Dear Fellow CONCH-Lers

I was asked about a trip report to Florida this Christmas.  Let’s just start with the good news, it was SPECTACULAR.  We went to Sanibel for 5 days and oneday on Honeymoon/Caladesi Island.  We had wonderfully low tides thanks to the full moon (we had a lunar eclipse too, which must mean the sun and moon were cooperating especially well together).

The first impressions of Sanibel this year were the huge number of echinoderms on the beach… urchins, sea beans, starfish, and brittle stars.  Lots of Pens too.  On the central Sanibel beaches I found (mostly left) plenty of the regular-numerous Fasciolaria lilium and hunteria (both alive and cleaned), large live Pleuroploca gigantea and fewer dead small ones, lots of Oliva sayana, few Murex this year, and of course lots of Busycon, both species alive and cleaned.  In the Lightning Welks the largest live one I saw was maybe a 12 inch specimen, I did bring back an empty gem that was maybe 9 inches (and a larger less-than- perfect specimen).  Lots of Ficus communis, empty and with dead or living animal and a few Vericularia at Blind pass.  I found a few cones (C. spurious (5, but only 1 good) and C. floridanus), but my wife did better than I with two spectacular ones. I also did find a small fragment of a Junonia.  A women I had met at Blind pass found 1 and I got a Junonia in just two days! I found a few Cancellaria reticulata a couple of fragments of Phalium granulatium both on Sanibel and Cayo Casta and a nice little Lion’s Paw also on Cayo Casta.

A rather magical event.  I was up early before the crowds at the Pleuroploca gigantea colony taking photos of the animals. I was returning to the hotel and met my wife and daughter going out to the beach.  The beach was now covered with active shellers looking for prizes so I really didn’t think I’d find much in the way of non-living shells. At about the same time I met a women with her kids who had fairly recently lost her husband. She was a sweet woman and we talked a bit about her husband, how she missed him and how this trip was part of her healing process.  We parted after which I saw the top of a Pleuroploca gigantea buried in the sand.  I assumed it was also alive but was amazed when I turned it over to find it was actually an empty 11 inch specimen with some worm damage.  My first ever dead Horse Conch over 6 inches! I was admiring my prize when I thought about the woman. After thinking about it figured I really should give the Horse Conch to her.  As I approached her I saw that her son had also found one, this one an absolute gem and even a touch larger than the one I had found! And this on a crowded beach! Sanibel magic at it’s best. On Honeymoon Island the find was a 7 inch half eaten large red Fasciolaria tulipa (there were live ones too). We took the boat to Caladesi Island which was truly lovely. Certainly the loveliest Strombus alatus I’ve ever seen (hundreds of them), from gorgeous dark chestnut specimens through to a spineless wonder.  My daughter insisted that we throw back all the living specimens we came across so I literally threw back several hundred (my poor arm).  I found both C. spurus and C. floridanus and what I think is a fossil C. jaspideus, and thousands and thousands of Turbo castanea including one golden one. My daughter kept helping herself to the   Turbo castanea until I thought my back would break!  A few baby Pleuroploca gigantea and the regular Busycon and Olives. It was also nice  to find a few whole pairs of empty Macrocallista maculata (one of my favorite Bivalves to find) and large M. nimbosa. We also threw back maybe a dozen living members of each of these species.

Outside of the shelling as always it was great to see the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and bumping into Jose was wonderful. Sounds like the museum will have a fantastic new display of world records that I, unfortunately, missed. Also a chance to meet Larry Strange at his shop and talk shells was a fantastic plus.  Honeymoon island has a nice display of local shells including a 24 inch Horse Conch.

And just to add,  my 2:00 am stomp around Bowman’s Beach (Sanibel) scared up a Bobcat! Quite a plus.  A very enjoyable trip!

Doug Stemke – Via Conch-L


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