Kootenai Valley birders contribute to Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count

Bald Eagle along the Kootenai River in Libby, this eagle is approximately  3 1/2 years old.
Photo by Ruth Fenn

By Brian Baxter


Many winter birders begin their seasonal outings with a coupling of celebration and recreation by participating in the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Birding in the wintertime offers the outdoors person both challenges and interesting rewards.

Started on Christmas Day in 1900, the Christmas bird count was proposed as both birders and scientists alike were becoming concerned about declining avian populations at that time. During that first year, 27 dedicated birders held 25 separate bird counts from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California. In all, 90 species were tallied.
This year marked 121 years for the Audubon count. The Kootenai Valley birders, who have now logged 51 years of data, are now part of over 2,400 count circles in the western hemisphere and greater than 72,000 participants each year.
Gene Reckin of Libby has been the main organizer of the local Audubon count for the last several years. “It was a good day to be out with mild temps, little wind, no precipitation, and even a little bit of sun,” Reckin told The Montanian. “We had more observers this year and with our group effort we have cracked 50 species which we haven’t done in a while.”
The local field of twenty-two Kootenai Valley birders included backyard feeder watchers, two hardy birders in a small aluminum boat with a 10 hp motor, and several field observers.
Their count produced some interesting species including green-winged teal, red-headed ducks, Barrow’s goldeneye, golden eagles, sharp-shinned hawks, merlins, golden-crowned kinglets, Townsend’s solitaire and cedar waxwings.

Winter months are known to provide advantages for birdwatchers such as the lack of foliage on deciduous hardwoods and western larch trees. An observer with a good idea of where to look may just be able to spot that tiny Northern pygmy owl on the branch of a snag or that mini flock of cedar waxwings.
Over half of our avian species depart for long-distance warmer climates, yet some only migrate in elevation degrees or short to medium distances. Some are permanent residents in our area and some whose species might normally migrate are found toughing it out if they happen to find a satisfying niche where they can somewhat comfortably survive.

In our area, visiting migrants from the north can include species like rough-legged hawks who are feathered to the toes. Some winters, snowy owls may be found embarking on an irruptive migration. Every several years when the arctic lemming populations plummet and the snowy owl population is high, the owls can be spotted further south in search of alternate prey such as red-backed voles, field mice, snowshoe hare, ground squirrels, ducks, songbirds and sometimes fish.
From year to year the bird count’s data changes as the natural world soars onward in its vast and varying patterns. Once that data is combined with other surveys taken across North America, an overall picture revealing the long-term health and status of various bird populations can be drawn. For those passionately seeking to further understand the avian world, this data becomes part of a ‘snapshot’ which birders for generations to come will likely
access and continue to augment.
Those wishing to join next year’s Christmas Audubon Bird Count efforts in the Kootenai Valley may email Gene Reckin at gnreckin@gmail.com.
Those looking to get sighted in for winter birds this season may wish to join the Winter Ecology Class, sponsored by Libby Base Camp Hostel, on Saturday, Jan. 16 in Libby.  For more information call 291-2154, or email b_baxter53@yahoo.com.


The Libby Police Department is asking all area residents to please be mindful of all guidelines set forth to prevent city officials from having to tow any illegally parked vehicles during the winter season.

City of Libby

Chapter 10.88 – Sections 10.88.10 – 10.88.40

Parking Restrictions:

During the period of November first through March thirtieth of each calendar year, so as to facilitate snow removal procedures within the city, no vehicle shall be parked:
A. On any street within the city which runs in a north/south direction, between the hours of four a.m. and eight a.m., Mountain Standard Time;
B. On any street within the city which runs in an east/west direction, between the hours of eight a.m. and twelve p.m., Mountain Standard Time.
C. On the following streets between two-thirty a.m. and six a.m., Mountain Standard Time:
1. Mineral Avenue from First Street to Tenth Street;
2. Louisiana Avenue from Second Street to Tenth Street;
3. Montana Avenue from First Street to Tenth Street;
4. California Avenue from Ninth Street to Tenth Street;
5. Main Avenue from Second Street to Tenth Street;
6. Idaho Avenue from Second Street to Tenth Street;
7. Second Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
8. Third Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
9. Fourth Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
10. Fifth Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
11. Sixth Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
12. Lincoln Boulevard from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue;
13. Eighth Street from Montana Avenue to Idaho Avenue; and
14. Tenth Street from Louisiana Avenue to Idaho Avenue.
Effect of parking restrictions on no parking zones:
The parking regulations provided for in Section 10.88.010 shall not include or affect those streets or avenues within the city which have been specifically posted as no parking zones by the city council.
Any vehicle found parked on any city street in violation of this chapter shall be subject to impoundment as provided in Section 10.56.050 of the Libby Municipal Code.
Penalty for violation:
Any person violating the provisions of this chapter shall be punished as provided in Section 1.28.010 of the Libby Municipal Code.

