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Jonny721's 400 UK Yearlist Challenge (1 Viewer)

Jonny721

Well-known member
400 Birds in the UK in a year? Is that even possible? Perhaps with a ridiculous amount of miles travelled and money spent it could be, but that is not what this 'challenge' is about...

My aim this year is to focus not only on birds, as I have done so during many yearlists to date, but to broaden my sights to include my other three main UK wildlife interests - butterflies, dragonflies and mammals.

Whilst birds have always been my main passion, these three groups have nevertheless formed a large part of my wildlife watching in the UK over the past few years. However, I have never actively persued a yearlist for any of them, thus there are a large number of species within these groups that I have only seen once (14 out of 56 butterflies for example) that I am more likely to make the effort to try and see again with the motivation of a yearlist, hence the purpose of this 'challenge'.

My previous highest yearlist totals for these four groups are:
Birds - 273 (2019)
Butterflies - 36 (2020)
Dragonflies - 23 (2020)
Mammals - 33 (2019, 2021)
Making a collective total of 365 (my collective life total for the four being 537).
A target of 400 in 2022 should therefore be very attainable with a bit of effort and planning, hence why I have referred to the year as a 'challenge' in inverted commas, as I fully expect to surpass this total and my main aim is to diversify my wildlife watching, rather than aim for a particular total.

So, let us begin...
 

Owene

Well-known member
Good luck. Looks quite similar to what I’m trying to do, I considered including dragonflies on mine but I’m hoping a few foreign trips happen so mines a lot easier.

I’m definitely going to check in on this thread for ideas. As much as I love birds I can’t wait till butterfly season because there’s still so many new ones for me to see

I just checked and I had 32 mammals last year without really bat detecting much so probably saw a few unidentified species. I guess a lot of targeted bat detecting is the quickest way to a big mammal total.
 

Jonny721

Well-known member
1st January - Fylde Coast
2022 kicked off in traditional fashion for myself and my friend Ash, a birdrace around the Fylde Bird Club recording area to see how close to 100 species we could get. Only once out of four previous attempts had we hit this mark, setting a Fylde record of 106 species in 2020, with our other three totals falling in the 89-93 species range.

As in several previous years my first bird of 2022 was Robin, a pre-dawn singing individual on my street whilst I packed the car. As we drove towards the north-east corner of the Fylde more species became discernibe in the increasing light, including a herd of 70 Whooper Swans in the fields at Sand Villa as we passed, heading towards our first stop at Conder Pool. A Barn Owl hunting the grassland around the pool just as dawn was breaking was a great start as we started picking up wildfowl and wader species on the pool and adjacent estuary, a theme that continued just down the road at Glasson where 7 Goosander and 8 Goldeneye were on the basin and wader flocks circled the river on the rapidly incoming tide.

Carrying on towards Cockersand a scan of a large flock of gulls feeding in the roadside fields resulted in us unearthing a fine pair of Mediterranean Gulls (adult and 2nd winter), never an easy bird in the Fylde during the winter. Further along the lane we found that the main whooper swan herd had chosen one of the most innaccessible fields to feed in that day, but happily two of the accompanying adult Bewick's Swans were by themselves in a much easier to view location, species number 50 and it wasn't even 09:30!

At Cockersand itself the tide was now right in at the lighthouse, pushing the wildfowl close to the shore and the waders into the adjacent arable fields. Grey Plover, Eider and Pintail all hit the notebook as did four Brown Hares, my first mammal of the year. Down at the southern end of the site we located the wintering Snow Bunting feeding on the seawall, and we fortunate to flush two Jack Snipe from what was left of the marsh by the caravan park, always a tricky species to see so a good one to get under the belt early.

Leaving the coast behind we cut inland to Thurnham Hall to add some woodland species to the list, as well as a pair of Roe Deer, before heading to the farmland around Eagland Hill where a male Brambling was the highlight at the feeding station along with Yellowhammer and 21 Corn Bunting, the bird list now passing 85. Dipper at Brock, Bullfinch at Carr House Green Common and that ever tricky birdrace species Mistle Thrush followed at Newton Marsh, then it was onto Lytham Quays for the Ribble Marshes raptor fest where ringtail Hen Harrier, Merlin and Marsh Harrier were all bagged, albeit distantly.

