Estonia in spring

1st to 8th May, 2004

Tim Earl

Highlights: Black grouse lekking in the early morning.

Beaver nibbling bark from a branch like corn off a cob in the late evening.

Vast skeins of Barnacle geese on the coast with White-fronted and Bean geese inland.

Huge flocks of sea ducks migrating past us and on the water.

A White-tailed eagle repeatedly plunging feet-first into the sea unsuccessfully after fish.

The reed beds around the Voiste fish ponds.

Great snipe lekking (the only ones in Europe?).

Wild swans in their hundreds, if not thousands.

Black terns swooping over the marshes at Tartu.

Daily diary

Saturday 1st May

The flight from Heathrow was uneventful but with a first for this trip a bird was seen at Helsinki airportÖ Judy spotted a Hooded crow on the grass as we landed.

Singles of Little gull and Black tern were seen over the lake opposite Tallinn airport and a couple of Mute swans, a few Cormorants and Herring gulls started the list off properly.

Our journey to Haapsalu was broken by stops for nesting White storks, 13 Cranes and a Wryneck, but we still had plenty of time and decided to detour to the wonderful Haeska Torn, an observation tower overlooking Matsalu bay.

This provided the best possible start to the holiday with hundreds of Bewick's and Whooper swans, 30 White-fronted geese, a male Smew in breeding plumage and a few Goosanders. A stunning male Montagu's harrier quartered the marsh behind the tower and we had to get used to Fieldfares nesting in the area.

Black-tailed godwits and Redshanks nesting in the marsh were displaying noisily and there was a general spring excitement about all we saw.

We checked in to the welcoming Haapsalu Hotell and had a good dinner. A short trip to look at a lake in town turned into an expedition in search of Elk. It was successful driving a lane alongside a wood we picked up an Elk in the headlights and were able to get reasonable views without dazzling the animal. Elk mementos were handed to the group at a special ceremony in the hotel.

Sunday 2nd May

An early start saw us search for fields where about 10 Black grouse were lekking but a few detours on the way there left us only about 20 minutes and we resolved to return a little earlier the following morning. The trip was well worthwhile with views of Hazel grouse, another Elk and a female Black grouse which posed in a tree in front of us and then looked shocked after she appeared to fall out. After picking around on the ground for a few minutes the bird wandered off and we followed suit.

The famous sea-watching site at Spithami Point was our destination after breakfast but again we were late in arriving for the peak migration which occurs early in the morning. Nevertheless, we were amazed at the hundreds of Long-tailed ducks with a smattering of Goldeneyes, Scoters and a few Eider. We had excellent picnics from the hotel and were eating these when a group of Goosanders flew in close to us and proceeded to court one another as we watched and chewed.

We explored the northern bank of Haapsalu bay, overlooking the town across the inlet, where besides the birds a couple set sail in a quaint little yacht. A field with more than 100 Golden plovers held our attention for some time. Raptors were well represented with our first Common buzzards and Lesser spotted eagles, and two Rough-legged buzzards.

Returning to the town we visited the harbour on the opposite side of the bay where two Caspian terns were seen heading inland to their nest site.

Monday 3rd May

Our return to the Black grouse fields was much earlier than yesterday and we were well rewarded. Birds were lekking in two fields while a single male called the distinctive song from a nearby aspen. Common cranes were calling all around the area and the atmospheric event was heightened when a Golden plover settled near to us and proceeded to call, as if hoping for more to join it.

After breakfast at the hotel we headed south to Puise Point where we made contact with Estonia's superb sea-duck migration once more. Thousands of Barnacle geese were massing on the shore-line and from an elevated ramp we were able to watch them leave their roost to fly inland to a field where they began to feed. The flock built up over the time we were watching until there were at least 5,000 birds feeding. A passing Red fox threatened to spook them but did not seem interested in the birds which consequently stayed put.

Judy queried the identification of two large rocks on the far shore of an inlet, immediately identified as White-tailed eagles. That was confirmed some minutes later when one of the birds took off and proceeded to hunt fish in front of us. Sadly for the bird its eight or nine attempts resulted in no apparent catch and it returned to the other empty taloned.

