Spring Birding and Bears

9 Days

The beginning of May is a perfect time for birding in Estonia – the weather has become warmer and each day brings thousands of new birds. 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. So it’s a time when most local breeders are back from their wintering grounds and the Arctic breeders are still here. In addition, it’s a great time to spot Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, and other iconic forest birds. Besides birding, this tour targets also mammals, such as Brown Bears, Beavers, and Elk.  

For a more specific list of birds, check the Target species in the menu on the right and the Itinerary.


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 1000 Brown Bears. For a longer list of species that we hope to see, read the Trip Info.

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 and witness hundreds or thousands of Long-Tailed Ducks, geese, divers, and Scoters. In the evening, we will go out again with the hopes of spotting owls – Ural, Pygmy, or Tengmalm’s.

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

Day 4 :
Matsalu NP

We start the morning with an early tour to a coastal meadow to get a better idea of what Matsalu NP is all about. The very mosaic landscape and shallow coastal waters offer excellent breeding and feeding grounds for waders. There are about 190 species of birds breeding in Matsalu and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds pass by Masalu every spring. Today we will also look for woodpeckers, as the deciduous forests of Matsalu are a perfect habitat for White-Backed Woodpeckers and Grey-Headed Woodpeckers. Around midday, we will drive to the floodplains of the Kasari River to get views of Lesser-Spotted Eagle and possibly even Greater-Spotted Eagle. Night in Matsalu.


Today we’ll visit Matsalu’s best birding tower in Haeska that offers views of a coastal meadow, shallow water, reedbeds, and a small grove. It’s a favorite stop-over ground for waders, ducks, and geese. Thus, White-Tailed Eagles love the place at least as much and come to look for the weaker birds in the flocks. In the evening we drive to the southern side of Matsalu Bay and take a boat trip to spot beavers on the banks of the Kasari River. The boat takes us through a protected area and only selected boats are allowed to drive there. There’s a ood chance we will see lots of Ruffs along the banks of the river. There’s also a possibility to spot Elk during the boat tour as they look for fresh willow twigs and reed sprouts. Overnight 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

Day 7 :
Lahemaa NP

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 from our list, we will get them in Lahemaa! Night in Lahemaa NP

Day 8 :
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

Day 9 :

We still have a morning to spot some of the target species still missing and then we drive back to Tallinn. Tallinn Old Town belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most well-preserved medieval old towns in Europe. But Visiting Tallinn Old Town is optional.

Price includes:

  • 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
  • 7 dinners and 5 lunches (as picnic packages), all breakfasts
  • Boat tour on Kasari river in Matsalu NP
  • Visiting Tallinn Old Town

Price excludes

  • Flights
  • Beverages during the meals


What is the best time to arrive in Estonia/When will the tour start on the first day?

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.

If I'll arrive a day earlier, will I be picked up from the hotel?

Yes. If you arrive earlier, we can pick you up from your accommodation before the start of the tour.

When should I be at the Tallinn Airport before the departure of my flight?

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.

Tour Map

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Spring Birding and Bears
  • May
  • 4-14 persons
  • Easy walk
  • *Huge flocks of Barnacle Geese
    *Migrating Ruffs displaying on the meadows
    *Long-tailed Ducks
    *White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle
    *Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Western Capercaillie
    *Ural and Pygmy Owl
    *White-backed, Three-toed, Grey-headed, and Black Woodpeckers
    *Savi’s Warbler, River Warbler, Common Rosefinch, and other eastern migrants.
    *Elk, Brown Bear, Raccoon Dogs, Beaver