Friday, 2 October 2015

Estonia in May

Estonia in May, i've made worse decisions! What a wonderful country to visit.
Quiet, unspoiled areas of countryside, an excellent network of traffic-free roads
(by English standards) and some superb birding. 

First stop Poosaspea: by the time of our visit (May 17th) the huge, spring rush
of northward-bound birds had subsided, nevertheless, we saw a wide range of
birds; Velvet and Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Eider, Goosander,
Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers and Divers that collectively, numbered in their
hundreds. Around the headland we saw Bluethroat, Ortolan Bunting, Red-backed
Shrike, Capercallie, and Common Crane.


Ortolan Bunting

For the next two nights we based ourselves in Haapsalu, where, near to the hotel
two pairs of Slavonian Grebe were on the town lake. Showing at moderate range
initially, on the second day one was fishing by the edge of the path!

Slavonian Grebe taken without zoom with mobile.

Wheatear in the town using the street lights for song-flighting

Highlights in the area included:  Montagu's Harrier, Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle
Hobby, Hawfinch, Thrush Nightingale and the general abundance of birds like
Wood and Garden Warblers, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Blue-headed Wagtails.

White Stork nest

Montagu's Harriers

White-tailed Eagle 

Moving on to the north bank of the superb, Matsalu Bay reserve, huge numbers of 
Barnacle Geese were still present with numbers exceeding 20,000 with only 7
White-fronts located. Here we encountered 15 Temminck's Stints, 3 Marsh Sand-
pipers, 400 Ruff, 1000 Scaup, Wood Sands and the first of many Rosefinches
and Wrynecks.

View from the observation platform at Puise.

Barnacle Geese 

Red-backed Shrike

Ringed Plovers and Temminck's Stints

Marsh Sandpiper

Wood Sandpipers

A distant Moose crosses a vast meadow during the afternoon!

Hooded Crow

A night on the south shore of Matsalu bay was spent before catching the
short ferry journey to Saaremaa Island. Barred Warbler was new but
surprisingly, this turned out to be the sole sighting of this species on the
trip. Serin, Hawfinch,  Rb Shrikes, Black Terns and Rosefinches all vied 
for our attention.


Barred Warbler

Wood Warbler

Hawfinches and Yellowhammer

Common Gull nesting on the ferry car park.

At this point of the trip we still hadn't seen any of the better Woodpeckers and
with Nigula still to visit we headed back. Stopping first at Puthalaid, where
Icterine Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers gave themselves away with
their songs.

Icterine Warbler

Rb Fly watching.

After a short time at Nigula, we were rewarded with brief but good views of White-
backed Woodpecker and Grey-headed too. Black was actively drumming still but
failed to show on the first morning. Later in the day we birded the coast at 
Haadeeeste and Pikla and we continued to add yet more birds to the growing list.
A group of 5 Red-necked Phalarope, Savi's Warbler, Goshawk, Bittern. 
Thousands of Goldeneye were moving off the coast.

The next day, we again visited the Nigula forest and bog with Black, Grey-headed
and White-backed Woodpeckers, Nutcracker, River Warbler, Ural Owl, Nightjar,
Lesser-spotted Eagle, Black Grouse, Corncrake, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Crane
Golden Oriole, Wryneck and many more birds seen.


Nigula Bog with poorly mantained boardwalk
This will be replaced by November 2015

Red Squirrel

Savi's Warbler at Pikla

Ural Owl

Kabli ringing station


Lesser-spotted Eagle

Black Woodpecker 

Reluctantly, we left this superbly rich area and headed to the east of the country.
Staying two nights just outside Tartu. Visiting the Great Snipe lek that evening
we failed to hear or see them. 
The birding around Ilmatsalu fish ponds was very good with Marsh, River and 
Savi's Warblers, Bluethroat, Red-necked Grebe, Osprey, Penduline Tit,
Citrine Wagatail, Sea Eagle and double-figure counts of Thrush Nightingale!
Beaver and Pine Marten were seen in the evening here too.

White Wagtail

Common Rosefinch


Pine Marten

Citrine Wagtail

Downy Emerald


Penduline Tit

River Warbler

A tip-off about a flooded field from two British birders that contained the
finest assembly of migrant waders you could hope to see in Europe.
We saw 15 Broad-billed Sand, 2 Tereks, 10 Marsh Sands, Red-necked Phals,
Wood and Green Sands, Temminck's Stint, Ruffs and a host of other
waders, 16 species in total. Besides these, 100+ Little Gull, several Black 
Tern, 3 Citrine Wagtail, Harriers and the odd fly-over Sea Eagle.
How could i ever go birding locally again!

Black Tern

Little Gulls

Broads-billed Sandpipers and a single Wood

Ruffs, Ringed Plover and Garganey

Our last destination was the Bear hide in the North-east of the country.
Not expecting much, we were amazed to see 3 Brown Bears, Racoon Dogs
and Red Fox, all within 20 yards of the hide. What a way to round off
the trip!