A Hastings couple looking to share the sandhill crane experience with out-of-town relatives got more than they bargained for as they cruised alongside the barren crop fields Sunday near Alda.
Ron Skrdla and his wife, Kathy, were driving home from a first communion service in Grand Island when they decided to take an alternate route home on Alda Road at about 2:30 p.m. to allow Kathy's mother, Darlene Putnam of O'Neill, and sister, Gail Bartels of Wisconsin, to observe the migration of cranes in the area. They found cranes, all right, but one bird in particular caught their eye: a rust-colored species that for all intents and purposes appeared to be a sandhill crane.
Armed with a camera, Ron was able to snap a photo of the unusual-looking bird before a loud booming sound that appeared to be gunfire frightened the group of cranes away. He emailed a copy of the image to the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center near Alda for comment. Wildlife biologist Greg Wright responded, sharing a theory as to what he believed would cause a crane to show such color.