söndag 19 juni 2011

Photo gallery and results added

Just a short message of a newly added photo gallery from our last trip as well as a pdf that contains the results of the daily seawatch countings.
Niklas, Raul and Janne

lördag 21 maj 2011

The last great day in Estonia on 21st

We woke up to a cloudless and calm day. Our last morning at Virtsu as well as our last one in Estonia. We had expectations of a morning with good numbers of migrating divers and in fact it started good with nice flocks of Black-throated Divers, but the numbers, unfortunately, dropped dead after a couple of hours. However, it was a lovely morning and we had a nice chat with a Finnish birder, which we also met last year. Results worthy of mention from our session (04:45-10:00 hrs): Arctic Skua (9), Temminck’s Stint (3), Common Scoter (230), Velvet Scoter (57), Scaup (21), Red/Black-throated Diver (21), Red-throated Diver (351), Black-throated Diver (307), Goldeneye (656; passage of males to moulting grounds, which is specially studied at Virtsu by Dr. Raul Vicente).
Migrating passerines worthy of mention: Common Rosefinch (30), Spotted Flycatcher (35) and Grey Wagtail (1). The latter is rare in Estonia!

We headed to our house and packed our stuff. We had guided tour by Peeter Pung, the owner of Pivarootsi Tuulik, in his beautiful Windmill. Very impressed by his work! We payed and then headed to the northern part of huge nature reserve Matsalu. But before we reached Matsalu we spotted an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle from the car! Janne stood hard on the brakes and turned back on the main road. We soon found the bird in perfect light condition gliding slowly toward us for five minutes or more and finally passed over our heads! Just awesome! We then continued and reached the Heaska bird tower in Matsalu. We scanned the area and soon Janne shouted load about some animal or dog down among the cows on the shore meadow. Wow, a Raccoon dog! In broad daylight. What a beautiful creature. A lifer for all of us. After another ten minutes we heard a strange call and Raul was alert and screaming “White-winged Black Tern!” And two very beautiful adult birds passed close to the tower. They flew further into the Matsalu reserve. What a sighting, which also was a lifer for Raul. On our walk from the tower to the car Raul found the third Lesser Spotted Eagle of our trip soaring at some distance! What a grand finale for our Estonian trip!

That’s all from us right now and we hope you have enjoyed this blog! The Latino Cabaret on Tallink ferry is calling!


Janne, Ralle and Nicke

The lovely Lesser Spotted Eagle that passed over our heads!

On board the Tallink ferry. Janne and Ralle hanging around and scanning the place for chicks...

...while Niklas adding the last updates on the blog while zipping latte after latte.

Puhtu Laid – a nice migrating hotspot on 20th

The morning session at Virtsu lighthouse were mediocre, but the weather was sunny and delightful. Some results at 04:45-09:40: Common Scoter (552), Velvet Scoter (152), Scaup (49), Red-throated Diver (100), Black-throated Diver (70), Goldeneye (372).
Migrating passerines worthy of mention: Common Rosefinch (31), Spotted Flycatcher (42) and Golden Oriole (1 adult male + another male present for ten minutes and offered excellent views!). In addition a powerful adult female Peregrine Falcon came in from sea and passing over head! Also several Grey Seals were seen in the morning.

After the morning countings we drove to the southern part of Matsalu (Keemu bird tower), which is located only 30 minutes away. The visit were productive with sightings such as Red-crested Pochard (3 male and 1 female), Great White Egret (1), Smew (4), White-fronted Goose (4), Grasshopper Warbler (3 singing), Golden Oriole (1). And of course many White-tailed Eagles and White Storks seen throughout the day. Red-crested Pochard were also a lifer for Raul! Then we returned to our house and took a long power nap. Raul were responsible for the dinner today too; tasty sausages and meatballs filled with cheese. The man has cooking qualities.

After the nice dinner we headed to new place, named Puhtu Laid, which is a tip that protrude southward one kilometre east of Virtsu. A beautiful place were we in late evening saw flocks of Scoters that started soaring above sea before they finally crossed the land on high altitude. This site probably offer a great spectacle just before dusk on peak days!
Results from Puhtu Laid at 17:35-22:05: Scaup (21), Long-tailed Duck (410), Velvet Scoter (99) and Common Scoter (1890). We also had an excellent view of a Beaver swimming by close to the tip, which were a lifer for Janne!

Niklas, Raul and Janne at Puhtu Laid.
One of many nice flocks of Common Scoters passing overhead.

