Monday 5th - Friday 9th March 2018ESTONIA - STELLER'S EIDER AND WOODPECKER BREAK
Few places in Europe can match Estonia for the diverse range of species that occur. Our main target will be Steller's Eider, Europe's most endangered seaduck. Large numbers can be found during the winter off Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island.
Late winter is also a great time to see Hawk and Ural Owls, uncommon but regular winter visitors to the country, plus woodpeckers which begin to display in the vast woodlands. With luck we can expect to see Black, White-backed, Grey-headed and Lesser Spotted plus Bohemian Waxwing, Spotted Nutcracker and Great Grey Shrike.
Tour Leaders: Kaarel Vohandu & Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 14
We take our flight from either London Stansted or Gatwick to the beautiful capital city of Tallinn and make our way to our hotel via a 30 minute ferry journey to the island of Muhu and then a bridge crossing onto the island of Saaremaa. Our hotel is situated in the heart of the Vilsandi National Park and is renowned for its excellent food!
After a good breakfast we head to the northwest corner of Saaremaa at Cape Undva. Uudepanga Bay hosts up to 1000 Steller's Eiders each winter although most years we can expect to see between 300 and 600. Birds form dense flocks and they dive synchronously which is a wonderful sight. Other seaducks such as Long-tailed Duck, Smew, Greater Scaup and Velvet Scoter should also be in the area, plus divers and Purple Sandpiper.
Due to biogeographic reasons, Saaremaa lacks the rarer woodpeckers and owl species, but we can expect to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Great Grey Shrike and Rough-legged Buzzard. After lunch at the guesthouse we will go for an owling session and if we are fortunate, we will hear and hopefully see Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls in Viidumae nature reserve.
After breakfast we will head back to the mainland and depending on the severity of the winter, the Suur Väin Strait can be covered in ice which in daylight makes an amazing sight. Our journey will take us to Põõsaspea, the most northeasterly point in Estonia. The north-stretching spit is situated on the migratory crossroads where masses of water birds migrate from the Bothnian and Finnish bays. This is one of the best places for watching seaduck, as even in winter it doesn’t usually freeze. Thousands of Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser occur with plenty of White-tailed Eagles nearby.
The atmospheric pine forests nearby hold Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker and after lunch we will head out for another owling session and a chance to see mammals such as Raccoon Dog, Elk and European Lynx amongst others.
Overnight: Roosta Puhkeküla
We will spend the early morning birding in the mixed heathland and forest where we hope to see both Pygmy, Hawk and Ural Owls hunting for small mammals at the forest edges whilst other attractions include Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse and woodpeckers such as White-backed and Grey-headed.
After an enjoyable lunch in Haapsalu town we will take a walk along the promenade and visit one of the many birdwatching towers where we will get fantastic views from the top. The vast wetlands are home to many White-tailed Eagles plus both Tundra and Whooper Swans.
In the afternoon we will reach the famous Matsalu National Park which is the oldest RAMSAR site in Estonia. This is Estonia's most famous wetland and one that is international important in the breeding and migration season. At over 40 square kilometres, this reserve consists of large open flood plains and coastal meadows, riparian and coastal woodlands, river deltas and marshlands. The vast shallow Matsalu Bay with 3000 hectares of reedbeds, numerous islands and seven birdwatching towers offers the chance to see large numbers of Tundra and Whooper Swans, plus thousands of Taiga Bean, Barnacle, Greylag and Eurasian White-fronted Geese which feed in the local meadows and fields.
At the end of the day we will enjoy a fantastic evening meal in Haeska before returning to our guesthouse.
Overnight: Roosta Puhkeküla
We will reach Tallinn late morning after several birding stops along the way. The afternoon will be spent in Tallinn Old Town. Tallinn was made an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 due to the medieval city centre, the finest in Northern Europe with cobbled streets and buildings that date back to the 15th century.
Early evening, we will catch our flight back to the UK after a superb birding break!
Flights from London Stansted/London Gatwick to Tallinn
Full board accommodation for 4 nights
All ground transport in Estonia
Full guiding services
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day one
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day
Expect between 60 and 80 species
Ground Price: £1000
*Air Price: £150
Total Tour Price: £1150
Single Supplement: £140
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs