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BIRDWATCHING TOURS

 
Birdwatching in Estonia

The Biggest Twitch: we definitely will come back to Estonia! Click here to see the video...

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Tour Calendar 2015...

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Birdwatching tour programmes can be viewed when choosing the name of trip from the right menu.  

Few places in Europe can match the excitement of watching Estonia's amazing birdlife, at almost any time of year.

The most dangered seaduck in Europe, Steller`s Eider, is good reason to visit Estonia in Winter. The coast of our biggest island, Saaremaa, is the most important wintering area for Steller`s Eider around the Baltic Sea. These eye-catching birds arrive in December and leave around the beginning of April. The best time to observe Steller`s Eider is January and February when congregations may reach 1000 birds or even more. Birds form dense flocks where they behave synchronously, especially when diving. The most North-Easterly point in mainland, the Põõsaspea (Spitham) is usually unfrozen at the same time and holds flocks of different waterbirds – thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, Goldeneyes, Goosanders and often White-tailed Eagles nearby. Atmospheric pine forests nearby are habitat for Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker. If the number of rodents is low, there are good opportunities to observe owls even on the middle of day.

Steller`s Eider
Steller´s Eider (Polysticta stelleri) / Jari Peltomä


White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopons leucotos) / Sven Zacek


Spring in Estonia begins in late March when woodpeckers start their drumming, Capercaillies become very active under the old pine forest at dusk and all the swamps and bogs resound with displaying Black Grouses at sunrise. During the birding trips, often there are mornings when 6 different species of woodpeckers can be found in one small woodland!

 









 


Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) / Arne Ader

On shallow bays, their traditional feeding sites, there are thousands of Wooper and Bewick´s Swans and different duck species, on the fields gather tens of thousands of geese. You can hear the calls of Ural, Pygmy and Tengmal`s Owls in the forests when it gets dark,  or observe rodding Woodcocks flying above you. In the middle of April, is a last chance to observe Steller`s Eiders in Estonia.


Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) / Remo Savisaar

Positioned between the Finnish Gulf, the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, and Lake Peipsi near the Russian border, the Estonian waters and coastline are the natural stepping-stones along the main route between the breeding and wintering areas for millions of Arctic waterbirds, making birdwatching in Estonia fabulous at migration time in April-May. Internationally important numbers of Red-throated and Black-throated Divers, Bewick's and Whooper Swans, Greater White-fronted Geese, Greater Scaup, Common and Velvet Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks move along the coast and in some years 300,000 Barnacle Geese are estimated to pass through. But it is not just about non-stop passage: the country’s long and indented coastline, shallow and sheltered bays, straits, coastal meadows, marshes, lagoons and over 1000 islands in good natural condition are crucial feeding and stopover sites.  In May, the majority of insectivorous bird species arrive as well as other rare bird species. Every birdwatcher should be ready for surprises!


Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) / Mati Kose


Great Snipe (Gallinago media) / Arne Ader


Estonia is a wonderful birdwatching destination in late Spring when species that are becoming rarer in Western Europe are more easily observed. Extensive undeveloped coastal areas with wide-spread reed-beds and grasslands as well as unique untouched areas with winding rivers, vast floodplains, mires, bogs and primeval forests in the central part of the mainland are habitats for many  species of breeding birds. From May to late June, after sunset, the meadows resound with the bubbling of Great Snipes – a breeding species for which Estonia is internationally important. Up to 600 males have been estimated.


    Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) / Mati Kose

At the same time, White-tailed and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Honey Buzzards and Marsh Harriers can provided good sightings, as well as Greenish, Blyth´s Reed and Barred Warbler, Penduline Tits, Citrine Wagtails and Scarlet Rosefinch. Close to bog areas, the last hours of the day are often given over to a concert by the European Nightjar. On a visit to certain grasslands, Marsh Warblers or Corncrakes´crex-crex can be heard from dusk to morning. Savi´s Warblers reel in reedbeds and on a particularly successful trip, even Booted Warblers might be heard. As the main food of the Black Stork includes all kinds of fish and amphibians, these rare birds can be seen to catch them from small forest rivers and ditches.