We now only needed 8 more birds to hit the magic 100 mark, but it was now 14:30 and the light was already beginning to fade. Stanley Park was our penultimate port of call with Long-tailed Tit finally putting in an appearance along with Ring-necked Parakeet and Grey Squirrel. And so we headed for our final stop stop of the day, the viewing platform at Marton Mere, still 6 species short of target and looking likely to finish just short. Singing Cetti's Warbler and calling Water Rail were expected, but a pair of Goldcrests flitting through the adjacent scrub were a welcome addition, as was a Woodcock that gave superb views as it twice flew past us from its daytime roost just after 16:00. Like Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk is another birdrace enigma that can easily be missed, and that was looking to be the case until a big female cruised over the reedbed past the viewpoint, number 99! Scanning the distant barn roof drew a blank for the resident Little Owl, but all was not lost as at 16:10 one of the wintering Bittern took flight from the reedbed infront of us and gave prolonged views as it flew the whole length of the mere to the east end, species number 100 for the day! There was just enough time as we packed our scopes away to score the second wintering bittern that gave a brief flight view in the now near darkness. Driving out of the caravan park several Rabbits were seen on the grassy verges, making a combined total of 104 species to kick off the challenge, over a quarter of the way there already!

1. Robin
2. Blackbird
3. Carrion Crow
4. Pink-footed Goose
5. Herring Gull
6. Buzzard
7. Rook
8. Black-headed Gull
9. Whooper Swan
10. Mallard
11. Oystercatcher
12. Rock Dove
13. Wren
14. Redwing
15. Lapwing
16. Mute Swan
17. Shelduck
18. Tufted Duck
19. Moorhen
20. Greylag Goose
21. Curlew
22. Starling
23. Woodpigeon
24. Teal
25. Wigeon
26. Little Grebe
27. Barn Owl
28. Redshank
29. Magpie
30. Common Gull
31. Jay
32. Goldeneye
33. Goosander
34. Coot
35. Cormorant
36. Raven
37. Linnet
38. Pied Wagtail
39. House Sparrow
40. Dunlin
41. Bar-tailed Godwit
42. Knot
43. Lesser Black-backed Gull
44. Great Black-backed Gull
45. Grey Heron
46. Canada Goose
47. Golden Plover
48. Collared Dove
49. Mediterranean Gull
50. Bewick’s Swan
51. Fieldfare
52. Goldfinch
53. Reed Bunting
54. Turnstone
55. Grey Plover
56. Eider
57. Stock Dove
58. Great Crested Grebe
59. Pintail
60. Brown Hare
61. Black-tailed Godwit
62. Snipe
63. Meadow Pipit
64. Rock Pipit
65. Greenfinch
66. Snow Bunting
67. Pheasant
68. Jack Snipe
69. Skylark
70. Blue Tit
71. Great Tit
72. Chaffinch
73. Dunnock
74. Little Egret
75. Jackdaw
76. Great Spotted Woodpecker
77. Grey Wagtail
78. Nuthatch
79. Coal Tit
80. Roe Deer
81. Kestrel
82. Red-legged Partridge
83. Tree Sparrow
84. Brambling
85. Corn Bunting
86. Yellowhammer
87. Dipper
88. Bullfinch
89. Shoveler
90. Gadwall
91. Mistle Thrush
92. Marsh Harrier
93. Hen Harrier
94. Merlin
95. Long-tailed Tit
96. Grey Squirrel
97. Ring-necked Parakeet
98. Cetti’s Warbler
99. Goldcrest
100. Water Rail
101. Woodcock
102. Sparrowhawk
103. Bittern
104. Rabbit

As always on a birdrace there are always one or two common species that inexplicably avoid you for the whole day, and despite reaching 100 species for the day it was Song Thrush that remained firmly off the yearlist!

