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Seabird behavior; Seabird carcass research  

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NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
17 Jul 1997

    Geography
  • United States
    Washington
    Clallam County
    Locality
  • Tatoosh Island
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 48.39183   -124.73568
    Habitats
  • Marine Shoreline
    Features
  • Island
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
    Microphones
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=2: 1=L, 2=R; Decoded MS stereo

NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Olympic Coast NMS LOG
DAT # 7 -MS - Day 3

JULIA PARISH AND LIZ ARNOLD

recorded in MS -getting ready to go to Tatoosh Island 1:00-2:17 hum of boat engine as people walk in the bg

2:18 -faint voices in bg and ringing

*2:36 -3:22 faint motor and some other bg noise

4:00-4:11 ambi -some footsteps Al Fletcher introduces himself to Linda

6:14-6: ambi on boat with low engine sounds some squeaking in bg

6:51-7:03 alarm (?) goes off on board (short)

7:04 -7:09 ambi -engine purr

7:10 Al (?) Let's go, start the lines~ (a bit off mike)

7;11-7:54 ambi -low engine

8:00 ambi low engine

8:06 boat blowing horn (fog horn?)

*VG 8:08-ambi -low engine, moving through water (off the back)

@ 10:58 engine slows down

@11:11 engine off

11:13 radio talk

11:18 AI (? -a guy) This is Tatoosh radio: this is Tatoosh 11364 -go AI? I just wanted to inform the quarter deck that we were on our way to Tatoosh Island

11:29 -radio -Tatoosh, 364 -roger, understand -I will pass that info on

VG 11:59-13:56 engine start up and then steady engine 13:57-16:46 sounds out of phase.??? Then ok -engines, boat -waves hitting boat

16:47-17:29 some talking in bg -about seeing fins. approaching Tatoosh:

18:26 EA -there are huge sea lions greeting us!

20:49 EA -do you see our welcome wagon? There's our welcome wagon! What do you think this is up here?

Bob -this is a beam barrack for off floating supplies (?) for ships

21:10 Bob -what you see here is a boom barrack that was used in the old days for off loading cargo off ships. The boats couldn't get in too close to the cove here so they would pull their stuff up, pull people up, in some cases even pull boats up this side of Tatoosh island is actually just a big break btwn two sections in the island in this little cove -this little beach that is filled up with a lot of gravel -this is actually the location of the seasonal village of the Makah on Tatoosh island. And where -where there are salmon drying racks and halibut and other fish up against the rocks there. 22:02 here comes Julia -we will want to get the equipment ready to go

22:32 Bob -Julia Parish spends a lot of time on the island and this is how she gets on and off -often paddling, but today rowing about an 8 or 10 foot rubber dingy. And this beach is hard to get larger boats into so she's mastered all the techniques of moving graduate students and technicians and equipment, food, groceries on and off this way. 22:59

23:00-23:14 gulls, low engine purr, some faint talking in bg

23:15 EA (?) got everything? (off mike)

23:17 EA (?) -it is nice and calm, right?

23:18 -preparing to get off boat?

24:39 Bob -hello (to julia)

Julia -hey!

Bob -so how is the weather?

Julia (JP) -ah ! sunny and 70!

EA -do you need gear first or people?

26:22 JP -ok Bob, I am giving you this oar.

Bob (BS) -we are paddling today?

JP -we are paddling today. give me a back paddle there Bob -

JP -yeah! Yeah I was hearing them burp at you. you are going to need to be less strenuous and we are going to head pretty much for Tom and Karen.

27:12 -ambi -good paddling with gulls in bg

27:26 -EA -is this pretty much the only place you can land here?

JP -yeah -and only -you can land on a lower tide -we are about mid-tide right now, but the water comes down and exposes a boulder field that is covered with kelp so its tricky to get the boat in and out. 27:43 on a flat day like this its not too bad. It is not slippery but if there are waves coming in here it is a little more iron ?? -iron like 27:56

**VG 27:57-28:41 good ambi as they paddle into shore -lots of different birds in bg

28:42 EA -pretty populated place!

