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A Report from

Arizona birding trip. May 10th – May 22th 2005,

Daan Planting

This report is about the birding trip I made in Arizona, after a 10-day trip to Texas. South-east Arizona is very scenic and has some good birding sites. Go there one day!!

Preparing the trip

I used "Birdfinder. A Birder's Guide To Planning North American Trips" as a base for my itinerary. The new ABA Birdfinding Guide to Southeastern Arizona gave me many new ideas where to go. I also regularly checked for the RBA.

I used the new Sibley North American Bird Guide for identification and the Stokes Field Guide to bird songs for sounds using a MD player.

At the Internet I found many trip reports which were usefull.

Itinerary ( * = lifer)


My first stop in Arizona was at Willcox Lake in the afternoon. I was hoping for Franklin's Gull, but saw American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Ruddy Duck, Marbled Godwit!, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and Western Kingbird* instead. After almost 700 miles (coming from Big Bend), the motel in Tucson was more than welcome.


Early start at the Shannon-Broadway spot in Tucson. After some searching saw the Rufous-winged Sparrow* among the many House Sparrows. New and interesting birds were Gila Woodpecker* making a lot of noice at the steel poles, Gambel's Quail* was common, Pyrhulloxia, Northern Mockingbird, House Finch, White-winged Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, Verdin and Curve-billed Thrasher. In this suburb they planted many different species of cactus.

After that found a place at the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park. A very quiet (apart from the coyotes and Lesser Nighthawks) and nice campground. Good as a base for some birding in the Tucson area.

The Desert Museum had Anna's Hummingbird*, Lesser Goldfinch* (in the end, after missing this species 3 times in Ecuador), Brown-crested Flycatcher* and Costa's Hummingbird among others.

Eating at the restaurant attracted a Cactus Wren (on my shoe!), Pyrhulloxia and Northern Cardinal (on the table).

Then on to The Santa Rita Mountains. Florida Wash had Canyon Towhee and Lucy's Warbler* responding to the MD. No Crissal Thrasher.

At the Santa Rita Lodge was a British group (to be seen many times later on in the trip) birding the feeders. The leader gave some good information. At, and around the feeders were a rare Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Broad-billed Hummingbird*, Magnificent Hummingbird*, Lesser Goldfinch, Acorn Woodpecker, Zone-tailed Hawk* and Bridled Titmouse*. At Kubo Cabins I found the Flame-colored Tanager*, together with American Robin (here in Arizona mainly at the higher elevations) and Summer Tanager.

Drove on to walk the Vault Mine track (which seems to have about 4 different names!). Good birding with Arizona Woodpecker*, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Elegant Trogon* (at 10 meter in a tree right after the spring box!), Plumbeous Vireo*, Warbling Vireo* and Dusky-capped Flycatcher. At dark saw the Elf Owl coming out of the pole at the Santa Rita Lodge. Directly drove to the Vault Mine trail again and heard Whiskered Screech Owl* and Whip Poor Will*(also flying around the lights).

Back at the campsite in Tucson there were many Lesser Nighthawks flying around the lights at the entrance.


I had heard that at the first parking on the left after the Desert Museum Entrance, coming from the campsite, there is a good chance of Gilded Flicker*. Indeed, there was one around at first light. Drove to the Xavier Mission, which was very disappointing. The Florida Wash was better than yesterday, because I was here earlier. Same species as yesterday and Bell's Vireo*, Wilson's Warbler*, Costa's Humingbird and Black-throated Sparrow. After the Florida Wash you'll see the road is straight for about a mile. About halfway I had Botteri's Sparrow* and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher*. The Proctor Road produced Phainopepla*, Anna's Hummingbird and Western Kingbird. Madera Picnic Area was quiet, but had Acorn Woodpecker and Broad-billed Hummingbird. At Kubo the Flame-colored Tanager was still around (later I heard it had a nest). Also saw Hepatic Tanager* at the parking about 0.1 mile before the cabines. In the trees at the Kubo shop was a Townsend's Warbler*.

