Beach Nature Walk

ocean city nature walk
One of my favorite parts of our visit to Ocean City, New Jersey was the nature walk. The guide taught us a lot about plants, shells and birds. For a tiny fee ($1.00 for adults, 50 cents for kids), you can go on a nature walk on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings. This one on Tuesday morning was on the south side of Ocean City by Corson’s Inlet State Park. It’s good that this area is preserved (established in 1969), because you can see lots of development to the north and south of this area.

I don’t remember the names of all the plants she showed us by the beach. There was a lot of poison ivy. Here is a informative web page on plants of the Eastern Atlantic Coast.
These bayberry bushes with missing leaves were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. They seem to be slowly growing back. In general, our tour guide said, the foliage by the beach was changed by the hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy rocks
This area was greatly effected by Hurricane Sandy. One woman said it was because the water came in from the bay and from the ocean. Some streets were hit more than others. In the picture above, you see rocks; before Sandy, said our tour guide, this was covered in sand. There also used to be a fishing pier here, although it had already been damaged before the storm. Now there are just a few remaining poles left to what was the pier.

plover and sanderlings
We were accompanied on our walk by these smallish white and brown birds. I think the whiter ones are plovers and the ones with brown are sanderlings. Our guide said they had not been here the day before. They seem to find some sea food (snails?) on the edge of the ocean. Assuming they are migrating, I was trying to figure out (by reading web pages) where they might be on their migrating route in late August, but I couldn’t figure much out.

gulls juvenile and adult
I believe our guide said the brown gull is a juvenile – it keeps those brown feathers for two years. The one in the front is an adult gull. Our guide knew the difference between the laughing gull and other gulls, but I don’t remember the details, sigh.

moon snail perfect hole
The moon snail was an important player on our nature walk. It seems that the moon snail feeds voraciously on clams, and it creates what our guide called the “perfect hole” in the clam shell. She gave out ribbons to the kids so they could string some of the shells they found. My daughter made a little necklace.

She also showed us what protects the inside of a snail shell called an operculum (literally means little lid). You can actually find an operculum on the beach sometimes – they are hardened when off the snail, no longer the rubbery protection when on the snail.

hole in clam shell
This hole, on the other hand, is rough and was probably created by a pecking bird.

I believe these large shells are called whelks (and not a conch). The knobbed whelk is the state shell of New Jersey (did you know states have state shells?).

horseshoe crab
She showed us the shell of a small horseshoe crab. The tail is very important to the horseshoe crab, she taught us, because it uses it for guidance through the beach and for flipping back to right side up if necessary.

gulls, plovers, sanderlings
Look how many different birds were in front of us! I think there are gulls, plovers and sanderlings.

trail by beach Corson’s Inlet State Park
My husband could have gone on this hike after the beach nature walk on the trail through Corson’s Inlet State Park, but my kids had had enough. We went back to our hotel and had lunch.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

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25 thoughts on “Beach Nature Walk

  • That was very interesting! Your comment about the state seashell got me to wondering about California and it seems we do not have a state seashell. Since I’ve never seen a shell on the beaches here as nice as your whelk perhaps it’s no wonder! I’ve seen clams, mussels, sand dollars and that is about it.

    • The tour guide opened my eyes to all that lives right at the ocean’s edge. Maybe if you had a tour guide that knew about your coast, you would learn about that ecosystem as well. But I suppose we should feel lucky to find shells like those whelks.

  • Very interesting throughout!
    “Did you know states have state shells?” No, I didn’t. What about the states that have neither seacoast nor lake?

  • Great Nature post…. I haven’t finished mine yet… I would love to live near the ocean..but I have to settle for the Niagara River and Lake Erie… I will have to see if NY has a state shell… Michelle

  • Interesting on the state shell names, and true, Golden state CA does not have one and we are a coastal state.

    Your photos are lovely and I like the informative aspect of your post. It is a fantastic post re nature, with the descriptive under each photo.

    • The big change with Sandy seems to be in the attitude towards real estate – the house closest to the beach may no longer be the most prized. Also, a house that is already built up on a platform is more valued. I noticed in Deal, NJ all the homes were already built up – not on stilts like in Ocean City but on platforms of built up earth, as though each had a man-made flat hill. Less damage from floods with that method.

  • What a fun and informative walk – thanks for taking us along!

    You made me curious about whether Indiana has a state shell. We have a border on lake Michigan, so I thought maybe… but no. It seems we do have a state stone, though – Salem limestone. Whatever that is.

  • I love informed walks like that. You get to learn as you go instead of constantly wondering, what is that, what’s that called and is that what I think it is? Even if I can’t remember all the details later, I retain a few.

  • Every time I go to the beach, I am hopeful it will be the time I find some cool shells, but it’s rare. It doesn’t matter though if the shells are mostly broken or tiny. It’s just fun to walk up and down the beach looking for some pretty ones.

    • I’ve noticed that the public beaches with lifeguards in New Jersey have few shells. When we went to this beach, which has no lifeguard and is off the beaten track, we found many shells. I think it’s the people factor – too many people means not enough nature to see.

  • Leora, I’d say you learned a lot on your beach walk–very interesting. There is always so much to see as you walk along the beach – a great place to spend time. Mickie 🙂

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