JP -yeah! Depends on what your species outlook is - [laughter] -if you are a gull, it is tenement housing. That's a black oyster catcher (here it very clearly in bg)

29:01 -yeah ~oh you saw the chick? (woman? -yeah) yeah -that is that pair that has a nest on the logs -ok, this sound person in the front has to -don't move -

29:18 -bringing the boat onto shore -29:27 -JP -that's good

29:49 -EA -we have been looking at this island for 2 days -now we are finally on it! (a bit faint)

30:00 -PULLING THE BOAT IN -GREAT BIRDS IN BG -WALKING ON SAND, CARRYING THE BOAT -

33:29 -JP -when we find carcasses on the beach like the one that is right behind you [EA -whah! I am sorry!, JP -it's ok, it's dead] we have taken to marking them this year so we have -[EA -oh, ,that tag! ] yeah -they are just little cable tags -we have a color numbering system so we are looking at not only who dies, and a little bit about how they die -that is whether they were killed, or whether they died of starvation or something -some other less violent end -and then we mark them and leave them so we a record of persistence of carcasses and scavenging rates, whether they have moved around the island at all. And we have exported this high tech marking system -[EA -laughter! Baggie tie!] to the mainland, so Tom actually, when he is not here, spends his time walking he beaches in southern Washington and marking carcasses. And this is a year where there seem to be quite a lot of murres and causengalets (?) that seem to be washed up on the beaches so we have at least some idea of carcass persistence rates. A lot of times you will walk along a beach and you will see a bunch of dead birds and someone go out the next day and recount all of the same carcasses and say -my god! there are 200 more, and quickly get into the thousands and it is a huge big deal

35:04 EA -so if there are tags they know that they have been counted.

JP -right, yeah.

EA -so you are studying dead birds

JP -yeah -we do. We study dead birds.

EA -how can you tell what has happened to this bird?

JP -well, earlier, we get them a little earlier in death and we look to see whether there is a wound. So this guy had a large wound here and the skin is now dried so it is peeled back, but what happened was somebody ripped the skin off and -either was caught in mid act and let it go -probably that is what, happened. And afterwards there was probably scavenging. A lot of drying and a lot of scavenging that went on so this is a something that has been coughed up by a crow which has in fact a lot of salmon berry seeds in it.

EA -oh yea!

JP -so this is basically evidence that there was scavengers here after death, hanging out and picking on this carcass. 36:15

EA -but a raptor or somebody got him to begin with?

JP -I think so. There is a whole set of carcasses around the corner -one of which I have to remember to come down and mark and those are -when you see a raptor carcass it is easy to ~. It is easy to know that that happened because there is usually a hole in the back of the skull so, imagine a raptor flying along, grabbing a bird by the shoulders and hitting it in the back of the head with a beak which punctures the skull and gets into the brain case (great birds in bg) and that is a fairly quick death

37:03 EA -that is the skull right there?

JP -I don't know what this is a skull of -this is -this is probably the skull of a rhinoceros auklet

EA -well, it is smaller than a murr and it has -murrs have very elongated wicked witch of the west kind of beak. And, so, this is much smaller than that -and not a tube nose, so not a petral -doesn't have little sort of vent like looking things in the nostrils. And that leaves the auklets here -rhinoceros and cassens -and cassens are really small, so that leaves rhinos. 37:44

JP -yeah

37:52 -EA -oh! Look at the window over there!

JP -yeah. There is a cave there that goes through to the other side which we can get to at low tide, which you are unfortunately leaving before low tide. But yeah -it is a wonderful place to be. All of the things that grow in the tide pools there are adaptive to fairly dark conditions and there is actually a hole in the island that comes down so there is a natural sky light -

EA -that is what it looks like -window.

38:27 JP -there are -there was a time on this island that -originally this was the sort of summering grounds of the Makah from which a variety types of hunts were launched, and fish were dried and there are remnants of that are falling out of the cliffs -from old mittens, occasionally tools are found here (great birds in bg) and it is definitely old whale bones and things like that -but we conquered them and built up quite a community here so the light house, which you will see, was built in the 1850s and is one of the oldest buildings in Washington. West coast people really tend to think of the 1800s as very old. [laughter]

39:32 EA -you must have a pretty hard time just walking down the beach and getting very far when you are picking all this stuff up

good bg -walking on beach

JP -well, sometimes I will think about where it is and I will make a little marker, and sometimes I pick stuff up - it gives you license collect and ?? -so let's -there is a path that goes through this way and we are going to go around the long way -since we were talking about carcasses I might as well show you the other ones. (good walking on beach in bg)

39:57 this place -Tatoosh is actually a set of little islets connected by this beach and at low tide you can get pretty much anywhere on the island and at high tide you can't. and we have names for all of these place that I didn't name and so I have no idea why they are named these things. So all of it together is called Tatoosh (off mike) -(she is looking at something) it's is probably a little ?? seal or sea lion

EA -that there?

