Place Your Bids!

This year’s online auction is well underway, so, if you don’t already follow Operation Migration’s Facebook page, it’s time to click FB_like

The auction will run until NOON, Central time on Saturday, October 7th.

The minimum bid amount listed on each item in no way reflects the fair market value of that item. Instead, the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.

To place a bid, just leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid. If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting your new bid in another comment.

At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information and, upon receipt of payment, your item will be sent to you. Happy bidding!

ALL funds raised will go to support Operation Migration their work with Whooping cranes in 2017. Here’s just a few of the items available! 

Photography Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Natalie Jens!

Natalie and several others took part in our first-ever Nature Photography Workshop, which was offered at the recent Whooping Crane Festival in and around Princeton, Wisconsin.

We invited all participants to submit their favorite photo from Sunday’s outing with instructor David Heritsch. Our Board was tasked with selecting their favorite and the one with the most votes was Natalie’s fantastic image showing a Green frog (Rana clamitans). 

Natalie will receive an Amazon.com gift-card with $100 loaded onto it. 

Here is Natalie’s winning photo!

Green Frog – Rana clamitans by Natalie Jens. (click photo to enlarge)

And here’s a bit more about Natalie: I am 14 years old and started High School this Fall in Beaver Dam. I live on the lake in Beaver Dam and I think living on the lake was a big part of becoming interested in photography. We have beautiful sunsets, pelicans and herons right in our backyard. I love taking pictures!!! The photography class you offered really helped me better understand a lot of the elements that can make a big difference when taking pictures. I’m so thankful to have won the photo contest.

I joined the golf team this fall (having never golfed in my life) and really enjoy it but my favorite sport is basketball. My Beaver Dam team has won the Division 2 State Championship in grades 6, 7 and 8. I was honored to be selected to the all tournament team each of those years. 

Thanks again for offering such a great opportunity. The class was fun and informative, everyone in the class was great and the instructor was fantastic!!! I hope you do it again next year – I’ll be there 😉

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Whooping Crane #24-17

I have a little over an hour’s drive to reach the wetland in Dodge County where this young Parent-reared whooper was released last Wednesday. 

Since his release near the adult female number 66-15, I have seen him three times. The rest of the time I spend listening to beeps on a handheld receiver that detects his VHF transmitter on his leg. 

Two of my three sightings have been watching him fly and for a crane raised in captivity, he does pretty well. The third visual was yesterday when I arrived just before 7am. 

I parked on a hill, which gives a decent view of most of the wetland.

I could tell by the beeps he was still there and by the lack of beeps that the adult female had already left for the day. 

Through binoculars, I watched as the Sandhills began leaving in pairs and groups of there’s – no doubt Mom, Dad and a young-of-year chick… wait! A flash of white with that trio!

Sure enough it appeared that #24-17 had roosted near a family group of Sandhills cranes. I watched as he flapped and lifted off to fly a circuit over the marsh behind the Sandhills and wondered if he would attempt to follow them to a nearby field to spend the day foraging. 

While the trio veered to the north and then west, my little guy settled back into the marsh;  perhaps not quite confident in his flying abilities just yet to venture away from the safety of the water.

Maybe tomorrow…

** Addendum – Two days after writing this post, this young male Whooping crane did indeed fly out of the marsh to spend the day foraging with a Sandhill pair. He flies about a mile to a nearby alfalfa field and returns to the safety of the marsh at night. He has not been spotted with the female Whooping crane yet.

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The Rule of Three

According to Wikipedia, “the Rule of Three is a writing principle that suggests that events or characters introduced in threes are more humorous, satisfying, or effective in execution of the story and engaging the reader.”

 

Take humor. You never hear that a cow and a chicken walked into a bar. There’s nothing funny about that. It’s always a cow, a chicken, and a horse.

 

And then there’s the concept of satisfying. Are you satisfied with a meal of just meat and vegetables? Of course not – if you don’t get a starch, you’re obviously on a diet!

