November 2014

 

Saturday 22nd November

Had a quick wander up to the moor at Porthgwarra this morning before clearing out of the cottage. Not much doing up there except Peregrine (thought I was going to manage a trip to Cornwall without seeing one - would have been a first) and a Black Redstart both on the rocks at the top. On the way home to Norfolk I decided to pop in to the Gammel Estuary to see the American Wigeon. Arrived to find the estuary full of people, dogs, horses and even a few seagulls, but with all that going on it was no surprise that the Wigeon flock was nowhere to be seen.

Got home at 8.00pm and put the moth light on straight away - it caught my first Winter Moth of the winter plus December Moth, Mottled Umber, 3 Feathered Thorns and a Chestnut.

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Pheasant, Porthgwarra, 22nd November - worrying days when the most interesting photo I can post is a Pheasant

 

Friday 21st November

I got up early to check the moth trap but with heavy rain forecast all day, and it was raining already, I decided to go back to bed. When I eventually emerged it wasn't raining, and didn't look like it had been for a while, so I probably missed the best birding opportunity for today. I decided to head straight over to Kelynack where I hoped to get more views and better photos of the Dusky Warbler. A quick burst of calling accompanied by fleeting views soon after I arrived was all I got though.

I like to wander down Kenidjack Valley - always a pleasant walk not least for the memories of the 1990 Yellow-throated Vireo. There's been a Siberian Chiffchaff here and I quickly located a Chiffchaff that lacked green or yellow tones, at least as far as I could tell in the rain. I wondered if it was the bird but it wasn't convincing me. A Chough called overhead and I continued down to the bottom of the valley. When I returned past the spot where the Chiffchaff had been it was still showing. The rain was now much heavier so despite it showing out in the open quite close I couldn't add much to its appearance, but my concerns about it proved justified as it let out a single very ordinary (for collybita) call. At that point a second bird appeared, rather similar in its overall brown tones to the first but much more distinctive due to its strong whitish supercilium and clean pale underparts. The rain was now reaching monsoon proportions and despite it sitting out a few feet in front of me viewing it through optics was impossible. It didn't call, but it looked much more the part and I thought it might well be the Siberian Chiffchaff. The conditions were impossible though and I left it without feeling 100% certain.

I was planning to look round Drift Reservoir next but after parking I decided I didn't fancy the walk in the pouring rain. From the car park I could see a Bar-headed Goose among the Canadas. As I headed back down the road to the cottage I saw a Swallow at Arden Sawah farm. Towards dusk the rain stopped and I wandered back up the road to Arden Sawah. No sign of the Swallow but 2 Black Redstarts were showing in the gloom.

The cottage garden was still windswept with nowhere sheltered to place the moth trap, but at least the wind wasn't as strong tonight. This was my last chance for some interesting migrants from the south and a Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella was outside of the trap before long - a good start, I thought. Come the morning the trap was absolutely heaving... with flies. I have never seen so many flies in the trap! There were a few moths, the best being a White-speck. The rest were 2 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, 3 Feathered Thorns and 5 Brindled Ochres.

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Chiffchaff sp., Kenidjack Valley, 21st November - this was the bird that looked good in the field; in life the supercilium looked more distinct, the underparts looked pale and I couldn't detect the slight greenish tones that appear on the upperparts in the photos; the very high ISO needed will have altered the tones, but then again watching in heavy rain wasn't ideal for detecting subtle tones in life either; in life I couldn't detect any ginger or 'tobacco' tones on the ear-coverts but if I squint hard enough I think I can make them out in the photo... or am I trying too hard?

 

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Black Redstart (left) and White-speck (right), Porthgwarra, 21st November - the Black Redstart was taken at dusk with ISO 12800

 

Thursday 20th November

I did my usual route in reverse this morning, heading up the road towards Polgigga and then cutting across to Higher Bosistow before heading back down across the moor. A Merlin suddenly appeared right in front of me in hot pursuit of a passerine. I don't think it got it as it continued chasing things as it sped off towards St Levan. Few migrants were in evidence until I reached Higher Bosistow where there were 3 Black Redstarts. Heading back down through the moor I paused a while at the pool near the wall. Suddenly I heard a familiar call - it was my Serin from Tuesday (at least I assume it was the same bird). It was flying from the direction of the top of the wall and started circling so I had another go at getting a sound recording. This time it continued calling overhead just long enough for me to get a quick recording and then I watched it head off towards Porthgwarra village, seeming to be going down when I lost it somewhere near the seaward end of 60 Foot Cover. I headed over there but couldn't find it. Back at the cottage I heard a Black Redstart calling.

A walk down to St Loy was pleasant - I quite fancy the house overlooking the sea at the end. Not many birds though, at least not notable ones - a Nuthatch up at the road was best. Having not found the Siberian Chiffchaff that had been by the cottage for a few days up to when we got here (and I later discovered was still there today) I decided to pop in to Newlyn to see the one there. A Water Rail was walking around under the willows and a couple of Chiffchaffs were quickly seen, but only one of them well enough to see it wasn't the Siberian. After a while I was surprised to hear a Yellow-browed Warbler call, and then again - not the scarce Phyllosc I was expecting. After a while I finally got views of the second Chiffchaff which was indeed the Siberian Chiffchaff - or at least it looked the part. It showed quite often in the end, though rarely well, but there was no more sign of the Yellow-browed for ages - weird how a bird like that can go completely missing in such a small clump of willows. Eventually it did show and I got good views before it disappeared again - I just got the one view in over an hour of looking.

A quick look at Godrevy Sands didn't turn up anything so we headed back to the cottage, pausing briefly at Hayle where 2 Greenshanks were on Copperhouse Creek and from the Quayside Inn at least 8 Mediterranean Gulls were among a flock of gulls flying off and 4 Goosanders (all redheads) were present.

Another Parsnip Moth Depressaria heraclei was in the cottage this evening but with the strong SE wind blowing straight off the sea and through the garden again I didn't expect many moths in the trap. I put it out anyway, but my expectations were right - not a single moth.

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Black Redstarts, Higher Bosistow, 20th November

 

Wednesday 19th November

The day started with the same strong wind and rain that put a blocker on the preceding night's moth activity. It was so bad I had to find something to cover my camera etc. as I took it out the short distance from front door to car. But then all of a sudden a Black Redstart started calling away in the garden and fly catching, and I realised the weather had suddenly turned. The change was dramatic, in a flash it changed from strong wind and heavy rain to, um, light wind and light rain. But behind that was blue sky, and the sun was soon shining. We decided to stick to the plan of heading up to St Just. We passed through Kelynack with a view to having another look at the Dusky Warbler but there were too many people there for my liking so we carried on. A quick stop and walk down a path resulted in flushing a Woodcock. I birded Cot Valley but scored nothing better than a Raven and 2 Sparrowhawks. Grey Wagtail flew over St Just as we did the galleries and picked up some provisions.

Back at base (Porthgwarra) we went for a walk up to the moor. We'd not got much further than the car park before a Ring Ouzel chacked away beside us and a Firecrest popped up. Further up the sun was shining on the willows and they were alive with birds. Not much variety but they were heaving with Chiffchaffs. As we went on to the moor a Black Redstart sat on the nearest rock before flying off over the valley all the way to the path to St Levan. Looking over 60' cover I found many more Chiffchaffs and what looked like another Ring Ouzel very briefly. A male Merlin flew across and landed on a post where we got a nice look at it. Trevean Pool was quiet and as we walked back across the moor a Short-eared Owl flushed. It went down not far away and we got some fabulous views of it. Heading back down to the cottage with the sun now going down a Blackcap was, surprisingly, the first I'd seen this trip. Further down the original Ring Ouzel was now showing in the grassy area up from the main car park.

I'd hoped for better on the moth front. A total of 9 Brindled Ochres was nice but apart from them it was very quiet: Parsnip Moth Depressaria heraclei in the cottage, 2 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, 2 November Moths (confirmed males) and 2 Feathered Thorns.

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Owl sp., St Just, 19th November - I thought this was a model but then it started moving its head, so clearly alive and real; not sure what species though, obviously a very rare vagrant, maybe a new species to science? Any ideas?

