Thailand Trip, 22-31st August 2008
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From 22nd to 31st August 2008 I took one of my rare trips
to southern Thailand - birding in Krabi
Mangroves (Krabi province), Khao
Sok, (Surat Thani province), Laem
Pakarang (Phang Nga province), Krung Ching (Nakorn Sri Thammarat
province) and the Tiger Cave Temple (Krabi). This trip was a combination
of birding and visiting friends and both aspects of the trip were
enjoyable - this report may give some birders an idea on birding options
when holidaying with a less bird enthusiastic partner.
August is usually regarded as one of the worst times of the years
for forest birding as most species have finished breeding and are
not calling or lying low. However, although at times birding was slow,
particularly at Khao Sok, with patience, sharp eyes and ears and of
course a little luck it was still possible to see a good number of
species; indeed many sought-after species were seen and, particularly
at Krung Ching, the birding was generally good.
I traveled to Krabi by bus, from Bangkok's "Sai Tai"
bus station. The fare was 720 baht and the journey was a tolerable
9.5 hours, starting at 7am and arriving in Krabi at 4.30pm -
usually it takes longer but somehow we did it in that time.
From Krabi bus station to the town centre was 50 baht by motorcycle.
The journey from Krabi to Patong in Phuket was also done by
bus. Buses leave throughout the day from Krabi's bus station
to Phuket - 165 baht. At Phuket bus station touts were quoting
a ludicrous 600 baht for a taxi to Patong so I opted to get
a Songthaew for 25 baht. Admittedly this resulted in a little
hassle and lugging around of bags but as much as I don't mind
paying more for a good service, 600 baht for this journey is
a rip off - added to the fact that the taxi drivers were just
From Patong thairentacar delivered a Toyota Vigo to my hotel
earlier than the alotted time which was convenient. This car
I used for three days to visit Laem Pakarang and Khao Sok and
it was a good choice of vehicle for driving on the often pot-holed
roads and in wet conditions.
Krabi to Krung Ching I hired a car from the Krabi
Friendly Tour & Travel Company. I used a Suzuki Caribean,
a choice made purely on the fact that it was the cheapest vehicle
available at 800 baht per day. However, this model of vehicle is rather
under-powered and unstable, not to mention noisy, and it is worth
spending the extra on something better. The journey from Krabi to
Krung Ching took 3.5 hours.
Getting to the Tiger cave Temple was easy from Krabi. A motorcycle
taxi took me for 80 baht; the distance is around 10 kilometres and
the temple is widely known.
The return journey to Bangkok was made by bus again and cost the same
720 baht. This journey took 12 hours though and was something of a
torture with Thai music at high volume for most of the journey.
Notes on Finding Birds
In Krabi mangroves birding was at its best in the traditional morning
and late afternoon periods. However, at Khao Sok it was very slow
throughout the day and in fact we had many of our best birds around
lunchtime. In the wet season birders should be prepared to stay out
all day and patiently hunt down the birds slowly and not expect too
many mixed flocks.
At Krung Ching bird activity was high and not restricted to mornings
and late afternoons. During rain showers bird finding is almost impossible
but in between rain there is usually a flurry of activity and birders
should be out ready to make the most of these periods.
In Krabi I stayed at The
City Hotel which is in the town centre opposite the market
and has well-maintained air-conditioned rooms starting at 650 baht
There is an ever-increasing supply of accommodation at Patong and
in the wet season occupancy is fairly low and it is easy to find a
reasonable air-conditioned room for 600 baht per night.
Although there are quite a number of accommodation options at Khao
Sok, generally the quality is fairly poor and overpriced. Very simple
huts are available from 200 baht per night but only one location seems
to have air-conditioned rooms: Khao
Sok Treehouse Resort. Rooms with fans are sufficient
to be able to sleep comfortably here but with the high humidity the
sheets always felt slightly damp and all my clothes were slightly
soggy after two days.
At Krung Ching well-maintained national park bungalows are 600 baht
per night; reservations can be made by calling 075-460000.
Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
to the Birds of Thailand
by Philip D. Round & Boonsong Lekagul
by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater.
