Wilhelm Photography Blog


The Evolution of the Wilhelm Family Christmas Card

The making of our Christmas card started out a silly, super amateur, low quality joke about our dog. What used to take part of an evening to create now takes days of shooting and editing for me. All year this card is in the back of my head with thoughts like, “What am I going to do this year?, How can I make it better?, and Why did I ever do this to myself?”  However, once it is done, it is one of my favorite projects of the year because I get to create it with the family. My kids are completely aware of the whole process now and are fantastic little actors. It is exciting to explain my vision, know they are going to actually keep it a secret, and watch them pretend in front of the camera.

I am excited to have this blog as an avenue of sharing my card with friends, clients, and those that I hope to meet in the coming year since I’m unable to mail it everyone! Come back to see the new card each year!

I shot the first card with 35mm film and the next few with a lousy 2 megabyte  point and shoot.  You can see that as our equipment progresses the image quality does as well.  After starting a business and investing in professional gear we have been able to pull off crazier scenarios.

Every year, we hear one of three questions:

1) What are you doing this year for your Christmas card?

Answer: I can’t tell you! First of all, I don’t usually know. Second, sometimes “plan A” doesn’t work out.  Third, it is a surprise, of course!

2) Can we be added to your mailing list?

Answer:  Our mailing list is getting ridiculous, so I am very glad to have internet and Facebook to share easily with all of our friends, family, and clients!

and until our boxer, Wallace, died…

3) How did you get your dog to do that?

My answer: Really big treats.

Here are our cards starting from 2004 in case you want to see them all!

2004 Where’s Wallace

Card Caption: Merry Christmas from Ben, Tonya, and… Wallace?  Wallace? WALLACE?

2005 Merry Mistletoe

2006 The Star of Christmas

2007 A Simple Family Portrait

2008 Up, Up, and Away!

2009 Wallace Saves Christmas

2010 “You aren’t taking a ridiculous photo of me this year!” ~ Wallace

2011 “Just Wrapping Things Up for Christmas.”

2012 was a sad year for our tradition.  Wallace passed away in January, but we have a card to close the chapter on this series.

2012 “Sorry, without a dog we just don’t have enough talent to do our Christmas Card this Year.”

2012 Wilhelm Photography

2013 Walking in a Wilhelm Wonderland

2013 Wilhelm Photography Christmas Card

2014 We Got a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Our family got a big surprise this year! Fortunately for me this isn’t our real gift. I just rented the hippo *wink*If you don’t know the song that inspired this you can hear it here: I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOzszFIBcE)

Hilarious family Christmas Cards

2015 May the Force be with you

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend but it happened anyway. I still can’t believe the Death Star made it into my Christmas Card! Although this required some major photoshop work, if you click the image to see the original post, you will know actual damage occurred in my home last year for the making of this card. If you follow the blog, you also know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween which inspired this design. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015


If you follow my photography, you understand why my card says Merry Macro Christmas. January 2016, I decided to promote my love for macro (close-up) photography by posting a daily “Good Macro Morning” image each week day.  I found that I have lots of friends who don’t think I am totally weird for hanging out with insects. My macro work went from not having a place in my business to winning awards, getting published, and being featured numerous times by other large macro forums. It was a fun year of photo sharing for me, and I am so thankful to all of my great friends who supported me. That being said, it seemed only right that I take a queue from the 1989 movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids cover photo to combine my family and my passion for macro into one ridiculous Christmas card. I was a afraid that the reference might be a bit to old, but my kids knew why it was funny so I went with it. I think the rest is self explanatory. We have an addition to our family this year. Our nephew moved in with us, and we are happy to add him to all our holiday routines.

2016 Back


This one was like a comic strip. I still don’t have an elf on the shelf, and I don’t intend to ever start.