 

I would argue that things that come in threes can also be annoying. Take, for example, my trip out to Wisconsin and then back. Late in August, I was on my last day before leaving my home in RI to drive to WI. I hadn’t finished my birdhouse (you know about our Avian Abodes, don’t you?). I hadn’t started to pack. Right – hadn’t STARTED. Had two doctor’s appointments.

 

The only thing keeping me sane was that I knew I didn’t have to leave early the next day. Usually I drive two full days to get to Princeton, but this time I could take a leisurely three days because I was timing my trip to pick up one of our Board members at the Milwaukee airport on Friday. See? Three IS better!

 

Still, I was pretty stressed out when, at 1:33 pm, on my way home from one of the doctor’s appointments, a guy turned right in front of me at a traffic light (I had the green) and there was nothing I could do except hit him. It wasn’t bad – I didn’t hit the steering wheel and the airbag didn’t deploy. It was only $9,000 worth of damage. ONLY! Worse than that, my car was not drive-able so I had to rent a car to get out to Wisconsin. Annoying. And expensive!

 

That was #1. Number 2 happened this past Friday. With my Wisconsin work complete until more birds arrive that need tracking, I came home for a couple of weeks. My first flight, from Madison to Detroit, was uneventful (the way we want ALL flights!). The second flight, from Detroit to Providence, was much more ummmmm annoying! 

 

We boarded on time (8:05pm) and I settled in with my audiobook open and eyes closed. After a while I realized the plane hadn’t moved. The pilot then announced that we had a problem with engine 1 and had to change planes. OK, that makes good sense – no complaints here! We all disembarked and walked to another gate where a plane with a good engine 1 awaited.

 

We boarded and I settled in with my audiobook open and eyes closed. After a while I realized the plane hadn’t moved. Sound familiar? The pilot then announced that we didn’t have any ice on board so we wouldn’t be able to have beverages with ice. He said he planned to fight with the ice control people for 10 more minutes and then we’d just have to leave without it. Everyone yelled “GO NOW!”, but we didn’t.

 

Anyway, I settled back in my seat, re-fitted my earbuds and closed my eyes. After a while I realized the plane hadn’t moved (the THIRD time!). The pilot then announced that we were waiting for Maintenance to arrive to fix the door – it wouldn’t close. A pretty loud groan filled the cabin as I closed my eyes and restarted my book.

 

OK, that was THREE annoyances just on Friday night’s trip, which was the second annoying trip this year between RI and WI. I’m certain that when I head back on October 4th something will go wrong to complete this trio. Well, not certain, but hopeful – I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder constantly wondering when #3 will hit!

 

P.S. These are truly just “annoyances” and they pale in comparison to the hardships that people in Texas, Puerto Rico, the other islands, Florida, and Mexico are facing. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers!

Get Your Bids IN!

This year’s online auction is well underway, so, if you don’t already follow Operation Migration’s Facebook page, it’s time to click FB_like

The auction will run until NOON, Central time on Saturday, October 7th.

The minimum bid amount listed on each item in no way reflects the fair market value of that item. Instead, the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.

To place a bid, just leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid. If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting your new bid in another comment.

At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information and, upon receipt of payment, your item will be sent to you. Happy bidding!

ALL funds raised will go to support Operation Migration their work with Whooping cranes in 2017. Here’s just a few of the items available! 

Parent-Reared Whooping Crane Releases

Last year when we released the parent reared birds, we did it where the adults were foraging during the day. In fact, we even put a few of them in temporary pens in hopes that the adults would be attracted to them long enough to form a bond.

Sometimes it worked. Jo-Anne and Heather monitored number 38-16 for three days in Marquette County last year while the adults spent most of their day around its pen. That connection continued when the chick was released but it, and another (31-16) released there failed to follow them to their roost site a few miles away. They would circle overhead and call to them but the chicks could only make short flights around the field.

On the other hand, number 30-16 spent time in a pen near White River Marsh where two pairs of adults completely ignored him for three days. Once he was released, he became the only 2016 Parent-Reared crane to be properly adopted.