Cheered with this success we returned to the Haeska tower in some of the dullest weather of the trip which worked to our advantage as the sun's glare was reduced. The scene from the top of the tower was breathtaking. Hundreds of ducks and waders were feeding in the still waters all around the headland and we spent ages picking out goodies such as Garganey, 50 Scaup, five Smew (our last of the trip) and three more White-tailed eagles. Dozens of Spotted redshanks were running around in full breeding plumage with Ruff, Greenshank, a few Dunlin and a solitary Wood sandpiper.

A large flock of White-fronted geese was seen in a distant but unapproachable field and it was only the following day that we learned there were 21 Lesser white-fronted geese among them. Bah!

Tuesday 4th May

We returned to Spithami Point before breakfast to enjoy the spectacle of birds streaming past. Several of us do a little sea-watching back home and it was in sheer wonder that we gazed upon the ducks, geese and divers passing by. Eider, Long-tailed ducks, Common scoter (but no Velvet scoter this year) Goldeneye, Red-breasted mergansers, Goosanders were accompanied by lots of Red- and Black-throated divers. It was a brilliant start to our day.

Travelling can be a waste of time in some countries but not Estonia. We stopped to bid farewell to the Keemu tower on our way south and then started exploring the other side of Matsalu bay.

Estonian countryside is beautiful and picturesque and the hour or so it took to reach Tuhu Soo tower was certainly interesting.

The tower was more so with large flocks of Bewick's swans, White-fronted and Bean geese feeding in the shallow waters. A Canada goose, rare for these parts, was found and a Bewick's with a blue collar (its life history is given below) also noted. Two or three White-tailed eagles were loafing in the area and another vast flock of Barnacle geese was also present.

Lunch was spent near a deserted manor house where we found the first of many Wood warblers to be recorded on this trip. The lemon-yellow throat, green back and contrasting white underparts matched the shiver-inducing song of this lovely warbler.

Paru is in contrast to the wild side of Estonia a communist-developed city of little merit, certainly to transit tourists.

But we were soon through and closing on Häädemeeste where we would spend the next two nights. My memory failed, we missed the turning to the Voiste fish ponds and went straight to the hotel instead a good thing as there was some work to be done sorting out the rooms. We all ended with stunning sea views and balconies from which telescopes were trained on the waters as individuals added species to their 'bedroom lists'.

Long-tailed ducks, Goldeneyes, Black- and Red-throated divers all fell to sharp-eyed observers, but a flock of about 20 Little gulls was seen by only a few.

Bewick's swan Blue neck-ring 714P ringed 10.08.1996 Yan Gutey river, Russkii Zavorot Peninsula, Russia

Sighted: 31.01.1997 WWT-Martinmere

09.02.1997 Westry, nr March

17.02.1997 Westmoor Fen, Welney

23.03.1997 Segerstad Fyr

27.12.1999 to

17.01.2000 Kinrush airfield, W shore L.Neagh

27.12.2000 Kinrush airfield, W shore L.Neagh

17.01.2001 Kinrush airfield, W shore L.Neagh

14.04.2001 Haademeeste, Estonia

10.01.2002 Traad Bay, Lough Neagh

20.01.2002 to

22.01.2002 Carlane, Lough Neagh

4.5.2004 Keema tower, Puise Point, Estonia

Wednesday 5th May

Our pre-breakfast outing was to the super Voiste ponds where we were delighted to find that an observation platform had been strategically placed on the corner of a pond. Great reed-warblers were singing from several sites close to us while a few metres away a Savi's warbler reeling away was found and admired through 'scopes we could even see its bright red gape as it performed for us.

Two other platforms were visited but, although we saw plenty of birds, no new species was recorded.

By mid-morning we were exploring the fantastic Nigula forest reserve a vast area of mixed woodland which stretches up to and beyond the Latvian border. Indeed, we found the border, marked by a ditch with strategic poles along it (no, not the Pole-ish border), and stood for some time building up a Latvian bird list which includes Pied flycatcher, Wood warbler, Blackcap, Lesser whitethroat and, of course, Chaffinch.

A Black stork was disturbed from a ditch but thanked us by wheeling over our heads several times, affording great views. It was probably waiting for us to leave so that it could return to the serious business for gathering food. Several pairs nest in this wood, although generally, they are not common in Estonia.

