Martyn Hnatiuk, Mike Powell, David Gilmore and I spent 2nd-6th March in Estonia. Our main target being the wintering flock of Steller's Eider in Undva bay on Saaremaa island. On day one we drove from Tallin to Haapsalu, birding along the road for the last few hours of daylight. Hooded crows and (Nordic) Jackdaws were common and we also saw Great grey shrike, Nuthatch, Common crossbill, Yellowhammer, (Northern) Bullfinch and several flocks of Waxwing before dusk.
On day 2 on the way to the ferry port, I was lucky to see a Nutcracker from the car, which flew off before the others got onto it. Also seen were Jay, Siskin, Great grey shrike and 2 Roe deer. The Baltic sea was iced over and the 30 minute crossing was a tad nippy! White tailed sea eagles were on some ice floes halfway across along with Atlantic grey seals, one with a pup.
We drove from the island of Muhu, across the causeway to Saaremaa island, seeing more Sea eagles, and a few Whooper swans on the ice/water. On arriving at Loona guesthouse, we saw Hawfinch, Great spotted woodpecker and a flock of 16 (Northern) bullfinch in the grounds. A Black woodpecker was seen off the road en route to Undva bay and in the bay itself were good numbers of Long tailed duck (1500), Goldeneye (1000), Mute swan (500), Goosander (20), Velvet scoter (30), Greater scaup (300) and, in the choppy waters, just one female Steller's eider, (although David saw a small flock fly by). We kept ourselves warm by spending an hour digging the car out of a sand bank before returning to the lodge for some steaming Wild boar stew.
We awoke to a frosty, clear, still morning. With a few returning Skylarks calling overhead at the lodge. 2 Fieldfares were seen on the way to Kudeema bay, where similar numbers of seaduck to yesterday were seen, with the bonus of 66 Steller's eider and a Black guillemot. Long tailed ducks were giving much closer views from the jetty here, along with Red breasted mergansers displaying and Marsh tit in the gardens.
We returned to Loona village for some food and saw 4 Tree sparrow there. More Hawfinch and Bullfinch in the lodge grounds and another Great grey shrike was along the road out to Undva bay. There we were luckier than yesterday, in having a calm sea and before long a flock of 100 Steller's eider were located and watched for the remaining hour of daylight. Whilst watching them a Black throated diver and 2 Greylag geese flew past and a fabulous flock of 7 (Northern) Long tailed tit passed behind us, this white headed form of the species was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. On the way back 2 Marsh tit and 19 Waxwing were seen along the road and a Willow tit was near the lodge at dusk.
Day 3 saw us return to the mainland and head south to the huge wood/bog reserve of Nigula near Parnu. Interesting birds on the journey down were 2 Sea eagles, great grey shrike and 11 male Black grouse. Our first Stock dove of the trip was also noted. At Nugula reserve we saw another splendid flock of (northern) Long tailed tit, 2 Marsh tit, 2 Grey headed woodpecker, 2 Black woodpecker and Middle spotted woodpecker.
Day 4 saw us at Nigura wood/bog again and we saw a flock of 35 Yellowhammer, 2 Marsh tit, Northern treecreeper, Golden eagle and Lesser spotted woodpecker and a lone Golden plover in a flock of Lapwing. We awoke on day 5 with 6 inches of snow on the car and a 2 hour journey back to Tallin. A stop halfway at a huge bog gave us very little but along the way back we saw 2 Sea eagle, 150 Skylark, 3 Yellowhammer, Great grey shrike, a lek of 40 Black grouse, Roe deer and a fine Nutcracker to end the trip.