Monday 3 March 2014

ESTONIA - Mainland

We left Saaremaa Island behind us and then travelled to the mainland where we spent 2 nights not far from Haapsalu in NW Estonia, before heading to Tallinn for our final night.

The clear highlight of our time in this part of Estonia was a day with Tarvo Valker, local birder and all round nice guy! We spent a full day with him and visited some excellent forest areas and coast that he clearly knew very well. The undoubted highlight for me was a superb Hawk Owl that performed admirably!
Although an exceptionally good year for Hawk Owls this year, it is a regular winter visitor to Estonia and it is expected at this time of year.
We also spent a lot of time looking for and talking about Eurasian Lynx and although unsuccessful, it felt very possible that an animal could appear at any moment as the habitat we visited was just great for Eurasian Lynx as well as having plenty of prey, Roe Deer. Tarvo has seen Eurasian Lynx on a number of occasions and certainly has an excellent idea as to where the best chances of finding one are. Hence, I shall be using him along with Estonian Nature Tours for a trip specifically looking for Eurasian Lynx next year!

This superb Hawk Owl is a good reason to visit Estonia in late winter

Other highlights from our day with Tarvo included:

2 Parrot Crossbill
1 Hazel Grouse
13 Black Grouse
1 Capercaillie
1 White-backed Woodpecker
1 Black Woodpecker
4 Nutctcracker
7 Elk 
1 Racoon Dog
1 Mountain Hare

Black Grouse with wind turbine in background!

White-backed Woodpecker, seemingly missing a tail!

Presumed Baltic Herring Gull showing some similarities to Caspian Gull

Tallinn Town Hall Square

Helen in Tallinn with St Olaf's Church in the background, built in th 12th century
So to sum up my thoughts on Estonia.
A wonderful country with endless forest and very, very few people.
Late February is a great time to visit if you want to see the spectacle of huge flocks of Steller's Eider as well as key Owls and Woodpeckers - if we had a little more time, we would have probably also seen Three-toed Woodpecker and Ural Owl as well as Tengmalm's Owl. It is also one of the best times to look for Eurasian Lynx with a nice supporting cast of other mammals that are much easier to see such as Elk and Racoon Dog.
I cannot wait to return next year! For more info on next year's trip CLICK HERE

Summary of key species in just 4 days:
Steller's Eider - 300+
Long-tailed Duck - 1,000+
Goldeneye - 400+
Greater Scaup - 150+
Velvet Scoter - 3
Goosander - 60+
Whooper Swan - 3
White-tailed Eagle - 14+
Great Grey Shrike - 5+
Nutcracker - 5

White-backed Woodpecker - 1
Black Woodpecker - 2
Hawk Owl - 1
Eurasian Pygmy Owl - 1

Hazel Grouse - 1
Black Grouse - 13
Capercaillie - 5 (4 on the 27th)
Willow Tit - 7+
Snow Bunting - 1
Parrot Crossbill - 2

Racoon Dog - 3
Mountain Hare - 3
Elk - 8+
Red Fox - 1

Red Deer - 8+
Roe Deer - 12+


  1. Fantastic set,look's like a great trip,worth considering.