Wild Queensland -- Nov 2011

Discussion in 'Field Herping and Reptile Studies' started by moloch05, Nov 20, 2011.

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  1. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    I had to use lots of accumulated leave this year and I never like to waste it at home. So, after returning from Italy, I set off on a photography trip with a friend (Ted) and his son (Andrew) from Arizona. Ted and I explored the deserts in California and Mexico 40 years ago when we were in high school and later at university. Ted also travelled through the outback of Western Australia with me a few years ago. This was Andrew’s first visit. Andrew was keen to see as much of Australia as possible. As a result, we organized the itinerary so that we visited habitats ranging from the dry outback to the wet tropics of north-eastern Queensland. We spent a great deal of time in the car and clocked over 10,000 kms during our 2.5 week trip.

    This will be a long post and I will be adding to it for a week or more. I was unable to take the number and quality of butterfly photos as I had hoped. The wet tropics are home to nearly 300 species of butterflies but I have obviously not yet learned their micro-habitats. I saw a few lifers but did not encounter the numbers that I had expected. Mostly, I saw the same species as I have previously encountered. November is the end of the dry and start of the wet in northern Australia. I suspect that the end of the wet may be a better time for butterfly activity in the north. Puddling seems to be rare behaviour with the Aussie butterflies. I found few individuals that were easy to photograph. Most shots were of butterflies sitting on leaves a meter or two above me.

    This post will include many photos of habitats, reptiles, birds and mammals as well as butterflies. Most of my butterfly photos will be from the coastal areas since these wetter locations supported more species of butterflies.

    Andrew and Ted were keen photographers and I will add a few of their shots as well. I hope that this report will give you an idea of what it is like in this part of the world.

    The following map shows the locations of the sites that we visited.
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    1. Aerial photos from north-eastern South Australia. I took these shots while flying back to Sydney from Singapore. The lakes are normally dry salt pans but the interior has been we in the last couple of years. The floods in Queensland eventually made their way to the great lakes of South Australia and most were nearly full, a very rare event.
    2. Nyngan. We stopped for a night along a dirt road between Nyngan and Bourke, NSW.
    3. Windorah. One of my favourite locations in the eastern deserts of Australia. This is in the channel country where water from central Queensland drains into the central salt lakes of South Australia.
    4. Winton. We stayed for a couple of nights in the Eyrean Basin about 100 kms west of Winton. This was a scenic spot with red rock, gibber flats and clumps
    5. Porcupine Gorge.
    6. Mission Beach. This beautiful place was smashed by cyclone Yasi in February of this year. The rainforest canopy was gone.
    7. Chillagoe. This area protects beautiful limestone formations and caves on the lower portion of Cape York.
    8. Georgetown. An old gold mining area at the base of the Cape York peninsula.
    9. Atherton. Beautiful remnant montane rainforest and a good place for butterflies.
    10. Cape Hillsborough. Lovely coastal area near Mackay.
    11. Eungella. Cloud forest that is a must visit place for those who want to see Platypus.
    12. Brigalow Belt. Remnant dry forest that is particularly good habitat for elapids.
    13. Warrumbungles. Rugged mountains with dry eucalyptus forest.

    I took these photos of north-eastern South Australia from about 10,000 elevation when flying from Singapore to Sydney in late October. The interior of Australia is wet at the moment and the normally dry salt lakes were nearly full. Water flows into these lakes from central Queensland via the channel country near Windorah. I believe that the red colour in the first lake below was due to an algal bloom.
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    Red dunes, the sort of habitat that I really like to visit. Windorah is a good place to see dunes like this and it was situated only a few hundred kms from the location below.
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    Ted and Andrew arrived in Sydney at 7am on a Friday. I picked them up a short time later and we immediately set off on the trip. We made a short stop in the lovely Blue Mountains. It was not a good time of day for habitat shots due to the light angle but here are a couple of shots by Ted and Andrew of the Evans Lookout area.
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    It is spring in south-eastern Australia so there are lots of flowers out at the moment.
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    These Long-tailed Pea-Blues (Lampides boeticus) were numerous.
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    Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi)
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    Varied Sword-Grass Brown (Tisiphone abeona)
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    I believe that this is a Dark Shield-Skipper (Signeta tymbophora). It appears to only have a few white spots rather than a long streak above the brand. This would separate it from the similar Dingy Grass Skipper (Toxidia peron) and Bright Shield-Skipper (Signeta flammeata).
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    We then continued on and eventually camped along a quiet dirt road between Nyngan and Bourke, NSW. Geckos were numerous on the road at night in this area of red sand.


