Welcome to the first Estonian Nature Tours Newsletter. It is distributed to our professional co-operation partners, bird societies and magazines and also individual clients all over the world. The newsletter will be published four time per year. Its contents will include bird news in Estonia and also substantial events or products in sustainable and birdwatching tourism developed by Estonian Nature Tours.

Who is Estonian Nature Tours?
Bird news.
New! Wild photography opportunities in Estonia.
New! Tour packages for individual travellers.
Leading European bird magazines visit Estonia.
Estonian Nature Tours at the Birdfair 2008.
Sustainable and Birdwatching tourism development in Estonia.

Weather
Travel & more
Nature videos
Birdwatcing in estonia
 
 
   

Who is Estonian Nature Tours?

Estonian Nature Tours (ENT) is a ground tour organiser specialized in Birdwatching and Botanical Tours. Our individual and specialised approach to tourism was developed over a number of years of organising local travel services in Matsalu National Park, before broadening our operations in the spring of 2003 to include visits to a wide variety of nature reserves throughout Estonia. Our mission is to introduce the natural heritage preserved by moderate human activity, to encourage ecological thinking and awareness of nature and to improve local tourist services. Also, ENT has been a pioneer in developing nature and bird tourism all over Estonia. In the autumn of 2007, we introduced our new offering, “Estonia in Early Spring”, which has proved very popular among our clients. In spring 2008, our oldest tour, „Estonia in Spring“, was accredited with the brand EHE (Quality System Pure and Interesting Estonia). In autumn of 2008 we came out with tours for individual tourists. ENT supports the yearly Young Conservationist Award through independent NGO Estonian Fund for Nature and also Matsalu Nature Film Festival.

Bird news

Rarities and records.
Autumn 2008 has been unbelievably long and warm and offered a lot of surprises. In August, 12 Dotterel were in the middle of Estonia and also Terek Sandpiper and Pallid Harrier in the west. On 26th and 27th September, from Virtsu port, an incredible assembly of Common Cranes (more than 30 000 birds in all) set off for their wintering grounds. Last weeks top sightings have included Desert Whetear, Rose-coloured Starling and Great Grey Owl. Also the number of migrating Barnacle Geese has been bigger then usually. Click here and see the video...


Barnacle Geese
Photo: Valeri Štšerbatõh

Birdwatch 2008
On 4-5th October, during the European-wide Birdwatch, Chaffinches (350 000), Barnacle Geese (60 000) and Lapwings (10 000) were the most observed species. Also rarities such as Great Skua, Common Stonechat and Mediterranean Gull were seen. The most interesting highlight was an Alpine Swift which was the first record for Estonia. About 300 birdwatchers took part in the Birdwatch in Estonia.

West-side story
There were even more surprises involving migrating birds. A very popular Great Spotted Eagle in Estonia named Tõnn, and rung by Estonian ornithologists this year, made the desicion to move to the west not Middle East (or Africa) as usual. After a short stop in Germany (it has been observed there twice before) Tõnn continued his westside story and is resting at the moment in North-east France. Click here and read more about this popular project...

Winter and Early Spring in Estonia 2008/2009
Year 2009 will be a very good owl year in Estonia because of the high number of rodents. The best time to visit our country for search in owls, woodpeckers and other wintering specialities is March and April. Steller´s Eider is easily observed at their wintering grounds in Estonia from the beginning of January. Why not put together your group and book the most wanted tour now! Group leader can get a 40%. discount .


Ural Owl
Photo: Marika Mann

Read also interesting bird observations in Estonia:
Sõrve bird station diary
Tartu Bird Club
Estonian breeding bird atlas

New! Wild photography opportunities in Estonia.

White-tailed Eagle photography in Western Estonia.
Group size: max 4
Period: December – February
Estonian Nature Tours proudly presents the White-tailed Eagle feeding site in Western Estonia established in year 2007. There is a photography hide next to a feeding place giving the opportunity to get very close shots on the Eagles. In Winter 2007/2008 there were at least 20 different White-tailed Eagles visiting the place and during the best days 5-7 individuals landed at the feeding site. Sometimes single Golden Eagles and Buzzards also appear. The hide is designed for a maximum of two photographers. The best period for White-tailed Eagle photography is in December-January, but February is also good. Click here and see the web camera...


White-tailed Eagle
Photo: Mati Kose

There are many opportunities for different trips focusing on the wintering birds, observing and photographing with a group size that is more than two people. Despite the short daylight hours such forest species as Black Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Crested Tit, Hazel Grouse, Ural Owl and with very good luck Hawk Owl will be encountered, plus good numbers of arctic waterbirds like Goosander, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye in Cape Põõsaspea. And of course the first flocks of Steller’s Eiders at their wintering grounds in Saaremaa island. Read more…


Steller´s Eider
Photo: Jari Peltomäki

Beaver photography in South-Estonia.
Group size: max 3
Period: April – August
We will be delighted to present you a totally new opportunity in Estonia from the year 2009 – the Beaver safaries lead by top specialist of semi-aquatic mammals in Estonia, Remek Meel. „In my further career, whether working at science and monitoring, photographing or filming or lecturing on wildlife and setting out study programmes, all my work has been related to semi-aquatic mammals. These animals are very interesting because of their need for two different environments. Therefore, they are more sensitive than mammals living only in water or mammals living only on land. The beaver is a mammal that greatly changes its surrounding environment through its vital functions, thus creating suitable habitats for many other species. I think we should be pleased to have such a strong population of beavers in Estonia. There is nothing better than spending an evening with beavers and focusing on the world of this mysterious mammal which lives half of its time in water and the other half on land. This is real therapy!“, Remek said. There are many other opportunities for different trips in this area in Spring focusing on the birds and mammals, observing and photographing with a group size that is more than three people. Such forest bird species as Black and Three-toed Woodpecker, Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse and Ural Owl will be encountered, plus good numbers of mammals such as Wild Boar, Fox and Roe Deer. There are hides designed specifically for the photography of lekking Black Grous and feeding Wild Boar. Read more...
Click here and see the videos...

