A Chickadee In The Woods

A beautiful sunrise can offer inspiration as well as motivation to get outside and see what’s going on. This is especially true when it may mean rain later in the day.

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Sunrise from our front window.

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So after a quick breakfast, off we went. By way of explanation for the following few shots let me first say that we love Chickadees, whether they’re at our feeder or in the woods they never fail to put a smile on our face. Encountering one after several miles of hiking is extra special if for no other reason than that you’ve worked hard to get to the meeting place. “Free-range” Chickadees just can’t be beat. A further preface to the pics is that they were taken with a very pocketable Panasonic ZS50 a camera purchased with a hike of the Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula in mind. While no replacement for the capability of a DSLR when it comes to creative effects, low light capability, and fast and precise focus, I’ll let you be the judge is to just how well it does. Clicking on the image will give a slightly better idea of the resolution. All images are significant crops and were taken at 30x zoom.

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Chickadee, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Trying to hide.

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Going about it’s business.

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The ZS50 was also pointed at a much more sedentary Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker in the neighborhood.

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Whatever it was on the menu it was apparently to it’s liking.

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Finally, it’s capabilities were directed towards gulls far out on the reservoir.

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Gulls on ice, Griggs Reservoir.

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A day later at the same location but now with the “bird camera” I was hoping to document interesting waterfowl and perhaps see the Mute or Trumpeter Swans that were observed flying over head the day before.

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On this particular day the landscape did not cry out to be photographed, Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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While the day was rather drab the waterfowl were cooperative even if it was at a distance.

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Hooded Merganser, (F)

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Despite using trees for cover and moving very slowly, I’m spotted, and the Goldeneyes take flight.

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The Red-necked Ducks aren’t quite as cautious.

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On the other side of the river a male Kingfisher poses.

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A lone Greater Scaup is also seen.

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No stranger to these parts, a Great Blue Heron waits for the river’s flow to deliver lunch.

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All in all, the last two days were good. The Panasonic ZS50 appears quite capable of doing what’s needed in Ireland and having the “bird camera” out again reminded me why it is also in the stable. Thanks for stopping by.

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Blue sky, morning sun, and a Cardinal.

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XXX

An Early Spring Plant With Attitude

We’ve been working our way around the Scioto River Watershed in Columbus looking for migrating waterfowl and signs of spring. The spring part has been tough as snow continues to cover most of the ground. But today we discovered the first unambiguous sign that spring can’t be far away.

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On the road to discovery we noticed some things that weren’t that encouraging.

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Hayden Run Falls along Griggs Reservoir

 

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With winter dragging on, the birds seemed confused, some were swimming north others south, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Still, while looking for birds we took an opportunity to direct our gaze towards the ground hoping to see Skunk Cabbage a plant that generates it’s own internal heat to get the jump on lesser plants.

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Skunk Cabbage, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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A closer look, (Donna)

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After seeing the Skunk Cabbage it was hard not to notice and imagine the birds in the area celebrating our discovery.

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A Nuthatch with what appears to be the remains of an insect, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

 

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We never get tired of Cardinals, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Thank’s for looking in.

 

Watching all the Ducks Float By

One of our favorite places to look for waterfowl this time of the year is along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam. It’s an area that’s accessible only on foot so using a car as a blind to get closer to the birds is not an option. When one ties to sneak up on waterfowl for a decent photo one quickly realizing why duck hunters use blinds. Truth is, after years of being shot at, the only the wary birds a left. The dumb ones have been selected out.

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So recently I tired a new technique. Rather than stalking the birds, moving quietly from cover to cover. I decided to find a good spot and quietly lean against a tree and wait for the birds to float by. It was a sunny 20 degrees with no wind which made the process not uncomfortable. In the past the other technique I’ve used is to walk down river and then slowly work my way back upstream. It turns out that the birds are less interested in swimming upstream to get away from a low level treat. However, when the treat is sufficient they will fly.

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So below are some of the results using the above techniques:

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Common Mergansers and a Ring-necked Duck, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Common Goldeneye, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Goldeneyes, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A haven for waterfowl, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Hooded Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Red Breasted Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Herring (not Western X Glaucous-winged hybrid) Gull , Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Male Canvasback, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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Two Canvasbacks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Redhead, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Greater (not Lesser) Scaups, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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Ring-necked Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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There were also a few other birds that made me smile:

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Cardinal against a blue sky.