At the end of the day walked the Vault Mine trail again. Where the Old Baldy Trail starts on the left I saw Arizona Woodpecker, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher*, Painted Redstart* and at 5.30 pm 2 Mountain Pygmy-Owls*. A good spot to sit for an hour or longer at the end of the day.

Campsite at Tucson.


Very early departure (3.20 am) to California Gulch together with Rod Campbell. The 4x4 Ford Explorer was very handy at the rough track. At the "known" site (between the first and the second crossing) saw the Five-striped Sparrow*. Drove back to the Sycamore Canyon where we visited Yank and Hank.. This is about the only good site for Eastern Bluebird in southern Arizona. We saw one, but I needed the Western Bluebird. Nice but hot birding in the Sycamore Canyon. No new birds.

Having the rest of the day for birding, before we had to return to California Gulch for the Buff-collared Nightjar, we decided to visit the Aravaica Cienega (Yellow-breasted Chat*, Song Sparrow*, Gray Hawk, and Vermillion Flycatcher) and the Buenos Aires NWR. The latter is worth a visit. We saw Lilian's Meadowlark (future split?) at the open fields.

Drove back to California Gulch in time. At dusk (7.30 pm) the Buff-collared Nightjar* started singing, together with a Western Screech-Owl*.

Campsite at Tucson.


Whole day at the Santa Catalina Mountains. First tried for the Crissal Thrasher at Molino Basin, but again missed this species. Saw Spotted and Canyon Towhee, Cordilleran Flycatcher and Cactus Wren. Spent quite some time at Bear Canyon. Nice forest with Painted Redstart, Mexican Jay, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Northern Flicker* (red-shafted), White-breasted Nuthatch, Bushtit, Grace's Warbler* and Yellow-eyed Junco*.

At the visitor Center were Broad-tailed and Magnificent Hummingbirds. Higher on the road at the Butterfly trailhead were more Yellow-eyed Juncos, Red-faced Warbler* and Steller's Jay*. At Spencer Canyon a Zone-tailed Hawk passed overhead and there was a Hairy Woodpecker of the interior-west-type. At the very end of the road were the same species as lower down. Best bird here was a Short-tailed Hawk (1 adult, light form). I had seen this species in Ecuador and only later I realised that this is a hot bird in Arizona.

I still missed some species. The ABA guide "advised"  Bear Wallow Road. This is indeed a good road to bird as there is good tall forest. Red-breasted Nuthatch* were responding like crazy at the MD. There were Brown Creepers* around. Pygmy Nuthatch* were high in the trees, but came down to inspect the sounds coming out of the MD, as did an Olive Warbler*. Four lifers at one spot; not bad! Other birders tipped Incinerator Ridge Road for Mountain Chickadee. At the end of the road is a small parking area. There were some Mountain Chickadees* inspecting the understory. Also a Band-tailed Pigeon flew past.

Along the main Road, above Bear Canyon, was a Cooper's Hawk.

Drove to Nogales at the Mexican border, where you feel more like being in Mexico instead of Arizona.

Motel 6 in Nogales.


Early at the Patagonia Rest Area. Very cold early in the morning at Patagonia (what's in a name...) Rest Area. It was too early in the year to find the Becards, but Thick-billed Kingbird* was around, singing in the Sycamore trees. This early in the morning the White-throated Swifts were flying very low, giving nice views. Went to the Patagonia Lake State Reserve where people had seen Black-capped Gnatcatcher*. After some searching and local help, I found a family. At the water edge a Virginia Rail* walked out of the reeds. The lake had Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorant, "Mexican" Duck, American Coot, Moorhen, Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Great-blue Heron, Green Heron, Common Yellowthroat and Osprey.

