Estonia, late May 2019

A five-day "Euro raid" to the Baltic, to a new country for both of us. We hired a car and mostly booked ahead at the most rural places we could find: two nights at Haeska by Matsalu Bay, a night in Pärnu, and two nights at Ilmatsalu in the east, near Tartu.

After a brief visit to Põõsaspea on the north-western coast, picking up the tail end of the Arctic migration (in pretty poor weather, but with success - Arctic Skua, Black-throated Divers, lots of Scoters, Long-tailed Duck etc.), we headed down to Matsalu Bay, with a lovely stay at the remote Tuulingu Guest House, which has its own bird tower. Thrush Nightingales and Lesser Whitethroats were in the garden, and waders and wildfowl were pretty plentiful - highlights being Broad-billed Sandpiper, likely centralis Dunlin, various other summer-plumaged waders, constant White-tailed Eagle and numerous ducks and geese.

The "ordinary countryside" of Estonia is very empty of people and pretty birdy - Cranes pop up in roadside fields, a black blob beacame a Black Grouse, we located a (rather rare) Ortolan Bunting territory, and at every stop we were surrounded variously by Thrush Nightingales, wagtails, warblers (including River and Icterine), larks and occasional Corncrakes and large raptors.

Little (and larger) wetlands gave us plenty more to hear and see - Grasshopper and Savi's Warblers, Bittern, Citrine Wagtail, Black Terns and some possibly breeding Whooper Swans. Add in Penduline Tit, Marsh, Great Reed and Blyth's Reed Warblers, and there was lots to work on!

While there is lots of secondary and plantation forest, we saved ourselves for a little patch of semi-ancient forest at Järvselja in the east. While we struggled for owls and woodpeckers this late in the season, we found Red-breasted Flycatcher with little difficulty, along with a decent suite of other forest species.

Th birding highlight came near Ilmatsalu, where we visited a publicised Great Snipe lek site late one evening. We'd pretty much given up, when finally we located up to six males displaying, albeit distantly, on the ancient wet meadows. Excellent stuff!

An easy, diverse and exciting little trip, in all.

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Citrine Wagtail
Black Tern Black Tern
Black Tern Common Tern
Black-tailed Godwit (limosa) White-tailed Eagle
Broad-billed Sandpiper Dunlin (?centralis)
Marsh Harrier
Downy Emerald Red-eyed Damselfly

Roe Deer
Common Gull Goosander brood
Great Snipe lek Musk Rat
Honey Buzzard Lesser Spotted Eagle
Primal(ish) forest Common Rosefinch
One hotel.... another
Ortolan Bunting Ringed Plover
Male Red-breasted Flycatcher Female Red-breasted Flycatcher
White Stork Cranes
Crane White Stork
Ruff Reeve
Red-necked Grebe Black Grouse (a tatty one!)
Thrush Nightingale
Sedge Warbler Grey-headed Wagtail
Swallow Tree Sparrow
Whinchat Fieldfare
Spotted Flycatcher Tuulingu Guest House, Haeska
Tree Sparrow
Migrating Whooper Swans Not migrating Whooper Swans
wild man1
Wild man of the woods Simon birding in the forest
Starling Tuulingu Guest House and
ice-pushed erratic
Arctic migration at Põõsaspea Matsalu Bay
White Wagtail

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