Natural North Dakota

Natural North Dakota

Hosted by Chuck Lura, a biology professor at Dakota College in Bottineau. Chuck has a broad knowledge of “Natural North Dakota” and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, he has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror. His columns also appear under “The Naturalist” in several other weekly newspapers across North Dakota. Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

Episodes

June 19, 2021 2 min
Summer will officially arrive this Sunday. The summer solstice will occur on Sunday, June 20, at 10:32pm CT. The summer solstice, of course, is when the northern hemisphere will be tilted furthest toward the sun than at any other time of the year. And it will also be the sun’s highest arch at midday for the year. It is all because of the earth’s angle of rotation and orbit, and for people of higher latitudes it is a special time. I...
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We have had a red-bellied woodpecker in the neighborhood. It is hard to say how long it will stick around, but I have managed a good look at it a couple of times. I suspect that most North Dakotans are not familiar with this woodpecker. It is a bit smaller than a flicker and has black and white stripes across the back. The most obvious characteristic is a bright reddish-orange cap and nape on the males. Females have the red only on...
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June 5, 2021 2 min
I recently saw a few photographs of some impressive walleye taken from the Missouri River this spring in the vicinity of Bismarck. Walleye are undoubtedly the most popular fish in North Dakota, in terms of angling interest and table fare. It might surprise some of you, but the walleye is closely related to the perch. They are in the same Order (Perciformes) and Family (Percidae). Fish in their Order may be characterized by having a...
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May 29, 2021 2 min
We have some chipmunks around our yard that are providing us with some great entertainment. They have been busy scurrying around, often cleaning up spilled sunflower seeds from our bird feeders. And of course, they occasionally crawl up to a platform feeder to gather sunflower seeds until their cheek pouches look like they are going to burst before heading out to stash them for later use.
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May 22, 2021 2 min
Many of you probably heard the news about the wildfires in the badlands earlier this spring. Areas around Medora, the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and some other areas have burned. In all, a few thousand acres of native prairie were blackened. We tend to think of fires, whether in a prairie or forest fire, as destructive. But we need to realize that fire was a natural factor in grassland formation and maintenance...
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May 15, 2021 2 min
Perhaps like me you have heard those sounds from overhead during the spring and fall bird migrations and looked skyward to see what was causing it. But nothing was up there! But then it continued. Eventually a flock of birds was spotted up there. Way up there! And they could seemingly disappear and reappear depending on the lighting. If they happened to be flying a little lower, you would have noticed that they were large birds wit...
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May 8, 2021 2 min
Every day is a great day for getting out and enjoying a little “Natural North Dakota.” But this time of the year is a real treat. The birds are active and warblers are moving through the area. Mammals and other animals are quite active as well. And if you have some woodlands nearby, and most of us do, now is a great time to go explore those woodlands and enjoy the woodland spring wildflowers.
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May 1, 2021 2 min
I trust you are enjoying the song of the American robin this spring! It has been a long winter, and hearing their song makes spring official and gives us thoughts of warmer days ahead.
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April 24, 2021 2 min
My wife and I were recently discussing the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subject of bats came up. “What eats bats” she asked. Not much, I speculated. So I had to do a little checking up on bats.
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April 17, 2021 2 min
We are coming upon spring cleaning time if it has not started already. It is time to do some outdoor yard work and the like. But when it comes to clearing out those old dead or dying trees and branches, you might want to reconsider, unless there is some potential for damage to person and property.
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The sharp-tailed grouse have put on their dancing shoes! The males, that is. As dawn breaks across the grasslands over much of North Dakota from roughly April through May, the sounds of what can be described as the faint muffled hammering of a jackhammer along with an abundance of clucking and cackling can occasionally be heard off in the distance. Those sounds, which may carry for a half a mile or more, announce the annual courtsh...
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April 3, 2021 3 min
Some of you may have heard the news recently about the seventy-year-old albatross that hatched another chick. It got me thinking about the life span of our feathered friends. I have wondered for example if it is the same bald eagle I have been seeing during the spring and fall migration in the same tree on the shoreline of Lake Metigoshe, or the wrens in our birdhouse are the same birds as last year. We may have a tendency to think...
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March 27, 2021 2 min
April is just about here, so that old saying “April showers bring May flowers” might come to mind. But we do not have to wait until May. The earliest of our flowering plants start coming into bloom in April, and Hood’s phlox is one of them.
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March 20, 2021 2 min
The calendar tells us that the season is changing. But for many early cultures the change of seasons and annual cycle was marked by the occurrence of full moons, and we have a full moon coming up on the 28th. As most everyone knows, the full moons were so significant to early cultures that they were given names.
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March 13, 2021 2 min
I have been seeing tracks of snowshoe hares during my outings in the Turtle Mountain forest, although I have yet to see one. It might surprise you, but they are native to North Dakota. Historically they could be found in Turtle Mountain, Pembina Hills, around Devils Lake, Killdeer Mountains, and wooded areas along the Red, Mouse, and Missouri Rivers.
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March 6, 2021 2 min
It has been a long winter, and my thoughts are turning to spring. But I have been doing more reading this winter including rereading portions of Sigurd Olson’s Runes of the North, first published in 1963. For those of you unfamiliar with Sigurd Olson, he was a highly respected environmentalist, interpretive naturalist, and author. He is perhaps best known for his successful efforts to establish the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilder...
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February 27, 2021 2 min
I had the good fortune recently to get a good look at eight moose, most with antlers! They were strolling through a harvested small grain field west of Bottineau. I bet they were not three hundred yards away. We pulled off the highway and watched them for several minutes. They are magnificent animals, but they look like they were designed by a committee!
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February 20, 2021 2 min
Coming down Minot’s north hill recently, I was again struck by the immensity of the Souris River Valley compared to the relatively small flowage of the present-day Souris River. How could that large valley have formed? The Souris River is an underfit river, sometimes called a misfit river. The river valley indicates a much larger river formed the valley in the past. Other rivers, including the Pembina, James, and Sheyenne rivers fo...
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February 13, 2021 2 min
The comings and goings at our bird feeders has been rather routine this winter. We are getting the usual chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, pine siskins, downy and hairy woodpeckers on a regular basis. But we are seeing a few red-breasted nuthatches coming in for the suet and sunflower seeds.
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February 6, 2021 2 min
The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up February 12-15. As some of you may know it is an effort between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology National Audubon Society, and Birds Canada to help scientists better understand the population dynamics and movements of birds during the winter.
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