Breaking News. Of the Good Kind.

But hold on for a minute. The breaking news will follow in the next segment – after our reporter, embedded at the salt marsh, gives you the back story. No commercial breaks or partisan views. Promise.

I was exhausted when I returned from my ‘fully loaded’ work trip to the big city up north. I carried one of my cameras all the time, but couldn’t get a breather to focus my mind on anything but work. Zero pictures. So right after returning home, I took a walk at the salt marsh. I realized how lucky I am having this small enclave of nature one block away from home.

salt-marsh-morning-ud107Arriving there, I saw things were lively at the Osprey family home. Papa Stanley brought a fish to Sandy, who had been busy decorating the nursery in the middle of the nest.

papa-osprey-brings-fish-ud107She took the fish, and I thought she would fly away to enjoy it. Like she had when I last saw her before my trip.

mama-osprey-takes-the-fish-ud107But this time she stayed at the nest. Just flew up onto the perch to eat her lunch. When you are close to the time, you better not go too far from home. She new that.

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mama-osprey-eats-the-fish-ud107I left Sandy to enjoy her fish and walked around the marsh to check on the other residents. The Mayor, the older Great Blue Heron, was standing guard right below the osprey nest. It seems to be his new favorite spot.

great-blue-heron-ud107And the Reddish Egret was hunting nearby, his long red hair flowing with his movements.

reddish-egret-ud107I noticed the Mourning Doves had returned. Several of them were foraging in the grass and flying around in the trees.

mourning-dove-ud107And the ducks were back too. A family of three Mottled Ducks was enjoying a pool of water next to the rest area in the park. They usually nest at the salt marsh and I was delighted to see them.

two-males-and-one-female-mottled-duck-ud107I am hoping to spot new little ducklings in June, like I did last year.

mottled duck mom with 7 ducklings ud65I continued my walk and saw another permanent resident, the Little Blue Heron. He was looking for something to eat in the grass, and was not shy when I approached. We have no trust issues. As far as he’s concerned, media is all good.

little-blue-heron-ud107Another old friend was present too. The Tri-colored Heron was busy doing bird yoga. And showing off her beautiful colors. I took that as a hint. It’s high time for me to start improving my flexibility 🙂

bird-yoga-by-tricolored-heron-ud107Walking back towards the osprey nest, I spotted Sandy returning from her perch – via a short exercise round. She had finished eating and probably knew that opportunities for after-lunch exercise would be limited in the weeks and months to come.

mama-osprey-returns-to-the-nest-ud107When I arrived back to the nest, Stanley was working on rearranging the soft materials around the nest cup. Papa putting the last touches on the nursery. Something was definitely in the making.

papa-osprey-builds-the-nest-ud107When I left them, the parents-to-be were perching side by side in the nest. A handsome couple, I thought.

mama-and-papa-osprey-in-the-nest-2-ud107I walked home on the bay side and spotted this Anhinga drying her feathers in the sun.

anhinga-ud105Then, looking out towards the nest from our terrace this morning, I saw something was different. Eggs had been laid last night. Sandy was incubating. Hatchlings expected in 35 to 40 days. Yay!

sitting-on-the-eggs-mama-and-papa-osprey-ud107You can see the design of the nest is centered on the nursery in the middle of the open floor plan. I hope you’ll also notice the soothing, earth-toned color scheme and the subtle decorations. All natural materials apart from the small piece of blue nylon rope, hardly visible next to the edge. It has followed the family from their old home into the new. Sandy’s favorite color.

mama-osprey-sitting-on-the-eggs-feb18-ud107In the next few months, you will see more of these ‘soft’ pictures, when I’ll zoom into the nest from a block away. It is the only way we can follow what’s happening in the nursery.

Thanks for visiting the Osprey family and our other friends at the marsh. I hope you enjoyed the breaking news. We all wish you a peaceful weekend and a good week ahead.

Be Calm. And Enjoy Life as It Unfolds.

