Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Estonia in Spring

Migration along the Baltic Sea

2016 Narrative

The thought of watching Arctic migration whilst wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses wasn’t one that crossed my mind prior to this tour, but that’s exactly what we did! In fact with almost everything we did we were treated to beautiful blue skies and windless days. And if we were concerned that the nice weather might be too nice for seawatching we needn’t have been…as on our first morning we saw over 1000 divers. Loose groups above and below the horizon and sometimes right above our heads, absolutely brilliant. At the same time we could hear displaying Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters, had to duck when the Mute Swans flew past and also saw Bewick’s Swans, hundreds of Barnacle Geese and a great selection of migrants including Eurasian Hobby (that caught a Reed Bunting over the sea), Bohemian Waxwings, European Serin, Wood Sandpipers and Eurasian Whimbrel. And that all before lunch on the first day!

The migration theme continued throughout the tour and our final totals of Barnacle, Eurasian White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese all numbered in the thousands (if not tens of thousands). The goose highlight of the tour was undoubtedly the adult Red-breasted Goose among thousands of Barnacles, although the sight of a flock of White-fronted Geese migrating over Tallinn during our last day sight-seeing walk seemed to sum up the whole trip.

We had a few early starts to get out into the forest on time, essential if we wanted to see Western Capercaillie and Black Grouse, and neither disappointed with a chance encounter with a group of displaying ‘Capers’, with the males running at each other and splaying their tails. Nearby we watched and listened to bubbling Black Grouse, whilst Whooper Swans bugled and the sky was full of the sound of displaying Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Skylarks, just magical!

Elsewhere in the forest we had a couple of very brief Hazel Grouse shoot across the road, but more obliging were the two Ural Owls, with everyone seeing at least one of these ghostly owls well.

Woodpeckers were well represented with Black, Grey-headed, Middle spotted and White-backed all being seen very well, as well as several encounters with Eurasian Wryneck.

As the week went on passerines continued to arrive and the views we had of Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike, European Serin, Citrine Wagtail, Thrush Nightingale, Penduline Tit and singing Whinchats could hardly have been better.

Our views of raptors were equally spectacular and few will forget the close up views of Rough-legged Buzzard, Osprey, Western Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Northern Goshawk, White-tailed Eagles and Lesser spotted Eagle (the latter slightly further away but no less spectacular).

Typical northern/eastern species such as Ruff in full breeding plumage, flocks of Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, displaying Great Snipe in the last minutes of daylight, Common Crane, Garganey, Smew, booming Eurasian Bittern (and also one seen), Little Gulls and Caspian and Black Terns were also seen well. And when the local guide sees a bird he has never seen before in Estonia, Whiskered Tern, then that’s just the icing on the cake!

The nice weather meant we also got to enjoy an evening boat trip to the south of Matsalu Bay, complete with homemade Estonian stew, local liqueur, hot coffee and best of all an incredibly obliging Eurasian Elk and several European Beavers.

Our ground agents not only arranged an excellent variety of local restaurants, hotels and delicious food but the timing and organisation was also impeccable. As was Kaarels knowledge of the forest tracks and the key sites to find the key species.  All in all the perfect trip! 

                                                                                                                                                                                                  – James Lidster

Created: 27 May 2016