The Best Optical Illusions and Phenomena That Can Only Be Seen in Nature

Mother Nature is the best at creating natural optical illusions. An optical illusion is when you think something looks like one thing, but is something different. There are many things in nature that are like this, and here is a round-up of the best natural illusions.

The Bubblegum Lake

Lakes are usually a clear blue, green, or brown color. On Middle Island in Australia, a beautiful hot pink lake can be seen. This lake is called Lake Hillier, and that bright pink hue is due to an organism called Dunaliella salina.

This organism creates that pink color, which scientists believe has something to do with the salt water that the lake is composed of. While tourists can visit the lake, they are not allowed to swim in it. It is strictly for viewing and research.

All One Tree

Walking in a grove of trees is pretty magical. These trees here all look pretty similar, and there is a very good reason for that. They are what are called a clonal grove of trees. Hundreds of years ago, the first tree began to grow, and from that root system, thousands of other trees began to grow up through the soil.

Each of these trees belongs to that same original tree, which makes them clones of each other. They continue to spread, and that is how clonal groves are created. How cool is that? A whole forest can be created from a single tree.

The Painted Tree

Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, and huge ones can be seen growing all over the country. Koalas love to sit in their branches, and munch on the tasty leaves. Some of the eucalyptus trees are unique though. They begin to shed their bark, which leaves large swaths that look like brush strokes of color.

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This eucalyptus tree has begun to peel, and the different colors of the trunk underneath are showing through. The colors of bark are multi-hued which means that blues, greens, purples, reds, and orange shades occur naturally. Respect Mother Nature and don’t try and peel the bark off to see the colors underneath, wait for her to show you.

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An Icy Desert

Penitentes are naturally occurring phenomena which result in icy peaks formed in deserts. In order for these to form, deserts and dry plateaus must be at a high altitude. The penitentes are formed when ice or snow melts into water vapour, instead of water. This creates that peaked knife look.

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As the snow is turned into vapor, gaps form and that is what the penitents are created from. They have the appearance of knives, and usually point straight at the sun, as that is what is turning the snow into water vapor. The high altitude aids in the process by still being too cold for it to turn into water.

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The Eye Of The Volcano

Active volcanoes are extremely beautiful to look at. You can see magma coursing inside of them, and sometimes lava flowing down them. At one volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, you can see into what is called the ‘skylight’ of the volcano. Lava has hardened all around the ‘skylight’ to resemble bodies piled on top of each other.

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It is a rather eerie sight, and it has been created from tubes of lava hardening on top of one another. It’s definitely worth a visit the next time you are in Hawaii, but be careful not to fall in!

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Colorful Mountains

China is known for some pretty beautiful landscapes, but the Rainbow Mountains in Gansu Province have to be one of the most beautiful. It appears as if an artist has looked at their color palette, selected the brightest colors possible, and painted long strokes of color up and down the mountain range.

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In reality, the colors actually come from mineral deposits in the area, and a unique red colored limestone. It took 24 million years for this mountain range to look like this.

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A Bloody Glacier

This might look like something out of a gory horror film, but it is definitely nothing to be scared of. Blood Falls, Antarctica is known for its bright red blood like color. At first, scientists thought that some kind of red algae in the water was creating the color.

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Now, we know that it is due to a unique process in which iron oxide and salt water mix together to have a chemical reaction. That reaction turns the water this rather bright shade of red. No blood here at all.

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Out For A Hike

This hiker looks like he is about to fall off the side of a steep cliff. If you closely though, you will notice that this is all an illusion. He is actually walking next to a body of water that is completely flat.

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As the water is flat, it works as a mirror and reflects the image of Glen Canyon behind the man. If you want to make your social media followers pause on your picture, then this would be a great one to post.

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Pastel Clouds

Nacreous clouds are pretty common over mountain ranges. They tend to occur in higher altitudes, and up in the polar regions of the globe. They are characterized by pastel shades, and look a bit like the Northern Lights.

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You can see these clouds during the daytime though. If you want the best chance of seeing these, head to Norway where they often occur. These clouds look like they were created by a special effects team, but this is just Mother Nature at her best.

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A Mirage

If you have ever driven on the highway on a very hot day then you will probably have experienced this. The highway appears to be hazy in front of you, and what looks like water or oil slicks appear to be covering portions of the highway.