More than anything, I’m saying this to myself as I am facing a work trip packed with back-to-back meetings. I’m not used to such speed anymore. I’m more like the turtles I spotted at McCough Nature Park on Saturday. They just enjoy life in the present moment, lapping the sunshine. They have no hurry to do anything in particular. They accept what is and go with the flow. Or don’t go anywhere at all. A few lessons for me right there.

turtles-ud108While at this beautiful park, I also said hi to Sarge, the Bald Eagle. She has a rare feather disorder and is not able to fly. She now lives in the small Raptor Sanctuary in the park. She was undergoing tests to determine why her feathers are brittle and grow curly instead of straight. The cause could be environmental or genetic. And if it is environmental, it is important for the whole Bald Eagle population to pinpoint the exact substance that may have caused this disorder.

sarge-the-bald-eagle-ud108Sarge’s home is adjacent to a few other raptors, owls and hawks. One of the Great-horned Owls was about and about with his handler.

greathorned-owl-ud108After I had greeted all the raptors and chatted with staff, my journey continued to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived there exactly at the same time as Sheila’s handler. Sheila is the old Red-shouldered Hawk, whom I have met a few times in the last two years.

Sheila was happy to get out for a walk with her handler in the gorgeous winter weather. She flexed her wings vigorously before she settled down to enjoy the sunshine. She is almost blind, with very weak sight in one eye.

sheila-red-shouldered-hawk-with-her-handler-ud108When I talked to her she turned her head and looked towards me. I always enjoy her company. Walking back from the beach side where Sheila was perching, I spotted a Brown Pelican. She was doing bird yoga in the pool.

pelican-yoga-ud108This particular pose lasted for a while, and right afterwards she took a vigorous bath.

brown-pelican-bathing-ud108I walked to greet an old friend, an American Oyster Cather, who has a serious wing injury. It was great to see that she seemed to have more energy now than a few months ago when I first saw her.

american-oyster-catcher-ud-108As always, many completely healthy birds were drawn to the peace – and food – at the sanctuary. There were several American Black Vultures hanging around the hospital building. Maybe visiting their two relatives, who live here permanently.

american-black-vulture-ud108A few Black-crowned Night Herons were around too. One was busy drinking from the water fountain next to the raptor homes.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud1-8And many Brown Pelicans had made their nests in the high trees around the sanctuary. I counted 11 (!) pelican nests. The mothers-to-be were already sitting on the eggs and the males were bringing in complementary nesting materials. Or just hanging around.

papa-pelican-brings-nest-materials-ud108

male-pelican-at-the-nest-ud108Before I leave the sanctuary, I always greet the Great-horned Owl, one of the permanent residents here. He is very curious about me and the camera, and always poses nicely for a picture in his neat and clean little home. He has accepted what happened to him, a serious wing injury, and seems to enjoy every day given to him.

great-horned-owl-scbs-feb-11-ud108I was delighted to see how well the birds and their environment in this sanctuary are taken care of by the new management, all the volunteers and the medical staff who work in the hospital. They had just released several birds into the wild last week, and those who cannot manage on their own have pleasant and clean forever homes here.

On this happy note, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Solitude. A Photographic Journey.

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, and it is commonly more that that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. – Henry Thoreau.

winter-forest-in-finland-ud106Solitude is not the absence of Love, but its complement. Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us and help us decide what to do with our life. – Paulo Coelho

first-light-ud106Solitude is aloneness you choose and embrace. I think great things can come out of solitude, out of going to a place where all is quiet except the beating of your heart. -Jeanne Marie Laskas

finland-land-of-the-lakes-ud106Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir

lake sulunjarvi  16x9 ud106.jpgSolitude in the summer forest, full of leafy trees, urges us to breathe.  To enjoy beingness, just like them. – Tiny K.

Finnish forest UD106.jpgIt is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit among the flux of happenings. – Mary Oliver

sunset-on-the-lake-finland-2-aug-2016-ud106Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness. – Desmond Tutu

fall-sun-finland-ud106Solitude feels like a refreshing shower of light snow. It’s brightening my soul. – Tiny K.

snow-mountains-and-lake-ud106Solitude is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. -Deepak Chopra

moon-light-on-the-lake-finland-2-aug16-2-ud106

Flying Again. And True News from the Salt Marsh.

