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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 19:55   #26
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I found grappling with an entirely new avifaua extremely difficult on my visit to Oz. I'd managed fine when I first visited America (and subsequently), but then many groups there are fairly familiar to we Europeans. In Australia was extremely lucky to have the very best field guide of all, my old school friend and birding companion, Phil Gregory, at hand. Instant real time ID of all those puzzling squawks, squeeks and whistles (many of which weren't even avian in origin). Prompts given when needed and instant IDs when time was of the essence. A reference point for what should be where in yet another new habitat. All of which made a paper fieldguide (rather than an animated human one) a bit supurflous at times.

Once 'grounded' by a basic understanding gleaned from Phil using the guides and to sort out the birds became a lot easier. I also found it infinitely easier to learn the birds from real field experience than any amount of time staring at illustrations (however good). The point I'm struggling towards is that whilst not everyone might relish going on an organised trip, even experienced birds (unless they're preternaturally talented) will find a few days on arrival with a good local birder will help enormously
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 19:58   #27
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[quote=Swissboy;2023597]... the "Collins" (or better the one by Svensson et al, as there are many other "Collinses") would benefit from at least two features that are missing at present.QUOTE]

Sorry, I meant Svesson et al which is often just called the Collins Guide' in the UK. I absolutely agree with the points made about the two missing features,
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 20:25   #28
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Quote:
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I found grappling with an entirely new avifaua extremely difficult on my visit to Oz. I'd managed fine when I first visited America (and subsequently), but then many groups there are fairly familiar to we Europeans. In Australia was extremely lucky to have the very best field guide of all, my old school friend and birding companion, Phil Gregory, at hand. Instant real time ID of all those puzzling squawks, squeeks and whistles (many of which weren't even avian in origin). Prompts given when needed and instant IDs when time was of the essence. A reference point for what should be where in yet another new habitat. All of which made a paper fieldguide (rather than an animated human one) a bit supurflous at times.

Once 'grounded' by a basic understanding gleaned from Phil using the guides and to sort out the birds became a lot easier. I also found it infinitely easier to learn the birds from real field experience than any amount of time staring at illustrations (however good). The point I'm struggling towards is that whilst not everyone might relish going on an organised trip, even experienced birds (unless they're preternaturally talented) will find a few days on arrival with a good local birder will help enormously
I managed to pick up a copy of the UK edition of P&K a few months before moving out, which helped no end when I got to Australia. I must have read it cover to cover three times before I got out here.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 21:28   #29
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[quote=John Cantelo;2023629]
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...Sorry, I meant Svesson et al which is often just called the Collins Guide' in the UK. ..
No problem, I just tried to generalise a bit more, as the same holds for the US edition. And I'm sure the various forthcoming or already published translations will be in the same boat.
Also, Collins has the bad habit to call all the FGs the same in a way. Just adding the specifics kind of like an attachment. There is a German publisher (Kosmos) that does the same. So we get lots of Kosmos Naturführer. I also still have a Collins Birds of Europe by Peterson et al. And then, of course Collins FG Birds of Mexico and Central America, and a few more such "Collins" ones.
But as long as we all know what is meant, I don't object for brevity's sake to just call it the"Collins" for the book in question here.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 22:51   #30
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When I travel I always take the Simpson and Day because that is where I keep records of first sightings of new birds, using the check boxes.
Mike, have you written your name and phone number on your copy of S&D? I've heard of several people who do the same thing, but then lost the book on a trip. No idea what chance you'd have of getting it back that way, but the chances otherwise must be about zero.

I put my details in the front of every field guide and every notebook I start, with the words "PLEASE return ASAP!".
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 23:07   #31
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I have used S&D for several years, spending weeks, and sometimes months, in the outback etc.. The book stays with my vehicle, and is used to check my identification of species when I return to my camp.

If you can't identify a species using this book you probably won't identify it at all.

Having been brought up on Troughton's "What Bird Is That", and having for many early years to try and identify birds using the not too good, tiny pictures, I am very happy to be able to use any of the now available field guides, all of which are a great help at times.

