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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sat Tal - November, 2011

Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler!

I am glad Kulashekara C S and myself decided to spend a few days at Sat Tal before we proceeded to Agra, Chambal and Bharatpur. Though, Kulashekara had a bit of bad luck in the beginning it all turned out fine in the end. I had close views and this fine image of the most wonderful little bird I have ever seen – The Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler!

At an altitude of 1,370 mts above sea level Sattal or Sat Tal is a cluster of seven freshwater lakes located in the Nainital district of Kumaon region. It is about 23 kms from Nainital. Sat Tal is about 300 kms from the New Delhi airport and you can factor in at least a ten hour drive under current (November, 2011) road conditions.

Our tent at the Sattal Birding Camp!

Kulashekara made all the arrangements. I had heard and read quite a bit about the birding at Sat Tal as many birds of the Himalayas are seen in this area in winter. I also knew that Mohit had this little birding camp at Sat Tal where we stayed for four nights. “Sattal Birding Camp” The facility is basic but very handy for serious birders.

Hari Lama - Our wonderful guide!

Kulushekara knew a bit more! He knew about Hari Lama and insisted that he be our guide. A very good decision I must agree. Hari Lama turned out to be a wonderful human being and really knew his birds. Birds were generally everywhere. Hari Lama took us in various directions. Down to the lake, up to Nainital, down to the river side, into private estates and even to a dump yard! Thanks to him, I was able to add several new species to my indiabirds collection!
23rd.We flew from Bangalore to New Delhi in the morning. One of Mohit’s staff met us at the airport along with our hired car and driver. Very soon we hit the road to Sat Tal. It was a long and traffic filled drive from the New Delhi Airport to Sat Tal. We reached the “Sattal Birding Camp” at 1 am though we had left Delhi well before noon! 

24th. We were up at 6 am in the morning and headed towards the Sattal Lake. As we began shooting, completely mesmerized by one bird after another that keep popping out of the ticket to drink water … lo … Kulashekara’s camera simply stopped working – Error 99 – he had to replace the shutter! Rest of the day Kulashekara had to watch me shoot! Painful indeed. We thought of all possible ways, in vain, to see if he could somehow get hold of a Canon body that day. 

25th. Next morning Kulashekara decided to continue his sleep as I got ready to go out with Hari Lama at 6am. It was almost 10am at the lake when we came across two gentlemen. One was holding a small camera in his hand. He simply asked “Did you see any birds”? I cannot see many… I decided to loan Hari Lama to him for a while as I took a break. Soon the stranger returned with a big smile. Hari Lama had shown a few lifers to him. We then formally introduced ourselves. He was “Sarwan” from Delhi and his friend was “Tarun” from Hyderabad. He had started birding since April 2011 and wanted to see at least 300 species of birds before the end of the year. He knew about Indiabirds.

And then the most extraordinary thing happened! No sooner had I explained to Sarwan about Kulashekara’s disaster, he called to his driver for his camera bag and presented me with a Canon 550D body! That afternoon Kulashekara was the happiest man alive. I love my India! Sarwan later joined us for some more birding and then drove off to Binsar with Tarun. 

26th. All is well. We continued birding and photography almost all day. Sarwan and Tarun returned from Binsar and joined us in the night for a wonderful dinner! 

27th. After a bit of birding in the morning, we hit the road back to New Delhi and checked into a hotel at Karol Bhag for the night. Tomorrow we move to Agra with MNJ! 

Sat Tal is certainly a must visit for any birder. The place is full of birds. Many of them are easy to photograph while some of them never stop moving! Luckily we had a good clear sky all the time and Hari Lama with us! Thanks Mohit, we had a great time indeed! And please take a bow Sarwan!!

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Vijay Cavale
November, 2011