2018 Jurassic Park Christmas

Please think it’s funny that there are ripples in the hot cocoa on the back of the card 😉

2019 Christmas Impossible

I am excited to get back to my A to Z blogging challenge in the New Year. If you are a fan of my photography or follow my facebook page, I am sure you have seen macro (close-up) photos of bugs, spiders, and plants popping up here and there. I love macro photography, and I love tiny critters! I realize, however, that some of my fans follow my page for my portrait work and don’t love seeing hairy eight legged things showing up in your newsfeed.  I still have to post a favorite now and then, but the majority of my artwork is posted here on my blog. I hope to post more frequently with all my growing styles of artwork. With my nature photos my goal is always to photograph them in a mix of artistic and documentary styles so that you can enjoy the little creations from afar and learn a bit about their mini world.

I have to show you our “babies.” My kids collect praying mantis egg sacks, and patiently waiting for them to hatch. They are easy to spot in bushes in the winter.  This year, we had a surprise in our Christmas tree and on New Years day our tree had about a hundred nymphs jumping across the pine needles.

This is what an egg sack looks like- a bit foamy.

Praying Mantis Eggs Sack www.wilhelm-photography

When they hatch, there are anywhere from 50-100 praying mantises!


And they are SO tiny! We release most of them when we raise them, but keep a few and separate them so they don’t eat each other.  We feed them aphids, that is what the green specks are in the photo below. Since we are raising some of our New Years babies, I actually bought flightless fruit flies that I can farm at home to feed them. It is working well, but I think I am among the very few that have willingly brought fruit flies into my home! Here is a day old nymph on the needles of our blue spruce. A Christmas light is the “sun” you see in this shot.

Sunrise in the Christmas Tree



They are perfect replicas of the adults. As they grow they molt their skin.  It looks like a dead mantis at the bottom of the jar, but it is just a shell of one. They are fascinating to watch.


DSC_8102 copy


This is Praying Mantis Yoga 🙂

DSC_8156 copy

DSC_8167 copy

DSC_8212 copy

DSC_8183 copy

No doubt you will see more of these guys as they grow! Thanks for checking them out! I am hosting a challenge on Viewbug for Praying Mantis photos. If you want to join- it is free! GO TO VIEWBUG CHALLENGE


Moth Madness

I have been creating a collection of moth photos, and I am very excited to introduce to you several kinds of large moths in our area.  These tremendous moths, despite their size, are rarely seen due to their nocturnal behaviors. They are much more lovely than you would expect from the porch light sightings where we commonly get a glimpse.

My four moths all come from the order of Lepidoptera but will represent some different families within that large encompassing order. First, lets look at the Saturniidae family. Saturniids include the largest of the moths including giant silk moths like this Polyphemus Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This moth is easily identified by the eye spots on the wings. So much so that its name was given in reference to the Greek myth of Cyclops Polyphemus.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

It is easy to distinguish between males and females. The above image is of the female with less feathery antenna and below is a male with very pronounced and bushy antenna. They detect the pheromones of the female.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Males will fly for miles in one night to find a female, he really needs to find out what is hypersomnia since it seems like he will be getting no sleep whatsoever.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

My next moth is from the same order and family, but it is the only moth with this color pattern. This yellow beauty is the Imperial Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This is the only moth to be yellow with a tan/lavender or brown/pink pattern on it’s wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

The caterpillars of the imperial moths dig underground to form their cocoons so you will not find them hanging on vegetation in your yard.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This one was missing an antenna when I found it.  I wondered if that would affect his quality of life. However, I found that these moths do not live long as adults. In fact, when they reach the adult phase, their mouth parts are so greatly reduced that they do not feed. They focus on reproduction and live only a week or more.

My next two moths are still in the Lepidoptera order, but come from the Sphingidae family which includes hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms.

This is the Pandorous Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These moths fly at dusk and have an incredible camouflage pattern.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These adults drink nectar and are sometimes seen in meadows or along forest lines in the evening.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

When adults emerge from the cocoon, they pump their wings to disperse fluid and extend them.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Although the caterpillars stage is destructive due to its ravenous nature. This guy has been known to devour even poison ivy which is a big plus to most folks.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Also in this family is the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Another guy with one sad looking antenna. I had a hard time researching this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

 This was an unusual find. I had a hard time identifying this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

To identify this one, I have contacted an expert in this field, and he has already responded. My guess was close. When I identified this moth, I thought it was Genus: Pachysphinx and Species: Occidentals. This is more likely the Species: Modesta which would be found on the east coast. I am glad to have him correctly identified and excited to have my sighting logged and soon added to http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com!