JP -yeah.

EA -so it is a great place for birds then -at high tide

JP -oh! Actually it is a great place -(loud gull!) oh we are really close to -this gull is telling us get the sharp attack note -and they have sort of a lower note that they use right as they are coming down on you -oh!

(off mike) this is the carcass I was looking for !

41:16 EA -what's that (softly)

JP -so, this is a rhinoceros auklet and you can tell that it is different from -there is a carcass that I marked yesterday -right here -oh now -same -these guys are the same. This is a more recent carcass, and you can tell. It still has sort of the vestiges of blood -these are both raptor attacks -and how can you tell that? You can tell that bc these are probably both peregrine falcon attacks. They are headless. Peregrines not only attack on the wings but they will also start to gut and eat on the wings. So they will be carrying the carcass and they will rip the head off and sort of toss it aside. So, it is not good to be under a peregrine when it is doing that. And they peel -once they land -they peel the skin back so if the head is still on you will often find heads where the skin is inside out and there is just a head where the beak is sticking out of -looks like a skin purse -and the skin is also pulled back off of the carcass this way, just like this is -sort of peeled back. They are rather meticulous that way. If you give them enough time eating they will also chomp down on the breast bone here although these ones were minorly chewed -there is a bite mark chomp (EA -yeah) in there -ok, so I have 2 to mark and I have no (EA -baggie tie) right -and you can tell that this is a rhino when you look at the feet -you can tell it is a sea bird -oh, thank you -ah -bc its got webbed feet -also it is a digging bird. Its got these incredibly sharp claws -

EA -ooh! Yeah!

43:08 JP -and this is a bird that -this is a burrowing sea bird. This is a burrow that is as much as a meter long and comes back every year to the same place and re-excavates a little more so it needs to be able to do that since it doesn't have hands. And also we look at the size and the sort of subtleties of wing colors. Lots of the birds that we work with are brown, black, blackish above and lighter below. But rhinos have this lovely soft gray brown color on the underside of the wings that is not -there is no white -no flecking of white. And the murres have white flecking on the underside. And just the thinnest white line edging of the primers (?) and maybe we will find one of those. 42:04 esthetic in death. Ok -so I am going to leave those there and I will get back to those, this is my handy markers!

44:16 EA -there is a nest right there.

JP -yeah. Those are all gull nests and we will go by a few of those. You can see that -in fact there is one right there -(EA -right there!) they use a variety of

beach. That is that sort of crinkled packing material looking stuff. And then the darker stuff is fucus which is a brown alga that grows -it is this alga that is growing on the exposed rocks here. But then there is a rope!

EA -there is a rope in the nest!

44:55 JP -yeah. Yeah.

EA -(softly) they are resourceful.

JP -they are resourceful. There's a great gull nest over the next pass that has a really old French's Mustard bottle! (great bg ambi -gulls, etc.).

EA -laughter

JP -and that is a good thing and a bad thing.

45:17 JP -we are just going to ?? through that stick ?? and up

45:26 EA -you'll have to --interpret for me what these guys are all telling us.

JP -well there's -

EA -what are those 2 right here? The 2 dark ones?

JP -Oh! Those are harlequin ducks. Urn -those are males in mid-molt. We will see a fair amount of them -they sort of hang out around here. Boy, that gull is really angry -

EA -this one?

JP -this one. GULLS -LOUD-it is giving it's upset cry, and all of the other noises that you are hearing, there is a minorly upset cry. It sounds like -let's see if we can hear it -that's -(hear a diff kind of cry) something is up! I might want to move!

EA -is that about us?

