Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Estonia, the most northerly of the Baltic states, is a wonderful country for birding; it is a bit larger than the Netherlands and about one third bigger than Belgium (Nl 41km2, B 30km2, E 45km2), but has only 1,4 million people living there (N 17, B 11) of which 450,000 in the capital Tallinn.
We (my wife Linda and our dog Joske) travelled around there with our campervan for 5 weeks (april 30 - June 6) and we enjoyed the open countryside with so many wonderful nature reserves; one of them (Sooma) is 369 km2! And it is full of wildlife and empty of people: that is what we like. Most of the time we had the place for ourselves; we only saw a handful of people on our long walks. Our little dog enjoyed it very much too: the roads are empty too and they are few but good; we did a lot of driving on gravel roads and sometimes our campervan was 3-coloured brown, white and grey.
Observations were lower than expected. It is clear that climate change has his effects on wildlife behavior. We experienced this on our previous travels too. Animal behavior is totally disrupted. In Estonia first half of April was too hot, then a cold spell (we had snow and ice in may) and end of may back too hot for the time of year; moreover it had been very dry and a lot of the mammals had retreated in the wetter parts of the swamps, where they were unreachable for us. A lot of birds as a result too already left the country mid April and summer visitors like red breasted flycatcher (kleine vliegenvanger), rosefinch (roodmus), Blyth’s reed warbler (struikrietzanger) and greenish warbler (grauwe fitis) arrived very late. But still it was paradise.
As you can guess whenever a photographic opportunity presented itself I grabbed it. My main target was little gull (dwergmeeuw) and red necked grebe (roodhalsfuut). In Matsalu bay a group of little gulls was feeding in their typical graceful flight; early next morning at 04,00h I was out on the pier camouflaged and ready and I was lucky they came back and close enough to have some good shots; for the red necked grebes you need a floating hide so you can go closer; even when I was camouflaged lying down at the water edge they did not come closer; they stayed in their preening and feeding territory.
In Marimetsa bog we had a special moment when Linda discovered this on an early morning walk:
It was not there when we walked the same track the evening before; this was very fresh and it is most probably, I would say most certainly, from wolf! Why did I not stay awake, they probably passed our campervan!
You can have a look at the rest of the pictures in the 'Estonia' album on the website https://www.julienherremansphotography.com
Enjoy it like I did taking them. You get more info on the picture when you click the ⌽ button.
And for Estonia: we certainly go back!
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