I haven’t been here, or at your place, much since my unlawful adventure on the bay side with Dylan. I’m totally guilty, but I will not keep you in suspense. We were not caught.

Sometimes life gives you ‘stuff’ you can’t ignore, like leaking pipes in the attic, family health issues happening far away and new work projects popping up out of nowhere. So that’s where I’ve been. In the ‘when-it-rains-it-pours-land’, just keeping my feet above the water. I’m sure you’ve been there at some point too. Thanks to friends who have been thinking of me and worrying. What wonderful friends you are!

brown-pelican-taking-flight-ud105But now I’m flying a bit higher and the ‘weather’ is much calmer, both literally and figuratively. I’ve even had an opportunity to visit my friends at the salt marsh yesterday. Since I’ve been away from them too, I wanted to check everything out and make a comprehensive round from the bay side to the salt marsh and back home through the beach.

This Brown Pelican was entertaining me on the bay. Sometimes resting on the calm waters and other times disappearing with a big splash.

brown-pelican-ud105

pelican-diving-ud105And I spotted an Oyster Catcher, the first in several months. He was busy feeding in the low tide and paying no attention to the stunts by the pelican close by.

oyester-catcher-ud105And the same applied to a Snowy Egret, whom I discovered only when hanging out from the very edge of the seawall.

snowy-egret-ud105I had to smile at the three White Ibis standing in formation next to the sailing center boat launch. All of them had received the memo, but apparently it didn’t specify which leg to stand on.

three-white-ibis-ud105Approaching the salt marsh, I could see that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were in the nest. This is not a sharp picture, but since it’s been taken from a great distance you can see that the nest remodeling has been completed. Their new home is brimming with furniture.

mama-and-papa-osprey-at-their-nest-ud105I was particularly happy to note that Stanley was at home. You see, a couple of days earlier when walking with Dylan, I saw a huge Bald Eagle fly towards the salt marsh. Suddenly two ospreys started chasing it back to where it belongs, on the other side of the bay. One was Stanley and I believe the other was his fishing buddy, Steve, who lives only eight blocks south of the marsh on the roof pillar of a high-rise building. I lost sight of them and was worried that something might have happened. Now I’ve seen both Steve and his wife Sheena (earlier pictures) fly above their top-of-the-line home. So everyone is okay.

When I arrived at the nest, Stanley had disappeared and Sandy was busy working. She was refitting some pillows in the nest. As in preparing the soft ‘nest cup’ for the eggs.

mama-osprey-works-on-the-nest-ud105Just below the nest I spotted the Mayor, the older Great Blue Heron. He was sitting there deep in his thoughts when a Black Crowned Night Heron zoomed in and startled him. But there was no reason for alarm, and the new-comer settled right below the Mayor’s retreat.

great-blue-heron-and-black-crowned-night-heron-ud105

blackcrowned-night-heron-ud105I walked around the marsh and spotted two couples of Yellow-crowned Night Herons, all in the vicinity of the deep waters close to the osprey nest.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud105I’m hoping they’ll nest at the marsh so we can see some Night Heron kids this spring. They look too funny with their baby hair standing straight up.

Further out I spotted a Little Blue Heron and a beautiful Great Egret. The former was busy selecting suitable food items, while the latter showcased her beautiful breeding plumage.

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great-egret-ud105Suddenly I saw a strange shadow and looked up to the sky. Starlings by the hundreds! The tail end of this party decided to occupy a few palm trees at the marsh.

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murmurating-starlings-ud105They sat on every branch, and while some of them seemed to be quiet for the photo shoot, the discussion flowed non-stop between the birds in different trees. Until, like on a secret command, they all flew away again.

By that time I was at the beach end of the marsh and saw that Stanley had sneaked back into the nest. He had brought a fish for his pregnant wife. How thoughtful of him.

mama-and-papa-osprey-2-ud105

mama-osprey-eats-fish-ud105Just before I left to walk home through the beach, I spotted Mr. Moorhen, whom I haven’t seen for several weeks. I think he was scouting for suitable nesting sites.

moorhen-ud105The beach was lively too. Hundreds of birds resting in several colonies. A large group of tiny Sanderlings, several groups of Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls and a few Willets and Ringbilled Gulls. And Brown Pelicans, of course. Here just a few pictures of shore birds I encountered on my way home.

sanderlings-ud105

royal-terns-ud105

ringbilled-gull-ud105

a-brown-pelican-and-a-gull-ud105I thought that was it for the birds. But when I walked into our garden, I heard a familiar sound. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was working hard in a palm tree next to our garage entrance. His tempo was almost too fast to get a clear picture of his head.

mr-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud105-2I wish you all a wonderful weekend and will do my best to visit all my friends in the next few days. We all wish you peace.

Breaking the Law. But It’s Complicated.

Friends, I have a confession to make. I’ve been breaking the law at least on one occasion this past weekend. But before you judge, I need to tell you it’s not that straight forward. It’s complicated. I’m guilty, but not guilty. You see, last week mom was very busy with work. That means she didn’t have the time to go on what she calls ‘photo walks’. In plain English, walks without me to wherever she pleases.

So on Saturday, she said it was a good day for a walk. Everyone walked on this Saturday, she said. And in solidarity, we should walk as well. Even if it meant a walk to the doggy park at the salt marsh. Although it was windy, I was all for it.

dylan-in-dog-park-ud104The doggy park was quiet. Only two other dogs. On the ‘large dog’ side of the park. A Pit Bull and a Golden Retriever. I sniffed at both through the separating fence. But otherwise I was running solo, and that was fine. Lots of news to ‘read’ in the grass.

dylan-2-at-dog-park-ud104On our way back home through the salt marsh, mom was walking very slowly. I had to sit all the time. She was spotting one ‘friend’ after another, and photographing them. Oh, there’s the Reddish Egret, she would say. Sit.

reddish-egret-2-ud104And there’s the Tri-colored Heron! Sit. I did. Although I could’ve made a run for this bird. She was so close to the shore. But I’ve learned mom doesn’t want that. Happy mom, happy dog. And bird.

tri-colored-heron-ud104We walked around the marsh. And there she was, a Little Blue Heron who was curious about something. Her neck all stretched out.

littel-blue-heron-1-ud104Of course mom would need to investigate. And she found it! A bird hiding in a tree. That’s a Green Heron, rarely seen at the salt marsh, she said. I had to respect that. So I sat before mom even asked me to.

green-heron-ud104And that’s when we arrived at the Nest. I sat. And tried not to breathe too hard. You see, when I pant mom says her hand holding my leash is shaking. That means no good photos. Unhappy mom. So I sat still for one whole minute.

papa-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-ud104Mom’s always talking to the birds up there. That’s silly because they never respond. They just look at her.

mama-osprey-ud104And she’s all happy for the acknowledgement. So be it. I get to run at the doggy park and she gets her photos.

But yesterday it got worse. Let me explain. You see, on Saturday mom had discovered that some people were kiteboarding on the bay. I assisted her in taking some shots from our terrace.

three-windsurfers-portrait-ud104And yesterday she discovered they were back. The weather was really stormy. No weather for a walk, but I take what I can. So she took her camera and out we went, onto the bay side. I looked down from the sea wall and saw the water splashing high up, almost up to my feet. And white hats everywhere.

bay-before-the-stom-ud104A few tiny boats were struggling against the wind on the bay. Someone had already fallen into the water. You could offer me ten chicken biscuits and I wouldn’t go there!

young-sailors-2-ud104And that’s when it happened. Mom took me right onto the bay beach. You see there’s a sign that says dogs are not welcome there. Although the dog symbol is hardly recognizable, I can see there’s a red cross over it. Earlier we’ve always turned away right there. But not yesterday. Mom spotted this kiteboarder and that was it. We went just a little bit on the sand. She made me break the law. And sit on the sand.