I now use S&D and am happy to continue using it; it is easy and quick to find what I am looking for, although now and then I have filmed birds that I have not yet identified, and not been able to find in any book.
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Old Wednesday 5th January 2011, 23:35   #32
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However, given the huge popularity of our hobby, the number of brilliant bird artists out there and seventy-odd years of experience in producing field guides, isn't it just a bit outrageous that, in well birded countries, birders should ever feel the need for more than one book to confirm an ID? It's one of the disappointments of being an ornitho-bibliophile that, over ten years on, nobody elsewhere in the world has come remotely close to the magisterial authority and quality of the "Collins Guide",
I haven't actually seen this Collins Guide, but I wonder if the problem is that you just can't fit enough pictures into a book small enough to be called a field guide in order to cover all the plumage variations. How many species does the Collins Guide cover?

I sometimes wonder if people's preference for one guide might reflect the fact that the particular plumage variations of the specimens that artist drew from might happen to match those in their local area.

That said, I'm not that impressed by some aspects of the layout of HANZAB. For those of you who don't know it, it's a 7 volume set (two of which are double volumes) costing several thousand dollars and weighing the equivalent of maybe 30 or 40 copies of Pizzey and Knight. I've often thought it would be nice if they released it as a set of illustrations only, as they cover many plumage variations and the resulting book ought to be a manageable size.

HANZAB isn't intended to be a field guide, but the plate pages are inserted in groups, so they are rarely near the associated text, and it's a struggle to find them, let alone refer to them while reading. The illustrations are also numbered, so you have to refer to a numbered list on the page next to it. This list doesn't have a line per illustration either, they're squeezed in several to a line, so it's hard to even work out which number you want to look at. A wonderful resource, but it makes all the field guides look good in terms of easy access.
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Old Thursday 6th January 2011, 01:41   #33
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Speaking of HANZAB, I've always been very impressed with the artwork of Jeff Davies who contributed a lot of work to it. The Birds of Prey of Australia and The Owls of Australia feature his illustrations. The illustrations are superior to any of the main guides for Australia, IMO, especially the raptors. His seabird stuff and buttonquail/quail stuff from HANZAB is also much better than that found in the main guides. He would get my vote for chief illustrator of the Aussie dream guide.

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Old Thursday 6th January 2011, 10:08   #34
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[quote=pshute;2023815]I haven't actually seen this Collins Guide, but I wonder if the problem is that you just can't fit enough pictures into a book small enough to be called a field guide in order to cover all the plumage variations. How many species does the Collins Guide cover?
QUOTE]

I guess we're wandering off topic a bit and into generalities, but for your information the 2009 edition of the 'Collins Bird Guide' by Svesson et al covers 713 species in full plus 59 vagrants (all briefly described, most illustrated by a single portrait) with another 32 likely escapes/feral birds given similar treatement. Hence not that different from Australian guides.

Its, however, a 'standard' sized filed guide in the 'Collins' tradition rather than the preferred (to me) 'tall and thin' style utilized by Slatter and Morecombe. Incidentally this style was pioneered in the UK (as was 'block' treatment [as against plate/text segregation], multiple images and annotated illustrations) by the flawed, but much under rated 'Birdwatchers' Pocket Guide' by Hayman & Hume (particularly the more recent 'European' version). Sadly, the most recent editions of this book also illustrate what happens when publishers and/or designers seem to have the whip hand rather than authors/birders. One of the great strengths of Morecombe's book is that his publisher seems to have given him a free hand making it, arguably, the most user friendly guide I know,
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Old Thursday 6th January 2011, 12:49   #35
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Tony, John,
I wouldn't describe myself as a field user of "field guides", preferring to travel light when going for a walk.
I too like to read these many times over to "know what my known unknowns" are.........

I have used Morcombe's one, and as has been mentioned by others, find some of the drawings a bit naff, although some of the descriptions, the graded distribution maps, and nest/hollow/egg information is quite good/useful.
I generally find most field guide drawings a bit lacking in "life" and some way too colour saturated.

