Sattal ; A birding Paradise. A trip report from Feb 20

_59a9405_59a7924_59a8629-copy_59a5428_59a0686_59a1859_59a5609_59a6356_59a0468_59a7577Sattal is a birding paradise situated in the Himalayan foothills. The place derives its name from a group of seven freshwater lakes or. Saat taal. February is a great time with comfortable temperatures. The tress are mainly oak and pine. Migrant birds are found at this time of the year other than endemic birds.
We missed the Ranikhet express by 10 minutes in Delhi due to a flight delay as well a reluctant prepaid cab driver who didn’t want to ferry us to old Delhi railway station! Lesson: go by private taxis if u have a train to catch!
A private bus hurriedly booked took us to Katgodham from where we reached Saatal by road in an hour. A roadside eatery where we had tea and Maggi gave us our first glimpses of bird life – Himalayan bulbuls, oriental white eyes and a pair of chestnut bellied rock thrushes!
We were greeted by our guide Mr. Hari Lama who pointed out a rufous bellied niltava flying around in the campus of our comfortable hotel A Birders den. The missed train and night bus fatigue disappeared with sightings of Great barbets , white throated laughing thrushes, Blue winged Siva Red billed leothrix in the campus itself.
Post breakfast we left for a town where we saw some Himalayan griffons circling. We managed some flight shots and went to the banks of Chafi river . This river flows on stone studded river bed with high banks on either side . A small bridge offers a vantage point from which we saw yellow bellied flycatchers. These birds fly around and return to the same perch just like Beeeaters. Another lifer was lemon rumped warblers which were found in plenty. This area also had small Niltavas, Tree creepers, Nut hatches and woodpeckers. Down the river we crossed from left to right where on the rocks we saw redstarts, dipper and crested kingfisher.
Post lunch we did campus birding and added to our growing species list!
Next morning we left for a place called DOB. Here around household activities, barking dogs and screaming children we saw green-tailed sun birds, Slaty-blue flycatcher and a Civet cat sleeping on a pine tree.
Next we left for the area opposite the Sattal lake which was famous for hordes of bird species which came to a stream there. But the man made fire from last year has reduced the birds visiting here to spotted -fork tail, thrushes and an occasional common green magpie. Quite disappointed we went from there to a wooded area around Garud taal where we saw greater flame back woodpeckers both male and female pecking way industriously.
Post lunch we visited a place called Kainchi Dham where the beautiful hill side covered with pine was marred by garbage from the town and attracted probably by, rodents or pieces of hotel waste, were around 10 to 15 Steppe eagles! Further down this area is a Vaishnodevi temple on the banks of a river again strewn with garbage. I went back to the vehicle quite repulsed but my husband kept clicking excitedly with Mr Lama pointing out at the opposite bank. Unable to contain myself I went down to see a common kingfisher which had caught a big fish and trying to break it on the rocks . Also here were Himalayan blue tails, blue capped redstarts all being chased away by white capped redstarts which seemed to own the place. We stood at the rear side of a small eatery facing the river below to get some shots.
Day 3
Our last day started early with a drive to Shyamkheth village. Our birding account started with a Asian barred owlet. We saw a flock of European goldfinches flying around before perching in groups. A flash of pink which flew by was a lovely Pink browed rosefinch. This place was also situated between houses facing a small valley. We got a shot at Fire breasted flowerpeckers, dark fronted babblers etc.
While coming back we saw a griffon vulture overlooking its meal which I could only smell. A small steep climb to a ground next to a cattle shed was teeming with Fire tailed sunbirds, Spot winged tits to name a few. To make the most of our visit we went again to Chafi where the highlight was a yellow throated Martin coming down the opposite bank into the water. A jarring note was a miscreant setting fire to the dry grass on the opposite bank. We even took his picture but not sure it’s going to help. These fires are started so that the burnt dry grass makes way for green one which is fodder for the cattle.
Thus came to an end our excellent birding expedition. Our birding guide Mr Hari Lama was amazing with his spotting skills, knowledge of the terrain and the birds themselves!
Species list

Birds
1. Jungle babblers
2.Himalayan bulbul
3 Red vented bulbul
4. Black chinned babbler
5. Dark fronted babbler
6. Yellow billed babbler
7.Blue throated Barbet
8. Great Barbet
9. Grey winged Black bird
10. Himalayan Blue tail
11.Grey bush chat
12. Pied Bushchat
13. Spotted tree creeper
14. Brown Dipper
15. Oriental turtle dove
16. Spangled drongo
17. Bronzed drongo
18. Steppe eagle
19. White browed fantail
20. Yellow bellied fantail
21. Greater Flameback woodpecker
22. Greater yellow nape woodpecker male
23. Greater yellow naped woodpecker female
24. Fire breasted flowerpecker
25. Rufous georgeted flycatcher
26. Slaty blue flycatcher
27. Spotted fork tail
28. european Goldfinch
29. Black Francolin
30. Black headed Jay
31. Common kingfisher
32. White throated kingfisher
33. Crested kingfisher
34. Red billed Leothrix
35.Red billed blue magpie
36. Long tailed mini vet
37. Rufous bellied Niltava
38. Small Niltava
39. Chestnut bellied nuthatch
40. Asian barred owlet
41.slaty headed parakeet
42. Green backed Tit
43. Black lored Tit
44. Great Tit
45. Blue capped Redstart
46. Blue fronted Redstart
47. Plumbeous water Redstart
48. White capped water Redstart
49. Pink browed Rosefinch
50. Grey backed shrike
51. Rufous Sibia
52. Blue winged Siva
53. Russet Sparrow
54. Sparrow hawk
55. Fire tailed sunbird
56 green tailed sunbird
57. Oriental white eye
58. Wire tailed swallows
59. Slaty-backed forktail
60. Blue whistling thrush
61. Chestnut bellied rock thrush
62. Bar tailed tree creeper
63.himalayan griffon vulture
64.Grey treepie
65. Lemon rumped warbler
66. Grey hooded warbler
67. Whistlers warbler
68. Whispered Yuhina
69 yellow backed greenfinch

Mammals

Yellow -throated marten
Civet cat

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