole passel of them behind because they had become comfy little condos for hermit crabs!

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 Whelk (©Jody Diehl)

“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)

The lightning whelk (Busycon perversum pulleyi) was named the official state seashell of Texas in 1987.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a short,  interesting article on the lightning whelk which covers many details of this beautiful sea creature including its life cycle, diet, and ways this gastropod has been utilized by man through the years.

Happy beachcombing!

~~~ Revised and reposted on 5/5/2014 – with additional photos ~~~

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cool Beans! Beachcombing at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Posted by Jody on September 15, 2011

Are you beachcombing for Florida Fighting Conchs, Atlantic Giant Cockles, and Cayenne Keyhole Limpets? How about Common Sundials or Spiny Jewelboxes? These are just a few of the 37 species of  seashells that have been documented at Padre Island National Seashore. But the coolest beach treasures you may end up taking home are the seabeans, also known as drift seeds, that can be found at this National Seashore located in South Texas. Cool beans!

Hamburger Seed - seabean (Photo by BAxelrod/Wikimedia Commons)

According to the National Park Service: “Seabeans originate from trees and vines mostly found on tropical shores and forests all over the world. In these areas, sunlight is unable to reach the forest floor, allowing the seeds to germinate. Some plants have adapted to their environment by producing seeds that will float to where sunlight has a better chance of reaching them. These travelers fall from the parent plant into waterways, such as the Amazon River, and are carried into the ocean. A majority of the seabeans found on Padre Island originate in the Caribbean and Central or South America.”  Throughout history, seabeans have been used for everything from jewelry making to creating musical instruments. They’ve been held as good luck charms and they’ve been utilized to produce soap and shampoo. The Park Service even offers a handy little brochure for seabean collecting and identification.

Padre Island National Seashore is situated off the coast of South Texas, southeast of Corpus Christi. The park is located on North Padre Island, in the Gulf of Mexico. Padre Island National Seashoreis a 70 mile stretch of protected tidal flats, dunes, coastline prairie and unspoiled sandy beach all rolled into one very large nature preserve.  In fact, North Padre Island is the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island.

Padre Island National Seashore (Photo:PD- USGov'-NPS/Wikimedia Commons)

Only the first five miles of beach are accessible by two wheel drive vehicles, and even that is dependent upon current beach conditions. Most of the beach is accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles. Be careful beachcombing at Padre Island National Seashore as the beaches are Texas public highways. Only street legal and licensed vehicles may be driven in the park. Check for vehicle rules and regulations before heading out to the sand!

Also available is a really nice NPS brochure on the seashells for beachcombing at Padre Island National SeashoreHappy beachcombing! -J-

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

 
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