Raptor rehabilitator Blake Hatfield nursed a redtail hawk back to health and released it into the wild at Alda's Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, where the young bird will join thousands of its winged brethren, bird-watchers, and shutterbugs in the weeks ahead.
The addition of new photographic bird-watching blinds will provide yet another attraction for the thousands of tourists who flock to the Alda area during crane season.
A local camera dealer and a major camera manufacturer have joined with the Crane Trust and Visitor Center to sponsor the photo huts.
Center Director Brad Mellema: "We guide people in there in the morning, under cover of darkness, and so we watch the morning birds wake up, and then in the evening we bring them in and watch the birds arrive back for the day, and we bring people out under cover of darkness."
Center volunteer Susanne Shaw and her husband Larry bake the cookies and brew the coffee that keeps the birdwatching hordes bright-eyed.
Susanne Shaw: "Yesterday it was just packed with people. We have so many birds here, snow geese, and the cranes and everything, and it's just, it's just wonderful. We are so lucky living here."
Raptor rehabilitator and instructor Blake Hatfield got his start right here: "I grew up hunting and fishing of course, but knew nothing else. And the Center got me interested in birds and doing different things and, yeah, now here I am, several years later, doing some of the educational stuff."