Another stop at the Patagonia Rest Area produced a Zone-tailed Hawk and Western Tanager. After that spent a few hours at Paton's. It's good birding here. There is a large feeding area which attracts many birds, including some rarities. The birds I saw here were Violet-crowned Hummingbird*, Abert's Towhee*, House Finch, White-crowned Sparrow, Broad-billed, Black-chinned and Anna's Hummingbird, Gambel's Quail, Acorn Woodpecker, Gila Woodpecker, White-winged Dove, House Sparrow, Bullock's Oriole, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Ground-Dove. Here I also met Volney and David, 2 American birders. They told me they had booked a birdingtrip on the 16th with Matt Brown, a local birdguide, to go to Garden Canyon. I asked them if I could come on this trip too. This was no problem, 'cause it would make it cheaper for them, and with more eyes around you see more birds. New rules at the gate of Fort Huachuca makes it impossible to enter for foreigners without a guide. So for me it was about the only chance to see the Spotted Owl and the Buff-breasted Flycatcher.

Checked the Patagonia Creek Reserve, which was very quiet (birdwise) and dry. After that drove to Sierra Vista, missed Grasshopper Sparrow east of Sonoita. At Sierra Vista went to the Quality Inn for a room. Tell them you're a birder; they have special prices for birders! Raced to Ash Canyon B&B just in time for the Lucifer Hummingbird*. Also saw Black-chinned, Anna's and Magnificent Hummingbird and heard an Elf Owl. Mary Jo Ballator informed me about the chance for Montezuma Quail very early in the morning at her property.

Quality Inn.


Dawn at Ash Canyon didn't produce the Quail, but instead I was given a splendid sunrise in a beautiful place. Saw Ladder-backed, Arizona, Gila and Acorn Woodpecker.

After that spend 3 hours at Beatty's Guest Range in Miller Canyon to try for the White-eared Hummingbird. Missed this one but saw Magnificent, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Anna's, Black-chinned, Blue-throated and a hybrid Berylline – Mag/Blue-thr.

Then drove to Carr Canyon. This is a pretty tough drive, even with a 4x4. It goes very high up on the mountains, with nice views. At the end of the road is a campsite. There was a Virginia Warbler* at the other end of the campsite. Also around were Raven, Violet-green Swallow, White-throated Swift, Northern Flicker, Spotted Towhee and Grace's Warbler.

At the end of the day tried again for Thrashers. Along the Hereford saw many Curve-billed Thrashers and eventually found a Crissal Thrasher* at the top of one of the thorny shrubs. At the San Pedro River Inn the owner showed me a Barn Owl and there were Ash-throated Flycatchers in the garden.

Quality Inn.


Met Matt Brown at the gate of Fort Huachuca, which was the start of a good birdingday.

Saw Elegant Trogon at the Middle Picnic Area, after that to Sheelite Canyon to find out that a lot of birders were allready searching for the Spotted Owl and had not found it yet. So first on to Sawmill Canyon where we found the Buff-breasted Flycatcher*. Back at Sheelite Canyon there was still no Spotted Owl. A VENT-group had check all the traditional sites. Other birds at Garden Canyon were Sulphur-bellied and Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Arizona Woodpecker, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Bewick's Wren, Grace's Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Robin, Hepatic Tanager, Steller's Jay. There was also a small group of Pronghorns at the lower fields.

We decided to go to Miller Canyon to try there for the owl. Saw White-eared Hummingbird* and Painted Redstart at the feeders at Beatty's. Then walked up the track into Miller Canyon. After some time found a Spotted Owl* at the "river-crossing"! Had good views of it sitting in a Sycamore tree.

Quality Inn.


Drove to Portal today, birding along the way.

Started at the San Pedro House. Had no lifers today, but nice birds were Bell's Vireo, Summer Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, Brown-headed Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk, Vermillion Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat and "Mexican" Duck.

At Willcox saw Ruddy Duck, American Avocet (10-15), Stilt Sandpiper(1), Cinnamon Teal, Spotted Sandpiper and Long-billed Curlew (1).

Checked in at Portal Peak Lodge. At dark heard Elf Owl, Common Poorwill, Western Screech-Owl and the "purple-whip"-call of the Whip-Poor-Will (future split?).


