Thursday, April 25, 2013

A fantastic trip, despite (or maybe because of) the weather and is highly recommended

Our another bird guide, Uku Paal saw 77 bird species in five days together with Naturetrek´s clients (Naturetrek is our partner from UK). In fact the weather was very cold this week!

During 6-day trip (9-14 April) 105 bird species have been seen! RSPB Minsmere / Uku Paal

Tour Report: Estonia in Early Spring - 4th-8th April 2013
Naturetrek / Estonian Nature Tours
Compiled by Graham Canny

Weather: Very, very cold. Snow drifts with localised blizzards.

Wildlife seen:
70+ species seen, including the target bird, the Steller's Eiders.
Full list on demand.

Places visited:
Nova, Leidissoo, Soometsa and Viidumae Forests; Variku Fields; Poosaspea Peninsula; Saaremaa Island; Undva Cape.

The birds; the scenery and Tallinn.

'Estonians will never be great in number, but we can be great through our spirit.'
Jakob Hurt, Estonian folklorist.

'Silence is sometimes the answer' Estonian proverb.

'In every port of the world there is one drunk Estonian' Hemingway

The beautiful scenic Republic of Estonia is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Russia. Across the Baltic Sea lies Sweden in the west and Finland in the north. The capital is Tallinn, meaning 'Danish Castle'. Almost half of the country is covered by Siberian-like forests, Scandinavian peat-bogs, watermeadows and fascinating coastlines. Mainly quite a flat country, the highest point in Estonia is Suur Munamägi - 'Great Egg Hill'. There are more than 1450 lakes and 1500 islands. Lake Peipsi, is the fifth largest lake in Europe. Estonia is a natural stepping stone for migration, with internationally important numbers of Red and Black-throated Divers; Bewick's and Whooper Swans; Geese, Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks moving along the coasts. Eight different species of Woodpecker can be found here, together with Europe's most endangered seaduck, the Steller's Eider. Reason enough to visit this stunning country.

Capercaillie (Estonia in Spring 9th-14th April) / Uku Paal

It was very cold. It was very dark. And we were up to our thighs in deep snow. Uku Paal, our Tour Guide Leader, had led us into one of Estonia's many forests, looking for a Pygmy Owl. Despite his best efforts we couldn't even hear it, let alone see it. But then Uku heard the distant call of a Tengmalm's Owl high in the trees. We made the collective decision to try and locate it. After about 40 minutes of blundering around in the dark, trying to stay as quiet as possible - not easy when you can't see where you are going and almost being buried in the snow - we managed to pinpoint it high in a tree above us. We all readied ourselves and looked up. Uku turned on his torch and for a few fleeting seconds we saw the owl fly off to another, nearby, tree. We again tried to get closer, silently. And again, the owl gave us another fleeting view as it flew off again. Feeling frost bittern in places I didn't think could get frost bittern and with my back breaking from constantly looking up it was about now that I was questioning my decision to go on this trip.

A few days earlier, I had foregone a night's sleep to catch a taxi at 3am, to take me to Heathrow Airport, via a Stansted coach connection. Departing Terminal 3 at 7.30 we arrived in Tallinn, via Helsinki, early afternoon to be met by Uku. There were only two other guys on the trip, David Todd and Roger Noddings. We all made our introductions and, being Birders, became firm friends by the end of the trip.

Uku drove us to our first hotel, the Roosta Holiday Village, where we were to spend the first two nights of our trip. We dumped our bags and, being Birders and with daylight still around, immediately headed off for our first birding foray. Our first stops were the Nova and Leidissoo Forests. And a very good start to the trip it was too. My first ever sighting of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! We also saw a Three-toed Woodpecker; Great Grey Shrike; Greater Scaup; Velvet Scoter and some white-faced Long-tailed Tits, amongst others. A superb beginning.

White-backed Woodpecker (Estonia in Spring 9th-14th April) / Uku Paal

Although it was April and it was 'Estonia in Early Spring' the weather prompted us to rename it 'Estonia in Mid-Winter'. Snow was everywhere and still falling, quite hard in places. But, with several layers on and no wind or rain, birding was still possible. The expected Geese migration hadn't started and so we only spotted two Greylag Geese during the whole trip. Indeed, migration was non-existant for practically everything, meaning the totals were going to be quite low, not only for birds in general but species count too. But what we lacked in quantity we more than made up for in quality.

Back at the Roosta we managed to catch a beer or two. One of which was called 'The taste of Manchester', a beer from the Saku Brewery. A very palatable 4.2 abv. We reflected on a very good start, despite the snow and then I casually asked if anyone else had ants in their Lodge. I was met with negative responses. Just me, then. They must be trying to shelter from the cold weather. I knew how they felt. Earlier, Uku had to help me get into my Lodge, despite having a key. A shoulder charge proved most effective. Welcome to Estonia.

My alarm woke the ants and I up around 5.20 for a 6am start. Today's itinerary took in visits to Nova Forest; Variku Fields and the Poosaspea Peninsula. On the way we spotted a family group of Wild Boar, two adults with two youngsters, casually walking across the road in front of us. We also saw a Brown Hare and a couple of Elk. At the peninsula we saw some more quality birds including Scaup; Eider; Long-tailed Duck; Scoter (Common and Velvet); Goldeneye; Merganser and Goosander. There was a small hut by the spit where we broke for breakfast, Roger delighted to discover a delicious chocolatey sticky bun. Hot coffee warmed us up and, despite a cool breeze coming in off the water, we stepped back outside to continue our birding before moving on.

