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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As I record this, I have yet to see a Wilson’s phalarope this year, and I am getting impatient to do so. Phalaropes must be our smallest shorebird. They are a rather thin shorebird with long legs, long neck, and long, thin, and straight bill. They are much smaller than a killdeer, and even a sandpiper. They are an interesting bird, and also great entertainment.

Dump Nests

May 2, 2020


I remember many years ago a friend and I were walking a tract of prairie in the spring and came upon a duck nest with a couple dozen or so eggs it.  “Dump nest’ my friend exclaimed.  


It won’t be long before you’ll get up one morning, look out the window, and exclaim: “Spring is finally here, the trees are starting to leaf-out.”  Well, not so fast!  They’re actually flowering.  Leafing-out will come later.  

Pussy Willows

Apr 18, 2020


There are some willow catkins popping out in Turtle Mountain.  No doubt they are also out in other parts of the state.  Willows are members of the Salicaceae or willow family.  In addition to the willows the family also includes cottonwoods, aspen, and balsam poplar.  

Nature and COVID-19

Apr 11, 2020


As we deal with the social distancing, uncertainty, and other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of the need to somehow stay connected with nature.  As some of you know, there is a growing body of evidence that spending time regularly out in nature is important for our mental health and overall well-being.  

Creative Commons


The spring equinox occurred a few weeks ago, and the calendar says it is spring.  But I am not convinced yet.  The calendar or spring equinox both tell us it’s spring, but I am not sure that it makes it official.  It takes some observation of nature to make it official.  Maybe it’s the first thunderstorm or ice-out on a local lake.  For the botanically inclined, it may be the trees breaking bud, or when a particular plant comes into bloom.  For many of us it is probably the return of some migratory bird.

Bald Hill

Mar 28, 2020

Bald Hill Dam. Have you ever wondered about the origin of that name? Bald Hill?

I have been rereading portions of the book Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies, the expeditions of 1838-39 with journals, letters, and notes on the Dakota Indians translated from French and edited by Edmund and Martha Bray (1976). On their way to Devils lake from Fort Pierre during the summer of 1839 the Nicollet expedition traveled for a time along the Sheyenne River north of what is now Valley City. 


Mar 21, 2020


There is an article about Antarctic diatoms in the March issue of Natural History magazine.  I suspect that diatoms are not familiar to most people, but that doesn’t mean they are not important. And they are also an interesting group of organisms.

Paper Birch

Mar 14, 2020

I have been doing some cross-country skiing in the Turtle Mountains this winter. And even up to as recently as a few weeks ago I would occasionally see a considerable amount of paper birch seeds blown onto the snowy surface. With the recent warmer conditions, the snow surface has become an icy crust. With a little help from the wind, I suspect these seeds could go for some good long rides to perhaps colonize suitable habitat in which to grow.

Dog Den Butte

Mar 7, 2020

There is a big high hill in northeast McLean County about four miles west of Butte, North Dakota along highway 53. That is Dog Den Butte.

I was recently reading the Geology of McLean County, North Dakota Geological Survey Bulletin 60 Part I, by John Bluemle from 1971. He notes that Dog Den Butte lies near the boundary between the Glaciated Plain to the north and the Missouri Coteau to the south.