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Posts Tagged ‘seashell collecting on Texas beaches’

No Name Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas Gulf Coast

Posted by Jody on September 21, 2012

View from the Galveston – Port Bolivar Ferry

One of our favorite activities on the Texas Gulf Coast is hitching a  ride on the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry. This family friendly crossing is a wonderful opportunity to spot dolphins and see the huge freighters coming and going from the Port of Houston, the nation’s largest inland port.  The laid-back, less than 3 mile trip crosses Galveston Bay in about  20 minutes.

Beach with no name on the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas Gulf Coast.

On one of our more recent ferry trips, we discovered a little beach on the Bolivar Peninsula side of the popular crossing, just right for hard-core beachcombers. We couldn’t find its name anywhere, and even the ferry attendant couldn’t tell us the name of this little strand. To this day, we haven’t been able to find any sign of this little stretch of sand on a map. To get there, you simply exit the ferry at the Bolivar Peninsula ferry landing and head to the right of the restroom building and shaded picnic ramadas. There you’ll find a narrow, well worn path through the grass to the bayside beach.

Restrooms and picnic shelters near the Bolivar Peninsula ferry landing.

This small, unnamed beach is a great beachcombing find, and if you happen to go at lunchtime, you could easily pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at one of the picnic tables before venturing out to beach-comb. It really is a great way to spend at least part of your day if you are ever in the Galveston Island area.

Beach with no name.

Here’s the scoop:  we would only recommend this beachcombing  jaunt to adults and older children.  The area is strewn with trash and sharp broken glass (as opposed to wave-worn sea glass, though there was quite a good amount of that, too!).  Also, a great many of the shells we found on the narrow beach were occupied by hermit crabs.  Whatever age group you fall into, we highly recommend you wear sturdy beach shoes and carefully inspect your seashell finds.

Beach treasures collected on the no-name beach.

The ferries dock at the far northeast end of Galveston Island. Just follow Seawall Road to 2nd Street, and on to Ferry Road. Park you car at the lot near the ferry landing restrooms and stroll onto the next ferry boat. Believe me, unless you intend to keep going east on Highway 87 on the Bolivar Peninsula, you won’t want to drive on to the boat. The wait to get your car back onto the ferry on the return trip to Galveston Island is often painfully long (we once waited nearly two hours), but there is no line to speak of if you go on foot in either direction.  The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry operates as a toll-free 24/7 service of the Texas Department of Transportation.

View of the ferry from the beach path.

Enjoy the ride!

Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Friday Finds, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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 »

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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