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When your eyes see this, it is actually an illusion called an inferior mirage. The reflection of the highway makes your brain think it’s seeing water or oil slicks, but really, there is nothing there.

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A Salvador Dali Painting

Namibia, a country found in Southern Africa, is known for its beautiful deserts, and coastline. One area in particular looks like it could be a Salvador Dali painting. Deadvlei is known for its stark landscape, and sand dunes which are only interrupted by acacia trees.

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These trees stand like skeletons in the pristine sand, and are truly spectacular to see. Visiting here is like walking through a surrealist landscape, and Dali could only have wished to paint here.

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The Aurora Borealis

The Latin term for the Northern Lights is Aurora Borealis, and it holds a kind of magic. The waving streaks of purple, green, blue, and red lights through the Northern skies of Scandinavia, Russia, and Canada are a sight to behold.

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The lights are created through a process in which magnetic rays come into contact with solar wind, and together they create what are known as the Northern Lights. This is something everyone should see in their lifetime.

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Pareidolia

When you first look at this grassy hill, you most likely see the profile of a face rather than a hill. Your brain telling you to see a face, instead of what is really there is called pareidolia.

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This hill in a place called Ebihens, France is known for creating this optical illusion. Most people have trouble seeing the hill first. This trick can also happen when you look at clouds in the sky, and see shapes instead.

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Natural Camouflage

In nature, many moths and butterflies have wings that act as a natural camouflage against predators. The Gonepteryx rhamni butterfly, which is a real mouthful to say, is unique because of its wings.

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At first glance, the green wings appear to be leaves that blend in perfectly with the flower the butterfly is feeding from. This helps keep the butterfly safe, and avoid any critters that might want to eat it while it’s busy eating.

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Three Suns

Science fiction movies and television shows often feature planets that have more than one sun. This picture makes it look like the Earth has three suns, but really it is just a mirage. These three suns are what are known as parhelia.

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Parhelia occurs when the ice crystals in very cold climates act as a mirror. They refract the light from the sun, and create multiple images of it. This can also occur with sound and water waves.

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The Sleeping Horse

This is another case of pareidolia. What do you see when you first look at this picture? You most likely see a sleeping horse head. Take a closer look at the picture. It is not a sleeping horse head, but a rocky outcropping in the ocean.

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Mother Nature decided to play a trick on Earth’s humans with this one. Horse lovers should consider adding this neat spot to their next horse themed vacation.

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A Sea Monster

This odd stump doesn’t look like anything naturally occurring. It looks like a sea monster out of a book or a movie. The stump looks like a monster with a huge mouth yawning open, and the moss growing all over it adds to the illusion.

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It also has the potential to be a mossy Groot from The Guardians of the Galaxy if you look at it from different angles. One thing is for sure though, this is definitely not a real monster.

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A Spooky Tree

With Halloween right around the corner, this tree is sure to cause a fright. Somewhere in a windswept forest, this tree is growing. The wind has blown the branches so that it forms a smiling skull. It looks like something straight out of the movie Sleepy Hollow.

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Nobody will want to be caught hanging out around this tree after dark. Some pretty spooky stuff might be hiding in the branches when the sun goes down.

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Goodnight Moon

Sometimes nature creates things that are truly astounding. This ‘dipping’ moon appears to be rising out of the water, and it looks gigantic. You can see individual craters on the moon’s surface which is pretty neat.

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If you want to see the moon like this, you will need to be within 29 degrees of the equator. That is where the moon is closest to Earth, and you may be able to capture a breathtaking photo of it like this one.

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The Drowned Violin

To see this island in all of its glory, you have to be there at sunrise or sunset. The moments when the sun’s rays are just beginning to touch it, are when it is cast into shadow. It is actually an island called Violin Island.

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When it is touched with shadows, it appears to be a half-submerged violin just waiting to be plucked up by a giant’s hand. Once the sun comes up, it just looks like a regular tree-filled island.

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Snake Eyes

Butterflies and moths have very unique patterns on their wings. Some are used for camouflage, while others are used to make them look like predators. This butterfly’s wingtips have been designed by Mother Nature to look like two snakeheads.

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This is a form of camouflage, as other predators will not want to approach the butterfly if they think it is a poisonous snake. This keeps predators from trying to eat it.

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Nowhere To Go

Mother Nature has designed the world to be unique. That means that some countries are mountainous, while others are completely flat. In this mountain region, bridges and roads have been built to help its residents get from one place to another.

