Friday, 31 May 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 4

Wednesday 15th May 2013

On our journey South-east we stopped at Tuhu Bog to look for raptors.

As we setup our telescopes it wasn't long before a Golden Eagle was spotted soaring on the thermals and as the bird effortlessly climbed up through the clouds, Common Cranes could be hear calling nearby. A small flock of Common Crane flew up the valley over the trees and another two dropped into the bog out of sight. The Golden Eagle returned and flew low over the woodland scrub and a Sparrowhawk also took to the skies. A Great Grey Shrike was also spotted perched on a small Silver Birch tree, but the heat haze prove troublesome with long distance views. 

After leaving Tuhu was spotted at a service centre for refreshments and found a Little-ringed Plover sitting amongst the rough surface of a nearby car park. Overhead Raven's were calling as they flew past and the smaller Jackdaw in its smart Nordic plumage was foraging in the grass areas.

After completing our 2.5 hour journey were arrived at our guesthouse Vehendi Motel.

We soon left our bags behind and drove a short distance to Valguta Polder. This is a fantastic birding spot and as we approached along the road the muddy edges around the Polder were full of geese.

In the short time we were there whilst our evening meal was cooked I spotted 25 bird species. The White-fronted, Barnacle and Tundra Bean Geese were stunning in the sunlight. The temptation was too much, so I looked at every goose searching for the hidden jem of a Red-breasted or Lesser White-fronted. Alas, there was no eureka moment, however I did find a White-fronted Goose with a black neck collar EV sitting and preening within the flock.

Scanning with the telescope there were Common Crane, Great White Egret (at least 10), Goldeneye, Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Black Tern, Coot, Great-crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Grey Plover (summer plumage), Redshank, Lapwing, Little Gull, Grey Heron, Tufted Duck and Pintail.

Sadly, it was time to head back to the guesthouse and our evening meal, but as we turn into the drive down to the motel a pair of Hobby's were hunting insects.

By the end of Day 4 we had seen 141 bird species.

Estonia May 2013 - Day 4 (Haapsalu)

Wednesday 15th May 2013

Today we moved south-east leaving the picturesque town of Haapsalu behind.



Estonia May 2013 - Day 3

Tuesday 14th May 2013

On day 3 we visited sites on the southern side of Matsula National Park.

We stopped at Kasari Meadow and climbed the Kloostri birdwatching tower for a great view. If you are not worried about heights then a climb to the top of the tower will help you improve visibility if there is a heat haze.

There were three young  Elk feeding across the water meadow and Corncrake could be heard continuously. Along the footpath, Brimstone, Large White and Orange Tip butterflies were seen.

After the water meadows we stopped on an old road bridge which crossed a river and it was here that I heard and watched my first River Warbler. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was also seen drumming in a dead tree near our parked minibuses.


White Stork nest on a chimney near our lunch stop at Vesiroos.

At Penijoe Manor we spotted a Nuthatch, but I was thrilled to spend 20 minutes watching a Camberwell Beauty and a Red Admiral chase each other presumably the beauty was defending its territory. Although the Camberwell Beauty looked faded and had damaged wings, the chase was relentless and the aerial agility of both insects was amazing. As I watched the butterflies flying around a small Map Butterfly came to rest on the on the ground enjoying the warmth of the sun.

The flowers at Penijoe were fantastic too.

On the way back to the hotel, we stop at Raune for and are lucky to see a pair of Grey-headed Woodpeckers

In the evening we took a boat trip into the Matsula reedbed to experience the evening sounds and sights of the reedbed. The sky was at times filled with flocks of migrating geese, such as Barnacle Geese and two Garganey flew past the boat. Savi's Warbler could be heard from deep within the reedbed and a Great Reed Warbler was seen briefly. After an unforgettable laughter-filled picnic-tea floating amongst the reeds, we were taken to area where European Beaver sightings were possible. As the boat cruised the channels the sun was slowly setting and then we spotted a dark shape in the water. Looking through our binoculars the shape became clearer and it was a Beaver swimming directly towards the boat.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Kasari Meadow again, with the hope of seeing Spotted Crakes. Sadly, no crakes were seen, but in the evening light four adult Elk had decided to graze much closer to the footpath. Roe Deer were also seen grazing, but it was the magical sounds of the area which filled our ears. Concrakes, Bittern, Grasshopper Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Cuckoo, River Warbler and Wood Sandpiper were all calling in a top-drawer evening symphony never to be forgotten.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 2

13th May 2013

On day 2 we visited several sites around the north-side of Matsula Bay.

The first area we visited was a coastal habitat near Keemu. Again we spotted large numbers of Tundra Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese and Barnacle Geese feeding. Just offshore, feeding in the shallows were Pintail, Garganey and Gadwall. On the shoreline, there were Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Redshank, Avocet and Lapwing.

Further around the bay we stopped at Haeska a small hamlet once used by the Russian fishing fleet.

Offshore, there were hundreds of Greater Scaup and the coastal pastures were filled with Barnacle Geese. We had hoped to find Barred Warbler in the gardens, but we were not lucky. However, we still managed to see a Bluethroat (red-spot), Goldcrest and a Red-backed Shrike, plus the air was filled with the song of a Thrush Nightingale sitting in a nearby tree.


We also tried the fire ravaged woodland at Veskijavi for Three-toed Woodpecker, but sadly no luck although we did see Cuckoo, Pied Flycatcher, Raven, Great-spotted Woodpecker and heard Red-breasted Flycatcher.

The next stop was in the grounds of a disused manor house where we spotted Fieldfare, Spotted Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler and Wryneck. 