JP -yeah. 46:21 -it is a very low key noise -not alarmist -here is a murre -this is an old one that we've marked -this is the only one that we think died of starvation. See the difference in the wings? Nice white flecking here? (EA -yeah.) same sort of nice old coffee color. And then there is just the very thinnest of white on the edging. On the murre -

EA -now, how do you know that this one died of starvation? Well, we don't. it could have died of
natural causes. It came -it washed up on the beach in mint condition. There were no wounds.

JP -the neck wasn't broken. there was no blow to the head. And it was very very thin -now, whether it died of age or it is young and starved to death. Or it ingested some harmful algae -red tide algae -I can't say. But it is interesting that those carcasses are getting as far as here. This is a pretty small island and it is right at the tip of the state. So if there is sort of a wave of death coming from the south it is amazing to think that a carcass will get all the way up here and actually make it on to what is a fairly difficult beach to get on to. That may not be an indicator of the ubiquity of the carcasses and the marine environment. And we are definitely seeing thousands in southern Washington come up. 48:06

EA -mostly murres?

JP -urn hum. Murre and Cassin's Auklets.

EA -and they are like this?

JP -yeah -they are thin.

EA -what is happening?

48:15 JP -well, urn, we think they are starving to death. We don't think that they are being poisoned. There are actually people that are working on that at the moment. Everyone is crying el nino which seems to be the answer to everything let me just check out these guys -

EA -like I said, we will never get down this beach!

48:37 JP -that is ok -we are almost finished! yeah, this is another rhino. And sort of all peeled back. This is last years marking method! Finger nail polish. It gives us the ability to buy those really tacky colors. Which we would never wear! [Laughter] we used to have the finger nail polish of the month. But the cable ties give us the ability to know individuals. We are taking a left here¬ right here. This cliff walls, by the way. is one of my favorite

EA -look!

JP -it is beautiful (off mike) it has wild ???? canterberry bells -those blue ones -

EA -purple ones??

JP -yeah. And interspersed among them and sort of falling over are nodding onions which look much prettier than they smell, but they taste very good.

49:50 -JP and EA -walking away, their talk gets more distant. lots of birds,

50:44 JP -it is -relatives of angelica which makes a really nice liquor and that is -what is the name of that liquor?

EA -Frangelica?

JP -no. but it is also the relative of water hemlock which is not something you want to make a liquor out of unless you wanted to end your life violently! So it is neat in that it has this sap that is photo-activated. It is very juicy plant so that if you cut it you get the sap on you, and if it is sunny it will produce what looks like a chemical burn. Some people are more prone to it than others. So it will go
from red to brown and actually scab off.

EA -wow! Just from this?

JP -yeah -after a few weeks -

EA -wow -pretty flower!

JP -but, it smells very nice! So the lesson is here that if you go out here with a machete which we often do to clear the paths -to wear long -I tell all of the students this. And cow parsnip and what can happen to them and they nod and smile and they go out and they have shorts and t-shirts on and then they get all these burns on their arms. And they say -what is happening???

EA -what is this!

52:13 -JP alright -here -almost to the top of the cliff. You can tell it has been a really wet year because the ferns are doing really wonderfully well. And the island is still dripping 52:29

VG ** 52:30-52:40 ambi -walking -fog horn in bg -birds

52:41 EA -there are so many -you can see why the birds would just love it here. It is all of these hiding places -

JP -yeah.

52:48 -good ambi -as they walk on beach, but some off mike talking

53:03 JP -well we are in a little bit of bright fog it looks like -

EA -yeah.

53:12 JP we are looking at -what are we looking at? We are on the main island now. It is always easy to tell island. Basically facing north. This smaller island vegetated here to the right of us is Pole Island for reasons totally unknown to me. And it actually slopes out to the west. The vegetation stops and there have been a lot of ruins and spires cut out by wind and wave erosion and in those rooms nest Murres, and Pelagic Cormorants (?) and gulls. So it is a really neat place to be. We access it visually from the sides during low tide, but that is sort of the most inaccessible set of bird nesting areas for us. This island over here is called Strawberry, also for reasons unknown to me. And at low tide the water that we are looking at now goes away and that is an exposed boulder field and you can go away and do some fairly industrious hopping across little chasms to get around -which we do to look back at the cliffs of the main island and count birds. Where that boat is they are just off an island called West Island which we also can't get on to -it has too large of a chasm to get across. And then there is rocks in the bg are West Rocks. And there is an eagle on the southern tip of West (EA-where?) Rocks. See where the barge is?

