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Birdwatch Estonia in Spring NEW!

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

Bird tour: birds.

WHERE

Tallinn (Estonia) – W Estonia – Tallinn

SAMPLE WILDLIFE

a multitude of north central European birds including Steller’s Eider, other sea duck, geese, waders, eagles, owls and woodpeckers. 

CLIMATE

European spring, cold to warm.

ACCOMMODATION

comfortable hotels and guesthouses, travel by minibus, all rooms with private facilities. Walking mainly on good level tracks. 

Estonia is one of the world´s most dramatic migration locations, renowned for its amazing spring passage of millions of wildfowl and waders flying along the coast between the Baltic Sea and their Arctic tundra breeding grounds. In addition, large flocks of wildfowl include wintering Steller's Eider, while unspoilt forests are home to an exciting range of boreal specialities. This fully inclusiveBirdwatch holiday focuses on that famous migration spectacle, with Steller´s Eider and a mouthwatering line-up of owls and woodpeckers among the many potential highlights.

Our eight-day tour begins in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, from where we will head to the west of the country, and then take in the key sites of Matsalu National Park, Saaremaa Island and Nigula and Soometsa forests. The birding can be outstanding, with peak passage at Matsalu alone on occasion producing more than a million diving ducks, while counts of wild swans and Barnacle Geese regularly number tens of thousands. Waders sometimes also occur in huge numbers, while Matsalu boasts no fewer than 170 breeding species, among them Red-necked Grebe, Bittern, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern.

Other sites can be every bit as memorable, and the whole itinerary has been designed to take in a wide range of species, among which could be Taiga Bean Goose, Bittern, White Stork, Steller´s Eider, White-tailed Eagle, Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Capercaillie, Black and Hazel Grouse, Common Crane, Wood and Purple Sandpipers, Ural, Eurasian Eagle, Tengmalm’s and Pygmy Owls, White-backed, Three-toed, Black, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Nutcracker, Crested Tit, Bearded Tit, Great Grey Shrike and Parrot Crossbill.

Mammal fans may also be in for a treat, with chances of Wild Boar, Elk and European Beaver among others, and we may even find tracks of Wolf or Brown Bear during this wildlife-rich adventure.

Day 1 Depart London Gatwick 1220 Arrive Tallinn 1710, drive to west Estonia

Day 2 Põõsaspea, Silma & Leidissoo

Day 3 Matsalu National Park

Day 4 Matsalu, to Saaremaa

Day 5 Saaremaa Island

Day 6 To mainland, Tuhu & Audru

Day 7 Nigula & Soometsa forests

Day 8 Return to Tallinn. Depart Tallinn 1740 Arrive London Gatwick 1840.

 

Day 1 Sun (13th April)          Tallinn, to west Estonia
You will be picked up from Tallinn Airport having met your guide on arrival, and drive to west Estonia. After check-in at the holiday village we may go for an optional excursion to listen to the night sounds of the wetlands and western taiga forests, after we have had our evening meal (Promenaadi Hotel or Altmõisa Guesthouse).

Day 2 Mon (14th April)        PÕÕSASPEA, SILMA & LEIDISSOO
Today we will travel out in early morning to watch migration on the Põõsaspea Peninsula. This small north-stretching spit is one of the best place for observing Artic waterbird migration. Tens and hundreds of thousands of Long-Tailed Ducks, Common Scoters and geese can be seen during the peak of migration, divers as well. Our next destination is Silma Nature Reserve with it’s large lagoons and reedbeds. After a lunch and short break we will drive to Haapsalu town and visit the birdtower on the edge of the lake where we have fantastic views from the top - White-tailed Eagles, Goosander, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebes, groups of waders etc are all possible. After dinner at the guesthouse we will go for an owling session. If we are fortunate we may hear and hopefully see Ural Owl hunting for small mammals at the forest edge (Promenaadi Hotel).

Day 3 Tue (15th April)          MATSALU NATIONAL PARK
Today we will reach the Matsalu National Park which is the oldest Ramsar area in Estonia. At times of peak passage over a million diving ducks have been estimated along the coast here, whilst counts of wild swans and Barnacle Geese regularly number tens of thousands. A selection of waders also take advantage of the rich feeding grounds; Ruff, in particular, sometimes occurring in great abundance, the males resplendent in their breeding finery. Although these migrants offer some remarkable spectacles, Matsalu is much more than just an avian motorway service station and among the 170 breeding birds recorded from the reserve are species such as Red-necked Grebe, Bittern, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern.

