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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 he has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for North Dakota’s newest newspaper, the Lake Metigoshe Mirror. His columns also appear under “The Naturalist” in several other weekly newspapers across North Dakota.

  • When one looks out on those North Dakota pastures an observer may see “just grass.” It might surprise you, but North Dakota is home to around 150 species of grasses. Some of course are introduced, but the vast majority is native, ranging from buffalograsss to sloughgrass.
  • Summer is a good time to do a little star gazing, and we are heading toward a new moon on the 29th, so if the skies are clear, stargazing should be quite good for the next couple weeks.
  • We often hear birds singing or calling. But many times, the birds remain hidden amongst the vegetation, so identifying the bird is difficult. But now with the help of Merlin, a free app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we can identify those birds. In this case it is a common yellowthroat, a yellow colored warbler with a black mask that is often heard while hidden in the vegetation on the margins of wetlands.
  • Duck nests have been a topic of discussion in the Prairie Public radio department recently. Director of Radio Bill Thomas and Producer Skip Wood were surprised to learn they each had a hen mallard nesting in their yard, but the location was a bit disconcerting. Except for a small pond on the Concordia College Campus, the nearest water (the Red River) is around 10-12 blocks away. So why does a duck nest so far from water?
  • Canada anemone and several other members of the buttercup family are or will be blooming soon. The buttercup family consists of over 2,000 species widely distributed around the globe. They may be characterized as mainly herbaceous plants with alternate leaves that may be compound or lobed. And although the number of petals and sepals may be quite variable, in some cases the petals are absent, but the sepals look like petals. Another interesting aspect of the flowers in this family is the many pistils (and stamens) that are clustered at the center of the flower.
  • It seems like every spring we wait in eager anticipation for the migrating birds to return. Whether it is seeing the first robin, geese overhead, warblers, or watching the first hummingbird and oriole at the feeder, it is a much-anticipated event. Now, with the help of the BirdCast website, we can gain a better understating of these birds’ migrations and perhaps a better idea of when they will show up in our area.
  • Have you ever heard of No Mow May? Some cities around the nation are beginning to change ordinances to allow homeowners to refrain from mowing their lawns during the month of May. The objective is to provide better habitat and flowers, including dandelions, for the bees and other pollinators during the early growing season.
  • Go outdoors around sunrise this time of year, and you are likely to hear birds seemingly singing from everywhere. It is as if they were all trying to tell us something, which they are. It is mostly the males telling us that they are staking their claim to a territory and that they are looking for a mate.
  • Are the aspen leafing out near you? Do some seem to be busting out from winter while others, well, not so much? I am occasionally asked this time of year why there is so much variation in when the aspen leaf out, and also why this difference seems to occur in patches. Some have speculated the differences are due to variations in soil types, soils moisture, temperature, or perhaps exposure to sunlight.
  • The signs of spring continue to grow, and one of the signs of spring that is often overlooked is when the warblers start to show up. If they have not started to show up in your area already, they will be soon.