Very early start (4 am) to go to Stateline Road near Rodeo (NM). Taped in Bendire's Thrasher* here. There were many Scaled and Gambel's Quails. The Willow Tank was dried out. On the other (south) site of the road opposite the dry tank was a Cassin's Sparrow* singing on the wire.

At the South Fork Trail were American Robin, Elegant Trogon, Canyon Wren, Greater Pewee, Painted Redstart, Mexican Jay, and Hermit Thush. Other birders had seen Mexican Chickadee along the road to Rustler 0.3 miles above Onion Saddle. Couldn't find them there. Drove to Pinery Creek Campground (which is no more than a Picnic Area). Here I found the Mexican Chickadee*, Yellow-eyed Junco, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Grace's, Red-faced and Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Tanager, Plumbeous Vireo and Cooper's Hawk.

On to Walker House at Paradise where I saw a female Lazuli Bunting*, Scott's Oriole, Band-tailed Pigeon, Bronzed Cowbird and Juniper Titmouse*! A short visit to Rustler and Barfoot Park produced Pygmy Nuthatch at Barfoot and Greater Pewee.

Portal Peak Lodge.


Drove the road before dawn into the Chiricahua Canyon to look for Montezuma Quail. Didn't find one.

Went on to Barfoot Junction. This is a very good birding spot. Park your car at the T-junction and then walk down the road. The first mile or so is very rewarding. I saw a female Western Bluebird* at the first bend in the road, heard a Mountain Pygmy-Owl at the second bend, Greater Pewee was singing all the time and a few Olive Warblers gave good views at the "T". Other birds were, among others, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Virginia's Warbler, Painted Redstart and Band-tailed Pigeon.

Birded the rest of the day around Portal (another Lazuli Bunting female at one of the feeders) and at Herb Martyr Campground.

Portal Peak Lodge.


Again drove the road before dawn into the Chiricahua Canyon to look for Montezuma Quail. Missed it again. Birded for the last time at Barfoot Crossing, with the same birds as yesterday. Then drove to Willcox to try for a Franklin's Gull again. Instead there were two Ring-billed Gulls. Other birds here were American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Eared Grebe, Wilson's Phalarope, Killdeer, Lilian's Meadowlark, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Lark Sparrow and Turkey Vulture.

Then went to Red Rock to see if I could find the Ruddy Ground Dove. After some searching in the desert heat I gave up. It was simply too hot.

Motel 6 in Tuscon


Flight to Houston and on to Amsterdam.


F= lifer (first)

1. Pied-billed Grebe        Podilymbus podiceps

2. Eared Grebe  Podiceps nigricollis

3. Double-crested Cormorant     Phalacrocorax auritus

4. Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus

5. Great Blue Heron       Ardea herodias

6. Green Heron  Butorides virescens

7. Black-crowned Night-Heron    Nycticorax nycticorax

8. Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis

9. White-faced Ibis        Plegadis chihi

10.  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck    Dendrocygna autumnalis

