Estonian birds and mammals – scheduled, 9 days (26.09-4.10.2020)

After the summer has passed, Estonian birds and mammals have become active again. The sight of hundreds of cranes and geese gathered on the fields of flying over the heads is a common sight, and near the sea, it’s possible to observe one of the most spectacular artic waterfowl migrations in Europe. Overwintering birds, such as woodpeckers owls and forest grouse, become more active and visible again. Not to mention, Estonia has one of the best locations to observe a strong visible passerine migration in Matsalu National Park, where morning skies are filled with hundreds of Long-tailed Tits fighting the wind together with various finches, Coal Tits, thrushes, and Common Jays. Besides birds, Estonia is also well known for its mammals, who similarly, have become more active – It’s the rutting time for Elk, who gather on vast meadows, rare Ringed Seals have gathered to their haul-out areas, young wolves are learning how to hunt and to howl and Brown Bears and Raccoon Dogs are trying to fatten up for the forthcoming winter. This tour is a combination of birding and mammal-watching.  

Target species:

  • Owls (Ural, Pygmy, Tengmalms)
  • Woodpeckers (White-backed, Middle-spotted, Grey-headed, Three-toed, etc.)
  • Cranes and Geese
  • Arctic Waterfowl
  • Black and Hazel Grouse, Capercaillie
  • Nutcracker
  • Elk,
  • Ringed Seal 
  • Beaver
  • Brown Bear
  •  Wolf

Book a tour with us: info@natourest.ee or by phone: +372 5622 5943

Day 1: Arrival (Tallinn) and drive to Lahemaa NP

The tour starts in Lahemaa NP, which is the oldest and biggest National park in Estonia. Mostly known for its vast forest and beautiful coastline. It’s only a bit more than an hour’s drive from the capital Tallinn and offers good chances to spot several forest rarities, such as the Three-toed Woodpecker and Hazel Grouse. In the evening we will look for the Ural Owl and Pygmy Owl.  Night in Lahemaa NP

Day 2: Morning in Lahemaa, evening in the Brown Bear hide. 

The morning and noon will be spent in Lahemaa NP, where we visit the old fishing village of Altja, which offers good views on both, the sea and the old forest.

In the afternoon, we will head to Alutaguse, which is Estonia’s largest forest area, covering most of its north-eastern part. There are nowhere as many bears in Estonia as in Alutaguse. The area hosts also many other forest species like the Siberian Flying Squirrel, Lynx, Wolf, Golden Eagle and different species of owls. In autumn the Brown Bears are preparing for hibernation. They need a lot of food to build up a solid layer of blubber. At that time it is possible to find their tracks in old orchards, on oat fields, etc. In the evening we will go to the bear hide and we will also spend the night there. Besides the bears, there’s a really good chance to see Raccoon Dogs. During our walk to the hide, there’s a possibility to spot White-backed and Grey-headed Woodpecker. Hazel Grouse often whistle quietly near the hide and Ural Owl has been spotted hunting for mice on one side of the hide. The watching hides are equipped with sleeping bags, pillows, bunk beds, and speakers, which play live sounds caught by a high-quality microphone installed next to the hide. Night in the Brown Bear hide

Day 3: Morning in Alutaguse, from noon in Lahemaa NP

After leaving the Brown bear hide, we look shortly for the magnificent Western Capercaillie in the nearby forests and then return to Lahemaa NP for a late breakfast. We’ll have a break until the afternoon and then continue birding on the forest trails and coastline. If the previous evenings have not been successful, we will look for owls in the evening. Night in Lahemaa NP

Day 4: Marimetsa and south of Matsalu NP

After breakfast, we will start driving toward the west coast. On the way, we’ll make a stop in Marimetsa peat bog, which is one of the biggest peat bogs in Estonia. The trail to the bog takes us first through a forest, which is home for Nutcracker, Hazel Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Tufted-, Willow-, and Coal Tit. On the bog, besides having unforgettable views on this unique landscape, we have good chances of spotting Black Grouse, Great Grey Shrike, Golden Plover, and Golden Eagles. 

Thousands of birds await us in Matsalu. It is the most famous wetland area in Estonia with vast spaces of coastal and alluvial (and some wooded) meadows and reed-beds making it a prime stopover location. By the time of the tour, tens of thousands of Barnacle Geese should be present, sometimes accompanied by a few Red-breasted Geese. White-tailed Eagles fly over these flocks of waterfowl to pick out the weaker ones and it’s also a good time to spot other raptors that do not breed here or do it in small numbers, such as the Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and Hen Harrier. In the evening we will look for Elk in one of the observation towers offering views up to the vast meadows of Matsalu. Night in Matsalu NP

Day 5 North of Matsalu NP

We will drive to the nearby Puise spit, which is one of Europe’s best locations to observe passerine migration. Autumn weather can mean strong unfavorable winds, which hold smaller birds back from crossing the sea. But when it’s followed by a calm morning or northern winds, it’s possible to witness something spectacular – hundreds and even thousands of songbirds will all try to cross the sea inside a couple of hours. Sometimes, they acknowledge the unfavorable winds only after reaching the tip and the sky gets filled with hundreds of birds, some on their way back, some still trying to cross. The later part of the day will be spent in various watching towers and observation points of Matsalu NP. In the evening we will drive to the southern side of the NP and go on a boat tour on the river of Kasari to spot Beavers, Elk, and waterfowl. Night in Matsalu NP

Day 7 Hiiumaa island

According to the last official count, Estonia has 2222 islands. Most of them small and uninhabited, making them perfect for breeding birds. Our tour takes us first to the port of Rohuküla from where we’ll take a ferry to Estonia’s second-biggest island – Hiiumaa. On the ferry ride, we can spot migrating and overwintering waterfowl, such as Long-tailed Ducs, Goldeneyes, and divers. After reaching Hiiumaa, we’ll continue straight to a small port, from where we’ll take a small boat to look for Ringed Seals between several islets forming the Hiiumaa Islet Landscape Reserve. The local population is the most southern population in Europe and they have become quite rare due to climate change. We will also make a picnic stop one of the small islets on our way back to enjoy the scenery and birds. For the evening, we will return to our accommodation. Night in Matsalu NP

Day 8 Northwestern Estonia 

For our last full day in western Estonia, we will make an early trip to the northwestern area, where we will experience the autumn lek of Black Grouse. In autumn, there are rarely hens at the spring lekking sites, but the cocks feel a similar urge as in spring – bubbling and showing their white tail feathers. This lekking site is situated between two massive peat bogs, where Golden Eagles along with other birds of prey can be spotted. Our second target species will be the Western Capercaillie, who often come near the roads to obtain grit – small stones for digestion. Later we will continue to the most northeastern tip of the country – Cape Põõsaspea, which is one of the best migration hotspots. The massive peat bogs are often a home for wolves and when we have located a wolf pack in the area, we might hear them howl. Night in Matsalu NP

Day 8 back to Tallinn

On the last morning on the west coast, we still have time to make one final early excursion. After breakfast, we will drive to the Estonian capital Tallinn, where the tour started 8 days ago. Here we will have an excursion in the medieval Tallinn Old Town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Night in Tallinn

Day 9 Departure.

 

 

Book a tour with us: info@natourest.ee or by phone: +372 5622 5943

 

Wolf pack howling in forest of Middle-Estonia:

 

Book a tour with us: info@natourest.ee or by phone: +372 5622 5943

Price

1370€ per person, 180€ single supplement

 

Price includes

  • nature guide services for 8 days,
  • 8 nights in local hotels and guesthouses (twin rooms with toilet and shower),
  • local transport,
  • breakfast, lunch (picnic packages) and dinner on 8 days
  • ferry tickets to Hiiumaa,
  • boat trip to the Ringed Seals near Hiiumaa islands,
  • boot trip on Kasari river,
  • Night in the Brown Bear watching hide
  • Tallinn Old Town excursion 

 

Book a tour with us: info@natourest.ee or by phone: +372 5622 5943

EU Leader Virumaa Koostöökogu (VIKO) supported Natourest Inc for buying nature observation optics and trail cameras.