Elks (Estonia in Spring 9th-14th April) / Uku Paal

When we arrived at the forest we found the tracks deeply covered in snow. But Uku skillfully managed to drive us to where we could see some Black Grouse. A short walk down the track eventually rewarded us with a view of 13 males. There were probably female there as well but they were very well camouflaged. After that we saw 3 Black and 1 Grey-headed Woodpecker. Amongst the various other stops we saw White-tailed Eagle; Treecreeper; Yellowhammer and Crested Tit. An exhausting, backbreaking but satisfying, walk in the forests presented us with views of Goldcrest; Marsh and Willow Tit; Great Grey Shrike; Nutcracker and Crossbill.

We broke for lunch back at the hotel. Uku gave us a few hours off for RandR and so Roger and I took the opportunity to try another Estonian beer. Back at the Lodge the ants were running around trying to keep warm as I had turned down the thermostat. Dinner was at 7.30. I found the food here to be excellent and took the opportunity to taste some of the local dishes. The locals were also very warm and friendly and I was enjoying my time here immensely.

After dinner Uku drove us out to try and find the Pygmy Owl. He had only ever failed to see one on one other trip and was determined to succeed on this one. This was the moment where we discovered the Tengmalm's Owl. It was around now that I had wished I had had a light dinner with no beer. It would have been difficult enough despite the dark, the cold and the blundering into various branches. But the snow made it all the harder, a wrong step and our feet sank deep into the drift. After leaving the car and being in the middle of the forest I was glad that Uku knew where he was going. And, just as I was starting to struggle, we heard, then spotted, the owl. A surge of adrenalin surged through me and, despite the obstacles, brought a big, stupid grin to my face. Yep, it was definitely the right decision to come out here. And on the drive back, during another - failed - stop for the Pygmy Owl, we had the opportunity to view a very clear night sky, bereft of light pollution. The constellation Orion was quite visible, low down in the sky and Jupiter and its' moons were a delight to see through Uku's scope. Spectacular!

Breakfast next morning was at 6.30 and, warmed up by the Green Tea and several layers of clothing, I packed everything up and, bidding farewell to the ants, we headed off to Virtsu for the ferry to Saaremaa Island to see our target bird, the Steller's Eider. On the way there we saw a Red Fox, another mammal addition to our list. It was a fairly long drive and when we got there, although it was sunny, there was a biting wind. The ferry took about 30 minutes, having to break through the ice on the way. It all reminded me of Antarctica, but that's another story. Uku told us that normally, on the ferry crossing, we would have seen lots of seabirds but due to the ice we only saw the odd Gull flying by. We were reduced to trying to see if they were Herring Gulls, Uku's target bird.

We eventually arrived at Undva Cape and all four of us scanned the sea for the Eider. Shelduck; Wigeon; Long-tailed Duck; Common Scoter; Goldeneye and Goosander were all seen before Uku spotted a group of Steller's. They were tightly packed about 450 yards out bobbing about in the sea. Now you see them, now you don't. We moved further down the bay seeing 3 more, much closer, although they were asleep - they must have been juveniles. We also saw 3 Oystercatchers and a flock of Snow Buntings. We spent a while here taking in the birds and the views. The scenery here and elsewhere were quite spectacular.

So, mission accomplished and with a sense of satisfaction, we drove to the Loona Manorhouse for lunch. Although Roger had to make do with spuds and veg as there was no vegetarian meal on offer. More Green Tea thawed me out again. Afterwards we visited the nearby natural history museum.

On the drive back to the ferry we made a few more stops seeing more LTTs and Woodpeckers. The corvids on show in Estonia were Ravens; Rooks and Hooded Crows; Carrion Crows not reaching this far east. It made a nice change.

The ferry made its' way back to the mainland, again breaking through the ice-covered sea. Although the snowy weather did restrict the wildlife the unseasonal drifts did allow us to try and spot animal tracks. None of us were experts but the suspiciously looking bear tracks were probably dog tracks.

Back on the mainland, by the dock, we encountered close-up views of Long-tailed Ducks; Tufted Ducks and then some more White-tailed Eagles flew over. Earlier we had spotted a lost, lone Lapwing in a field. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to get a photograph of it, I inadvertently lost my woolly hat. I did have a back up baseball cap, but my ears suffered the loss cruelly. There were also Skylarks about and, amongst all the Finches and Tits, a pair of Bullfinches made an appearance. After a few more birding stops we arrived at Parnu and Uku skillfully negotiated the one-way system and found our second hotel, the Villa Wesset. Dinner followed at 8.30, followed by a beer, followed by bed. My room was spacious and comfortable but I noted the distinct absence of ants in the room. Cross off one star.

