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As many Naturetrek clients havealready discovered, the former SovietRepublic of Estonia is an ideal springdestination for both birdwatchers andbotanists, offering a fascinating range ofspecies amidst unspoiled and picturesquelandscapes. Perhaps less well known arethe many attractions of an autumn visit;thus, this September holiday offersparticipants the opportunity to enjoy yetmore facets of this remarkable country. At the end of the short Arctic summer, tensof thousands of birds begin their longsouthward migrations and Estonia isideally positioned to offer a staging post atwhich these migrants may pause and feedbefore continuing their extraordinaryjourneys. The country's long, indentedcoastline, in particular, provides a myriadof sheltered bays and marshes to attractwaterbirds, whilst migrant passerines aredrawn to the many leafy thickets to befound on the long peninsulas that extendlike fingers into the Baltic, or on thethousand or more islands that dot thecoast. Whilst migration is always anunpredictable phenomenon, dictated byvariation in weather conditions, the peakmovements through Estonia are usuallytowards the end of September and ourtour is timed not only to witness thisveritable flood of birds but also to savourthe vibrant colours of the autumnvegetation and, of course, the legendaryEstonian hospitality which is such a featureof this friendly country.Our tour begins with a flight to the ancientcapital of Tallinn, followed by a drive to thenorth-east coast where we stay atLaanemaa. From here we will visit the Poosaspea, a spit of land situated at thecrossroads of the exodus south fromFinland and one of the best places toobserve Arctic waterbird migration. BothBlack and Red-throated Divers occur inthousands offshore, as do great rafts ofLong-tailed Ducks and Common Scoters.Nearby, Silma Nature Reserve contains avariety of habitats and is host to largeflocks of Goldeneye, Scaup and otherduck species, all of them regularlypanicked into flight by the appearances ofthe local White-tailed Eagles. FromLaanemaa, another major reserve,Matsalu, will also occupy us for a day. Thishuge reserve, regarded by many as themost important bird refuge in northernEurope, comprises coastal meadows,reedbeds, woodlands and marshes, all ofthese habitats sustaining a remarkablepopulation of feathered visitors. As manyas 20,000 Common Cranes have beencounted roosting at Matsalu and thespectacle created by these magnificentbirds will be one of the enduring memoriesof our tour. Geese and swans areprominent among the wildfowl grazing thelocal meadows and the regular Barnacle,Bean, Greylag and White-fronted Geeseare sometimes joined by a few LesserWhite-fronts. After the excitement of these two reserveswe move next to explore Saaremaa Island,the largest of the Estonian islands. Acomplex of habitats on the island includespeat bogs, lagoons, woodland and fineexamples of alvars, a geological featurealmost unique to Estonia comprising a thintopsoil on a bedrock of limestone. Thebirdlife on Saaremaa reflects the variety ofthe landscape with Golden Eagle and Black Grouse amongst theresidents, while wildfowland Common Cranes arelikely to be found in themeadows and marshes. TheSorve Peninsula in the south of theisland is recognised as one of the bestsea-watching points in the country and isalso famous for the many rarities that havebeen recorded from the ringing stationhere, which has a similar status amongstEstonian ornithologists as Fair Isle doesamongst their British counterparts! Diurnalpassage of finches over the peninsula cannumber many thousands of birds andraptor passage is also impressive,involving harriers, Lesser Spotted Eagles,Buzzards and Sparrowhawks with theconstant possibility of more unusualtravellers. A rare vagrant from the eastcould also add to the variety of migrantpasserines encountered during our stay.Returning to the mainland we conclude ourtour by visiting Kabli and Luitema NatureReserve. Mixed forests at the latter arefrequented by Hazel Grouse and Black,Three-toed, Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers whilst Kabli BirdStation, near the Latvian border, is yetanother magnet for migrants and in goodyears is a regular site for northern owlssuch as Tengmalm's, Ural and Pygmy. After this final taste of autumn migrationwe must make our way back to Tallinn for areturn flight to London. However, one lastmagical experience awaits as we stop enroute to admire the colourful peat mossesat Tolkuse Bog to round off a wonderfulbirdwatching holiday with images of theSeptember landscape in one of Europe'smost scenic countries.Estonia in AutumnAn 8-day birdwatching tour timed to witness the amazing volume of migrating birdswhich passes through Estonia each autumn. Saturday 14th September - Saturday 21st September Cost: £1,495Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationESTONIABALTIC SEAGULF OFFINLANDGULF OFRIGALATVIARUSSIATALLINNPARNUKURESSAAREHIIUMAAISLANDOSMUSSAARISLANDSILMAMATSALUSAAREMAAISLANDTARTULAKEPEIPSIVIRTSUOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Tallinn.Day 2 Poosaspea and SilmaReserve.Day 3Poosaspea and MatsaluReserve.Day 4Matsalu Reserve.Day 5/6Sorve Peninsula,Saaremaa.Day 7Kabli and LuitemaReserve.Day 8Tolkuse Bog and Tallinn;fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Gentle birdwatching walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderMati Kose.Single room supplement£250.Web quick search: EST0151Tolkuse bogRoosting CranesBlack Grouse