Our main reason for being in the delightful spot was to do a reconnaissance, looking for a spot I found the previous year which had a Beaver dam to which we planned a return visit that evening. It had gone. The dam had been too efficient and it, along with a section of forest road, had been washed away during the winter a serious blow to my plans.

My worries were not communicated to the group and we returned to the ponds for a picnic lunch (and snooze in the warm sunshine) on the new platform. Marsh harriers were quartering the reed beds, Mute swans chased each other from one pond to another in territorial disputes, but there was no sound from the Bitterns which nest in the area.

We parked up five metres from the site of the former Beaver dam at about 7.30pm and prepared to wait. That did not last long as a Lesser spotted eagle dropped onto the road 100 metres to our left and proceeded to spend the next 25 minutes anting. It was breathtaking experience to be so close to the bird and watch it as it went through all sorts of antics. It made up for the lack of Beaver, or so I thought.

The washed-out road had a bright yellow tape across it as a warning. Suddenly, we heard a splash behind the tape and there was a European beaver. They are terribly shy creatures and will dive at the first sound or movement, slapping the surface with their flat tails as a warning to other family members.

This one did not I suspect the flapping yellow tape had conditioned it to noise and movement and we were given an exceptional treat. It dived, picked up a thin willow branch which it carried to the bank where the animal sat nibbling the bark off for its supper. We looked at its tiny eyes, small ears and flat tail in amazement, aware that it had not sensed our presence. Snack finished, it slowly swam down the stream away from us before climbing onto the bank where it busied itself for the next 15 minutes.

What should we watch, the anting eagle or the barking beaver? The answer probably wasÖ the Goshawk which flew down the road, over the beaver towards a Roe deer grazing happily 100 metres away. Or the roding Woodcock which flew around over our heads looking like Concorde coming in to land, nose-down (or in this case beak-down). Then there was the displaying Green sandpiperÖ

Whatever, none of us wanted to leave for dinner and we were last into the restaurant that evening in a state of some euphoria.

Thursday 6th May

An early start put us on the journey to Tartu for our last two nights. It was a bit of a come-down after the previous evening. The Sooma nature reserve was disappointing with no Corn crakes or Capercaillie. The prestigious interpretation centre could not provide us with coffee and a craft shop was closed it opens on Fridays only.

But lunch at the Viljandi Lake was better with Red-necked grebes and Black terns for company. Estonians were out in force, many sporting livid red bodies as they basked in the unseasonably hot sun.

The Ilmatsu ponds can be brilliant for birds but we were encouraged to leave by a couple of workers there and it was with a generally bird-less day behind us that we checked into our hotel in Tartu.

An early dinner was followed by a trip out to a wet-field reserve where Great snipe lek. Surely this time we would be in luck? It was so with 14 birds lekking and calling despite the presence of a photographer who was far too close to them for comfort. It is to be hoped that access to photographers will be restricted in future, especially in light of the Polish situation mentioned below. The photographer left as the light dropped and we watched the birds in awe as they chased each other, spread their tails, arched backs, stretched necks and leaped from the grass to flutter down again as if their wings were broken. A dog Red fox barked in the distance and a Grey partridge rushed through the site as if it was likely to be skewered by the lekking snipe.

It was a great experience yet another in this superb tour of Estonia. It was only after we returned to the UK that it was learned that the Polish Great snipe have vanished leaving Estonia as one of the few places in Europe in which these enigmatic birds can be found.

Friday 7th May

The Parnu Aardla marshes are only a few minutes drive from the hotel and after an early breakfast we located the site in time to see scores of skeins of Bean and White-fronted geese pouring over. It was the goose migration we had missed on the coast with thousands of birds streaming past as yet another highlight of the trip.

A tip-off from Jari Peltomaki from Finnature had us searching for Citrine wagtails, a species not present on the coast this year, with success. Several pairs seem to be settling down to breed on the marshes. Black terns nest there also with Black-headed and Little gulls in a large mixed colony. Sedge warblers sang, Garganey were among the common ducks on one of the ponds and, to our great delight, a Bittern was booming in the reed beds.

