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.
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
Return flight London Gatwick to Tallinn. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Dinner day 5, breakfast day 6, lunch day 8. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. ETIAS/visa costs. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 5, maximum 14.
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 numbers of sea duck and passerines moving along the coast. As well as the southbound migrants, we will also be looking for residents of the extensive forests and wetlands of Estonia: woodpeckers could include White-backed and Black Woodpecker, driving the forest tracks may bring us encounters with Capercaillie or Hazel Grouse, White-tailed Eagles and Hen Harrier hunt along the coastal wetlands and we will listen out for calling owls in the evenings.
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; in the forests near the Russian border we will spend the night in a hide, waiting to be visited by Brown Bear and Raccoon Dogs; there is always a chance of stumbling upon a stalking Lynx or hearing the howling of wolves: 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, with a guided tour of the old town.
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.
Day 1 Our afternoon flight takes us to Tallinn, where we will spend our first night.
Day 2 After breakfast we will head into Tallinn for a guided tour of the attractive old town and lunch in a local restaurant (price not included). After lunch, we travel across to western Estonia and the extensive coastal meadows and floodplain forest and wetlands of Matsalu National Park. Here huge flocks of Common Crane and several species of geese gather as they head south for the winter, while this is also the time of the Elk rut, with large groups gathering on Matsalu’s meadows.
Day 3 We will spend the morning visiting the Põõsaspea Peninsula, one of the best spots in Estonia to observe the migration of Arctic waterfowl, passerines and raptors as they make their way south from Finland and Arctic Russia. The afternoon will be spent at Leidissoo Forest, home to Ural and Pygmy Owls, Black and Grey-headed Woodpecker, where the Nutcrackers, which become more vocal in autumn may also be spotted.
Day 4 We take a day trip out to Hiiumaa island, from where we will take a boat 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. We will also keep our eyes peeled for the much larger Grey Seal, as well as sea duck, and the possibility of a passing White-tailed Eagle.
Day 5 We drive to Alutaguse, the wildest corner of Estonia and an area with the lowest population density, with vast bogs and forest that are home to many iconic forest species. Alutaguse has always been the core area for the local bear population and we hope to be visited by one as we stay overnight in a comfortable Brown Bear hide. The hides are equipped with bunk beds, sleeping bags, and pillows. As well as Brown Bear, there is a good chance of seeing Raccoon Dogs.
Day 6 After leaving the hide in the morning, we drive in the surrounding forest to look for Capercaillie and Black Grouse, before continuing to the town of Rakvere, for breakfast. We then head to Lahemaa National Park, the oldest and largest National Park in the country, offering a beautiful coastline, old growth forests, peat bogs and wonderful manor parks. In the afternoon, we will explore the parklands of the area, where Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch and the lovely white-headed form of Long-tailed Tit will be amongst our target species.
Day 7 We explore the forests of the Lahemaa and the Käsmu Peninsula, a beautiful coastline of ancient pines and erratic boulders, where we will look for sea duck, White-tailed Eagle and a variety of woodpeckers. The forests are also home to good numbers of Red Squirrel and Pine Marten, both of which may cross our path as we quietly walk the forest trails. We will keep our ears peeled for the dog whistle call of the male Hazel Grouse, as he feeds high in the birch trees, and for the tapping of woodpeckers: both White-backed and Three-toed Woodpecker are present in these forests.
Day 8 We will have one last morning to explore the forest tracks and boggy meadows of the area, searching for Hazel Grouse, Great Grey Shrike and family groups of Common Cranes, before the time comes to drive back west, to Tallinn 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.