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Science & Nature

  • It is time to look skyward at night again. Some of you may have been noticing some meteors recently. The Leonids Meteor Shower began on November 6th and will run through the 30th. The shower will peak on the night of November 17th and early morning hours of the 18th with perhaps 15 meteors or so per hour. A nearly full moon, however, will make only the brightest of meteors clearly visible.
  • 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.
  • A friend recently told me all about the Baltimore orioles they had been observing, complete with a cell phone picture of the oriole feeding on a half an orange at their feeder.Most everyone is familiar with the Baltimore oriole, but it might surprise you that North Dakota has three species of orioles. The Baltimore oriole and the orchard oriole range over much of the state. The orchard oriole is darker with the orange being less prominent. The bullock’s oriole may be found southwest of the Missouri River. It is a chunkier oriole with brighter coloration, and unlike the Baltimore oriole which has a dark head, the bullocks head is orange with a black cap and eye stripe.
  • If you like watching falling stars, you are in for a treat. We are already into one of the best meteor showers, and with a little luck, it could turn out to be the best show of the year.The Perseids Meteor Shower began on July 17 and will run through August 24 with the peak viewing period coming up on the night of August 12th and early morning hours of the 13th with perhaps up to 60 meteors or more per hour. There is a new moon on August 8, and the moon will be waxing toward a crescent moon which will set during the early evening hours during the peak viewing period. That is all good news for viewers! Now all we need is a clear sky!