Krabi Mangroves: Mangrove Pitta, Ashy Tailorbird, Brown-winged
Kingfisher, Pacific Swallow.
Laem Pakarang: Terek Sandpiper, Malaysian Plover.
Khao Sok: Buffy Fish Owl, Chestnut-naped Forktail,
Black-and-red Broadbill, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, White-crowned
Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher,
Krung Ching: Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Maroon-breasted
Philentoma, Green Broadbill, Maroon Woodpecker, Buff-necked Woodpecker,
Banded Pitta, Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Buffy Fish Owl, Blyth's
Hawk Eagle, Dark-throated Oriole, Brown Barbet.
Tiger Cave Temple: Streaked Wren Babbler, Banded
22nd August : After arriving in Krabi and checking into the
City Hotel I rushed straight out of the door and walked along the
waterfront to the mangrove boardwalk to check out the late afternoon
birding. On the waterfront Pacific Swallows are easy to find and it
only took a minute or so for me to find a couple of these handsome
characters perched on a boat. A few common birds such as Large-billed
Crow and Olive-backed Sunbird were seen as I moved along the waterfront
and 3 Common Sandpipers were feeding at the water's edge.
>I always find mangroves a slow and frustrating habitat to be in and
this was no exception. Few birds were active or calling and most of
those that were, were very common species such as Common Tailorbird,
Common Iora, Streak-eared Bulbul etc but about halfway along the boardwalk
I ran into a group of Ashy Tailorbirds - I species I have seldom seen
in Thailand but are common enough at this site.
Having reached the end of the boardwalk I turned around and was immediately
stopped by the call of a Brown-winged Kingfisher. After a little effort
I got great views of this bird and ran into a couple more on the way
back. With the light beginning to fail I walked back to the hotel,
coming across a Collared Kingfisher on the way.
In the evening, as I was walking to a restaurant in Krabi town centre,
a Barn Owl flew across the road, screeching as it went.
23rd August : Up fairly early and back onto the mangrove
boardwalk for about 7am. Once again it was a bit quiet but Ashy Tailorbirds
and Brown-winged Kingfishers were in abundance and a mixed flock of
bulubls included one Red-whiskered Bulbul, presumably an escaped cage
bird as this species is reportedly almost extinct in the south due
After much listening I heard no Mangrove Pittas but on playing back
the call just once, one flew in close by and gave me superb views
for about 10 minutes as it hopped around on mangrove roots and on
the mud. Apart from common stuff like Little Heron, Brahminy Kite
and Germain's Swiftlet I didn't see much else but any view of a pitta
is to be celebrated so I went back to the hotel happy.
rest of the day was spent travelling to Patong beach, Phuket
where I did see some Asian Glossy Starling on a roadside power
24th August : Having had a vehicle delivered I was
awake early and heading to Laem Pakarang. The journey took a
little over 1 hour and there were a fair number of shorebirds
including 1 white morph and 3 dark morph Pacific Reef Egrets.
It was not difficult to find plenty of Lesser Sand Plovers,
Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstones and with a little searching I
found 1 Malaysian Plover, 1 Greater Sand Plover, 2 Pacific Golden
Plovers and a nice Terek Sandpiper - this bird always seems
more attractive than in the illustrations in the books to me.
the heat getting a little intense I drove to a nearby convenience
store for soem cold drinks and continued towards Khao Sok.
On the road from Takua Pa to Khao Sok there is a fairly large
river which can be seen on the right (there is a right hand
turning there) and I stopped here to look for River Lapwings
on the sand bar. 3 River Lapwings were easily found along
with a Common Sandpiper. Also in the area were a few Pacific
Swallows perched next to some Barn Swallows, which was nice
for comparison and a Lesser Coucal along with a calling Yellow-bellied
Prinia in the grass.
