The seagull in the foreground looks as though it's ignoring the camera and contemplatively gazing into the distance. But, actually, this bird is playing the role of a sentry guarding its lunch. What's on the menu? You can see it!
Sanibel is world renowned for its sea shelling. Beautiful shells (too numerous to numerate) wash up on the beach every day. (I snapped this pic with my iPhone while strolling the beach at sunset. The shells just washed up like that. Incredible, isn't it?) One of my favorite shell species is on the right and left -- the Florida fighting conch.
The shell is actually a house for a mollusk. So, when they wash ashore many times they try to leave their shell…to go where, I'm not sure. But, when you see hundreds of these shells scattered on the beach and know that there's a living creature inside…well…you want to help. Last summer, thinking the mollusks would bake alive beneath the searing Sanibel sun, I diligently started to scoop up as many as I could and toss them back into the Gulf of Mexico. With so many Florida fighting conch shells on the beach that I almost couldn't walk without stepping on them, I quickly realized the task was not just overwhelming but impossible. It was a bit sad.
Fast forward to last month. I watched a flock of seagulls hovering over a variety of shells, picking at them --- and pulling out the mollusk inside. Lunch! Watching this unfold firsthand made me feel much better. If the shells don't naturally make it back into the water with the tide, they'll serve as a healthy meal for a bird. (Yes, the thing dangling from the seagull's beak is the mollusk it pulled from the shell behind him.) And so goes the cycle of life in the wild. Nature is pretty amazing. Happy Saturday!