We will climb observation towers to scan over the marshes and we plan to take a boat ride through the vast reed-beds, the largest expanse on the Baltic coast (unless the waters are still frozen). Dusk is the time that Beavers leave their lodges to spend an industrious night felling riverside trees and saplings. A little quiet patience is required here, but with luck you are likely to see several individuals going about their nightly construction work and swimming about, with background sounds provided by thousands of Bewick´s and Whooper Swans and perhaps an early Bittern (Promenaadi Hotel).

Day 4 Wed (16th April)         MATSALU, to Saaremaa Island
After breakfast we will drive to the northern shore of Matsalu Bay where we explore a variety of Põgari-Sassi coastal habitats and visit Haeska watching tower. The record for the highest day list of bird species in Northern Europe was achieved in this region (in May) by Finnish birdwatchers – 128 species by nightfall. We will move to Saaremaa Island in the late afternoon and eat our dinner at the guesthouse (Loona Manor Guesthouse).

Day 5 Thu (17th April)          SAAREMAA ISLAND
Today we will have the opportunity to search for Steller's Eiders, we will drive to the north-westernmost part of Saaremaa. The hot spot for Steller's Eider is located close to Cape Undva. Uudepanga Bay near Undva hosts up to 1000 Steller's Eiders each winter, in mid-April numbers are usually between 50 and 200. Other sea-ducks will be seen with a chance of divers and waders including Purple Sandpiper. Because of biogeographic reasons Saaremaa is not rich in rarer woodpecker and owl species, but we have good chances of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Great Grey Shrike and Rough-legged Buzzard on short stops on our way to Undva or after that. After lunch at the guesthouse and a short rest we will will go for an owling session. If we are fortunate we can hear and hopefully see Tengmalm´s and Pygmy Owl in Viidumäe Nature Reserve (Loona Manor Guesthouse).

Day 6 Fri (18th April)      TUHU & AUDRU
After breakfast we will return to the mainland. Depending on weather in spring the Suur Väin Strait can be host to large flocks of seaducks. At 10:30am we arrive at Virtsu harbour and drive towards Pärnu. Our next destination is Tuhu Bog to seek Black Grouse and breeding waders such as Black-tailed Godwits and Wood Sandpipers plus Golden Eagle is frequently seen here in the lowland bog and forest area. We also expect to hear the trumpeting calls of Common Cranes and see many of these birds as we drive through the area. After lunch we will head to a polder area at nearby Pärnu town – Audru that is a well known stopover site for thousands of geese. Bean Geese are regular migrants and even Red-breasted Goose are found annually in this area. Just nearby there is a breeding site for another highlight woodpecker - Middle Spotted Woodpecker. After check-in and short rest at the hotel we eat our dinner at restaurant (Rannahotell).

Day 7 Sat (19th April)           NIGULA & SOOMETSA FORESTS
Today we will travel out very early in the morning and visit old grown coniferous and mixed forest in order to experience the spring calling of resident Black, Grey-headed, Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers as well as listen for the calls of Hazel Grouse. After a break at the hotel and lunch we will head to a more agricultural landscape where several more interesting birds can be encountered, such as Great Grey Shrike, Rough-legged Buzzard, breeding pairs of Cranes and White Storks on the nest. If we are very lucky, even Hawk Owl may turn up.  We will move back to Pärnu town in the afternoon. After break and dinner at the hotel we will go for another owling session. If we are fortunate we may hear and hopefully see Ural or Eagle Owls hunting for small mammals at the forest edge (Rannahotell).

Day 8 Sun (20th April)          Return to Tallinn
We will return to Tallinn by late morning and have a pleasant guided tour of Tallinn Old Town. Tallinn was made a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1997 due to the medieval city centre, the finest in northern Europe, with cobbled streets & buildings that date back to the 15th century. We have some free time before we will drive to the airport to catch your homeward flight. 

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Dates: 13th – 20th April 2014

Leaders: Tarvo Valker and other local guides.

£1299     per person sharing a twin room

£239       Single supplement  

Deposit: £350 per person    

Group size: 6-14.

Price includes: Return economy class flights London Gatwick -Tallinn, all airport taxes, transfers to and from hotels, accommodation on a full board basis (breakfast, lunch and evening meal) in twin-bedded rooms with private facilities, services of WildWings leader, bird excursions as itinerary, pre-tour information pack including a day by day bird checklist.

Price excludes: Travel insurance, drinks, tips to local guide and bus driver and items of a personal nature. 

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