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Due to how the roads have been built, an illusion has been created that this road simply drops off. In reality, it curves and this sharp turn makes it look like the road ceases to exist.

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Mirroring

This mountain range looks like it has been taken right off of a postcard. The water in front of the mountain is crystal clear, and calm. With no wind to create waves, the water is able to act as a mirror and perfectly reflect the mountains.

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This makes it look like there is an identical mountain range within the water itself. Always keep a camera by your side to capture rare images like this. You will want to remember them!

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The Windy Canyon

It’s hard to believe that canyons like this exist. The red and beige tones that alternate look like they are from another planet. But this canyon exists right here on Earth. It is found in the state of Arizona, and the unique wavy shape of the canyon has been created by wind.

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When the winds move through the canyon, it shapes the stone to match the wind flow patterns. The unique red color comes from the stone itself, and the minerals it contains.

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The Salt Flats

When you think about salt, you think of the tiny white flakes that you sprinkle on top of food. Salt can come from a variety of places, but the salt flats in Bolivia are one of the uniquest places to collect salt.

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The flats act as a mirror, and when you visit them you can take all sorts of photos that create optical illusions. This jumping man looks like he is trying to jump over a huge body of water, in reality it is just a flat salt bed. There is no water for miles around.

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Attack of the lizard

Many of us have seen the movie, and others now live in fear that a giant reptile could soon storm through the city and take over the world. What’s this? It seems as though all of our nightmares are coming to life at once.

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What looks like Godzilla in the background is thankfully just a lizard making their merry way across a windshield – terrifying one driver at a time.

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The evil villain

There have been many fairy tales that all have the same leading villain: a wicked witch. Although we’re all grown up and ready for the real world, many of us still live with a subtle fear from our childhoods that we could be caught in a spell any day soon.

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The evil villain

Perhaps this witch-looking tree stump wasn’t the best way to overcome our fear? It might be time to call in the professionals and have this thing removed before anyone else is subjected to this illusion. No matter how many times it’s seen, we’re sure this stump has scared people more than once.

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Finding beauty

Sometimes, we just need a new perspective on things to show us there can be beauty in just about any aspect of life. This appears to be a photo of the night sky with the silhouette of a tree perfectly framing the picture.

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So what is that ripple? That would be a drop of water landing the puddle. That’s right; the night sky is actually the reflection of a tree in a puddle. The stars? That’s the gravel lying underneath. It turns out that puddles can be a lot more beautiful than many of us give them credit for.

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Attack of the claw

To some, this is merely a lobster in a bucket. To others, this is a giant monster who has crash-landed on a planet and is willing to take it down one snap of the claws at a time.

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The water around the sides of the bucket can make it look like the universe filled with stars while the water on the bottom of the bucket almost appears to be the ocean. Thankfully, it seems as though we’re safe from any crustacean attacks any time soon as it’s just our eyes playing tricks with our minds.

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Campfire fun

Sometimes, there can be nothing more peaceful than sitting by the campfire with our friends and it looks as though these birds know that fact all too well. If you look closely, you might even be able to make out their beaks as they soak up the warmth of the flames, but why are birds so close to the fire in the first place?

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It turns out that they’re not birds at all. The shapes are actually made up from a wooden pallet. The different sizes are all thanks to the way that the wood has burned.

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New perspectives

Getting closer to things can give us a new view of the world. So what about when you find yourself up in space looking back down at Earth? That is certainly enough to make many of us feel small. Sadly, it seems as though this person is still waiting for their ticket to space.

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They weren’t on the International Space Station but were taking a snap of the frost on the roof of their car instead.

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Finding the source

Waterfalls can be a great show of Mother Nature’s power. All of that water falling hundreds of feet and crashing below can often be a breathtaking sight. However, many of us have been left wondering where all that water comes from.

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While one person thought they had cracked the code to the waterfall mystery, it seems as though the source of the water is actually a trail left by an airplane in the sky. Oops.

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A delicious find

Many of us have been able to find all kinds of things while scouring the beach, from fossils to washed-up wonders and everything in between, we bet that no one ever thought they would find a grilled cheese sandwich.

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However, you might want to think twice before biting into this find. No, it’s not a slice of delicious cheesy goodness, but this is actually a rock. Don’t worry, your teeth can thank us later.

