We quickly left the hustle of the Estonian capital and headed out on rural roads towards our first 3 night stop in the coastal town of Haapsalu. The road and flat nature of the Estonian countryside offered lots of White Stork, Common Crane and Hooded Crow before we made a roadside pit stop next to some freshly cultivated fields adding Golden Plover, Lapwing and some freshly arrived Wheatear and Whinchat. A quick shout from our English guide David had us scrabbling for our packed optics as the first raptor of the trip made an appearance in the form of an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle. Early evening saw us checked into our first hotel, positioned perfectly for birdwatchers on a tiny peninsula sticking out into Haapsalu Bay. It’s the first time I have had the pleasure of watching a pair of enormous White-tailed Eagles from the dining table, hunting around the open bay and surrounding wetland habitat. This trip was delivering already and we hadn’t even started properly yet!
|Seawatching at Spithami|
|More Barnacle Geese|
|Common Crane in a Snow storm|
After a long and tiring evening the day before, we were up early and off to our final destination of Tartu. Ticking our first and only Great Grey Shrike of the trip, a lifer Kath had to fling herself from the rear of the mini bus over 2 rows of seats ending up in the foot-well of the bus before getting a glimpse of. This was probably our quietest day of the trip and as our planned evening excursion to view lekking Great Snipe was cancelled due to an unusually dry spring we headed to the wetlands near Aardla. Watching a huge number of Ruff in all their finery feeding on the edge of a freshly drilled field. After climbing the rickety observation tower we were soon watching freshly arrived Black Terns hawking on the pools, large numbers of Bean and White-fronted Geese started to stream across the sky in front of the stunning setting sun. As the light started to vanish we watched 3 or 4 Beavers swimming across the open channels.
|Tower at Aardla Wetlands|
Our local guide Mati was full of great knowledge and made sure we all got to see a lot of what was spotted. David the ‘Naturetrek’ guide was equally as helpful if not more so and seemed to be able to tell any bird from even the slightest note of its call. As in any group of different people from mixed backgrounds you have some you like and get on with and there are often a few that you don’t and after taking at least till midweek to make sure everyone knew we were brother and sister not a married couple, this trip was no exception. Mainly because a lot of guests wanted a lie-in in the morning and a nice break mid morning for Coffee. Maybe I was being selfish but having paid a small fortune to go on this trip I wanted to get the most out of it as possible and see all I could, but I think Mati and David did a pretty good job of keeping both camps happy. All in all Estonia in Spring was an awesome experience and I hope to go back one day to see the species we missed.
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