Khao Sok I had a little trouble finding anywhere nice to stay
but found somewhere acceptable after a while and had a nice
lunch. Whilst hunting for some suitable accommodation a flock
of 7 Bushy-crested Hornbills flew across the valley.
lunch it was into the forest and pay the 200 baht entry fee
which is valid for 24 hours. I walked along the wide jeep
trail which is the easiest walking and usually less leech-ridden
of the two trails at Khao Sok. Birding was exceptionally slow
with only Abbott's Babbler, Moustached Babbler, Chestnut-winged
Babbler, White-rumped Shama, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
and Ochraceous Bulbul being abundant, but with some patience
I also found Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul and Orange-bellied
Flowerpecker; not that much considering the effort put in
but I went back for dinner hoping for a better day in the
morning. As I was walking back a Red-throated Barbet displayed
itself very nicely in the HQ area - a nice bird to finish
the day with.
Season Birding Trips in Thailand:
The early wet season is a good time to
see resident breeding birds much more easily
at other times. In particular, several species of
are quite likely to be encountered during the months
of April-July that cannot be seen during the dry
Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the
best birdwatching options for you: firstname.lastname@example.org
August : Back on the same trail for 7am and any hope of
more action was quickly quashed - very slow and frustrating again.
2 Grey-breasted Spiderhunters gave a good view, a male Crimson Sunbird
and a obliging Black-capped Babbler gave some hope but things got
very quiet very quickly on a very overcast day.
Sunbird briefly gave views and a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha was an
overdue large, colourful bird.
Dominic Le Croissette
mentioned in a recent trip report (Khao
Sok, July 2008) that he found Chestnut-naped Forktail unusually
common in July and whilst it wasn't quite as abundant as it obviously
was then it was still easy to find and I had great views of one
on the trail shortly after the substation at Km 2.8.
The forest after
the substation (where cold drinks can be purchased) is nice and
a couple of flat areas give some good opportunities for forest birds.
I only managed to add Rufous-fronted Babbler to my list of birds
before turning around at about 11.30.
would expect bird activity to be at its slowest at this time but
somehow things had become more lively and at one spot a group of
Rufous-winged Philentomas gave great views and 3 Buff-rumped Woodpeckers
noisily gave themselves away. Add to this a few more species of
bulbul and the very common Asian Fairy Bluebird and it turned out
to be not such a bad morning if a little slow.
the park for lunch I decided to try the other trail on the afternoon.
Unfortunately this turned out to be even quieter than the jeep trail
with only a Black-bellied Malkoha in two hours of walking. Still
the trees around HQ turned out to be worth checking as they contained
lots of flowerpeckers including a nice male Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker.
An hour before
dusk I walked around HQ which was deathly quiet until a flock of
5 White-crowned Hornbills came in and gave fantastic display. Listening
to some of the Thai staff talking it appears that this flock is
regular as one lady knew how many there were without even looking,
so it would be worth hanging around this area from about 5.30pm
onwards. Waiting for dusk a couple of Great Hornbills flew overhead
too before lots of bats began to feed.
August : My final morning at Khao Sok turned out to be
the best. After a slow morning seeing a few new babblers; Rufous-crowned
and Short-tailed I was resigned to one of the poorest trips in a
long time, however, a Buffy Fish Owl sitting out in an open piece
of bamboo woodland was a spectacle.
around noon when I had pretty much given up on seeing many good
birds things suddenly came alive with Black-and-yellow Broadbill
calling from one side of the trail and Black-and-red Broadbill calling
from the other side. With some effort I managed good views of both
species and moved along to bump into a pair of Red-bearded Bee-eaters
showing very well. Watching these alerted me to small feeding flock
of birds which contained a number of babblers, 3 White-bellied Munias
and a Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher.
On a number
of my wet season trips the best birding has been around midday and
with this flurry of birds I also added Red-throated Sunbird, Hairy-backed
Bulbul, Rufescent Prinia, Black-naped Monarch, Great Iora and Bar-winged
With that it
was nearly 3pm and after a late lunch it was time to head back to
Phuket arriving around 6pm.
& 28th August : Non birding days.