Consequently, in books, I mostly rely on photographic types - two excellent ones are "Australian Birds" - D. & M. Trounson (whose classifications I find particularly helpful), and "Birds of Australia" - J. Flegg with S. Madge (a field guide), details of both here http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....35#post2016235
The limitations with these of course is with juvenilles and immatures.

When it comes to raptors I use two excellent reference books:-
Diurnal: "Australian Birds Of Prey" - P. Olsen, details here http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....86#post2018486
Nocturnal: "Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars of Australia" - D.Hollands, details here http://www.amazon.com/Frogmouths-Nig...4314605&sr=1-1

In a field guide size raptor book, I use the superb "The Birds of Prey of Australia - A Field Guide" by Stephen Debus, mine published by J.B. Books Pty. Ltd. (2001 reprint) ISBN 1 876622 34 2 approx. A5 size, 152 pgs.
Chris, I have to agree, the illustrations of Jeff Davis in this book are very good.

For outstanding drawings, see the work of Humphrey Price-Jones (in Penny Olsens book above).
I believe he also has several books published, although I haven't laid peepers on any of these yet.......

So what's my ideal field guide? simple really.......none!
(If I'm ever stranded miles from anywhere with a busted up leg, or snake bite - I reckon a mobile phone's gunna be far more useful to me than a book!)
With the release of 7" smart phones my preference would be for apps that encompass complete sets of recognition info, photo's, video, bird calls (and matching voice recognition for that matter!), real time GPS data and distribution /freqency maps, matching seasonal and climatic info and of course a BirdForum link!.................now about that mobile phone reception....
Nah! actually that's all sounding a bit "matrix" - who wants all that EMF radiation flying around anyway.........
Think I'll stick with doing bird spirit, and soaring with the eagles......

Chosun


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Old Friday 7th January 2011, 08:23   #36
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Another Australian field guide coming

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Benesh View Post
Speaking of HANZAB, I've always been very impressed with the artwork of Jeff Davies who contributed a lot of work to it. The Birds of Prey of Australia and The Owls of Australia feature his illustrations. The illustrations are superior to any of the main guides for Australia, IMO, especially the raptors. His seabird stuff and buttonquail/quail stuff from HANZAB is also much better than that found in the main guides. He would get my vote for chief illustrator of the Aussie dream guide.

Chris
Chris you are in luck. CSIRO publishing has a team working on a new field guide to Australian birds and Jeff Davies and Peter Marsack (another HANZAB illustrator) will be the artists. There are three authors of the text and I have heard that the aim is to produce something of comparable quality to the European Collins Bird Guide. I don't know what the timing is - my guess is it's a couple of years away.

It's hard to believe that there will soon be five field guides available for a country with only 20 million people (and that's not counting the photo guides). It would be interesting to know how many copies they sell. From what I have heard it's in the six figure range.

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Old Friday 7th January 2011, 15:40   #37
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Murray,

Wow! That is really great news. I've always been impressed with the way that Australia invests in producing great natural history field guides. While I would rate all of the existing bird guides as very good, I look forward to something with those illustrators. CSIRO has done some great stuff over the years.

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Old Friday 7th January 2011, 16:27   #38
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Chris you are in luck. CSIRO publishing has a team working on a new field guide to Australian birds and Jeff Davies and Peter Marsack (another HANZAB illustrator) will be the artists. There are three authors of the text and I have heard that the aim is to produce something of comparable quality to the European Collins Bird Guide. I don't know what the timing is - my guess is it's a couple of years away.

It's hard to believe that there will soon be five field guides available for a country with only 20 million people (and that's not counting the photo guides). It would be interesting to know how many copies they sell. From what I have heard it's in the six figure range.

Murray

Sounds good - all the more reason to go back there in a few years' time! I do hope, though, that they pinch a lot of Morcombe's ideas vis a vis the size and shape of the book plus all those useful its design features already outlined here,
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Old Friday 7th January 2011, 21:24   #39
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Hi Chosun,

Thanks for highlighting some of the other books out there - I'd struggle to justify buying any more books, so much appreciated.
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Old Sunday 6th February 2011, 07:02   #40
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Another mini-review to add:
What Birds Is That?, Revised field edition, 1991. Neveille W. Cayley
442 pages, 700 grams.

