Sunday 23 June 2024

Estonia - Day 1 & 2: 5th & 6th June 2024 for Oriole Birding

5th June 2024

We arrived late in the day with colour still in the sky and Tarvo drove us the 90 minutes to the Altmõisa Guesthouse within the Matsala national park.  A few expected birds were noted but it was the female Moose with two calves that got us off to a flyer.  Smiles all round.  It was just getting dark when we got there at 11.40 and Thrush Nightingales, Song Thrushes and Marsh Warblers were welcoming the night in while Woodcock were roding and Wood Sandpipers called high overhead.

6th June 2024

Sleep? I tried my very best to get some restorative slumber last night but the chorus of throaty Thrush Nightingales kept me on the edge and at 2.15am when it was actually dark, a male Whinchat started up just outside the.  I somehow drifted back off and woke to a full dawn songburst at 4.15 and decided that I might as well get up. Breakfast was over 3 hours away but I had a fantastic time walking up and down the road and in time, most of the party drifted to join me. 

Whinchat - he never stopped

We did rather well with a displaying Barred Warbler moving between favoured trees in the Juniper scrub, mimicking Marsh Warblers and of course the Thrush Nightingales.  A Grasshopper Warbler reeled and in the same spot a pair of Montagu’s Harriers were nesting and we even got to see a food pass while bugling Cranes headed off from their roost illuminated by the dawn light.


Thrush Nightingale

Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler

Marsh Warbler and Thrush Nightingale


                                                        Thrush Nightingale

Common Cranes

Montagu's Harrier

Montagu's Harrier

There were Yellowhammers, Red-backed Shrikes, Cuckoos, Whitethroats and ‘pleased to meet you’ Rosefinches on the telephone wires and other finches bimbling around included Siskins, Greenfinches, Bullfinches and Hawfinches.  

Red-backed Shrike


brown Rosefinch

Red-backed Shrike & red Rosefinch

Around the lodge there were Linnets, Black Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers, parachuting Tree Pipit and circling, grunting Goosanders while Whooper Swans could be heard.  Military Orchids, Twayblade, Clustered Bellflower and Water Avens lined the path.

Military Orchid

Military Orchid

Common Twayblade

Spreading Bellflower - Campanula patula

It started to lightly rain and breakfast and much needed caffeine beckoned.  We soon left in the wet and birded our way around some of the local parts of the Matsala national park and several stops added a wealth of wetland species with five Terns including several hulking Caspians and waders that included Knot, Grey Plover, sooty Spotted Redshanks, both Godwits and displaying Dunlin.  

White-tailed Eagles of various ages loafed on rocks and Great White Egrets and Grey Herons were to be seen along with a variety of common waterfowl.  Twenty-one Cranes sailed past the Haeska watch tower at just above eye-level and a Citrine Wagtail was heard but we shall get another chance.  

It was a very tall tower at Haeska - Hi Tarvo! 

Great White Egrets - no Littles in Estonia - still a vagrant

White-tailed Eagle

Single Russian White-fronted and Barnacle Geese were amongst a flock of Greylags and a Hobby almost flew into the van while Common Gulls had young on the top of a big thatched house and in nests in the pine trees.

Common Gulls

A couple more roadside Montagu’s Harriers were seen and a Goshawk was hot on the tail of Woodpigeon but we only saw the puff of feathers behind the trees to suggest that it had been a successful hunt. Quite a beast.

Lunch in Haapsala where four Slavonian Grebes were found on the lakes in the town along with our first Coot, Goosander brood and more Caspian Terns.  We left there in the rain again but thankfully it cleared up by the time we reached Varika and five male Black Grouse departed from the fields upon our arrival. 

It was magic little spot overlooking meadows and fields surrounded by woods and there were breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits and Golden Plover along with Curlew, Whimbrel, Lapwing and Redshank.  Two Quail sung from the wheat and at long last I heard a Corncrake.  I have amazingly been in on finding and seeing two migrant birds but until today I had never heard one.  It was my highlight of the day to finally have one doing what they do just in front of me.  Marsh Warblers sung from one ditch and the one adjacent had a Blyth’s Reed Warbler too which was a useful aural comparison. 


Tarvo noticed two Hooded Crows diving onto the tree tops and there, gleaming in the sun was a proper glowing Golden Eagle.  It soon took flight and revealed itself to be a near adult with just a little white in the tail base and after another brief rest it got a good aerial thrashing from a tiny looking male Monty.  It was the highlight of the day for most people.  

Our first butterflies were seen with Grizzled Skipper, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Red Admiral and Large Heath along with Beautiful Demoiselle dragonfly and a very smart Chimney Sweep moth.

Variable Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

Chrysops sp

 Chimney Sweep

 A large Click Beetle

 Roesel's type Bush Cricket

 Large Heath

 Grizzled Skipper
Clustered Bellflower - Campanula glomerata

Ragged Robin

Early Marsh Orchid

Mountain Clover - Trifolium montanum


A final walk in the woods at Marimetsa added Ravens, Crested Tit and Green Sandpiper and some very good Dragons with Emperor (still a scarce Estonian species), Downy Emerald, Black-tailed Skimmers, Four Spotted Chasers, Broad Bodies Chasers and stunning thin waisted Dark White-faced Darters. There were Butterflies too with a couple of Fritillaries, Amanda's Blue, Black-veined White and Northern Chequered Skipper.



Dark White-faced Darter

Dark White-faced Darter - female

Black-tailed Skimmer

Dark White-faced Darter

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary

False Heath Fritillary

False Heath Fritillary

Northern Chequered Skipper.

Small Copper

Amanda's Blue

Amanda's Blue

Red and black Shieldbug - Graphosoma italicum

Pretty Marbled

Water Avens

Red Fox and Water Vole - two new for the mammal list...

Crane heads

We even made it back for 7pm dinner and yet we had still only been in Estonia for 22 hours at this point.  The first Woodcock began roding and a White-backed Woodpecker was calling in the Poplars while 16 Dark-bellied Brent Geese hurtled through heading north.  The Thrush Nightingales still had a little time to go before the night time session.  What a great first day.

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