2–7 April 2017
Estonia’s resident birds include Eurasian Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Eagle-owl, Northern Pygmy-owl, Ural Owl, White-backed, Eurasian Three-toed, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers and Spotted Nutcracker. Wintering Steller’s Eiders will still be present at this time and Arctic waterbird migration will be in full swing, possibly involving large numbers of Taiga and Tundra Bean-geese and Long-tailed Ducks.
Day 1 Flight from London to Tallinn and transfer south to Pärnu. After checking into our hotel we will go out to look for Ural Owl, Eurasian Pygmy-owl and Eurasian Eagle-owl. Eurasian Woodcocks will be roding. Dinner will be taken at a local restaurant. Two nights in Pärnu.
Day 2 After an early breakfast we will explore nearby forests to search for resident woodpeckers. Black, Grey-headed, Eurasian Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers can all be found here and we will also listen out for displaying Hazel Grouse. After a picnic lunch we will make a short visit to the lookout tower and wooden pathway in the Tolkuse Bog. In wonderful scenery comprising colourful peat bogs interspersed with small lakes we should find Common Cranes and various species of geese on migration. In the late afternoon, before we return to the hotel, we will have another owling session.
Day 3 Today we will take a ferry west to Saaremaa Island primarily to look for Steller's Eiders. They winter in compact flocks of between 300 and 1000 and, depending upon the severity of the winter, can be found either in the bays or in patches of open water amongst the sea ice. Other species that may be found on the island include Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Wood Lark. We will return to the mainland in the late afternoon and drive to the western region of Estonia. Three nights in Roosta.
Day 4 We will start the day at nearby wetlands to look for lekking Black Grouse. After a late breakfast we will go to Pőősaspea, a small northerly-pointing spit situated at a migratory crossroads for waterbirds from the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia. This is one of the best places for observing the Arctic waterbird migration, with hundreds of thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, Common Scoters, Taiga and Tundra Bean-geese and White-fronted Geese passing during the peak of migration. After a late lunch and a short rest back at the hotel we will visit the wetlands and western taiga forests near Nõva to look again for owls.
Day 5 Another early start will find us once more looking for lekking Black Grouse, this time in the forests and on heathland at Leidissoo, where Eurasian Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and various woodpeckers also occur. Next we will visit Matsalu National Park, the oldest Ramsar site in Estonia. At times of peak passage, estimates of over a million diving ducks have been made along the coast here, whilst counts of Bewick's and Whooper Swans, Taiga and Tundra Bean-geese and White-fronted Geese regularly number in the tens of thousands. Although these migrants offer some remarkable spectacles, Matsalu is much more than just a migration point. Amongst the 170 species recorded as breeding on the reserve are Red-necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern. After lunch at a local tourism farm we will head for Tuhu Bog with its stunted pines and heather and its Golden Eagles.
Day 6 After some early birding we will return to Tallinn by late morning and have a short guided tour of the old town. Tallinn was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 because of its medieval city centre, the finest in northern Europe, with cobblestone streets and buildings that date back to the fifteenth century. In the afternoon we will transfer to the airport for our flight to London.
General Information There are no special health requirements. Visas are not required for EU citizens. The pace of the tour is medium with only a moderate level of fitness required for walks.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 6 with 1 leader, 12 with 2 leaders.