My First Crane Migration, by Alex Duryea, Nebraska Tourism
When I first heard about the Sandhill crane, I was a bit skeptical. I didn’t really get it. What could be so special about a common bird? They’re not endangered or rare and heck, they’re even hunted in other States like Kansas. I’ve also heard people call them the ribeye of the sky...I don’t know if I’ll ever get to test that out though.
I woke up in my hammock at 4 a.m. to the alarm on my watch. I listened to the groan of semi-trucks making their way along on I-80. It was still about 35 degrees outside with a steady breeze; I was reluctant to leave the warmth of my mummy style sleeping bag. I poked my head out and glanced at two other tents containing my dad and our friend Steve-o. I had the bright idea of signing us up for a 5 a.m. tour at the Crane Trust near Grand Island, Neb., and convincing them it would be a good idea to camp out the night before. I called out their names in the brisk morning air and got a grunt from each tent. We packed our gear and hopped in my dad’s truck to make our way to the Crane Trust.
After a short stint westward down I-80, we arrived at the Alda exit where the Crane Trust Nature and Visitors Center waited just south of the interstate. Inside the dimly lit facility we were greeted by an old farmer wearing coveralls. He welcomed us and gestured toward a few empty seats in a nearby room containing about eight other people. He introduced himself and listed off a few rules while in the blind: no flash photography, silence cell phones, and no bright lights were the ones that stuck. The old farmer directed us back to our vehicles and instructed us to follow him with our headlights off. We made our way down the highway a mile or so and pulled into a private drive where we exited our vehicles and made our way to the viewing blind.