The next morning was another early start, at 6.30, with breakfast again on the road. It seemed to be even colder today and we noticed the temperature gauge in the car reaching -10.5. Mercifully, there was no accompanying wind to take it down even further. Today we visited Soometsa Forest, primarily to search for that elusive Pygmy Owl. It again remained elusive, much to Uku's annoyance. It was starting to get personal. But we did see plenty of Woodpeckers, including a mating pair of Middle-spotted and a White-backed. Other birds seen today, of note, were 5 Whooper Swans; the Greylags; 6 Teal; 1 Common Snipe and more Nutcrackers and Shrikes. And at some stage we managed to find ourselves crossing the border over to Latvia. It felt even colder here, with less birds so, after a 20 minute visit, we returned to Estonia.

Nutcrackers (Estonia in Spring 9th-14th April) / Uku Paal

Lunch was at the Cafe Supelsaksad, which provided a very nice pasta dish. Uku gave us the rest of the afternoon off and so we again took the opportunity to partake of a few more beers. In fact all these meals and beers were more than I was used to and so I gave the evening meal a miss.

After dinner we headed out again in another vain attempt to see the Pygmy Owl. The weather got even worse, with the snow showers nearly making driving impossible. I was reminded of 'Ski Sunday' on the TV. We only saw about 50+ Lapwing in the adjacent fields; 5 Roe deer and the sound of a Common Crane in the distance. But the snow made it quite impossible to continue, so reluctantly, we made our way back to the hotel for tea and medals.

Breakfast was in-house at 7 and, with bags packed up in the car, we started the drive back to Tallinn. We almost immediately encountered heavy snow-storms on the way, making any birding stops impossible. But after an hour or so the snow stopped and gave way to blue skies. On one of the stops we had a close-up of a lovely Nuthatch, a much paler version of our own. Although there weren't too many photo opportunities on the trip I did manage to get some lovely snowy, scenic shots. And, with all this snow, we had to keep reminding ourselves that this was Spring and not Winter.

We arrived in Tallinn around 9-ish and met up with a delightful lady who took us on a guided tour of the city, primarily the old, walled town. With around half-a-million people, Tallinn is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And, despite the usual Irish Bar and McDonald's, provides the visitor with a delightful walking tour, taking in some wonderful historic sites.

All too soon, it was time to return to the airport for the flights home. We bade a heartfelt farewell to Uku, who had gone above and beyond the call of duty in the bad weather and, despite the absence of the Pygmy Owl, provided us with some truly memorable moments of our stay in Estonia. Yet another Estonian beer was had in the departures lounge and, after a few hours we were back in England. Bags were retrieved, farewells were said and I arrived home just before 9 that evening.

A fantastic trip, despite (or maybe because of) the weather and is highly recommended. Ants are optional.

Full list of birds:
  1. Great Crested Grebe   
  2. Cormorant   
  3. Grey Heron   
  4. Mute Swan   
  5. Whooper Swan   
  6. Greylag Goose   
  7. Shelduck   
  8. Wigeon   
  9. Mallard   
  10. Teal   
  11. Tufted Duck   
  12. Greater Scaup   
  13. Common Eider   
  14. Steller's Eider   
  15. Long-tailed Duck   
  16. Common Scoter   
  17. Velvet Scoter   
  18. Goldeneye   
  19. Red-breasted Merganser   
  20. Goosander   
  21. Buzzard   
  22. White-tailed Eagle   
  23. Black Grouse   
  24. Hazel Grouse   
  25. Coot   
  26. Crane   
  27. Oystercatcher   
  28. Lapwing   
  29. Snipe   
  30. Black-headed Gull   
  31. Common Gull   
  32. Herring Gull   
  33. Lesser Black-backed Gull   
  34. Greater Black-backed Gull   
  35. Wood Pigeon   
  36. Stock Dove   
  37. Feral Pigeon   
  38. Tengmalm's Owl   
  39. Black Woodpecker   
  40. Grey-headed Woodpecker   
  41. Middle-spotted Woodpecker   
  42. Great-spotted Woodpecker   
  43. White-backed Woodpecker   
  44. Lesser-spotted Woodpecker   
  45. Three-toed Woodpecker   
  46. Skylark   
  47. Blackbird   
  48. Fieldfare   
  49. Goldcrest   
  50. Marsh Tit   
  51. Willow Tit   
  52. Crested Tit   
  53. Blue Tit   
  54. Great Tit   
  55. Coal Tit   
  56. Long-tailed Tit   
  57. Nuthatch   
  58. Treecreeper   
  59. Great Grey Shrike   
  60. Starling   
  61. Jay   
  62. Nutcracker   
  63. Magpie   
  64. Raven   
  65. Jackdaw   
  66. Hooded Crow   
  67. Rook   
  68. Tree Sparrow   
  69. House Sparrow   
  70. Chaffinch   
  71. Siskin   
  72. Greenfinch   
  73. Bullfinch   
  74. Redpoll   
  75. Crossbill   
  76. Yellowhammer   
  77. Snow Bunting   
Full list of mammals:

  1. European (Brown) Hare
  2. Red Squirrel 
  3. Red Fox  
  4. Wild Boar 
  5. Elk
  6. Roe Deer   


Friday, April 19, 2013

New dragonfly guide in Estonian language was published

There are 57 dragonfly species in Estonia and most probably global warming will bring us two more in the near future. All these are thoroughly handled in the new key-book to dragonflies, compiled by Dr. Mati Martin – entomologist from Tartu University. He reveals that, in fact, we are facing formidable lack of insect key-books in general. This one was implemented by a project with EU financial support.  