Cranes raised in captivity don’t get to fly like wild birds. Once they are released, their poor flying ability could be under-developed muscles, a lack of experience, or a combination of both. Either way, it’s dangerous for cranes to roost on dry land.

So this year we are attempting to release the Parent-Reared chicks where the adults roost. That way, even if it takes them a few days to practice flying, they still have a safe place to spend the dangerous nights. Hopefully, after a few days they will follow the adults to their foraging grounds and that bond will have a chance to form.

One minor advantage of releasing them where the adults forage is that they can generally be monitored more easily. Open fields allow us to record the amount of time they spend together and their behavior. Now that most of them are in isolated wetlands, there isn’t much we can do except check on their location a few times a day. Remote tracking gives us a picture of their movements and habitat use but not how they are interacting with adult cranes.

Each released crane has a VHF transmitter on one leg, which emits a signal. The following clip show the receiver and antenna and the audible beep we hear when trying to determine the location of a bird we cannot see.

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RAFFLE! RAFFLE! RAFFLE!

And here, without further adieu, are this year’s OM Staff Avian Abode’s!

The Odd Couple: Brooke Pennypacker and Bev Paulan

Creating a novel birdhouse was a task assigned to Brooke but we all know where the talent lies in that couple.

The creative use of wine corks provides a beautiful and practical exterior to their birdhouse and maybe a little insight to one of their other favorite hobbies.

 

 

 

 

The Backyard Enthusiast: Chris Danilko

Chris’ inspiration for her birdhouse design came from her three grandchildren: Abby 7, Mikayla 5 and Thomas 4. Chris spends weekends with the trio and is continuously coming up with ideas for all to participate in and to inspire them to appreciate nature and birds.

The finished product is completely edible and can be consumed by the occupants – providing you are a bird.

 

 

 

The Vagabond: Jo-Anne Bellemer

It seems that three months on the road was not enough to dampen Jo-Anne’s wanderlust. An aspiring RV owner, Jo-Anne’s birdhouse looks like a mini Winnebago for our feathered friends. Let’s hope they don’t get too attached. We might see them heading to Florida on foot with their mobile home in tow.

 

 

 

The Birdwatcher: Heather Ray

Heather’s birdhouse design incorporates her stained glass hobby into her other favorite pastime of birdwatching. She has provided our feathered friends with a nest opportunity that is safe from the elements, while still allowing you to peek in discretely. She is also teaching the birds a life-lesson about not throwing stones.

 

 

 

Greek Weddings and Colleen Chase

We are not sure if Colleen has any Greek ancestry but her birdhouse resulted from (un)-ceremoniously breaking a lot of plates. She scoured antique stores for old dinnerware and used the smashed pieces to create a mosaic birdhouse. What better way to provide shelter to pairs of expectant parents. OPA!

 

 

 

The Intemperate: Joe Duff

The birdhouses created by the OM team likely reflect their personalities more than they care to admit.

Joe started with a simple bird shelter and kept piling complications on top. Joe never learned the lesson most important to an artist and that is knowing when to stop.

 

 

 

 

Tickets are sold in sets of 5 for $5/set.

Visit this link and select your favorite(s) from the dropdown menu. The draws will be made on October 31st at noon and the winners will be notified on our blog and also by telephone. 

Once everyone has been notified, we will send the Avian Abode’s to each of the winning ticket holders by mail, or, if local, we’ll personally deliver them to the winner!

More tickets increase the chances of your name being drawn.

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Church on Sunday

“So…why do people go to church every Sunday morning,” my sister, brother and I would ask my parents every Sunday morning growing up? “Give us one good reason.”

“So they don’t grow up to lie, cheat or steal,” my parents would answer.

This answer never made any sense to me. Every time I tried to lie, I’d hear myself and burst into laughter. And I was too severely lacking in both the mental and manual dexterity to play cards, let alone cheat. As far for stealing, I was far too paranoid a child to try that. People were always watching me and I just knew I’d get caught. Besides, what’s the point of stealing stuff if they don’t let you keep it?

