Tour Dates: Saturday 29th April – Friday 5th May 2023 (Tallin to Tallin)
Tour Price: £1,675pp 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: 6 people
Birds: Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Steller’s Eider, Hazel Grouse, Great Snipe, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Corncrake, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Bluethroat, Thrush Nightingale, River Warbler, Citrine Wagtail and more!
Mammals: Brown Bear, Eurasian Elk, Racoon Dog, Ringed Seal
Estonia is a great country with a great feeling of vast open space and wildlife. Thanks to its geographical location and long coastline, this small country is a great hotspot to witness some of the most impressive wildfowl migration in Europe as thousands of waterfowl make their journey to their artic tundra breeding grounds. The timing of this tour should give us an excellent chance to see thousands of birds passing close inshore.
Estonia is also a fantastic place to see many other quality species in Spring. These include exciting species such as White-backed Woodpecker, lekking Great Snipe, the shy Hazel Hen and the scarce Lesser Spotted Eagle.
This tour is the perfect choice if you want to witness great visible migration at its best in combination with some quality birding and an excellent chance to see the mighty Brown Bear with two nights in a purpose built bear hide!
ACCOMMODATION: 6 nights in Estonia
2 nights Hiiumaa Island, 2 nights Soomaa National Park and 2 nights in a Bear Hide / Hotel to rest.
Meals: Full board
DAY 1: Arrive Tallinn and travel to Hiiumaa island
After arriving at Tallinn airport we will take a one hour drive to the harbour and take the ferry to reach Estonia’s second largest island, Hiiumaa Island. During the 1.5 hour ferry crossing we are sure to see a good variety of seaduck, including rafts of Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck. We will also be looking out for our first White-tailed Eagles and Caspian Terns. If the sea is calm, there is also a chance of seeing Ringed Seals as we approach the island.
In the evening we will get settled at the Cape Point for our first seawatching session. The timing of our trip is during the peak passage of arctic wildfowl. Typical evening and morning sessions at the Cape often produce the incredible sight of tens of thousands of migrating seaduck.
Overnight Hiiumaa island
DAY 2: Hiiumaa island
We will take coffee and tea with us and head back to the Cape for an early morning seawtaching session. If the conditions are good, we should witness tens of thousands of Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks passing the point. Other less numerous seaduck, divers and grebes are often mixed in with the commoner Scoter and Long-tailed Duck flocks too. With luck we may even encounter the last flocks of the Steller’s Eiders moving and we should be on high alert for something rarer like White-billed Diver!
Our accommodation is only 10 minutes from the Cape, so we will return for a good breakfast as the migration slows. Later in the morning and throughout the day we will be check the bushes on the meadow for migrant passerines. We should find good numbers of Whinchat, Pied Flycatcher, Common Rosefinch, Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Whitethroat and Wryneck during our visit.
After some time to rest after lunch, we will then explore some other areas of the island for passerines or more seawtaching dependent on how we have done during the day. Overnight Hiiumaa Island
DAY 3: Hiiumaa Island – Matsalu NP and Soomaa National Park
After a final short morning session at the Cape, we will then travel back to mainland. Our first stop will be made at the bird rich Matsalu National Park where we can see several arctic waders in stunning breeding plumage. Temminck´s Stint, Red Knot, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Bar-tailed Godwit are to be expected and a careful check of the bushes should be rewarded with some speciality warblers that may include Blyth’s Reed and Barred Warbler. A careful scan of the huge flocks of Barnacle Geese might produce the very smart looking Red-breasted Goose; a species which occurs annually.
After lunch at the national park we will head towards Pärnu in South West Estonia. We will check several woodland areas to improve our growing list of species with an excellent chance of White-backed Woodpecker.
By the evening the woodland near our hotel would produce roding Woodcock, displaying Green Sandpiper, trumpeting Cranes, Nightjars and with luck, Eurasian Pygmy or Ural Owl. Overnight near Soomaa NP
DAY 4: Soomaa National Park
This morning we will take a packed breakfast with us and head to Soomaa National Park to try for any missing woodpecker species. Aside from White-backed Woodpecker, we should also find Black, Grey-headed and possibly even Three-toed Woodpecker. The national park is also an excellent place for Capercaillies on the forests tracks. The wet woodland areas at Soomaa hold numerous singing Wood Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers too.
Later in the day we will scan the marshland along the river where we will look for Lesser Spotted Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier and maybe Black Stork.
In the evening we will explore the national park to try for both Pygmy and Ural Owl as well as our target species, the Great Snipe. This is the perfect time of year to see these rare snipe lekking against the backdrop of singing Corncrake, Thrush Nightingale and River Warbler!
DAY 5: Pärnu to Alutaguse – Brown Bear Hide
This morning we will visit Audru Polder near Pärnu. This is another superb wetland area with many speciality breeding birds such as Penduline Tit, Citrine Wagtail and Savi’s Warbler. It is also likely that we will see hundreds of Little Gulls as they gather to catch flying insects on migration. Later in the morning we will then travel for a few hours to the Northeast of Estonia. This region is home to about half of Estonia’s 700 Brown Bears. By spending a night in a hide the chances of seeing bears at this time of year are very good and with two nights, we should be successful. Besides Brown Bear we may also Raccoon Dog from the hide as well as Eurasian Elk and Wild Boar.
The hides are simple but comfortable and cosy. There are two hides, each with room for 9 people and both will be reserved for our group. Both hides have separate cabins with bunk beds and a dry toilet. We will also have our hotel in nearby Rakvere to rest after our night. Overnight Bear hide/ Rakvere Hotel
Day 6 Alutaguse Brown Bear Hide
We will leave the Bear Hide by mid-morning and then travel a short distance to our hotel for a late breakfast and some rest. During the late afternoon we will do some more forest birding for this that wish to before returning to the Bear hide again in the early evening. Overnight Bear hide / Rakvere Hotel
Day 7: Return to Tallin
After leaving the Bear hide, we will again return to the hotel for showers and breakfast before slowly making our journey back to Tallinn. Depending of the flight times we may make few birding stops 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
Leaders: Tarvo Valker & Wise Birding leader
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: Minibus throughout
Walking is easy going with short leisurely walks on open trails.
Climate: Unpredictable! Be prepared for some colder temperatures, particularly when on the coast early morning and late evening. Rain is possible, but temperatures during the day may reach 16 – 20°C.
Tour Start Point: Tallin airport, Estonia
Tour End Point: Tallin airport, Estonia
Suggested Airlines: Easyjet or Finnair via Helsinki