lördag 22 maj 2010

Last morning at Pöösaspea on 22nd

As the beginning of our Estonian trip started bad with unfavourable winds and fog at Pöösaspea our expectations were high for the last morning. Clear blue sky and moderate winds from southwest and most important, no fog, we had every chance of succeeding. The opening of the morning were rather mediocre, but after an hour flocks of divers and scoters increased. Most flocks of divers passed overhead or a few hundred metres off shore on moderate altitudes. Most enjoyable, but they passed quickly, meaning they were difficult to count and identify properly. We certainly lose some flocks, but what the heck! We were happy for a good morning at Pöösaspea and we were able to compare the site with the other two top sites, Ristna and Virtsu. All three differ concerning the mix and numbers of species as well as topography, angles, light conditions and flight altitudes. All three localities offer a fabulous spectacle of migrating waterfowl/seabirds, which is known as Arktikan. However, the three of us wants to go back to Ristna for a longer period, perhaps next spring.

It was interesting to see the distribution between Arctic and Red-throated Diver. At Virtsu yesterday it was 70% to 30% between the two and today at Pöösaspea the distribution were the opposite.

We took farewell of Arne, the owner of Bergsby Paansionat, and his pretty dog Pecko, who like to have a pee on the tyres of Janne’s car. Then we headed towards Tallinn with a few stops within the Silma Nature Reserve. The boat put out at 18:00. Goodbye Estonia!

Some results from the counting at Pöösaspea (05:00-10:00): Arctic Diver (388), Red-throated Diver (1214), Barnacle Geese (1159), Common Scoter (4310), Velvet Scoter (61), Long-tailed Duck (400) and Greater Scaup (42).

We hope you have enjoyed this travel diary. The trip report will be available here within a couple of weeks and we wish to thank Annika Forsten, Sampsa Cairenius and Antero Topp for vaulable information and sightings provided during our stay! In total we recorded 173 bird species.


Niklas, Janne & Ante

The very new board about Pöösaspea.
Niklas cover the overhead angle where lot of divers passed by.
Red-throated Divers.
Red-throated Divers and one Arctic Diver.
The Swedes at Pöösaspea!
Adult Little Gull at Sutlepa Melä.
All photos taken with my non-system camera Olympus SP590UZ.

A nice morning at Virtsu on 21st

We got up 03:45 full of expectations. Had a simple breakfast and packed our stuff. The weather were good. Clear blue sky and light winds from south. We drove to Virtsu and placed ourselves at the lighthouse. We quickly found out that the waterfowl passage were in full progress. We had a flying start with a flock of 70 Arctic Divers that flew by high up over the strait, then one of 52 followed by a 61-flock. Wow! The morning at Virtsu were just a wonderful show and the light conditions perfect! One could easily imagine how the scene would look like on top day with six digit numbers of ducks and divers.

At 9 am we left Virtsu and headed to a large swamp named Tuhu Matkarada. Not much birds there, but it was so silent and enjoyable just being there. A Black Stork passed by slowly gliding against a deep blue backdrop. An unexpected sighting indeed. We continued northward and visited a few places within the Matsula area. Nothing unusual recorded, besides a singing Greenish Warbler and a male Montagu’s Harrier.

At 4 pm we reached Bergsby Paansionat and we installed ourselves and had a power nap for an hour or so. We skipped Pöösaspea in the evening and had a nice time together discussing the trip and memories from the past. Ante and Janne siping A Le Coq and whisky.

Some results from the counting at Virtsu (05:00-09:00): Arctic Diver (1410), Red-throated Diver (558), Gavia sp (254), Barnacle Geese (2665), Common Scoter (4930), Velvet Scoter (33), Long-tailed Duck (270), Greater Scaup (54) and Arctic Skua (2).

Additional sightings worthy of mention: Golden Oriole (1), Serin (1), Great Reed Warbler (5), Grasshopper Warbler (1), Parrot Crossbill (1), Smew (1), White Stork (many) and Little Gull (4).

