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The beginning of May is a perfect time for birding in Estonia – the weather has become warmer and with each day new birds and species arrive. Some of them come to Estonia to breed, some are just stopping en route to feed and build up their energy reserves for the long trip to their arctic breeding grounds – Common- and Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Black- and Red-throated Divers. The shallow coast and wetlands offer excellent stopovers for waders, ducks, and geese. It’s also a great time to spot Black Grouse in their annual lekking grounds or meet a Western Capercaillie in old pine forests or to listen to woodpeckers claiming their territory.
During this tour, we’ve got chances of spotting 8 different species from the woodpecker family, including the Three-toed, White-backed, Black, and Grey-headed Woodpecker. The beginning of May is still a good time to spot Elk and other mammals. We will also spend a night in a Brown Bear hide, where we have excellent chances of spotting at least one of Estonia’s 900 Brown Bears and Raccoon Dogs.
What can you see?
- Huge flocks of Barnacle Geese
- Migrating Ruffs displaying on the meadows
- Long-tailed Ducks
- White-tailed Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle
- Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Capercaillie
- Elk, Brown Bear, Raccoon Dogs, Beaver
- Ural and Pygmy Owl
- White-backed, Three-toed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers
- Savi’s Warbler, River Warbler, Common Rosefinch, and other eastern migrants
We’ll start our trip in North-West Estonia, an area rich in forests and coastal wetlands. Some birding will already be made during the drive to our accommodation. Good birding sites are also located all around the accommodation. In the evening we will look for Ural and Pygmy Owl in the nearby forests. Night in NW Estonia
Early morning excursion to experience a Black Grouse lek. By sunrise, both male and female grouse have gathered on a field situated between 2 massive peat bogs. It’s a lek with usually well over 20-30 grouse cocks. On the way there and on our way back, we have a good chance of spotting a Western Capercaillie. Later we will visit cape Põõsaspea, which is one of the best locations in Europe to observe the spring migration.
We will observe thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, geese, divers, and Scoters 3Hundreds and – ducks, geese, loons, waders and as we pass by th Silma reserve is a complex of coastal meadows, lagoons and reedbeds with lots of ducks, some Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, Goose, Cranes, Penduline and Bearded Tits. The Nõva forests welcome the Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and Nightjar.
Another early excursion will take us to pine forests of Nõva Nature Reserve, where we hope to spot Western Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse. Later we’ll head to Silma Nature Reserve, which is a complex of coastal meadows, lagoon, and reedbeds with lots of ducks, Red-necked Grebes, Goose, Cranes, Little Gulls, Penduline and Bearded Tits. Spotted Crakes together with bitterns can be heard and at times seen. From Silma we’ll continue to Haapsalu, which is known as the birding capital of Estonia. It’s a small and beautiful coastal town with several lagoons and reedbeds. Birds in these lagoons are used to people and this gives us a great chance to observe them from a short distance. Our main target bird in Haapsalu is the Slavonian Grebe – an annual breeder on one of the lagoons. In the evening we will arrive in Matsalu NP, where we will stay for the next 3 nights. Night in Matsalu
On meadows and fields located between two vast peat bogs, it’s possible to observe a Black Grouse lek, and that will be today’s main event. We’ll drive there quite early and have good chances of spotting also Western Capercaillie on the way to the spot. At noon we’ll start driving back towards Tallinn, but still, have the chance to target any bird that we still haven’t seen during the trip.
Drive back and departure
Today we’ll still wander around in Matsalu. We’ll visit an abandoned manor with an impressive manor park, which is home to several woodpecker species. In these kinds of manor parks, it’s also possible to hear and spot Redwings and Red-breasted Flycatchers. During noon we will drive to the banks of Kasari river, where we have a good chance to spot both – the Lesser-spotted and Greater-spotted Eagle. Afterward, a fishing boat takes us along the same river and we have good chances of spotting Beavers and Elk. After the sun has set, the birds in the reedbeds and shrubs become alive again and we can listen to Bitterns, crakes, and Savi’s Warbler. Night in Matsalu NP
Now it’s time to leave West Estonia and drive to the Eastern part of the country. Alutaguse area is the largest forested area in Estonia and it’s believed that the whole NE part of the country holds about half of Estonia’s 700 Brown Bears. But in the hide it’s not only about bears – there are excellent chances for Raccoon Dogs, Elk visit the meadow side of the hide quite often in spring. For birders, there’s also a lot to see and hear – there’s a microphone outside the hide and speakers inside the hides, so the hides will be filled with all possible sounds of spring. On the way to the hide, we’ve often spotted White-backed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers and Ural Owl has been seen hunting on the meadow side of the hide. In the 2 hides there is room for up to 18 persons and it’s equipped with bunk beds, sleeping bags, and pillows. Night in the Brown Bear and wildlife watching hide
After leaving the hide, we’ll circle around the nearby forest to spot Capercaillie and then continue to the town of Rakvere for a tasty breakfast. The tour takes us from Alutaguse to Lahemaa NP, which is Estonia’s oldest and largest national park. After settling in to our hotel and having a break, we’ll get acquainted with the beautiful walking trails the park has to offer. In one of the manor parks, we might hear the first Rosefinches of the tour. The forests of Lahemaa offer excellent habitats for owls, so if there are still owls missing on our list, we will get them in Lahemaa! Night in Lahemaa NP
Oandu old-growth forests are home to Three-toed Woodpeckers and it’s probably the best location to see them in Estonia. On one of the trails, we will experience what means if a forest is left alone to run its natural course. Similarly, Black Woodpeckers are seen and heard in these forests alongside with Tufted and Coal Tits, and Red-breasted Flycatchers. The latter part of the day will be spent in exploring a peat bog in Kõrvemaa area. Peat bogs are landscapes very characteristic to Estonia and although not rich in the number of different bird and plant species, there are a lot of “specialists” that grow and breed almost only in bogs. We hope to spot Great Grey Shrikes, Merlin, Golden Eagle, Common Cuckoo, and Wood Sandpipers. Night in Lahemaa NP
We still have a morning to spot some of the target species still missing and then we drive back to Tallinn, where the tour started. A tour in Tallinn Old Town awaits and then you’ll be transported to the airport.
- Bird guide services for 9 days,
- 7 nights in local hotels and guesthouses ( twin room with toilet and shower),
- 1 night in a Brown Bear and wildlife watching hide
- Local transport
- Breakfast, lunch as a picnic, and dinner during the trip.
- Boat tour on Kasari river in Matsalu NP
- Tallinn Old Town tour
- Beverages during the meals
It would be advisable to arrive in Tallinn during midday or in the afternoon. If there are only late afternoon/evening flights, we can find a suitable solution.
Yes. If you arrive earlier, we can pick you up from your accommodation before the start of the tour.
Tallinn International Airport is a small and convenient airport, so you’ll have enough time at the airport if you arrive 90 minutes before the departure of your flight.