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Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

On October 3rd, 2020 I took part in a very unusual bird-a-thon.

The Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon is an event I have been participating in for about 20 years, now, and have written about numerous times on this blog (see the links at the bottom of this post to read some of them). The team I bird with is named the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, and we are the longest running youth bird-a-thon team I know of. I started as a youth member of the team, and have now been the team leader for the past few years. It is a great team of very talented and passionate young birders.

The usual plan for the Sanderlings is to gather very early one morning in late September or early October in Marin County, and spend the entire day darting all over the county to find as many species of bird as we possibly can. It is always exhausting and exciting and terrific!

However, as with some many other aspects of life, 2020 is different. Instead of meeting in-person Point Blue decided on a few different ways for people to participate in the event. The Sanderlings decided to each go out and bird, and then combine each of our individual totals. This is not at all comparable to past bird-a-thon years since each team member would be in a different area and have access to different habitats with different species. But it is still a great way to go birding and raise funds for a terrific organization!

For myself, I decided to set a challenge of birding within the city limits of my home town, West Sacramento, CA. Unfortunately, the wildfires that are burning across much of state made the air quality pretty bad, so I was not able to stay out and bird for the whole day.

But, my West Sac Big (half)Day was still a fun challenge! I ended up finding 82 species! Some of my highlights included a late Barn Swallow; a single Greater White-fronted Goose; a wonderful mixed flock of Savannah Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, and Say’s Phoebes; a really spectacular Yellow Warbler that let me get really close; a handful of Blue-winged Teal mixed in among hundreds of Cinnamon Teal; lots of Lincoln’s Sparrows throughout the day; a flock of Sandhill Cranes bugling as they flew overhead; and stumbling upon a small flock of Least Sandpipers. Some notable species that I missed included Osprey, Fox Sparrow, and many of waterfowl that I thought I would get such as Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Gadwall.

This event ended up being a lot of fun even though it was a half day because of smoke and I was alone because of COVID-19. I am definitely interested in trying the West Sac Big Day again. Maybe in a different season (I think winter would probably get me the highest species total), and definitely for a whole day.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

Here are some other posts on the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings:

https://abirdingnaturalist.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/the-2019-drakes-beach-sanderlings-bird-a-thon-report/

https://abirdingnaturalist.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/the-drakes-beach-sanderlings-rogue-year/

https://abirdingnaturalist.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/why-i-bird-a-thon/

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logoPoint Blue Conservation Science has a blog called Science for a Blue Planet that highlights the great work done by this organization. The blog post reporting on the 2019 Bird-a-thon features the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings!  It is really wonderful to get this kind of acknowledgement, and exciting that the Sanderlings might be the high species total winner this year!

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Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon 2019 logo

What a day! What a day! What a day! The Drakes’ Beach Sanderlings participated again in the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon on October 5th. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, which is Point Blue Conservation Science’s longest running youth bird-a-thon team, was a bird finding machine! Thanks to our amazing donors, our team raised over $2,500 this year! To each of our sponsors, thank you so much for your support!

IMG_20191005_122800

The 2019 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding on Drake’s Beach (from left to right: Susie, Max L., Oscar, Max B., Eddie, Connor, Lucas, and Aaron)

As usual, our day began very early. At 5:15am, and in the 39°F chill of the pre-dawn morning, we met at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The sky was spectacularly clear which made for beautiful star-gazing but did not bode well for finding migrants later in the day. As soon as we got out of our cars, we realized we were surrounded by Great Horned Owls, and after a bit of listening, we added Spotted Owl to our list for the day! A good start!

The team stopped by Olema Marsh which irrupted in a cacophony of Virginia Rails as soon as we clapped for them! We then sped off to Five Brooks Pond where we tried to find more owls while it was still dark. As dawn approached, we were treated to a terrific mixed flock of Bushtits, both species of Kinglet, and lots and lots of Townsends Warblers. We then drove past Bolinas Lagoon and birded Stinson Beach.

Leaving Stinson Beach we broke into the Oreos and headed for the Outer Point! It was still early, and a quick overview of the species list showed that we had already found over 100 species by the time we reached the Outer Point! This put us ahead of schedule on both time and species.

