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Discover Sattal: A Birding Paradise in Uttarakhand


Bird hides in lush oak forests.
Enthusiasts photograph birds in serene hides.

Nestled in the lower Himalayas near Delhi, Sattal offers an enchanting blend of dense oak forests and seven interconnected freshwater lakes. This natural haven attracts bird enthusiasts from around the world, promising an unforgettable Himalayan birding adventure.


Unveiling the Charm of Sattal

As spring transitioned into summer in Delhi, I embarked on a journey to Sattal in Uttarakhand’s Nainital district. The name Sattal, meaning 'Seven Lakes,' perfectly captures the essence of this magical place. With dense oak forests and towering pine trees, Sattal is a picturesque sanctuary. The interconnected lakes reflect the sunlight, creating a serene and captivating landscape. The favorable climate and thriving ecosystems make Sattal a haven for both winter and summer migratory birds, drawing birders and photographers from far and wide. In addition to birds, Sattal is home to over a hundred species of butterflies and numerous moths, beetles, bugs, and other fascinating insects.



Seven serene lakes amid oak forests.
Tranquil lakes reflecting vibrant sunset beauty.

Getting to Sattal from Delhi

Embarking on a road trip to Uttarakhand is always a delight, but taking the train from New Delhi Railway Station to Kathgodam station is equally convenient and comfortable. From Kathgodam, a short hour-long drive brings you to Sattal. My eco-resort thoughtfully arranged a car to pick me up. As we left behind the bustling Kathgodam and approached the serene biome, I noticed the impact of urbanization. Homestays and resorts had replaced much of the green cover since my last visit seven years ago. However, as we neared my accommodation, the sounds of chirping birds, the wilderness, and the dense greenery at 1370 meters above sea level began to cast their spell.


Exploring the Wonders of Sattal

Sattal is a paradise for avid birders and wildlife photographers. If you visit as a birding enthusiast, this natural playground will captivate you. The local endemic birds, many of them playful and vocal, seem to pose for photographs amidst the forest streams. Observing a flock of Red-billed Leiothrix frolic in the trickling streams was sheer delight. Our naturalist guided us in spotting Himalayan bulbuls, white-throated fantails, Oriental white-eyes, blue jays, white-throated laughingthrushes, Verditer flycatchers, Red-vented bulbuls, and more. The Rufous Sibia, a common sight in Sattal, was easily spotted.

The serene silence of the place was contagious, spreading a calming effect on everyone present. Serious birders, basking in nature’s beauty, inspired us all. Studies suggest that bird watching is an excellent way to relieve stress and boost mental health.


Birding at Sattal Studio

At Sattal Studio, fellow birders and ornithologists impressed me with their heavy cameras and equipment, studying bird calls and patiently waiting for that perfect shot. I spent over three hours in the park, marveling at 21 different bird species. Later, with my naturalist’s help, I documented them on eBird.


Bird hides in lush oak forests.
Enthusiasts photograph birds in serene hides.


Venturing to Chafi

A birding trip to Sattal is incomplete without spending half a day in Chafi, about 14 km away. The panoramic views of Chafi, with hills in the background and the Kalsa River flowing alongside the road, are refreshing. Bird spotting is easier here, and I was thrilled to see a crested kingfisher perched on a stone. On the way to Chafi, my naturalist pointed out woodpeckers and brown wood owls. At Chafi, I captured images of spotted forktails and yellow-bellied fantails along the stream.


Bird Hides in Sattal

Sattal is one of the few places in India with thriving bird hides. These monitored areas attract birds with feed and water, allowing photographers to observe and study them from a distance. Surrounded by lush oak forests, these hides offer a pristine habitat to watch birds through binoculars. Ethical debates aside, I enjoyed my time at the two bird hides I visited, where experienced birders shared their insights. In pin-drop silence, we watched numerous birds come and go. Waiting for the Red-billed Blue Magpie was thrilling, and its beauty in flight left me mesmerized. Other highlights included sightings of the common green magpie, brown-fronted woodpecker, grey-headed woodpecker, and lesser yellow nape. The shy Khalij pheasants and Black Francolins were another highlight.


Birding Highlights in Sattal

Some of the birds I fell in love with in Sattal include magpies, great barbet, red-billed leiothrix, and white-crested laughingthrush. Summers are a fantastic season for birding near water areas. My friend and naturalist shared that birds like the Long-tailed Broadbill, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Paradise Flycatcher, Black francolin, Green Magpie, Brown Wood Owl, Asian Barred Owl, Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, Red-billed Leiothrix, and Orange-headed Thrush are easily spotted in Sattal during summer.


Guided Birding Trails

Birding is a beautiful way to connect with nature and relieve stress. Guided trails are recommended for beginners to develop an interest and learn on the go. Naturalists and experts know where to find the birds and share interesting trivia. With time and practice, you’ll learn to recognize and differentiate various species.


Additional Activities in Sattal

Beyond birding, Sattal offers several relaxed activities. While you’re there, don’t miss visiting the serene lakes: Garud Tal, Nal Damyanti Tal, Hanuman Tal, Sita Tal, Ram Tal, Laxman Tal, Sukha Tal, and Bharat Tal. Even if birds and butterflies aren’t your main interest, you can always enjoy nature walks and lake activities, soaking in the natural beauty and tranquility of this unspoiled paradise.

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