At another woodland site, the group's patience was rewarded with a pair of White-backed Woodpeckers visiting a nest hole. The male bird was spotted first, but soon left the clearing and then after approximately 30 minutes he returned. Flying straight to the nest hole, the female emerged flying on to a nearby tree and the swap was made. Behind the group, a Wood Warbler was singing within the woodland symphony.

We finished day 2 having seen 118 bird species.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 1

On 11th May 2013, I went to Estonia with Leeds RSPB group and Bird Holidays. We flew from Manchester Airport to Helsinki and then on to Tallinn the capital city of Estonia.

We stayed at the Baltic Hotel Promenaadi in Haapsalu alongside the sea and the birds and wildlife spotted from the rooms were excellent. In the bay, White-tailed Eagle (max. count 21), Goosander, Great-crested Grebe, Common Tern, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Tufted Duck were present. Along the shore, Hooded Crow, Northern Wheater, White Wagtail and Swallow were all collecting food.

In the skies, skeins of Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swan and Common Crane meant that landscape was continuously changing during our first evening watching the sunset over the bay.

Day 1 - 12th May 2013

In the quiet town of Haapsalu, Thrush Nightingales sang from several gardens and in the morning light the birds sat out in the open to welcome the start of a new day. Both Tree & House Sparrow were in abundance and Spotted Flycatchers were very visible too. Common garden species, such as Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Great Tit and Robin were present too. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat all joined in with the morning chorus. Haapsalu may have a quiet population, but the wildlife more than make up for a great start to our time in Estonia.

On Lake Viiki there was Slavonian Grebe, Gadwall, Pochard, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Great-crested Grebe. After breakfast, we went around the other side of the lake for our first sighting of a local sub-species of Yellow Wagtail which similar to Grey-headed Wagtail (motacilla flava thunbergi) feeding around the edge of the reedbed.

We left Haapsalu and travelled to Poosaspea, a peninsula which allows fantastic views of the seascape and the spectacular flocks of sea ducks and wildfowl. Hundreds of birds flew past us which included Long-tailed Duck, Black-throated Diver, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Greater Scaup, Barnacle Goose, White-fronted Goose, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Whooper Swan and Common Eider. Two Bewick Swans were also present, presumably resting in the bay during migration. Wood Sandpiper also flew over calling. In the woodland, blue Hepatica flowers were lighting up the undergrowth.

We stopped for lunch at Rousta and were rewarded with excellent views of Crested Tit and Common Redstart in the trees around the holiday village.

In afternoon, we went to Hobringi, to look for woodland species including Nutcracker. As we walked through the woodland we saw Bullfinch (northern race), Tree Pipit and then in a clearing we watched four Nutcrackers come and perch in one tree!

At Vakriku, we saw Whinchat, Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Thrush Nightingale, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Yellowhammer, Hooded Crow, Swallow, Swift, Cuckoo and Meadow Pipit.

Driving from the hotel and between sites, we spotted White-fronted Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, Barnacle Geese, Common Crane (350+), Whooper Swan, White Stork, Montagu's Harrier and Common Buzzard.

After Day 1 we had spotted 88 bird species.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Year List Update

A sunny Bank Holiday weekend was the real rarity, but I did manage to add a few species to my year lists.

A Saturday afternoon walk at Bowesfield Marsh was very pleasant, although there was still a strong wind stopping the summer migrants from sitting on top of the reeds, trees and bushes. Sedge Warblers were singing from the reedbed whilst Sand Martins and Swallows hawked over the ponds. No new bird species seen, but a Green-veined White butterfly flew past me and a Small White butterfly was also seen.

On Sunday, I went to Nosterfield near Masham and whilst sitting eating my sandwiches an Osprey flew over followed by a mob of crows to harrass and chase. A pair of Common Buzzard were also in the air, along with a Sparrowhawk. On Lingham Lake it was good to watch 8 Avocets feeding and the air was filled with song. I also spotted a male Blackcap moving through the Hawthorn trees surrounding the car park. On the Nosterfield Nature Reserve there were 17 Dunlin in summer plumage, 2 Yellow Wagtails and some more Avocets. I was hoping to find 4 Ruff which had been seen the previous day, but sadly they had moved on.

Several birds were seen sitting on nests, but the video below shows the Greylag Geese nursery outing. They certainly walk fast!

On bank holiday Monday, I spent the afternoon at Dorman's Pool to target Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler. Along the path to the hide they were several Sedge Warbler's sitting singing and a few were displaying too. I moved to the other side of Dorman's and as I drove along the lower track a Reed Warbler flew from the reeds. A Lesser Whitethroat was also singing along the track and give great views. During my time at Dorman's Pool, 16 Peacock, 7 Large White & 4 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were seen.

2013 Birds - 130 (Osprey, Blackcap, Reed Warbler & Lesser Whitethroat)

2013 Butterflies -6 (Green-veined White & Small Tortoiseshell)

2013 Mammals - 10 (Fox - Teesmouth Field Centre 7/5/13)

2013 Moths - 8 (Agonopterix arenella)

Garden Moths - Despite putting the trap out on Saturday night I only managed to trap 2 moths - Agonopterix arenella & Hebrew Character. The minimum overnight temperature was 8C and in previous years, at least 50 moths would been caught.

Garden Birdwatch - Week Starting 28th April 2013

Goldfinch 3
Blackbird 2
Feral Pigeon 3
House Sparrow 5
Greenfinch 2
Blue Tit 2
Dunnock 2
Coal Tit
Starling 1
Collared Dove 1
Woodpigeon 2
Chaffinch 1
Jackdaw 3
Great Tit 2
Blackcap 2
Herring Gull 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Fat Balls, Peanuts & Kitchen Scraps

Insects: White-tailed Bumblebee
Butterflies: Small White, Speckled Wood & Large White - all seen on 30th April
Amphibians: Common Frogs