Confirming our concerns from the morning, the clear skies the night before resulted in there being no vagrant birds anywhere on the Outer Point, though there were tons of Red-breasted Nuthatches. It was somewhat frustrating to find no unusual birds at Chimney Rock or Drake’s Beach, but we did not get too attached to birding the area and left to head east. We did stop at an overlook near Chimney Rock to find Black Oystercatchers and got to watch a pod of Humpbacked Whales feeding off the coast.

IMG_20191005_115137.jpg

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings team members Max L., Oscar, Max B., and Connor searching for Black Oystercatchers near Chimney Rock.

The team then started zig-zagging across the east half of the county picking up more bird species all along the way. We certainly had some ups and downs. We made some targeted stops for particular species that mostly worked in our favor. The ponds at the Las Gallinas Water Treatment Plant were the emptiest I have ever seen them, but a quick change of course to the Hamilton Wetlands was gangbusters! As usual, we ended at our customary final stop at an east San Rafael marsh where the Ridgeway’s Rails were calling before we even got out of the car!

Over the course of the day, the team moved incredibly efficiently. When a site was not producing the species we were hoping for, we quickly made decisions to abandon those stops and to go look elsewhere. The knowledge of all the team members came together to produce a cornucopia of species even though we did not find a single species that would be considered noteworthy for Marin County. The list we ended up with included 162 species as a group, and 2 more that were only seen by a single team member and so don’t quite count! The full list is on the next page. We all had an amazing day. We enjoyed every bird, ate a lot of cookies, and shared a lot of stories and knowledge. All the things that make the Sanderlings great!

I want to thank all those who supported this team. The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings is a very special group that I am honored to lead, and passionate to see continue. With the support of our sponsors, we all help promote bird conservation and climate science, and also something more. We help to show the role that young people can play. Bringing in funding in an event like this reminds the world, and the birding community in particular, that dedicated young birders can and do make significant contributions to the cause of protecting our world. I hope that all our sponsors return next year to support us again, and all those who did not sponsor us this year will consider joining the cause next year. I can’t wait!

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Parasitic JaegerDear Friend,

The Bird-a-Thon: Rogue Year has happened! And what a terrific day it was. This year the team consisted of Jonah Benningfield, Max Benningfield, Oscar Moss, Eddie Monson, and Connor Cochrane with Catherine Berner, Ellen Blustein and Aaron Haiman as organizers.    The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first, and is the longest running youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the past 15+ years, this extraordinary team has helped to foster passion for wildlife and conservation in young people. These young people have then carried that passion and knowledge into the world with them as they have spread into a wide range of endeavors across the globe!

Starting at 5:30 am at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, we heard several owls including a Northern Saw-Whet Owl! From there we began our zigzagging across the county. We found a Swamp Sparrow and a Herring Gull along Bolinas Lagoon; Whimbrel, Parasitic Jaegers, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows at Stinson Beach; found a Blackpole Warbler, a Townsend’s Solitaire, and a Ferruginous Hawk at some of the ranches on the Outer Point, a Horned Grebe and a flock of Sanderlings on Drake’s Beach (yes the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings team watched Sanderlings on Drake’s Beach); a Wilson’s Snipe at Stafford Lake; and we ended with several very cooperative Ridgeway’s Rails calling as we got out of the car; and many, many more. All in all this year, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birded for over 14 hours and saw 139 species of bird!

Additional species that we saw included lots of mammals such as Mule Deer, Grey Fox, Coyote, Harbor Porpoise, and Northern Elephant Seal; and insects such as Black Saddlebags, Seven-spotted Skimmer, and lots and lots of Monarchs.

Since Point Blue Conservation Science was not able to organize the bird-a-thon this year, we went out on our own: The Rogue Year! Without support from Point Blue we have had no assistance getting the word out about our event, so we need all the help we can get. And you can still donate to the Sanderlings! By donating a fixed amount (such as $15.00) or an amount per species (such as $0.25/species), you encourage young people to go out and engage with birds, the natural world, and to work for a better future.

Donating is easy! Just mail a check, made out to Point Blue Conservation Science, to me at: 203 Touchstone Pl, West Sacramento, CA 95691 I will collect the donations and send them to Point Blue.

We very much appreciate your support for the Sanderlings Bird-a-thon: Rogue Year. If you have any questions about The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, or our any other aspect of this event please e-mail or call me at aaron.haiman@deltaconservancy.ca.gov or 510-289-7239.

Sincerely,

Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

Sanderlings Team 2017

The 2017 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings

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Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jeager. One of the early names that the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings tried out was The Jeagers.