Estonia in the autumn is a magnificent destination for the birdwatcher who wants to see forest species together with raptors and arctic migration, with that added touch of eastern rarities. Common Chaffinch and Brambling flocks can consist of thousands of birds,  also encounter large numbers of Goldcrests, Northern Wheatears and Common Starlings. In West-Estonia, wetlands are always full of life in the autumn. From early September until late October, thousands of ducks, geese and cranes use these wetlands as their last feeding and roosting grounds before their final migration to the wintering sites.


Common Cranes (Grus grus) / Arne Ader

The largest numbers of Red-throated Diver, Greater Scaup, Barnacle and Bent Geese and Velvet Scoter pass through at this time. Among the migrants there is always a chance to find a rare White-billed Diver, or some other rarity such as Grey Phalarope. Hiiumaa and Saaremaa islands are excellent sites to locate one or two exciting eastern species – perhaps Yellow-browed or Pallas's Warblers. Matsalu National Park is also well known as one of the most important Crane concentration area in Autumn. As many as 20 thousand birds gathering around the bay and feed in adjacent fields before moving to their wintering grounds in Spain and North-Africa or Algeria and Tunisia. Following the masses of Cranes flying in on a golden evening or out on a misty morning from their roosting places, is an unforgettable experience. The last week of September is the best time to explore this exiting performance, combined with the most vibrant autumn colours.

Did you know?

  • Hawk Owls are uncommon but regular winter visitors in Estonia.
  • Estonia is one of the few countries in Europe where 8 different species of Woodpeckers can be found.


Three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) / Sven Zacek
  • In one national park in Estonia more White-backed Woodpeckers may nest than in the whole of Sweden!
  • Compared with Poland, four times as many Ural Owls and six times as many White-backed Woodpeckers breed in Estonia!

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) / Sven Zacek
  • The most common grouse of Estonian forests is unquestionably Hazel Grouse with up to 40 000 pairs nesting here.
  • In May 1997 in a single day one million passing arctic waterfowls were counted at Cape Põõsaspea.
  • Great Snipe is listed on the 1st category of protected bird species in Estonia. Therefore there is only one lekking site for public  birdwatching tourists near Tartu.
  • On the 27th of May in 2007 during a 24 hours birdwatching race in Estonia, 194 bird species were recorded – it is the best result in Europe after Spain.

Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) / Valeri Štšerbatõh
  • 70% of the Black Stork`s world population breeds in Europe.
  • Since 2008 there are 16 Black Storks tagged with sattelite transmitters. Recent studies have shown that the feeding area of one bird is much bigger than was previous known. Therefore the Black Stork breeding population in Estonia was overestimated in the past.
  • At Kabli Bird Station ringing activity was started in 1969. The same kind of Helgoland trap is still used nowadays.

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) / Tarvo Valker

  • The Estonian Bird Ringing Centre started work  in the Soviet period and is still located in the same place in Lääne County, in Matsalu National Park visitor center. Our signature „ESTONIA MATSALU“ rings have been used since 1970.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) / Sven Zacek
  • Around 10% of the European population of Common Cranes make a stopover every autumn  in West-Estonia.
  • The breeding population of Common Cranes in Estonia has increased from 300 breeding pairs to 7000 pairs during the last 40 years.


Common Crane (Grus grus) / Remo Savisaar

 

New! Tour packages for individual travellers.

We are happy to present a new opportunity for individuals to visit Western Estonia with our help. We have the expertise to discuss your requirements and arrange suitable accommodation and a rental car for your itinerary. Pickup of rental car is available on arrival at Tallinn (or Riga) Airport Europcar office. In the vehicle there is a general information and map of Estonia, rules of protected species and areas, brochures of Western Estonia nature reserves and directions how to find overnight places confirmed and paid for beforehand. Rental car return will be specified at the time of pickup. We can also provide expert advice from a local birdguide on searching for rare species, and this is available on request. Read more...

Client comment / Individual tour in April 2011

 


 

Steller`s Eider Break
Western-Estonia in Autumn
Estonia in Spring
NEW! Great Snipe & Woodpeckers
Estonia in Autumn
NEW! Migration Hotspots
Western-Estonia in Spring
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