Gavia migration at Virtsu on 19th

We woke up at 03:15 and Niklas arranged the breakfast, as usual. A beautiful moon and cloudless sky outside. However, when we approached the lighthouse by car, clouds and thin fog suddenly appeared. The passage of divers were already in full swing, but unfortunately the fog got thicker and we couldn’t proceed the countings for an hour. Damn it!

Results at the lighthouse at 04:30-11:10: Arctic Skua (18), Common Scoter (913), Barnacle Goose (2357), Velvet Scoter (444), Long-tailed Duck (317), Scaup (77), Red/Black-throated Diver (719), Red-throated Diver (318), Black-throated Diver (232), Steller’s Eider (2), Black-tailed Godwit (1) and Goldeneye (394).
Migrating passerines worthy of mention: Common Rosefinch (48!), Barn Swallow (50) and Golden Oriole (1 beautiful adult male).

We headed directly to our house and had a three hour long power nap, just to be rested for the evening session. But before we returned to the lighthouse Raul did the cooking and served us older hardcore birders a delicious dinner of sausages from Hiiumaa, which had a touch of gamy flavour (or roadkill Badger) and pasta.

Results at the lighthouse at 17:35-21:35: Velvet Scoter (284), Common Scoter (892), Long-tailed Duck (265). The evening passage were very calm, even though the conditions seemed to be good. However, that’s the charm of birdwatching and one just have to love the situation!

Very rare and unmasking occasion when three hardcore birders take a coffee break at the same time. Very unprofessional;)
Evening at Virtsu lighthouse.

torsdag 19 maj 2011

Virtsu and surroundings on 18th

Woke up at 03:15 and had a morning porridge with coffee and then drove to Virtsu. Clouded over, strong wind from SW and rain now and then. The passage was quite good, but not exceptional (04:50-10:30): Arctic Skua (12), Barnacle Goose (4451), Scaup (100), Black-throated Diver (323), Red-throated Diver (477), Long-tailed Duck (1580), Common Scoter (990) and Velvet Scoter (158). Also two Honey Buzzard coming in from sea.

About ten in the morning the clouds were decreasing and the sunshine welcome indeed. We decided to travel inland looking for raptors, especially Lesser Spotted Eagle. We did some stops now and then scanning the areas and on the fourth stop we were rewarded as Janne found a beautiful adult Lesser Spotted Eagle soaring around for about five minutes! We had a nice three hours travel by car through a beautiful and unspoiled landscape.

After a dinner, latte and icecream in Lihula we headed to Virtsu for the evening seabird session, which was quite mediocre. Study between 16:50-19:15: Arctic Skua (12), Common Scoter (490), Red-throated Diver (52), Black-throated Diver (14) and Barnacle Goose (1335).

Sightings: Golden Oriole (1 singing), Rosefinch (many), Red-breasted Flycatcher (1), Collared Dove (1), Serin (1), Great Reed Warbler (1), Black Tern (30), Montagu’s Harrier (5), White Stork (many).

Accidentally, in late evening, Janne saw a flock of ducks passing over our house in Pivarootsi. Within twenty minutes or so we noted many big flocks of scoters and Long-tailed Ducks passing overhead. So tomorrow we intend to cover the waterfowl passage until dusk.

Stay tuned
Niklas, Janne and Raul

Niklas, Raul and Janne scanning the at Virtsu lighthouse.
Raul and Janne enjoying the sight of an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle.
White Storks on their nest.
A field of Dandelion, a common sight in Estonia.

From Hiiumaa to Virtsu on 17th

We woke up at 03:30 and had a slow and nice breakfast, but we soon discovered that fog had embedded the island, again. Very frustrating! So, we slept for a couple of hours more and decided to bird around at the southern part of Hiiumaa before we had have to catch the 12:30 ferry back to the mainland. Even though the fog disappeared after a while, it was clouded over, colly and very windy. Meaning not too pleasant weather for inland birding, as our main purpose were seabird migration, but nice to see the nature of Hiiumaa. A few sightings: Montagu’s Harrier (1) Black-tailed Godwit (2), Great Reed Warbler (1), Tundra Been Goose (1), Little Gull (50), Ruff (30), Temminck’s Stint (3), Knot (8).

