Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary

We always try and include bird sanctuaries in our itinerary since Rafiq is a certified ornithologist and bird lover. During our present trip to Ahmedabad, we decided to visit Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary since we had already seen the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary on our earlier trip. The Thol Lake is an artificial lake 27 kilometres from Ahmedabad in Mehsana District. It was built in 1912 by the Gaikwad rulers to serve as a water reservoir when rainfall failed. The lake has been home to both resident and migrant birds.

All set to Explore

It is 7:30 am as we head to the lake en route picking up my fellow artist friend Dipali. She is my daughter’s age, and I am glad she has joined us since our children are away at university. We enter the lake premises and purchase entry tickets. A signage with the words Thol written on a slope surrounded by green grass welcomes us. We climb up the slope, see the lake with several water birds, and hear bird calls. We walk towards a watch tower and get a good aerial view of the lake and the surrounding trees. A Laughing Dove is perched on a tree; Black Cormorants are flying, while a Black Drongo with its long, bifid tail stares around.

Laughing Dove @Rafiq Somani
Black Drango @Rafiq Somani

We climb down the watch tower and start walking to the right. Rafiq is busy capturing the birds through his lens as Dipali and I catch up on our artistic journeys and life in general. She has wanted to go to Thol for a long time and is happy that she can finally make it with us. She is amazed at Rafiq’s knowledge about birds and how quickly we spot and identify birds.

Initial Bird Sightings

 Perched on a tree, a pair of Red-ringed Parakeets are engrossed in a game of love. A Golden Oriole with golden yellow and black plumage gazes in the distance. An Indian Robin perched on a branch, with its long tail held up, is our next sighting.

Golden Oriole @Rafiq Somani
Indian Robin @Rafiq Somani

We see a green Asian Bee-eater that has caught a red dragonfly as its breakfast. The lake has islets on which a flock of Northern Shovelers busy skimming along the water’s surface in search of fish and other prey. These migratory birds fly all the way from Europe and Central Asia.

Asian Bee-Eater with a Dragonfly

Northern Shovelers @Rafiq Somani

Animals too

Not just birds but even insects and animals have made Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary their home. A monkey with its baby at its bosom looks at us. We nervously walk past, maintaining a safe distance.

Monkey with Baby @Rafiq Somani

Water Birds Aplenty

 A Great Egret with white plumage and a prominent long neck with a yellow bill dances on the water and takes flight. It is probably trying to impress a mate. A gulp of Black Cormorants is basking in the sun. A Black-crowned Night Heron is perched on a tree with a steady gaze at the lake, perhaps looking for its prey.

Great Egret

Graceful take-off of Egret

Gulp of Black Cormorants @Rafiq Somani
Black-crowned Night Heron @Rafiq Somani

A Saga of Birds

We turn back and decide to explore the other side of the lake on the left side of the signage that we had seen at the entrance. Thousands of aquatic birds like cormorants, herons and egrets are perched on the trees that are partly submerged in the lake. They are grooming themselves, still others are basking in the sun, some quarrelling, others dancing around while some are just silently sitting almost as if they are contemplating or just watching lives goings on. A solo Red-naped Ibis, a large black bird with a featherless head covered with bright red warty skin, is perched on a dried branch of a tree.

A congregation of Black-headed Ibises and Gulp of Cormorants

Red-naped Ibis @Rafiq Somani


Rafiq has managed to capture not just birds but even insects in his camera. A wasp in shades of yellow and brown on tree bark, probably trying to find the right spot to build its nest. A red dragonfly with transparent wings is sitting on a dry twig. An injured Common Eggfly Butterfly with brown wings and white spots looks as if it is at the end of its lifecycle.

Wasp @Rafiq Somani
Red Dragonfly @Rafiq Somani
Common Eggfly Butterfly @Rafiq Somani

Unabashed Hoopoe

Suddenly Rafiq signals us to be silent and stay still. He has spotted a magnificent Common Hoopoe with its trademark crown and brown body with black and white feathers striding like a model on the ground. He follows it slowly, hoping to get a good picture as Dipali and I admire it from a distance.

Common Hoopoe

Youngsters and Selfies

We see a group of college students clicking pictures and selfies and posting them on their social media feeds, hoping to get more shares, likes and comments. Dipali regrets not bringing some of her artwork for shooting in the natural environs of the lake. She otherwise spends hours trying to create appropriate, realistic backgrounds for her reels.

A Surprise

Rafiq calls us out and points at something on the floor. It is a Turtle that could have easily been passed off as a stone. No sooner that we try and get closer to it that it shuts its eyes and tries to retract its head in its shell. It looked as if it was trying to crawl in the direction of the lake. When we do a net search we think it’s an Indian Flapshell Turtle. It is a protected species on par with Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion and Asian Elephants!

Indian Flapshell Turtle @Rafiq Somani

Last Bird Sightings

An Asian Openbill Stork flies over us with its black and white wings outstretched. There is a gap in its bill; hence, it is called an open bill. It is getting warmer, and the bird sightings are now fewer. We know it’s time for us to leave. But not before we spot Brahminy Starling on a tree and a White-eared Bulbul with a black head, white cheek patch, and a yellow vent.

Asian Openbill Stork

Brahminy Starling @Rafiq Somani
White-eared Bulbul @Rafiq Somani

Signing Off

The water levels were still high at Thol during our visit. Since migratory and resident birds prefer shallow waters for nesting and food, we would have seen more species during the Dec-Feb season. Having said so, for October, The Thol Bird Sanctuary had a fair share of birds. We saw more birds than we had expected. It would have helped if we had been at the bird sanctuary an hour earlier. The weather would have been cooler and the possibility of bird sightings greater. But we were thankful for whatever we saw.

Getting There: Distance: Ahmedabad to Thol 27 km Timings of Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary: 6:00 am to 5:30 pm Best Time to Visit Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary: November to February Fees: Rs. 50 per head and Rs. 200 for the camera. Gujarat Trails helped us plan this trip to Thol Lake Bird Sanctuary.

Other Bird Sanctuaries Blogs

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Bhigwan Bird Sanctuary
Bird Watching in Kutch [Banni Grasslands]
Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary Pune
Window Birding Pune