Natural North Dakota | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Natural North Dakota

Saturday and Sunday at 8:35 am CT
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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 was a biology professor at Dakota College at Bottineau, and published research on ecological aspects of grasslands in the northern Great Plains.

Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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Many years ago I took a garbage bag and set out to collect some flowers of the common milkweed for my botany labs.  I found a good patch of the milkweeds and proceeded to cut off the flower heads, letting them drop in the bag.  When I had collected enough flower heads I tied up the bag and put it in the prep room freezer for safe keeping.  

Catch a Falling Star

Jul 11, 2020


Oh how we love these warm summer nights.  And if you enjoy watching falling stars, you should be in for a treat over the next few weeks.  The Delta Aquarids and Perseids meteor showers are coming soon.  So it is time to find a dark location and do a little sky watching for a few evenings.  


Jul 4, 2020


You might be surprised to know that John James Audubon spent a goodly part of the summer of 1843 in North Dakota in and around Fort Union Trading Post.  As you might expect he and his associates spent much of their time documenting the flora and fauna of the area. 


While walking across a grassland or turfgrass in the early parts of the growing season a person may occasionally observe some dead patches of grass.  Some of these patches of dead grass even appear to have been dug up by some animal.  What is going on here?  


We all have various connections with nature. And some of those connections are etched in our minds and take us back in time to a particular experience.  Now with the Covid-19 on our minds, perhaps we have had more time to wax nostalgic with nature.  I certainly have.  

We have a few wren houses in our yard.  And when I heard the first house wren singing a few weeks ago I was transported back in time to my youth and my grandma’s backyard.  She had a wren house at each end of her clothesline and a couple others for good measure.  I mowed her lawn, and when the lawn was done, we would often sit in those old metal lawn chairs in her backyard and have a glass of Kool-Aid, always serenaded by the house wrens. To this day when I hear a house wren I often think of those good times with my grandma.  


I was looking at the North Dakota map recently, and Pembina and Cavalier Counties caught my eye.  The distance between Cavalier and Walhalla is only around 30 miles, but this area contains a wealth of biological diversity. Species of the forests, grasslands, wetlands, and more can be found here.  And to top it off, there are over 8,000 acres of public land to explore a little Natural North Dakota. 


While walking across some North Dakota prairie during the early parts of the summer there always seems to be a variety of interesting plants to see. But twogrooved poisonvetch, also known as twogrooved milkvetch, or silver-leafed milkvetch produces an odor that gives itself away.  It is a member of the pea family or Fabaceae and is known to botanists as Astragalus bisulcatus.  

Garter Snakes

May 30, 2020


If garter snakes are not the most widely recognized and distributed snake in North America, they are certainly near the top of the list.  They can be found across the state in a variety of habitats where they feed on prey such as insects, earthworms, frogs, etc..  Some of you may have noticed that the color seems to vary quite a bit. It might help to know that there are two species of garter snakes native to North Dakota, the common garter snake and the plains garter snake.  

Clay Colored Sparrow

May 23, 2020


Take a walk across the mixed grass prairies of North Dakota during the spring and summer and you are likely to hear  a series of short buzzing sounds emanating from a patch of western snowberry (what some people call buckbrush) or perhaps a thicket of some other shrubs.  You may associate the buzzing with some type of insect, but it isn’t.  It is the call of the clay colored sparrow.  

There it is again ... "Song of clay colored sparrow."


May 16, 2020


I looked out our window one morning recently and saw a mink along the shoreline of Lake Metigoshe. It scurried around for a few minutes before disappearing in the water near some cattails.