Once again this fantastic marsh, which is under such pressure from its close proximity to Tartu, had come up trumps with a spectacular morning's birding.

An arts centre next to the river in the heart of town was chosen for our picnic lunch where we were pleased to see a few Swifts overhead. The shopping centre attracted little interest and we went to Tartu cemetery instead. Here Nuthatch was added to the list but we were unable to find the drumming Black woodpecker heard so clearly.

The day ended with a walk around the Ilmatsu ponds. Little ringed-plovers were nesting and a couple of Sand martins flew through but it was generally quiet which made being thrown out the day before seem to be of little importance.

Saturday 8th May

It was wonderful to think that, as we watched thousands of geese flying over our heads that we would be back in London that eveningÖ what a memory to take home. Our last morning was marked with a pre-breakfast start in the marshes where a White-backed woodpecker was an unexpected surprise. Laughing Little gulls, booming Bittern, cronking geese and reeling Grasshopper warblers were our final ornithological experiences of Estonia.

The drive to the airport was uneventful and it was with great reluctance that most of us returned via Helsinki to London (leaving Mary to explore Tallinn for a couple of days).



DIVERS Gaviiformes Gaviidae

1 Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Spithami point (max 50 on 4th).

2 Black-throated (Arctic) diver Gavia arctica

Spithami point (max 50 or so on 5th).

GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

3 Red-necked grebe Podiceps grisegena

Two at the Voilandi lake lunch stop on 6th; one on the Parnu Aardla marshes on 7th.

4 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Haapsalu bay, daily, max 50 on 2nd.

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

5 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Common daily on the coast.

HERONS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

6 Grey heron Ardea cinerea

Common daily on the coast.

7 Great bittern Botaurus stellaris

Heard at the Parnu Aardla marshes 7th and 8th.

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

8 Black stork Ciconia nigra

Nigula forest, one flushed from a stream.

9 White stork Ciconia ciconia

Common daily, many nests.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

10 Mute swan Cygnus olor

Abundant on the coast.

11 Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus

Haeska and Keema torns, Matsalu bay (hundreds).

12 Tundra (Bewick's) swan Cygnus columbianus

Spithami point seawatch, two on 2nd, Keemu Torn, 100 or more on 4th.

13 Taiga bean goose Anser fabalis

Fields near and on Parnu Aardla, hundreds on 7th, a few on 8th.

14 Tundra bean goose Anser rossicus

One on the Aardla marshes on 7th (phew).

15 Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus

Coastal, maximum 80 in Haapsalu bay on 2nd.

16 Greater white-fronted goose Anser albifrons

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay (skein of 30 on the 1st, common to abundant daily on the coast.

17 Greylag goose Anser anser

Twos and threes daily in Haapsalu bay.

18 Canada goose Branta canadensis

One at Keemu Torn on 4th. This species is most uncommon in Estonia.

19 Barnacle goose Branta leucopsis

Huge flocks of thousands in Haapsalu bay on the 3rd and 4th.

20 Common shelduck Tadorna tadorna

A few daily on the coast.

21 Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope

Up to 50 daily on the coast.

22 Gadwall Anas strepera

Common daily in suitable habitats.

23 Common teal Anas crecca

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay (10).

24 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Common daily

25 Northern pintail Anas acuta

thirty or 40 on the sea 4th and 5th.

26 Garganey Anas querquedula

Pairs on 3rd (Haeska Torn) and 7th (Parnu Aardla), two males on 8th (cherry-picking final early morning visit to Parnu Aardla).

27 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata

A few in most suitable habitats.

28 Common pochard Aythya ferina

A few in most suitable habitats.

29 Tufted duck Aythya fuligula

A few in most suitable habitats.

30 Greater scaup Aythya marila

About 50 on the sea off Spithami Point on 3rd.

31 Common eider Somateria mollissima

A couple, Haapsalu bay on 2nd, Spithami point (6 on 3rd and 100 on 4th).

32 Oldsquaw (Long-tailed duck) Clangula hyemalis

Spithami point (hundreds daily); Lepanina Hotel, a few daily from the balconies.

33 Black scoter Melanitta nigra

Spithami point (30 on 2nd, 30 on 4th); Puise Point, eight males and a duck on 4th

34 Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Spithami point (10 on 2nd, 60 on 4th); a few daily on pools in-land.