Dear Friend,

For more than 15 years, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings have participated in the Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon. During that time, dozens of young birders have had the opportunity to learn about birds, bird conservation, and ecosystem stewardship.

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the years, this extraordinary team has helped to foster a deep seated passion for wildlife and conservation in young people. These young people have then carried that passion and knowledge into the world with them as they have spread into a wide range of endeavors.

Last year, in 2016, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birded for over 14 hours, covered over 100 miles zig-zagging across Marin County, saw a total of 131 species of bird, and raised over $3,000!

This year is going to be the same in some ways, and very different in others. Some of the similarities are that the Sanderlings are going out again, this year on the 23rd of September, to crisscross Marin County. We will be visiting all our favorite spots, and probably a few new ones, to find as many species of bird as we possibly can. One of the biggest differences is going to be that this is not an official Point Blue bird-a-thon! Due to staffing issues, among other things, Point Blue Conservation Science will not be able to support and run the Bird-a-thon. This is only a temporary situation, and Point Blue is fully planning on reinvigorating the bird-a-thon in 2018. However, it means that those of us who are still committed to the bird-a-thon cause are going rogue this year. It also means that we really need your help! With no support from Point Blue, we are on our own conducting outreach, and generating enthusiasm and dollars, for bird research and conservation!

Sanderlings Team 1

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding Drake’s Beach during the 2016 bird-a-thon.

With the help of sponsors like you, we have helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for environmental stewardship and conservation of the ecosystems on which we all depend. Your support of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings encourages young people to go out and engage with birds and the natural world, and work for a better future.

So join us and donate a fixed amount (like $15.00) or an amount per species (like $0.25/species). Your support provides opportunities for young and old to engage in environmental stewardship, experience the rewards of connecting with their environment, and make a real difference in their communities and the world.

And donating is easy! Just mail a check, made out to Point Blue Conservation Science, to me at: 203 Touchstone Pl, West Sacramento, CA 95691

We very much appreciate your support for the Sanderlings Bird-a-thon: The Rogue Year. If you have any questions about The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, or our any other aspect of this event please e-mail or call me at aaron.haiman@deltaconservancy.ca.gov or 510-289-7239.

Sincerely,

Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

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Information is important. With information each of us as individuals, and our society as a whole, can learn about the world. With information, we can all make decisions that make sense. With information, we can all discuss ideas.

Without information none of that is possible. Without information, we are, at best, at the mercy of our current, limited knowledge, and our base instincts. Without information we are, at worst, at the mercy of the limited knowledge and instincts of someone else.

This is why the gag order, and insistence that all reports and data be pre-screened before release to the public, issued by the President to the EPA are so concerning to me, and I think should be so concerning everyone else. This is exactly the kind of action that limits access to, and spread of, information. It will only hamper all of our abilities to operate as rational, critically thinking individuals. It is the kind of action that is put in place to control what we, as citizens, know and when we know it. This is censorship and it has no place in science or a free society.

#thisisnotnormal

pansy-white-blue

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Dear Friends,

MASCOT-2016-Wrentit

Wrentit (2015 PBCS Bird-a-thon mascot)

Over fifteen years ago, I was one of the founding youth members of a youth bird-a-thon team. The team was organized and lead by birding greats Rich Stallcup and Ellen Blustein as the first youth team for what was then, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and what is now Point Blue Conservation Science (PBCS). It was an amazing experience, and has turned into a recurring amazing experience every year since. We are now preparing for the youth bird-a-thon, again, and this year is looking like another spectacular one.

Over the past 15+ years, this team has taken to the field alongside so many amazing birds as they get restless and begin to move on their fall migration. For the birds, fall migration has been happening almost exactly the same way for millions of years, and it is still a feat that boggles the human imagination. For our bird-a-thon team, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, fall migration has come to include this exhilarating day to witnesses the birds as they move through central California.

Each year many bird-a-thon teams ready themselves for the fall. These teams pick a day in mid-fall and go in search of the avian wanderers as they pass by; keeping tallies of who stops to visit. On September 24th 2016, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings will be doing just that, and we are lining up another great group of youths (in age and spirit) to find all those birds!