Being a birdrace there wasn't much opportunity for the camera to come out of the bag, so below are just a few phone binned/scoped record shots from the day.
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
2nd January - Northumberland

I always like to try and kick off the new year with a mini-trip somewhere in the UK, ideally to see a bird lifer that has hung on from December, c.f. the Sociable Plover in Cornwall on the 2nd January 2021. By the 2nd January 2022 however there were no bird lifers so far on offer, but there was the small (or more accurately rather large) matter of the Humpback Whale that had been showing well in the Forth for the past month, an iconic species that I had always wanted to see. Thus a plan for a two-night trip up the north-east coast and across to Edinburgh was quickly formed.

The drive up to Northumberland on the morning of the 2nd passed without incident or notable bird sightings as I made my way to Widdrington Moor Lake, arriving around 09:00. The water was flat calm allowing for easy viewing of the various wildfowl species on offer that included my first pair of Pochard of the year and an inpressive 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, the 7 dapper males doing their best to impressed the females. The Great Northern Diver was fishing distantly at the far east end of the lake, whilst at the western end the redhead Smew eventually appeared from out of the lakeside vegetation and showed nicely in the sun, being joined by the diver that by this point had worked its way round to my viewpoint. A couple of Lesser Redpolls buzzed overhead from the adjacent conifer plantation. A good start with both target species seen; little did I know how this would change as the trip progressed!

Carrying on further up the coast I arrived at Bamburgh for my first spot of seawatching of the year. This stretch of Northumberland coast is probably my favourite single part of the whole country; having grown up visiting family near Berwick it was somewhere I regularly visited as a child, and then in 2017 I had a fantastic summer working as a wadern on the Lindisfarne NNR. Todays target was the wintering drake Black Scoter, a bird I had seen once previously back in 2017 further up the coast at Goswick. It had already been reported earlier that morning, albeit distantly, so I was hopeful of being able to pick it out as the tide rose... well you know what they say about best laid plans! Despite spending several hours on site and with various other birders coming and going there was no further sign of the scoter amongst it's common cousins offshore. Of course this being the east coast there were still plenty of birds to keep me occupied whilst searching - a quintet of drake Long-tailed Ducks looked stunning in the afternoon sunlight whilst good numbers of Red-throated Divers, Shags and the two common auk species fished offshore. On the shore itself a large congregation of feeding waders held at least 75 Purple Sandpipers and a similar number of Sanderling, a fantastic spectacle to watch as they fed amongst the surf.

By mid-afternoon I eventually had to admit defeat with the scoter and carry on north towards my accommodation Edinburgh, stopping briefly at the Lindsfarne causeway where the hope for Pale-bellied Brent Geese were present in small numbers on the saltmarsh edge. The rest of the drive to Edinburgh was quiet and I arrived in darkness ready to hit the coast the following morning.

105. Lesser Redpoll
106. Red-breasted Merganser
107. Pochard
108. Great Northern Diver
109. Smew
110. Purple Sandpiper
111. Common Scoter
112. Red-throated Diver
113. Razorbill
114. Sanderling
115. Long-tailed Duck
116. Guillemot
117. Shag
118. Brent Goose
= 114 birds, 4 mammals

Still no Song Thrush...
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
3rd January - South-east Scotland

When I had been planning this trip on the evening of the 1st, the weather outlook was promising, the occasional shower yes but on the whole mostly dry. Well by the time I had awoken on the morning of the 3rd that had shifted somewhat, as a glance out the hotel window revealed torrential rain and driving wind, hardly ideal conditions for whale-watching!

Thus my plan for the morning switched; instead of heading north towards the forth I headed west inland to the town of Slamannan, the rain pouring all the while. The rolling terrain made for an imposing search area when the target was a small flock of geese, but thanks to regular updated on Birdguides I at least knew where to focus my efforts, and I was pleased to eventually locate a flock of 82 Taiga Bean Geese feeding distantly on pasture south-west of Jawcraig Farm. I mostly viewed from the car to shelter from the elements but in the brief spells where the rain ceased I enjoyed some nice scope views as the flock was joined by another 46 arriving from the east to make a grand total of 128, almost the entire UK wintering population. This was only my second ever encounter with this species after a returning adult with the Pink-feet flocks back home in Lancashire in 2017 and 2019, so it was great to experience multiple birds and hear their call for the first time.