It’s funny how some questions stay with you long after their context has faded away in time. Like old habits, they come and they go only to return at the oddest of times. And so last Sunday morning, as I returned to camp after a pre-dawn roost check, the question… like some unwanted ear worm, returned. “Why DO people go to church on Sunday mornings”?

And that’s when I saw Joe kneeling in seeming repentant reverence at the left rear tire of the white Dodge pickup truck. Around him, a veritable tide of tools and auto parts seemed to rise as the air above filled with four lettered words, each beginning with the word, “God.” It was, after all, Sunday.

“Brakes”? I asked.
“Brakes” Joe replied, his clothes already awash in sweat.

I slowly and carefully turned and quietly crept away to the relative safety of the “Jambo.” I knew from having watched the movie, “Jurassic Park” that predators detect motion. That’s when that other, often asked question popped into my head. “What’s it like to work with birds”?

“What birds?” my thought balloon answer would always bubble up when asked. The reality is that most of our time is spent working on all the other things the project requires; the trucks, the van, the trailers and motorhome, the pen trailers, generators, pumps and on and on. Each requires maintenance and repair and you can’t walk out the door in the morning without hearing at least one of them calling to you, “Help Me. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”!

The point is, to work with whooping cranes is to work with all things mechanical… knuckle busting and frustrating as they may be… and if the only song one knows how to sing is, “I Love Birds and Birds Love Me” well, a job on a whooper reintroduction project isn’t going to be a good fit.

But back to the original question, “Why do people go to church on Sunday?”

I secretly peaked out through a small slit in the curtain, watching Joe fighting the good fight as if a Christian fighting a Roman Gladiator in the Coliseum. And that’s when, after more than sixty years, the answer to the question finally came to me.

“They go to church to avoid having to stay home and work on their damn pickup trucks”!

Get Your Bids IN!

This year’s online auction began last week, so, if you don’t already follow Operation Migration’s Facebook page, it’s time to click FB_like

The auction will run until NOON, Central time on Saturday, October 7th.

The minimum bid amount listed on each item in no way reflects the fair market value of that item. Instead, the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.

To place a bid, just leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid. If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting your new bid in another comment.

At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information and, upon receipt of payment, your item will be sent to you. Happy bidding!

ALL funds raised will go to support Operation Migration their work with Whooping cranes in 2017. Here’s just a few of the items available! 

Place Your Bids!

This year’s fabulous and anxiously-awaited online auction began this week, so, if you don’t already follow Operation Migration’s Facebook page, it’s time to click FB_like

The auction items were posted last Saturday and will run until NOON, Central time on Saturday, October 7th.

The minimum bid amount listed on each item in no way reflects the fair market value of that item. Instead, the minimum bid amount was established to cover postage/packaging costs within North America.

To place a bid, just leave a comment on the photo of the item you are bidding on, including the amount of your bid. If you are outbid, you may increase your bid by posting your new bid in another comment.

At the conclusion of the auction, you will be contacted for payment information and, upon receipt of payment, your item will be sent to you. Happy bidding!

ALL funds raised will go to support Operation Migration their work with Whooping cranes in 2017. Here’s just a few of the items available! 

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Parent-Reared Releases

On Wednesday evening at 6:06 PM we released the last Whooping crane from the first cohort of five Parent-Reared birds.

We had the cooperation of two landowners whose property bordered a perfect wetland in Dodge Country.

Target female, 66-15 forages in local fields and roosts in this secluded marsh. If it all works out, she will mentor number 24-17 and teach him the ways of the wild. If that introduction takes a little time, 24-17 is in prefect habitat to safely roost in water.

In the spirit of real partnership, we had representatives there from the International Crane Foundation, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, the Wisconsin Departure of Natural Resources and Operation Migration all helping with the release.

Like many Wisconsin wetlands, this one is surrounded by cattails and there is only one access. We had to carry the crate containing 24-17 over stumps and under tree-falls along a narrow, overgrown dike on the edge of a forest.

We reached a place where we could see the open marsh across a shallow channel and through a thin curtain of tall grass.