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Alien invasion

Have no fear; we’re not at any risk of an alien takeover just yet. It seems as though a UFO is hovering over a forest and beaming down over the land. However, it appears as though someone actually just really needs to wash their car.

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Although there is so much dirt that it looks out of this world, we’re not sure that we’d rush to wash away this incredible piece of art anytime soon.

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Wooden skyline

Standing over a city often gives us a new perspective on life. After all, it can be fun to imagine all the people who are going about their lives as we watch from afar. So what if we told you that we’re not sure the last time all those skyscrapers were made from wood and found on a tree stump?

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Yes, those designer buildings and structures are all a result of a snapped piece of wood.

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Two in one

If you’ve found yourself wanted to hang out with all of your friends at once, then it seems as though you’re not alone. These birds know there is safety in numbers – and the chance for a good gossip about all of the other animals in the woods, too.

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That’s not all. It appears as though their need to be as close as possible has almost made these bright birds look like a caterpillar at the same time.

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Peace and quiet

Have you ever wanted to head off on vacation until your bank balance reminds you’ll need to work a lot of overtime before you can even dream of a break? Yeah, we’ve been there.

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If that’s the case, then you might just need a little forced perspective to make your dreams come to life. Now, you can convince others that you’re jetting off to a tropical island when you’re really snapping photos of mossy rocks.

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Out of this world

If you’ve found yourself wanting to throw away all of those old pans – or dare we say it, clean them – then it might be time to rethink your plan. At first glance, it seems as though we’re looking at a selection of planets straight from the science textbook.

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That is until you learn the truth. No, these aren’t far off-planet, but they are actually the bottom of used frying pans instead. Beauty lives in unusual places.

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A little closer

Iceland is a land that is filled with all kinds of wonderful sights and sounds and attracts many of us every year. So what about when you take a moment to step back and appreciate the smaller aspects of the country?

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The Geysir National Park has many incredible moments to take in. However, it was one person’s snap of a puddle that almost resembles an aerial photo of a beach that seems to have confused many people.

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Double trouble

Although many of us love to take a look at all kinds of animals when we head to the zoo, we don’t always think that we’ll get to see two in one enclosure. At first glance, it might look as though we’re at the panda exhibit.

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Double trouble

That is until we look a little closer and notice that it’s not a panda at all, but is, in fact, the leg of an anteater. That hurt our brains.

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Poor graphics

Many of us want to bring our favorite video games to life in the real world. Thankfully, the likes of VR have been able to get us one step closer to the dream. That was until someone felt as though they were living in a badly rendered version of a game.

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No poor graphics here. The strange look was all thanks to the sun being directly overhead the poles in this parking lot in Hawaii.

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The heart of it all

Okay, we have to admit that it can be tough to explain how this one happened. Many of us could be tricked into thinking this person has somehow stumbled upon the frozen heart of someone living out in the wilderness.

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This could be the final key to taking them down and completing the quest. Sadly, the world isn’t always filled with adventures, but it can give us incredible examples of Mother Nature doing her thing.

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Copy and paste

While many of us start a videogame with grand intentions that we will build the best, most unique city that anyone has ever seen, that copy and paste command can be all too tempting after realizing how much work it will take.

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Wait, this is a real neighborhood? It seems as though the budget for creativity must have been tight when it came to building the San Buenaventura Complex in Mexico judging by this snap.

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Picture-perfect moment

They say that all pieces of art have a meaning behind them, so what could this one be trying to tell us? Probably that it’s not a painting at all, but is actually a missing window looking out over the Australian Outback.

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The snap was taken from inside of a ruin. However, it’s really just nature’s art being put to good use as it is framed for the rest of the world to enjoy.

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A magical time

This photo might help to show why so many people believe they have spotted unicorns over the years. The mythical creature might not be what many of us first imagined, but does anyone really know what a unicorn looks like?

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It seems as though we might still have a while to wait as we won’t be flying off into the distance anytime soon on this old tree stump covered in grass. It was worth a shot.

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Covering their tracks

We bet this walker is glad they didn’t decide to check out the new path they’d never seen before. All of those leaves can be pretty deceiving. Sure, it might seem as though we’re looking at a path through the woods, but it appears as though this is actually a stream.

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Yes, there have been so many leaves fall from the trees that they have been able to cover the water completely – and fooled many.