Steller’s Eider by Tarvo Valker

Tour Dates: Thursday 22nd – Sunday 25th February 2024 (Tallin to Tallin) 
Tour Price: £825pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Tallin approx. £200 return
Deposit: £350 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people

Target Species
Steller’s Eider, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse

Tour Summary
This tour is specifically designed as a short break to see the wintering flocks of Steller’s Eiders that congregate off the Estonian island of Saaremaa. Numbers vary each winter but generally you can expect a minimum of 300 birds and as many as 1,000 birds. Of course, during the winter months the diversity of species will be low but the quality of species is excellent. We should see a good selection of other seaduck, Sea Eagles and a good chance of Eurasian Pygmy Owl. We also spend a night on the mainland near Sooma NP where we will search for Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse as well as woodpeckers and with luck, the hugely impressive Ural Owl!

ACCOMMODATION: 3 nights in Estonia
2 nights in a manor guesthouse on Saaremaa Island and 1 night at a hotel in Pärnu.
Meals: Full board

Previous Trip Reports

DAY 1: Tallin – Saaremaa Island
On arrival at Tallinn Airport we will 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. Depending on the severity of the winter, the Suur Väin Strait which we cross on the ferry can be covered with ice, or host large flocks of seaducks. If the sea is open we will be looking out for flocks of Long-tailed Ducks and Greater Scaup. We will then travel to the west side of the island where if the weather is suitable we will try for Eurasian Pygmy Owl. Overnight Loona Manor

Day 2: Saaremaa Island
Today our main target will be the wonderful Steller’s Eider so we will travel to the north-western tip of Saaremaa Island. The hot spot for Steller’s Eider is located close to Cape Undvao where we hope to find the dense feeding flocks where their synchronised diving is a real spectacle! Other species we hope to find include flocks of Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck as well as White-tailed Eagle and maybe Bohemian Waxwing. We also have chances of divers and waders including Purple Sandpiper. After lunch we will explore the island further and try and find Great Grey Shrike with chances of Rough-legged Buzzard and Nutcracker. As evening approaches we will again try for Eurasian Pygmy Owl. Overnight Lonna Manor

Capercaillie by Chris Townend

DAY 3: Return to mainland – Sooma NP
After breakfast we will return to the mainland. Once back at Virtsu Harbour we will then drive to Sooma National Park. This park is located in central Estonia and has very good quality forest. Woodpeckers, particularly White-backed and Grey-headed, Hazel Grouse and Capercaillie will be our main focus. Then once again during the early evening we will try for owls with good possibilities of both Ural and Pygmy Owl dependent on the weather. Overnight Pärnu Hotel

DAY 4: Pärnu Forests – Tallin
We will just have time for some pre-breakfast birding for those that wish to before we drive to Tallin airport where the tour concludes. If our flight time allows we may also have time for some birding en route.

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

Leader: Tarvo Valker
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leader
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £80
Transport: Minivan or Minibus dependent on group size
Difficulty: Easy, though be prepared for snow and ice
The walking throughout the tour is easy going with leisurely walks on open trails. However, 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

Long-tailed Ducks, Saaremaa Island by Chris Townend