kiteboarder closeup ud104.jpgI tried to be invisible, while she took her shots. But couldn’t help marveling about the man who flew high above the waves…and the buildings on the other side of the bay. Almost like a bird.

kiteboarder 2 ud104.jpgLuckily there was no enforcement of the law and we could run home pushing against the wind. I told mom this was an one time incident. It would not be repeated. I hope she listened to me.

dylan-december-2016-ud104In any case, I’m safe and relaxing at home. I wish you all a week filled with goodness. Love, Dylan

Time Travel. And Associated Musings.

Sometimes the travel bug bites me unexpectedly. My toes itch and I start looking for flights to some faraway locations. But then the reality hits, such as work and other commitments, and I go for a much quicker and cheaper alternative. Time travel. Back to a location that has captivated me in years past.

architecture-in-cairo-5-ud103A few days ago, I did some work that reminded me of my visits to Egypt, of which the latest was about three years ago. So I traveled to Cairo. And I invite you to join me as I revisit some disparate memories – through pictures taken on my small Canon Powershot or on my first iPhone.

I fell in love with the history and culture of this ancient country on my first trip in 1999.

tiny-at-the-pyramids-ud103When I visited the pyramids, a sand storm suddenly blew up. I still remember how my hair was full of sand and how a tiny sand corn found its way into my left eye. The latter was not fun, but it was all worth it. Walking inside and around the pyramids, life as it played out around cairo-market-tut-replica-ud1032500 B.C. became palpable. I could almost see and hear the builders and the large funeral processions. I remember lingering around the Great Sphinx for a long time listening to the echoes from the past.

I also visited the Cairo museum and was fascinated by the many ancient objects, in particular all the treasures from King Tut’s tomb that were on display at the time. He was the ‘boy pharaoh’ Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt for ten years until his death at age 19. There were rooms full of his things. I remember a golden mask, a golden throne, a small wooden chair, his chariot, his bed, his small gloves and other clothes, among other things – all beautifully preserved for over 3300 years. I was mesmerized by the workmanship revealed by these objects.

The ancient mythology was still alive in the works of many contemporary artists in Giza. I bought some of their works on papyrus, which was produced by the craftsmen pretty much the same way it always had.

egyptian-papyrus-art-ud103On one of my following visits, I attended meetings at the historic Mena House in Giza, about half a mile from the pyramids. I will never forget the sight when I was seated at my breakfast table the first morning. The Great Pyramid, built by Pharaoh Khufu around 2540 B.C., rose towards the sky right in front of my eyes.

the-pyramid-of-khufu-was-built-by-pharaoh-khufu-around-2540-bc-ud103And during my stay, I could admire the pyramids right there in the hotel gardens during the outdoor coffee breaks.

the-pyramid-of-khafre-was-built-around-2520-bc-ud103On my two most recent visits, I stayed in Cairo due to security concerns at the time. I travelled from the hotel to my client’s offices through Heliopolis, famous for its architecture. I snapped pictures of its beautiful, old buildings with my iPhone from a moving vehicle.

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minarets-2-cairo-ud103Being ‘stuck’ in Cairo, I also visited some famous food establishments with my colleagues. The one that I truly loved was the classic Egyptian restaurant, Abou El Sid. I think its ambience of ‘old Cairo’, dating back to 1940s, is best presented in sepia and soft, warm hues.

abou-el-sid-2-ud103

ligthning-at-abou-el-sid-cairo-ud103We sampled various types of traditional Egyptian foods – all delicious. A highly recommended experience if you get a chance to go there.

But the jump from traditional to hyper modern was short. We visited, mostly for its many dining options, the City Stars Mall. Despite a sculpture of a pharaoh on its side wall, it is a sprawling luxury complex with impressive architecture and shopping alike.

cairo-city-stars-mall-interior-ud103

Back to the traditional, I visited (again) the famous Khan el-Khalili market, first established in the 14th century. It is an intriguing place. Local merchants are offering everything from real antiques and souvenir replicas of ancient statues to food, clothing and traditional Egyptian jewelry.

