This is a 5 day fully-inclusive holiday with a strict focus on trying to see one of Europe’s hardest mammals, the Eurasian Lynx. Estonia is still believed to have the highest density of Eurasian Lynx in Europe. Estimates in recent years have been of around 700 – 800 animals, though more recent hunting quotas of the species have reduced this number and as a result there is a current ban on hunting whilst the population increases again. It is still a very difficult animal to see, though with perserverence, daily drives in known territories, local knowledge plus a little luck, you have probably your best chance of seeing Eurasian Lynx in Europe!
NOTE: This itinerary remains highly flexible dependent on the most recent information from researchers in relation to Lynx sightings.
Early March is mating season for the Eurasian Lynx and animals can be quite vocal and there is quite likely to be snow on the ground making tracking easier. We shall spend every morning and evening and some of the night focusing our time driving and spotlighting within known Lynx territories. We shall also spend time with researchers who will share their tracking knowledge and the habits of this fantastic animal. During the rest of the day, we shall do some birding and look for other mammals.
There are obviously no guarantees that we shall see Eurasian Lynx, but with perserverence and expert local knowledge, you have probably your best chance of seeing Eurasian Lynx in Europe!
We had a wonderful sighting on our 2015 tour during our first evening!
See Trip Report HERE
Estonian forests are renowned in Europe for their healthy populations of mammals with around many Lynx and Wolves, 500-600 Brown Bears and almost 20,000 Beavers – tremendous numbers for such a small country! An incredible sixty-four species of mammal have been recorded in Estonia including several European rarities, the most endagered examples being the European Mink, several species of Dormouse and the Flying Squirrel.
In Estonia the main prey for Lynx are rabbit, deer, rodents and birds. Roe Deer are one of the favoured prey items, though numbers of Roe Deer have declined in recent years due to exceptionally harsh winters. Due to the seemingly stable Lynx population in Estonia, a number of animals have been trapped and used to re-stock other countries. In 2012-2013 four Lynx were trapped in Estonia and translocated to North-Eastern Poland. The Polish WWF is hoping to relocate more Lynx from Estonia to the Mazuri region in an effort to re-stock their population.
Day 1: TALLINN to CENTRAL ESTONIA
After arrival into Tallin airport, we will drive to central Estonia and spend the early evening spotlighting for mammals covering the key areas that Eurasian Lynx are known to frequent. We shall be focusing our efforts in one of Estonian´s best-studied Lynx regions using the knowledge of local Lynx researchers to increase our chances. Overnight in Lodge in Central Estonia
Day 2: CENTRAL ESTONIA
It will be an early start, as once again we shall be searching areas known to be occupied by Lynx. Throughout the morning we shall be looking for tracks, specific signs, droppings and any dead prey items of the Lynx to give us a better chance of finding our target species. This region of Estonia also has a good Wolf population and it is quite likely we will find tracks, though a sighting would be lucky! At this time of year, Brown Bear are usually hibernatiing, but dependent on the weather conditions, tracks of early emerging Bears can sometimes be found.
After a lunch and a break at our guesthouse we shall explore some nearby forest where we can concentrate on our bird list whilst mammal activity is low. We shall spend time looking for Three-toed Woodpecker and White-backed Woodpecker as well as species such as Nutcracker and with luck Ural Owl and maybe Hawk Owl.
After a dinner, we shall set off for another evening spotlighting session for mammals. Once back at our accommodation, there will be the option to listen to a a talk by a research scientist working on the Eurasian Lynx monitoring programme. Overnight Central Estonia
Day 3: TRANSFER to WESTERN ESTONIA / REMAIN IN CENTRAL ESTONIA
After a final early morning spotlighting drive to maximise our chances of finding Lynx, we shall spend some time close to our accommodation which can be very good for many forest bird specialities. We shall be looking for Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, as well as between 4-5 different species of woodpecker before having a late breakfast.
After breakfast, dependent on the most recent information on Lynx sightings from our researchers, we shall either remain in Central Estonia or try our luck in Western Estonia.
We should arrive in Western Estonia in time for a late lunch and some rest before heading out later in the day. Our lodge accommodation is in the perfect location surrounded by forest and just minutes away from prime Eurasian Lynx habitat. As the light fades, we will try for Raccoon Dog and of course, we shall drive various roads and tracks until late in the evening continuing our quest for Lynx! Overnight Roosta Holiday Village
Day 4: WESTERN ESTONIA
During the next couple of days our primary focus will be taking drives early and late searching suitable Lynx habitat. This area of Estonia has yielded a number of Lynx sightings over the years and perserverance is the key! On one evening, there will also be the opportunity to visit a hide where Eurasian Lynx has been regularly recorded.
We shall also visit the Leidissoo lowland where the forest and mire habitat creates a wonderful habitat for wildlife. Early morning visits to this area can be particularly productive for Elk as well as Wild Boar, Roe Deer, Raccoon Dog, Red Fox and of course – Lynx. Beavers are also a possibility as they leave their lodges to spend a busy night felling riverside trees and saplings. A little quiet patience is required here, but with luck we may see individuals going about their construction work.
When mammal activity is low during the day, we shall visit other nearby sites good for birding We should find lekking Black Grouse, whilst other key bird species in this area include Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker and Nutcracker. The Põõsaspea Peninsula is a small north-stretching spit and is renowned as one of the best place for observing Arctic waterbird migration. Tens of hundreds of thousands of Long-Tailed Ducks, Scaup and Common Scoters can be seen during the peak of migration and though our visit will not coincide with peak migration the numbers of wildfowl are still impressive. We shall also take time to visit the Noarootsi Peninsula and Nõva forests. Here we can scan over a large area of mixed woodland, fields and agricultural landscapes to search for Hawk Owl which can often be found in this region. The atmospheric pine forests nearby hold Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker and we shall make an effort to find Ural Owl which often hunt during the afternoon before it is really dark. Overnight Roosta Holiday Village
Day 5: TRAVEL to TALLIN
Dependent on our success, we shall make one final early morning drive searching for Lynx, before travelling to Tallinn. There is also an option to extend your stay and visit a hide for mammals, including a possibility of Lynx.