Eurasian Lynx, Estonia by Tarvo Valker

Tour Dates: Saturday 14th – Thursday 19th March 2020 (Tallin to Tallin) 
Tour Price: £1,499pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Tallin approx. £150 return
Deposit: £400 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 4 people

Target Species
Mammals: Eurasian Lynx, Eurasian Elk, Racoon Dog, Red Fox, Roe Deer, Wild Boar

Tour Summary
This tour has a strict focus on trying to see one of Europe’s hardest mammals, the Eurasian Lynx. Our local guide Tarvo is probably one of the most experienced Estonian guides when it comes for looking for Lynx and he has seen animals on numerous occasions. Much of this is due to his own passion and interest as well as many long hours in the field, speaking with local people and monitoring trail cameras in order to understand more about the habits of these highly elusive animals. We will also be using a professional tracker who has worked with Tarvo previously and been successful in finding Lynx, so with these two special people, we are well prepared! Of course, it still remains a notoriously difficult animal to see and there are no guarantees we will be successful, but with perseverance, regular night drives in known territories and essential local knowledge plus a little luck, we have a great chance!

Early March is mating season for the Eurasian Lynx and animals are often vocal. There is also quite likely to be snow on the ground making tracking easier. We will spend every morning and evening and much of the night focusing our time driving and spotlighting within known Lynx territories.

Estonia is still believed to have the highest density of Eurasian Lynx in Europe. Estimates in recent years have been been around 700 – 800 animals, though legal hunting still takes place in Estonia and it is difficult to get accurate data. However, recent bans on hunting have taken place to allow the population to increase again and numbers are believed to be stable.
We had a wonderful sighting on our 2015 tour during our first evening!

See Trip Report link below.

ACCOMMODATION: 5 nights in Estonia
A mix of good quality hotel and forest lodge
3 nights Lahemaa NP and 2 nights Roosta
Meals: Full board

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Arrival Tallin – Lahemaa National Park
After arriving at Tallin airport, we will drive east towards Lahemaa National Park where we will spend the early evening and much of the night spotlighting in areas that Eurasian Lynx are known to frequent. We will be focusing our efforts in one of Estonia’s best-studied Lynx regions using the knowledge of local Lynx researchers to increase our chances. Overnight near Lahemaa

DAYS 2 – 3: Lahemaa National Park
It will be an early start, as once again we search areas known to be occupied by Lynx. Throughout the morning we will look 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 Bears are usually hibernating, but dependent on the weather conditions, tracks of early emerging Bears can sometimes be found.

After a lunch and a break at our accommodation we will explore some nearby forest where we can take time for some optional birding whilst mammal activity is low. We may get lucky with Three-toed Woodpecker and White-backed Woodpecker as well as other species such as Nutcracker. After a dinner, we will set off for another evening spotlighting session for mammals. Overnight near Lahemaa

Eurasian Elk, Estonia by Chris Townend

DAY 4: Western Estonia – Roosta
After a final early morning spotlighting session to maximise our chances of finding Lynx, we will then spend some time close to our accommodation which can be very good for forest bird specialities. We will look for Black Grouse, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse. After breakfast, dependent on the most recent Lynx information from our tracker, we will 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 5: Western Estonia – Roosta
Once again 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! We will 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.

When mammal activity is low during the day, we will visit other nearby sites good for birding. Areas of mixed woodland, fields and agricultural landscapes are ideal 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. Dependent on our success with Lynx, we may have time to try and find Ural Owl which often hunt during the afternoon before it is really dark. Overnight Roosta Holiday Village

DAY 6: Roosta – Tallin
Dependent on our success, we shall make one final early morning drive searching for Lynx, before travelling to Tallin airport where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Chris Townend & Tarvo Valker
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £100
Transport: Minivan or Minibus dependent on group size
Difficulty: Easy, though be prepared for snow and ice
The walking is easy going with short leisurely walks on open trails. Though snow and ice are likely to make walking more difficult.
Climate: Very cold with sub zero temperatures expected.
Tour Start Point: Tallin airport, Estonia
Tour End Point: Tallin airport, Estonia
Suggested Airlines: Easyjet

Lynx habitat in Estonia by Chris Townend