All the best

Niklas, Janne & Ante

Early morning at Virtsu. The place for the great spectacle Arktikan.
Ante and Janne scanning the area at Tuhu Matkarada.
View of the svamp at Tuhu Matkarada.
Nesting House Martins at the Keemu birdwatching tower, Matsula.
Part of the large Matsula reserve.
Part of the large Matsula reserve.

fredag 21 maj 2010

Saaremaa to Virtsu - Thursday 20th

We had another great breakfast at Loode and had a interesting chat with Valdo about Saaremaa and the place he have built up the last 10 years. Most impressive! Clear blue sky and 10 degrees in early morning. We headed to the northwestern tip Undva pank and when w approached the tip Ante suddenly shouted “Wild Boar!”. Janne smartly stopped the car and soon a Wild Boar crossed the narrow stony road, and then another, and then… a total of six boars! At Undva pank there were , surprisingly, no fog, but unfavourable winds from southeast. A stream of distant flocks of Common/Velvet Scoter/Long-tailed Ducks passed towards northeast. We enjoyed a White-tailed Eagle and a singing Greenish Warbler, before we decided to go straight to Virtsu on the mainland instead. We got back to Loode and packed our things and hit the road. We made a stop at the strait between Saaremaa and Muhu island. Had a cup of coffee and scanned the strait for birds. We arrived to the ferry berth at Kuivasto about 09:30. We had prebooked the 16:30 ferry, but there were no problem to take the 10:00 ferry. Great! On the upper deck we started to scan the strait for passing waterfowls. Janne then shouted “skua” and soon “Pomarine Skua!”. It passed close and suddenly swept down and settled at sea! After a minute it took off and continued to north.

We placed ourselves at Virtsu lighthouse and enjoyed the weather as the migration were mediocre. Instead of going to Bergsbyn (Pöösaspea) as planned, we decided to find accommodation for the night at Virtsu, which was a hard case. In the same time we were stopped by the police who did a radar speed check. Shit! 16 kilometres above speed limit. Bad! However, the policeman were kind and let us go without speeding ticket.

With kind help from Sampsa Cairenius we found a nice place at Pivarootsi on the countryside twenty minutes from Virtsu. We had a tasty dinner at Lihula and coincidentally meet the nice Estonian birder Ukker there! Please visit his blog “Non-motorized Birding 2010 in Estonia”. Then we drove back to our cottage and took a power nap before the evening session at Virtsu lighthouse. Clear blue sky and 26 degrees!

On our return to Pivarootsi in late evening we made several stops listening for warblers such as River, March and Blyth’s, but there were millions of peppery and bloodthirsty mosquitos!

Some results from the countings at Virtsu (11:30-13:00 and18:40-21:40): Barnacle Geese (2250), Common Scoter (4560), Long-tailed Duck (8500), Greater Scaup (359), Velvet Scoter (77) and Arctic Skua (17).

Sightings worthy of mention: Greenish Warbler (2), Golden Oriole (2), Great Reed Warbler (1) och White Stork (3), Little Gull (4) and of course many Icterine Warblers and Rosenfinches.

All the best

Niklas, Janne & Ante

The northwestern tip Undva pank.
Seawatchers at the wrong place. Heat vawe in Estonia.
Janne scanning the sea from the ferry. Virtsu in far background.
The nice place Pivarootsi. Here we saw two overflying Golden Orioles.
Waiting for the evening performance of migrating waterfowl at Virtsu lighthouse.
Typical flock formation of high flying Common Scoters.
Long-tailed Ducks!
Barnacle Geese.

onsdag 19 maj 2010

Saaremaa (Ösel) - Wednesday 19th

We had the best breakfast yet, served by Valdo and Britta at Loode Tourims Farm, where we will stay for two nights. The interior furnishing is very special and in total contrast to our accommodation on Hiiumaa. I prefer Loodes kind of atmosphere!

We drove a few kilometres to Undva nina, the northwestern tip of Tagamöisa peninsula. And of course our follower Mr Fog were there. Clear blue sky above and 14 degrees, but a light fog covering the sea. The weather conditions, heat-wave and winds from an easterly directon is bad for the birdwatching in the long run. However, we see this trip as reconnaissance one for future trips to Estonia, but of course we are a bit disappointed.
We explored several birding sites as well as places with interesting habitat. In the afternoon the temperature reached 26 degrees. Too much when birding, but several stops for ice cream were good alternatives. We went back to Loode at 18:00 and after a refreshing shower we were served a delicious dinner of fish and a tasty desert with coffee.