From the ferry crossing we saw a total of at least 500 roosting Scaups. Well back on mainland we drove to Haapsalu. Bought some food, fuelled the car and continued towards Virtsu, which is located at the straight between mainland and Saaremaa (Ösel). We had a quick dinner in Lihula: three chicken schnitzel, two large beers and a coke to a price of 14 Euro! We arrived to our pre-booked accommodation at Pivarootsi. A beautiful and silent place on the countryside. We left our packings and headed to the observation site at Virtsu. Quite calm passage (18:00-19:45 hrs): Common Scoter (934), Long-tailed Duck (1234), Velvet Scoter (112) and Scaup (17).

Even hardcore birders have to take a break sometimes.
The windmill at Pivarootsi, our accommodation.
Our nice accommodation at Pivarootsi.

tisdag 17 maj 2011

Arktikan bonanza on 16th!

This day, especially the evening at Ristna, were just unbelievable and unforgettable. In fact, it is impossible to describe this evening’s spectacle mass passage of Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks with words, one have to experience it! So, a few words by the members of the birding party:

Raul: “After this… where do I watch migration?”

Janne: “The amazing ‘draperies’ of Common Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks will stay in my memory for a long long time!”

Niklas: “This was, without any doubts, one of the most memorable days during my 33 years as a seawatch addict!”

Ristna at 04:50-10:20 hrs:
Common Scoter (12770!), Long-tailed Duck (5460), White-billed Diver (1), Black-throated Diver (373), Red-throated Diver (34), Steller’s Eider (5), Scaup (113), Garganey (4), Red-breasted Merganser (172) and Arctic Skua (10).

Ristna at 16:25-21:30 hrs:
Common Scoter (71065!! Long-tailed Duck (24134!), Black-throated Diver (92), Red-throated Diver (14), Arctic Skua (4), Garganey (1), Red-breasted Merganser (128).

A total of 115534 seabirds were counted!

Sightings besides the countings: Caspian Gull (1 close 2nd cal year) and one Short-eared Owl coming in from sea.

Cheers from three happy birders!

Ristna lighthouse!
One of thousands flocks of Common Scoters!
Three very happy birders at Ristna in the evening. From left: Niklas, Janne and Raul.

Tahkuna and Ristna – two migrating hotspots!

We got up at 03:30, as usual these days. While we had breakfast and first morning light find its way through the wood our misgivings turned out to be true: The island were still embedded in fog. After the breakfast we drove the short way to the tip, just to check if the fog covered the sea, which it of course did. Plan B: We got back to the house again and slept for 1 ½ hours. The fog were still present when we woke up and we decided to birding the island instead. We drove to Körgassaare for a third try on the Red-breasted Geese, but had no luck. A quick stop at Lehtma produced a female Bluethroat. Quarter past nine we reached Tahkuna lighthouse at the northwestern tip of Hiiumaa, after an adventure ride on a narrow and somewhat waterlogged gravel road through the northern beautiful woodlands.

We decided to stay at the lighthouse and its nice surroundings, as the fog suddenly disappeared and breaks in the overcast. Many thousands of Long-tailed Ducks roosted off the tip, but it was clear that the northern tip is a great site for migrates. Bird sightings worthy of mention at Tahkuna 09:15-12:00: Barnacle Goose (1686), Brent Goose (827), Sparrowhawk (32), Buzzard (14), Rough-legged Buzzard (6), Honey Buzzard (1), Kestrel (3), Hen Harrier (2), Hobby (3), RED-FOOTED FALCON (1 adult male), White-tailed Eagle (5), Common Crane (14). Also good passage of migrating passerines.

Well back at the house we took a power nap for an hour and after it Raul cooked a delicious dinner with a Spanish touch. After that taste sensation we headed to the tip of Ristna for the evening session. Some results from the countings (16:00-19:15 hrs): Long-tailed Duck (8361), Common Scoter (2680), Red-breasted Merganser (161), Brent Goose (235), Barnacle Goose (194), Black-throated Diver (36), Red-throated Diver (22), Arctic Skua (6). We also saw a Carrion Crow, which the Estonian birders had found earlier in the day, only the 8th record for the country.

