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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Smooth Green Snake

Sep 12, 2020


I can remember the first time I saw a smooth green snake.  It was sunning itself on a rock one morning many years ago on the Samuel H. Ordway Jr. Memorial Prairie west of Leola, SD.  That is 20 some miles across the state line southeast of Ashley.  


Sep 5, 2020


Have you been noticing the crickets chirping recently?  I suspect that most of us enjoy hearing them outdoors during the evening hours.  

Crickets can be found over much of the world except the higher latitudes. Worldwide there are over 2000 species.  And there are over 100 species in the United States and a dozen or so here in North Dakota, including the northern field cricket and the house cricket.


When I drive across the North Dakota landscape I often think back to what the grasslands would have looked like a couple hundred years ago.  No farmsteads and fields, oil wells, transmission lines, etc. Needless to say, the landscape has changed. But thanks to some old written records as well as more recent descriptions, we can get a sense of what that landscape looked like.  


Aug 22, 2020


It must be a good year for thistles.  It seems that most everywhere I look there are thistles in bloom.  They really can be quite attractive.  But of course, thistles have a bad reputation, largely because they are prickly, and two of them are listed by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture as noxious weeds.  Both species, however, are introduced (the Canada and musk thistle).  


Aug 15, 2020


We have some chipmunks living around our home, and they provide us with some good entertainment. They are pretty tame, so I am hoping they don’t try to take up residence in our garage or worse yet, our house.  

  If you have been seeing some falling stars in the last few days it is probably because we are into perhaps the best meteor shower of the year.  The earth is passing through the debris field of comet Swift-Tuttle from about July 17 to August 24.  

Common Yellowthroat

Aug 1, 2020


Here is a bit of a description of a bird from John James Audubon’s Birds of America:  “The notes of this little bird render it more conspicuous than most of its genus, for although they cannot be called very musical, they are far from being unpleasant, and are uttered so frequently during the day, that one, in walking along the briary ranges of the fences, is almost necessarily brought to listen to its whitititee, repeated three or four times every five or six minutes…”


You may recall that last week’s Natural North Dakota topic was about milkweed’s interesting pollination mechanisms.  I am still thinking about the common milkweed, but this time about fruit and seed production.    


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.