35 Smew Mergellus albellus

Haeska Torn, drake, Spithami point (drake); drake and four ducks from Haeska Torn on 3rd.

36 Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator

Spithalmi Point 30 on 2nd and 4th.

37 Goosander Mergus merganser

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay (2); Spithami point (80); a few daily in-land on rivers and pools.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

38 European honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus

One, possibly two over the Nigula Forest on 5th.

39 White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla

A total of 11 on 3rd, three on 4th, one on 5th (Haapsalu bay area).

40 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

Common daily over coastal and in-land marshes.

41 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay, one on 1st, male plus melanistic male on 3rd, two males on 4th and a single on 5th.

42 Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Singles on 3rd, 5th and 6th.

43 Northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis

One on the Nigula Forest 'beaver-watch' on 5th.

44 Eurasian buzzard Buteo buteo

A few daily.

45 Rough-legged hawk (buzzard) Buteo lagopus

Two around Haapsalu bay on 2nd.

46 Lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina

Two distantly on 2nd, one low overhead on 4th. Star bird was in the Nigula forest when, on the 'beaver watch' evening outing one dropped onto the bank about 100m away and proceeded to 'ant' for at least 30 minutes.

47 Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos

One gave super views over the Tuhu Soo bog reserve on 5th

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

48 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Singles on 3rd and 5th.

49 Merlin Falco columbarius

One from the bus as we headed to Tallin airport on the final day.

50 Eurasian hobby Falco subbuteo

Singles on 3rd (Varku fields) and 6th (Sooma reserve).

51 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus

One in off the sea at the Lapanina Hotell on 6th (JD).

GROUSE Galliformes Tetraonidae

52 Black grouse Tetrao tetrix

Maximum of 15 males on three leks Varku fields 2nd and 3rd.

53 Hazel grouse Bonasa bonasia

Male seen briefly on 2nd, two males chasing and sparring on 3rd, two on 4th and a male heard calling at the 'beaver watch' on 5th.

PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

54 Grey partridge Perdix perdix

One in the Great snipe fields on 6th.

CRANES Gruiformes Gruidae

55 Common crane Grus grus

A few daily; flock of 110 on the 3rd. None seen in-land.

COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

56 Eurasian coot Fulica atra

A few seen daily in suitable habitat.

OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae

57 Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

A few daily on the coast.

AVOCETS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

58 Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

Total of six in the bay off Haapsalu on 2nd.

LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

59 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Common daily.

60 Eurasian golden-plover Pluvialis apricaria

Flock of 100 on 2nd, one calling at the Black grouse lek on 3rd.

61 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula

A few on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th.

62 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius

About four at the Ilmatsu fish ponds on 7th.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

63 Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola

One roding overhead at the 'beaver watch' on 5th.

64 Great snipe Gallinago media

About 11 at three leks on 6th.

65 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago

Haeska Torn, one on 1st; single male displaying on 3rd (Haeska Torn) and 7th (Parnu Aardla).

66 Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa

Haeska Torn (four displaying 1st); Tuhu Soo eight displaying and chasing Ravens on 4th.

67 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

A couple daily around Haapsalu bay.

68 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata

A few daily on the coast, max 30 at Spithami Point on 2nd .

69 Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay, 40 on 3rd, a super sight.

70 Common redshank Tringa totanus

A few nesting in every available marsh.

71 Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis

Puise Point, one on3rd.

72 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia

Up to six daily at the coastal sites.

73 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus

One only in display flight at the Nigula Foirest 'beaver watch' on 5th.

74 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola

One on 3rd but a delightful flock of about 15 at the Voiste ponds on 5th.

75 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

A total of eight in likely coastal and river sites.

76 Dunlin Calidris alpina

Only five at the Haeske Torn on 3rd. The main migration of waders had already moved north in the warm conditions.

77 Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Haeska Torn, Matsalu bay (6 males in breeding dress, several reeves on 1st, five on 2nd and more than 100 on 3rd); 40 at the Keemu Torn on 4th; three at Parnu Aardla marshes on 7th.