    I love the eyes of these Southern Spiny-Tailed Geckos (Strophurus intermedius). Most of the spiny-tailed geckos have colourful eyes like these.
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    This Box-patterned Gecko (Lucasium steindachneri) was gravid. An egg is visible through the skin of the abdomen.
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    Gehyra variegata is one of the most common and widespread geckos in Australia.
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    Habitat shot of the area where we camped.
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    We got up early and continued the long drive to Windorah. Windorah is situated in the channel country of south-western Queensland. The road crosses several of these including Cooper's Creek.
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    These pools were full of fish and attracted huge numbers of birds.
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    White-necked Herons lined the bridge over the creek:
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    Glossy Ibis, the most uncommon of the three species of ibis in the area.
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    Little Corellas were numerous in the trees along the creek.
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    Black Kites were abundant.
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    The Fairy Martins that built these nests had an artistic sense:
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    The little town of Windorah is surrounded by red dunes.
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    This dry country is not ideal for butterflies. I did see many of these tiny Two-spotted Line-Blues (Nacaduba biocellata).
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    There also were a few Chequered Swallowtails (Papilio demoleus) in the area.
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    The red sand was good for reptiles. These long-tailed Canegrass Dragons (Diporiphora winneckei) were common in shrubs along a fence line. The one in the first photo below held its tail in a very odd manner.
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    Female Central Military Dragon (Ctenophorus isolepis). This species was also numerous on the dunes.
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    Male:
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    One of the most interesting observations was of this Gould's Monitor (Varanus gouldii) that was raiding a snake nest. We saw the monitor digging and it allowed us to slowly approach and photograph it. It continued with the digging, would temporarily disappear from sight but would then emerge with an egg. It swallowed these whole and then repeated the process a number of times. I would imagine that this was a nest of one of the large elapids such as a Western Brown Snake (Pseudonaja nuchalis) or a King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis) that are common in the area.
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    ... closeup of the hole that it dug to get to the eggs.
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    Burrow of a Gould's Monitor:
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    We also saw Yellow-spotted Monitors (Varanus panoptes) sometimes walking along the streets in the town. This one had been standing beneath a sprinkler on a hot day.
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    Windorah has not had rain since last March and it was quite dry near town. This Yellow-spotted Monitor looked skinny and in poor condition.
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    Night drives produced this Jewelled Gecko (Strophurus elderi). This species is a spinifex specialist and is hard to find. I rarely see field photographs of it. It is agile and climbs with ease through the stems of the grass.
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    Northern Spiny-tailed Geckos (Strophurus ciliaris) were common.
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    This is an appropriately named Rainbow Bee-Eater.
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    Although dry, there were a few plants in flower.
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    This was a really odd coloured pea:
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    We headed about 100km west of Windorah into the Eyrean Basin. I hoped to be lucky and be able to show my friends a Fierce Snake but it was too hot when we reached the area. The snakes live in the cracks of clay and do not need to bask much during the hot summer. I think that they would be more easily sighted during the winter months.

    The basin is dry country:
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    I always check out this area to see Ring-tailed Dragons (Ctenophorus caudicinctus) that live on rocks beneath the trees.
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    ... female Ring-tailed Dragon
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    ... male Ring-tailed Dragon
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    We left Windorah and then drove for a day up to the Eyrean Basin west of Winton. Along the way, we passed eucalyptus trees that were infested with mistletoes. I've read before that mistletoe is the host plant of the Azures (Ogyris sp.) so we stopped and had a look at the plants. We immediately found a number of these colourful butterflies. Unfortunately, they remained high in the trees. Also, the males seemed to be in continuous combat and rarely would land for more than a few seconds at a time. I managed to take a few shots of the males but could never photograph the larger females that had a couple of orange spots on the outer upper wing.