As in past years, this is not only an opportunity to see beautiful birds, learn as much about migration patterns and identification as possible, and spend time in great company. It is also a time to give. The PBCS is a recognized leader in conservation of avian biodiversity, the ecosystems that they, and we, depend upon, and climate change science. To continue to be such an influential leader requires money. It takes money to keep the banding stations running as they monitor avian population trends. It takes money to assess the loss of habitat that urban development causes. It takes money to set aside critical habitat and so insure that future fall migrations will continue this millions-of-years tradition. Funding is often hard to come by, and so we ask you, birders, environmentalists, friends, to become sponsors of our team and PBCS. Now, don’t think we won’t work for those donations. You can pledge a fixed sum, or you can tell us that you will give a small amount for every species we see. That way we will have a large incentive indeed to try our hardest to find every last species we can. In the past we have seen around 150 species, so a pledge of $0.20 per species will mean a total donation of around $30. Any amount that you can give will be valuable and tremendously appreciated, and donating is easy. Just go to: http://birdathon.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1164352&lis=0&kntae1164352=3E274B2B05C54EDE984F8053552EF68D&team=6822398

and click on the ‘Donate Now’ button on the right side of the page. In this time of epic drought in California, the conservation of habitat and bird populations is all the more challenging and critical. Your donation will aid the cause of bird conservation throughout the western hemisphere, and you will join a long tradition of helping to inspire the birding leaders of tomorrow!

Thank you for your support,

The members of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings

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MASCOT-2016-Wrentit

Wrentit (the 2015 Bird-a-thon mascot)

Dear Friends,

For over 15 years, The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings have participated in the Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, and in so doing provided dozens of young birders the opportunity learn about birds, bird conservation, and ecosystem stewardship.

Planning for the 2016 Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon is underway now and your help is needed for this event’s continued success! Sponsor support has provided thousands of dollars towards environmental stewardship and conservation of the ecosystems on which we all depend. Further, your support of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings encourages young people to go out and engage with birds, the birding community, and the natural world as a whole.

We can meet the challenges that the future is presenting, but it will only be possible with the generous contributions of our sponsors.

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings take pride in their tradition of providing education and stewardship for young and old. Participants learn how to protect the environment and the avian creatures we love so much. We also visit a wide range of locations and habitats and so gain a better understanding of the range of biodiversity that exists in Marin County.

PBCS logoThe Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the years, the extraordinary efforts conducted by members of this team have helped to foster a deep seated passion for wildlife and conservation in young people. These young people have then carried that passion and knowledge into the world with them as they have expanded and spread to a wide range of endeavors.

I am excited to report that in the 2015 Bird-a-thon, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings:

  • Birded for over 14 hours, beginning at 5:30am.
  • Covered over 100 miles, zig-zagging across Marin County.
  • Saw a total of 142 species of bird.

As we prepare for the 2016 Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Bird-a-thon, we know the time and support of our team members is priceless, but the financial support from you and others like you is what makes it possible for the bird-a-thon and Point Blue to grow and improve year after year.

So stand out as a leader! Donate $15.00 or whatever you can as a sponsor of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings. Your support provides opportunities for young and old to demonstrate environmental stewardship, experience the rewards of connecting with their environment, and make a real difference in their communities and the world. And donating is easy! Just go to our team website: http://birdathon.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1164352&lis=0&kntae1164352=3E274B2B05C54EDE984F8053552EF68D&team=6822398 and click on the “Donate” button.

We very much appreciate your support. If you have any questions about The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, or our any other aspect of this event please e-mail or call me at aaron.haiman@deltaconservancy.ca.gov or 510-289-7239.

Sincerely,

Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

 

 

 

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Dear Friend,

Fifteen years ago, I was one of the founding youth members of a youth bird-a-thon team. The team was organized and lead by birding greats Rich Stallcup and Ellen Blustein as the first youth team for what was then, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and what is now Point Blue Conservation Science (PBCS). It was an amazing experience, and has turned into a recurring amazing experience every year since. We are now preparing for the youth bird-a-thon, again, and since this year is our 15th, it makes it a particularly special one, or at least note-worthy.

Over the past 15 years, this team has taken to the field alongside so many amazing birds as they get restless and begin to move on their fall migration. For the birds, fall migration has been happening almost exactly the same way for millions of years, and it is still a feat that boggles the human imagination. For our bird-a-thon team, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, fall migration has come to include this exhilarating day to witnesses the birds as they move through central California.

