Friday, December 18, 2015

Interurban Bird Rally 2016

The upcoming birdwatching contest between towns in Estonia takes place on 27th of March 2016. British and other teams are welcome to join this event!
Every spring, in the last weekend of March, an original birdwatching contest is held - The Inter-urban Bird Rally. The purpose of this event is to turn public attention to the big number of birds in the urban environment and also to the arrival of migrating birds. The most important feature of the competition is the rule not to exit town-borders when seeking species.

Each year and average of 15 towns take part.  From 5am till 1pm the competing teams try to find as many bird species as possible. Very often they search either on foot or by bicycle instead of using cars.

The weather so early in spring may be vastly different from year to year, making a big difference to the results of the competition. The exeptionally early spring in 2014 resulted in new records being set with birders in 18 different towns of Estonia counting 116 bird species in total. Winners were overwhelmingly the coastal towns.  In Pärnu 88 bird species were recorded, followed by Tallinn with 82 and Haapsalu with 76 species.  During the half-day birding event the contestants spotted some exciting birds for within city borders including Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker, Pygmy Owl, Woodlark and Bearded Tit.

The tradition of the inter-urban bird-rally dates back to 2002, when the Bird Club of Lääne County launched the birding contest in Haapsalu town. Within a couple of years birders from other locations were taking an interest in the event and the rest - the Inter-urban Bird Rally - is history. These days the contest is run by the Estonian Ornithological Society.

What´s new this season? Steller´s Eiders, owls and a Lynx

Steller´s Eiders usually arrive at their wintering grounds off Saaremaa Island between late November and last week of December. This winter the first flock seen in Estonia were 43 birds flying along the North-Estonia coast on 8th December, while a small group of 15 birds were located at the main wintering area already following day.  Over the coming weeks numbers should grow to 300-500 birds.

Steller's Eider / Photo: Mati Martinson

We are delighted to say that our popular Steller’s Eider trip is proving more popular than ever this year with two trips already full!!  More people are showing an interest, so for the first time, we have decided to put on a third tour.  As well as seeing Steller’s Eider there are other great birds on offer at this time of year including Ural and Pygmy Owl and with a bit of luck perhaps even Hawk Owl plus Nutcracker and several woodpecker species. Tour dates are 19th- 22nd February and you can book flights from London Gatwick with Easyjet, or from other airports with Finnair, SAS, Ryanair or Air Baltic.

If you prefer to book through a UK agent so everything is included there are still places left with Wise Birding Holidays  from 26th Feb – 2nd March 2016 while Sunbird, Birdfinders and Naturetrek are also offering trips to see Steller’s Eider, owls and other forest bird species such as grouse. For the first time, Spainbirds will be visiting Estonia with a trip in March, their tour is already fully booked! With private groups booking too it seems that Estonia and Estonian Nature Tours are very popular in winter 2016!!

The situation with Owls seems to be great this winter, especially  our most common forest owls. Although Ural Owls are mainly nocturnal, in some winters they tend to show themselves also at daytime and we have been enjoying lots of such sighting this December. We think that January and February are likely to be the best months to observe hunting Ural Owls in Estonia. Some of the more unusual owl species have been reported during the last month too with at least four Hawk Owls found so far this winter and even a Great Grey Owl in the north-east.

Pygmy Owl / Photo: Remo Savisaar

Winter time is not only a good time for owls, but also for several raptors and, due to the rather mild winter conditions, Rough-legged Buzzards and Hen Harriers have been surprisingly numerous this winter.

We are also continuing to work on developing our exciting Eurasian Lynx trip. The very first Lynx tour, which we ran with Wise Birding Holidays in early March 2015, was incredibly successful.  Such a species is never going to be guaranteed on any trip but we are working to develop this trip to increase the chances to an even higher level... we have some ideas, so definitely stay on the line. Wise Birding still have a few places on their 2016 trip, take a look and click here to make a booking...

Wise Birding tour report 2015: Pygmy Owl and Mr Lynx were seen in first 2.5 hours! Read more...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Great partners, good network

We are happy to remind you that there are many tour operators in Europe who sell ENT tours to their clients. They are on different dates than we provide and may suit you better sometimes or you may prefer that they include everything in their price and book the flights for you too.  Some of these operators have still places available so.. if you are loyal to the company you already know then request tour packages:

Date                                                   Focus                          Booking agent

Fri 26th Feb – Wed 2nd Mar              birds                             Wise Birding

Wed 2nd Mar – Mon 7th Mar             mammals                     Wise Birding

Fri 4th Mar – Mon 7th Mar                 birds                             Sunbird

Sat 19th Mar – Sun 27th Mar             birds                            Spainbirds

Fri 25th Mar – Wed 30th Mar             birds                             Naturetrek

Fri 1st Apr – Wed 6th Apr                  birds                             Birdfinders

Sat 30th Apr – Sat 7th May               birds                             Wise Birding

Sat 7th May – Sat 14th May              wildlife                          SNP Natuurreizen

Sun 15th May – Sun 22nd May         birds & mammals         Travelling Naturalist

Mon 2nd May – Mon 9th May            birds                             Sunbird

Sun 22nd May – Sun 29th May         birds                             Naturetrek

Wed 1st Jun – Wed 8th Jun              wildlife                          Starling Reizen

Mon 6th Jun – Mon 13th Jun             birds                             Bird Holidays

Sun 5th Jun – Mon 13th Jun             orchids & mammals      Sandwich Bird Tours

Wed 8th Jun – Sun 19th Jun             wildlife                          Terra Unica Reizen               

Sun 26th Jun – Mon 4th Jul               wildflowers                   Naturetrek
Sat 10th Sep – Sat 17th Sep             wildlife                          SNP Natuurreizen

Sun 18th Sep – Sun 25th Sep           birds                             Naturetrek

Sat 17th Sep – Sat  24th Sep            birds                             Bird Holidays

Wed 21st Sep – Sun 2nd Oct            birds & mammals         Terra Unica Reizen

Sun 25th Sep – Sun 2nd Oct             birds                             Travelling Naturalist

Mon 3rd Oct – Mon 10th Oct             birds                             Ornitholidays 

As well as birdwatching tours, some of the tours we will be operating in conjunction of our partner companies include a Butterfly Holiday, 3 - 10 July, together with Greenwings Holidays and a Mammals and Birds tour, 23 - 30 September, together with Greenwings and Wildwings. 

There are so many options on offer, don’t think just - start packing!