    Satin Azure (Ogyris amaryllis)
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    Caper Whites (Belenois java) were also common in the area and visited the mistletoe flowers.
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    The Eyrean Basin west of Winton was a scenic place. We were lucky to arrive in time for thunderstorms. Clouds built up during the day and the colours of the sunset were beautiful. Later that night, we experienced torrential rain with nearly continuous flashes of lightning. We had to take shelter since we could not see the road and there were flash floods in some of the creek crossings. These conditions stimulated reptile activity and we had one of our most productive night drives the following night.
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    Spinifex grew in large clumps here. These seemed to form outwardly growing ovals so were no doubt from the same original plant.
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    These pretty red native roaches were numerous on the road.
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    Strophurus krisalys look similar to Northern Spiny-tailed Geckos but have a blue rather than orange mouth lining.
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    Prickly Knob-tailed Geckos (Nephrurus asper) were seen a few times. These are big geckos with a massive head and a bizarre, tiny tail that ends with a ball.

    ... adult
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    ... juvenile
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    Pale-striped Ground Geckos (Lucasium immaculatum) are nicely marked geckos that mostly have an inaccessible range.
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    Tessellated Gecko (Diplodactylus tessellatus) were found a few times.
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    Marbled Velvet Geckos (Oedura marmorata) were big, colourful geckos. They have distinctive juvenile and adult colourations.
    ... juvenile:
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    ... intermediate between juvenile and adult:
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    ... adult:
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    Gehyra robusta lived in drains beneath the road.
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    When the road crossed gibber flats we found an interesting dragon, the little Pebble Dragons (Tympanocryptis cephalus) that mimic rocks.
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    Burton's Snake Lizard (Lialis burtonis) are lizards that belong to the flap-footed lizard family (Pygopodidae). Burton's Snake Lizards vary greatly in colouration. This one was particularly nice.
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    This Spinifex Slender Blue-tongue (Cyclodomorpha melanops) was a lifer to me. It moved to the shade of Andrew's leg and then climbed to his head ... the photo was not staged.
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    This Stimson's Python (Antaresia stimsoni) was on the road late on the second night in this area.
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    The highlight of the evening was finding this wonderfully marked Common Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus). It was a gentle snake and sat placidly while we took photos.
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    Strange grasshopper that looked pebble-like:
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    Burn's Dragons (Amphibolurus burnsi) were common along the road and on trees in the Eyrean Basin. They would wave their hand when disturbed.
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    We also found one of the similar Gilbert's Dragons (Amphibolurus gilberti). This was also a hand-waving dragon.
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    This frog would scream harshly at us if we approached it. I believe that it is in genus Cyclorana but am not certain of the species.
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    We found a couple beautiful Yellow-spotted Monitors (Varanus panoptes) the next day. These were fearless animals that quickly become adjusted to our presence and then continued with their foraging.

    When I first stopped the car, the monitor reared and looked annoyed. It soon became calm and walked on.
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    Sometimes, they will lay flat like this as if they are hidden from view.
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    Andrew was thrilled to watch this big lizard at such close range ... rather different to the Sceloporus that live near his home in Arizona. It walked right past him.
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    ... it crossed the road and continued to hunt through the spinifex
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    This Freckled Monitor (Varnaus tristis) ran across the road in front of us and then climbed a tree. We stopped to photograph it. While watching it, the monitor detected a Burn's Dragon that we had not seen on a branch further up the tree. The monitor lunged at it and the dragon leapt head-first from the tree. The monitor also leapt after it and we watched the chase as the dragon bi-peddled with the monitor less than a meter behind. The lizards ran across the road before the monitor gave up and walked by us again. It was an incredible sight but much too fast for photos!
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    Ring-tailed Dragons (Ctenophorus caudicinctus) were numerous on the gibber/spinifex flats. Males often used the termite mounds as lookouts.