This is one of the oldest Australian field guides, originally written in 1931, but updated a few times since. I've heard of a few older birders using this and it was going cheap (RRP A$29.95 - cheapest cover price of the Aus. field guides), so now you get to hear about it.
As one might expect, it looks fairly old-fashioned in a nice way. The plates are separate to the text and while quite nice to look at, are not necessarily great for identification. As was usual for the time, some of the birds appear in 'museum poses', in that you'd probably not see a live bird doing the head-down, wings slightly held out posture that so many old museum pieces have. The swallows and swifts, especially, look very posed. Some of the paltes can be crowded and the pictures are often small.
For all that, the text itself has some very useful behavioural notes that I've not seen in the other guides. For all that, the behavioural notes in this field edition are much reduced compared to the hardback.
The book is kept somewhat up to date by revisions from Terence R. Lindsay, so that several vagrant species and splits are included. Island and territory species don't appear to be included.
The grouping of the species is not generally taxonomic, but by habitat. There are also no range maps, but written descriptions of distributions.
All in all, a fairly nice book and it may suit some people more than others, depending on how you like the species to be ordered.
The book is quite compact and more pocket-sized than Slater and only a shade heavier.

In brief
Positive: Light and compact; nice pointers on behaviour.
Negative: Artwork can look dated; no distribution maps; small pictures.
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Old Sunday 6th February 2011, 11:40   #41
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Another mini-review to add:
What Birds Is That?, Revised field edition, 1991. Neville W. Cayley
I haven't seen a recent edition of this. Mine is about 50 years old, and I'd say the biggest problem is the small pictures. I've heard people complain about their quality, but when you look closely, they aren't that bad. It's just that such tiny pictures were never going to turn out well with the printing resolutions of the day, and probably not even today.

I'm also not a fan of numbered pictures. Is it still like that? having to look them up in the key opposite can lead to mistakes.

Having all the birds on each plate drawn at the same scale can be useful, although it leads to some of them being unnecessarily tiny.
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Old Sunday 6th February 2011, 12:50   #42
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I haven't seen a recent edition of this. Mine is about 50 years old, and I'd say the biggest problem is the small pictures. I've heard people complain about their quality, but when you look closely, they aren't that bad. It's just that such tiny pictures were never going to turn out well with the printing resolutions of the day, and probably not even today.

I'm also not a fan of numbered pictures. Is it still like that? having to look them up in the key opposite can lead to mistakes.

Having all the birds on each plate drawn at the same scale can be useful, although it leads to some of them being unnecessarily tiny.
I picked up a new paperback copy in QBD at the weekend (although the colour they use makes it look faded). It still has the numbered plates and as you say, although the pictures are small, the detail is there. It's just some of the poses are not so good. I forgot to say about the scaling of the images and the scale at the bottom - useful features.

At some point, I might get round to a run-down on Birds of the Top End.
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Old Monday 7th February 2011, 10:58   #43
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I own both Simpson and Day, and Morcombe. I have had S&D for at least 5 years and it has been my constant travel companion and has served me very well, though at times I have wished for a second guide. S&D is nice, the illustrations are well done, but admittedly the plates are confusing with the orientation and placement of the birds, and there are flights views where I feel they're not needed and no flight images where I would really benefit from them. Towards the end of last year I invested in Morcombe, the additional text is a valuable resource and I've found myself comparing images between the two books. Morcombe's images can be a bit static, but I sometimes find that the simplicity of them makes for comparing ID features of similar birds easier at times, although it does depend on the bird and images. The layout of the images is much nicer, makes great use of space, plenty of flight images which is fantastic and very useful and the placement of the images next to the relevant text makes figuring out what bird you're looking at much simpler. It's a bit bulky for me for when I'm walking, I always carry S&D when I'm walking for quick ref. and I either carry morcombe in the car or just compare when I get home. When I was researching for a second field guide, I was preffering Pizzey and Knight from what I was seeing online, but then I got to the store, and flicked through both and Morcombe just made much more sense to me.