August : Having arranged a vehicle the evening before I
had a late start due to receiving a phone call from home in the
middle of the night. Arriving at Krung Ching at 10.30 am I was not
too hopeful of my birding chances until later. However, bird activity
was high and it took just a few minutes to run into a Blyth's Hawk
Eagle perched in the mid-storey of the forest. Without moving very
far the call of Green Broadbill alerted me to its presence but before
I had time to track it down a Scarlet-rumped Trogon began calling
in front of me. It was so close that it didn't take much tracking
down and I was able to watch this bird for quiet some time: Krung
Ching is apparently one of the best places in Thailand to find this
The Green Broadbills
were abundant and I found some more very shortly. Enjoying this
good run the forest was very productive and quiet beautiful. Other
nice birds that I saw were Rufous-winged Philentoma, Rufous Piculet
and Streak-breasted Woodpecker before a downpour killed the birding
for 2 hours. I waited it and when the rain finally stopped the birds
came out in abundance. In one spot, within about 10 minutes I saw
Brown Barbet, Green Iora, Greater Green Leafbird, Gold-whiskered
Barbet, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Grey-cheeked Bulbul, Hairy-backed
Bulbul, Little Spiderhunter and Vernal hanging Parrot, proving that
it is worth staying out and waiting for the breaks in the rain.
As the afternoon drew on the activity slowed down but I found a
splendid Maroon Woodpecker before exiting the forest.
Around the HQ
at Krung Ching there is good night birding with Buffy Fish Owl hunting
around a pool which is crammed with fish; if I were a fish owl this
is exactly where I would hunt due to the overabundance of fish.
The owl is fairly easily seen by hanging around and looking with
a decent flashlight for the bird near the pool; also listen for
A little up
the entrance track there is a small car park and a sign saying "bird
watching" and apparently this is where Javan Frogmouth regularly
appears. Despite much effort it wasn't to be found but the rangers
told me that it was a reasonably reliable spot - but not every night.
August : Along the waterfall trail in the early morning
bird activity was high. In fact even around HQ beforehand there
were lots of birds with Dark-throated Oriole and Lesser Green Leafbird
in the trees and Silver-rumped Needletail overhead.
and early afternoon were some of the best birding I have had for
a long time with Green Broadbill, Thick-billed Pigeon, Raffle's
Malkoha, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Grey-headed Babbler and Scaly-breasted
Bulbul all interesting for someone who makes infrequent trips to
I should also mention that outside of Kaeng
Krachan this location is one of the best I have ever seen for
butterflies with good numbers and a wide variety of species present.
lots of birds are always good, there was still time to find
some more quality species and the first I found was a group
of 3 Maroon-breasted Philentomas which actually mobbed me
for about 5 minutes giving me great views of this species
which is very scarce in Thailand. Another excellent bird was
a Banded Pitta which was calling in a spot which I had been
tipped off about; there is a small trail heading to a cave
"Tam Gleua" which is signposted from the main trail
and after about 30 metres it crosses a gully. I waited at
this gulley and after about 10 minutes the bird came into
view - excellent. In the same spot was a Fulvous-chested Jungle
pressing it was difficult to drag myself away from this location
and I was further slowed by a couple of Buff-necked Woodpeckers
and a Rufous Woodpecker further along. Finally finishing
my "morning" walk at 3.30pm my last bird was Glossy
Swiftlet before making the journey back to Krabi.
August : My final day in the south saw me lounging around
Krabi for most of the day but in the afternoon I headed to the Tiger
cave Temple which is around 10km from the town centre. I took a
motorcycle taxi to the temple which is well-known and headed up
the stairs to the cave. There are 2 sets of stairs here and the
first goes to the top of the limestone outcrop which must be a long
and hot walk. The second set goes to the cave and a nice patch of
forest, requiring only a short climb.
Once in the
forest patch I followed a trail which makes a circle of about 1km
and seemed to have good potential, however, arriving at 4pm was
a bit late as the light fades quickly here due to the high limestone
outcrops blocking the sun. Still, I found some nice birds worth
making the trip for; 3 male Banded Kingfishers were very vocal and
came to me after I mimicked their whistle, a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
was nice and Gold-whiskered and Red-throated Barbets were busy calling
from the impressive trees here. However, for me the highlight was
a pair of Streaked Wren Babblers which I saw close to the rocks
just as I was leaving the area at nearly 6pm. I am sure a morning
visit would be quite productive here.
