A friend and I took off early one morning after Christmas for a 2 day birding trip north to look for several lifers and to stock up on a few species not seen this year. At Lake Tutchewop, the site of an 2015 twitch for the Long Billed Dowitcher, we were looking for Orange and Scarlet Chats as well as White winged Fairy-Wrens in summer breeding plumage. It is a fairly barren place, hot, dry and windy in summer and cold, wet, windy and very muddy in winter. We actually visited twice over the 2 days, once on the way up and a return visit on the way home. It was on the second trip that we found the Orange Chats. A small, timid, bright orange bird feeding on insects and seeds amongst the low saltbushes along several tracks and fence-lines. I saw at first dozens of White-fronted Chats and slowly walked through the feeding birds trying to get closer – the White Chats have a decent flush zone and getting a nice clear photo is hard. While standing still for a while to trying pretend I was just a tree and not a threat to them, a bright orange bird popped into view. Trying to stay calm and not prematurely start my victory dance I signalled for John, back near the cars, to come over and share in the view. We stayed an hour and saw many Chats – there must have been at least 30 Orange Chats and many more White-fronted. While the closest photos taken were shooting into the sun, by walking slowly and keeping low I managed to get a few decent shots and quite a few observations. The Orange Chat took my Aussie Lifers to 349 and my Vic Ticks to 347.
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