Estonia

Mammals and Birds

An 8 day trip to Estonia to look for Eurasian Lynx, Steller's Eiders, Owls and Woodpeckers

Although only a short flight from the UK, there are some very special mammals and birds in Estonia and on this new week-long tour run in association with our sister brand Limosa Holidays we plan to target many of the late winter specialities of this small eastern European nation. Our trip is timed to coincide with the mating season of the Eurasian Lynx and with the assistance of expert local trackers, we should have a great chance of seeing one of the most elusive mammals in the Europe.

We will primarily look for the Lynx on night drives (so you will need to be prepared for some late finishes on this tour!!) but these nocturnal excursions also give us opportunities to see both Ural and Eurasian Pygmy Owl.

We also hope to see Moose, Raccoon Dog and Pine Marten during our stay in the Lahemaa National Park and the possibilities also include Eurasian Three-toed, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, Nutcracker, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse.

After a four-night stay in Lahemaa, we will then head to Saaremaa Island where our main goal will be the wintering Steller´s Eiders. In the early spring, around 100-200 individuals turn up in the harbours and can often be seen at close range. With chances for White-tailed Eagle, as well as Common Crane, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black Grouse, Rough-legged Buzzard and thousands of other sea duck, this short trip is likely to be packed with many highlights!!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sat 18th March 2023

Sat 25th March 2023

  • Available

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £2295 excluding flights

Deposit: £750Single Supp: £295Group Size: 6Leaders:  Richard Webb
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What's Included?

  • WildWings/Limosa Tour Leader
  • Expert English-speaking Estonia bird guide
  • 7 nights accommodation at comfortable hotels and guesthouses
  • All main meals
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, local guides, entry fees and permits
  • All tour-based tips (local guides, drivers, hotels) and taxes
  • WildWings/Limosa checklist of mammals and birds

Cost Excludes

International flights, insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks and other items of a personal nature.

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Notes

The Land Only Tour Cost is the amount you will pay WildWings.

Despite the end of many pandemic restrictions, it is still proving extremely difficult to predict future flight prices and schedules. As a result, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.

To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.

Sacha is a highly experienced independent ATOL bonded travel agent, and his contact details are as follows: [email protected] and 01603 360099

He will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday and will be able to book these for you.

This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.

Tour Highlights

  • A speciality holiday visiting Estonia for mammals and birds
  • Four nights in the Lahemaa National Park looking for Eurasian Lynx, Moose, Raccoon Dog and Pine Marten as well as Ural and Eurasian Pygmy Owl
  • Other forest birds could include Eurasian Three-toed, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, Nutcracker, Capercaillie and Hazel Grouse
  • Two nights on Saaremaa Island where we stand a great chance of close views of Steller's Eider as well as White-tailed Eagle, Common Crane, Rough-legged Buzzard and thousands of sea ducks
  • A visit to the Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve looking for Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Hazel Hen, Black Grouse and Nutcracker
  • Led by WildWings leader Richard Webb along with local guides.

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly to Tallinn, drive to North Estonia

  • Exploring Lahemaa National Park

  • Transfer to Vilsandi National Park on Saaremaa Island

  • Birding on Saaremaa Island

  • Morning birding on Saaremaa Island. Afternoon visit to Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve

  • Morning visit to the Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve or other site(s). Afternoon fly to UK

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
tv_strura310322
Ural Owl © Tarvo Valker

Run in collaboration with our sister brand, Limosa Holidays, this new tour offers the opportunity to look for some very special mammals and birds in Estonia. Our trip is timed to coincide with the mating season of the Eurasian Lynx and with the assistance of expert trackers, we have a great chance of seeing one of the most elusive mammals in the Europe. Our local guides are very familiar with these tricky felines and during the equivalent period in 2022, they sometimes had encounters with up to four different individuals on one night!!

We will primarily look for the Lynx in the evening and after dark (so you will need to be prepared for some late finishes on this tour!!) but these nocturnal excursions also give us opportunities to see other notable mammals such as Moose, Raccoon Dog and Pine Marten and there are also good chances for both Ural and Eurasian Pygmy Owls.

During our three full days in the Lahemaa National Park we can also expect to see a wide range of Eastern European birds with the potential highlights including a trio of special woodpeckers: Eurasian Three-toed, White-backed and Black. We will also hope to find the elusive Hazel Grouse and may come across the considerably larger Capercaillie.

We will then move to Saaremaa Island where our focus will primarily be on birds and especially the impressive Steller's Eider. These smart duck winter off the coast of Estonia and in the early spring, up to a couple of hundred individuals gather in some of the harbours so we stand a great chance of some good views. There should also be good numbers of more familiar species such as Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye and both Velvet and Common Scoter but we will also spend some of our time looking for species such as Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Hazel Hen, Black Grouse, Common Crane, Rough-legged Buzzard and Nutcracker.

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Hazelhen © Tarvo Valker

Day 1 - FLY TO TALLINN, DRIVE TO LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK IN NORTH ESTONIA a

Our trip to Estonia starts with an early evening flight to Tallinn where we will meet our local guide for the c.90-minute drive to our guesthouse in the Lahemaa National Park. Overnight in guesthouse in the Lahemaa National Park

Day 2 - EXPLORING LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK

After breakfast, we will begin our exploration of the forests of the Lahemaa National Park. Those predominantly coniferous woodlands are home to a number of special birds including approximately 250 pairs of Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers. We have a great chance of also finding both Black and White-backed Woodpeckers here and another bird we will look for is the tricky and ever elusive Hazel Hen.