Local Superfan shares memories of Pride, “Just for the Love of It”

By Stacy Bender


While visiting recently about his love for everything Charley Pride, Duane Halsey held up a photo of he and Pride taken years ago following a Nordifest concert in Libby, then later led a tour to the basement where his stack of Pride’s albums is safely stored and played often.  -Photos by Stacy Bender, The Montanian


“A fan will grab you and hug you and will not let go. When that happens, you wish it could be that way all over the world.”

– Charley Pride

While issuing a welcome to his family home as the year 2020 came to a close, Duane Halsey was successively delivering a series of rapid-fire questions as he side-stepped his way across the living room to prepare  for a visit about one of his all-time favorite Country Music artists,Charley Pride.
“Did you see him on ‘Hee Haw?’” Duane questioned with excited delivery and eyebrows raised in anticipation of a response.  “With Loretta Lynn. He was on Hee Haw with Loretta Lynn… remember?  And did you know who his buddy was? I bet… did you… did your grandma love him… Charley Pride?” Even the world’s most limber linguist didn’t stand a chance of sneaking an audible answer in on any portion of the enthusiastic inquiries.
“Hey. Let’s sit down,” said Hazel, Duane’s mother, “Come and sit so you can show them all of your stuff.”  She then motioned to the kitchen table where an accumulation of fan mail updates and some framed photographs were laid out in anticipation of the afternoon discussion. A slight pause in the passionate barrage of questions then gave way to an impromptu acapella duet between Halsey and his mom.  “Well people may try to guess, the secret to my happiness…  but some of them never learn it’s a simple thing…” they sang.
The lyrical interlude then took. pause and Hazel added, “You know right after we learned of Charley Pride’s passing, Duane started getting phone calls from people telling him, ‘We are sorry to hear you lost a friend.’”  Pride passed away on December 12, 2020, due to complications experienced after contracting the COVID-19 virus.  His friends and neighbors in Libby most certainly have come to understand his love for everything country, but most especially Charley.

He had joined the GID (“Get It Done” with Pride) fan club in 1984, traveled the State of Montana and beyond to see Pride in concert, and most currently still held tickets to a show which had been re-scheduled and was supposed to take place this month in Spokane.

“We could tell he wasn’t doing well,” said Amy Williams, a good friend of Duane’s who has been traveling with him in recent years to see Pride at  various live venues.  “I had recorded the Country Music Awards in November so that I could show Duane and it was evident that Mr. Pride had declined considerably in the past year and a half.”
Williams and Halsey have known one another for a lifetime, their parents love for country music a common thread of relation between them over the years. They worked together at Achievements where Halsey retired in 2018 after 35 years. “I remember at one of the more recent concerts we attended, Duane shouted out in between songs, ‘I love you, Charley Pride!’’ recalled Williams. “Then Charley shouted back, ‘I love you, too!’ Duane’s smile just ignited.”
Pride had come to Montana in the late 1950’s while chasing a dream to play baseball. It was somewhat a last-ditch effort to achieve the dream of finding a lucrative athletic career. But ultimately, it was Pride’s gift for song that would carry him to fame.
The team manager for the Helena Smelterites discovered Pride’s hidden talent and began paying him $10 to sing for 15 minutes before each game, on top of the $10 he earned for each game. Attendance to those games increased and the rest is now celebrated history.
Pride would later come to play dance halls in Libby and all across Montana.  Many local residents still recall hearing him play on more than one occasion out at the Cedar Creek dance hall.  In the early 1990’s, Pride would again become booked to entertain those gathered in Libby for the then annual Nordicfest.
It was at this point that organizers worked to alot Duane a special visit with Mr. Pride backstage.  “They were so gracious, Duane was able to visit with Charley for a whole hour,” said Hazel.
“Yes.  That is when I met Rozene…  she was a nice lady…  do you know Rozene?” Duane asked, then quickly shifted thought, “She is his wife.  And then I saw them at the Grand Ol’ Opry.”
“For my graduation. I went to the Grand Ol’ Opry…  with Aunt Alice and my mom.  Did you know that George Jones and he were good friends?” he continued.  The memories instilled on Halsey’s heart as a Charley Pride superfan seem endless.
Surely Pride must now rest in peace knowing the hug he had wished the whole world could experience was now carrying on through the legacy his music and warm interactions with fans once nurtured. “You’ve got to kiss an angel good mornin’,” Halsey and his mom again began to in unison.
“I kiss an angel good morning every day, you know?” said Hazel with a smirk.  “I kiss my bald-headed son.”  Everyone then giggled and the pair went right back to singing while their eyes glistened with memories of Mr. Pride’s music and the experiences being a fan had afforded them.