 

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Short-eared Owl, Porthgwarra, 19th November

 

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Ring Ouzel, Porthgwarra (left) and Robin, Cot Valley (right), 19th November

 

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Merlin, Porthgwarra, 19th November

 

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Porthgwarra, 19th November

 

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Stonechat (left) and Brindled Ochres (right), Porthgwarra, 19th November

 

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November Moth, Porthgwarra, 19th November (confirmed male)

 

Tuesday 18th November

Thrushes were still going over while I emptied the moth trap this morning and I'm pretty sure I heard a Firecrest at first light, so I headed up the valley early. A Merlin sped along the cliffs, Ravens croaked as they flew over and on the moor I enjoyed good views of 2, probably 3, Dartford Warblers. It was a pleasant start to the holiday but it got better when I reached Higher Bolistow. Nothing doing round the farmhouse but as I continued down the track towards the Porthgwarra road I heard a familiar but not immediately recognised call. It called again, and for some reason reminded me of Snow/Lapland Bunting, though I knew it wasn't either. Then I saw it flying low over the track, a small dumpy finch and the penny dropped, it was a Serin. It was still calling and I watched it flying the stubby-billed finch flying around before deciding I had the opportunity to either get a poor silhouetted flight shot or a perhaps a sound recording. I figured the latter would be more useful for proving the ID so reached for my phone, found the sound-recording app and pressed record. By now it was flying off and although I could just hear it call a couple of times after I hit record I'm not sure if it was loud enough to be picked up. It went out of view but had stayed low so I was pretty sure it hadn't gone far. I was confident about the call but just for peace of mind I played the call from the Collins guide on my phone and was reassured to hear almost exactly the same sound. I've had 2-3 Serins get away before but never found a claimable one before, so this was an excellent start to the stay in Cornwall!

I spent a while searching the field margins in the area to no immediate avail. Then as I walked back towards Higher Bosistow along the path from Arden Sawah I heard it calling again. It was flying over coming from the direction of Rosketal, much higher than before and heading straight over, calling constantly. It was a fair way off when it seemed to circle around a bit but then I lost it in a fumbled attempt to transfer to telescope. I last saw it somewhere over in the direction of Bosistow Fam, so perhaps it went down over there. Anyway, I didn't see it again and as far as I know nor did anyone else.

With no more sign of Dorset's Little Bustard (would have been tempting) and no sign either of the Isabelline Shrike at Pendeen, I headed up to Kelynack to look for the Dusky Warbler. Only one other guy was on site when I arrived and he'd not seen it, but after a while I thought I heard it calling. It was a bit longer before I'd heard it enough to work out exactly where it was calling from but eventually I got a few views of it. It was following a little circuit, at times coming very close indeed, but each view was fleeting, or else obscured by vegetation and it was extremely hard to photograph.

I had a quick look for the Shrike, just in case, but it wasn't there, so we headed back to the cottage. Put the moth trap out more in hope than expectation as there was nowhere in the cottage garden that was sheltered from the howling wind. A Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana and Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis appeared on the wall next to the trap quite quickly but come the morning the only moth in the trap was a Feathered Thorn.

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Dartford Warbler, Porthgwarra, 18th November

 

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Dusky Warbler, Kelynack, 18th November

 

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Herring Gull, Sennen Cove (left) and Merlin, Kelynack (right), 18th November

 

Monday 17th November

It rained all day. After breakfast we headed down to Pendeen where I hoped the Turkestan (?) Shrike would be remaining. It wasn't, or at least if it was it was hunkered down in the wind and rain and wasn't reported by anyone today. It wasn't the weather for looking for Dusky Warblers or Siberian Chiffchaffs so we ambled around a few places where we could look from the car before heading to the cottage we were booked in to. That got us 3 Mediterranean Gulls at Sennen Cove and Black Redstart at Lamorna Cove but nowt of real note.

Parsnip Moth Depressaria heraclei and Many-plumed Moth Alucita hexadactyla greeted us on arrival at the cottage - no idea how long they'd been in there. Once installed and unpacked I set up the moth trap. Lots of thrushes were flying over during the evening, plus a Snipe, and the trap delivered a reasonable bag overnight: Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella, Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella, a worn tortrix that I'll check when I'm home, 28 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, 7 November Moths (the 6 males were confirmed, 1 female not), 2 Feathered Thorns, a late Buff Ermine, 3 Brindled Ochres (that's 3x as many as I'd ever seen before - a non-Norfolk species), Feathered Ranunculus (one that does occur in Norfolk but which I've only ever seen at Porthgwarra) and Angle Shades.

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Brindled Ochre (left) and Feathered Ranunculus (right), Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

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Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis (left) and Buff Ermine(right), Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

Sunday 16th November

Headed down to the west country today ready for a few days in Cornwall. A Red Kite was the best of the journey and we finished the day at a posh hotel in Dartmoor. A walk round the grounds produced Grey Wagtail and at least 26 Grey Squirrels within about a 100 yards stretch of path. An extremely nice meal was followed by mothing the way I used to, i.e. leaving the light on and the window open. This produced Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis, Red-green Carpet and Feathered Thorn.

 

Saturday 15th November

Birding on the patch this morning was uneventful. Nothing better than the likes of Little Egret, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Bullfinches.

A nice surprise while I was in bed this evening was hearing Brent Geese flying over in the fog. I've come to expect Pink-feet to be displaced in overnight fog and to be heard calling from inland localities where they're not normally seen but Brent Geese this far inland are much more unusual.

Only one moth in the trap - a Pale November Moth.

 

Friday 14th November

Another cool misty night and I'm not convinced that tonight's December Moth and Scarce Umber weren't both yesterday's moths.

 

Thursday 13th November

A Grey Wagtail flew over while I was working from home but the moth trap didn't perform well in the cold catching just December Moth and Scarce Umber (though both very nice moths).

 

Wednesday 12th November

A Sprawler was on the door at Mangreen Hall when we left the Norfolk Moth Survey annual review this evening. We also saw a White-speck and Pale Pinion that Matthew Deans had brought along having trapped them at Bawdsey (Suffolk) the previous night. Back at base the trap caught Pale November Moth, Autumnal Moth, 2 Sprawlers, Dark Chestnut and Vine's Rustic.

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Vine's Rustic (left) and Dark Chestnut (right), North Elmham, 12th November

 

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Autumnal Moth, North Elmham, 12th November

 

Tuesday 11th November

Tonight's moths were Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella, December Moth, Red-green Carpet, female November Moth agg., Feathered Thorn and my first Scarce Umber for the house (and my first anywhere since 2010).

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Scarce Umber, North Elmham, 11th November

 

Monday 10th November

Some moths tonight: December Moth, Pale November Moth (confirmed male), Mottled Umber, Sprawler, Green-brindled Crescent and Dark Chestnut.

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Dark Chestnut (left) and Mottled Umber (right), North Elmham, 10th November

 

Sunday 9th November

No moths in the trap tonight but another Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana landed on me as I went out to check the trap.

 

Saturday 8th November

Met Dave at the patch at dawn where we found nothing better than Marsh Tit. We then headed down to Lowestoft where the male Desert Wheatear was showing stupidly well. We then checked Leathes Ham where I hoped to see a Wigeon x Pintail hybrid that Andrew Easton had photographed there recently. It was still there, but difficult to view so no decent photos. There was also what I think is a female Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid, possibly one I'd seen there before. Chances are both birds were released - the site has history of attracting birds released in the Waveney valley for shooting.

Next up we stopped at Gorleston where we didn't expect to get such good views of the female Desert Wheatear as we had the male at Lowestoft. By all accounts it was a much harder bird to connect with and had disappeared over to the Yarmouth side of the river for a while this morning. But when we arrived we saw a small crowd almost looking down on it, so perhaps we would see it well after all. By the time we reached them it had flown and disappeared, but couldn't have been far away. Nobody could see it so some of us went down on the beach to look. I scanned along the wall at the back of the beach, looking for hiding places where it might be. Just in front of me was a pipe, and there in the end of it was the Desert Wheatear! It was even closer than the Lowestoft bird!

I had to be back early but there was enough time to get up to Eccles and look for the whale that had been seen there recently. I didn't expect it to be easy but it was showing as soon as we arrived and continued to show frequently throughout the time I was there - a fantastic Humpback Whale! It was my first whale in Norfolk and my first Humpback Whale anywhere, and especially welcome after missing the one that was off east Norfolk last year. Most views consisted of the back and dorsal fin but sometimes it came out much further and a couple of times we saw the tail. Also the blows were seen frequently when the animal itself wasn't visible. Also a couple of Great Skuas here and a Red Admiral flew in off the sea.

More moths than of late including a fantastic Streak. Also Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana (my first here), Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana (gen detted for confirmation) , 2 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, 2 Red-green Carpets, Pale November Moth, Feathered Thorn, Mottled Umber, Sprawler, Chestnut and Yellow-line Quaker.

