Double Rainbow and an Imperial Venus

Double rainbow

The one good thing about rain and thunderstorms is that they produce shells like crazy, AND rainbows. This double rainbow made its appearance as we were shelling at low tide at Blind Pass. Pretty, right? (That’s my niece, Kaitlyn, making the funny face as she didn’t know I was taking the photo!)

Here are a few of our finds:

fighting conchs
Fighting conchs by the handful

While those fighting conchs are nice (and empty!), here is my favorite: an imperial venus.

Imperial Venus
Imperial Venus

I’m going to do a post on these elusive shells (at least here on Sanibel, imperial venus clam shells are elusive)! This one is super pretty, and glossy, as it must be newly empty. Ever found anything good under a rainbow?

Fun Facts About Sand Dollars

Sand dollars, dried.
Sand dollars, dried.

I love sand dollars. I have been lucky enough to find several washed up on the shore of Sanibel and Captiva over the years, nearly white from being faded by the sun. I’ve also found lots and lots of LIVE ones, which are ILLEGAL to keep in Lee County, Florida. Do you know how to tell the difference?

First, here are some fun facts about these beautiful and mystic animals:

  • Sand dollars are members of the Phylum Echinodermata family (in Greek that means “spiny skin.”
  • When a sand dollar dies and its spines fall off, its skeletal remains (the sand dollar you find on shore) is called a “test.”
  • Sand dollars move along the bottom of the sea by using their spines (tiny hairs called CILIA). Unlike their other relative, the star fish, that moves by using the tubes on its feet.
  • Over 600 sand dollars can live in one square yard.
  • The life span of a sand dollar is six to 10 years.
  • Sand dollars have a mouth with five “teeth” that can pulverize/chew tiny plants and animals.
  • The mouth of a sand dollar is called an “Aristotle’s lantern.” (If you’ve ever shaken a dried sand dollar and heard things rattling inside, it’s the five teeth – also known as the five doves in the Legend of the Sand Dollar!)
  • In calm water, sand dollars stand up. They lie flat in rough waters. (How cool would it be to see an entire ‘army’ of sand dollars standing on end, only partially buried?)
Sand dollar found on the shore.
Sand dollar found on the shore.

Is the sand dollar alive or dead?

MOVEMENT: Place the sand dollar in your palm. Look at its spines (the little hairs that cover the animal, called CILIA). If they’re moving, it’s alive.

YELLOW STAIN: Hold the sand dollar in your hand for a minute, if it stains your skin yellow, it’s alive. (That substance is called echinochrome. It is harmless to humans.)

HAIRY OR SMOOTH? Dead sand dollars are smooth and free of their spines/hairs. If it’s hairy, let it bury – place it in the water.

COLOR: Sand dollars fade to gray or white when they die.  When alive, they can be dark brown to purplish-reddish.

Live sand dollar in the water. See its hairy edges?
Live sand dollar in the water. See its hairy edges?

I have the best luck finding sand dollars early in the morning – the early bird definitely gets the washed-ashore sand dollar. Also, try the out-islands, like Cayo Costa. Happy hunting!





Holy Horse Conchs

The Fab Five Horse Conchs

Well, it was an epic day. These five horse conchs are not even thoroughly cleaned yet but look how gorgeous they are! And huge! I was at Gulf Side Park on Sanibel early in the morning, at sunrise, and these EMPTY horse conchs were just waiting for me in the water. It was the perfect low tide (7am) and there was hardly anyone on the beach. I couldn’t even carry them all back. I actually gave one away to two little girls and their parents. That felt good. It’s nice when you can share a gift, and these were definitely a gift!

When I have them all cleaned and shined, I’ll post again, so you can see the difference. I have to tell you, these shells STINK. I have had them soaking in bleach for days (half bleach, half water) and the stench is still in them. There must be pieces of the animal stuck up in there. Jeff from the She Sells Sea Shells store on Periwinkle (he’s an avid shell collector) told me to go put them in an ant pile, so I did. I’ll go get them back from the ants in a week or two. Then, soak them again. And oil ’em up real good with mineral oil. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, go to shell!

Rainbows and Pelicans


It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, shellers! Check out that pretty glimpse of a rainbow in the clouds. Makes my day. And look at that calm water!

three pelicans

Then, as if on queue, three pelicans flew over (well, under) the rainbow! Just had to share this small slice of paradise.


Here are a few of my finds…now, go to shell!

She’s a fatty and I love her

fat tulip

I found this fat tulip today while shelling on West Gulf Drive. I also found these two colorful lightning whelks. I am so attracted to their dark color – and yes, they were both empty! These were both in the water, found them about 20 minutes apart while walking.


By the way, today’s sunrise was one of those I’ll remember forever. Take a look at those cotton candy clouds.

Sanibel sunrise to remember.
Sanibel sunrise to remember.

Minis and a Redfish

Tiny little mini shells from Sanibel
Tiny little mini shells from Sanibel.

Good things come in very small packages! Here are some of the mini shells that I found at the Sanibel Lighthouse today. In that mix: murex, cockle, juvenile fighting conch, sundial, lightning whelk, tulip, shark eye, king’s crown and even a  kitten paw.

While I was shelling on one end of the island, my older son was fishing at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. He scored, too! A monster redfish! Yes, he put him back in the water after the photo. The big fish swam off in a hurry. Very cool.

Dusty with his redfish, caught at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
Dusty with his redfish, caught at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

Starfish and a Cockle

nine-arm starfish and big cockle shell on Sanibel.
nine-arm starfish and big cockle shell on Sanibel.

You never know what you’re going to find on a beach walk. This morning, I found this beautiful nine-armed starfish and a gorgeous, big cockle. The starfish was on the move, too! He was dancing in the morning light. Low tide brought out some incredible sights. Hey, that rhymes!