Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Some early starts and late finishes on this tour and expect biting insects. Walking is generally easy and on flat terrain

Group Size:

Ten plus leaders

Hazel Grouse Three-toed Woodpecker Icterine Warbler Blyth's Reed Warbler Red-breasted Flycatcher Red-backed Shrike Barred Warbler

Estonia - Midsummer in the Baltic

Date: 9th - 16th June 2020 (SPACES)
Leaders: Paul Roberts and Margus Ellermaa



Fly London Gatwick-Tallinn and drive to the northern shore of Matsalu Bay . We arrive quite late in the evening, so dinner will be a snack in a service area en route. Overnight Haapsalu.
Today we will reach the Matsalu National Park which is the oldest Ramsar area in Estonia. Matsalu is much more than just an avian motorway service station and among the 170 breeding birds recorded from the reserve are species such as Red-necked Grebe, Bittern, Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern. We will explore a variety of Põgari-Sassi coastal habitats and visit Haeska watching tower. The record for the highest day list of bird species in Northern Europe was achieved in this region – more than 100 species by nightfall.
We will also climb Rannajõe and Kloostri observation towers to scan over the marshes where White-tailed Eagles roam and the bushes and waterside vegetation resonate to the songs of Marsh Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Thrush NIghtingale and River Warbler. On the coast at Puise, the juniper scrub hosts a few breeding pairs of Barred Warblers, and we will make a special effort to try and see this superb sylvia. Overnight Haapsalu. 
Today we will travel out in the early morning to enjoy wetlands and heathland forest environment. We hope to see some of the regions Black Grouse, which still have a very healthy population here. They share open bogs and fields among the forest, with groups of Common Cranes tending feldged young, and small numbers of Golden Plover and Whimbrel. Other attractions in this area include Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Wryneck, and some interesting woodpeckers, plus the chance to see breeding Green Sandpipers in some of the smaller forest bog pools. We will continue our birding at Põõsaspea peninsula. This small north-stretching spit is situated at the migratory crossroads where masses of waterbirds coming from the Bothnian and the Finnish Bays meet. This is one of the best places to observe Arctic waterbird migration. We visit a little later in the year than the peak migration period, but small numbers of wildfowl may still be seen here.
After a lovely lunch at the local Fish Café, we will move to central Estonia. Dinner at the guesthouse (Vanaõue Holiday Center).
Early morning takes us to the Soomaa National Park in southwestern Estonia. Here, we should start early to see Ural Owl in a morning light and 4-6 different species of woodpeckers and Capercaillie etc. 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 on the road, though any sighting requires a large slice of luck! 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 both have good breeding population here. River Warbler and Thrush Nightingale also sing more widely at dusk, and we should see plenty of roding Woodcocks and maybe a Nightjar or two. Beside birds it is also worth to keep your eyes open for the mammals - Elk and Raccoon Dog being most likely. Overnight Vanaõue Holiday Center. 
DAY FIVE                                                                             
Whether or not we were in luck a day before, we still travel out in the morning in order to experience the spring calling of resident Black, Grey-headed, Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers as well as listen for the calls of Hazel Grouse. It is always fantastic to watch (and hear) the forest come alive with the first rays of the morning sun. Forest tits, Crossbills and other passerines are at their most active, restlessly flitting about in search of food. We visit a raised bog area, where Wood Sandpiper and Golden Plover breed, and we may be lucky to find a Great Grey Shrike. Whinchat, Hobby and Tree Pipit will certainly be likely, and maybe we will also chance on a Goshawk or Honey Buzzard in the area. After taking a rest at the guesthouse and a lunch we move to Tartu region where we will drive to the vast expanses of wetlands near Aardla. We will also check out some spots for Booted Warbler en route, which is a scarce but regular breeder in dry habitats with scattered bushes. Overnight Mooste Viinavabrik Guesthouse. 
DAY SIX                                                    
Today we will travel out in the early morning and enjoy birdwatching in one of the oldest protected areas in Estonia, Järvselja forest, to see selection of woodpeckers as well as Nutcracker, Pygmy Owl and other forest bird species. Although the size of the primeval forest area of Järvselja is not remarkable it still has significant value. In 1924 it was decided to maintain a part of the intact forest area as a sample of virgin forest. Within a small area the diversity of the woodland is very high. In the southeastern part the most impressive trees grow. They include up to 40 m-high and over 200 years-old giant spruces. Also some huge birches, aspens, lindens, ashes and maples can be seen here. In some places moving around is complicated due to the debris and old tree trunks lying on the ground, therefore a special wooden track has been constructed in the primeval forest quarter. Red-breasted Flycatcher and Greenish Warbler are likely here, and Icterine Warblers sing from any areas of larger trees in parkalnd habitats. After a rest at the guesthouse and lunch we will go for a birding to the surroundings of Räpina, to search for waterbirds. Dinner at the guesthouse (Mooste Viinavabrik Guesthouse).
We will rise early again this morning and head to the wetlands on the Russian border - an area with lakes and ponds which usually holds a good selection of water birds and we will be hoping for a few surprises. We will hope to find a wonderful diversity of species including Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Penduline Tit, Black Tern, Golden Oriole and Great Reed Warbler, plus more chances for White-backed Woodpecker. We will explore one of the parks in the area, to try and connect with Middle Spotted Woodpecker, plus a supporting cast of Marsh Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Icterine Warbler and the northern races of Treecreeper and Nuthatch. After lunch, we have some downtime after a busy few days, and then recovene for dinner. Afterwards, we can then make use of the daylight hours for a stroll around the grounds - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is often present, and Spotted Flycatcher is common. We overlook a small lake and reedbed, which hosts both Grasshopper and Savi's Warblers. Overnight Mooste Viinavabrik Guesthouse.
This mornign we have a relaxed time after the last few days exertions. We will have time after breakfast to maybe try and catch up with any missed species, or try again for Booted Warbler on our way north to Tallinn. The drive back to the capital takes around three hours, and we aim to be there around 2pm for a late lunch in the old town. Afterwards, we meet with a city guide for guided tour of the old town area - 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 the homeward flight late evening.



Additional Information



Return economy class flights London/Tallinn with specified luggage allowance, six nights en suite accommodation of a good standard, all meals from dinner on day one to breakfast on day seven, boat trip, services of leaders, ground transport in Estonia and reserve entrance fees.



Travel insurance, drinks, gratuities and any items of a purely personal nature. Lunches on days one and seven are not inlcuded in your tour cost.



Estonia generally experineces warm, sunny days in June, but evenings/nights can be much cooler and of course rain is possible at any time. 



Visas are not required by UK nationals. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 



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