Birding in Sattal




Birdwatching in Sattal
Sattal Lake

The Nainital district is full of surprises! Birdwatching in Sattal is one such surprise and I found this surprise almost 15 years after having spent more than 9 years living in a boarding school in Nainital (1990 - 1999). I visited Sattal on numerous occasions during my time in Nainital and since but I never took notice of the number of species of birds that call this secluded lake home. Not to be harsh on myself, this was largely because I wasn't a 'birdnerd' back then!




Birds of Sattal
Scarlet Minivet - Sattal
As kids we were told that Sattal was haunted and there were man-eating leopards all over the dense forest surrounding the Lake. So when we did visit, it was under the supervision of a professor from school or we made sure we left before it was dark. Maybe these stories were intentionally spread by locals to keep the tourist activities limited and to maintain the serenity and natural beauty of the Lake. If you visit Bhimtal and Nainital just a few minutes drive from Sattal you will see first-hand what I mean by the word 'takenover' - rampant ugly construction and commercialism is noticeable everywhere!


Birds of Sattal
Common Kingfisher - Sattal
Most tourists who visit Sattal come here to boat, have a cup of tea and snacks before they head back to where they came from. With construction being banned around the Lake ages ago, this lake unlike many of it's sister lakes in the district has remained untouched, unspoiled and largely the area surrounding the lake is undiscovered. 




It is widely reported that Sattal has over 150 species of resident and migratory birds and countless other mammals, reptiles and insects. I alone have probably seen over half of these birds since I took up birdwatching in 2015. Every time I visit the Lake I am surprised to see something new or a new bird or behavior. 



Sattal Studio Point
Walking beyond Studio Point - Sattal
There is never really a 'best time' to go birdwatching in Sattal, although the rainy season (July to September) makes it difficult for photography. With massive over-growth of vegetation (including some stinging plants like 'bichoo-kanta') and blood sucking leeches everywhere, you may want to avoid going too off-the-beaten path in Sattal during those months. Nevertheless, monsoons are equally beautiful, mist covered mountains, lush green everywhere along with a hot cuppa chai / coffee! Sounds perfect right?


Birdwatching in Sattal
Studio Point - Sattal
Several birdwatchers who visit Sattal end up going to Studio Point which is on the right side of the main road in Sattal, where the overflow of water pours into the valley. The lighting and natural environment makes it perfect for birdwatchers to capture excellent images of a variety of species of birds that visit the Studio for a drink of water and food. 



If the Studio Point is busy with birders, no sweat, just walk down the path past the Studio towards the forest. You are bound to see birds there too including this footage of the Brown Wood Owl being chased by magpies, drongos etc.




Another place that has fast gained popularity amongst the birdwatching community is the Bird Hide at the Christian Ashram which comes on the way before you make the decent to the Lake. You will see an old Bungalow off the main road and if you follow the marked signs you should be able to find your way to the Hide. The Hide is maintained by the Estate Management of the Christian Ashram and is a great place to observe and photograph several species of birds and mammals including the barking deer.



Birdwatching in Sattal
Spot-winged Starlings - Sattal
There are several options for travelers with all kinds of budgets to stay near the Lake or on the way to the Lake. There is even accommodation available at the Christian Ashram. You can stay at one of the old British bungalows too which is under the Ashram's management. 


Birds of Sattal
Indian Muntjac or Barking Deer - Bird Hide, Sattal Christian Ashram
I hope you visit Sattal and keep a look out for the trees and the skies for what you may see and hear might surprise you! Enjoy your time at this secluded Lake. Please do not disturb the birds, feed them, chase them or take pictures of chicks while they're in the nests. Also, I would appreciate that you don't smoke near the Studio Point or Ashram and take your litter back with you or put it where it belongs - in garbage cans. 


Sattal Bird Hide
Red-billed Leiothrix - Sattal
Feel free to contact me if you have anything you'd like to add about Birdwatching in Sattal or if you have any questions on Sattal and Nainital district in general. 

If you're interested in visiting Uttarakhand for birdwatching (or not), I can plan your holiday to your requirements. Have a look at this sample itinerary: http://www.totravelwith.com/p/back-to-nature-in-kumaon-hills.html. Questions, call 9717148483 or email kunaljain7@gmail.com.