Natural North Dakota | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Natural North Dakota

 

Some of you longtime North Dakota residents may recall the old North Dakota tourism campaign, North Dakota-Mountain Removal Project Completed.  That campaign, back in the day, was complete with highway billboards.  But any knowledge of the present-day North Dakota geography would indicate that the mountain removal project was not completed.  

Longer Days Coming!

Jan 2, 2021

 

Happy New Year!  I suspect that most of us were ready to see 2020 in the rearview mirror.   Here is hoping 2021 is your best year ever.  Things are getting brighter!  Most of us might not have noticed it much yet, but the days are getting longer!

Pine Siskins

Dec 26, 2020

 

The winter finch forecast predicted that the pine siskins were likely to stay up north to take advantage of a good conifer seed crop across much of western Canada.  As some of you may know, they are one of our more adventurous and erratic winter visitors, unpredictably moving considerable distances in search of food.  I do not think there are enough of them at our bird feeders to indicate an irruption this winter.   But they are keeping me busy stocking our feeders with sunflower and thistle seeds.

Muskrat Push-Ups

Dec 19, 2020

 

As I drove down the highway past a pond shortly after ice-up a few weeks ago, I noticed a few small piles of what looked like mud and vegetation on the ice.  I suspect that some of you may have noticed something similar.  What is that all about?

They were mud and vegetation!  In short, they were muskrat push-ups.  These push-ups are often constructed by muskrats shortly after ice-up on area ponds and marshes.  The muskrats chew through the thin sheet of ice, creating a hole large enough for them to crawl up onto the ice.  They then bring up plant material and mud onto the ice, and form it into a small hut or lodge, just large enough for one muskrat to use as a feeding platform or resting spot that is well insulated and safe from predators.  

The Holiday Season is coming quickly. Consider giving a gift that helps someone to better enjoy nature.

When I was a kid, I gave my parents a bird feeder for Christmas. In retrospect, it was probably more than a bit self-serving, but it got my mom and dad interested in birds and kept them entertained for years. A bird feeder can do that! They come in a variety of types and prices, so it should be easy to find a good fit. A bird house or a bird guide could also make a good gift. There are several bird guides on the market. The more popular guides include the Sibley Guides, Audubon, Peterson, National Geographic, and Kaufman’s. There are also some great apps for the cell phone as well. Maybe a good pair of binoculars is in order. 7 x 35’s or 8 x 50’s are popular for bird watching.

The Winter Finch Forecast is out.  Based on the abundance of winter food availability in Canada, the forecast predicts the movement of some finches and other birds during winter. Some of these birds are visitors to North Dakota bird feeders, such as purple finches, redpolls, pine siskins, crossbills, pine grosbeaks, and evening grosbeaks. 

Don’t expect to see big numbers of pine grosbeaks this winter.  The fruit crop of mountain ash was good across much of the northern coniferous forest this year, so they will probably stay put. The pine siskins will also likely stay up north due to excellent spruce seed production in western Canada.  

Beaver Watching

Nov 28, 2020

I had some fun up at the International Peace Garden recently.  I stopped along the road to go for a short walk.  At a spot where a culvert connects two adjacent ponds I paused to look around.  There was a thin sheet of clear ice on the lake, and I was startled to see a beaver swimming under the ice. Then upon hearing a little commotion in the nearby cattails I noticed two beavers feeding on what I assumed were cattail rhizomes or tubers at the pond margin. I bet I was not 25 feet away.  Their chewing was noisy! Comparable to being at the kitchen table with someone quickly chewing on raw carrots with their mouth open.  That was some good entertainment for a few minutes. 

Bur Oak

Nov 21, 2020

Oak trees are interesting during the summer months, but come fall when they lose their leaves, they take on a completely different character.  I was thinking about that around Halloween when I went for a walk through the Turtle Mountain forest.  As I paused to observe an old gnarled bur oak, it dawned on me that most of those trees illustrated in spooky stories and cartoons must be modeled after bur oak. 

 

There is a new moon on November 15! And, if the sky is clear over the next week or so, the dark sky should make for good conditions to see falling stars.     

The Northern Taurids Meteor Shower began on October 20 and runs until December 10. It is not one of the more well-known meteor showers, producing maybe 5-10 meteors per hour.  It peaked on the evening of the 11th and early morning hours of the 12th, but there is still more to see. And the Northern Taurids are known to occasionally produce some unusually showy displays.

Antler Development

Nov 7, 2020

 

Deer gun season started Friday.  No doubt antlers will be the topic of much conversation, some of it even true, whether it is about the one that got away, or what have you.  Most of those conversations will be on the size of the antlers or whether they were typical or atypical.  But there are other aspects to antlers that we give scant attention.  I was reminded of that recently when I ran across an online Smithsonian article about antler development from 2017.  

Pages