11.  Mallard         Anas platyrhynchos

12.  Blue-winged Teal       Anas discors

13.  Cinnamon Teal          Anas cyanoptera

14.  Northern Shoveler     Anas clypeata

15.  Ruddy Duck   Oxyura jamaicensis

16.  Turkey Vulture          Cathartes aura

17.  Osprey         Pandion haliaetus

18.  Cooper's Hawk          Accipiter cooperii

19.  Gray Hawk    Asturina nitida

20.  Short-tailed Hawk      Buteo brachyurus

21.  Swainson's Hawk       Buteo swainsoni

22.  F Zone-tailed Hawk    Buteo albonotatus

23.  Red-tailed Hawk        Buteo jamaicensis

24.  American Kestrel       Falco sparverius

25.  Wild Turkey   Meleagris gallopavo

26.  Scaled Quail   Callipepla squamata

27.  F Gambel's Quail        Callipepla gambelii

28.  F Virginia Rail Rallus limicola

29.  Common Moorhen     Gallinula chloropus

30.  American Coot          Fulica americana

31.  Black-necked Stilt      Himantopus mexicanus

32.  Killdeer         Charadrius vociferus

33.  Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus

34.  Marbled Godwit         Limosa fedoa

35.  Long-billed Curlew      Numenius americanus

36.  Spotted Sandpiper     Actitis macularia

37.  Stilt Sandpiper          Calidris himantopus

38.  Wilson's Phalarope      Phalaropus tricolor

39.  Ring-billed Gull           Larus delawarensis

40.  Band-tailed Pigeon     Columba fasciata

41.  Mourning Dove          Zenaida macroura

42.  White-winged Dove    Zenaida asiatica

43.  Common Ground-Dove           Columbina passerina

44.  Greater Roadrunner   Geococcyx californianus

45.  Barn Owl       Tyto alba

46.  F Western Screech-Owl         Otus kennicottii

47.  F Whiskered Screech-Owl       Otus trichopsis

48.  F Spotted Owl           Strix occidentalis

49.  F Mountain Pygmy-Owl          Glaucidium gnoma

50.  Elf Owl          Micrathene whitneyi

51.  Lesser Nighthawk      Chordeiles acutipennis

52.  Common Poorwill       Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

53.  F Buff-collared Nightjar          Caprimulgus ridgwayi

54.  F Whip-poor-will        Caprimulgus vociferus

55.  White-throated Swift  Aeronautes saxatalis

56.  F Broad-billed Hummingbird    Cynanthus latirostris

57.  F White-eared Hummingbird   Hylocharis leucotis

58.  F Violet-crowned Hummingbird           Agyrtria violiceps

59.  Blue-throated Hummingbird    Lampornis clemenciae

60.  F Magnificent Hummingbird    Eugenes fulgens

61.  F Lucifer Hummingbird           Calothorax lucifer

62.  Black-chinned Hummingbird    Archilochus alexandri

63.  F Anna's Hummingbird           Calypte anna

64.  F Costa's Hummingbird          Calypte costae

65.  Broad-tailed Hummingbird      Selasphorus platycercus

66.  F Elegant Trogon       Trogon elegans

67.  Acorn Woodpecker     Melanerpes formicivorus

68.  F Gila Woodpecker     Melanerpes uropygialis

69.  Hairy Woodpecker      Picoides villosus

70.  F Arizona Woodpecker           Picoides arizonae

71.  F Northern Flicker      Colaptes auratus

72.  F Gilded Flicker          Colaptes chrysoides

73.  Greater Pewee          Contopus pertinax

74.  Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus

75.  Cordilleran Flycatcher           Empidonax occidentalis

76.  F Buff-breasted Flycatcher     Empidonax fulvifrons

77.  Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans

78.  Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya

79.  Vermilion Flycatcher  Pyrocephalus rubinus

80.  Dusky-capped Flycatcher       Myiarchus tuberculifer

81.  Ash-throated Flycatcher      Myiarchus cinerascens

82.  F Brown-crested Flycatcher   Myiarchus tyrannulus

83.  F Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher    Myiodynastes luteiventris

84.  Cassin's Kingbird        Tyrannus vociferans

85.  F Thick-billed Kingbird Tyrannus crassirostris

86.  Western Kingbird       Tyrannus verticalis

87.  Violet-green Swallow  Tachycineta thalassina

88.  Northern Rough-winged Swallow         Stelgidopteryx serripennis

89.  Cliff Swallow  Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

90.  Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

91.  F Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

92.  Cactus Wren  Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

93.  Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus

94.  Bewick's Wren           Thryomanes bewickii

95.  Winter Wren  Troglodytes troglodytes

96.  House Wren   Troglodytes aedon

97.  Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

98.  F Bendire's Thrasher  Toxostoma bendirei

99.  Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre

100.    F Crissal Thrasher Toxostoma crissale

101.    Eastern Bluebird   Sialia sialis

102.    F Western Bluebird           Sialia mexicana

103.    Hermit Thrush      Catharus guttatus

104.    American Robin     Turdus migratorius

105.    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher      Polioptila caerulea