Raul and Janne scanning the sea at Tahkuna lighthouse.
Keen birder Raul in action, while Barnacle Geese passing behind.
Female Black Redstart at the Tahkuna lighthouse garden.
Raul celebrating the Red-footed Falcon at a local bar.

måndag 16 maj 2011

All time high for Arctic Skua at Ristna on Saturday 14th

We got up at 03:30 in the morning and had a nice breakfast. We took the car and placed ourselves at the very tip of Ristna at 04:40. None of the finnish or estonian birders were there, but soon the cars arrived and about 15-20 birders gathered. The weather conditions were quite good with winds from west, clouds and, unfortunately, drizzled most of the morning. However, we were in good spirit and the mix of species and numbers was good! Worthy of mention of today’s counting (04:30-12:30 hrs): Common Scoter (6586), Long-tailed Duck (1630), Barnacle Goose (1495), Brent Goose (783), Arctic Tern (540), Bar-tailed Godwit (268), Greater Scaup (106), Black-throated Diver (33), Red-throated Diver (157), Red-breasted Merganser (198), Arctic Skua (51!) and Little Gull (32). Today’s result of Arctic Skua is the all time high in Estonia!

After eight hours of seawatching and the only ones left at the site we closed the shop and drove to our house for a late lunch. Then we headed to Körgassaare trying to find the Red-breasted Geese, which have been present the last few days. But no geese at all were found instead fog suddenly embedded the island. No no, what the f-ck, so we drove back to the house for a well-needed power nap. About five we got up and dressed for a nice evening with finnish and estonian hardcore birders as we were invited to Estonian Birding Society annual meeting in Kalana. We enjoyed slideshows from Trinidad Tobago by Hannes and Morocco and Western Sahara by Uku. Then it was time for a nice dinner, which followed by a thrilling Bird Quiz of 30 difficult photos depicting birds that has been recorded in Estonia. We were four teams: two estonian, one finnish and the three of us the swedish one. To cut a long story short, we won together with Uku’s team, even though we didn’t agree with the identification of a couple of photos. Too many spotted eagle hybrids in Estonia;-) When it was time for a sauna roundup we decided to go back to our house, where we had a cosy hour in front of the open fire before we got to bed. Happy in mind after a day full of action!

Raul, Janne & Niklas

Estonian, finnish and swedish birders at Ristna
Barnacle Geese passing overhead at Ristna.
Beautiful Brent Geese passing the very tip of Ristna.
Slideshow at the Estonian Birding Society annual meeting in Kalana.


söndag 15 maj 2011

Tallinn-Haapsalu-Ristna on Friday 13th

We arrived to Tallinn at 10 in the morning and drove directly towards Haapsalu. However, we did a quick stop halfway and soon Raul found a nice Greater Spotted Eagle soaring around.Many White Storks were also seen along the road. What a good start! In Haapsalu we bought food four days, fuel up the car and had a quick latte then headed to a nearby birding tower were we saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles, Caspian Terns, Bearded Tit, Ruff (at least 150!), Gadwall (many) and Slavonian Grebe.

At 14:30 we took the ferry from Rohukula to Heltermaa on Hiiumaa (Dagö). We arrived to the ferry berth at 16:00 and then drove to Kärdla and had a late dinner at our favourite restaurant from last year. Then we headed torwards Ristna, the westernmost tip on Hiiumaa, but had a quick stop at Körgesaare in search for Red-breasted Geese, but no luck. We continued to our pre-booked spacious and luxurious house at Puumetsa, where we quickly unpacked everything and the stuffed our scopes in the car and took off for an evening session at the tip of Ristna. Worthy of mention from our 1 ½ hours visit there were: Arctic Skua (10), Little Gull (2) and Arctic Tern (135).

Three exhausted, but happy birders got to sleep early, dreaming about heavy migration.

Stay tuned for next update on Monday 16th

Productive seawatching from the ferry. Two estonian birders (Uku and his friend), Raul and Janne.
Temporary built wind shield at Ristna. Two finnish professionals and two swedish hardcore birders in the evening.
Relaxing in our spacious living room in the evening, with a nice open fire (outside the pic:)

måndag 14 mars 2011

Estonia soon!

On 13 to 21st May we will visit the lovely country of Estonia again. However, this time we will concentrate on two hot-spots only: Ristna on 13-17 and Virtsu on 18-21st. As you understand our main focus will be on the magnificent waterfowl migration known as "Arktikan"! We cross our fingers and hope for good weather conditions and favourable winds and, of course, peak days of divers, scoters and long-tailed ducks. We also look forward to meet Finnish and Estonian birding friends again! And we are a happy Swedish trio that have been invited to the Estonian Birding Society annual meeting and dinner on Saturday 14th.

We will do our best to update this blog daily with photos and reports from our hardcore countings. In meantime, please enjoy the photo gallery from last year's trip.

Stay tuned

Ralle, Janne and Nicke