Sattal – The avian wonderland (Siddhartha Dey)

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Great Barbet
Red-billed Leothrix


We started the next morning early with a visit to the garbage dump behind the residential colony at Sattal. Lamaji scanned the area and announced the presence of a White-tailed Rubythroat in the surrounding bushes. With some effort I managed to see the bird as well, but shooting it was another challenge. A patient wait of over an hour and a half finally paid off when the bird came out and I managed to take a few shots from between the grasses. A Siberian Rubythroat scampered around nearby. This one did not make me wait for long
and gave me a few clear shots. When I got up from my prostrate position I was covered with dry grasses. It took some effort to remove them from my jacket and trousers while some stubborn ones managed to travel all the way to Kolkata with me as a memento.

Siberian Rubythroat


Shyamkhet was our next destination. This is a small village on the Bhowali-Ramgarh road. Trailing in this area yielded the Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch, Himalayan Bluetail, Blue-winged Minla, Grey Treepie, Great Barbet, Black-chinned Babbler, Rustycheeked Scimitar Babbler, Streaked Laughingthrush, Russet Sparrow, Black-lored Tit, Green-backed Tit, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Oriental White Eye, Himalayan Bulbul, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Long-tailed Minivet, and many more. The remaining part of the afternoon was spent birding around the resort and I was gifted five minutes of one to one photo session with a male Khalij Pheasant. Awestruck by the beauty of this amazing bird I ended the day, extremely happy.

Next morning we were on the road again by 6.30. This time our destination was a place between Jeolikote and Chopra. Our first stop was on a bend in the highway besides a huge Oak tree. As I got off the vehicle, I was flabbergasted. This Oak tree literally bloomed Steppes. Each branch had at least one Steppe sitting on it. I had never seen so many Steppes together, not even in the garbage dumps of Jodbeer, Rajasthan. As the morning light filtered through the adjoining trees, the scenery got lit up and assumed an out worldly appearance. Amongst the Steppes, I could make out was a singular Indian Spotted Eagle. Having enjoyed this spectacle to our heart’s content, we moved on. We stopped next near a small dhaba beyond Jeolikote. Our attention was drawn towards a small perch just above the ground. I could understand that this was a place where the people from the dhaba throw their leftovers and in turn it has become the favourite pecking ground of several species of birds including the White-crested Laughingthrush. There were trucks lined on the road. This dhaba seemed to be the favourite joint of these truck drivers, who laze around, have food and empty themselves amidst nature. My challenge here was not just to wait patiently for the birds to appear but to tolerate the awful stink. The two hour wait here did not go unrewarded. Red-billed Leothrix, Streaked Laughinthrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Black-headed Jay, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey Treepie and Great Tit would take the stage in turns. Finally the White-crested Laughingthrush turned up, in fact five of them. These strange looking beauties have a character of their own. They pecked nonchalantly oblivious of our presence. I was struggling to keep the entire bird on frame and soon discovered that I was underneath a stationary truck. As soon as this bunch disappeared we started our return journey to the resort. Back near our Resort we spotted the Golden Bush Robin, which came out in the open for barely a couple of seconds before getting back to the bush, just giving us ample time for a few quick shots.

White-crested Laughingthrush
Steppe Eagle


Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
Greater Yellow Nape

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