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Estonia in Autumn

Tour Code: EST01

An 8-day birdwatching tour timed to witness the amazing volume of migrating birds which passes through Estonia each autumn.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1295 SRS: £195

As the Arctic summer draws to an end, huge numbers of birds pass through Estonia on their migration south. The assemblages of wildfowl and waders reach spectacular proportions in the marshes fringing the Baltic coastline and one of the most prominent species will be the tens of thousands of Common Crane which are a feature of Estonia in September. As well as the regular migrants there are sure to be a few unexpected surprises during an action-packed week dedicated to observation of the autumn migration phenomenon.

  • Large flocks of Common Cranes
  • Impressive autumn bird migration
  • Snapshots of rural life in remote villages
  • Estonian hospitality
  • Led by an expert naturalist guide


All included in the price.


Comfortable tourist hotels with private facilities.

Ural Owl

Ural Owl

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Tallinn

Day 2 Poosaspea and Slima Reserve

Day 3 Poosaspea and Matsalu Reserve

Day 4 Matsalu Reserve

Day 5/6 Sorve Peninsula, Saaremaa

Day 7 Kabli and Luitema Reserve

Day 8 Tolkuse Bog and Tallinn; fly London

As many Naturetrek clients have already discovered, the former Soviet Republic of Estonia is an ideal spring destination for both birdwatchers and botanists, offering a fascinating range of species amidst unspoiled and picturesque landscapes. Perhaps less well known are the many attractions of an autumn visit; thus, this September holiday offers participants the opportunity to enjoy yet more facets of this remarkable country.

At the end of the short Arctic summer, tens of thousands of birds begin their long southward migrations and Estonia is ideally positioned to offer a staging post at which these migrants may pause and feed before continuing their extraordinary journeys. The country’s long, indented coastline, in particular, provides a myriad of sheltered bays and marshes to attract waterbirds, whilst migrant passerines are drawn to the many leafy thickets to be found on the long peninsulas that extend like fingers into the Baltic, or on the thousand or more islands that dot the coast. Whilst migration is always an unpredictable phenomenon, dictated by variation in weather conditions, the peak movements through Estonia are usually in mid-September and our tour is timed not only to witness this veritable flood of birds but also to savour the vibrant colours of the autumn vegetation and, of course, the legendary Estonian hospitality which is such a feature of this friendly country.

Our tour begins with a flight to the ancient capital of Tallinn, followed by a drive to the north-east coast where we stay at Laanemaa. From here we will visit the Poosaspea, a spit of land situated at the crossroads of the exodus south from Finland and one of the best places to observe Arctic waterbird migration. Both Black and Red-throated Divers occur in thousands offshore, as do great rafts of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters. Nearby, Silma Nature Reserve contains a variety of habitats and is host to large flocks of Goldeneye, Scaup and other duck species, all of them regularly panicked into flight by the appearances of the local White-tailed Eagles. From Laanemaa, another major reserve, Matsalu, will also occupy us for a day. This huge reserve, regarded by many as the most important bird refuge in northern Europe, comprises coastal meadows, reedbeds, woodlands and marshes, all of these habitats sustaining a remarkable population of feathered visitors. As many as 20,000 Common Cranes have been counted roosting at Matsalu and the spectacle created by these magnificent birds will be one of the enduring memories of our tour. Geese and swans are prominent among the wildfowl grazing the local meadows and the regular Barnacle, Bean, Greylag and White-fronted Geese are sometimes joined by a few Lesser White-fronts.

After the excitement of these two reserves we move next to explore Saaremaa Island, the largest of the Estonian islands. A complex of habitats on the island includes peat bogs, lagoons, woodland and fine examples of alvars, a geological feature almost unique to Estonia comprising a thin topsoil on a bedrock of limestone. The birdlife on Saaremaa reflects the variety of the landscape with Golden Eagle and Black Grouse amongst the residents, while wildfowl and Common Cranes are likely to be found in the meadows and marshes. The Sorve Peninsula in the south of the island is recognised as one of the best sea-watching points in the country and is also famous for the many rarities that have been recorded from the ringing station here, which has a similar status amongst Estonian ornithologists as Fair Isle does amongst their British counterparts! Diurnal passage of finches over the peninsula can number many thousands of birds and raptor passage is also impressive, involving harriers, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks with the constant possibility of more unusual travellers. A rare vagrant from the east could also add to the variety of migrant passerines encountered during our stay. Returning to the mainland we conclude our tour by visiting Kabli and Luitema Nature Reserve. Mixed forests at the latter are frequented by Hazel Grouse and Black, Three-toed, Grey-headed and Whitebacked Woodpeckers whilst Kabli Bird Station, near the Latvian border, is yet another magnet for migrants and in good years is a regular site for northern owls such as Tengmalm’s, Ural and Pygmy.

After this final taste of autumn migration we must make our way back to Tallinn for a return flight to London. However, one last magical experience awaits as we stop en route to admire the colourful peat mosses at Tolkuse Bog to round off a wonderful birdwatching holiday with images of the September landscape in one of Europe’s most scenic countries.

Tolkuse Bog (Mati Kose)Barnacle Geese (Mati Kose)Bewick's Swans (Mati Kose)Bewick's Swans (Mati Kose)Black GrouseElkCranes (Mati Kose)Cranes (Mati Kose)KingfisherTolkuse bog (David Morris)Lesser Spotted EagleLittle Gull (Mati Kose)Montagu's Harrier (Mati Kose)Pygmy Owl (Mati Kose)Pygmy OwlRed-breasted Flycatcher (Mati Kose)Ruff (Mati Kose)Smew (Mati Kose)Snow Bunting (Mati Kose)Three-toed Woodpecker (Mati Kose)Ural Owl (Mati Kose)Ural OwlWaxwing (Mati Kose)White Stork (Mati Kose)White-backed WoodpeckerWhite-tailed Eagle (Mati Kose)Wryneck (Mati Kose)
Overall, an excellent trip during which we saw much of the beautiful countryside of Estonia as well as its bird life.
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Sat 15th September 2018 - Sat 22nd September 2018



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Estonia

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Overall, an excellent trip during which we saw much of the beautiful countryside of Estonia as well as its bird life.
A.S., Northumberland