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Desert Wheatear, Lowestoft, 8th November

 

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Desert Wheatear, Gorleston, 8th November

 

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probable Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid (with Gadwall, left) and probable Wigeon x Pintail hybrid (right), Leathes Ham, Lowestoft, 8th November

 

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Streak (left) and Mottled Umber (right), North Elmham, 8th November

 

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Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana (female, gen det), North Elmham, 8th November

 

Friday 7th November

Five moths tonight: December Moth, November Moth agg. Epirrita sp., Sprawler, Green-brindled Crescent and Yellow-line Quaker.

 

Thursday 6th November

Heard a Yellowhammer flying over the house before work, another new bird for the house. It took 4.5 years to hear one at my last house, and that backed on to fields, so good to get this one under the belt so soon. Few moths again: 2 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, November Moth and Yellow-line Quaker.

 

Wednesday 5th November

Saw a Barn Owl at Brisley on the way in to work. I didn't expect many moths after last night's nil return - tonight was just as cold. But there were a few: Red-green Carpet, Sprawler, Green-brindled Crescent, 2 Chestnuts and Brick.

 

Tuesday 4th November

Today was the last of my autumn's scattered days off today, and I spent it at Burnham Overy in fine sunny weather. There seemed to be birds everywhere, though mostly common ones. Watched a Kestrel take a wader from the creeks, a Snipe I think, and fly off with it, and then a few seconds later a Peregrine hunting the same creek. There was a Jay at Gun Hill - an unusual place for them, though with conditions good for dispersal I'm not assuming it was an immigrant. Also there 2 Lapland Buntings flew over, and a Snow Bunting a minute later. Out to sea 2 Little Gulls and a Great Skua passed by and there were flocks of Pink-footed Geese flying in from the north all day.

From the east end of the dunes I got good views of 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, though not quite as close as last week. I couldn't see the Surf Scoter from here, though a tight flock of 6 Velvet Scoters was nice. I continued on through the west end of Holkham Pines and from futher down I could now see the Surf Scoter. I walked out to the beach to get reasonably good views, along with 8 Velvet Scoter and a Long-tailed Duck.

As I drove home late afternoon I drove through Brisley and was surprised to see a strange large bird flying low. I was on a windy lane with traffic behind me so couldn't stop, but from what I could see through trees it didn't look like a goose (or swan), Cormorant or raptor, the only big birds likely to be flying round here. It actually looked like a Gannet, but this is miles inland and I was only getting snatches of views through trees while trying not to crash the car! I turned off and raced round to where I thought I would see it from and sure enough picked it up flying away. I watched it for 2-3 minutes but it was flying directly away from me for the whole time and didn't turn at all. Not the ideal views and if I were asked to do a description I don't think any committee would accept what I could honestly put down, but I'm basically sure it was a Gannet!

Heard some Pink-footed Geese flying over the house this evening, my first here, but the cold temperatures were not to the moths' liking and tonight produced my first nil return since moving in.

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Reed Buntings, Burnham Overy, 4th November

 

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Linnets, Burnham Overy, 4th November

 

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Song Thrush (left) and Linnet (right), Burnham Overy, 4th November

 

Surf Scoter (and Velvet Scoter), Holkham Bay, 4th November

 

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Sanderling, Holkham Bay, 4th November

 

Monday 3rd November

Driving up a lane near Amner during my lunchbreak a Barn Owl flew along the verge hunting, apparently unconcerned about me following in my car just a couple of feet behind it. I drew alongside it a few times and could have touched it if I had reached my hand out of the window.

Just 4 moths tonight: Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis, Sprawler, Grey Shoulder-knot and Yellow-line Quaker.

 

Sunday 2nd November

No birding managed today but the following moths tonight: 2 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, December Moth, Red-green Carpet, female November Moth agg. Epirrita sp., confirmed male November Moth, 2 confirmed male Pale November Moths, 3 Feathered Thorns, Sprawler, 2 Green-brindled Crescents and 2 Yellow-line Quakers.

 

Saturday 1st November

With Brambling and Fieldfare both flying over while I was emptying the moth trap I figured I'd better get out birding. I stayed local and did the patch where the highlights were... well, there weren't any really. Two Marsh Tits were the best I could manage. Maybe I should have stayed at home and it was from home where the best birds of the day were seen - late in the afternoon 2 Bewick's Swans flew directly over the house at some height.

A December Moth tonight was new for the year. Also Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella, Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana, female November Moth agg. Epirrita sp., Feathered Thorn, 3 Green-brindled Crescents, Brick, 4 Yellow-line Quakers and Barred Sallow.

 

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