spring wildlife and orchids of the Baltic
Late spring on the Baltic is a busy time, with birds courting and the meadows bursting into flower.
28th May – 4th June 2024
Single Room Supplement – £175
Return flight London Gatwick to Tallinn. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven nights accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. ETIAS/visa costs. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 5, maximum 14.
This holiday is timed to catch the best displays of one of Europe’s most flamboyant wild flowers, the spectacular Lady’s Slipper Orchid. Other early orchids that we will be seeking out will include Military, Early Purple, Bird’s Nest and Burnt-tip Orchids, Red and Sword-leaved Helleborine.
Along the coast, waders and wildfowl will all be heading north, while the summer visitors, birds like Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Common Rosefinch. should all be encountered as they set up their territories and get on with the busy, short-lived breeding season in Estonia’s forests and marshes.
As well as the returning and north-bound migrants, we will be looking for some of the resident bird species of the extensive forests and wetlands of Estonia – all nine species of northern Europe’s woodpeckers will be drumming and calling; quietly driving the forest tracks may bring us encounters with Capercaillie and Hazel Hen; White-tailed Eagles hunt along the coastal wetlands; and we will listen out for calling owls and churring Nightjars in the evenings.
Along the way, we will also be paying attention to the large mammals of Estonia – Elk and Roe Deer feed on the floodplain meadows of Matsalu National Park, where European Beavers are common along the wooded waterways. The forests of Estonia are famously one of the best places to spot European Lynx, although we would have to be very lucky to have such a sighting. We are more likely to come across Pine Marten, Red Squirrel or the endearing Raccoon Dog.
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 flight takes us to Tallinn, where we will spend our first night.
Day 2 We travel to western Estonia and the coastal meadows and floodplain forest and wetlands of Matsalu National Park. Walking out from the hotel, we will explore the nature trails around Altmoisa, where Military Orchid will be in full bloom. Nearby, we head to Silma reserve, a complex of coastal meadows, lagoons and reedbeds where Bearded Tits, Slavonian Grebes, Little Gull and Black Tern will be amongst our targets. If time permits, we will also visit the historic town of Haapsalu, which sits on a shallow bay where Slavonian Grebe nest and White-tailed Eagle quarter the bay.
Day 3 Today is spent exploring the meadows and marshes of Matsalu, the most famous wetland complex in Estonia. Numerous wildfowl court in the shallow bays with north-bound waders in smart breeding plumage feeding along the shore line. Blyth’s Reed Warblers sing from the scrubby marshlands and Lesser Spotted Eagle soar overhead. This evening we take a boat trip on the Kasari River, where we may see both Daubenton’s and Pond Bats hawking low over the water, with plentiful signs of the Beavers along the banks, and a good chance of seeing Elk out in the meadows.
Day 4 This morning we drive to a species-rich wooded meadow in Laelatu where Lady Slippers, Red and Sword-leaved Helleborine abound, while the nearby broad-leaved forest of Puhtu is home to Early Purple Orchid and Bird-nest Orchid. Later in the afternoon we take a ferry across to the large island of Saaremaa and visit the picturesque Koguva village and look for interesting birds along the Väike Väin strait.
Day 5 We spend the day in western Saaremaa known for limestone cliffs and scenic views. Sõrve peninsula acts as a bottleneck for birds on migration and hosts a bird-station, which we will visit to learn more about the birdlife of the area. The oak woodland at Loode is great both for its birds and plants – while watching a Wryneck or Barred Warbler, one has to take care not to step on a Lady’s Slipper, and we also hope to find the early-flowering form of Burnt-tip Orchid. Later in the evening, we visit Viidumäe, hoping for an encounter with churring Nightjar and owls.
Day 6 Saaremaa is home to the amazing meteorite crater field in Kaali, which we visit this morning. We will also visit Laidevahe nature reserve, a RAMSAR-listed wetland with lots of inlets, coastal lagoons, reedbeds and coastal and wooded meadows where Osprey, Caspian Tern and Red-necked Grebe are a common sight.
Day 7 We visit Ingatsi Nature trail, part of Kuresoo Bog, an excellent place for many waders, raptors, grouse and Black Stork. In the afternoon we explore coniferous forests, bogs and heathland where we will look for Lesser Spotted Eagle, Citrine Wagtail and Wild Gladiolus Gladiolus imbricatus. In the evening we go in search of corncrakes, hoping to also hear River Warbler.
Day 8 We make our way back to Tallinn for a tour of the attractive old town before we must 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.