Who is ENT?
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). ENT supports the yearly Young Conservationist Award through independent NGO Estonian Fund for Nature and also Sõrve Bird Station..
Another bird autumn is ending. In West-Estonia, thousands of migrating geese paused on their travels south last year, but this year they did not stay so long. September, however, brought the chance to see Cranes and during the best evenings, more than 12 000 gathered around Matsalu bay to stay overnight.
Photo: Mati Kose
From the 1st of July till 10th of November, monitoring of wildlfowl took place from Põõsaspea Cape. During the day-to-day monitoring over 2,2 million wildfowl were counted, most of them Common Scoter (790 000), Long-tailed Duck (310 000) and Barnacle Geese (165 000).
The beginning of November brought the first snowfall so the majority of the migratory birds have already left. Bewick and Whooper Swans can still be seen on the fields and bays and even a few Cranes have been spotted, however at the same time, many winter visitors have arrived – hundreds of Waxwings, Snow Buntings and Purple Sandpipers.
NB! The beginning of winter offers good opportunities to observe Owls. A low number of rodents has forced Ural Owls to hunt during the daytime. Also with few rodents to the north, Estonia can expect a bigger invasion of Hawk Owls this winter. In October Hawk Owls have already been spotted in West-Estonia! The best time to observe owls is January-February. At the same time wintering Steller’s Eiders can be seen on the coastal areas in Saaremaa.
Photo: Mati Kose
Twitchers have offered us much excitement this year. Four new species for Estonia have been found, 2 of them during last months. At the end of July, in North-West Estonia, a Greater Sandplover was seen on Haversi beach. The nearest nesting areas for this species are in Turkey. Click here and see photo...
In the beginning of October, a Long-billed Dowitcher was spotted in Matsalu National Park. These Charadriiformers from North-America do not come to Europe often. Long-billed Dowitcher is the 375th species seen in Estonia.
Click here and see photo...
In addition to these, a Sabine’s Gull was spotted in Saaremaa in the the beginning of October. This was the 3rd record for Estonia with the last record 12 years ago!
Useful links for latest observations and bird photos:
Sõrve bird station
Estbirding (club for birders and twitchers in Estonia)
Läänemaa bird club
Sabine`s Gull in Saaremaa island
Photo: Tarvo Valker
Estonian Breeding Bird Atlas
Field work for the breeding birds atlas that was started in 2004 ended this year. The new bird atlas provides distribution maps of breeding birds in Estonia based on 5 x 5km squares, which is 4 times more accurate than in the previous bird atlas. More than 400 birdwatchers collected data to help in compiling the atlas. The ten most widespread species in Estonia ( according to the registered squares) are Chafffinch, White Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Robin, Barn Swallow, Fieldfare and Skylark. Read more...
White Wagtail is one of the most widespread bird species in Estonia
Photo: Tarvo Valker
Bird of the year 2010
Estonian Ornithological Society have elected Red-backed Shrike and Great Grey Shrike as the next year’s bird of the year. It’s already 16th bird of the year.
Both Lanius species are quite frequent in Estonia, but are not well-known. Great Grey Shrike can bee seen often during mirgation or during winter when searching for food, but they are much more secretive when nesting. The number of Great Grey Shrike is around 300-600 pairs.
Great Gray Shrike
The Red-backed Shrike is, on the contrary, a more common nesting bird with around 40 000-60 000 pairs. This bird is ubiquitous, breeding in bushes in our open landscape where they sit quietly on the wires or on treetops llokking out for prey and often goes un-noticed. In Europe, the Red-backed Shrike is under EU bird directive to provide protection for this species.
The purpose of choosing the bird of the year is to introduce one of the species to a wider public. Also they try to gather information about the bird’s welfare and distribution with the help of amateur birdwatchers.
At the end of August, ENT participated for the 2nd time in the Birdfair (UK). The idea and design of the fair stand was around ESTONIA – with banners and flyers concentrating on the species and habitats most interesting for the foreign tourist. For the first time, Estonia was mentioned in the fair programme (70 000 copies) news section as an important bird and nature tourism destination.
Interest in Estonian birdwatching and nature trips is clearly growing. Last year we were newcomers, but this year visitors searched for us with concrete travel plans. Many clients who have visited Estonia (many of them have become regular customers!) encouraged their own friends and acquaintances on the spot to join our tours in the future. This is so delightful!
ENT exhibition stand at the Birdfair 2009
Besides receiving information people could listen to 2 presentations with lots of pictures on wonderful Estonian nature. Birdwatching tour leader from UK, Roy Atkins, who has visited Estonia twice through our services, made a presentation about "Estonia – a little country with a big bird list“. During the presentation, Roy talked about Estonia through his British birdwatcher’s eyes. Läänemaa Bird Club board member Tarvo Valker talked about „Estonia – a shelter of Western-Taiga Forest birds“. Tarvo spoke about Estonia as the shelter for European forest birds and mammals and demonstrated many interesting facts on comparing neighbouring countries. Approximately 200 visitors listened to those 2 presentations.
