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Georgia - 12th > 26th September 2019...

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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 17:58   #26
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Thanks for the tips

I tend to go on proportions as there is a lot to look at. Back in the bar or the guest house it is a bit more subjective. The next couple of days should be interesting as we have had nearly 24 hours of rain as i type. We get some hard rain in the UK from time to time but the stuff in Georgia is something else believe me!

At this time of migration a blocking day will mean a huge build-up of birds from the East so Sunday promises movement. I am at the Argo tomorrow but will maybe taxi down to either side of the Choroki before breakfast. I get the impression that passerine movement has slacked off but this rain will possibly reveal grounded stuff in Batumi Seaside Park.

It helps to turn up with a ‘feel’ for raptor ID. I am no expert but have done 4 years at Tarifa and 2 Spring weeks at Sariyer on the Bosphorous but still need half a day to acclimatise as you simply do not get the experience back in Blighty.

Georgia is a great place with friendly people, good cuisine, a country that is wedded to wine and a landscape that is rough and wild unlike ours which is slowly but surely being farmed to death and anaesthetised against wildlife. There is so much here to enjoy and the Batumi migration is a joy to behold.

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:00   #27
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From the horses’ mouth.....
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:14   #28
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A humble Sparrowhawk, my favourite British bird of prey. When seen migrating in loose groups in a 'kettle' backdrop of larger species including Lesser Spotted Eagles they take my respect and punch well above their weight.
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:21   #29
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The German birders who i met last year had this down as an Eastern Imp - interesting White carpal patches on the upperwing. The bird was big with large primary fingers.....
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:29   #30
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Now going to bed and it is hammering it down like stair-rods - attached is todays forecast so i should’nt be surprised i suppose
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 19:21   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollingthunder View Post
Now going to bed and it is hammering it down like stair-rods - attached is todays forecast so i should’nt be surprised i suppose
Things look pretty bleak at this point. But for the rest of your stay it should be fine. Do you plan to go to the other official watchpoint (Shuamta) as well? It is a bit farther off.

Hope you'll have a fine day tomorrow despite the weather.
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Old Sunday 22nd September 2019, 04:18   #32
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No i shall stick with Sakhalvasho this time as Shuamta is more problematical.
A taxi would be too expensive or would not want to undertake it as the chance of a return fare is minimal and then i would need picking up. A Marashtruka probably operates possibly from Batumi or maybe from nearby Chakvi but Sak is the easiest for me. Even in your own car there is a 20 minute drive down a dirt and stone track. There is an old Monastery/Church there and a cafe etc so ppl do visit...

The BRC people do say that they will offer lifts to Sak from Batumi town centre but when i emailed them last week for details they apologised and said they were too busy with the counting. I presume they mean the van was full with counters or birders not lodging in Sak.

The first 4 taxi drivers i asked the other day did not want to go up there with the last one saying he would for 100GEL - that’s 30 quid and more than we paid for our 5 hour train journey from Tblisi The 5th driver said 80GEL and the final one 70GEL but actually reduced it to 50GEL during the journey which must be a first for Georgia! I have engaged him for the remaining 2 lifts to Sak on Monday and Wednesday. The cable car to Argo is good value at about £4 return iirc for the impressive 20 minute journey - we had 2 excellent days up there last year both 15k+ sessions with very close views of some species

Buses only go to Chakvi via the Botanical Gardens and you can get a taxi from Chakvi - i stayed there last year and was charged 20GEL return to go up the hill. Chakvi is a bit ‘one horse’ with little choice of eateries and bars so we prefer Batumi for daytime variety as the bride needs options. Having said that she is Argo-ing both days and is keen to go to Sak on Monday as we can get dropped off at the steps and there is a loo and beer dispenser in the new Observatory.

The Argo cars don’t start until 11:00 iirc but it gives me time to have a boot about before a leisurely breakfast and then a session from about midday to 5ish will be fine. The good thing about Argo is that you are not committed to a pick up time...

