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Chuck Lura

Host, Natural North Dakota

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.

Lura has was a long-time biology professor at Dakota College at Bottineau, publishing research on ecological aspects of grasslands in the northern Great Plains. In retirement, he continues to share his Natural North Dakota essays for the Prairie Public audience.

  • The northern lights have been unusually active over the past few months. And it appears we may be in for more frequent shows over the next few months.
  • Some birds are known to lay their eggs in another bird’s nest. They then go off while the “host” parent, or parents, get stuck with all the parental care of these young, often at the expense of their own offspring. And brown-headed cowbirds are notorious for this practice, called brood parasitism.
  • Wood warblers are known for their bright and interesting colors. They’re a bit smaller than the sparrows we commonly observe. Most are on their way north to the coniferous forest to nest, but some species will stay and nest here in North Dakota. If you have noticed one of these small birds has a prominent yellow rump patch, it is a yellow-rumped warbler. They are one of the more commonly observed wood warblers we see during the spring migration.
  • We hear about sightings of whooping cranes in the state during their spring and fall migration, but how fortunate to be able to see these magnificent and rare birds?
  • Gardening and landscaping with native plants can provide aesthetically pleasing environments, provide plants for native pollinators, reduce our carbon footprint, help preserve native biodiversity, and produce more environmentally sound and sustainable landscapes.
  • We had a new moon earlier this week, on April 20. So, with the darkened night sky, it is a good time to do some stargazing. Plus, we have the Lyrids Meteor Shower running through April 25.
  • Have you heard of snow fleas? When I first heard of them, I thought I was being set up for a joke. But they are for real! Snow fleas are small, about a tenth of an inch long. And because they are small and dull colored, they are seldom observed even though they are active over much of the year. But it is around this time of year that they are perhaps the easiest to spot.
  • The heavy snow this winter has led to lots of speculation of spring flooding on rivers and streams across the state. Floods, of course, can cause horrendous damage to property within the floodplain. That aside, many among us may have never learned that flooding is a natural process, and seasonal floods that inundate the floodplain are a natural part of healthy rivers.
  • “Home, home, on the range, where the deer and the jackalope play.” That anthem of the American west that we are so familiar with is where the deer and the antelope play. What is not well known is that the original version was where the deer and the jackalope play.
  • With all the snow this winter, there is increasing speculation about spring flooding, as well as winterkill in some of our lakes — particularly some of the more shallow lakes. Winterkill occasionally occurs in some North Dakota lakes. Some people will blame thick ice for winterkill, and that may be a factor, but the most common cause of winterkill in North Dakota lakes is too much snow on the ice for too long a time.