The front cover

Back in the 1960-ies – when the previous dragonflies key-book was compiled - only 53-54 species were known here. Now we have several new species and more are surely to come, but these old books are simply worn out. The new voluminous key-book includes many high quality colour photographs and drawings,  to help identify all existing 57 species and the 2 possible newcomers.

Page 82. Spearhead Bluet, Northern Damselfly

Dr. Martin claims that the high number of dragonflies is referring directly to the favourable conditions of our water-bodies. „This enables the dragonflies and other water insects to thrive here. On the other hand, the invasion of new species seems to be a generalized and global process. Once in a while some species distribute further North from their principal area borders“ says Dr. Martin and names Yellow-Spotted Whiteface as a typical example, as its abundance has increased 200% comparing to the situation 10 years ago. The reasons for this process are still unclear.

The key-book of the dragonflies of Estonia was published as a part of a LIFE project DRAGONLIFE. This key-book is distributed only to libraries, schools, special interest societies and hobby groups. Project manager Voldemar Rannap says that there is an immediate need of key-books for different species groups as well, but this is the goal of subsequent projects. Another part of the same LIFE-project was a key-book to amphibians.

„The project is focusing on two species connected with small water-bodies - Common Spadefoot and Yellow-Spotted Whiteface. These are the designated species of the project. We are already cleaning some small water-bodies and constructing new ones,“ said Riinu Rannap, the project expert from Tartu University.  „Small water-bodies are really crucial habitats for the reproduction of dragonflies and amphibians.“

The key-book is planned to be published in 'smart version' as well to match the needs of the younger generation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tour report: Estonia in Early Spring 6-13 April 2013

The first four trips have been incredibly successful. For example, during 8-day trip together with our bird guide Tarvo Valker clients have observed 15 Black Grouse, 7 Capercaillies, 6 Hazel Hens and 7 species of Woodpeckers - including superb views of the White-backed, Three-toed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers. Plus several Nutcrackers, lots of dancing Cranes, Steller`s Eiders, Parrot Crossbill and  for the most of birdwatchers as a bird of the trip: stunning Pygmy Owl settled at the evening sun.
1 Sat (6th April)    TALLINN, to Saaremaa island

After landing at the Tallinn airport late afternoon, we headed towards Saaremaa island, which is quite a long drive, but on the way we had some time for birding as well. First, it is important to mention, that the fields were still covered with thick snow – as our guide said, it has been an exceptionally late spring here.
Before catching the ferry, we had a brief stop at Kasari river (Matsalu National Park) where there was some open water. We had superb views of 4 White-tailed Eagles – all of them nice adults. In the open water we spotted several pairs of Goosanders and Goldeneyes. Next stop just before catching the ferry was Tuhu bog. On the nearby fields we saw our first Cranes and at the bog we had a really nice view of the single male Black Grouse. After he flew we noticed that there were also 7 females in the nearby tree tops. Next we drove to Saaremaa island, setlled down at Loona Manorhouse and enjoyed a georgious meal before heading to bed.

2 Sun (7th April)    SAAREMAA ISLAND 

We awoke to find strong winds with occasional snowfalls but this did not deter us from heading to Cape Undva for the Steller`s Eiders, pausing to see a Great Grey Shrike sitting on the wires.
It was really cold at the coast but, despite that, the bay was full of seaducks, especially nice numbers of Goldeneyes and Long-tailed Ducks. It was really special to see them in hundreds all together. We found several Smew, Red-breasted Mergansers and a lovely group of Velvet Scoters. The biggest bonus was to see a male Parrot Crossbill which landed briefly on the rocks. We also saw several Steller`s Eiders flying in the distance, but none of them seen swimming. Eventually we found our first male swimming but it took off before everybody had a proper look at it so we decided to have lunch and come back the next day, when the weather is hopefully better.
In the afternoon we went to Viidumäe forest. It was still windy, so we didn`t have any luck with Nutcrackers here, but we got our first brief views of the Black Woodpecker. It was obvious that it was not owling weather so we drove around on the fields to pick up some migrants. We had several groups of Lapwing, many Skylarks, Yellowhammers and the first Curlew.

3 Mon (8th April)    MATSALU NATIONAL PARK, to central Estonia 

We drove in the morning to Cape Undva again and just before reaching to the coast we found a nice group of 25 Waxwings feeding on the juniper bushes. After some searching we found 2 male and one female Steller`s Eiders swimming at the coast, about 200 meters off-shore. This was much better than yesterday and everyone felt pleased with their views before we headed to the harbour for our journey to central Estonia.
After lunch we went to a wooded meadow to search for the woodpeckers. The weather was a bit windy still, but much better than yesterday. A few whistles by our guide and the first Grey-headed Woodpecker responded quickly. After few minutes we had really good views of the bird perched on the tree top. As we have really early start tomorrow, we drove to our new guesthouse in Central Estonia, had another absolutely superb meal and went to bed.