Good birding -

Laurie

P.S. it didn’t stop raining until Midnight and ther are pools of water everywhere but hopefully the worst has gone altho there are light residual showers forecast until mid-morning.
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Old Sunday 22nd September 2019, 04:22   #33
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Yesterday obviously little, if any, birding was done.

We had breakfast at a harbour cafe where Yellow-legged, Black-headed and a couple of Little Gulls were noted - in addition Cormorants and Hooded Crows ducked and dived...

I will update on todays Argo experience i anticipate a reasonable day numberwise due to the non-movement of raptors yesterday - we shall see

Laurie -
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Old Sunday 22nd September 2019, 05:30   #34
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Still chucking it down do here's a coupla more photos...

The newly installed 263 steps to Heaven and Bimbo the Observatory Dog...
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 04:24   #35
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Yesterday turned out to be interesting. Not because of either the volume and variety but..........because of the lack of it compared to Sakhalvasko and Shuamta

The rain, although light compared to the previous day, did not stop until middday. We too the cable-car up to the Argo Cafe at 11:15 - a short 10 minute ride for 15GEL just under 4 quid return.

From 12 until 2 small streams of primarily Black Kites came low over Batumi City via the Sea and others flew up and over us - i estimate about 750+ with 2/3 over the City. From 2-3:30 birds were mixed but less than 500 in total. This comprised more Black Kites, half a dozen each of Marsh Harriers Steppe Buzzards and Booted Eagles (2 pale adults). A single Monty/Pallid and a dozen or so Honey Buzzards were noted. 3 Hobbies, a Peregrine and a Kestrel represented the smaller Falcons and about 25 Sparrowhawks moved thru. 9 Black Storks and a few Hirundines were the little and large of the day. The last 2 hours from 3:30 until our departure was dead apart from the odd already mentioned Sprawk.

No large Eagles or equivalent e.g. Osprey were clocked at all. I thought it quiet considering the previous days rain... The layout of the Cafe means that directly facing the migration route there is the cable-car infrastructure and the Cafe building itself blocks views to the mountains to the adjacent East. Views to the West over the Black Sea and Batumi are unobstructed as are to the South over Chorokhi. This means, for me, if nothing is heading towards me i have to run over to see if anything is passing. With the Bride left in-situ c/w it was achievable and i do not believe we missed close streams.

When i saw the day count of 8k+ at Sak and nearly 20k at Shuamta i was very surprised also the variety including many identified and unidentfied large Eagles Quite where these birds went i do not know but they could have gone much higher as there was clear Blue skies - ideal for these birds to reach 15 thousand feet.

Consequently my viewing plans have been changed.
I will go to Sakhalvasho today as planned and the remaining 2 days. Another jaunt to the Argo Cafe and possibly half a day at Chorokhi have been binned. Batumi at this time of year is about Raptors and if you make the journey you need to be at the best locale which for me is Sak. I have arranged for the taxi-driver to pick me up at 10:30 today and pick me back up at a time yet to be decided but probably around 6pm. We have agreed 50GEL return about 15 quid.

It is worth explaining the discrepancy between the 2 Stations which are no more that 20kms away and indeed Shuamta is actually viewable from Sakhalvasho. Most of the birds start ‘kettling’ around Shuamta rising higher before breaking into ‘streams’ to start moving. Depending on the direction of the stream each Station records the appropriate one in order not to duplicate numbers. These watchpoints have been selected for their position and 360 degree views.

Laurie -

Attached are yesterdays counts.
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 04:38   #36
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Views from the Argo Cafe...
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 08:48   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollingthunder View Post
Yesterday turned out to be interesting. Not because of either the volume and variety but..........because of the lack of it compared to Sakhalvasko and Shuamta

..……………...

When i saw the day count of 8k+ at Sak and nearly 20k at Shuamta i was very surprised also the variety including many identified and unidentfied large Eagles Quite where these birds went i do not know but they could have gone much higher as there was clear Blue skies - ideal for these birds to reach 15 thousand feet.