It’s almost impossible to predict what a bird will do when it comes out of a crate after an hour and a half drive. It could have walked up the channel to the left or right or flown out in any direction. Instead, it walked out of the crate, straight across the channel and through the grass curtain as if it knew the plan.

Young male whooping crane #24-17 crosses a shallow channel of water.

Now the first hurdle is cleared, we have to hope the chick and the adult actually meet. Then they must form a bond and stick together until the chick learns how to survive.

Then there is that migration thing…

Harvey and the Whooping Cranes

We have all heard first-hand about the devastation caused by hurricane Harvey. The news was full of video clips of destroyed buildings and of communities trying to put their lives back together.

Now that process is underway, people are beginning to ask the less pressing questions like how wildlife survived. An estimated 60,000 people visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge each year mostly in the fall and winter when the Whooping cranes are in residence. 

Luckily, those birds are still in Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada where they are preparing their chicks for the 2500 mile migration to the Coastal Bend Region of Texas that will start in about a month. Now that the flood waters have subsided in most places, people are concerned about what the cranes will find when they reach their traditional winter habitat. 

Aransas NWR has been closed to the public since the hurricane and crews have been clearing toppled trees and making the roads passable again. They are just now reaching the salt marshes and coastal prairies where the Whooping cranes spend the winter.

On the surface things look good but three important factors must be evaluated before we know what obstacles these endangered birds may face this winter. 

The water in and around Aransas is a brackish mix of salt water from the Gulf and fresh water from the Guadalupe River. That delicate balance sustains the blue crab population, which along with the pistol shrimp and clams makes up the primary diet of wintering Whooping cranes. The last time the water salinity in the bay was disturbed, then by severe drought, a large percentage of the wintering cranes didn’t survive. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff have yet to determine if the series of fresh water ponds that the Whooping cranes use for drinking are contaminated. Most of that habitat is extremely resilient. Its vegetation evolved to withstand regular floods, but modern floods bring with them another hazard that wasn’t part of their evolution. Plastics, tires, human debris and even barrels of oil have been found in critical crane habitat. The solids can be cleaned up eventually but the liquid contaminates take much longer, and are far more expensive to remove. 

So if the Bay water is still brackish and there is fresh water to drink that isn’t contaminated with pollutants, the only naturally occurring flock of Whooping cranes may still have a good winter home. That’s important because they are bringing with them a record number of chicks this year. At the last count in Canada, 62 chicks have fledged including four sets of twins. 

Storms of increasing intensity and rising sea levels threaten the critical habitat used by Whooping cranes both in Texas and Louisiana where a reintroduced flock of non-migratory Whooping cranes now numbers more than 50.

When the Eastern Migratory Population began, it was intended that the birds would winter in the salt marshes on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Obviously, our birds had other ideas because they are now spread out over much of the eastern flyway. Some birds winter at St Marks NWR south of Tallahassee while others prefer Wheeler NWR in Alabama. Some only travel as far south as Goose Pond State Wildlife Area in Indiana.

That distribution was once considered a shortcoming of this project but maybe it will safeguard the birds from any one weather event. Maybe it makes them more adaptable than the natural flock that seem focused on a small area of precious habitat with an uncertain future. 

Storm events are only one of the hazards that threaten the critical habitat in Texas. There is the possibility of chemical spills, erosion, human encroachment, invasive species like black mangrove or even an avian disease. That’s why the Whooping Crane Recovery Team began the Eastern Migratory Population and other flocks in the first place and why they are more important now than ever. 

We have an unprecedented one hundred birds in the eastern flyway; the first since the last nest was reported in Wisconsin in 1878. It is a priceless asset but it is not yet self-sustaining. We need unrelenting enthusiasm and continued support to ensure that Whooping cranes are disseminated enough to survive any single threat.

First Day with the New Bling

For the second time in a week, we owe huge thanks to the banding team of Richard Urbanek, Marianne Doyle, Hillary Thompson, Dr. Glenn Olsen and Brooke Pennypacker. 

And – for the second time, nobody got pooped on! 