I was leaving the temple complex I saw my last additions to my southern
trip list; a couple of House Swifts which seemed to be nesting in
the new temple being constructed.
list with sites & notes
Laem Pakarang: LP
Khao Sok: KS
|Krung Ching waterfall:
Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi: TT
Rufous Piculet : 1, KC.
2. Buff-rumped Woodpecker : 3
at KS & 2 at KC.
3. Buff-necked Woodpecker : 3 at
4. Streak-breasted Woodpecker : 1,
5. Maroon Woodpecker : 1
seen KC, heard at KS.
6. Rufous Woodpecker : 1, KC.
7. Gold-whiskered Barbet : Heard
at KS, KC & TT; 1 seen at KC.
8. Blue-eared Barbet : 1 seen at
KC, several heard at KS, KC & TT.
9. Red-throated Barbet : 1 at KS,
Common KC & TT.
10. Brown Barbet : Common,
11. Great Hornbill : 2, KS.
12. Bushy-crested Hornbill : 7
seen at KS & heard at KC.
13. White-crowned Hornbill : 5
14. Wreathed Hornbill : 6
15. Scarlet-rumped Trogon : 1
male at KC.
16. Banded Kingfisher : 3
males at TT.
17. Brown-winged Kingfisher : Fairly
18. Collared Kingfisher : 1,
19. Red-bearded Bee-eater : a
pair at KS.
20. Lesser Coucal : 1 near
21. Black-bellied Malkoha : 1
at KS & 1 at KC.
22. Raffle's Malkoha : A
23. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha : A
few at KS & KC; 1 at TT.
24. Indian Roller : 1 near
25. Dollarbird : 1 near KS.
26. Vernal Hanging Parrot : 1
seen at KC, many heard at KS.
27. Glossy Swiftlet : A few,
28. Germaine's Swiftlet : A
huge flock at Thai Muang town; common at TT.
29. Silver-rumped Needletail
: Fairly common at KC & KS.
30. Asian Palm Swift : A
few at TT.
31. Fork-tailed Swift : Common at
32. House Swift : A pair
33. Brown-backed Needletail : A
few at KS.
34. Whiskered Treeswift : 1
35. Barn Owl : 1, Krabi town
36. Buffy Fish Owl : 1 at
KS; 2 at KC.
37. Spotted Dove : A few
38. Thick-billed Pigeon : A
large flock at KC; roosting flock at TT.
39. Emerald Dove : 1 at KC.
40. Whimbrel : Around 20
41. Common Redshank : 7,
42. Terek Sandpiper : 1,
43. Common Sandpiper : Several
at KM; 1, LP.
44. Ruddy Turnstone : Common,
45. Malaysian Plover : 1,
46. Lesser Sand Plover : Common,
47. Greater Sand Plover : A
48. Pacific Golden Plover : 2,
49. River Lapwing : 3, near
50. Red-wattled Lapwing : A
few near PhanNga.
51. Brahminy Kite : A few
52. White-bellied Sea Eagle : 1
near Thai Muang.
53. Crested Serpent Eagle : 1,
54. Blyth's Hawk Eagle : 1,
55. Pacific Reef Egret : 3
dark morph & 1 white, LP.
56. Great Egret : 2, KM.
57. Little Heron : 1, KM.
58. Banded Pitta : 1, KC.
59. Mangrove Pitta : 1, KM.
60. Black-and-red Broadbill : 1,
61. Black-and-yellow Broadbill : A
pair at KS; common at KC; a pair at TT.
62. Green Broadbill :
Fairly common, KC.
Greater Green Leafbird : A
64. Lesser Green Leafbird
: A few, KC.
Blue-winged Leafbird : A few,
66. Asian Fairy Bluebird : Common,
KS & KC.
67. Tiger Shrike : 1, KS.
68. Large-billed Crow : 1
Oriole : A few at HQ, KC.
70. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike :
A few at KS & TT.
71. Common Iora : A few at
KM & TT.
