Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Estonia May 2018 Part 10 Nice beaver!

As there was only room for one person in the floating hide I let Mike go first, I took the car back to the place we'd been for Barred Warbler but my journey was wasted. There were more mammals about than birds it seemed!
Hares abound everywhere!

and there are nearly as many Deer too.
Deer seem to stand for a while before they decide to run so photos are easier to come by than some things, that is of course if there is a decent amount of space between you.
By now I'd started to loose the will to look for birds, it just wasn't happening for me but it was a joy to be out and about at first light.
Returning for breakfast it seemed Mike had seen next to nothing although he'd got some shots of an Artic Tern he was pleased with and better still he'd seen 3 Bewick Swans fly past too. Another potential lifer I'd missed! I still decided I wouldn't bother with the hide, it seemed a bit pointless sitting in it for hours for just those very brief sightings.
There were three other guests staying and they'd been out early too, in fact they'd woken me up when they left. There were two Swiss ladies and their guide who is also a pro photographer. They had been out the previous evening on a Beaver watching boat trip, the one we were also down to do that evening. We chatted and asked how it had gone , what gear to take etc. We told the guide about our lack of success and he said that we'd have been better with a pro guide. The  guy who owned the hides had also said that too, well they would do wouldn't they! "Of course one of the benefits of a local guide is they do know some good spots to take you" he told us  "like the park ponds in Haapsalu where the Slavonian Grebes are so used to people you can get really close to them". Any way the three of them went back to their bedrooms for another sleep they'd been up so early but from what we could gather they had had some great shots of Hares and nothing else!
Mike and I wandered down the road to check out the Manor House gardens. We spotted a Wryneck so that was one more for the list and stood under a tree where there was a nest hole. We were getting savaged by the biggest mosquitos I'd ever seen and in the end after standing there for ages a Common Starling emerged. To add to the mosquitos, a local dog came and snarled at Mike which was a bit worrying but luckily a local man walking past barked at it in Estonian and it backed off.
There was little point hanging around so we decided to head for Haapsalu and see if we could find the ponds. A bit of a tall order really but with our road atlas and google earth I'd spotted a couple of potential spots.None of them were correct. Time was running on and the one thing we did have to do was find the Beaver boat departure point. It was mid afternoon by now and it was at least an hour or so away so we decided we'd get there early. Really early!
As it happened we found the place relatively easily and were there two hours before we were due to sail. There were Grey partridge calling in a large field but better still a Corncrake too.
Corncrake, that would be a top find!
More disappointment. The spot the call was coming from was on our side of a bend in the river. We had the Corncrake trapped, it would have to show itself we thought. No way. Even when the sound came from what seemed like a few metres we still couldn't find it despite walking extremely slowly and examining every blade of the long now silent meadow grass. Even as we walked away the cheeky bird called as if it was mocking us. That killed an hour or so anyway and soon the boatman arrived making himself known to us. He couldn't speak English but luckily there was a family group having a picnic and we got one of them to act as an interpreter.
It was idyllic sailing through the channels in the reeds but there was no chance of getting any photographs even when we arrived at a spot where we met the open sea. Everything had flown at the noisy engine sounds heading their way.
However, we got the message from our captain that we'd now start searching for Beavers.
With Mike in the bow
The Captain relaxed in his unlikely seat which has to be well screwed down doesn't it!
We started the hunt. Seemed to take ages before Mike spotted one swimming across the channel. We stopped at the place it had been heading to and sure enough, my first Beaver.
It stopped eating and about turned.
before plopping in to the water.
This was what they seem to do. Mike had missed a shot of the last one and only managed the head of the next because he had too long a lens. I'd been lucky but it was the only time the 100-400mm came in useful during the whole trip. Looking at my photograph I decided that the Beaver looked more like road kill it was so bedraggled! 
Mike spotted another ahead of us but by the time I got my lens on it it was too late and it was gone.
Shame as that one seemed to have a well groomed and reasonably dry face. It didn't now though.
We carried on when suddenly we were surrounded by flying gulls hawking for insects. The mosquitos were pretty thick in the air and big enough for the gulls to bother with.
Amongst them a Black Tern.
Black Tern   Chlidonias niger
I still had my 100-400 attached and it wasn't enough reach but by the time I'd changed lenses the Tern had vanished. Mike had carried on furiously shooting at the Black-headed Gulls and when I queried why he said he thought they might be Little Gulls.
That was a "lifer' for me and I'd stood there ignoring them!
Soon we'd sailed on past and the chance was gone. We stopped at a viewing tower and it was indicated we could go up the tower to take a look. I was covered in mosquitos , Mike took one look at my face and announced he was not getting off, I decided likewise and indicated to the boatman to get going again. At least when we were moving the mosquitos left us alone for the main part.
Sailing back we came across the Little gulls so we had another chance but by now the light was fading fast.
Little Gull    Hydrocoloeus minutus
With the sun almost set it was getting too dark to hope for much. but I had managed a couple that I could salvage.
Little Gull    Hydrocoloeus minutus
It was a pleasing end to our last full day but although we did see a few more Beavers they were way ahead of the boat and you could only see the top of their head as they swam. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but we both regretted not asking the boatman to stop when we first saw the gulls.
Little Gull    Hydrocoloeus minutus
UntitledThe trip over, and as we hadn't had anything to eat since our filling station sandwich for lunch it was a filling station meal again for dinner and by the time we got back to our resting place it was 23.30. Our host had waited up for us though and even served us a cold beer.
Now that's what you call service. This place actually wanted to please their guests and make their stay as memorable as possible.

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