106.    F Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura

107.    F Black-capped Gnatcatcher        Polioptila nigriceps

108.    Bushtit   Psaltriparus minimus

109.    F Mountain Chickadee       Poecile gambeli

110.    F Mexican Chickadee        Poecile sclateri

111.    F Bridled Titmouse           Baeolophus wollweberi

112.    F Juniper Titmouse           Baeolophus ridgwayi

113.    F Pygmy Nuthatch           Sitta pygmaea

114.    F Red-breasted Nuthatch  Sitta canadensis

115.    White-breasted Nuthatch  Sitta carolinensis

116.    F Brown Creeper   Certhia americana

117.    Verdin      Auriparus flaviceps

118.    Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus

119.    F Steller's Jay       Cyanocitta stelleri

120.    Western Scrub-Jay           Aphelocoma californica

121.    Mexican Jay         Aphelocoma ultramarina

122.    Common Raven    Corvus corax

123.    European Starling  Sturnus vulgaris

124.    House Sparrow     Passer domesticus

125.    F Bell's Vireo        Vireo bellii

126.    F Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus

127.    Hutton's Vireo      Vireo huttoni

128.    F Warbling Vireo   Vireo gilvus

129.    House Finch         Carpodacus mexicanus

130.    Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus

131.    F Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria

132.    F Olive Warbler     Peucedramus taeniatus

133.    F Virginia's Warbler           Vermivora virginiae

134.    F Lucy's Warbler   Vermivora luciae

135.    Yellow Warbler     Dendroica petechia

136.    Black-throated Gray Warbler         Dendroica nigrescens

137.    F Townsend's Warbler       Dendroica townsendi

138.    F Grace's Warbler Dendroica graciae

139.    Common Yellowthroat      Geothlypis trichas

140.    F Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla

141.    F Red-faced Warbler         Cardellina rubrifrons

142.    F Painted Redstart           Myioborus pictus

143.    F Yellow-breasted Chat     Icteria virens

144.    F Hepatic Tanager           Piranga flava

145.    Summer Tanager  Piranga rubra

146.    Western Tanager  Piranga ludoviciana

147.    F Flame-colored Tanager  Piranga bidentata

148.    Spotted Towhee   Pipilo maculatus

149.    Canyon Towhee    Pipilo fuscus

150.    F Abert's Towhee  Pipilo aberti

151.    F Botteri's Sparrow          Aimophila botterii

152.    F Cassin's Sparrow           Aimophila cassinii

153.    Rufous-crowned Sparrow   Aimophila ruficeps

154.    F Rufous-winged Sparrow  Aimophila carpalis

155.    F Five-striped Sparrow      Aimophila quinquestriata

156.    Lark Sparrow       Chondestes grammacus

157.    Black-throated Sparrow    Amphispiza bilineata

158.    F Song Sparrow    Melospiza melodia

159.    White-crowned Sparrow    Zonotrichia leucophrys

160.    F Yellow-eyed Junco         Junco phaeonotus

161.    Northern Cardinal  Cardinalis cardinalis

162.    Pyrrhuloxia           Cardinalis sinuatus

163.    Rose-breasted Grosbeak    Pheucticus ludovicianus

164.    Black-headed Grosbeak     Pheucticus melanocephalus

165.    Blue Grosbeak      Passerina caerulea

166.    F Lazuli Bunting    Passerina amoena

167.    Red-winged Blackbird        Agelaius phoeniceus

168.    Eastern Meadowlark         Sturnella magna

169.    Great-tailed Grackle         Quiscalus mexicanus

170.    Bronzed Cowbird   Molothrus aeneus

171.    Brown-headed Cowbird     Molothrus ater

172.    Bullock's Oriole     Icterus bullockii

173.    Scott's Oriole       Icterus parisorum


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