Sightings worthy of mention: Greenish Warbler (2), Icterine Warbler (8 singing within a little area at Loode Oak Wood Reserve), Collared Flycatcher (1 male), Sandwich Tern (1 at Mulluta Reserve), Rosenfinch (30-40) and of course Chiffchaffs and Cuckoos almost everywhere on every stop.

We pray to the Gods of weather that there will be no fog at Undva nina tomorrow morning!

Niklas, Janne & Ante

Seawatching at Undva nina at dawn, just before the fog appeared.
Migrating Barnacle Geese.
Very nice shore at Murika, which held good number of waders.
Ante and the brand of his favourite Estonian beer.
A lovely Grass snake at Murika.
A beautiful woodland at Loode Oak Wood Reserve.
Beautiful meadows with Cowslips is typical for Saaremaa and western Estonia!
Loode Tourism Farm with silent and lovely surroundings. We rented a room uppstairs. Highly recommended accommodation!
After the tasty dinner of fish we had a nice desert with coffee at Loode.

Day two on Hiiumaa (Dagö)

We started at the seawatching point at Ristna. Winds from north-east and clear blue sky. Flocks of Common Scoters passing as well as groups of Arctic Divers. The morning was lovely, until seven, then guess what? Yes, the fog arrived from north-east. What unlucky birders are we? However, we relaxed patiently and half an hour later something strange happen. The fog disappear in an angle of northeast to southwest-west, whilst it continued to pass us just north of us in a southwesterly direction all morning. So, we had a very nice morning with flocks of Arctic Divers and a mix of seabirds passing in good light conditions.

We returned to our house at 11 am and took a nap for an hour. Then we cleaned up the house and packed our stuff. We visited Ristna lighthouse, which were more or less embedded in fog. After that we drove eastwards. The fog disappear and the sun shining from a blue sky. The car’s thermometer standing at 23 degrees. We did a quick visit at Kôpu lighthouse, which is located on the highest point in western Estonia. We then drove slowly southwards through a beautiful landscape, with regular stops for birding.

At 18:15 we took the ferry from Sôru to Tiirgi on Saaremaa (Ösel). The crossing took one hour with tailwind. Saaremaa is indeed a large island and our accommodation were located in the northwestern part. We decided to take the “highspeed” main road to Kuressaare, where had a very good dinner and theen we hit the road to Loode, which is located far off road on the countryside. What a lovely place! We arrived at 21:30 and fell into sleep an hour later.

Some counting results: Red-throated Diver (44), Arctic Diver (444), Common Scoter (6850), Long-tailed Duck (420) and Arctic Skua (3).

Our trip list now stands at 161 bird species.

Niklas, Ante & Janne
The westernmost tip Ristna. A perfect place to experience the migration of arctic seabirds.
Common Scoters at Ristna.
Ristna lighthouse slightly embedded in fog.
Kôpu lighthouse, which is locted 102 metres above sea level and is the third oldest lighthouse in the world!

Hindu lighthouse adjacent to Sôru.

tisdag 18 maj 2010

Hiiumaa (Dagö) on Monday 17th

We got up at 03:45 and had a nice breakfast. At five we arrived to the seawatching point at Ristna. Peter Uppstu and Päivi Sirki were already there. At last, a dream came true, standing there on the westernmost tip of Hiiumaa and counting Common Scoters in an endless stream and flocks of divers passing nearly overhead. But our happiness was short as the fog came quickly about seven. What a welcome by the gods of weather! So we turned back to our house and decided to travel around the island to check several birding sites or potential ones. In late morning the fog disappear and the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. It was a nice daytrip, but the numbers of migrates were not as high as expected. However, the nature and landscape was a wonderful experience!

We had dinner at the same place as yesterday, Rannapaargu in Kärdla. Tandoori Chicken and Pork fillet! We rounded up the day with seawatching at Ristna, but there were not much of movements over the sea.

Some counting results: Red-throated Diver (23), Arctic Diver (239), White-billed Diver (1 in excellent light conditions), Common Scoter (5470) and Long-tailed Duck (540).