For those of you who want the full classification to find out more…

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Class Insecta (Insects)

Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)

No Taxon (Moths)

Superfamily Bombycoidea

Family Sphingidae (Sphinx Moths)

Subfamily Smerinthinae

Tribe Smerinthini

Genus Pachysphinx

Species modesta (Modest Sphinx)


If you enjoy my Macro work or moths- let me know! 

L is for Ladybug. These are by far my most popular macro subjects. I hope today you enjoy them and learn a bit about them! This is a great one to share with curious kids.

This year, my kids and I found a ton of ladybug larvae while collecting aphids (it is amazing what you find when you search for a garden pests such as plant lice!) Many people do not know that ladybugs go through a complete metamorphosis from egg (which hatches in five days) to adult.  Let me show you what to look for next time you are in your garden or greenhouse, that need energy and maintenance, so instead of spending astronomical monies in utility bills, it’s better to try a solar panel for greenhouse heating.

Lady bug eggs. Tiny. This cluster is on one pine needle so you have to really be looking for them!



This is a lady bug larva. Although larvae only grow to about one centimeter long, when they hatch they eat like crazy for three weeks. They don’t eat plants so don’t kick them out of your garden; ladybugs chow down on pests like aphids.

Lady Bug Larvae

After getting their fill, they enter into the pupa stage and attach themselves to a leaf or stem for about 5-7 before emerging as ladybug adults.

Becoming Lady

Becoming Lady

They will have their spots within twenty-four hours of emerging, and as they reach maturity their wings often darken from an orange to deep red.

Lady Bug and Bud

Lady and Umbrella

Ladybug and Umbrella

I was just discussing with a friend how this beetle is usually liked and considered cute unlike any other beetles or insects for that matter (with the exception of butterflies.) Funny how some polka dots and the name “lady” have changed our perspective.

Center Ring


Lady on a Flame

Lady on a Flame

Lady on the Edge

Ladybugs are definitely a favorite for me to photograph!

DSC_5381 copy

My daughter found this ladybug, “that is really different looking.” She is referring to the unique spots of an Eye-spotted Ladybug which are black with white rings around the spots.  The spots are designed to look like eyes which warn and scare the bugs that might be predators.  She was too pretty not to photograph so I thought I’d share my two favorite shots from the mini session with her.


By a Thread

I also have a ladybug image in my Enchanted Forest Collection


Share, Like, Pin!

I was looking through my portfolio trying to find a “K” and came up wanting. This will be short and sweet because I have exactly two images of a Katydid. Quite frankly, the first Katydid shot I capture was entered and won a commendation in the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition, and I figured I wasn’t going to top that anytime soon.

Katydids are in the cricket family of Tettigoniidae. They are also known as bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers. They are easily identified by their body which mimics a leaf. You have probably heard their loud chirping noise in the trees during the summer months. The males are competing- loudest wins the female.

My two photographs of the Katydid are as different as night and day. That is possibly because one was taken during the day and the other at night.

This one was the one that placed well with IGPOTY.

DSC_2452 copy

This one was taken on tripod, lit by moon light just after sunset. I pumped up the already rich colors and it has a totally different almost cartoon feel.

DSC_7837 copy

Which do you prefer? Let me know!

Next week, is L is for Ladybugs and you will get to see each stage of their lifecycle and some of my most popular art! Don’t miss it!


