Friday 28 June 2024

Estonia - Day 7: 11th June 2024 for Oriole Birding

It was a glorious morning  - the first with blue sky and a touch of proper warmth and after breakfast we drove out to Järvselja on the way to the Russian border.  The further east we went the more old USSR co-operative farm barns were seen - all gently decaying back into the landscape.  We stopped on a forest track bathed in sunshine and were immediately surrounded by more bird song than we have encountered all week.  A White-backed Woodpecker drummed and flew in; posing nicely on a dead snag while young Great Spots hung noisily out of a nest hole.

White-backed Woodpecker

Wood Warblers, Robins, Wrens, Crested Tits and Coal Tits were all audible as was a Pygmy Owl.  After a tense few minutes we found it at the top of a Scots Pine glaring balefully at the world and constantly harassed by potential prey.  After a while it got the hump and moved to the top of snag which actually out it even more in the open.  It continued to sing and was soon the focus of bombarding Wood warblers, Flycatchers and Tits before a Great Spot literally displaced it from its perch!  What a great little bird.

Pygmy Owl

Pygmy Owl - Sean Moore

Pygmy Owl - Sean Moore

The Mossies and Hybomita Horse flies were grim and persistent but we had seen a Pygmy Owl and were happy.  Poplar Admirals came down on the path and well marked Pearly Heaths and Mazarine Blues flitted between the White Valerian and Ground Elder.

Mazarine Blue - Sean Moore

Poplar Admiral

Poplar Admiral

Mazarine Blue

Mazarine Blue

Mazarine Blue

Black-veined White

Pearly Heath

Hybomitra sp

Funky dark winged Cranefly

Sericomyia silentis I presume

Xylota segnis or similar

Tufted Loosestrife - Lysimachia thyrsiflora

Red Clover sp

White-backed Woodpecker explorations

On into the village itself which was delightful and rural and brimming with wildlife and although we did not find any Wrynecks we did hear several Golden Orioles, Spotted Flycatchers, Nuthatches, Icterine Warbler and an anxious Green Sandpiper that at one stage was sat in a pine tree next to a Hawfinch – not a combo I have ever had to call out before!

White Wagtail

Hazy Edible Frogs

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Suddenly Tarvo called ‘Hazel Grouse!’ as one whizzed low through the trees and soon began to sing.  It crossed over to where we were and we all got a couple of close flight views.  One day I will get to see one on the deck.

On again for the final push to the border alongside the lake in the village of Mehikoorma at which point Russia is just 2km away and the actual watery border in the vast lake, just 1km off shore.  It was quite surreal to sit there on the gently lapping shores of Lake Peipus and stare across to the Russian wilderness beyond.  We all independently said that it felt oddly intimidating with a sense of foreboding and being watched.  

Russia beyond

Russian White-tailed Eagle

The half way buoy

Rose Chafer

There were birds with Common Terns, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebes on the Estonian side but we were also able to start Russian lists with five White-tailed Eagles, Marsh Harrier, Cormorants, Mute Swans, Lapwings, terns and gulls, corvids and grebes all seen and much commuting  (we called it defecting) of birds from Russia to Estonia.

A pair of White Storks were nesting on the top of the ruined Lutheran village church and Thrush Nightingales and Great Reed Warblers were all to be heard.  Brown Hawkers and Four Spotted Chasers were around a small pond.

From here we headed back towards Tartu and a serious a lakes at Leevijõe in the search for another Savi’s Warbler but it was quiet bird wise but superb for Odonata with Brilliant Emeralds, Green Eyed Hawkers, Lesser Emperor, Scarce Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Four Spotted Chaser and Variable and both Red Eyed Damselflies all seen.

Black-tailed Skimmers

Brilliant Emerald

Brilliant Emerald

Scarce Chaser

Green Eyed Hawker

Green Eyed Hawker

Green Eyed Hawker

Hemipenthes maura

Orange Lily - Lilium bulbiferum

We took lunch in a lovely bistro in Tartu and then walked the local public gardens were Greenish and Icterine Warblers sang and Pied Flycatchers flicked out from twigs between cyclists.  There were Fieldfares and Blackbirds on the cut grass and Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Siskins all singing while a Middle Spotted Woodpecker was mooching around.  I could have happily spent more time there.

Pied Flycatcher

Greenish Warbler

Greenish Warbler

A little later we headed out to our final dinner and said our farewells to the amazing Tarvo who had to head back to Haapsalu for his daughter’s birthday.  Tomorrow his friend Peter would pick us up in the morning for a local birding session before we hit the road back to Tallinn for a bit of later afternoon culture in preparation for our journey back to the lovely Luton that evening.

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