Often referred to as the 'Land of aThousand Lakes', Finland is one ofEurope's most wild and unspoiltcountries. This tour will take you far northof Britain, up to the westernmost part ofthe vast Siberian taiga forests and north tothe Arctic Circle itself. In April, the Arcticwilderness starts to awake after a very longand harsh winter; now the days are gettinglonger, the weather slightly warmer, and thebirds and mammals are beginning toprepare for the short and hectic breedingseason ahead. This is a very rewardingand spectacular time to visit Finland. Allthe resident species such as owls,woodpeckers, grouse, crossbills and bothSiberian Jay and Siberian Tit are presentand active, and the first of the springmigrants will be making their way north.The weather is usually clear and fine, thesun shines and there is ample time forbirdwatching. In the evening, as duskstarts to fall, the mixed and coniferousforests play host to displaying owls andafter dark there is even the chance ofcatching sight of the spectacular AuroraBorealis or 'Northern Lights', the naturallight phenomenon which is at its bestduring the dark winter and early springnights!Finland is the seventh largest country inEurope, yet is home to only five millionpeople. A staggering 70% of the land areais carpeted in forest and 10% of thatremaining is covered by lakes and ponds.This tour focuses on central Finland's vastand unspoilt taiga forests and is unusual inthe fact that it departs relatively early in theyear. For, whilst at this season some of thebreeding birds are unlikely to be seen, thisshortfall is more than compensated for bythose 'special birds' that are present, and by the breathtaking snow-coveredlandscape, a spectacle that later toursmiss! Our holiday begins with a flight fromLondon to Helsinki and then on to Oulu, atown on the north-east shore of the Gulf ofBothnia. The town is surrounded byextensive boreal forests in which live manyof the high Arctic bird species most soughtafter by British birdwatchers, in particularthe owls. The Great Grey Owl must surelybe the highlight of any trip to northernFinland, but alongside this magnificentspecies live Ural and Eagle Owls, plusTengmalm's and Pygmy Owls, their morediminutive cousins. Hawk Owls areoccasionally found sitting atop tall conifers,whilst Snowy Owls visit the more opencoastal areas from time to time. Along withthe owls, the forests hold Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Crested Tit, Waxwing,Capercaillie and the elusive Hazel Grouse.On the coast, migrating wildfowl will betracking their way north, and in thesheltered bays and estuaries WhooperSwans and Goosander will be starting togather. A sudden flurry of wings mayindicate a passing raptor which, for the veryfortunate, may turn out to be a Gyr Falcon,a truly magnificent falcon and one thatoften winters along the Finnish coast.From Oulu we will head north-east througha snow-covered landscape of forests andfrozen lakes to Kuusamo, a small townclose to the Russian border. Kuusamo isapproximately four hours from Oulu and issurrounded by some of Finland's finestwilderness scenery. Here, amongst the oldgrowth taiga forests, bogs and lakes, wewill look for such sought-after species asSiberian Jay and Siberian Tit, Two-barredand Parrot Crossbills, Pine Grosbeak andof course more owls! Close to Kuusamo can be found themagnificent wilderness of Oulanka NationalPark. Lying close to the Arctic Circle,Oulanka contains a wonderfully diverserange of habitats that includes vastexpanses of old taiga forest, deep rivervalleys, magnificent waterfalls, bogs andmeadows, together encompassing an areaof over 270 square kilometres of landalong the Oulankajoki River. Spring willhave just touched this near-Arctic park andalthough much of the land will be coveredin snow, the birds should be activelysetting up territory. Whilst in Oulanka wewill look for such species as Waxwing,Capercaillie, Golden Eagle, Common,Parrot and Two-barred Crossbills, PineGrosbeak, Arctic Redpoll and, once again,possibly a few more owls. Reindeer are afairly common sight and, with luck, someof the other mammals that frequent thearea such as Elk (Moose), Arctic Hare,Pine Marten, Beaver and Red Squirrel maybe seen. We will also spare time to crossthe Arctic Circle, a necessity when soclose to this world famous latitudinal line.From Oulanka we will have to transfer byroad back to Oulu to catch our return flightto Helsinki and from there our connectingflight home.Finland - Easter on the Arctic CircleA long weekend in search of owls and other wintering and spring-time specialities of Finland.Friday 29th March - Tuesday 2nd April Cost: £1,595Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Oulu.Day 2Oulu.Day 3/4Kuusamo.Day 5Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderAri Latja or Toni Eskelin.Single room supplement£195.Web quick search: FIN0152Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryRUSSIASWEDENOULUKUUSAMOHELSINKIGULF OFBOTHNIAGULF OFFINLANDARCTIC CIRCLEFINLANDGreat Grey OwlNorthern LightsSiberian Jay