Consequently my viewing plans have been changed.
I will go to Sakhalvasho today as planned and the remaining 2 days. Another jaunt to the Argo Cafe and possibly half a day at Chorokhi have been binned. Batumi at this time of year is about Raptors and if you make the journey you need to be at the best locale which for me is Sak. I have arranged for the taxi-driver to pick me up at 10:30 today and pick me back up at a time yet to be decided but probably around 6pm. We have agreed 50GEL return about 15 quid.

It is worth explaining the discrepancy between the 2 Stations which are no more that 20kms away and indeed Shuamta is actually viewable from Sakhalvasho. Most of the birds start ‘kettling’ around Shuamta rising higher before breaking into ‘streams’ to start moving. Depending on the direction of the stream each Station records the appropriate one in order not to duplicate numbers. These watchpoints have been selected for their position and 360 degree views.

Laurie -

Attached are yesterdays counts.
Laurie, many thanks for your most informative update! Looks like it is definitely not worth it to try the easy version. We'll have a car, so that should facilitate things in a way. But not sure whether we find the Shuamta place. Google Maps is kind of blurry in that area. We'll definitely start out with Watchpoint #1 and then ask there for details for the other place. I agree that one should concentrate on the presumed hotspots given the very limited time available. So the river delta will be used as a rainy-day alternative only, I guess.

All the best for some final great days. And please keep your helpful info coming. Thanks.
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 10:56   #38
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Despite the impressive numbers and views of raptors the line “enveloped by bee-eaters and hirundines” is what captured my imagination of the sheer spectacle of the migration.

Great stuff!
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 17:02   #39
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I have flown several times with Wizzair, (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary) and like flying Wizzair. I have thought about the Kutasi flight and considered doing this one, so your information is of much interest to me. The price is great for that length of flying time. When I flew Wizzair from Debrecen last year, I took out the "flight delay" insurance which cost £9, and because the flight got delayed for just over an hour, I ended up being credited 100 Euro to my Wizzair Account!
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 21:49   #40
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I have flown several times with Wizzair, (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary) and like flying Wizzair. I have thought about the Kutasi flight……….
We have a Turkish Airlines flight directly to Batumi, but need to change planes at the Istanbul mega airport. Booking two separate flights instead of one with a stop-over reduces the price considerably despite the planes being the same ones.
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Old Tuesday 24th September 2019, 04:10   #41
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The travel Guru Simon Calder was advising somebody who was travelling to Addis Ababba to book via Turkish Airlines and have a cheapo stopover at Istanbul and still save money as it doesn’t involve some sort of long haul tax.

You can get info about Shuamta from either the counters or leave an email at BRC or probably just Google it

The Sak road is about 200 yards on the left as you emerge from the tunnel heading out of Batumi towards Chakvi - don’t blink or you mifht miss it and will have to carry on to a turnoff as it is a dual carriageway - there is little or no lane discipline so take care The narrow road winds its way steadily uphill for about 2k. Then on the right is the track with watchpoint info saying 750m.
The first 10m is dirt and then the new concrete road begins, it has no edging so it looks like a lava flow! It is steep and winds its way past villagers houses eventually plateauing out..........then swings a hairpin right for a very steep section thru some rusty gates persevere and after a coupla hundred yards you have arrived. There is a cutting in the bank just past the steps that has been made. The road ends there but you can turn in front of the last house on the grass - they don’t mind. I have my own thoughts re: the steps etc and intend posting later and emailing BRC with my considered and personal shortcomings. Suffice to say warch those steps on the descent because the Gravel is edged by thin razor sharp sheet edging. Material has already been lost exposing the top. My girlfriend trod heavily on one of the last steps and cut halfway into her walking sandal (i have since superglued) God knows what would happen if somebody slipped and landed on a knee or a hand it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Will post ystdas stuff but bizzy at mo’ am being picked up earlier today at 9 instead of 10:30 as 2/3 of yatdas stuff had gone through by 11:30 leaving a very quiet afternoon from 3-6 but will detail later - still 13 spp of raptor iircc

Good birding -

Laurie -
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Old Tuesday 24th September 2019, 09:13   #42
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Sak road turnoff?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rollingthunder View Post
…………….
The Sak road is about 200 yards on the left as you emerge from the tunnel heading out of Batumi towards Chakvi - ………………….
Good birding -

Laurie -
Laurie,

Thank you so much! Mighty helpful, indeed. Just one question, is the turn-off for the Sak road not on the right? Looks like that on Google Earth or Google Maps.

Just about finished with my packing. :)

Robert
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Old Tuesday 24th September 2019, 18:26   #43
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Laurie,

Thank you so much! Mighty helpful, indeed. Just one question, is the turn-off for the Sak road not on the right? Looks like that on Google Earth or Google Maps.

Just about finished with my packing. :)

Robert
I was thinking the same, from memory it's a right turn after the tunnel. Perhaps a typo. In fact, just checked on Google maps and it looks to be so. Enjoying the reports.
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Old Tuesday 24th September 2019, 21:59   #44
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I was thinking the same, from memory it's a right turn after the tunnel. Perhaps a typo. In fact, just checked on Google maps and it looks to be so. Enjoying the reports.
Yes that's correct. Just got back from 12 days in Georgia staying in one of the guest houses up that road.
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 04:14   #45
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Yes - apologies

Don’t try turning left..........it’s a dual carriageway

Mondays notes - got up late ystda and had to rush about shower etc to make the 9 o/c taxi.

Monday was a stonkingly stunning blue skies all day, warm and cloudless. Therein lies the ‘problem’. No cloud means the birds are able to kettle high well away from Sak and stream up whichever valley they choose. Consequently after hundreds of Black Kit, most before i got there at 11ish, numbers dropped off rapidly but still produced variety if not volume. To give you some idea even the watchers at Shuamta put over 400 large Eagles and over 10k medium-sized raptors and a shedload of Buzzards as ‘unidentified’. They are much nearer to the initial kettling so when these start streaming away they are just dots at Sak if you are lucky or be bothered to look without checking whether the specks are dust on your optics.

I did get some Storks of both species in close as well as middle-distance Lesser Spotted Eagles. The odd Steppe could be discerned compared to LSE’s but again not crippling views. The number of Eagles that are being recorded is teuly mouth-watering but the good weather means they remain statistics. Of note are the number of Sparrowhawks moving thru which are either not bothered with or not mentioned. For me i think they are great and have seen several stoop at passing Swallows and a number with full crops having dined elsewhere. Several Hobbies, all juvs, were recorded in the afternoon. The 3-6 period was particularly quiet with just the odd large bird but a steady trickly of Sprawks - i counted over 30 birds including a loose kettle of 5.

The highlight of the day was undoubtably the sudden appearance of 3 Red-footed Falcons, a male and 2 females. They appeared out of nowhere and flitted over but thankfully did a handbreak turn and hawked above the Station occasionaly stooping at one another. The US Air Force has a combat jet called the F16 nicknamed the ‘Fighting Falcon’ due to its nifty turning and dogfighting capability - being an aviation buff i thought the comparison rather apt

Literally the last bird of the day and the ‘fat lady’ singing was a very obliging Osprey that i watchd drop into the Black Sea and emerge with what looked like a small Dolphin Whatever it was was big.

Tuesdays notes follow very shortly and attached are the days totals from the counters at Sak and Shuamta.

Laurie
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 04:22   #46
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Wonderful trip, a pleasure to read, brings back nice memories.

On the negative side, is there still shooting on the adjacent ridges - I have less pleasant memories of the fairly regular shout of shots (also logged by the counters) anf even less pleasant occasional raptor spiralling down to the ground after being hit.
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 04:24   #47
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Praise indeed

Thanks to you and everybody for the kind comments

Laurie -
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 05:05   #48
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Tuesday notes.....

I decided to get on site relatively early so no breakfast, a quick in hotel Coffee and a Schwarma purchased the night before and up to Sak for a tad after 9.

Once again the day was forecast like the previous stint so i have a foot in either camp. We get enough crap weather so i am not moaning about Sun and Blue skies. September iirc is the 3rd wettest month in Adjara with 1 in 3 days rainy. Thus far here in Batumi we have had one comlete day, 24 hours, of heavy rain followed by light showers until late morning up at an unproductive Argo Cafe so i think we have done better than average. The counters had every other day with rain of sorts the previous week. We only had a couple of hours one evening at Signagi so all in all It rains on Thursday at Kutaisi and we arrive back in Blighty to bluster and wet - no not Bozza!

A steady stream of hundreds of mainly Black Kites until 11:30 with good numbers over the Station. A few Booteds and Honeys could be picked out with more adults of the latter than previous visits. The odd Marsh Harrier tried to conceal itself and the ever-present Sprawks punching above their weight and often thermalling higher than their cousins almost flicking a couple of outer primaries in the process.....

No Pallids noted (i had one the previous day) and later on some problematical Monties but clicking Canons and large lenses means little gets past unidentified. A brace of juvenile Montys made for eye-popping (for me anyway) - i just don’t see them in England Large Eagles were moving by about lunchtime with birds coming mid-distance and near to the Obs. It suddenly went cold as i was under the shadow of a magnificent juvenile Steppe Eagle - monstermonster

3 Black Storks lumbered past later on and a gaggle of Whites over the Black Sea with an Osprey on their tail. Later on another Osprey, 3 Short-toed Eagles and a Gingery Egyptian Vulture move past a couple of Klicks away. It still went quiet from about 3ish until i left at 6 but several Hobbies, a juvenile Peregrine and the jaunty little Sprawks provided relief. I saw few people bothering with the Sprawks but i check them all as there must be the odd female Levantine rather than female/juv Sprawk. Last year down at Batumi Airport i had a superb hunting male so they do come through.

2 more Steppe Eagles were noted and lots of presumed Lessers in the distance. The counters/BRC need to put up a panoramic map of the vista c/w the nicknames they have for all the hills and salient points i.e. ‘Big Mama and Little Ginger’. The counters liase on walkie-talkie from Sak to Shuamta and i often stand close to pick up intel and it would make people feel a bit more involved. There can also be half a dozen or more languages being spoken which makes it confusing if one group spots something - as a lone Englander i think the protocol should be shouted in English when something interesting is seen..........but i would wouldn’t i

Today is forecast Sunny until lunchtime and then cloudy for the afternoon so i am hoping for a good final day.

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 05:48   #49
rollingthunder
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A few back-of-camera from yesterday - even the local Ravens photo-bomb...
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 07:39   #50
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Could it be that you need to overexpose at least 1-2 stops? All birds look quite dark with few distinctive features to see on the underwings...

Reading your day-by-day account with much appreciation, I vividly recall my own Batumi experience back in 2008, the first year of the count. I had a bit more than a week at the end of september / beginning of October. I had an absolute field day around 3-4-5 of October with more than 50.000 birds (mainly steppe buzzards) and many, many eagles. Actually, the very top top periods are end of August / beginning of September for juvenile Honeybuzzards, and the end of September / beginning of October for Steppe Buzzards + large eagles. In between those peaks, activity is generally a bit lower, but variety is probably highest and the chance of a rarity or larger numbers of MonPals is maybe better, and larger numbers of storks and Rollers (I never forget a flock of around 20 Rollers coming through the counting station early morning first light: pure magic!).
You already tried for Kruepers Nuthatch in the botanical garden? Were you thinking about trying for Caspian Snowcock in Borjomi? Maybe I didn't read well and you did...

I keep postponing a return visit until my kids are a bit older and they can join me. I missed Great Rosefinch during a 2-day stay up the Kazbeg so that's a good reason on its own to go back (but will try in Svaneti next time), probably end of August when there are also some more passerines hanging around.
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