With the weather forecast to improve marginally after lunchtime I drove back to the coast and across to the north side of Forth, setting up for a watch on the seafront at Pettycur. Unfortunately by this point I was already aware that after a month of consistent sightings the Humpback Whale had seemingly disappeared, with the dedicated watch group of local observers reporting no sightings from the previous day and again no sign that morning. And so it came to pass, with my efforts and that of the other whale watchers present drawing a blank (there were no more subsequent sightings of the whale until the 7th when two were spotted together off Kinghorn). A small cetacean consolation came in the form of a Harbour Porpoise that breached a couple of times just offshore, where a couple of Grey Seals were bobbing around in the light swell. Birdwise the highlight was a couple of Manx Shearwaters that passed by at close range, I think my first winter sighting of this species in the UK, as well as a trio of Kittiwakes and more Long-tailed Ducks, Red-throated Divers and auks.

With only a couple of hours of light left and seemingly no prospect of the whale appearing I decided to drive the hour round to the opposite side of the Forth for an attempt to connect with some Scoters off Fisherrow Harbour. I knew the White-winged would be tricky in the poor light but I hoped at least one of the recent Surfs would be present. Well continuing the theme of the trip of missing scoter species, neither of the above were present that afternoon, but at least 50 Velvet Scoters gave the usual great views off the harbour and four Slavonian Grebes added a final yeartick for the day.

So just to recap, no Humpback Whale, no White-winged Scoter and no Surf Scoter... oh and still no Song Thrush!

119. Taiga Bean Goose
120. Manx Shearwater
121. Harbour Porpoise
122. Grey Seal
123. Kittiwake
124. Velvet Scoter
125. Slavonian Grebe
= 119 birds, 6 mammals
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
4th January - South Scotland

A much brighter and altogether colder day dawned for the last day of my mini-trip, and it was time to start heading back south.

First port of call was Stathclyde Loch for my first attempt at seeing the adult Ring-billed Gull that has wintered at the site for the past 12 years. It was still early as I arrived but there were already plenty of gulls ammassed at the south end of the loch by the sailing club, mostly black-heads and commons. A few slices of bread brought the flock close to the shore but the ring-billed was not amongst them, I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be yet another dip on the trip! Thankfully after about an hour of waiting the adult Ring-billed Gull flew in from the north and landed just off the sailing club, offering nice views although it stubbornly refused to come to the bread being offered up. This was my third RBG in Britain following adult and 3cy birds in Lancashire in 2013 and 2015 respectively, and definitely my best views to date.

Continuing south, or at least south-west, into Ayreshire the next port of call was Auchincross Loch, where several birders were already gathered and straight away got on to the drake Lesser Scaup that was feeding out on the water amongst the tuftie flock. Too far for photos this time but nice scope views were to be had and all the salient features noted. Again like the RBG this was my third in the UK following a drake in Lancashire in 2011 and a female in Staffordshire in 2019.

The Scaup had been sharing the loch with another nearctic visitor, a drake Ring-necked Duck, for a few days, but unfortunately a local present at the time reported that the RND had flown off about an hour prior to my arrival, damn! No matter though, as my route back to Leeds would take me past Longtown in Cumbria (via my first Red Kites of the year over the road near Dumfries) where a female Ring-necked Duck had been present for a few days, and thankfully this individual proved much more co-operative, being immediately in view on the main lake by Gretna Road upon my arrival. A large flock of Canada Geese also present on the lake contained a single Barnacle Goose, and being so close to the Solway I think it is fair to give this one the benefit of the doubt of being of wild rather than feral origins, so onto the list it goes.

With the day starting to draw to a close and the light beginning to fade I took one last shot at some yearticks by taking the scenic route through teesdale on the way home. Scenic turned out to be the a fitting adjective as the hills looked stunning carpeted in snow, although this did make dricing a little tricky and meant I didn't fancy risking the drive up Langdon Beck to look for Black Grouse, meaning I had to make do with just a couple of roadside Red Grouse as I passed over the summit of the valley.

