Among the tumble of curious bits and pieces, living or otherwise that wash up on Florida’s east coast are many things that are unremarkable common daily sights. Then there are those less common that for a few moments at least make you wonder what it is on the sand at your feet. After a few months of walking the beach each day, all the sights or findings at the waterline fall into categories like rare, limited and common. Today I passed a family fascinated by a seashell they had discovered in the surf—“Wow! Should we keep it?” Anyone living here could instantly suggest a ‘no’ reply to that question, if only because the shell in question is one of ten million, with a prettier one probably a hundred feet further down the beach.
One of the less common remains of sea life on my watch list is the detached back shell of young blue crabs, or at least what I believe to be blue crabs. It’s the distinctive points on either side of the shell that make me think they are blue crabs, even without the ‘blue’ that gives them their name. The blue coloring comes later in their growth. Along Florida’s east coast the blue crab is most numerous among crabs, and is a popular food in both their soft and hardshell state. It isn't often that full grown blue crabs wash up in the surf, but the smaller, immature crabs sometimes do get washed up. Birds are quick to flip the young crabs over and go to work on the soft underside. In the end all that’s left is an empty shell of delicate beauty, many of which get quickly broken because of their delicacy. More than once a handsome shell has crumbled in the grip of even gentle hands. In my regular walks I’ve managed to find or carry home only six of these detached blue crab shells.
Another rare sight is the shell of the spider crab, a less delicate and less beautiful specimen. So far, only one of those has been spotted by these eyes. He’s the dark brown spiny one at the top of the line in the photograph. The photo of the whole crab with claws and legs shows a female blue crab, obvious from the red claw-nail polish.
These days much on the beach is being trampled by the influx of spring break tourists, and it isn’t only fragile shells that suffer. Birds are tormented by children and the beach as well with all the cast off plastic bottles, toys and empty bags of chips. Few of us are fans of dirty beaches but people continue to make them so.
On a lesser note, April 4 marked 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) of walking on the beach since beginning on May 1, 2010. Guilty of the sin of pride.