Big Sand Mound Field Day
This past weekend I attended the Field Day at Big Sand Mound in Muscatine County, Iowa. The Big Sand Mound Nature Preserve is normally closed to the public, with Field Days hosted every few years. I was unable to attend the previous one, making this years visit that much more exciting.
The Big Sand Mound Nature Preserve is important in the Midwest for its diverse ecosystem of unusual plants and animals. With 510 acres owned by two companies, the preserve includes open prairies, sand barrens, shallow ponds and woodlands.
Of particular interest were Ornate Box Turtles and Yellow Mud Turtles. Both are threatened or endangered in Iowa, and I had yet to find a Mud Turtle in the wild. Knowing that Yellow Mud Turtles are found in the area, and that a professor conducting research on them at Big Sand Mound would be present lead me to believe my chances were good of locating one.
Weather for the day was all over the place. Iowa had been hot and dry in past weeks, not ideal for herps. Fortunately, rain arrived Friday night and provided a bit of moisture in the area. The day was still hot, when not raining, but turned out to be perfect for box turtles. Previous searches for Ornate Box Turtles in known habitat has been fruitless. We found over a dozen at Big Sand Mound, in only a few hours of looking. Crazy.
Now, on with the visuals.