SKUAS Charadriiformes Stercorariidae

78 Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus

Spithami Point, one on 2nd (JD).

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

79 Common gull Larus canus

Common daily on the coast, none inland.

80 Great black-backed gull Larus marinus

A few daily on the coast.

81 Herring gull plus Heuglin's gull Larus argentatus

Tallin airport (15); Common daily.

82 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus

A few daily.

83 Little gull Larus minutus

Tallin airport, one on 1st; Voiste ponds four on 4th, six on 5th; Ilmatsu ponds 17 on 6th; Parnu Aardla marshes, six on 8th (part of the cherry-picking pre-breakfast outing).

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

84 Caspian tern Sterna caspia

Haapsalu harbour, two on 2nd.

85 Common tern Sterna hirundo

Common daily.

86 Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea

A few daily on the coast, maximum 25 at Spithami point on 2nd.

87 Little tern Sterna albifrons

Seen at the coast on three days in small numbers.

88 Black tern Chlidonias niger

Tallin airport, one on arrival; Parnu Aardla marshes about 100 pairs breeding.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

89 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia

A few in villages daily.

90 Stock pigeon Columba oenas

Haeska Torn, two on 1st, four seen on two days afterwards.

91 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

Common daily.

CUCKOOS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

92 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus

Calling birds heard daily from 4th onwards but not seen.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

93 Common swift Apus apus

Two on the fourth at Keemu Torn, three over Tartu on 7th.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

94 Eurasian wryneck Jynx torquilla

Haeska Torn, one seen, another heard on 1st; Sooma reserve one seen on 6th.

95 White-backed woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos

Parnu Aardla marsh, female on 8th.

96 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Two males on 3rd, female on 5th.

97 Black woodpecker Dryocopus martius

Pair nesting in a dead tree at our picnic spot on 2nd; one in the Nigula forest on 5th.

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

98 Sky lark Alauda arvensis

Common singing daily.

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

99 Sand martin Riparia riparia

Two at the Ilmatsu ponds

100 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica

Common daily.

101 House martin Delichon urbica

Common daily from 3rd onwards.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

102 White wagtail Motacilla alba

Common daily.

103 Citrine wagtail Motacilla citreola

At least three males and a female on the Parnu Aardla marsh on 7th and 8th.

104 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava

Common daily.

105 Tree pipit Anthus trivialis

Common to abundant daily.

106 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis

A few daily.

107 Rock pipit Anthus petrosus

One at Puise Point on 3rd.

KINGLETS Passeriformes Regulidae

108 Goldcrest Regulus regulus

Heard singing in many places.

ACCENTORS Passeriformes Prunellidae

109 Dunnock Prunella modularis

One singing atop a fir tree in the Nigula forest on 5th

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

110 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula

Common daily.

111 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris

Common daily.

112 Redwing Turdus iliacus

A few around Haapsalu Bay were probably migrants.

113 Song thrush Turdus philomelos

Seen or heard only twice.

114 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus

A few here and there; not uncommon. Three attacking a Raven near Parnu Aardla on 7th.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

115 Grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia

Heard at the Great snipe lek on 6th and the following day but not seen until the 'cherry-picking' final outing.

116 Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides

One at the Voiste ponds seen singing its heart out on 5th.

117 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

A few heard here and there but seen wonderfully at Parnu Aardla marshes.

118 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Not common: one heard on the 5th another seen on 7th.

119 Great reed-warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

More than 10 singing males at the Voiste ponds on 5th; one at the Viljandi lake lunch stop on 6th.

120 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

Common daily.

121 Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybeta

Common daily.

122 Wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Common daily from 4th onwards.

123 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

A few heard but only one seen: at the Sooma reserve on 6th.

124 Greater whitethroat Sylvia communis

Common daily from 6th.

125 Lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Common daily.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

126 Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata

One with a Pied flycatcher in the Nigula forest on 5th.

127 European pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

A total of eight seen.

128 European robin Erithacus rubecula

Common daily but heard more often than seen.

129 Thrush nightingale Luscinia luscinia

Common singing daily from 4th but seen only once fleetingly..

130 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Males seen twice - in the Varku fields farm and when looking for the Tartu cemetery.