And with that it was back home to Leeds. A mixed bag of a trip truth be told but still very enjoyable and a number of great species seen. Fingers crossed for more opportunities to connect with cetaceans as the year progresses! Oh… and still no song thrush!

126. Ring-billed Gull
127. Lesser Scaup
128. Red Kite
129. Ring-necked Duck
130. Barnacle Goose
131. Red Grouse
= 125 birds, 6 mammals
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
5th-7th January - Leeds Office

Back to work with a thud on the morning of the 5th. As an ecological consultant most of my time is spent out in the field, undertaking protected species surveys in all four corners of the country. During the winter months however things are a little quieter, thus I spend more time in the office in Leeds, where I currently reside.

As you can see from the attached photos the office is situated in the urban centre of Leeds, thus the view from the window by my desk is not the most ecologically inspiring! The building does feature a roof terrace at the rear which is a little more diverse, with the River Aire located just beyond the car park, although frustratingly just out of view even from the terrace. Nevertheless, since moving in in August 2019 I have managed to record a respectable 54 species of bird from the office, highlighted by a flock of 5 Waxwings that spent a few days outside the window in January 2020.

Nothing quite that exciting during my first three days back this week unfortunately, but it was not without its moments. A Woodcock that raced by the window and out over the city on the morning of the 6th was just my second office record, whilst on the 7th I managed to pick up a yeartick with my first sighting of the year of one of the University of Leeds Peregrines, on this occasion the tiercel as he circled high over the city. These birds are a regular feature from the office, particularly in the summer, along with almost daily Red Kites and Sparrowhawks. I am planning on spending more of my lunch breaks up on the roof terrace during my office days this year, so hopefully I might add a few species to the list, every little helps!

Oh and there is usually a Song Thrush that sings daily by the river that is audible from the car park, but of course it was silent this week!

132. Peregrine
= 126 birds, 6 mammals
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
8th January - Farnley Reservoir

A wet day for the mostpart, but a clear spell in the afternoon gave me the opportunity to visit my local patch of Farnley Reservoir for the first time this year. This small body of water acts as a balancing reservoir during periods of heavy rain for the brook that flows through this highly urbanised part of Leeds. It is hardly an ideal place for birdlife, but being almost on my doorstep and having a fondness for crap local patches I enjoy my short visits (it only takes 15 minutes to walk the full circumference) from time to time.

Across intermittent visits in 2020 and 2021 I have recorded 72 species on the site to date, but I think that with a bit more effort in 2022, particularly around migration time, I can probably record 80-90 species here this year at a push.

On this particular visit the aforementioned rain meant that the water level was very high, with little exposed mud at the west end for waders (7 species recorded to date). The resident flock of Lapwing totalled 370 and 4 Snipe were taking shelter on one of the three islands. Duck numbers were low (also 7 species recorded to date) but did include a Shelduck which usually doesn't return to the site until February or March. From the dam a Kestrel could be seen hovering distantly to the west, my 73rd species for the site, a good start to the year. On the grass at the west end a darvic-ringed Black-headed Gull turned out to be Norwegian - ringed as a chick near Oslo in 2019 with this the first re-sighting away from its breeding colony.

The best sighting was saved till the end however, as just as I was finishing my loop and heading back to the car a Song Thrush hopped out from the waterside scrub, finally my first of the year! I was starting to think they were hiding from me. I even took a picture to mark the event.

33 species in all recorded on this visit. I look forward to seeing if I can pull any surprised out from this site during the year.

133. Song Thrush
= 127 birds, 6 mammals
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
9th January - Cambridgeshire

An upcoming wintering bird survey near Cambridge on Monday morning presented me with two options - either a long early-morning drive to site on Monday, or a night in a hotel near to the site on Sunday. I happily chose the latter, not only as this would allow me more time to sleep on Monday, but also as it meant I could spend Sunday birding around Cambridgeshire before heading to the hotel. I often combine birding and work trips like this when the latter takes me to different parts of the country, allowing me to regularly bird areas that I otherwise visit infrequently.

