Atlantic Coast Seashells

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Just about every child who visits our beaches loves to collect Atlantic Coast Seashells. But being a kid is not required to enjoy this pastime. All that is needed is the ability to walk around with your head down and a sharp eye for unexpected treasures. A quiet beach and take home trinkets - who could ask for more?

You can often find unbroken scallops, welks, and moon shells or sea snails. Angel wings are great prize when found in one piece. They are extremely fragile because they are very thin. There is quite a list of things you can find on our beaches.

imageAngel Wings
Auger Shells
Baby's Ears
Jingle Shells
Kitten's Paws
Lady Slippers
Moon Shells
Sand Dollars
Sea Glass
Sea Pens
Shark's Teeth
Skate Keys
Welk - Channel
Welk - Knobbed
Welk - Egg Cases

The best times for shelling are early mornings before beaches are cleaned and crowds arrive. You can find shells year round. But shelling is especially good Fall through Spring on days following a storm.

You have about the same chance of finding nice shells on all our beaches. Because of changing tide and weather patterns a beach that is fruitful today might not be tomorrow. Look for large debris fields in or near the surf and on the North side of jetties. What appears at first to be just a pile of broken rubble may yield treasures.

At Assateague Island National Seashore, they suggest taking no more than a gallon bucket of shells. This is a generous amount of shells considering the number of people who visit our beaches. Sea shells are an important part of the beach ecosystem and provide habitats for crabs and other critters.

So, after you take home a bucketful you might find that on return trips you become more discriminating and look for only whole shells and perhaps those shells that you don't already own.

Unless you are planning to keep it as a pet in a saltwater aquarium or make it an appetizer leave shells with live animals still in them on the beach.

Clean your shells with a solution of water, a little dish detergent, and a small splash of bleach. Rinse well and allow to dry outside for two to three days in order to eliminate unpleasant odors.

There are many ways to display your shells. They can be made into jewelry or ornaments. They are great in and around plants, in baskets or bowls, or simply on a shelf to remind you of your visit to the beach.

Visit this web page for a link to an online guide for Atlantic seashell identification: