Barred Owls growing up

I continued to visit the Barred Owl family at Gemini Springs as much as I could last month. And I took a lot of photos. You have been warned. ๐Ÿ™‚

baby Barred Owls
both babies | 16 April 2012

On April 20th I was kind of surprised to find one of the adults feeding a baby. Earlier I had seen adults delivering small prey items to the babies but this meal seemed to be a large rat or maybe a pocket gopher. The adult bit off pieces and fed them to the baby.

Barred Owl adult feeding baby
begging baby | 20 April 2012

Barred Owl adult feeding baby
Barred Owl feeding baby | 20 April 2012

got yer nose
“got your nose!!” | 20 April 2012

feeding baby | 20 April 2012

When they were done, the adult flew off with the remains of the prey and perched on her own, away from the baby.

Barred Owl
a break after feeding baby | 20 April 2012

Four days later I was watching the Red-shouldered Hawk nest, which is in a different part of the park than where I generally find the Barred Owls. I was taking photos of baby Red-shouldered Hawks when I suddenly heard the unmistakeable hiss of a baby Barred Owl coming from just behind where I was standing. After a bit of searching, I found one baby and one adult Barred Owl.

baby Barred Owl dead center
here baby sits dead center in the frame | 24 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
baby Barred Owl | 24 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
baby Barred Owl | 24 April 2012

This location is about 350 yards from the usual Barred Owl spot. I don’t know if the babies are strong fliers at this age (which I don’t really know, exactly). Could the baby have flown all the way to this new spot? If not, would two families of Barred Owls nest so close together? Arthur and I had seen one adult Barred Owl in this area once before. Hmm.

Barred Owls
baby Barred Owl with parent | 24 April 2012

During my next two visits, on April 29th and 30th, I found all four family members back in the area where I originally found them. I noticed that one of the babies stayed very close to an adult, while the other baby had ventured off on its own to explore. The meek baby showed great alarm when a dog-walker passed by, even clacking its beak and scrambling along a branch to be closer to its parent. The other baby spent all of its time looking around, seemingly on the hunt.

baby Barred Owl
bold baby Barred Owl | 29 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
bold baby Barred Owl | 29 April 2012

bold baby Barred Owl | 29 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
shy baby Barred Owl | 29 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
shy baby Barred Owl | 29 April 2012

I’ve had so much fun watching this beautiful family of owls. I hope I’ll be able to continue locating and observing them as they grow up.

Barred Owl (bold baby)
bold baby Barred Owl | 30 April 2012

Barred Owl (shy baby)
shy baby Barred Owl | 30 April 2012

Barred Owls (shy baby & parent (mom?))
shy baby Barred Owl with adult (mom?) | 30 April 2012

preening Barred Owl (dad?) | 30 April 2012

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Bird-a-Day 111-128

Well, I’m getting down to my last gasps in the Bird-a-Day Challenge. I am really happy to have made it to today, though, since my last mini-goal was to bring the game to Chicago. Tomorrow I’ll fly up north to visit my family and friends… and pick up seven new birds. ๐Ÿ™‚

In this last batch, Gemini Springs came through with 8 of 18 birds. Unfortunately, all of these were expected species, except for the surprise – though not super-rare – Cooper’s Hawk I saw as I was leaving the park on April 30.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker at Gemini Springs | 29 April 2012

Of course I took advantage of trips outside of DeBary to pick up birds. A quick stop on the way to Turtle Day at the Marine Science Center yielded American Oystercatcher for April 21st. On May 4th, Arthur and I went out to Merritt Island to watch an Atlas V rocket launch – and a quick spin around Black Point Wildlife Drive gave me a few special birds to choose from. I picked Least Sandpiper.

Least Sandpipers
Least Sandpipers at Merritt Island | 04 May 2012

We drove out to Lake Monroe Conservation Area on the night of the “super moon,” May 5th. A Florida listserv post suggesting that birders go out and listen for Chuck-will’s-widows was all the encouragement I needed. I checked eBird for local sightings, but came up empty. Not wanting to drive too far, I checked Google Maps and thought the Kratzert Tract of Lake Monroe C.A. looked promising. Score! We ended up hearing at least three Chucks, plus a bonus Barred Owl.