J is for Jumping Spider #AtoZblogchallenge

I get it. Spiders are creepy. I don’t like them sneaking up on me, but the jumping spider is worth taking a closer look. He’s fuzzy, has big puppy dog eyes, and can hug you with not four, but eight legs! What’s not to like?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider is easy to distinguish from other spider families. The rectangular head and eye pattern is a dead give away. This one was wet so you can really see his head shape without that crazy hair sticking up.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I see these guys scuttling across my picnic table all the time. They are diurnal, so they are actively hunting during the day. Don’t let that worry you. You are not on the list. Most spiders have the potential to bite, but the jumping spider tries to avoid you and is not considered a medical threat. Gentle. Remember? Like an eight-legged teddybear. Not convinced?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

DSC_0466You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Jumping spiders come in an array of colors. Some have vivid iridescent chelicera which are the green-blue mouthparts you see below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I am sure you were thinking “fangs” not  “mouthparts.”  And all though I know it won’t make them more endearing, there are fangs at the base of the chelicera. Jumping spiders don’t make webs. They live up to their name and pounce on their dinner. They rely on the back legs for their super jumps which propel them 10 to 40 times the length of their own body size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Just because they don’t spin webs doesn’t mean they don’t have silk producing spinnerets. They use strands of silk to create safety lines when jumping. They also build themselves shelters to lay eggs and survive bad weather. You can see the dragline in the photo below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday DSC_9580

Still see him as just plain scary? Let’s talk about how he sees you…

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider has four pairs of eyes and the sharpest vision of any creature his size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Here they are…

Jumping spider eyes- incredible!

The large front eyes (AME) have the best visual acuity, but due to the distribution of the four sets, he virtually has a 360 degree view of the world! Incredible.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

As far as spiders go, this is as lovable as it gets- at least for me. I see how they are misunderstood. But let’s view them more like the movie villains of old. Sure they make a good monster movie, but they aren’t really larger than life. They want to be left alone as much as you. Before you squish a jumping spider, take a look at those big round eyes looking up at you! Then just try to catch that bugger- he is fast!

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Even if you hate spiders…if you like me and my art – LIKE, SHARE, AND PIN

I am also on Twitter now- Come and Follow me!

This week, I thought I’d take a break from bugs and show you something you might have in your backyard, but never see. This is commonly known as the gray tree frog, but that name is more misleading than its scientific name, Hyla versicolor.  The tree frog is a master of disguise and can change from almost white to nearly black with various versions of gray and green in between. It is reported that they change at a slower rate than a chameleon (which I have not seen first hand,) but I can tell you that capturing this one in various colors took weeks because sometimes he would change by the time I picked him up and took him to a good location for photographing. Green was very hard because as soon as I would put him in my hand he would start turing gray.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog

This is Petrie (my daughter named him and cared for him until he resumed life in our yard.) And yes, we know that he is a boy. Gray tree frog gender can be determined by the color of the throat. The female throat is white and the male throat is gray to black.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog Hanging

Also, the female does not chirp or croak. Here is Petrie mid croak.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog Croaking

The gray tree frog is also known as the eastern tree frog due to being found pretty much anywhere on the east coast.  If you are wondering why you have never seen one, it is because 1) they only leave the tree tops to mate,  2) they are nocturnal, and 3) you do not have my daughter who can literally find any creature she wants if she puts her mind to it! (Photo of her at the end)

When I was younger and would watch the Wizard of Oz every time it came on tv, my favorite part was the horse of many colors in the Emerald City, I just love horses in general, you know how I’m always watching TVG. Remember that? I always thought that part was too short! Having a tree frog is like having a frog of many colors right in your hand. Here is Petrie in a version of speckled gray.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (gray)

As Petrie moved around on the bark, he would change to camouflage himself.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (camouflage)

Moss on the tree? That is no problem.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (moss)

If it wasn’t for his bright yellow hind legs, he blends right in.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (climbing)

My favorite color to find him in is green.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Leaf)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray tree frog (light)

When he is green he tends to have bright turquoise specs on his skin. (I do not alter the color for any of these images.)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Colors)

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (Side view)

I don’t think the images due his green color justice, but sometimes he would change faster than I could photograph.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (BACK)

This is what we called “white.”


Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (white)

There is still a bit of green or gray hue present when he is white, but in contrast to his dark color it is very light.

Wilhelm Photography: Gray Tree Frog (brown)

Hard to find him at first!


I hope you enjoyed Petrie, he is back in his natural habitat. But no sooner did we let him go and my daughter found a really tiny gray tree frog. We will probably keep her around for a photo op or two.  Here is my girl showing off Petrie. This gives you an idea of how big Petrie is.

DSC_1428 copy

Thanks for joining me on my A to Z Blog Challenge!

E is for Escargot in my A-Z blog challenge because I didn’t want to wait for S. My photo, “Dangling Snail” seen later in this blog was chosen for the Editor’s Picks for the Best of Bugs category hosted by the Weather Channel. You can see it here image #12: http://www.weather.com/news/news/best-of-bugs

So on the heals of that announcement, I thought I would revive my blog on snails this week.

I knew that the success of this blog post was going to be decided by whether or not a snail was going to cooperate with me.  My daughter brought me two snails this week. Considering that the snail is thought of as the slowest animal, you would think that photographing one would be easy. I found out that snails are either shy, or moving in strange circular movements that require lots of shifting and strange shooting postures from me. They are silly little things.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Not to be confused with a slug which does not have a shell, this species of snail has two pair of retractable tentacles in front with the eyes found at the ends of the longest pair of tentacles.  The shell holds all the internal organs and a foot moves the snail forward and provides the suction requires to hold onto surfaces.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature FridaySnails have to maintain moisture. On hot days they will pull their body all the way into the shell. Snails are nocturnal which is why this guy probably wasn’t too thrilled about a morning session.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature FridaySnails are known for the trail of slime they leave behind. This slime is what is allowing him to maneuver these acrobatic feats you see. The slime acts like a glue and is very strong. How strong you ask? Well, I guided him to this flowering hosta stem for some photos…

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

I thought I had finally found a place to photograph him where he couldn’t get away. WRONG. He produced a long string of slime to lower himself just above the ground and then dropped. I couldn’t believe it.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Here are a few facts and myths about snails:  1) Snails move at a rate of approx. 55 yards per hour.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 2) Snails live anywhere from 5-15 years

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 3) Snails are hermaphrodites (they have the reproductive organs of both males and females.)

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 4) Snails are very strong and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight in a vertical position.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 5) Their slime or mucus protects and lubricates the surface they are on so well that they could move across a razor blade without getting cut.

Wilhelm Photography: Snail on Creature Feature Friday

Fact 6) It is a common myth that the slime of a snail is full of bacteria. You should always wash your hands after handling an animal, but they don’t excrete anything harmful.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 1

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection

Although they can be tricky, I find snails to be great macro subjects… First of all, they can’t fly away. That is a big plus, especially if you are new to the macro scene. Patience is key when photographing any insect, but it is nice when your hours don’t involve picking up your tripod every few seconds. That is not to say that snails are slow and easy. They move really fast when you are trying to nail focus on a small depth of field.  None-the-less, they are easier to coax in the direction you want, and don’t offer too many surprises.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 2

Another reason snails are nice to photograph is that they aren’t shy. It usually takes five minutes tops for a snail to “come out of his shell.” They always seem less threatened each time I touch them and have a faster recovery time of reappearing. I often spend two plus hours photographing a subject for a full length CFF so that is a gift to me.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 3

Snails can be really beautiful if you give them a chance. They all have different nuances in their shell design, they have lovely curves, and if you expose them to a flattering light, they have a rare translucent quality that is unique to the snail. Okay, I know many of you look and snails and say, “ewww, slimy.” That is true, but it is irridencent slime.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 4

Snails convey personality. They seem curious. Whenever a creature can come across as having a personality they become a favorite for me.

Wilhelm Photography Snail Collection 5

This one seems confused.

confused snail



As always, my blog is Pinterest friendly so share and pin your favorites, and check back next Friday!

