This post is a continuation of a series documenting our visit to the Chopta region of Uttarakhand in April 2022. We had climbed up to Deoriataal from Saari the previous morning and had some amazing sightings including the Chukar and Hill Partridge. (Chopta Diaries, Part 5 – Birding at Saari and on the hike up to Deoriyatal). We then had the most fierce thunderstorm with strong winds and heavy rain and it seemed that we would spend the rest of our time here cooped up indoors. Thankfully for us the weather gods took pity on us and the storm that had come onto us out of nowhere now vanished as suddenly as it had come leaving us with a beautiful colourful evening.
I got the chance to put on my ultra wide lens that had been feeling ignored and capture the beautiful colours of the mountains as the clouds that were obscuring them all afternoon melted away.
The rolling hills of Uttarakhand from Deoriataal
Rain at lower levels always means snowfall at the higher altitudes and sure enough the Tungnath and Chandrashila top which was almost devoid of snow when we visited just a few days ago now had a thin cover of snow on it. (Chopta Diaries, Part 2 – Hiking to Tungnath, the highest Shiva Temple in the world )
A fresh layer of snow covers Tungnath and Chandrashila in the background
Using the 300mm to capture the Tungnath temple and Chandrashila above it
The aptly named golden hour was really golden up here at Deoriataal and we had fun taking photos in and around the Magpie Eco camp with the setting sun slowly giving the fresh snow a beautiful golden hue – an experience never to be missed in the Himalayas.
The better half poses at Magpie Eco Camp with the Himalayas in the Background
A beautiful setting sun amidst dramatic skies at the Magpie Eco Camp
Golden hour in the Himalayas is an experience never to be missed
The skies clear out allowing me to take a beautiful sunset photo in the Himalayas
A beautiful evening at Deoriataal after a heavy thunderstorm
We hoped that the weather would hold up the next morning and make for a beautiful sunrise at the lake itself. We woke up before dawn and were glad not to hear any pitter patter of falling rain on the roof. We opened the drapes and lo and behold it was a clear morning. That put a spring in our steps and we got ready quickly and walked down to the lake. The lake was so quiet with just chirping birds for company. We were lucky that we had the lake to ourselves on this beautiful summer morning.
The beautiful Deoriataal at dawn
We walked around the lake to find a spot where we could capture the reflection of the Himalayas in the lake. Bharatji pointed us to a platform built on the other side of the lake that seemed to have been built just for photographers to set up their tripod. I’m not a particularly good landscape photographer and I’m sure a few of my friends who are would have done a lot better. But at least I gave it a go, used the tripod for landscape for a change and did what I could.
Using the tripod for landscape a new experience for me
It took a few minutes for me to set up and take a few test shots and get my frames as good as possible before the actual show started. The sun slowly started coming up and lighting up the snow covered peaks behind the lake golden and it was mesmerising. It is something that photos cannot do justice. You have to see it with your own eyes. It made staying overnight at Deoriataal worth it and then some more. In most trekking itineraries it is done as a day hike which makes visiting the lake a crowded and not so great experience. It’s only when you experience the lake and the surroundings after the day tripping hordes have left and before they reclaim the lake you know how beautiful and serene it can be.
Sun rise at the Deoriataal lake with the golden Himalayas in the background
The lake from the near end at dawn
The golden Himalayas and it’s reflection in Deoriataal
Happy us after witnessing the beautiful sunrise at Deoriataal
Finally the sun came up fully and it was time to pack up the tripod and move. It had been a great learning experience for me and hopefully I will get better at using the new equipment in my arsenal as I use it more and more.
The final photo before I pack up the tripod – A great learning experience
We then moved to the high point where we could see all the Himalayas including the Kedarnath & Chaukhamba peaks in all their glory. Bharatji was kind enough to take a few photos of us at this beautiful location.
Happy us after a morning well spent at Deoriataal
Bharat after a great morning at Deoriataal
I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos before we finally said goodbye to the beautiful lake and returned back to our camp where a piping hot and delicious breakfast of poha and parathas was waiting for us.
Final photos of Deoriataal before we say goodbye
Piping hot poha and parathas ( not in photo ) as breakfast at Magpie Eco Camp
We then spent some time in and around the campus taking photos of a coal tit and a black throated tit that were happy to pose for me among the by now drooping rhododendrons.
A coal tit poses for me among the rhododendrons
A black throated tit poses for me
Soon it was time for us to say goodbye to the wonderful staff at the Magpie Eco Camp at Deoriataal. They had fed us the best food we had in this entire trip and made my birthday all the more memorable. We took a photo with them and said goodbye to them and started our hike down.
The wonderful staff at Magpie Eco Camp Deoriataal and our guide Bharat ji
Us with the wonderful elevated dining hall where we had the best food of the trip
The hike down was a relatively short one. Since we had started later in the day and there was a crowd of people coming up then we didn’t expect to see much bird activity. We still managed to see a pair of Ultramarine Flycatchers on our way down. Before this trip I had never seen an Ultramarine Flycatcher and now I had seen one almost every day on this trip.
A female Ultramarine Flycatcher poses for me on the way down from Deoriataal
A beautiful male Ultramarine Flycatcher on the trek down
We then waited at the place where we had spotted the rare Mrs Gould’s Sunbird on the way up. But we didn’t have that good luck this time. We still had the fortune of seeing our favourite warblers and black throated tits. Bharatji pointed out that there was a new bird in the gaggle of small birds in the trees in front of us. It was a yellow browed tit, I would never have spotted it if not for the guide’s pointing it out.
On the way down from Deoriataal
A grey hooded warbler in the bushes
A yellow browed tit hides among the other birds
A black throated tit looks straight at the camera
Another Ultramarine Flycatcher poses for the 300mm
We were almost 2/3 the way down when we saw Bharatji pointing at something in the bushes asking us to rush. It was a grey headed canary flycatcher sitting in the bushes and singing away to glory. It posed nicely for me before it decided that there were far too many people looking at it sing and flew away.
A grey headed canary flycatcher poses for the camera
It was a great end to a great hike to a small but beautiful Himalayan lake. We reached Saari and contacted our driver Tushar who had been waiting for us to return. We returned back to our camp in Chopta for some well earned rest.
On our way down from Deoriataal with Saari village down below
We had another visit to Monal point pending in the evening before flying back to Mumbai the next day. I have not described any of our previous visits to the Monal Point near Chopta in my posts till date. I hope to combine all those visits in a small post some day as I had some great sightings in our time there.
But that is a job for some other time, some other day, hopefully soon as this series has dragged on far too long for my liking.