Estonia ........ 8th to 13th April 2019

Steller's Eiders, Woodpeckers & Owls

Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
This exciting new tour takes you to the most rewarding areas to watch birds in Estonia. Few places in Europe can match Estonia’s amazing birdlife at any time of year. Saaremaa Island is one of the most important wintering areas in Europe for Steller’s Eiders. This superb sea duck is present throughout winter – up to 1,000 birds are present. At the time of our visit there will also be thousands of waterfowl present, including large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks, Goldeneyes and Goosanders. There should also be divers and White-tailed Eagles present. Although Steller’s Eider is perhaps a target species, there will be many other avian gems on offer, in particular woodpeckers and owls. Our itinerary will cover a range of habitats including close scrutiny of woodland areas to seek out Ural, Pygmy & Tengmalm’s Owls, White-backed, Black, & Three-toed Woodpeckers, Hazel Grouse, Spotted Nutcracker and Great Grey Shrike. Join an Avian Adventure and experience just how good birding Estonia is!

White-tailed Eagle
Days 1 & 2: Flight from UK to Tallinn. Then drive to Virtsu and take the ferry to Saaremaa Island. We’ll concentrate on seeing Estonia’s wintering flocks of Steller’s Eiders. There will of course be other species on offer: sea ducks, divers, Rough-legged Buzzard, Tengmalm’s & Pygmy Owls and Spotted Nutcracker.
Overnights - Saaremaa Island

Days 3: After breakfast and scoping Steller's again we will return to the mainland. Depending on winter severity and weather in spring the Suur Väin Strait can be covered with ice, or host large flocks of seaducks. At 10:30am we arrive at Virtsu Harbour and drive to Roosta. After check-in our itinerary takes us to the most north-easterly point, the Põõsaspea. This small north-stretching spit is situating at the migratory crossroad, where every spring and autumn masses of waterbirds coming from Bothnian and the Finnish Bays meet. This is one of the best place for observing the Arctic waterbird migration. Even, in winter, this area usually remains unfrozen and holds flocks of different waterbirds – thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, Goldeneyes, Goosanders and often White-tailed Eagles nearby. Atmospheric pine forests nearby hold Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Goldcrest, Hazel Grouse and Black Woodpecker. In the afternoon we will go for an owling session before we have our evening meal.
Overnight – Roosta

White-backed Woodpecker
Day 4: Today we will visit the heathland forest environment in the early morning. We hope to hear Pygmy Owl or even see Ural Owl hunting for small mammals at the forest edge whilst other attractions in this area include Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse and some interesting woodpeckers.
We will visit also Noarootsi peninsula where we scan over the area of mixture woodlands, fields and agricultural landscapes to search the Hawk Owl.
We will move to central Estonia later in the afternoon.
Overnight – Vanaõue Guesthouse

Day 5: Early morning takes us to the Soomaa National Park in southwestern Estonia. With the territory of 390 km2, Soomaa is our second biggest national park and one of the biggest nature protection areas in general.
Black Woodpecker
The national park is created to protect raised bogs, floodplains and paludifield forests. The territory of natural park is mostly covered with large mires, separated from each other by the rivers. The natural woodlands mixed with swamps and rivers, makes it perfect habitat for many Western Taiga forest specialities. With the great network of hiking trails, Soomaa is really enjoyable birding place for any nature lover. Early morning we will be looking for Capercaillies. As Soomaa NP has one of the strongholds for this endangered species, Capercaillie hens are fairly often found at the roadside when they pick gravel. With some luck one can spot males nearby trees or sometimes even lekking on the road. As the sunrise continues we will take few forest walks to search for Woodpeckers. Soomaa National Park is probably the best place to spot Grey-headed Woodpeckers, while Black and White-backed Woodpeckers are also regularly spotted. The same forests are also perfect habitat for another gamebird – Hazel Grouse. After refreshing lunch and some rest, late evening will be spent to look for the Owls. Pygmy and Ural Owl has both good breeding population here. Beside birds it is also worth to keep your eyes open for the mammals. Early morning drives are good to spot Elks, while night drives usually provide sightnings of Raccoon Dogs.
Overnight – Vanaõue Guesthouse

Day 6: We will return to Tallinn by late morning and have a pleasant guided tour of Tallinn Old Town. Tallinn was made a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1997 due to the medieval city centre, the finest in northern Europe, with cobbled streets & buildings that date back to the 15th century. We have some free time for shopping before we will drive to the Airport to catch our return flight to the UK.

Tour ref: AA1902

Tour Cost: £1,390
Deposit: £300
Single Room Supplement: £135

Leaders: Tarvo Valker & Neil Glenn

Max. Group: 12 plus 2 Leaders

Economy Class return flights (UK-Tallinn-UK), accommodation based on twin occupancy,
meals, transportation in Estonia and services of leaders.

Travel insurance, drinks and items of a personal nature.