This creature feature is being revisited for my A-Z blog challenge. The images were taken during one of my families many visits to a family cabin in the mountains. We love to hike and play in the pond and creek near our cabin. One of our (probably strange) family traditions is our yearly creek walk.  We hike a flowing creek, stopping to swim in the deep holes and slipping and sliding our way over brush and other debris.  It has been the source for many humorous adventures especially since everyone in my family goes- my kids, cousins, aunt, mother, and until some recent back issues my grandmother was even there.  The stream in a shady forest is the habitat for my creature feature today. I have seen these iridescent insects in flight on many a creek walk, but we always called them dragonflies. This is actually an Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

The distinguishing feature between a dragonfly and damselfly is the position of their wings.  A dragonfly lays its wings down flat across its body whereas a damselfly holds the wings together and back over its body.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

Out of the 170 of Odonata order (encompassing both dragon and damselflies) the ebony jewelwing is the only one to have solid black wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

The male and females are distinguished by their colors, and have similar colors to the male and female peacock. The male has a stunning blue green iridescent body and almost opaque black wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

The female is lighter in color and often has a brown or orange iridescent  look. She also has lighter more see through wings with white spots at the ends.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly female

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly female

The dragonfly is a great predator to smaller bugs along the stream. They eat the gnats and pest insects that always annoy my family during creek walks. Here is a shot of one with his mouth full.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly eating

Up close the damselfly looks very robotic with its shiny geometric features.

Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

With its shimmery flutter the flight of a damselfly can easily be mistaken for a butterfly.  I didn’t nail these shots (in my defense the ARE crazy fast and tiny,) but this will give you an idea of their flight pattern frozen in different points.

Wilhelm Photography Damselfly Flight


Wilhelm Photography: Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

If you enjoyed the closer look at the damselfly, then please share and pin your favorites. And consider seeing one in person- take your family for a creek walk!

Thanks for joining me for week 3 of my #atozblogchallenge. This is a revived post from last year. Since some of you are still holding onto summer, I thought I’d share a favorite beach Creature Feature! I have had several photographs published in a magazine local to Long Beach Island called Echoes of LBIYou can see the images in the issue here: http://issuu.com/echoesoflbi/docs/echoessummer2014

Each year I enjoy a week on Long Beach Island, NJ with my family and some extended family.  Of course, we can’t go to the beach without beach combing, and that means we always find a creature or two.  This year we tried to identify all of our shells and the livings things we came across, so I thought I’d share a few with you so that you can keep an eye out for these neat sea treasures the next time you are at the beach.  Don’t miss the Common Shell Identification Chart at the end!

Among my favorite finds this year were these Coquina Shells.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Sometimes called a Butterfly shell due to the bright pearly colors and because the Coquina is bivalve meaning the mollusk produces a lower and matching upper shell. You can often find empty shell open and spread out.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

The shells are shiny, banded, and multi-colored. If you have never seen them before it is because 1) they average in size at about 1/2 an inch and 2) they hide in the sand.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Coquinas are filter feeders and they rely on the tides to move them around. They are often found together in high concentrations. The tide will wash the sand off of the shells, and then they will stick out their muscular foot, stand on end, and dig quickly into the sand.

This guy is sticking out his foot to start digging before a seagull finds him!

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

The size of the specs of sand around them should clue you in to how tiny they are.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Once they get a “foot hold” they stand on their side and dig straight down.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

They hide quickly so if you don’t know what to look for they are hard to find.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Fun fact: beds of compact dead shells form a rock called coquina which has been mined for centuries as a building material.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

The harvest moon made its appearance while we were a the beach.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

We had an unusually good variety of shells on the shore this year and it may be because of the full moon and how if affects the tides.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

This was the first year I ever found sand dollars on the shore. Although, this might have also been a result of hurricane Sandy.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

These were just a few of our favorite beach finds this year.

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

Take a good look at the swirled Moon Snail Shell. We found a live Moon snail inside one this year, but left it in the ocean.  But here is some cool info about them…

Ever find shells with perfect little holes in them like this?

Wilhelm Photography- Beach Creature Feature

That is because the Moon snail drilled a hole through the shell and ate the mollusk out! I wish I could have photographed a Moon snail, but they only come out of their shells under water. Google an image of them- they are incredible!

Are you a collector of shore finds? What are your favorites?