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cairo-market-jewelry-shop-ud103

cairo-market-souvenirs-ud103A set of copper plates is one of my cherished souvenirs from Cairo, along with the papyrus art from Giza.

the-pyramds-on-copper-2-ud103And looking at them now, I arrive back home. With no jet lag or hole in the wallet. I think I will do a few of these time travels before rushing to buy new tickets. I hope you enjoyed the journey back in time. I wish you peace.

 

 

Love and Circumstances.

Love’s in the air. Big time. After just renewing their marriage vows on New Year’s Eve, Sandy and Stanley are madly in love. It’s a fairly balanced relationship, as we know from the past. Both of them contribute to everything, including the annual nest remodeling project. Lots is already getting done this year, as you can see.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-jan-10-ud102But if you ask me, Mama Sandy is the one calling the shots. Yesterday afternoon she gave Stanley detailed instructions on what to bring next. And away he flew. I decided to wait for his return. I wanted to see what he would bring and whether or not Sandy would approve of it. The latter is not always a ‘given’, I’ve learned. After a few minutes, Sandy got a bit frustrated and asked, quite loudly, what was taking him so long.

mama-osprey-calls-out-ud102Unmoved by Sandy’s call, the Mayor sat quietly hunched in a tree just below the nest. This was going to be interesting.

great-blue-heron-ud102I thought Stanley may have been caught in long lines at ‘Home Depot’, and when I spotted the Reddish Egret, I walked away from the nest.

reddish-egret-ud102That’s when Stanley returned, of course. Shooting against the sun from a distance, I captured him bringing in a sturdy piece of wood. The straight ‘rod’ and its perfectly rounded top made it look manmade. I wonder if he had ‘borrowed’ it from the garden of the nearby resort or from one of their beach game sites. Risking a lot to please Sandy, for sure. Good for him.

papa-osprey-returns-2-ud102And Sandy approved. This new addition seemed to fit in her overall design for the new nest. They worked together for a while, rearranging the furniture.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-2-ud102Then Stanley checked me out. I’m sure he found me a harmless observer, because after a short discussion with Sandy he flew a few feet up in the air – and I witnessed a romantic moment between the two.

osprey-mating-ud102The other birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted to this expression of affection each in their own way. The Major started scratching his head. Perhaps wondering if his nesting calendar was up-to-date.

great-blue-heron-scratches-himself-ud102The female Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who also was perched close to the nest, turned away shyly.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102Perhaps it was a hint to her hubby who was sitting close-by, as always in the past few weeks. But he too looked away.

male-yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102An Anhinga, visiting from the bay side, was curious and stretched his neck to see what was going on.

anhinga-ud102But the Little Blue Heron pretended not to see or hear anything at all. She continued her search for that perfect bite.

little-blue-heron-2-ud102The same applied to the blue eyed White Ibis and the Great Egret, both of whom kept me company on dry land.

blue-eyed-ibis-ud102

great-egret-ud102As you can see, the egrets are also growing their beautiful breeding plumage at this time. That’s when I discovered something large moving quietly in the sky. It was an airship, Wingfoot One, carrying a few passengers. They certainly had a good view of the happenings at the salt marsh.

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airship-passenger-cabin-ud102Once the ‘big bird’ had moved on, I decided to walk home too. But I have one more picture to show you.

In the early evening Dylan, as usual, told me it was time for our walk. I looked out to check the weather. And  saw a huge full moon climbing up on the sky. I ran to fetch my camera and we both rushed onto the terrace. You see, Dylan always cheers me on when I discover something worth ‘shooting’ out there. So there it was – a huge, red full moon.

full-moon-rising-over-the-bay-ud102And if you look carefully at the very bottom of the picture, you can see a faint point of light in the otherwise dark salt marsh. The light was still on at the home of the Osprey couple.

Peace and love from all of us at the salt marsh. Have a great weekend.

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