4 Tue (9th April)    TOOSIKANNU & SAARJÕE

We started our mammal safari with the open truck at 5.30am. It was sunny morning and although it was -12 degrees Celsius it didn’t feel that cold as there was no wind. The first half hour was rather quiet. After that we got a brief view of a Hazel Hen flying over the forest track, then fairly quickly found two young Elk at the edge of the forest. They were really tame and we had bins on them for several minutes. We made a stop in a forest clearing to have warm coffee and could hear a Black Woodpecker drumming.  After a few minutes it flew in and landed just next to our truck - a male Black Woodpecker sitting in the early morning sun - what a beautiful moment!
We returned to the guesthouse for breakfast then with such good weather headed back out for more birding. The first hour produced several Hazel Grouse with at least 5-6 individuals. It is really unusual to have so many sightnings in a day of this shy game bird. Nutcrackers were quiet again but we managed to see our first White Stork.
After lunch we headed to the Saarjõe Nature Reserve for some forest birding. After few stops we heard drumming of a White-backed Woodpecker. A nice male was found close to the road and we had really nice views. As it was approaching Pygmy Owl time, we went to check one of last years territories. Just near our minivan we had another woodpecker for our list - two Lesser Spotted were perched on the top of the dead spruce tree. Our guide whistled for the Pymgy Owl and quickly 2 Crested Tits jumped out and we had superb views of them. No response from the Owl, but we had another Black Woodpecker drumming. During the evening we checked several Pygmy Owl sites with no luck but eventually, in the fading light, we heard a response. After a few minutes a Pygmy Owl landed on top of a spruce just in front of us! We had 10 minutes scope views of this stunning little creature - and with nice evening sunlight on the bird! For most of us it was definately bird of the trip. We also heard Ural Owl at the same site - what quality birding to get such sightings in just a few hours. With smiling faces we headed back to the guesthouse to have a late dinner and some evening beers.

5 Wed (10th April)     SAARJÕE & AUDRU

We had another 6 o`clock start to go back to the Saarjõe Nature Reserve for the forest birds. It was really sunny and calm again. The first hour was rather poor but things improved when we found 2 Nutcrackers perched at a dead tree. We drove the forested tracks to see Capericaillies with no luck at first. After coffee and breakfeast in the forest our luck changed. Just two minutes in the minivan and there they were - 7 female Capericaillies on the road and one lekking male just a few meters from them! We looked and looked at them. Anthony was absolutely thrilled as that bird has been avoiding him for 38 years! 

 Capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus) / Tarvo Valker

After that we headed toward Pärnu town. A brief stop at the nearby park produced superb views of 2 Middle Spotted Woodpeckers. What a privilege to observe 5 species of woodpeckers in just 2 days! In the afternoon we searched for migrants in nearby fields and found plenty of Skylarks, many Lapwings and the first White Wagtails, but it seemed that the cold weather was still holding many migrants back and we did not add many species to the list.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius) / Tarvo Valker

6 Thu (11th April)    To North-East, ALUTAGUSE

We left our base late in the morning and drove toward north-east Estonia. On the way we made a stop at Ohepalu Nature Reserve to try for another woodpecker - Three-toed. Our first stop produced a drumming male and half of the group had good views of the bird but unfortunately it flew into dense forest before all had seen it well. 

  Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) / Tarvo Valker

In the afternoon we did some mammal tracking in the Alutaguse region finding Brown Bear and Lynx tracks here. Another stop in the forest produced 15 minutes of quality birding again. First 2 White-backed Woodpeckers were found, when male Black Woodpecker flew over and just after that a single male Black Grouse. When our guide heard quiet pecking and soon discovered a male Three-toed Woodpecker feeding low down on a dead tree, just at the roadside. We had long views of that one and finally everybody had 6 European woodpeckers on their list!
In the late evening we drove the forested areas in search of Ural Owl, but as it started raining we didn`t have any luck with that.

7 Fri (12th April)    ALUTAGUSE & LAHEMAA

This is our last early morning out in the forest and on the way we found an adult male Merlin on the telegraph pole, 3 male Black Grouse lekking on the snow and a small group of Snow Buntings on the roadside. Forest birding wasn`t to good, although we had several Willow Tits here. In the afternoon we did some seawatching at Lahemaa. We had here a flock of Velvet Scoters, Common Eiders and a few Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers. We also had several Kestrels and 2 White-tailed Eagles while driving.

8 Sat (13th April)    To Tallinn, departure...

It was our last day and after breakfeast we headed towards Tallinn. Our first stop was in a city park for Red Squirrels. Unluckily we didn`t find any, but we added two new species on our bird list. First we saw a Woodcock flying over our heads, probably flushed up by a dog, then 2 Hawfinches in one garden.
After that we went for a guided walk in Tallinn old town, had our last traditional Estonian meal and went to the airport. We ended our tour with 92 bird species, including 6 species of woodpeckers, 3 speceies of grouse, Pygmy Owl, White-tailed Eagle, Common Crane, Nutcracker and Parrot Crossbill.

All together 90 bird species were seen during whole week.

