This is a 3 night holiday in search of in search of Estonia’s wintering specialities, focusing in particular on Woodpeckers, Owls, Grouse and the star target bird, the beautiful Steller´s Eider.
Visiting at this time of year, although too early for summer breeders and migrants, it is a great time to see flocks of Steller’s Eiders in their hundreds as well as a perfect time for Owls and Woodpeckers before they become more elusive later in the year.
Few places in Europe can match Estonia’s amazing birdlife at almost any time of year, but in late winter, it is the best time to see Europe’s most endangered seaduck, the beautiful Steller’s Eider and we spend 2 nights on Saaremaa Island, where these ducks winter. With a night on the mainland we shall explore Estonia’s vast Western Taiga Forests looking for the key specialities of the region. This is a great time for Hawk Owl, an uncommon but regular winter visitor in Estonia as well as the mighty Ural Owl, Estonia’s commonest owl! Add to this the chance of Black and White-backed Woodpecker as well as Nutcracker, Great Grey Shrike and Eurasian Pygmy Owl and it all makes for an exciting short break!
See a couple of videos from our 2014 and 2015 visits:
Tallin to Saaremaa Island
On arrival at Tallinn Airport we shall travel around 160Km to Virtsu where we take the early evening ferry to Muhu Island. This takes just 30 minutes and then we cross by bridge to Saaremaa Island. We shall then travel to the west side of the island and enjoy our first evening meal at the very homely Loona Manor Guesthouse or Pilguse Resort.
Today our main target will be the wonderful Steller’s Eider. To see dense flocks of these magnificent birds we have to 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 Seller’s Eiders each winter, though often numbers are between 300 and 600. Birds form dense flocks where their synchronised diving will no doubt keep us happy! Other ducks such as Greater Scaup, Smew or Long-tailed Duck should also be in the near vicinity as well as a chance of divers and waders including Purple Sandpiper. Because of biogeographic reasons Saaremaa Island lacks the rarer woodpecker and owl species, but we will try for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nutcracker, Great Grey Shrike and Rough-legged Buzzard. 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 Pygmy Owl in Viidumäe Nature Reserve. Overnight Loona Manor Guesthouse or Pilguse Resort.
NW Estonia – Põõsaspea and Nõva
After breakfast we will return to the mainland. Depending on the severity of the winter, the Suur Väin Strait which we cross on the ferry (this time in daylight) can be covered with ice, or host large flocks of seaducks. Once back at Virtsu Harbour we shall then drive to Roosta. After checking in to our comfortable accommodation, we shall travel to the most north-easterly point, the Põõsaspea. This small north-stretching spit is situated at the migratory crossroad, where every spring and autumn masses of waterbirds congregate where the Bothnian and Finnish Bays meet. This is one of the best place for observing the Arctic waterbird migration. Even, in winter, this area usually remains unfrozen and holds flocks of different waterbirds – thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, Goldeneyes, Goosanders and often White-tailed Eagles nearby. Atmospheric pine forests nearby hold Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker. After lunch at the local restaurant, we will go for an owling session. Ural Owl often hunt during the afternoon before it is really dark. If rodent numbers further north are low, this region of Estonia can also expect higher numbers of Hawk Owls. Overnight Roosta Holiday Village.
Morning birding and then return to Tallin
If flight times allow, we will spend our last morning targeting any species that we are missing before we have to return to Tallin airport where the tour shall end.