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Front yard Chickadee

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Song Sparrow, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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It’s hard not to notice other forms of beauty when out looking for birds:

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Ice, Big Darby Creek

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Patterns, Big Darby Creek.

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A late winter scene along Big Darby Creek

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Thanks for looking in.

Photography, a Celebration of Place

Yesterday it was a brisk 15 F but we decided to ignore the cold and do our six mile urban hike down to Griggs Reservoir. The goal was to see if any new birds had taken up residence. It had recently snowed so even if no birds were sighted we hoped to get a few nice landscape shots.

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I have observed that the greater my affection for a place the better any photographs taken are likely to be. A beautiful photo just for the sake of a beautiful photo doesn’t excite me nearly as much as trying to express love for a place that I have come to know intimately. So we are lucky, as I suspect many of you are, that we have such places nearby, some within walking distance, that we return to many times throughout the year, looking for any birds, wildlife, fungi, lichen, and wildflowers that may be present. The resultant pictures hopefully become a way to celebrate a place, the adventure, and what we see.

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Getting back to our walk. When we arrived at the park, we noticed a grouping of waterfowl out in the middle of the reservoir. They turned out to be Greater Scaup which are not as common as Lesser Scaup in central Ohio and the first we’ve seen this winter.

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Greater Scaups, Griggs Reservoir. Fortunately the bird on the far left looked up providing a positive ID.

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It was very cold so unless a bird looked as though it was going to be an easy shot we found ourselves concentrating on landscapes made possible by the fresh snow.

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Snow covered boats waiting for a warmer day, Griggs Reservoir

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High water along the Scioto River

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Shadows and light.

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Creek along the Scioto River.

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Exploring

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

 

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I couldn’t resist including the following picture which shows the position I assumed after we returned from our walk.

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On a cold winter day life is good when you have a cat on your lap and you’re watching a program about old British sports cars.

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Thanks for looking in and we hope you have an opportunity to celebrate nature in your neighborhood this week.

Looking for Birds But Not Warblers

It’s late March in central Ohio and the last few days we’ve occupied ourselves looking for whatever birds we could find. Rather than travelling far afield, we’ve enjoyed staying close to home and discovering all that we can along the Scioto River and Griggs and O’Shaughnessy Reservoirs. The early spring warblers haven’t yet started moving through in any appreciable numbers so what are we seeing?

A few days ago while patrolling the Griggs Park for Loons we came across a immature Bald Eagle being harassed by crows. Unfortunately, by the time the camera was ready for action, the eagle decided it had had enough of the crows and was flying off.

click on images for a better view

 

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Immature Bald Eagle, Griggs Park

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Immature Bald Eagle saying goodbye to the crows, Griggs Park

 

Not long after that we saw our first Great Egret of the year.

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Great Egret, Griggs Reservoir

Double-crested Cormorants have also just arrived.

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Double-crested Cormorants conversing, Griggs Reservoir

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A short conversation, Double-crested Cormorants, Griggs Reservoir

While I was busy taking pictures of birds that were either too far away or moving too fast for a really great picture, my wife got lovely pictures of a Downey Woodpecker and a Great Blue Heron.

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Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park (Donna)

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Great Blue Heron, Griggs Park, (Donna)

 

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Gulls enjoying the warm sun on a cool spring day, Griggs Reservoir

Today, driving north along O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, we were fortunate to see Canvasbacks and there were even some other “bonus ducks” in the mix. However, the birds being pretty far from shore resulted in images that are not of the highest quality.

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Hooded Mergansers making a getaway, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Hooded Mergansers take flight, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Ring-necked Ducks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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American Coots, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Greater Scaups, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

Finally, the latest addition to my birding equipment is the “Bird Bike”. It allows more ground to be covered but when something of interest is spotted it’s easy to stop and hop off.