Our trip list stands at 157 bird species.


Niklas, Ante & Janne
Breakfast in the spacious living room of our house at Puumetsa.
Staijare (Peter and Päivi) at Ristna early in the morning.
A sunbathing Common Lizzard.
A nice Black-tailed Godwit at Käina laht.
At Kassari I found a small clump of Bird's-eye Primrose (Majviva in Swedish. Couldn't be more suitable as a Happy Birthday flower to Maj Cronlund).
Hardcore birders in action. Janne taking a power nap in his own personal style.

måndag 17 maj 2010

Sunday 16 May

Early morning at Pöösaspea, which gave us an unlucky start with a drunk, but happy, Estonian guy hanging around and then came the fog. We finished the countings, which only lasted for an hour, then birded around the northwestern part. At Spithami we heard a singing Greenish Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Good birds. We travelled through a very nice and old woodland from Spithami to Nova, where found a couple of Hazel Grouse, both seen and heard. Later on we also saw a female Capercaillie along the road.

We received interesting info concerning migrate numbers and sightings by sms from Annika Forsten throughout the morning. For example 32000 Common Scoters towards north at Ristna, counted by Peter Uppstu and Päivi Sirki. We also received a sms from Antero Topp telling us he had found a Kentish Plover at Pogari-Sassi, a third for Estonia.

We headed to the northern part of the large Matsula area at noon. Here we meet Antero and his group of british birders and exchange birding info. We scanned the northern bay from the big tower, but didn’t see anything special, except for several White-tailed Eagles, good numbers of Barnacle Geese, Temminck's Stint, Caspian and Little Terns. We then headed to Pogari-Sassi and checked the Kentish Plover.

At 16:30 we took the ferry from Rohukula to Hiiumaa, where we arrived at 18:00. It had raining heavily and we drove to Kärdla to finding a restaurant. At last we found a very nice one facing the sea. The food were delicious and here we meet the Finnish birders Peter Uppstu and Päivi Sirki and we had a nice chat. We then continued to our prebooked house at Puumametsa, the westernmost tip of Hiiumaa. What a house! Perfect for a hardcore birder trio. Sauna and a bedroom for each one of us!

Stay tuned for sightings from Hiiumaa.

Niklas, Janne & Ante

A silent monument from the Russian occupation at Spithami.
No problem to find yourself in the Nova area ;-)

Our very nice and luxurious house at Puumametsa, located only 10 minutes from the observation point at Ristna (Hiiumaa/Dagö).

lördag 15 maj 2010

We got up at 02:45 and had a nice breakfast. We drove slowly towards Spithami and made short stops now and then. Besides the usual birds in song we heard a playing Nightjar. We arrived to Pöösaspea at 04:15 and counted the rather mediocre seabird migration until 07:30. A total of 250 Red-throated Divers and a flock of nine overflying Rosefinchs were the profit of the morning.

Then we headed to our cottage and changed clothes as it was clear blue sky and 23 degrees! We drove to Veskijärvi to visit a fire-ravaged woodland. There we had very nice sightings of two Three-toed Woodpeckers, Black Grouses, displaying Wood Larks and Wrynecks. At noon we drove to the Silma Nature Reserve and when we arrived to Sutlepa Melä we received a SMS from Annika Forsten telling us that the first record of Booted Eagle were seen at Harjumaa Nova, which was close to the area we left an hour earlier. That’s life, as a birder. We birded around within the Silma area. Had a tasty dinner in Haapsalu and were back to our cottage at 19:00.

Todays sightings worthy of mention: White-tailed Eagle (3), Slavonian Grebe (1), Smew (4), Pochard (124), Little Gull (40), Great Reed Warbler (10), Savi’s Warbler (4), Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo (fairly common), Rosefinch (many). So far we have seen 128 bird species.

Now its time for bed!

Niklas, Ante & Janne

The Swedes at Pöösaspea early in morning.

Soaring Cranes at Saare Lyckholm.

White Storks in their huge nest at Saare Lyckholm.

Janne and Ante checking the beach for shorebirds at Havari.

Part of the very nice foot-bridge through the Sutlepa Melä area.