Steller’s Eider Weekend – Smart-Guided Tour - 4 Days

In winter and early spring, Estonian waters host about 600-2000 Steller’s Eider and offer the best possibilities in Europe to spot them. In Early spring they come closer to shore and are easier to see. At the same time woodpeckers, owls, and forest grouses are getting more and more active. For CapercaillieBlack Grouse, and Hazel Hen the lekking period is starting, owls have started hooting to declare their territories and woodpeckers (7 woodpecker species are possible during the tour!) are drumming.

This smart-guided tour offers you the possibility to explore the beauty of Estonian late-winter/early spring on your own. We will provide you with a smart-guided map with a suggested itinerary and all the best locations to find the target species you are after. Your only task is to follow the directions and suggestions and keep your senses alert. You can learn more about our smart-guided tours from here.

Overview

The ice-free waters of the Baltic Sea are also a good location for several arctic breeders, such as Long-tailed Ducks, Smew, Bewick Swans, Whooper Swans, Greater Scaup, Goldeneyes, Common and Velvet Scoters, Goosander, and Red-breasted Merganser among others. White-tailed Eagles patrol the coastlines and can even be seen dozens of kilometers inland during the winter. It’s also a great time to spot Snow Buntings, Common Redpolls and during some years also Arctic Redpolls. What else makes Estonia stand out is the distance between varying habitats, it takes just 10 minutes to drive from one of the best migration hotspots in Europe to an old-growth pine forest, where Western Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse can be spotted. Such forests are also home to several owl species, such as Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, and Tengmalm’s Owl. Although this trip is mostly about birds, we have good chances of spotting Elk, Roe Deer, Raccoon Dogs, Red Fox, Fish Otter, and Snow Hare. First Brown Bears wake from winter hibernation in mid-March and their tracks can be found in the snow together with Wolf and Lynx tracks. With lots of luck, we might even cross our paths with one of the aforementioned mammals during our early morning or late evening excursions. Every year there’s also the possibility to spot Rough-legged Buzzards, Waxwings, and during some good influx years, the Northern Hawk Owl. This trip is not so much about seeing as many different species as possible, rather about getting excellent views of our target birds.

Trip Highlights

  • Steller’s Eiders and lots of other seaducks, such as Long-tailed Ducks, Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters
  • White-backed, Three-toed, Grey-headed, Three-toed, Middle-spotted, and Black Woodpeckers
  • Ural, Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls and Northern Hawk Owl during some years
  • Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and lekking Black Grouse
  • White-tailed Eagles, Rough-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier
  • Waxwing, Parrot-and Common Crossbill, Snowbunting, Twite, Common and Arctic Redpoll

Example tour for the beginning of May

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After arriving at Tallinn International airport, you’ll meet the person from the car rental company and a representative of Natourest. O the first day, you’ll drive straight to the island of Saaremaa. The drive, together with a ferry ride, takes about 4 hours and you can do some birding already on the way to our accommodation. Roadsides may produce views of Rough-legged Buzzards, Hen Harriers, and Great Grey Shrikes. Depending on the time of arrival, we’ll already go looking for our first target bird, which is Europe’s smallest owl species – Pygmy Owl.  Night in or near Vilsandi National Park.

Hotel in Haapsalu

Driving around Saaremaa island NW coast and its best birdwatching spots gives you the opportunity to spot beside the Steller’s Eiders other overwintering waterbirds, such as Long-tailed Ducks, Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters, Goosanders, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Eiders, Greater Scaup, and Tufted Ducks. White-tailed Eagles are often seen patrolling the coastline and Waxwings look for food in the Juniper stands. In the evening drive back to Estonia’s mainland and spend the evening again looking for owls. Overnight in mainland NW of Estonia.

Breakfast
Hotel in Haapsalu

In the morning visit Leidissoo woods for different species of woodpeckers and forest birds. Here you can spot Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Great Grey Shrike, Parrot Crossbill, Crested Tit, and from mammals – Elk, Snow Hare, and Raccoon Dogs. During the day we visit Põõsaspea peninsula, which is one of the best spots in Estonia to observe arctic waterfowl migration. Here we’ve got chances for Black-throated and Red-throated Divers. In the evening you can make another trip into nearby forests to look for Ural-, Pygmy-, and Tengmalm’s Owl. Night in NW-Estonia

Breakfast
Hotel in Haapsalu

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. The öekking area is also a good location for spotting birds of Prey. Golden Eagles are known to breed in one of the peat bogs and often come to patrol the grouse lek. If you drive there early enough, there are good chances of spotting also Western Capercaillie on the way to the spot or even on your way back.. At noon or whenever it’s a good time for you, you can start driving back towards Tallinn. Before that but still, have the chance to target any bird that we still haven’t seen during the trip.

 

Breakfast
Hotel in Haapsalu

Price includes:

  • Smart-Guided tour map
  • 3 nights in local hotels and guesthouses ( twin room with toilet and shower) with breakfast
  • Car rental for 4 days
  • Estonian road atlas
  • A representative of Natourest meeting you in the Tallinn airport
  • Phone assistance during the tour

Price excludes

  • Flights

Tour Map

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Steller’s Eider Weekend – Smart-Guided Tour
From €450.00
per Person in double room
From €510.00
per Person in single room

Trip Facts

  • February- 10th of April
  • 1-16 persons
  • Easy walking
  • *Steller’s Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters

    *White-backed, Three-toed, Grey-headed, Three-toed, Middle-spotted, and Black Woodpeckers

    *Ural, Pygmy, Tengmalm’s Owls and Northern Hawk Owl

    *Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and lekking Black Grouse

    *White-tailed Eagles, Rough.legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier

    *Waxwing, Parrot-and Common Crossbill, Snowbunting, Twite, Common and Arctic Redpoll