During this time of year, the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge plays an important role in the life cycle of the Goldeneye duck. It's early mating time and the males are starting to display some strange behavior and sounds as they try to attract a female.

Bob Danley of the refuge told KLYQ that there are Goldeneye ducks among the other birds that are on the ponds at the national refuge northeast of Stevensville.

Bob encourages people to stop by and watch the mating "dance" and also see all the other waterfowl. I've always thought that the refuge plays the role of a hotel for the birds on the flyway that runs north and south through the Bitterroot Valley. Some stay only the night with an early check-out time. Others hang around and rest up before flying on to a different destination.

Danley said that it's easy to help count bird species with a little help from the local Audubon Society, or stop by the Metcalf Refuge Office. And now is a good time to get ready for the Great Backyard Birdcount, coming Feb 17-20. Thousands of volunteers count the numbers and types of birds at their backyard feeders in the three-day period. You can find out more information and join that effort at a Backyard Birdcount website. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has another site that is rich with avian info. It even lets you listen to birdcalls for easier identification.

If you like small songbirds, Danley said the refuge has dippers and nuthatches among the current population. The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is open every day, and the Visitor Center is open on weekdays until spring, when it will be open longer hours. Visit often!