(EA -uh hum) go straight down from the barge -oh

(together with EA) it just flapped its wings.

52:22 we're almost at top of cliff.. (she says) you can tell it's been a really wet year blah blah..walking

53:32 this smaller island (gives a tour) nah

53:49 there have been a Ito of rooms and spires cut out by wind...murres nest there so its a REALLY NEAT place to be ..

54:50 and there is an eagle on the southern tip of west rocks where? ah just flapped its wings, would that be a bald eagle, ...

we're in bright fog

56:45 its a pretty wimpy fog horn as fog horns go .. at top of each glass is gargoyle drainspout in shape of eagle head.

57:44 fog horn goes off twice on average every 55 seconds so when we get close if you happen to be walking right pass it makes you jump out of your skin..

58:22 how do you feel about heights, i'm fine.

58:33 a loud fog horn. ok go ...because we sit on the edge of cliffs .. ok go. (would be nice short chunk)

59:11 this is a gull alarm cry its because this juvenile eagle is flying past. So that's an eagle in maybe its fourth year. (she never really looks up can tell from listening what's going on)

1:00 the place that i observe from is right there,

1:02 we're just going to come in and sit down not going to be a problem ( low ambience) oh they're right there look at them wow they're all on that edge there, they're also underneath us .. i use this as a close vantage point and this telescope to spy on them up close and personal.

1:03 murres are the densest nesting birds in the world shoulder to shoulder, they lay one big egg right on the rock, and it doesn't roll off because it's very pointed (explains) so it rolls in a circle rather than rolling off. 1:04:20 (nice)

1:04:43 this guy is minorly annoyed at us hear that arp arp

1:05 so that's the mate this is a mate greeting saying things are okay noise, you didn't even look over there, there's puffins right there are those puffins. 1:05:33 (birds everywhere)

whole rock face filled with bird houses .

1:05:59 why are they all on one edge, why there and not someplace else something i've been wondering for a long time ...

1:07 these guys are pretty steady they've been here since i've been working here since 1970, this is a great place for murres to nest because no terrestrial animals can get them ...

1:07 they're really pretty

1:07:47 i think they have an understated elegance to them but again that might be researcher bias (laugh 1:07:57)

1:08 :40 there are all sorts of body postures and sounds they use to tell neighbors im coming im going i give up on fight i have a fish and then there are group sounds we're concerned we're alarmed we gotta get outta here now ... that's a greeting noise and that's also the beginning of the copulation sound so he goes ahhh and she goes ah ah ah and she throws her head back, you know that ..you can just listen and know where the mating process is ... that's a fight .. and that's a make up. ******************* that was a pretty quick process well if you live in pretty close quarters (laugh)
**************

he says she spends many hours "spying on the birds"

1:11:15 why are they all facing in? well my short answer is if they had to fly way fast and they took off egg would go with them .. sunny black backs heat up.

1:11:57 so what i do is i spend a lot of time out here on this cliff watching and drawing who's where relative to who's got eggs .. aps them follows progress of eggs and chicks

1:13:50 so you know where a particular female is ... takes two to raise a kid successfully both to keep the egg warm and later to feed the chick and .. if you look down at that ledge (got em) ....1:14:54 oh there it is .. they're kind of holding it. (**)

1:15:49 its cramped quarters so in the process of spending time to do this ..we 8 a variety of other things. turn behavior into a quantifiable variable, what 8es that mean it means that we watch and see things that might be important n regulating the end product of the pair and we try to figure out a way of writing down a set of rules ...we turn behavior into numbers. so let me give JU an example we think that fighting in these birds .. eggs fight less. ) notebooks full of ovals

1:18:47 it looks like those dogs heads go up and down once one starts everybody .. (describes head bobbing) low key I'm alarmed .. so just like the gulls give an alarm .. the murres head bob and then roar ..

1:19:36 we are starting to paint a picture of interaction between gulls and murres. gulls go after eggs, bald eagles go after adults. fly over behavioral interactions between usually is a win for an eagle a draw for a gulls and a lose for the murres ..

1:21:51 when we started working here i worked for several years id major players in the avian community that have an effect directly or indirectly ??eative to the murres and as i watched over the years it became more apparent to.. a natural community can .. also be defined by behavior interaction between.... species all together sum up to the overt things we see. is worth it for me to figure out how those behaviors group together.

1:23:19 we would never all the various interactions we have with coworkers and neighbors as competition. end of story we see people as individuals and we realize a whole set of emotions .. there's no reason to believe that doesn't happen with any other species ..arrogant ....

1:24:16 if i say eagles fly over gulls eat eggs, murres lose to me that's the tip of the iceberg i want to know why that interaction has evolved and are the most essential ..and that allows me to make a decision about whether i can play god and attempt to change those interactions.

1:24:55 we discovered one year that gulls were telling us when eagles were present. and it turns out that gulls get very upset when eagles fly over nesting areas and less upset when they fly by.. so what we did was we recorded normal gull sounds and minor alarm noises .. flight alarm and i wired a murre nesting area for sound..visual and sound as well. (big deal?)

1:28:xx what did you just see. i just heard a single gull alarm..

1:29:53 two horns in clear

....will spend four to six hours on cliff.. observation day begins at 5:30 a.m. ends at 9:30 at night.
(....has been out here for seven years.) .

1:31:00 so this is one thing that we do and its also not so much now there is fog, its a lovely lovely view. Not a bad place to be********

1:33:33 oh, every year, every year I think i know what's going on and a little voice goes off in my head don't be a fool. *******

1:38:38 and to me that's just the coolest thing about biology and about behavior its not a static thing its a dynamic thing and to think that we come out for a year or two years and sort of suss out the situation and write a paper that's a small window on a dynamic system .. i prefer to think of it being given the opportunity to watch an evolving process and some things i can predict and some things i can't.************

1:40:05 let's go look at a blind and get an up close and personal view.

(steep rock face, cliff band a ledge crammed with birds all facing inward, one on top of each other will be there for three months)

1:41:18 and then one night 20 minutes after sunset they'll decide to leave and they'll watch to edge of cliff and lean out and suddenly they'll leap, no flight wings .. and so they sail down// they sail down into the water or much more often in this situation.. they land on the rock so they're falling between
fifty and hundred and fifty feet down and they just land on the rock and bounce. they don't die? not even hurt .. scramble into water.**

1:43:30 oh its actually really exciting we lie down so we're lying on the edge and as soon as the little chicks lean over they start to peep, loud scream ..bbit scream noise and parents fly down to the water and they're calling.. and they recognize each other as individuals ..meanwhile patrolling river otters and gulls and dad and the kid swim off together .. so its a dramatic ending to an early life stage. it's great.***** !

1:46:10 ok guys we're leaving, its okay we're getting up now, so the good thing ....do here is not to look at the gulls look at the ground like you're looking for a lost wallet and they will not get too upset .. (we leave.) nice all in the ear... 1:46:55

1:48:04 general walking through grass
lost in the fog. in and out

1:50:00 i'm just going to drop some stuff off here .. inside .. (door opens and closes) so this is a murre egg as is this ..see how pointed they are .. so they spin and don't roll off the edge ... (rolling off)******

sanctuary water only, island surrounded by sanctuary.

1:54:30 there's a large eagle disturbance out there .. * (from inside)

1:55:00 controversial statement ..so many agencies etc you would think this is the most well protected place in universe ..and you would be wrong.

....way to make decisions with no baseline decision.

....i have to think about what i need in the blind. i need a map

....knows the way to the blind, needs a map of the birds

1:59:22 out the door .. and walking...1:59:42 (good from quiet)

2:00:00 going to take a left here .. (walking but talking)

2:01:10 so these are the paths we keep open by machete.. . good 2:01:20

2:01:50 to our right you can just begin to hear the murres ..

2:02:17 oh hear 'em they're telling us there's an eagle flying around.

2:02:37 hasn't disturbed murres cause i can hear an undercurrent of noise

(can hear it)

2:03:41 going through underbrush.. 2:04:20 good cracking etc. no voices ...

... . 2:04:35 can just start to hear murres .. 2:05:10 all nice no talking sound of going through woods..

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