Story & Photos By Katherine Pollock
Many Islanders are content to let the tourists have the beaches for the summer months and wait until fall to beach comb. I have to admit, with the exception of sea beans, about 80 percent of my entire beach finds have come in the fall and winter months. The cooler weather makes beachcombing more comfortable for folks who avoid the blazing summer days. If you haven’t yet tried fall beachcombing yet, I would certainly recommend it.
You can expect to find lots of Whelks, Quahogs and Sand dollars on the beach at this time because many of these species die when the water gets cold; thus they wash up more in fall than in summer.
You can sometimes find Sundials by the bucket load and barnacles by truckload. Every year is different. If we’re lucky enough to get the added bonus of a high tide during a storm, call in sick and go beachcombing. I’ve considered it.
Once the weather gets cold, just bundle up and dress in layers. I wear a T-shirt, sweatshirt and a wind-proof jacket with a hood. Gloves are a must, although if they get wet your hands don’t stay very warm. For the hard-core beachcomber a pair of gloves made for scuba divers works very well. Once they get wet they will insulate your hands to stay warm just like a wet suit does for surfers. Take a nice hot cup of coffee or a mug of hot chocolate. You’ll start to warm up as soon you start finding exciting things.
If the cold weather keeps you inside during the winter months there are still plenty of indoor beachcombing activities you can partake in. I use the winter months to polish sea beans in a tumbler. I have a very small tumbler so it takes a few days to polish about ten beans at a time.
I also sort through piles of shark teeth looking for rare ones that I may have missed at first glance. Hammerhead teeth are the ones I look for. They closely resemble other species and can easily be missed. Hammerhead teeth are ten times rarer than bull shark teeth, the most common tooth found on our beach.
I also sort through sea glass looking for rare and unusual pieces. Look closely for writing on glass that can identify it. Check for unusual colors. Amber and purple are two rarer colors of sea glass. You can also make a mosaic craft with the mounds of sea glass you have. Spread all the pieces out on a table and see what you can create.