Full list of birds:

1.    Mute Swan
2.    Whooper Swan
3.    Bean Goose
4.    Greater White-fronted Goose
5.    Greylag Goose
6.    Shelduck
7.    Eurasian Wigeon
8.    Eurasian Teal
9.    Mallard
10.    Tufted Duck
11.    Common Eider
12.    Steller`s Eider
13.    Long-tailed Duck
14.    Common Scoter
15.    Velvet Scoter
16.    Goldeneye
17.    Smew
18.    Red-breasted Merganser
19.    Goosander
20.    Hazel Grouse – 6-7 individuals seen during the trip
21.    Black Grouse – 7 males and 8 females seen
22.    Capercaillie – 1 lekking male together with 7 females
23.    Crested Grebe
24.    Cormorant
25.    Grey Heron
26.    White Stork
27.    White-tailed Eagle – at least 7 individuals during the trip
28.    Sparrowhawk
29.    Common Buzzard
30.    Kestrel
31.    Merlin – 1 adult male
32.    Crane
33.    Oystercatcher
34.    Ringed Plover
35.    Lapwing
36.    Woodcock – 1 ind. on the last day in Tallinn
37.    Curlew
38.    Black-headed Gull
39.    Common Gull
40.    Lesser Black-backed Gull
41.    Greater Black-backed Gull
42.    Herring Gull
43.    Feral Pigeon
44.    Wood Pigeon
45.    Stock Dove
46.    Pygmy Owl – one seen at Central Estonia
47.     Ural Owl – one heard at Central Estonia
48.    Grey-headed Woodpecker – 1 seen + 1 just heard
49.    Black Woodpecker – about 10 ind. seen during the whole week
50.    Great Spotted Woodpecker
51.    Middle Spotted Woodpecker – 2 ind. in the park near Pärnu town
52.    White-backed Woodpecker – 3 ind. seen
53.    Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – 2 seen
54.    Three-toed Woodpecker – 2 males seen in Alutaguse region
55.    Skylark
56.    White Wagtail
57.    Waxwing – a group of 25 ind. at Saaremaa island
58.    Blackbird
59.    Mistle Thrush
60.    Goldcrest
61.    Long-tailed Tit
62.    Marsh Tit
63.    Willow Tit
64.    Crested Tit
65.    Coal Tit
66.    Blue Tit
67.    Great Tit
68.    Nuthatch
69.    Treeceeper
70.    Great Grey Shrike
71.    Eurasian Jay
72.    Magpie
73.    Nutcracker
74.    Jackdaw
75.    Rook
76.    Raven
77.    Hooded Crow
78.    Starling
79.    House Sparrow
80.    Tree Sparrow
81.    Chaffinch
82.    Brambling
83.    Siskin
84.    Greenfinch
85.    Goldfinch
86.    Linnet
87.    Common Crossbill
88.    Parrot Crossbill – 1 male at Cape Undva
89.    Bullfinch
90.    Yellowhammer

Full list of mammals:

1.    Roe Deer
2.    Elk - 2
3.    Red Fox
4.    Mountain Hare
5.    Pine Martin
6.    Weasel – seen only by bird guide

Compiled by Estonian Nature Tours` leader Tarvo Valker

Friday, April 12, 2013

Who´s chasing who? Part two

Raili called me yesterday before reaching the office: „With whom do You think I am staring right now just in the face?“ We have pretty good mutual understanding already, so it took me no time to ask: „No kidding? A Lynx?“ And Lynx it was. As Raili said, big and gaudy. She even sweared that she could see its intelligent eyesight through the binoculars.
Quick discussion - what to do? Such a chance –  straight onto fresh tracks. „Off we go!“

A large and gorgeous Lynx had been standing, when Raili saw it, in the middle of the field, about 100 metres from the road. Then it had turned around and walked with slow pace towards the forest.

From this point we started to chase it

 In most places the snow had been hard enough to hold the animal, 
so we even did not see all the footprints

 Slight adrenalin was boiling up – so fresh tracks, thrilling ...

Somewhat ancient and mysterious – we are tracking a Lynx ...

Wow! What's that? Absolutely fresh stuff. A mother bear with two cubs has woken up!

 The adrenalin tap was almost fully open – dangerous, y'know!

Too many irons in the fire, so we continued with the Lynx. Looks like this Lynx is using its own old traces or simply keeping close. Very strange experience.

Snow under the forest was too soft and we were in up to the knees. I even tried to yowl for a change. It was funny – we had constantly the feeling that the Lynx was somewhere nearby, tongue in the cheek :)

Why waste the energy? The Lynx is clever – it's much easier 
to move along the bottom of the ditch.

So it is true – lynxes are prowling near the settlement! This household here is having a big and vicious dog and there's no fence in the backyard. We were careful, Lynx hadn't bothered.

  We see clearly the old traces. The Lynx has ignored the dog

 Tracks cross now the big Tallinn – Virtsu road

On the other side ... we headed back to the woods, yowling every now and then

There's a chain saw working, barely couple of hundred meters off. In the other direction there are houses about as far.
So ... suddenly we noticed that the Lynx had turned around. But when?

It cannot be! When we were coming, were there only one-way traces? We were completely fooled. There had been a moment, that we had missed completely, when the Lynx had stayed in hiding perhaps only ten metres aside.

 Here it has crossed the village road again, just at the houses

 On our right there's the Tallinn - Virtsu road

Enough for this time. Our feet were dripping wet, but the spirit was really high :)

Kes keda jälitab? Teine osa

Raili helistas mulle eile hommikul enne tööletulemist, küsis telefonis: „Mis sa arvad, kellega ma praegu tõtt vaatan?“. No meil on päris hea kontakt tekkinud – pakkusin kohe: „Ära jama! Kas tõesti ilves?“. Ja nii see oligi. Suur ja uhke oli teine olnud, Raili nägi läbi binokli koguni ta targa vaatega silmi.