The head organizer, Tim Appleton, personally approached us and took interest in our brochures and Estonian nature. Each year the Birdfair, with the help of the revenues it creates, supports different bird protection projects all over the world. We discussed briefly the possibility of doing something in Estonia. Tim Appleton was quite positive and encouraged us to turn to the Birdlife International committee (who are the decision makers) with our ideas.
We thank all the visitors that took interest in us! In the near future, we will contact those who wished to get personal offers. See you on our tours in 2010!
Individual holiday booking
Interest in ENT birding tours is increasing all the time. More and more of our trips are filled by European tour operators and, with pleasure, we are always ready to offer specially organized trips for private groups and individual travellers as well. We can now offer individual bookings on our fully-inclusive birding holidays. International group size will be a maximum of 16 people. All you have to do is get yourself to Tallinn Airport (or Tallinn Harbor) where our local guide will meet you. Booking and deposits can be made if you click on our Tour calendar. BOOK HERE will guide you to our booking system, where it is possible to insert data and also instantly pay by credit card. Another possibility is to pay through bank transfer. Automatic invoice and confirmation will be sent to your email address. Click here and read Terms and Conditions...
Individual booking is also offered for several shorter trips (Long weekends). And, don´t forget, when you would like to travel with your friends – plan your dates, put together your group and book your own tour as soon as possible! Ask for our special price when your Group size is more than 10 people. There is a 40% discount for group leaders.
Steller´s Eider Watching
A 4-day holiday in search of flocks of Steller´s Eider in their wintering grounds and other wintering specialities of West-Estonia
The most dangered seaduck in Europe, Steller`s Eider, is good reason to visit Estonia even in the winter time. 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. Click here and see the tour itinerary...
Steller´s Eider is easily observed in their grounds in Estonia
Photo: Jari Peltomäki
NB! The beginning of winter offers good opportunities to observe Owls. A low number of rodents has forced Ural Owls to hunt during the daytime. Also with few rodents to the north, Estonia can expect a bigger invasion of Hawk Owls this winter. In October Hawk Owls have already been spotted in West-Estonia!
The best time to observe owls is January-February.
Booking and deposits can be made if you click on our Tour calendar.
NEW! Mammal Watching tours
Group size: 4/6 pax
An 8-day holiday amongst unique untouched nature with winding rivers, vast floodplains, mires, bogs and primeval forests, where we will search for mammals such as Racoon Dog, Red Fox, European Beaver, Wild Boar, Elk, Roe Deer, Flying Squirrel and Brown Bear and enjoy birdwatching as well. You have a slim chance of seeing one of the more elusive residents such as Wolf and Lynx! Even if you don´t see many of these animals, you will have plenty of fun deciphering the many mammal tracks we find along the way!
|Brown Bear tracks
Photos: Bert Rähni
Photo: Valeri Stserbatõh
Estonian forests are renowned in Europe for their rare mammals with 700-800 Lynxes, over 150 Wolves, 500-600 Brown Bears and almost 20 000 Beavers quite astonishing for such a small country. And the Flying Squirrel is the pride of Estonian forests – in Europe they can only be found in Estonia and Finland. Read more...
Booking and deposits can be made if you click on our Tour calendar. And, don´t forget, when you would like to travel with your friends – plan your dates, put together your group and book your own tour as soon as possible! There is a 10% discount for group leaders
NB! Estonian Fund For Nature has launched a donation campaign to raise money to buy necessary flying squirrel reasearch equipment. For every person joining us on our Mammal Watching tour (see above) we will make a donation of 30 Euros to this project as we feel it is extremely important to the future of this delightful animal. With the help of this research the Flying Squirrel stands a chance of increasing in numbers here which we would all surely be delighted to see.
Photo: Uudo Timm
See also Flying Squirrel video...
One of the most important and endangered type of forests in Estonia is Western Taiga. Western Taiga is a complex forest habitat type, ranging from dry pine forest (Pinus sylvestris) to damp spruce forests (Picea abies). Some stands in such forests may be quite young, having regenerated after a forest fire that may have occured over a hundred years ago while others will be significantly more mature. In all cases, natural undistributed Western Taiga – not subjected to commercial forestry – is extremely rich, providing habitats for many threatened species of lichens, bryophytes, insects and birds. The dead wood, in particular, plays a central role in maintaining this high conservation value.
Western Taiga forest in Estonia
Photo: Mati Kose
Estonian forests are renowned in Europe for their rare mammals with 700-800 Lynx, over 150 Wolves, 500-600 Brown Bears and almost 20 000 Beavers - quite astonishing for such a small country. And the Flying Squirrel is the pride of Estonian forests – in Europe they can only be found in Estonia and Finland.
Our small group tours offer you the best possible opportunity to get that dream photo.
Brown Bear Photography
Group size: max 2
Period: April – June
Price: 170 Euro per hide
Includes: overnight in the hide.
Estonian Nature Tours proudly presents the first Brown Bear feeding site in North-East Estonia, established in 2009. There is a photography hide next to a feeding place giving the opportunity to get very close shots on Brown Bears. The wooden hide is cozy, with 2 seats and vieving slots at the front and beds at the back for those who prefer not to to sit up all through the night. At the far end is a separate dry toilet (wet napkins/tissues offered by us). The surrounding atmosphere is superb for taking high quality photos – spruce forest with some fallen trees. The light conditions are good since the hide is situated at the edge of a clearing.
Estonian nature photographers have already taken several high quality photos from the hide. Four different bears have been seen on the feeding area and the chance of seeing a bear is 90 %, and sometimes even Wolf appear! Read more...
Photo: Jarek Jõepera
Group size: max 2
Period: April – June
Price: 180 Euro per person
Includes: English speaking specialist-guide, local transportation, boat-trip, mosquito nets.
We are delighted to present you a new opportunity in Estonia from the year 2010 – 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.
Photo: Remek Meel
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 may 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 Grouse and feeding Wild Boar. Read more...
White-tailed Eagle photography
Group size: max 2
Period: January – February
Price: 180 Euro per person
Includes: local transportation, accommodation & breakfast.
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. The hide is designed for a maximum of two photographers. 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 best period for White-tailed Eagle photography is in January & February.
See also online web camera...
White-tailed Eagles near feeding site
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 may be encountered, plus good numbers of arctic wildfowl like Goosander, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye from Cape Põõsaspea. And of course the first flocks of Steller’s Eiders at their wintering grounds in Saaremaa Island.
NB! We will also be offering the chance to photograph Golden Eagle, Wild Boars and lekking Black Grouses next year. More detailed information will be at our winter newsletter!
Click here and see the videos...
ENT and sustainable tourism
Co-operation plans between Estonia and Scotland
In the middle of October the annual nature tourism seminar took place in Matsalu National Park in cooperation with the organization Terra Maritima and ENT. The highlight presenter was the manager of Wild Scotland – Caroline Warburton. Wild Scotland is an organization that centralises advertising for wildlife holiday companies all over Scotland, bringing together nature tourism professionals, whose purpose is to offer high-quality wildlife watching experiences. Caroline talked about cross marketing, quality and unique products emphizising that sometimes what we who live there might consider everyday wildlife experiences can be very interesting for visitors. Also she stressed that good quality and the right pictures are crucial. Caroline was in Estonia for a very short time, although she managed to see Wild Boar when driving to her accommodation. Caroline inspired us to work more effectively and together we found that we have many similarities with Scotland in terms of bird species but also many differencies in both birds and mammals. Animals like Brown Bear, Wolf, Lynx, Wild Boar and Elk have all gone from Scotland. The nature tourism seminar was one step closer in developing networking between Estonian and Scottish nature tourism entrepreneurs.
ENT & PAN Parks
Estonian Nature Tours is applying for wilderness protection network PAN Park’s local partner status. Soomaa National Park has joined PAN Parks network of wilderness areas as it proved excellence in combining wilderness protection and sustainable tourism development. To get the PAN Parks certification the Estonian park was subject to independent international verification according to the PAN Parks Principles and Criteria, including environmental and sustainable tourism aspects. Formerly the status was given foremost to alpine and sea areas or archipelagos. But Soomaa is the first bog area granted this privelege to be one of the natural crown jewels in Europe. PAN Parks, the European wilderness protection organization, works for the protection, greater understanding and appreciation of Europe’s wilderness areas.
Winter in Soomaa
Photo: Aivar Ruukel
ENT & Study tours
This autumn, ENT has the opportunity to prove its competence in organizing international study tours and conferences. On 12-17th of October, the Baltic Sea Conference took place in Lihula. The conference was for school children and teachers with participants from 7 countries – Finland, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Germany and Estonia. In the course of the conference participants got to know West-Estonian nature and other outings plus many workshops and meetings took place. Through our services many reed-workers, environment protectors from the Netherlands, politicians and environment specialists from Sweden visited Estonia. The objective of the study tours is to exchange experience on the subjects of nature protection and environment (including on a Parliamentary level!) and to meet with local specialists, entrepreneurs and opinion leaders.