Wild Boar
Photo: Sven Zacek
Beaver
Photo: Remek Meel
New! Tour packages for individual travellers.

Many of passengers have a particular speciality, be it ornithology, botany, zoology or photography, and are keen to expand their knowledge and experience into new countries by themselves. 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 Hertz 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...

Leading European bird magazines visited Estonia

In April and May 2008, European journalists from leading bird magazines visited Estonia. During the FAM-trip, they observed birds in Lääne, Pärnu, Viljandi and Tartu counties, and met with representatives of the Estonian Ornithological Society and the State Nature Conservation Centre. Representatives of the following magazines participated in the trip: Birding World, Birdwatch (UK), Fugle i Felten (Denmark), Der Falke, Vögel, NABU (Germany), Var Fagervärld (Sweden) and Dutch Birding (the Netherlands). The purpose of press trips is to introduce Estonia’s well-preserved nature and attractive bird watching areas. This is extremely important in order to disprove a prevalent prejudice about our service and the state of our road network. In addition, conscientious image design, aided by top journalists, helps to avoid mass tourism and disturbance of our vulnerable species. The FAM-trip was financed by EU through the programme of Promoting Estonia as a Tourism Destination and organised by Estonian Nature Tours. Well-known Estonian ornithologists, Mati Kose and Margus Ellermaa, guided the trips. The articles of bird destination possibilities in Estonia will be published in Birdwatch magazine (January 2009), in Fugle i Felten magazine (April 2009) and also in Vögel (June 2009).

Estonian Nature Tours in the Birdfair 2008

On 15-17th of August Estonian Nature Tours participated in British Birdfair for the first time as an exhibitor. Interest in bird trips to Estonia was very high. During those three days at least three hundred visitors asked for more detailed information about Estonia. Visitors were especially intrested in individual tourist packages which is our new product. Also many tour operators from abroad showed an interest in selling birdwatching and wildlife tours to Estonia through our company and expert guides. Beside Estonian Nature Tours exhibition stand, Tarvo Valker – chairman of Läänemaa Bird Club made presentation about birdwatching in Estonia in the autumn. He concentrated on arctic waterfowl migration, International Crane Assembly and rarities. Over 100 people attended the presentation.


The interest was very high
Photo: Tarvo Valker

Sustainable and Birdwatching tourism development in Estonia

Estonia is a particularly exciting birdwatching destination because of it’s well-preserved wildlife habitats as well as its perfect location and climate. Our landscapes include habitats for rare birds of prey and our seacoasts for millions of migratory birds. What are the possibilities for birdwatching and nature tourism in Estonia- as viewed from outside? Is it only a vision or an already functioning reality? Can the image of Estonia be “Green and sustainable”? Is nature tourism hindering or supporting the objectives of nature conservation? What kind of co-operation and networking have to be developed today in order to prevent threats tomorrow? What kind of development activities have to be planned on a national level? These were the questions asked and partly answered during the successful seminar that took place in Matsalu National Park, 27th of November 2007. The main presenters were the famous tour leader Gerald Broddelez from Belgium and Ulla Matturi from Finland and the seminar was organized by Estonian Nature Tours.

On 8th of September, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves made a two-day visit to the Lääne county, where he met with local government leaders, nature researchers and protectors, local tourism entrepreneurs, and village life and enterprise developers. At the Matsalu National Park and in conversations with owners of tourist farms, Ilves said that the strength of Lääne county as a tourism region is its unspoiled nature, as well as the birdwatching opportunities and nature tourism more generally. The Head of State praised Estonian Nature Tours, who promote nature tourism by bringing birdwatchers from Europe to Estonia and thereby introducing Estonia as an extremely interesting country for nature tourism.

The Nature Tourism Seminar, organised by Estonian Nature Tours and financed through by local NGO Terra Maritima, took place on 3th October in Matsalu. The main presenter was famous Finnish nature photographer and Finnature owner Jari Peltomäki. He talked about photo tourism in Finland and gave a lot of examples of how it might be developed in Estonia. "Wild Photography is a very popular occupation in all over the world. Estonia has much more bird species than in Finland and you also have a good position because of the high number of wild animals such as Brown Bears, Wolves and Lynxes. So, you have very good potential to develop nature-photo tourism in the area in the future," said Peltomäki. Jari was very excited about the possibility of Estonia as an Autumn bird destination and spent several days enjoying the Matsalu area.


Jari Peltomäki
Photo: Tarvo Valker

On 17-21th November, refresher courses for nature and bird guides took place in Estonia. Courses were organised by Enterprise Estonia. It is the first course run at so high a level and there was competition amongst participants for places. Lectures were in English and Estonian Nature Tours invited our friend Gerald Broddelez from Belgium to lecture. Over the last 17 years he has travelled the globe in search of birds and animals, visiting over 100 countries on all continents, many of them several times. As a cameraman and script writer he has also worked for Belgian television and produced several natural history films. Gerald has lead Birdwatching tours to Estonia through Naturetrek and Estonian Nature Tours from 2004.
Altogether 17 people participated in the training courses which included theorethical lectures about preparation of nature trips, communication with the group and using different kinds of equipment. Nature guide training ended with a practical excursion in the field lead by participants.


 

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This newsletter is supported by EU.