Arutasime asja. Selline võimalus, vaja kohe jälgi mööda järele minna! Mõeldud, tehtud.

Suur ja uhke Ilves seisis hetkel, kui Raili teda nägi, keset põldu, umbes 100 m kaugusel maanteest ja hakkas siis laisalt tagasi metsa minema.

 Siit alustasime ka meie tema jälitamist


Enamasti on lumi teda kandnud, mõnes kohas pole jälgi õieti nähagi

Kergelt adrenaliini tekkis, no tõesti põnev, nii värsked jäljed...

Kuidagi ürgne ja salapärane – Ilves ees ja meie järel

Ooohh! Mis see nüüd on? Täiesti värske värk.. Emakaru koos mõmmidega on üles ärganud!

 Adrenaliini voolas juurde – ohtlik ju ka

Kahte asja korraga ei saa, meie järgnesime ilvesele. Vähemalt see ilves kasutab liikumiseks omaenda vanu jälgi või hoiab nende lähedusse. Väga huvitav kogemus.

Metsaalune lumi ei kanna enam, vajusime põlvist saati sisse. Üritasin vahepeal ilvese moodi kräunuda ka. Lõbus oli, pidevalt tekkis tunne, et ilves itsitab pihku :) 

  Milleks energiat raisata? Ilves on nutikas, kraavi põhjas on kergem liikuda

Tõsi mis tõsi – ilvesed luusivad majade läheduses! Selles majapidamises on kuri koer ja maja taga aeda pole. Meie olime ettevaatlikud, Ilves mitte nii väga.


Siin on selgesti vanu ilvese jälgi näha. Koer teda seganud pole

Jäljed suunduvad nüüd üle Tallinn-Virtsu maantee, täpselt siit läks ta üle tee

Teisel pool teed.. ikka metsa järele. Aeg-ajalt muudkui kräunusin

Mootorsaag töötab meist vaid paarisaja meetri kaugusel, umbes sama kaugel on teises suunas majad

  No nii.. siin märkasime järsku, et ta on hakanud tagasi minema! Millal siis?

Mis asja? Kui me tulime, siis olid jäljed siin ainult ühes suunas? He-hee... täielikult lolliks tehtud. Ilves pidi vahepeal meist vaid mõne (kümne) meetri kaugusel olema!

 Siin on ta uuesti majade läheduses üle külatee läinud

Meist paremale jääb Tallinn-Virtsu maantee

 Selleks korraks aitas. Jalad olid läbimärjad, aga tuju mõnusalt ülev ja lõbus :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Estonian Nature Tours saab 10 aastaseks!

Seoses sellega on meil oma klientidele ja uudiste jälgijatele mitmeid üllatusi varuks. Täna rõõmustame kõige aktiivsemaid Facebooki jälgijaid. 

Palju õnne!

Kõikidele ülejäänud fännidele ja uutele jälgijatele pakume linnuretke "Saagem tuttavaks metsakanadega" kevadise sulahinnaga -20% . Vali endale sobiv kuupäev ajavahemikul 15.04-15.05 ja pöördu meie poole: või tel. 5695 0350.
Hind: 38 EUR / in. (sisaldab linnugiidi ja korraldust + piknikukorvi). Tavahind 48 EUR / in.
Grupi suurus: 6-8 inimest
Kohtumine giidiga: Tallinn-Haapsalu mnt. ääres Risti söögitare, Haapsalu Kaubamaja või Lihula mõisa juures kell 6.00 (lepitakse kokku vahetult enne retke).
Tedred (Tetrao tetrix) / Arne Ader

Kas oled osalenud vaatemängus, kus uhkete punaste peade ja välkuvate valgete tagumikega tedrekuked oma rituaalset pulmatantsu esitavad? Kana on kindlasti igaüks näinud ja nii mõnigi ilmselt ka maitsnud. Aga on ka veel teistmoodi kanasid – need on metsakanad. Eestimaa metsades võib kohtuda kolme kanalisega – laanepüü, tedre ja metsisega. „Saagem tuttavaks metsakanadega“ linnuretkel näeme tetre ja kui õnne on, siis ka laanepüüd.

Musträhn (Dryocopus martius)  / Chris van Rijswijk

Paketi lühikirjeldus:

Retk algab meie kuninglike põlisasukate tetrede pulmamängu jälgimisega. Igaüks neist püüab olla neist kohevama sabaga ja kõvema kudrutusega. Tõeline tegija leitakse platsi keskelt – just siin on kõige tugevamad, kõige uhkemad ja kõige vägevamad tedrekuked, kes üldjuhul ka tedremammaga lähemat tutvust teha saavad. Edasi liigume Tuksi-Roosta kanti, kus õnnestub kohata ka laanepüüd. Metsise nägemiseks peab väga palju õnne olema. Paneme reisile kaasa piknikukorvi, teine võimalus on süüa peale linnuvaatlust Roostal.
Liigid: teder, laanepüü, musträhn, tutt-tihane, sookurg, laanerähn, kiivitaja, metskits jpt.

Laanerähn (Picoides tridactylus) / Sven Zacek

Tutt-tihane (Parus cristatus) / Mati Kose

Metskits (Capreolus capreolus) / Sven Zacek

Meiega näed rohkem...

