Estonia – mammals, birds and autumn migration
A week on the Baltic, during the peak of the south-bound bird migration, with a focus on Estonia’s large mammals.
Estonia is home to some of the healthiest populations of large mammals in Europe, with an estimated 700 Brown Bears, 200 Wolves and 600 Eurasian Lynx, 12,000 Elk and the southern-most population of Ringed Seals in the world.
This holiday is timed to catch the best of the south-bound bird migration, with thousands of Common Crane passing through, geese arriving to spend the winter and large number of sea ducks and passerines moving along the coast.
As well as the southbound migrants, we will also be looking for some of the resident bird species of the extensive forests and wetlands of Estonia – woodpeckers could include White-backed and Black Woodpecker.
As well as the birds, we will be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for some of the mammals of the country. This is the peak of the Elk rut, with animals gathering at their favoured sites to fight for mates; wolves are out and about teaching their young to hunt, and we will try to hear them howling as night falls; in the forests near the Russian border we will look for bear footprints; and the week includes a boat trip to look for Baltic Ringed Seals as they haul out at their favoured spots around Hiiumaa island.
On our last day, we will pay a visit to the attractive medieval city of Tallinn.
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Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
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Return flights from London Gatwick to Estonia. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Ferry to Hiiumaa and boat trip to look for seals. Guided tour of Tallinn. Seven nights’ accommodation, all meals.
Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
The main focus of this holiday will the birds and larger mammals of northern Europe. As well as the migration of cranes and geese, we will be hoping to find grouse and woodpeckers, listening for owls and looking for tracks and signs of the mammals. We should have a very good chance of some memorable sightings of Elk, Ringed Seal and other mammals. Depending on local conditions, we may also have the chance to go out listening for howling wolves during our trip.
Day 1 Our flight takes us to Tallinn from where we travel north east to Lahemaa National Park, an area of extensive forest and peat bogs, beautiful coastline, scenic rivers and manor parkland.
Day 2 We explore the manor parklands where Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Hawfinch will be amongst our target species, followed by a visit to the Alutaguse region, the biggest tract of forest in Estonia. This evening we have the chance to spend the night in a hide hidden in the forest where we hope to see Brown Bears.
Day 3 We visit the forests of the Lahemaa and the Käsmu Peninsula, a beautiful coastline of ancient pines and erratic boulders. In the evening we will visit the historical ship-building village of Käsmu and its eccentric local museum, where we will get an entertaining overview of the area’s maritime history, and a superb dinner of barbequed local salmon.
Day 4 We drive to western Estonia and the extensive coastal meadows and floodplain forest and wetlands of Matsalu National Park, where huge flocks of Common Crane and several species of geese gather as they head south for the winter. This is also the time of the Elk rut, with large groups gathering on Matsalu’s meadows.
Day 5 We take a trip to Hiiumaa island, and around a series of islets where the Ringed Seal, a usually shy and solitary animal gathers at its favoured haul out sites, the southernmost population of this high Arctic species.
Day 6 We visit the Põõsaspea Peninsula; one of the best spots in Estonia to observe the migration of Arctic waterfowl, passerine and raptors as they make their way south from Finland and Arctic Russia. A visit to Leidissoo Bog home to Ural and Pygmy Owls, Black Woodpecker, Black Grouse and Hazel Grouse will finish the day.
Day 7 We explore the bogs and meadows of the area, with another chance to look for Elk, geese, grouse and woodpeckers.
Day 8 We drive to Tallinn for a guided tour of the attractive old town, before we head to the airport and our flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
The two accommodations used are of a very good standard and all rooms have en-suite facilities with bath and/or shower.
Meals provided during the stay will have an emphasis on local cuisine. We will take picnic lunches each day. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.
Transport will be by small bus or smaller vehicles if necessary.
The group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick.
It may also be possible to travel to Tallinn from Manchester, flying with Lufthansa via Frankfurt. Ask us for details and costs.
Estonia is two hours ahead of UK time.
If you hold a British passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Estonia. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.
The weather should feel distinctly autumnal; we expect it to be cool and dry, between 5 and 15 degrees, although rain (even snow), wind or considerably cooler weather are certainly possible.
We are out and about for much of the day, albeit walking a relatively slow pace and making several stops each day. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Walking boots are essential.
There are steps at our hotels, with no lift, as well as up/down into the vehicles and boats.
Some early starts and/or late finishes may be necessary, to maximise our chances to see the wildlife.