Everyone gathered at the White River Marsh pen site this morning at 8:30. The first crane, number 6-17 was in hand at 9 am sharp and the last bird, number 4-17 was placed back in the pen at 10:50 am.

Not a bad total time at all to band seven Whooping cranes that would rather be doing anything but being held across someones lap with their behinds held up in the air while someone glues pretty plastic bands on their legs.

So now all of the Costume-Reared cranes have their permanent legbands, VHF radios and three of them have remote GSM devices. They are females: 2-17, 6-17 and 7-17.

Richard places the BBL aluminum band on the leg of female 8-17, while Marianne holds the birds legs steady.

Marianne holds one of the cranes across her lap with the legs available for Dr. Urbanek to access.

A hood is placed over the head of each crane during the procedure. This reduces the stress on the birds.

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Avian Abode’s RAFFLE!

And here, without further adieu, are this year’s OM Staff Avian Abode’s!

The Odd Couple: Brooke Pennypacker and Bev Paulan

Creating a novel birdhouse was a task assigned to Brooke but we all know where the talent lies in that couple.

The creative use of wine corks provides a beautiful and practical exterior to their birdhouse and maybe a little insight to one of their other favorite hobbies.

 

 

 

 

The Backyard Enthusiast: Chris Danilko

Chris’ inspiration for her birdhouse design came from her three grandchildren: Abby 7, Mikayla 5 and Thomas 4. Chris spends weekends with the trio and is continuously coming up with ideas for all to participate in and to inspire them to appreciate nature and birds.

The finished product is completely edible and can be consumed by the occupants – providing you are a bird.

 

 

 

The Vagabond: Jo-Anne Bellemer

It seems that three months on the road was not enough to dampen Jo-Anne’s wanderlust. An aspiring RV owner, Jo-Anne’s birdhouse looks like a mini Winnebago for our feathered friends. Let’s hope they don’t get too attached. We might see them heading to Florida on foot with their mobile home in tow.

 

 

 

The Birdwatcher: Heather Ray

Heather’s birdhouse design incorporates her stained glass hobby into her other favorite pastime of birdwatching. She has provided our feathered friends with a nest opportunity that is safe from the elements, while still allowing you to peek in discretely. She is also teaching the birds a life-lesson about not throwing stones.

 

 

 

Greek Weddings and Colleen Chase

We are not sure if Colleen has any Greek ancestry but her birdhouse resulted from (un)-ceremoniously breaking a lot of plates. She scoured antique stores for old dinnerware and used the smashed pieces to create a mosaic birdhouse. What better way to provide shelter to pairs of expectant parents. OPA!

 

 

 

The Intemperate: Joe Duff

The birdhouses created by the OM team likely reflect their personalities more than they care to admit.

Joe started with a simple bird shelter and kept piling complications on top. Joe never learned the lesson most important to an artist and that is knowing when to stop.

 

 

 

 

Tickets are sold in sets of 5 for $5/set.

Visit this link and select your favorite(s) from the dropdown menu. The draws will be made on October 31st at noon and the winners will be notified on our blog and also by telephone. 

Once everyone has been notified, we will send the Avian Abode’s to each of the winning ticket holders by mail, or, if local, we’ll personally deliver them to the winner!

More tickets increase the chances of your name being drawn.

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The “Prize”

The Costume-Reared Whooping crane chicks are getting very little costume time now. Just when I release them, which has been less than a minute and at the end of the daily outing for about 5 minutes when they are led back inside the pen.

They are still easily led but this will change in the coming weeks and that is a good thing. As Brooke said in one of his posts we WANT empty nest syndrome! We want them to want to be out and on their own.

For now, they happily follow the costume back to the pen in the afternoon if they have not flown there on their own, and there is one thing I can count on when we wander back from the pond… Number 7-17 loves to walk with a “Prize”!

Sometimes it’s a tuft off grass, sometimes a stick and sometimes a Goldenrod Gall fly lump.

Whooping crane 7-27 with the Prize du jour!

Whatever IT is, she walks with IT in her beak for most of the walk. I silently giggle as we head back. She is my favorite.

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