“One reason that birds matter – ought to matter – is that they are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding. They’re the most vivid and widespread representatives of the Earth as it was before people arrived on it.”Jonathan Earl Franzen
Don’t forget to watch the cheerful video of the birds shared at the end of the post.
Come April we like to spend some time in the hills, avoiding the calendar holidays and weekends. Earlier we used to do that in peak summer but with drastic climate shift the month of visit changed. With the sun being really strong and temperature hovering close to thirty one could feel the heat. Thankfully, the breeze was cool. Fans are now a necessity in many hill stations giving a feeling of being in the plains. It is very unfortunate that greed is the prevalent vice. Now I feel February – early March will be a better bet.
After much speculation we decided on Sattal where we had been exactly a decade ago. I remember it being secluded, surrounded by forests and tals (lakes). We had done boating under the full moon which was quite an experience.
On our walk to the famous Studio, I remember clicking pics of birds. That time I had no inclination towards birding so never looked up their names. The lens too was not ones used for such photography. So, if I look back now I saw the following; Verditer Flycatcher, Crested-Serpent Eagle, Oriental Turtle Dove, Blue Whistling Thrush, Indian Blackbird, White-Capped Water-Redstart, Common or Scarlet Rosefinch, Grey & White-browed Wagtails, Orange-headed Thrush, Bar-winged flycatcher-shrike, Kalij Pheasant pair & domestic geese. The list is based on ‘captured’ memories.
Now, with an interest in birds and thankfully being able to recognize some, I thought of going back to the Sattal woods. I know the list is incomplete as I cannot recognize calls (barring a few common ones) so their presence does not get recorded by me. I am still figuring out an easy way to learn it.
I also got to know about the paid Bird Hide concept prevalent in Sattal. Many go there but don’t really want to say so. Hide is a patch where props are put using natural materials like branches & tree trunk for birds to perch, water and food is made available to attract birds. Nearby a green net cover is put with peep holes for photographers to station their camera and see from. There are two shifts available for booking, one early in the morning and another early in the evening. I debated quite a bit if I should go to the hides or not. I finally decided not to.
Another very famous birding hotspot is the Studio Sattal. This is the woods I remember where we had gone for a walk in our earlier trip. A stream flows down to meet a tal, probably Hanuman tal. This stream has a couple of sections where birds keep popping in to drink and bathe in the cool water. The spot has been so named, as, one by one the birds come, pose and get clicked, just like in a studio.
Thankfully, Sattal has not given into commercialization so there are very few hotels and the crowd is only at the Ram & Sita tals, which form one huge lake. Few tourists come there for water sports and boating. The closest places to stay to the Studio are KMVN TRH & YMCA. We had opted for a cottage at KMVN. They had given us their Log Hut which I did not like so finally moved to their duplex cottage which had high ceiling making it much cooler during the day. A few under-construction cottages are near completion. The room/facilities are basic which is fine when the whole day you are out. The freshly prepared food is homely & tasty.
We generally avoid weekends and calendar holidays to travel. So, we had the place to ourselves with hardly any tourists around. The day we reached, we went for boating in the evening. We saw some birds in the trees and ground that surrounded the lake. The quietude of the lake & forest around had a calming effect.
The next morning we went to the Studio. We reached around 8.30 am. A couple of birders had left and a couple of them were about to leave. You can imagine the delight as the first bird I saw was the Orange-bellied Leafbird. Thank God I clicked it from where I was; as it flew away by the time we reached the stream. Thereafter, it was me, my hubs, the chirps and the woods. I was enchanted by the colorful fauna of Sattal and I had to be dragged back as the day progressed and sun got hotter. We walked along the big lake in the evening and were back again at the studio.
The next day we went to Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Kainchi Dham, visited a sweet elderly couple at their hill abode and of course the studio yet again. We had met them on one of our birding walks in Sultanpur. Such are the other joys of birding. You meet people and bond with them; maybe for a while, maybe for a lifetime. They had been to the studio many times, especially in pursuit of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher but had been unlucky. Another couple had driven all the way to Sattal in hope of sighting it. We came to know that they had been all over D/NCR wherever it was sighted, but in vain. We informed them that we had been seeing the beauties everyday in the Studio woods.
The next day both the birders were at the studio in the morning and since we were returning we decided not go. We should have, the Asian Paradise Flycatcher pair finally came to the stream. The moment I had been waiting for the past couple of days. Well, there is always another time and not forget I got the handsome male in flight against the lovely blue sky. You gain some, you lose some. That’s life!
We made a brief stop at Garud tal on our way back and have ear marked it along with Chaffi for birding next time when we are in Sattal. We enjoyed our slow travel, which is the kind I like. Now back to the concrete jungle and grind after the rejuvenating nature therapy.
While returning through Corbett road I saw many vendors selling bel sherbet (Stone or Wood apple squash) and I wanted to have one. It is a wonderful summer drink loaded with goodness and fiber. We decided to stop at the cart of a young lad standing alone. What we saw was the most beautiful sight! He was surrounded by butterflies flitting around him and mud puddling under his cart. It was like angels flying around him like confetti. I am saying this as it was not so around any other cart before or after his. I also realized I should have made a video of him & his stall. There was something magical about him or the spot. The sherbet was delicious and we were overjoyed to be surrounded by butterflies for the time we were there. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight. Watch the puddling fun below!
The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.Tweet
You may like to know about my journey into the world of birds. It’s all in here
We saw 60+ species at Studio Sattal. Since I am not good at recognizing the warblers and birds through their call, the actual bird list is incomplete.
Here’s a visual treat (made on hand held camera & mobile) of the birds from the stream and woods around. Do subscribe to my YouTube channel, if you have not.
6 Life Lessons From Birds
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The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy!
Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe