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A Focus On Nature Tour
For Birds, Butterflies, and Bears,
and other Mammals,
and an assortment of Orchids
Thus, a Wonderful Nature Tour
in a Scenic & Wild Land.
June 13-20, 2016
with Armas Hill,
to be led by expert local Estonian guides
Itinerary follows below
In June, BIRDS to be
found in Estonia can include:
Corncrake, Western Capercaillie, White-tailed Eagle,
Lesser Spotted Eagle, Willow Grouse, Jack Snipe,
Common Crane, Penduline Tit, Citrine Wagtail.
Also Barred, Booted, and other Warblers.
In the evening & after dark, Great Snipe, European Nightjar,
and various owls, maybe even the Great Grey.
June is an excellent time in Estonia for interesting BUTTERFLIES, including:
Frigga's Fritillary, Bog Fritillary, Lapland Ringlet, Woodland Brown,
Cranberry Blue, Eastern Baton Blue, Poplar Admiral,
Large Checkered Skipper, Olive Skipper, and hopefully Clouded Apollo.
Among the MAMMALS we could see during this tour in Estonia are:
Raccoon Dog, Roe Deer, Red Deer (known in North America as Elk),
Red Fox, European Beaver, Elk (known in North America as Moose),
Siberian Flying Squirrel, European Pine Marten, European Badger,
Ringed Seal, Wild Boar, Brown Bear, Eurasian Lynx, and Gray Wolf.
We'll do a special excursion to see the bear,
where also we may see the wolf.
June is a good time in Estonia to see interesting PLANT-LIFE,
including a number of ORCHIDS.
36 different orchid species can be found in western Estonia.
Among the plants where we will be:
the Baltic Orchid, Fen Orchid, Lady's Slipper and Red Helleborine,
Lesser Twayblade, Narrow-leaved Marsh-Orchid, Siberian Iris,
and Bird's-eye Primrose, all blooming in their glory.
A Photo Gallery of Estonian Scenery & Nature
A List & Photo Gallery of European Birds, in 2 Parts:
Part #1: Grouse to Puffin Part #2: Sandgrouse to Buntings
Butterflies & Moths of Europe Mammals of Europe
A Photo Gallery of Estonian Orchids & Other Plants
Tour Registration Form
Common Cranes in Estonia
Mon, Jun 13:
Our tour begins at the Tallinn Airport in Estonia. From there, we'll go to West Estonia.
Along the way, before the guesthouse where we'll stay, we'll go to a observation tower where we'll see birds and also Elk (known in North America as Moose).
Our hotel will be near the sea, and we'll see a number of seaside birds there. Among them, White-tailed Eagles, cranes, swans, and waders (or, as known in North America, shorebirds). During our first day, we should have, already, some interesting sightings.
Tue, Jun 14:
This morning, we'll drive to Dirhami Port for the crossing to Osmussaar Island, in extreme northwest Estonia, where we'll spend the day.
Osmussaar is unique for its interesting nature and history - the island was first inhabited by Estonian Swedes, and later it became a base of the Soviet army. The island of 5 kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers wide. Its highest spot is 8 meters above sea level.
The island is thought to have risen from sea some 3,000 years ago. The landscape is characterized by its limestone bluff, breccia boulders, vast shingle mound areas and juniper scrubland.
On the island is a stone chapel, a cemetery, and a lighthouse.
Osmussaar Island is noted for its many orchid species. There's a total of 16 of them. In mid-June: Early Marsh Orchids, Military Orchids, Fly Orchids, Common Twayblades and the attractive Rosa makalis.
the Early Marsh Orchid
For its small size, Osmussaar
Island has a large variety of habitats. "Alvar" (a
thin layer of soil covering limestone plains) covers a good part of the
Butterflies of the "Alvar" include: Scarce and Chestnut Heaths and Amanda's Blue.
Breeding birds at Osmussaar include the Black Grouse, Great Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Common Crane, Corncrake, Dunlin, both Common and Arctic Terns, Red-backed Shrike, and the Barred Warbler.
Wed, Jun 15:
This day, we cross to one of the two large islands of the Estonian Baltic Sea, island of Hiiumaa.
Over 400 million years ago, an archipelago of tens of kilometers in width was created near Kardia, the capital of Hiiumaa, as a result of a meterorite explosion.
These were the first islands at the current location of Hiiumaa, and going back that 400 million years, makes it one of the oldest islands in the world.
The coast of Sweden is 250 kilometers to the west, and the coast of Finland is 120 kilometers to the north.
Hiiumaa is located in an area where coniferous forest is replaced by broadleaf forest.
On Hiiumaa, the mixed landscape is forest with both spruce and juniper, with also swampy broadleaf forest, pine forest, coastal meadows and dunes, bogs and fens.
Hiiumaa has the most forest of the Estonian counties. About 70 per cent of the island is covered in forest.
Nesting birds in the area include Thrush-Nightingale and Icterine Warbler.
The biodiversity on Hiiumaa is significant. There are about 1,000 species of taller plants. More than 50 of the plant species are protected, for example: European Yew, Common Ivy, Sea Holly, and Allseed.
In the waters around Hiiumaa, Ringed Seals and Gray Seals gather. That is remarkable for the Baltic.
Important bird migration routes pass through Hiiumaa.
First, we'll visit the Kaina-Kassari area. It has impressive natural communities of alvars, junipers, and sandy meadows with trees.
Among the plants: Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis coccinea), Wild Orchid (Dactylorhiza baltica), Brookweed (Samolus valerandi), Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), and the rare Swamp Angelica (Angelica palustris).
Kaina Bay is one the most best areas of Hiiuma for a diversity of bird species.
Next, we will go to the Kopu Peninsula, where more than 80 rare species of plants have been found, including: Ghost Orchid, Lesser Twayblade, Narrow-leaved Marsh-Orchid, Fen Orchid, Burnt Orchid, Frog Orchid, and the attractive Twinflower.
Hiiumaa is a very good place to see butterflies such as the Geranium Argus, Eastern Baton Blue, Cranberry Blue, and the Nickert's Fritillary.
At Saaremae, in the afternoon, we have a good chance to see Red Deer (called Elk in North America).
at Saaremaa with a distant Great Cormorant colony
Thu Jun 16:
Saaremaa Island is one of the thousand places to be visited before death as recommended in the New York Times bestseller "1000 Places to See Before You Die", published at the end of 2011.
Saaremaa is rich with plant species thanks to a soft maritime climate and its limestone soil. Here, there are 80 per cent of all the plant species that grow in Estonia. They grow on alvars rich in species, beach meadows, and woodlands of broadleaf forests.
This day, we'll visit the Viidumae Nature Reserve, located in the highest and oldest part of the island, with Vidumae forests, marshes, and meadows, where naturalists first noticed the local plants.
Now, it is known that about 700 vascular plant species are known to be here, with 59 protected and rare plants among them.
The nature reserve, which was established more than 50 years ago, has now been researched thoroughly and representatives of many different biological groups have been found.
675 macrolepidoptera (butterflies & moths) including the Nickert's Fritillary and Woodland Brown,
660 mushroom species,
more than 200 spider species,
91 breeding bird species: among them Common Cranes and Black Storks, while the forests have Black, Grey-headed, and Green Woodpeckers,
and more than 230 species of moss and also 230 species of lichen.
Several different types of forests can be visited in Viidumae: swamp forest, heath pine forest with high trees, as well as alvar and nemoral forests.
The surroundings of Viidumae can be compared to a natural botanical garden. More than half of the plants on Saaremaa occur only in tiny areas, and many of them are rare.
Here there exists the famous Saaremaa Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus osiliensis), the only plant that grows only in Estonia.
Another rare plant in Viidumae is the Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina). It received its name due to its broad leaves which it uses to catch insects. The plant has been growing in Viidumae since the warm period following the last ice age.
Other plants include: Davall's Sedge, Tawny Sedge, Brown Bugrush Fen, Bird's-eye Primrose, Tofield's Asphodel, Marsh grass-of-Parnassus. Locally, we can find the Blunt-flowered Rush (Juncus subnoulosus).
Many orchid species grow here: Short-spurred Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia odoratissima), Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii), Early Marsh Orchid, Heath Spotted Orchid, and Russian Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata, D. maculata, D. russowii), Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris).
In places, areas are covered with Sweetgale (Myrica gale) and thick patches of Great Fen Sedge (Cladium mariscus). On occasion, Black Bog-rush (Schoenus nigricans) may be seen.
The largest of the mammals of Viidumae forests are Elk (or Moose), Red Deer (or Elk), Wild Boar, and Roe Deer. In the forest, the typical small predator is the European Pine Marten. There are also badgers and foxes.
Many birds nest in the Viidumae forests, including several species of woodpeckers, the most common of which are the Black Woodpecker, and the Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.
Also in the forest are Tengmalm's (or Boreal) Owl, Eurasian Tawny Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, and the European Nightjar.
Northern Ravens and White-tailed Eagles live in the area.
Fri, Jun 17:
Another day at Saaremaa. First, we'll go to the Sorve Peninsula.
Estonian lepidopterologists have discovered a number of butterflies here, so the place is a favorite for butterfly enthusiasts.
Later in the day, we'll also look for rare species on the Tagmoisa Peninsula, where over 500 species of vascular plants grow in a variety of habitats, including on the alvars, and by many lakes with shallow water and surrounded by fens. Also, among the plants there, and at the nearby woodland meadows, among the protected species 7 have recently been entered in the Red Book of Endangered Species.
This day, we'll be exploring one of the most species-rich ecosystems in Europe, with up to 76 vascular plants species per square meter!
Among the birds along the coast of Saaremaa, this day, should be numerous Common Scoters and some Arctic Skuas (known in North America as Parasitic Jaegers).
In the shallow waters, there should be a variety of different waders (or shorebirds).
A wader in Estonia is the Pied Avocet
Late this day, we'll journey southward, to be in position for some more birds
& butterflies the following morning.
Sat, Jun 18:
Early this morning, we'll be at Alam-Pedja, an area of marsh with adjacent forest. it is a truly remote and wild region of undisturbed floodplains and winding rivers, where it is said that there are only 20 human residents on 260 square miles of wilderness.
Among the birds to be sought: White-backed Woodpecker and Three-toed Woodpecker, both Greater Spotted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, and both the Black Woodpecker and the Black Stork.
Residing warblers include: Great Reed, Icterine, Marsh, and Barred.
There will be a number of butterflies that we would not have seen previously on the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. These can include: Clouded Apollo, Bog Fritillary, and Northern Checkered Skipper, as well as the Baltic Grayling and Scarce Heath.
Late in the day, we'll visit the vast expanses of wetlands near
Aardia. This area of lakes and ponds normally holds a good selection
of waterbirds, and other types of birds, such as the Citrine Wagtail,
are possible. As are, again, Spotted Eagles.
In one area, we can watch Wild Boars at a feeding place, and displaying Great Snipe at one of their best lekking sites in the Baltic region.
Sun, Jun 19:
This day, we'll go to the richest area in Estonia for bears, the forest of Alutaguse.
Alutaguse is the largest forested area in Estonia, covering the entire northeastern part of the country. For those who know something of Estonian nature, Alutaguse associates with an aura of mystery.
The swamps here are large, and in them, Willow Grouse and Jack Snipe nest, not doing so elsewhere in Estonia.
Alutaguse is a place for the Siberian Flying Squirrel, which occurs only in Estonia and Finland, and no where else in Europe.
But again, nowhere else in Estonia are there as many Brown Bears as in Alutaguse. And, of course, many other animals, such as the Elk (or Moose), Gray Wolf, Eurasian Lynx, and Eurasian Otter.
And birds, such as the Western Capercaillie, Black Grouse, and Golden Eagle.
The area is Estonian taiga, but with a central European accent - with also broadleaf forests and swamps.
The senses are always ready to meet with something extraordinary when moving around Alutaguse. it can be a bear or a flying squirrel, but there's a chance for something even more exciting like a Great Grey Owl and other species of more easterly or northern habitat, such as the Wolverine, or birds such as the Siberian Jay or Rustic Bunting.
We'll spend this night at the bear-watching hut where there is a strong likelihood of seeing a bear, and make an excursion into the habitat of the Brown Bear to learn about its life. We'll notice the scratched trees, footprints, bear droppings, and other signs of their presence. We'll learn about their biology and behavior, and get a touch of local bear folklore during the evening before we go to the bear-watching hut.
At the hut, we'll quietly take our positions and wait, because the time for telling tales will be over. The bear's senses are extremely acute, and its fear of humans is so strong that it would run away in panic in the case of even the slightest disturbance. We have to be especially careful at nightfall and at sunrise as that's when bears are particularly active. We'll leave the bear-watching hut at 8 o'clock the following morning.
A few words about the bear-watching hut: It accommodates 10 people. Similar to its Finnish and Swedish counterparts, it has comfortable chairs for observation, bunk beds, and a dry toilet. The bunk beds have sleeping pads, and each tour participant will be provided with a sleeping bag.
The walls of the hut are soundproof. Our human scents are directed up high into upper layers of air to keep them from reaching the bears. While waiting for the bears, we will be served food and drinks.
Generally, about 10 different bears have been sighted near the hut. Also, at dusk, dawn, and in between, Raccoon Dogs and Gray Wolves occasionally visit the place.
A Brown Bear in an Estonian forest.
Mon, Jun 20:
We'll take a look around the medieval old town of Taillinn before going to the airport four our flight home.
It can be said that Tallinn is one of the best and most completely preserved medieval towns in Europe, and it is a true gem of Estonian architecture.
Departure from Estonia, with good memories, having seen some extraordinary nature including good birds, mammals, butterflies, and plants in scenic countryside.
Price, in US dollars, based on double occupancy:
Single supplement: $295
All overnight accommodations and
land transportation within Estonia.
Price does not include:
Drinks and other items of
a personal nature.
Flights to/from Estonia.
A deposit of $500 will assure a place on the tour.