I’m hoping for lots of birds to choose from in the coming week. White-crowned Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees are regular visitors to my parents’ feeders (and unlikely in central Florida). Other possible challenge birds I expect to find include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Canada Goose, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bobolink, and Mute Swan. And warblers! Oh, how I miss warblers! I’ve seen a few this spring, but not enough to satisfy. Hope to remedy that in the coming days! Bring it on.

American RedSTART
American RedSTART at Gemini Springs | 27 April 2012

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Birding Gemini Springs, April 2012 [part 2]

I entered 13 eBird checklists for Gemini Springs in April, recording a total of 67 species. The complete list of 67 birds is at the end of this post.

I posted about the birding Gemini Springs during the first half of April here: Birding Gemini Springs, April 2012 [part 1]. For this second post, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay; April 16 2012

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule; April 20 2012

American Alligator
American Alligator; April 20 2012

Polistes annularis
Polistes annularis (paper wasps); April 20 2012

Polistes annularis
Polistes annularis (paper wasps); April 20 2012

Common Checkered Skipper or White Checkered Skipper; April 23 2012

thistle; April 23 2012

blogger; April 23 2012

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey; April 27 2012

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird – suddenly they were all over the park; April 27 2012

Southern Black Racer
Southern Black Racer peekaboo; April 27 2012

baby Northern Parula
baby Northern Parula; April 29 2012

Boat-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle; April 29 2012

Anhinga; April 30 2012

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting; April 30 2012

April 2012 bird list, Gemini Springs

Wood Duck – Aix sponsa
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
American Bittern – Botaurus lentiginosus
Least Bittern – Ixobrychus exilis
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – Nyctanassa violacea
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Limpkin – Aramus guarauna
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Black-necked Stilt – Himantopus mexicanus
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Barred Owl – Strix varia
Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus
Eastern Kingbird – Tyrannus tyrannus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Red-eyed Vireo – Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Marsh Wren – Cistothorus palustris
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Indigo Bunting – Passerina cyanea
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

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Scenes from a Red-shouldered Hawk nest

After finding the Barred Owl family at Gemini Springs on April 10th, somehow I found myself at the park nearly every day that followed, just to get another look at my favorite birds. On April 11th Arthur and I overheard a park employee speaking with another visitor about a Red-shouldered Hawk nest. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that the nest was in rather plain view, but somehow I had missed it until it was pointed out to us with at least two babies inside already becoming independent though not yet fledged.

That first day, we only managed to see one baby, who looked to be very well fed (look at that crop!). The park employee told us there were two babies on the nest.

baby Red-shouldered Hawk
11 April 2012

baby Red-shouldered Hawk
11 April 2012

A few days later I watched one of the adults hunting. It caught and ate a bright green caterpillar but did not visit the nest while I was there.

parent Red-shouldered Hawk
13 April 2012

parent Red-shouldered Hawk
13 April 2012

On April 16 I finally saw both babies in the nest. Oh my, aren’t they cute?! And again looking well-fed.

baby Red-shouldered Hawks
16 April 2012

baby Red-shouldered Hawk
16 April 2012

Just four days later, they looked so different! I saw a parent deliver food to them a few times on this visit.

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
20 April 2012

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks
20 April 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk food delivery
20 April 2012

On April 23rd I again only managed to see one of the babies. I later learned via a Facebook acquaintance that one of the babies probably fledged that day.

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
23 April 2012

On April 24th there was still one baby hanging out in the nest tree, possibly pre-fledge.

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
24 April 2012

Today I lucked out by finding a juvenile fly into the nest tree with an adult. The adult took off immediately while the baby waited (and I got to take some photos).

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
4 May 2012

juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
4 May 2012

Good luck, beautiful baby Red-shouldered Hawks!

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Birding Gemini Springs, April 2012 [part 1]

I completed 13 eBird checklists for Gemini Springs in April, recording a total of 67 species. Ten of these were new for the year (bold indicates new to my all-time Gemini Springs list): Least Bittern; Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Great Crested Flycatcher; Eastern Kingbird; Red-eyed Vireo; Barn Swallow; Brown Thrasher; American Redstart; Chimney Swift; and Indigo Bunting.

April was full of fun discoveries at Gemini Springs! This blog post is part one of two, just because there’s so much I want to share. ๐Ÿ™‚

The month started out great with my first outing on April 1st. First, I saw what I presume to be a this-year’s-model Bald Eagle awkwardly land next to one of the adults I’ve often seen at the park since a pair returned to their territory back in late August.

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles; April 1 2012

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird; April 1 2012

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal; April 1 2012

Then I really lucked out with a sighting of a Least Bittern along the Bayou. I was scanning across the water at a spot where Arthur and I had heard a Sora calling the previous week. I didn’t see anything at all until the bittern flew over and landed in my binocular view. I was happy to manage a photo or two of this tough Volusia bird before it disappeared into the reeds.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern; April 1 2012

White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar
White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar; April 1 2012

Common Snapping Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle in the parking lot, probably looking to nest; April 1 2012

On April 8th I took a very long walk into the woods along the bike path and stumbled upon some ex-armadillo bits.

ex-armadillo; April 8 2012

Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren; April 8 2012

Passiflora incarnata
Passiflora incarnata; April 8 2012

Green Heron
Green Heron croaking; April 8 2012

On April 10th I found the Barred Owl family. The morning rewarded me with many other wonderful discoveries.

White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer (rarely spotted by me at Gemini Springs); April 10 2012

Downy Woodpecker
One-eyed Downy Woodpecker; April 10 2012

Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescent; April 10 2012

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird; April 10 2012

Peninsula Ribbon Snake
Peninsula Ribbon Snake; April 10 2012

Limpkin; April 10 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk; April 10 2012

tiger moth sp
Tiger Moth sp caterpillar; April 10 2012

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird; April 10 2012

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; April 10 2012

After watching the Barred Owls that first day, it was tough to NOT visit the springs as often as possible in the following days. Finding them continued to be quite easy, as the babies weren’t shy about asking mom and dad for food. And there were still other discoveries to be made.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron; April 11 2012

Habitat For Humanity
A Habitat for Humanity wristband stuck around a post; April 13 2012

Marsh Rabbit
Marsh Rabbit; April 13 2012

Red-eared Slider
Red-eared Slider; April 13 2012

That covers the first part of April. I’ve split the month’s adventures into two posts — more to come soon!

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Spit and see if I care. Spit!

Mnemonics are tricks to aid in memorization. Birders use mnemonics to learn and remember bird sounds. Putting words to bird calls and songs makes them easier to recall. Some (most?) of them are quite funny.

The White-eyed Vireo has one of my favorite bird song mnemonics. What do you think? Does this sound like expectoration encouragement to you? Spit and see if I care. Spit!

Another mnemonic of this song is Quick, give me a rain check! (or, if you’re a Bill Bryson fan, Quick, give me a barf bag!).

According to Florida’s Birds, White-eyed Vireos are “perpetual singers.” That seems about right to me. I hear them quite often in the neighborhood and at Gemini Springs. I found this one this morning on the way to birding at Gemini.

Spit and see if I care. Spit!
White-eyed Vireo | Spring-to-spring Trail, DeBary FL

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I discovered a Barred Owl family at Gemini Springs!

Much to my chagrin, I have zero owl-finding skills. So this post’s title isn’t really 100% accurate. Something like Baby Barred Owls make so much noise I can’t help but find them might have been more appropriate. Anyway…

On April 10th I was birding at Gemini Springs, taking my usual route over the spring run bridges on my way to the path that runs along DeBary Bayou. While crossing the second bridge, I heard the unmistakable hissy begging call of a baby owl. Naturally I followed the sound, which had me take a right after the bridge and head into the woods. A few minutes later, I sent a text message to Arthur.

iPhone photo of my camera’s viewscreen [phone screen shot edited for space / privacy]

So even though I’m lousy at finding owls, two hungry babies taking turns crying for food are hard to miss. I had located two branching babies but no adults.

baby Barred Owl
Baby Barred Owl begging for food | 10 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
Baby Barred Owl | 10 April 2012

After I sent the text and took a lot of photos of the two babies, I continued on my walk.

