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A new year, a new chance

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Published:   |   Updated: April 12, 2013 at 07:43 AM
WEEKI WACHEE -

The blue pickup truck went past the family of sandhill cranes standing on the side of a 50-mph road then rolled to a stop just beyond where the photographers were standing.

The driver leaned out the window and told them he had his fingers crossed then went on his way.

“They have a following,” said Jere Hock, one of several photographers documenting the trials and tribulations of an unsuspectingly famous family of sandhill cranes. “That’s for sure.”

Sandhill cranes — a common species that makes purring noises — have nested for years on a small grass island in a pond off State Road 50 past Shoal Line Boulevard.

Their home is hemmed between this road zipping with heavy machinery and a bayou that is prone to flooding. Both hazards have claimed the lives of their young.

“One year they even got flooded out,” said photographer LaMarre Labadie. “They laid eggs, but the rain flooded them out last year.”

Before that, their young were the victims of a hit-and-run, and the locals constructed a white cross memorial in their memory.

“People were stopping and leaving flowers,” Labadie said.

But they aren’t giving up — the cranes have two babies this time.

“I’ve been down here in Florida for a few years, and I’ve followed them every year, and every year there’s always one here,” Labadie said. “Last year the baby got run over. They shouldn’t be running out onto the road like that. Whenever we see them get close to the road, we kind of try and keep them back.”

Cars and floods aren’t the only danger confronting these birds: they’re prey to raccoons, foxes, coyotes and hawks, among others.

So it’d be nice to have a sign out on the road by their nest, photographer Tom Valle said, and give the young a fighting chance to get to grow this year.

“Maybe a sign to watch for wildlife would make people aware that they need our consideration to survive,” Valle said. “I’d like to see if they could get a sign up. That’s the only thing I think could help.”

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