Each year many bird-a-thon teams ready themselves for the fall. These teams pick a day and go out in search of the avian wanderers as they pass by; keeping tallies of who stops to visit. On September 26th 2015, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings will be doing just that, and we are lining up another great group of youths (in age and spirit)!

As in past years, this is not only an opportunity to see beautiful birds, learn as much about migration patterns and identification as possible, and spend time in great company. It is also a time to give. The PBCS is a recognized leader in conservation of avian biodiversity and the ecosystems that they, and we, depend upon. To do this requires money. It takes money to keep the banding stations running as they monitor population trends. It takes money to assess the loss of habitat that urban development causes. It takes money to set aside critical habitat and so insure that future fall migrations will continue this millions-of-years tradition. Funding is often hard to come by, and so we ask you, birders, environmentalists, friends, to become sponsors of our team and PBCS. Now, don’t think we won’t work for those donations. You can pledge a fixed sum, or you can tell us that you will give a small amount for every species we see. That way we will have a large incentive indeed to try our hardest to find every last species we can. In the past we have seen around 150 species, so a pledge of $0.20 per species will mean a total donation of around $30. Any amount that you can give will be valuable and tremendously appreciated, and donating is easy. Just go to: https://www.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1144989&lis=1&kntae1144989=C5D14E3E269D41A49AD34C0C31A09C59&supId=425784227&team=6495414

and click on the ‘Donate Now’ button on the right side of the page. In this time of drought, the conservation of habitat and bird populations is all the more challenging and critical. Your donation will aid the cause of bird conservation throughout the western hemisphere, and you will join a fifteen year long tradition of helping to inspire the birding leaders of tomorrow!

Thank you for your support,

The members of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings

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HMANA Press release – October 14, 2014

Over One Million Migrating Hawks Counted during International Hawk Migration Week

Hancock, NH – The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) celebrated its first annual International Hawk Migration Week (IHMW) September 20-28, 2014 by tallying over 1.2 million migrating hawks, eagles and vultures at 100 sites throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Each year hundreds of thousands of hawks, eagles and vultures make their journey from Canada and the United States through Mexico to wintering areas as far as South America. Dedicated counters at hawk watch sites document this movement starting as early as 1 August and continuing daily into December. Their daily numbers are reported to HMANA’s online database, HawkCount.org. This particular week in late September was chosen due to the sheer number of hawks that are counted across North America.

One hundred watch sites from 33 states and provinces across the continent counted an astounding 1,203,067 raptors during September 20-28. Twenty-nine species were tallied, the vast majority being broad-winged hawks (1,125,597) – since IHMW took place during their peak migration. Other high counts included 24,899 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 8,909 Mississippi Kites, 8,724 Turkey Vultures and 7,192 American Kestrels.

Raptors tend to follow topographic features during fall migration such as north to south running ridgelines, coastlines, and river valleys. As they move further south, there’s a funneling effect as they approach the southern US. The majority of hawks choose to avoid long water crossings so are then squeezed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and on through Mexico. This is why the Veracruz, Mexico watch sites counted more than any other at 812,949 during IHMW. Corpus Christi, Texas located on the US Gulf coast tallied 226,224 raptors. Other counts across the continent included 15,862 at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, MN; 4,151 Holiday Beach Conservation Area, ON; 4,811 at the Goshute Mountains, NM and 2,777 at the Florida Keys Hawk Watch, FL.

In addition to submitting their daily migration counts to HMANA’s HawkCount.org database, sites celebrated across the map with hawk watching festivals, identification workshops and live bird of prey events. Dr. Laurie Goodrich of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, PA (the oldest hawk watch site in the western hemisphere) said: “IHMW is a fantastic demonstration of the popularity of hawk watching and the value of raptors in the environment.”

About HMANA

HMANA (www.hmana.org) is a non-profit organization with a mission to advance scientific knowledge and promote conservation of raptor populations through the study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration. It oversees the online database, Hawkcount.org, an archive of count data with a wealth of information for birdwatchers and general public alike, including maps and directions to sites, average counts, population status and migration timing by species.
HMANA partners with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary PA (www.hawkmountain.org), Hawk Watch International (based in Utah: http://www.hawkwatch.org), and Bird Studies Canada (in Ontario: http://www.bsc-eoc.org) in the Raptor Population Index program, which aims to track changes in hawk populations for conservation purposes.
For directions and contact information for hawk watch sites near you, visit http://www.hawkcount.org.

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