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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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. 

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.