    ... female
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    ... male
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    Spinifex Pigeons lived in the same area as the Ring-tailed Dragon. These pigeons act more like quail than a typical pigeon. They were fast runners and usually only would fly as a last resort.
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    ... displaying male. The female was nearby.
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    Inland Dotterals are a well disguised nomad of the outback. This one was sheltering in the shade of a road sign.
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    ... more tomorrow night
     
  2. richoman_3

    richoman_3 Very Well-Known Member

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    *scrolls through newsfeed, moloch posted WOOOO* :p

    AMAZING pics as usual.
    you found some really stunning stuff and i cant choose whats my fave!
    absolutely stunning mate, LOVE reading your threads :)
    see any pedes or scorps?
     
  3. NaughtyByNature

    NaughtyByNature Well-Known Member

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    Awesome photos :)
     
  4. GeckPhotographer

    GeckPhotographer Very Well-Known Member

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    Really nice photos, love them all. Some amazing experiences by the looks of it.
     
  5. Pado2087

    Pado2087 Not so new Member

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    Amazing !!! Absolutely love them !!!!!
     
  6. nico77

    nico77 Well-Known Member

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    Great shots , I can not wait to see the next lot :) , thanks for sharing .

    cheers nico
     
  7. Fang101

    Fang101 Active Member

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    Great photo's:)! Very nice finds and I look foward to seeing the rest.
     
  8. Dragonwolf

    Dragonwolf Well-Known Member

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    I'm lost for words... I thoroughly enjoyed these beautiful photos and the well written commentary. More please.
     
  9. Wild~Touch

    Wild~Touch Very Well-Known Member

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    Awesome as always and thank you for sharing :)
     
  10. jordanmulder

    jordanmulder Well-Known Member

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    Wow I was thrilled by this post! Wow Seems like you had some amazing experiances! Some realy cool photo's too!
     
  11. FAY

    FAY Guest

    Fantastic! Keep them coming...
     
  12. SamNabz

    SamNabz Very Well-Known Member

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    WOW moloch05 - simply stunning pictures mate!!

    Seems like you had a great trip with an impressive array of animals to boot. I especially love the pics of the S.elderi & T.cephalus

    Thanks for sharing mate; I look forward to seeing the rest of the pics


    P.S What gear were you guys using??
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  13. jedi_339

    jedi_339 Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic pics, I love the S. elderi and the V. gouldi stealing the eggs, that's awesome behaviour for you to have witnessed.

    Can't wait for the next installment, but I'll be away for a week working, so I'll see it when I get back.

    I believe those rounded clumps of spinifex grass are actually termed 'hummock grass' .
     
  14. Ricochet

    Ricochet Active Member

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    Great finds and pics - thanks for sharing.
     
  15. GeckPhotographer

    GeckPhotographer Very Well-Known Member

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    Hummock Grass is more the structure of the grass, and includes many of the spinifex group, and other grasses. It's more that the grass is tightly clumped together.
    The group spinifex contains only 2-3 genera with many people meaning only two of them when they use the word. The genera are Triodia, Plectrachne and often not included Spinifex.

    More pictures soon. Hopefully before I leave for 2 weeks. :) :(
     
  16. geckodan

    geckodan Very Well-Known Member

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    The T. cephalus is now no longer a cephalus as this species name is now restricted to WA specimens. That animal is now classified as an intima but as anybody that has spent more that 5 minutes out that way knows, its not an intima either - it remains undescribed until someone finishes the work - conveniently the recent DNA work avoided this area so nobody had to actually commit to doing that job.
     
  17. waruikazi

    waruikazi Legendary

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    Nice panoptes! Great pics Moloch!
     
  18. SamNabz

    SamNabz Very Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting.. Thanks for that, Dan.

    Also, I think I remember seeing a video clip (might have been on Adrian's Reptile World?) of some of your collection - do you still keep pebble dragons?
     
  19. IgotFrogs

    IgotFrogs Very Well-Known Member

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    some very amazing photos .... anyone that has said we need exotics here needs to take a look at those photos ... some of the geckos so awesome!
     
  20. geckodan

    geckodan Very Well-Known Member

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    No, all the dragons drowned one very wet night in the floods at the beginning of the year.
     
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