I've had the opportunity to use Slater on many Uni camps, but to be honest, the perfect layout of the illustrations always put me off for some reason, although I guess it is a good comparison, it just seemed to lifeless to me and I could never get the feel for it.

For most things, I find that one guide in the field is sufficient, especially now that I know my birds better, but I know for things that I don't know, like shorebirds etc, having an additional guide to compare to is really valuable.
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Old Monday 7th March 2011, 09:52   #44
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Great thread. And to each his own. I've got all four guides. Pizzey/Knight; S+D/ Slater/ Morcombe. I use all four. But overall I guess Pizzey/Knight would be 'my bible'. Jude
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Old Thursday 23rd August 2012, 13:31   #45
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As the Morcombe compact guide is £50 in the UK I guess that I'll try to pick one up in Oz.

How much is it there?

I notice it doesn't feature alongside all the others on Lloyd Nielsen's web site.
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Old Thursday 23rd August 2012, 14:26   #46
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As the Morcombe compact guide is £50 in the UK I guess that I'll try to pick one up in Oz. How much is it there? I notice it doesn't feature alongside all the others on Lloyd Nielsen's web site.
Last year it was Au$47.50, about £30, but any still on the shelf may be the last hard-copy issue - future issues will be electronic, by what I believe is called an "app".
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Old Thursday 23rd August 2012, 15:00   #47
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Last year it was Au$47.50, about £30, but any still on the shelf may be the last hard-copy issue - future issues will be electronic, by what I believe is called an "app".
MJB
So when you are out birding and your batteries run out, you just quit birding?

I don't like this at all. I often make notes alongside of particular species.

And of course, trying to look up something a few years later, will mean you are likely to start all over as the system has changed.

So, I think while electronic versions may be most attractive for several reasons, the printed one should still be available.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2013, 05:28   #48
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I've been looking around at different field guides and I thank you for the wonderful review.
I thought I'd add a few things to Morcombe's app. This is AWESOME as it has the bird calls and tells you which species, male or female and why the bird is calling. I have found this to be a life saver when you cannot actually SEE the birds identifying marks. It is also good in that there is only the phone weight and the search section is good for a novice like me. You can select birds in your region, what the bird looks like, physical features, colour, exclusions and size.
You can record your findings on the app and it recalls all your sightings for easy reference (which can be emailed or text’d)
I live in the western planes of NSW and because of this great app, in the last 6 months I have seen/identified 110 individual bird species (with around 330 left to find).
There is also a compare section where you can click on two different birds and it will show them side by side.

Only drawback is the actual images can be a bit misleading (eg. Red Goshawk looks a lot stripe-ier than it is). I have a photographic field guide which is good but I’m looking at buying another guide…from this thread I’ve decided to get a Simpson and Day...now it is just finding one that isn’t going to cost me too much!

Thanks colonelboris for the review!
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Old Saturday 16th March 2013, 00:59   #49
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The Australian field guides are all good reading, and as mentioned above by other posts the larger range of species they cover, can 'sometimes' mean a slight loss in more detailed information, as they go for a quantity listing. But usually even then the information is enough.
All the above mentioned recommendations are going to serve you well, so to narrow them down is extremely hard, they are all top quality. As you move along in your research you may want to then reduce done to a certain species of interest, you can then head for a title specially on that bird. Sometimes it is good to go with a general field guide, as you never know what birds you will see out there! One (of many) I like is:
Know Your Birds
Good luck with it.

Last edited by Hatch : Saturday 16th March 2013 at 01:01.
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Old Monday 8th July 2013, 14:19   #50
Pat MS
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Kent UK
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I have read that the Pizzey and Knight guide is also available for iPad but can't seem to find where I can buy it online. I've got the lite (free) version of the Morcombe but would like to have a look at others before I decide which to buy. Are there any other electronic versions of Australian field guides becoming available in the next few months?
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