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Natural North Dakota
New episode every Saturday

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.

Hear Natural North Dakota on Prairie Public on Saturdays and Sundays at 8:35am CT.

  • The birds are heading south! The fall migration in on. Animals basically have three ways to respond to the upcoming winter: migrate, hibernate, or stay and endure it. For the majority of our birds, heading for more suitable climates is the best option.
  • Over the years I have occasionally heard that clucking sound in the Turtle Mountain forest. It sounds as if it were the call of a bird. I had heard the call of a cuckoo many years ago and thought maybe that was what I was hearing. But I could never seem to spot the bird, and when I listened to recordings of both the black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos it just didn’t fit.
  • I have been noticing the milkweed pods in the road ditches and elsewhere this fall. The mature pods with those wind dispersed seeds seem to catch our attention this time of year.
  • You may want to check for clear skies the evenings of October 6-10. That is because the Draconids Meteor Shower will be putting on its annual show. It is not one of the better meteor showers, but if we have comfortable temperatures and the skies are clear, it is worth checking out.
  • Fall is officially here. Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, school has started, and of course the equinox occurred on the 22nd. With the coming of fall, many among us wait in eager anticipation for the leaves to turn color. Every year about this time we get anxious to see the trees put on their annual color display. The fall colors are delightful, and they seem to garner much of our attention and media coverage. But do not lose sight (pun intended) of the sounds of fall!
  • I recently read a study about the Dakota skipper. The Dakota skipper is a small butterfly, with a wingspan of around one inch. Coloration is variable between the sexes with the upper wing surface of males a towny-orange to brown while females are a darker brown and spotted. The underside of males is dusty yellow-orange and females gray-brown with spots.
  • Have you ever heard of milk sickness? It is caused by consuming contaminated milk containing a toxin from the white snakeroot plant (Ageratina altissima). I had not heard of the sickness or the plant until recently, assumedly because the sickness is rare to nonexistent, and the plant uncommon or rare and not widely distributed in North Dakota.
  • I have heard a few complaints on all the tree sap that has dripped on cars this summer. My car is usually parked under the canopy of some ash, aspen, and oak. Little drops of that stuff are all over the car, and it has not been easy to clean it off the windshield! But it is probably not sap!
  • I recently noticed some Impatiens growing amongst some cattails in Turtle Mountain. It is always a treat to see this interesting plant, also known as jewelweed, or touch-me-not.Two species of touch-me-nots are native to North Dakota. The more common and widely distributed species is the spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis). It can be found roughly east of a line from Bottineau County to Sargent County along stream banks, springs, and other wet habitats, particularly in wooded areas.
  • I recently noticed something small and dead lying on the hiking and biking trail at Lake Metigoshe. It was obviously a small mammal, grayish brown, with the total length, including tail, of maybe three inches. It also had a long-pointed snout and small eyes. That is a shrew! Based on what I could determine, it was probably a masked shrew, which is the smallest and most common shrew in the state.