I hope you all had a fabulous New Year — Welcome to 2011!
I've been suffering with a very nasty cold since before Christmas and because of it I missed out on a few things I had planned for after the holidays. I had to cancel my plans to meet my friend Bunny of Paris House Designs and her cutie pie son Oliver, who is a six-year-old blogger. We were supposed to meet in Orlando where they were vacationing and I was looking forward to spending time with their family. Big time disappointment!
Since the few hours I spent with my sister and my daughter for Christmas, the only thing I'd seen was my computer screen and the television screen. The walls were starting to close in and I was definitely going a bit stir-crazy.
The crazy part is what probably led to my decision on Saturday night/Sunday morning to crawl out of bed at 2:30am and hit the beach at 3:00am for a -0.82 tide. The weather was going to be in the mild mid-fifties and warm up to the mid-70s with only a 30% chance of a little rain. I didn't think it could make me any sicker, figured the fresh air would do me good and I knew there wouldn't be anyone else around to pass my germs to. Besides, seeing all the shells my friends down in Sanibel and Venice have been finding washed ashore, I had to see what was happening on our part of the Gulf Coast.
I donned a warm sweater, a knitted cap, tennis shoes and my headlamp. Oh, and I brought along some Kleenex and cough drops. Well, to say there was not a lot to be found is an understatement. I walked several miles up the shore and found nothing in the intertidal or the subtidal zones. I mean that literally, I picked up nothing. Even common shells that are usually numerous, were not there. No scallops, no tulips, no coquinas, no cockles, no kittenpaws, no nothing. Disappointed, I decided to walk along the seaweed line. That line usually separates the intertidal and the supratidal zones.
Am I confusing you with these zones? For those who are curious about what the heck I'm talking about, here they are in a nutshell:
Luckily, I had my three-pronged cultivator with me. These come in so handy when you're shelling and they're perfect for digging through icky seaweed to discover buried treasures. Here's what I found…
I found one other thing, but I'll tell you about that later. Other than these six gorgeous, unbroken Fighting Conchs, Indian Rocks Beach was not giving up anything else that morning. I headed back to the car, grabbed my chair and spent the next hour or so just sitting and reflecting on life. The gently lapping of the waves was soothing to my soul and I was happy to be there in the dark without another human in sight.
Fully relaxed and feeling pretty good, I decided to head over to Dunedin Causeway to see what the low tide was revealing. I would also be positioned in a great area to watch the sunrise over the water. Here on the Gulf Coast, we have spectacular sunsets, but few people know you can go out on one of the barrier islands, turn around and greet the dawn.
I stopped and got a fresh cup of coffee on my way and drove out on the causeway. The time was about 5am and I was the first person there; not even the fisherman had arrived. I stepped out of the car, turned on my headlamp, walked a couple of feet and found this beauty…
The Horse Conch was designated the official shell of Florida in 1969 and a favorite of many shellers, myself included. I have itty bitty ones and some that are very large. They can grow to be as long as 24-inches and I love them in any size or condition. This one is just perfect!
Here's a few more of the prizes I collected that day…
You can see I didn't pick up much, but those that I did were very nice specimens. I was still surprised I didn't find scallops, they are so common and I need some for a project I'm working on. There was one, but it was a "hitchhiker". When you're shelling you have to be very careful that some living thing isn't hiding in a larger shell you've picked up. Usually I find little crabs scurrying about in my bag and I have to make a quick trip back down to the water to release them. Unfortunately, this scallop was so tiny, that it escaped my attention and almost went down the drain when I was cleaning my shells. Sorry little guy, I'm an old woman with poor eyesight and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, it does take the distinguished honor of being the tiniest intact scallop to ever grace my collection.
I also picked up a few broken shells and share them with you here in the hope that some of my shelling buddies can help me identify them. For now I call them the Whatzits?
Neither are familiar to me, so I assume they are uncommon on my beaches. Any ideas?
I told you earlier that I found one other thing tangled in the seaweed…
Plastics in our oceans are never a good thing, so I'm thankful Sheriff Woody of Toy Story fame ended up in my shell bucket and not floating out in the Gulf, where he could do a lot of damage to our environment or left on the shore where some curious bird might decide to make him breakfast. I think Woody was pretty happy about that also.
Woody came up with the idea that this would be a perfect opportunity for him to do a PSA (Public Service Announcement). I'll let Woody take it from here:
"Hey kids, I was so happy that Shellbelle rescued me from that pile of seaweed, but I lost my hat and my gun. I certainly hope they don't end up in the stomach of a sea turtle or a beach bird.
I wanted to tell you today that taking toys like me to the beach is not a good thing. I'm much prefer the safe environment of your bedroom, than I do being tossed around in the waves. Just like my pal Nemo would be like a fish out of water on the range, I don't belong in the sand.
So the next time your mommy and daddy take you to the beach, be sure to leave me behind. Don't worry, I've got lots of friends to play with while your gone and you know from seeing my movies, that we're never bored while your off having a grand time at the shore."
Thanks Woody! We loved having a big Hollywood star help us to spread the word on protecting our oceans and sealife.
After I had safely stashed the day's finding in the back of the car, I pulled out my camera just as the sun was starting to rise, but I've gone on long enough today, so I'll share those pics with you on Friday. I will tell you that it was S P E C T A C U L A R. Seriously, I do believe it was the best sunrise I've ever seen and I captured it on my little camera to share with you. Until then my dear, sweet friends, I wish you all the best and hope that wherever you are and whatever you're doing, your enjoying life! I'm still nursing my cold, but it's no better or worse for taking the time to enjoy the great outdoors. Lesson learned.