Before heading to my bike, I went back into the woods to see if I could relocate the owls. This time I found one of the adults perched beside a baby.

Barred Owl
Adult (#1) Barred Owl | 10 April 2012

I texted Arthur again and he indicated he was on his way over, so I sat down to wait. That’s when I saw the second adult bird fly in to deliver a green anole to one of the babies. After the delivery, the adult perched nearby. Of course I took more photos, which is what I was doing when Arthur joined me.

Barred Owl
Adult (#2) Barred Owl | 10 April 2012

Barred Owl
Adult (#2) Barred Owl | 10 April 2012

Barred Owl dead center
Superzoom! The adult (#2) Barred Owl is dead center | 10 April 2012

Here are a few more photos of the second adult Barred Owl: Sleepy Barred Owl; Alert Barred Owl; Sunning Barred Owl.

I can hardly begin to describe how happy I was to find and observe these owls. I had only seen a handful of individuals before that morning, so discovering and observing this family at length was a tremendous treat (made even more wonderful when Arthur joined me).

The next morning, April 11, Arthur and I headed back to Gemini Springs, but we were only able to locate one baby owl.

baby Barred Owl
Baby Barred Owl from behind – lots of adult feathers | 11 April 2012

baby Barred Owl
Same baby Barred Owl as pictured above | 11 April 2012

During a visit two days later, on April 13, I found one baby and one adult.

baby Barred Owl
Fluff! | 13 April 2012

Barred Owl
Adult Barred Owl searching for prey | 13 April 2012

I guess you can tell I can’t get enough of these beautiful owls. I have returned to Gemini Springs to look for the owls (and other birds!) a few more times in the last weeks. I’ll have some more photos to share in the coming days (you have been warned!).

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Turtle sucker

See something odd happening on the back end of this turtle? What’s that coming out of the rear left leg?

Red-eared Slider w/ leech

This morning at Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs, Arthur and I stopped along the boardwalk to watch a small Red-eared Slider struggling to climb onto a floating log. Once it clawed its way onto the the log, it started walking as if it had something on its plastron which prevented its back legs from reaching the surface at the correct angle or position. The turtle slid back into the water but when it climbed back onto the log moments later, it still had the same problem. As we continued to watch we finally noticed that it had a rather large leech stuck to its body.

It appeared to be scooting around the log to try and remove the leech. This video shows the turtle’s first ascent onto the log and a couple of moments of subsequent leech-scooting.

It is very common for turtles to carry leeches. I had no idea of this before today. In Googling for information about turtles and leeches, I came across an older post from one of my favorite Florida bloggers, who wrote: “It’s extremely common to find leeches on turtles in Florida. In fact, it’s so common, that if I had to go collect a bunch of leeches, I would start flipping turtles.” Well, how about that?

Red-eared Slider w/ leech

Leeches survive by attaching themselves to a host animal and sucking blood. When turtles bask in the sun, sometimes their leeches dry up and fall off. Good luck little slider, and thanks for today’s new thing learned.

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Bird-a-Day 101-110

The Bird-a-Day Challenge rolls on!

In the last 10 days I picked up half of my birds at my trusty local patch, Gemini Springs. White-eyed Vireo, Snowy Egret, Common Yellowthroat and Little Blue Heron were all sort of gimmes – birds I would reasonably expect to find on a normal birding day at the park. I was glad to see a Swallow-tailed Kite on the 14th along the (Gemini Springs-adjacent) Spring-to-spring Trail. They are back in town after spending the winter in South America.

On April 11th, Arthur joined me on a morning bird walk. We spent the last part of the outing on the fishing pier watching birds flying out over the bayou. A wading bird flew over and I (insert sheepish grin) called it a Tricolored Heron and (insert sheepish grin) moved on. Arthur kept on it and shouted out “NIGHT HERON!” Yikes! I got back on the bird and boy, am I glad I did. At great distance we were able to put doubts on calling the bird the more common Black-crowned. Luckily the bird proceeded to FLY DIRECTLY ABOVE US right over the fishing pier! I had a horrible klutz attack while fumbling with my camera and I ended up taking zero photos of the bird. I am very glad I got good looks, though, at my BIGBY / Volusia County / 2012 / second ever in my life Yellow-crowned Night-Heron!