To make the most of the day I was up and out early on Sunday, arriving at the car park at Eldernell on the Nene Washes just after dawn. This proved to be immaculate timing, as I hadn't even come to a halt when a quartet of Cranes appeared low over the marsh heading south towards me, result! A pair of adults with two young in tow, the group continued south past the car park and off out of view behind the adjacent woodland, a fantastic start as this was one of the main target species for the day and one that I have had poor luck with in the past, indeed this was only my third sighting in the UK with the other two also coming from this small corner of Cambridgeshire. Out on the washes, which was much drier than on my visits last winter, a couple of Great Egrets and the usual Marsh Harriers were out searching for food, whilst along the embankment near the car park a pair of Green Woodpeckers were foraging. The strong and very cold breeze that was blowing was probably the reason why no Short-eared Owls were up and about hunting in the fields by the car park, and I couldn't locate any sat on the deck this time round. In the fields back towards the main road a large Whooper herd held at least 15 Bewick's Swans, and doubtless a more throuough search would have revealed more. The ubiquitous Roe Deer herds of the area were present on both the marsh and in the fields, with at least 15 seen.

Moving on towards the next destination at Ely via a quick roadside stop at Welney that delivered my first Kingfisher of the year darting across the flooded fields, where yet more Whoopers were feeding. Arriving at the beet pool on the outskirts of Ely it took a bit of waiting before the drake Green-winged Teal eventually swan out of the reedbed and into view, although the views looking directly into the sun left a lot to be desired so I didn't stay long and instead continued south to Milton Country Park. Here I was hoping to connect with the wintering Yellow-browed Warbler that has been occupying a dense area of woodland and scrub in the south-east corner of the park, but despite a couple of hours searching along with a few other birders there was no sign on this particular afternoon. A couple of Goldcrests were the best sighting birdwise, however the real star of the show was a Weasel that popped out from amongst the scrub for a few seconds, a species I barely average 1 sighting per annum of, as along with Stoats I find it is simply a case of randomly bumping into them whilst in the field, rather than actively being able to go search for them.

I thought the Weasel would be the mammal highlight of the day for sure, but it was spectacularly trumped as I was driving along a road just outside the village of Longstanton and looked to my right to see what was unmistakably a jet black 'Grey' Squirrel sat feeding in a rosehip bush! Quickly turning the car around I was able to rattle off a few shots from the roadside before it spotted me and retreated into cover. This is my first sighting of this rare colour morph in the UK, which is most commonly found in the Cambridgeshire/Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire area. The melanism is caused by a fault pigment gene which is thought to have originated in America as a result of a hybrid event with the Eastern Fox Squirrel, which carries the same gene defect. A really cool looking creature.

The final stop of the day was at Berry Fen where a qunitet of Glossy Ibis gave great views feeding on one of the smaller pools close to the footpath, this being my largest Ibis flock of this species in the UK, beating the trio from just down the road in Earith last April. A pair of Egyptian Geese noisily flying around the fen were a final yeartick for the day.

134. Crane
135. Great Egret
136. Green Woodpecker
137. Kingfisher
138. Green-winged Teal
139. Weasel
140. Glossy Ibis
141. Egyptian Goose
= 134 birds, 7 mammals
 

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Jonny721

Well-known member
10th January - Cambridgeshire

A wintering bird survey on one of my regular sites near Cambourne to kick off the week. Fairly quiet as to be expected on this site, a Red Kite and 20 Yellowhammer the highlights along with my first Treecreeper of the year calling from one of the woodland areas. A few Brown Hares seen but none of the hoped for Muntjac which are regular here.

And then the inevitable happened. Very mild cold-like symptoms had started the previous afternoon, but despite a negative lateral test that evening the symptoms persisted into Monday, so once back home that evening another test was taken which returned the expected result, positive! I had managed to avoid it for almost two years of pandemic but it was bound to get me in the end. So this has been a very quiet week for me whilst isolating at home, with no birding done or new species added. On the plus side I have gotten away with having only very mild symptoms, so that is something to be thankful for. Today (Saturday) marks day 6 of isolation, so now it is just a case of waiting until I start testing negative again to allow me to leave the house.

142. Treecreeper
= 135 birds, 7 mammals
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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