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Bird Bike

A Red-necked Grebe Crashes a Goldeneye Mating Dance

Yesterday we decided to try something different; just sit quietly at rivers edge just below Griggs Dam and wait for the birds to come to us. We usually photograph birds as we walk and what ever we happen to see is what we try to capture. Because we’re walking, sometimes relatively long distances, carrying a lot of equipment is usually not part of the plan. Most shots are hand held with maybe a convenient tree used as a brace

So there we sat on three legged collapsible stools and waited. We both had our cameras braced on lightweight tripods fitted with ball heads which allowed them to swivel easily to capture the action. The tripods weren’t heavy enough to fully support our DSLR’s with long telephotos but were light and portable and should provide additional support.

We hoped to accomplish two things; see if waiting quietly in one spot improved our ability to get more candid shots of waterfowl behavior, and secondly see if additional support (even if just a lightweight tripod) improved image sharpness and quality.

The first test shots were taken of a grebe on the other side of the river as, at that point, there was nothing else around. To be honest, since they were just “test shots”, I didn’t take a good look at the bird until writing this blog entry which was after reading Seasons Flow’s latest post. Thanks to this follow Columbus blogger we were able to correctly ID the bird as a Red-necked Grebe, rare for Ohio, and the first my wife and I had ever seen.

Click on the images for a better view.

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Red-necked Grebe, Scioto River just below Griggs Dam

It wasn’t long after we tired of photographing the grebe that a number of Goldeneyes flew in and landed right in front of us but on the other side of the river. What happened next was truly amazing. It was a mating dance of Goldeneyes with lots of movement among the birds. The following stills obviously don’t show the movement so just image a lot of movement between each pic and you’ll kind of get the idea.

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Things started out quietly enough

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But then . . .

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Maybe things are back to normal.

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Maybe not!

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Let’s try something different!

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Then again, I think she noticed me!

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Now what?

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Here we go again!

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Wow that was a lot of work but I think she likes me!

The results of our experiment seem to show that, under the right circumstances, there is an advantage to waiting for the birds to come to you. Secondly there appears to be a definite advantage to using a lightweight tripod as a brace when shooting with a long telephoto lens.

Some other shots taken that day. All at relatively long distances and cropped.

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Male Mallard

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Ring-necked Duck

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Greater Scaup

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Buffleheads

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Thanks for stopping by.

Along the Scioto, a Late Winter Celebration of Birds

With Griggs Reservoir frozen over we’ve continued our efforts to identify waterfowl in the open river just below the dam. As mentioned in previous posts the frozen reservoir tends to concentrate the birds in this area. We continued to see Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, as well as Bald Eagles and hawks in this area. My wife even noticed a White-winged Scoter in one of her pics but didn’t feel it was good enough to post

On the day we took most of the below pictures the birds were showing a real inclination to take flight whenever we got close. We haven’t paid much attention to the color of our clothing so we switched to drabber colors hoping to improve our success with the ducks. It didn’t seem to make much difference. We’re now thinking that they notice our movement even if it’s very slow.

Click on images for a better view.

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Goldeneyes

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The Goldeneyes scatter.

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Hey, wait for me!  (Donna)

The Common Mergansers were also flying:

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Male Common Merganser

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Taking off!  (Donna)

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Up to speed in just a few feet.

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A very fast getaway!

Some ducks seemed content not to fly.

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Ring-necked Duck

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Greater Scaup

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Bufflehead, (Donna)

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Bufflehead, study 2

In recent days we’ve noticed that a Red-tailed Hawk has initiated nesting activities high in a Sycamore along the west bank of the river.

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Red-tailed Hawk on nest, west side of the Scioto River just below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

The highlight of the day was sighting this mature Bald Eagle:

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Bald Eagle along the Scioto River just below Griggs Dam

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Taking flight!

Perhaps one of it’s offspring, cruising above the trees not far away.

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Immature Bald Eagle over the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

We’ve had fun trying to identify this immature hawk spotted in the parking lot of Hoover Park’s Frisbee Golf Course:

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Immature Red-shouldered Hawk?

My wife got a beautiful picture of a White-throated Sparrow and we obtained pics of other birds that seemed to be sitting on the side line as the eagles and ducks entertained us.

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White-throated Sparrow, (Donna)

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Male Hairy Woodpecker

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Male Cardinal, Donna

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Thanks for stopping by.

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