Two planned non-birding day trips yielded a pair of nice birds I wouldn’t expect to find locally.

On April 15th Arthur and I went to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando. Prior to the trip, I looked at eBird to determine what birds I might expect to find there. Rock Dove is my go-to theme park bird, which I luckily have not had to use thus far. eBird divulged the strong possibility of finding a White-winged Dove at Islands of Adventure, so that was my “target bird” for the day. We saw them a couple of times during our stay; Arthur took this photo with his point-and-shoot.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove at Islands of Adventure theme park | 15 April 2012

I always wonder about the poor saps (including me) who submit eBird checklists from the theme parks. Were they dragged there by family? Did they bring their binoculars and wait / bird while the rest of their party experienced rides or shows? I love going to Disney and our day at Islands of Adventure was a blast (Wizarding World of Harry Potter FTW!) – don’t get me wrong. But… “always be birding”, you know? So I have to pause when our path takes us close to water (any ducks? any waders?!) or if I see something flitting about in nearby trees (was that a dove? what kind?!). Anyway, I’m very grateful to my fellow eBirders for helping me to find my Bird-a-Day on April 15th.

The other day trip occurred last Tuesday when Arthur and I headed to the Space Coast to bid farewell to the Space Shuttle Discovery as she was transported by Boeing hearse to Washington, D.C. After the 7AM departure we spent some time at the Visitor Center before devoting the afternoon to some birding. Usually on days like this (we’ve been to a few launches in the past year) we head to Merritt Island NWR. I’ve got county birding fever though, so I devised a plan to hit a couple of Volusia County spots instead. One of those spots was Smyrna Dunes in New Smyrna Beach. Along a stretch of beach accessible to cars, a flock of Royal Terns harbored a pair of Sandwich Terns – my Bird-a-Day for April 17.

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern at Smyrna Dunes | 17 April 2012

On Thursday mornings I volunteer at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. Birding hotspot Mead Gardens in Winter Park is nearby, so I decided to head there last week after my volunteer shift. Reported warbler sightings enticed me, but I came up empty, warblerly speaking. I briefly spoke with a pair of birders along a part of the boardwalk, who helpfully told me about the Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler and American Redstart seen earlier in the day, and the Black-throated Blue they had just a moment ago. Sure. A Great Egret hanging out with a Wood Stork and a Great Blue Heron became my Bird-a-Day last week.

Great Egret at Mead Gardens | 12 April 2012

For today I used the Great Crested Flycatcher that landed on the creance line at the Center at the start of my volunteer shift. It pained me to use a “yard bird” but it was the “best” bird I saw all day.

I’ve revised my list of “easy” local birds down to just 11 species, three of which I can find in our yard on a normal day. With 18 days to go before I head to Chicago, I wonder if I have a chance? Stay tuned…!

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The Owl Clan

A large statue of an owl was recovered from the St. Johns River near DeLand, Florida in 1955. An artifact of the Timucua Native American tribes that historically lived in the area, the original pine wood statue dates from 1400-1500 A.D. The original piece is on display at the Florida State Museum in Gainesville. A replica of the statue stands on Hontoon Island, a state park cut out of the St. Johns River near DeLand.

The Owl Clan

The owl totem identified the local “clan” of Timucua; similar statues representing a pelican and an otter were found elsewhere along the St. Johns in 1978. These three totems are the only such Native American statues found in North America outside of the Pacific Northwest. The owl totem is remarkable for its large size.

The Owl Clan

The stylized totem statue probably represents a Great Horned Owl and stands over six feet tall from horns to talons. Interestingly, the totem owl has five talons, instead of the four naturally found on Great Horned Owls. Was there perhaps a bit of anthropomorphizing among the Owl Clan? I’m not judging. In fact, as a lover of owls, I say — sign me up for the modern version of the Owl Clan.

The Owl Clan

Sources: The Florida anthropologist via the University of Florida and replica signage

The Owl Clan

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