Despite sleeping fitfully, I was wide awake before the sun poked over Baja's dusty hills. Pulling on yesterday's clothes, I jumped into the dinghy and in my haste to get to the beach I didn't even bother to pump up the tubes that had gone a little soft overnight. This was my last chance to do some beach combing before we went into Marina Palmira in La Paz and put Mystic to bed for the summer.
A quick survey of the beach turned up tracks in the sand along the high tide mark that despite the early hour showed someone had been there before me. First to arrive was a tejon, but not to worry, he was hunting for his breakfast, not shells. Tejons look like raccoons but have pointy snouts and long, cat-like tails. Cute, but vicious little creatures. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coati)
Not finding anything exciting (the tejon probably had the same luck), I picked up a few olive shells, nothing special, but at least they filled my pocket.
Working back towards the dinghy, my eyes continued to sweep the beach for one last, though unlikely, treasure. And there, partially buried in the sand, was a conchologist's prize--a paper nautilus! And I'm not even a conchologist, or at least I wasn't. The whoop that escaped as I bent to retrieve the delicate three-inch shell surprised even me. It was followed by a quick thank you to the very wind I'd been cursing just a few hours earlier.
The paper nautilus is actually an egg case created by an octopus and not a true shell at all. Because they are so fragile most are crushed by the sea long before they reach land. This Argonauta Nouryi was rare find indeed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noury%27s_Argonaut)
I hope the tejon found what he was after before leaving the beach. I certainly did.