Estonian Nature Tours (juriidiline nimi Kumari Reisid OÜ) on Eestis ainulaadne linnu- ja loodusreisidele spetsialiseerunud reisikorraldaja, kes tegutseb 2003.a. maikuust alates edukalt nii sise- kui välisturul. Meie teenus on vastutustundlik ja säästev ning suunatud aastaringselt kõigile neile, kes looduses liikudes ümbertoimuvast rohkem teada soovivad. Reise juhendavad professionaalsed linnu-, taime- ja loomatundjad.

Meie missioon on mõõduka inimtegevuse tagajärjel säilinud looduspärandi tutvustamine, ökoloogilise mõtteviisi ja looduse tunnetuse kujundamine ning kohaliku turismiteenuse väärtustamine.

Pakume vapustavaid looduselamusi mitmel pool Eestimaal. Meie retked toimuvad ettetellimisel ja neid juhendavad professionaalsed loodusetundjad. Saagem tuttavaks metsakanadega, Linnukevad Matsalus, Ööhääled roostikus, Roostikuromantika, Muinasjutulised orhideed, Värviline Osmussaar, Taimed ravivad..., Kured läinud, kurjad ilmad..., Saladuslik seeneriik, Karuvaatlus Alutagusel, Koprasafari, Põdra- ja metssea safari jpt. Saaremaale minnes või mandrile tulles luba endale vahepalaks kanuumatk või paadisõit Matsalu roostikus või põika läbi Lihula linnusemäelt!'

Kõik loodusretked sobivad hästi ka firmaüritusteks.

Küsi pakkumist! E-mail: või tel. 5695 0350

Tänuüritus meie Facebooki jälgijatele

Eve Tui, Imbi Paju, Katrin Pekri, Merike Perkmann, Oiva Kaupinen, Virge Õuemaa, Viive Selg, Оlga Мihhailova, Kati Rebane ja Marianne Février, kingime teile meie Facebooki aktiivse jälgimise eest linnuretke.
Palju õnne!
Kohtumine giidiga 27-ndal aprillil kell 6.00 Lihula mõisa või Risti söögitare juures (täpsustame hiljem täpse kohtumispaiga). Retke kestvus on 3-5 tundi. Oma osalusest palume kindlasti teada anda: või tel. 5695 0350

Read the program in English and Russian below... 

Kana on kindlasti igaüks näinud ja nii mõnigi ilmselt ka maitsnud. Aga on ka veel teistmoodi kanasid – need on metsakanad. Eestimaa metsades võib kohtuda kolme kanalisega – laanepüü, tedre ja metsisega. Linnuretkel näeme tetre ja kui õnne on, siis ka laanepüüd.

Retke lühikirjeldus:

Retk algab meie kuninglike põlisasukate tetrede pulmamängu jälgimisega. Igaüks neist püüab olla neist kohevama sabaga ja kõvema kudrutusega. Tõeline tegija leitakse platsi keskelt – just siin on kõige tugevamad, kõige uhkemad ja kõige vägevamad tedrekuked, kes üldjuhul ka tedremammaga lähemat tutvust teha saavad. Metsise nägemiseks peab väga palju õnne olema. Paneme reisile kaasa piknikukorvi, teine võimalus on süüa peale linnuvaatlust Roostal.

Linnuliigid: teder, laanepüü, musträhn, tutt-tihane jpt.

Vaata ka tedremängu videot...

Tedred / Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) / Arne Ader

Local guide will meet you at 6 AM on 27th April in front of Lihula manor house or in fuel station at Risti (will confirm later). Please notify your participation to us: or call +372 5695 0350

The trip begins with watching the wedding game of our royal native inhabitants the Black Grouse. Each of the males is trying to be the best with more fluffed out tail feathers and louder calls than his rivals. Real players are in the centre of the square - right here are the strongest, proudest and most powerful male Black Grouse, who generally can get close to female Black Grouses. We might meet Hazel Grouse and with much luck perhaps even a Capercaillie. 

Birds: Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Black Woodpecker, Crested etc.

See also Black Grouse video...

Встреча с гидом: На шоссе Таллинн – Хаапсалу около поворота на Ристи или в Лихула 27 апреля в 6.00. Пожалуйста объявить о своем участии:, тел +372 5695 0350

Описание пакета:

С курицей знакомы конечно многие и даже пробовали её на вкус. Но есть и другие виды куриц – лесные курицы. В Эстонии можно встретить три разновидности куриных – рябчик, тетерев-косач и глухарь. Во время похода увидим тетерева и, если повезёт, рябчика.
Поход начинается с мест, где тетерева проводят свои свадебные игры. Каждый раскрывает свой пушистый хвост веером и издаёт звуки похожие на бормотание. Посреди площадки самые красивые, смелые и опытные самцы, именно у них больше шансов для завоевания самочек. Дальше отправимся в сторону Тукси- Рооста, где повстечаемся с рябчиком. Для встречи с глухарём нужно быть настоящим везунчиком. В поход возьмём корзину с продуктами для пикника, вторая возможность покушать, после похода, в Рооста.

Птицы: тетерев-косач, рябчик, чёрный дятел, хохлатая синица и др.