72. Green Iora : A few, KC.
73. Great Iora : 1, KS.
74. Black-naped Monarch : Fairly
75. Rufous-winged Philentoma : 3
at KS, 2 at KC.
76. Maroon-breasted Philentoma : 3,
77. Blue Whistling Thrush : Common
78. Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher : 1
at KS; 3 at KC; 1 at TT.
79. Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher : 1
juv female, KS.
80. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher : A
few at KS & KC.
81. Oriental Magpie Robin : 1
82. White-rumped Shama : Common,
KS & KC; 1 at TT.
83. Chestnut-naped Forktail : A
84. Asian Glossy Starling : Flocks
at a number of places including Krabi, Thai Muang and Patong.
85. Common Myna : Common
around human habitation and open country.
86. White-vented Myna : Fairly
common near human development.
87. Barn Swallow : Abundant
at most sites.
88. Pacific Swallow : Common
at KM & 2 near KS.
89. Rufous-bellied Swallow Cecropis badia
(Recently elevated to species statuts in the new checklist
of Thai birds : A few at TT & KM.
90. Black-headed Bulbul : A
91. Black-crested Bulbul caecilli : A
few at KS & KC.
92. Scaly-breasted Bulbul : A
few small parties at KC.
93. Red-whiskered Bulbul : 1,
KM - escape?
94. Stripe-throated Bulbul : A
few, KS & TT.
95. Streak-eared Bulbul : Common,
96. Cream-vented Bulbul : A
97. Red-eyed Bulbul : A few
at KS & KC.
98. Spectacled Bulbul : 1
at KS; 1 at KC.
99. Grey-eyed Bulbul : Very
common at KS
100. Ochraceous Bulbul : Fairly
common, KS, KC & TT.
101. Grey-cheeked Bulbul : Common
102. Yellow-bellied Bulbul : 1
at KS, 3 at KC.
103. Hairy-backed Bulbul : 3
at KS; fairly common at KC.
104. Rufescent Prinia : 1
105. Yellow-bellied Prinia : 1
106. Common Tailorbird : A
few at KS & KC; common at KM.
107. Dark-necked Tailorbird : A
few at KS, KC & TT.
108. Ashy Tailorbird : Common,
109. Abbott’s Babbler : Common,
110. Short-tailed Babbler : 1,
111. Puff-throated Babbler : A
112. Black-capped Babbler : 1
KS; 1 KC.
113. Streaked Wren Babbler : 2
114. Moustached Babbler : Common,
KS & KC.
115. Rufous-crowned Babbler : A
few at KS; fairly common at KC.
116. Striped Tit Babbler : Abundant
at KS & KC.
117. Rufous-fronted Babbler : 1,
118. Grey-headed Babbler : Fairly
119. Chestnut-winged Babbler : Common
at KS & KC.
120. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker : Fairly
common at KS; 1 at KC.
121. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker : 1
male at KS.
122. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker : 1,
123. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker : A
few, KS, KC & TT.
124. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker : A
few in Krabi; 1 male at KS.
125. Purple-naped Sunbird : 1,
126. Plain Sunbird : A few,
127. Brown-throated Sunbird : A
128. Red-throated Sunbird : 1
129. Olive-backed Sunbird : A
130. Crimson Sunbird : 1
male at KS; 1 male at TT.
131. Little Spiderhunter : Common
at KS, KC & TT.
132. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
: 2 at KS.
133. Grey Wagtail : A few
at KS; 1 at KC.
134. Eurasian Tree Sparrow : Common
near human development.
135. Scaly-breasted Munia : Small
flock near TT.
136. White-bellied Munia : 3
heard only: A few species were, frustratingly, heard
but not seen; I list them here to give others an idea of what is present.
Argus: Called once at KS.
2. Yellow-crowned Barbet: A few calling
3. Coppersmith Barbet: 1 at
4. Diard's Trogon: 2 calling
Blue-banded Kingfisher: A couple at
6. Greater Coucal: A few, KS.
7. Banded Bay Cuckoo: 2, KC.
8. Sultan Tit: KS.
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on Laem Pakarang
you are interested in arranging a bird watching tour you can see some
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