131 Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Surprisingly few - two females in the Tim Earligula forest near the Latvian border.

132 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

Common to abundant daily.

133 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

A few daily, some on migration others clearly nesting.

PARROTBILLS Passeriformes Paradoxornithidae

134 Bearded reedling Panurus biarmicus

Two or three at the Voiste ponds on 5th.

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae

135 Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Two of the white-headed race fleetingly in the Nigula forest on 5th.

TITS Passeriformes Paridae

136 Marsh tit Poecile palustris

Two in the Sooma reserve on 6th.

137 Great tit Parus major

A few daily.

138 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Quite uncommon with birds seen on only four days.

NUTHATCHES Passeriformes Sittidae

139 Eurasian nuthatch Sitta europaea

Three in Tartu cemetary on 7th.

JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae

140 Eurasian jay Garrulus glandarius

Common daily

141 Common magpie Pica pica

Common daily.

142 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula

Common daily.

143 Rook Corvus frugilegus

Common on inland farms and parks (Tartu for example)

144 Carrion crow Corvus corone

Common daily.

145 Common raven Corvus corax

Common daily. One colony of more than 40 found near the Ilmatsu ponds on 6th.

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

146 European starling Sturnus vulgaris

Common daily.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

147 House sparrow Passer domesticus

Common daily.

148 Eurasian tree sparrow Passer montanus

Two at the Voiste ponds on 5th; thrtee or four at the Kantri Hotell on 8th.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

149 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Common daily.

150 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris

A few daily with a maximuim of 20 near the Haeska Torn on 3rd.

151 Eurasian siskin Carduelis spinus

A few small flocks heard in appropriate habitat; three seen at Spithami Point on 3rd.

152 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

A few daily.

153 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina

A few daily.

154 Eurasian bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Ones and twos in fir woods.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

155 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Common daily.

156 Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

Common in marshes.


RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 European hare Lepus europaeus

One on the beach at Puise Point on 3rd.

BEAVERS Rodentia Castoridae

2 Eurasian beaver Castor fiber

One a few metres away gnawing the bark off a willow branch as if nibbling a sweet corn husk, Nigula forest on 5th. We watched the animal for a further 25 minutes before leaving it still feeding on the bank about 30m away.

MICE, RATS & VOLES Rodentia Muridae

3 European water vole Arvicola terrestris

One at Puise Point on 3rd.

DOGS & FOXES Carnivora Canidae

4 Red fox Vulpes vulpes

One at the Keemu Torn passing a huge flock of wary Barnacle geese, another on the beach at Haapsalu, on 3rd.; dog heard barking while we were watching the Great snipe lek on 6th.

MOLES Lipotyphla Talpidae

5 European mole Talpa europaea

Mole hills seen commonly throughout the trip.

PIGS Artiodactyla Suidae

6 Wild boar Sus scrofa

Extensive rootings seen at the Black grouse leks on the Varku fields.

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

7 Western roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Common daily.

8 Elk Alces alces

Singles at Haeska Torn on 1st, Varku fields on 2nd; and on 3rd.


FROGS Ranidae

1 Common pool frog Rana lessonae

Several seen and heard on three days.

2 Common toad Bufo bufo

Two or three dead on the track at the Viljandi lake.

SNAKES Herpidae

3 Common adder (viper) Vipera berus

One crossing the road outside Haapsalu on the 3rd.


1 Brimstone Goneptryx rhamni

Common seen in numbers daily.

2 Silver-studded blue Plebijus argus

One seen on 2nd.

3 Camberwell beauty Nymphalis antiopa

Seen on four days with more than 10 on 5th.

4 Large tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros

Two seen on 5th and 6th.

5 Peacock Inachis io

Seen on five days; becoming more numerous as the week progressed.

6 Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

Seen on only one day when there were lots present (7th).

7 Large white Pieris brassicae

Common daily.

8 Orange tip Anthocharis cardamines

One or two seen on five days towards the end of the trip.

9 Green-veined white Pieris napi

Singles on 5th and 7th.

10 Titania's fritillary Boloria euphrosyne

One on 2nd.

11 Small copper Lycaena helle

Two on 5th.

Tim Earl

Principal Leader

© The Travelling Naturalist 2004