In the late afternoon and as the sun starts to lower in the sky, our quest for Eurasian Lynx will begin with the assistance of local trackers who are very familiar with this tricky feline. After returning to our guesthouse for dinner, we will then head out again with further opportunities to look for Lynx, as well as other mammals such as Raccoon Dog and Moose. There are also chances for both Ural and Pygmy Owls. Three further nights in guesthouse in the Lahemaa National Park

Day 3 - CONTINUE EXPLORATION OF LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK

Our routine will be similar to Day 2 with the morning focussing on forest birds. If our guides are aware where any owls are roosting we may look for these, with other possibilities we may not have seen so far including (Western) Capercaillie and Eurasian Nutcracker.

We are likely to have a short 'siesta' after lunch and will then resume our afternoon, evening and night time searches for Lynx once again benefitting from the experience of local trackers.

Day 4 - FURTHER EXPLORATION OF LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK

We are likely to start our last morning in Lahemaa National Park by exploring some coastal areas where we can expect to find some very different species. Assuming the weather is kind, we stand a chance of finding Otters with the birds likely to include the impressive White-tailed Eagle.

Once again, our afternoon, evening and night will concentrate on finding Eurasian Lynx and if we have already had some good encounters, we may try some different areas within the park for mammals and owls.

Day 5 - DEPART LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK FOR SAAREMAA ISLAND

After breakfast, we will reluctantly leave Lahemaa National Park for the drive to Saaremaa Island which should take about two hours. The ferry ride to the island takes about half an hour and this should give us our first opportunities to enjoy the impressive numbers and diversity of sea duck that winter off the coast of Estonia. Whilst we are less likely to find our principal quarry here (the black, white and orange male Steller's Eider), there should be thousands of Long-tailed Ducks, plus good numbers of Common and Velvet Scoters and Greater Scaup.

One of the options for the afternoon is a visit to the Viidumäe Nature Reserve, which is not far from our guesthouse, where we have a further chance of seeing Eurasian Pygmy Owl. Overnight in guesthouse in the Vilsandi National Park

Day 6

We plan to spend the full day birding on Saaremaa Island and are likely to visit two different sites for wintering Steller´s Eiders. Good numbers of these impressive ducks spend the winter in this part of the Baltic Sea and at this time of the year, the flocks tend to be closer to the shore and can sometimes be found less than 100 metres away.

We should also see hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks, as well as smaller numbers of Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Velvet and Common Scoters and Greater Scaup.

In the afternoon, we will head inland where we plan to explore some meadows where there are good chances to find Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Crane and Great Grey Shrike.

Day 7

Depending on our success with Steller’s Eider on day 6 we have the option of making a second visit to the Steller´s Eider wintering sites or alternatively check some coastal areas good for early spring migrants. We will head back to the mainland shortly after the lunch to explore the Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve. This gives us another opportunity to look for any species that may have eluded us earlier in the trip including Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Hazel Hen, Black Grouse and Nutcracker. Overnight in guesthouse near Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve

Day 8

We will have a final morning to conclude our birding in Estonia with a return visit to the Tuhu Bog Nature Reserve or other sites closer to Tallinn where we will concentrate our efforts on any species we may not have seen so far. By late morning, we will, however, need to be heading back towards Tallinn for our mid-afternoon flight back to the UK.

stellerseidersApr2022
Steller's Eiders © Tarvo Valker

WHAT TO EXPECT

This tour has the dual objective of looking for one of Europe's most elusive mammals, the Eurasian Lynx, plus a great range of speciality birds including Steller's Eider, Hazel Hen and a variety of woodpecker and owl species not found in the UK.

Our excursions to look for lynx will typically start in the late afternoon and will go on into the night so you should be prepared for late (to extremely late) finishes on some nights, although all nocturnal excursions are entirely optional.

The weather is likely to be cool to very cold with likely temperatures between -15C to +5C (occasionally at this time of year +10C) but when we are at, or close, to the coast, it may well feel colder due to the wind chill. There could well be lying snow.

Our tour is, however, deliberately timed for the second half of March as this is considered the best time to look for Eurasian Lynx and Steller's Eider.

ACCOMMODATION

We will stay in comfortable to good quality guesthouses and hotels throughout our stay, all of which have private facilities.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with breakfast on Day 2 and concluding with lunch on Day 8.

Breakfasts and dinners will generally be taken at the hotel. Lunches may sometimes be picnics although we may take the occasional meal at a local restaurant or cafe or return to our accommodation.

WALKING
Easy. Short walks and rarely far from our vehicle.

Comfortable walking shoes or boots with good grip which are designed for the cold and snow are recommended.

FLIGHTS

Despite the end of many pandemic restrictions, it is still proving extremely difficult to predict future flight prices and schedules. As a result, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.

To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.

Sacha will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday, and he will be able to book these for you.

This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.

GROUND TRANSPORT
By minibus.

    Tour Gallery

    View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption

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