Friday, 25 May 2018

Estonia May 2018 Part 3 The Teddy bears and the picnic. Take 2!

We woke up to bright sunshine, actually that's not true when I think about it. I was flat out when Mike's alarm went off. Why he'd set it I don't know but now awake I climbed out of my bunk and took a seat at the camera. There wasn't anything happening out there but we'd been told not to leave until 8.00am so we hung around until then just to make sure the bears had retreated deep in to the forest again. We passed the time eating the remnants of our food but I was longing for a hot cup of coffee. Ah well, such are the little pleasures we'd sacrificed for a night in the woods. To be honest it hadn't been too uncomfortable, the bunks had decent mattresses and sleeping bags are provided for warmth although stupidly neither of us had used them so we had been a little chilly. The cabin was divided in to two sections so we had a section each to sleep in, A compost toilet separated them but which neither of us could bring ourselves to use though! 
8.00am and we were off back to where we'd parked the car and a repeat of that long walk. It was quite muddy in parts making the going even tougher. I even managed  to leave my boot behind in one sticky patch which Mike fortunately retrieved for me otherwise my sock would have been in a right state!
The bear walk
Feeling that we were now well out of danger, there was a farm house a hundred metres away, we stopped to try and get a photo of a singing Wood Warbler but the bonus was a fleeting view of a Pine Marten, another first for us both. Sadly too quick for a photo though.
Back in the car I suggested we drive south towards Lake Peipus, the 5th biggest lake in Europe apparently and one that has the Russian border running down the middle of.
Once again the roads were a pleasure to drive, two cars in one shot was a rare event. These fabulous roads have a speed limit of only 90kph which is easy to forget but do so at your peril, they do have hidden cameras and they cost 50 euro per photo which we found to our cost when we handed the car back at the airport!
Meanwhile our search for a cup of coffee was proving as unsuccessful as spotting any wildlife. We did see  Common Crane on a couple of occasions but the minute you stopped the car they were off, just like the flocks of geese they simply turned their back and walked away so photos were hard to come by. This was turning in to something of a frustrating day. There were lots of potential places to have breakfast but they were all shut as it was out of the tourist season, after checking several villages having followed encouraging eating place signs we gave up and headed back north.
That's when we made a discovery that was to shape the rest of the trip.
Fuel stops!
Fine dining   Estonia
Some were bigger and better than others but they all had a decent coffee machine and some sort of food as well! Better still they all offered free wifi connections too! We were able to keep in touch with the world, even make a Skype call home the connections that good. Some offered hot food too, that would become our saviour as it turned out but on this first visit a hot drink and a blueberry muffin was manna from heaven.
Driving north didn't improve our birding opportunities though. We checked out a couple of the suggestions on our provided electronic tablet but they too were a waste of time.
A pleasant walk in the woods but that was all.
Beaver dam
No beavers in the dam, no birds in the trees.
A surprising find was a handy loo in the forest though!
Loo in the woods!
Once again the weather was counting against us. It was really quite hot now. My navigational skills trying to find somewhere and something to interest us all but failed with the exception of seeing briefly, a pair of Montague's Harriers.
Montagu's Harrier  Circus pygargus
It was a case of stop the car, jump out and hope for the best. Certainly not prize winners but they did count towards the little game I'm playing. 
The Photo Big Year! Yes, along with one or two others we aim to get as many species in camera in a single year. I have set myself a target of 500 so the more I could capture, no matter the quality, the better. Every bird counts. Some images are so bad it's become a competition within itself. The only rule being the bird has to be identifiable. Good game eh! In actual fact it added some purpose to the trip.
Anyway, that was about all I did achieve that day, well until we got back to the bear hide anyway. Stopping at another small town supermarket for food supplies for the night we must have spent 30 minutes scratching around for something appealing enough to eat. How the locals survive on these offerings I really don't know. My picnic dinner consisted of a pack of cheap chocolate Swiss Rolls, two Snickers bars and a pack of two donuts which turned out to be filled with a savoury fishy filling and were only partly cooked.YUK!
Ah well, we weren't in the bear hides for fine dining. After being forced to waste another 30 minutes waiting for a blocked forest road to clear because they were  loading a lorry full of felled trees we found ourselves back at the meeting point for the bear hide an hour early. The rep turned up on a Quad bike and our first request was to tell him about that troublesome pole. He initially said it couldn't be moved but when we showed him some shots he went back to where he'd come from to get what ever was necessary too get rid of it.
Out with the pole!
He was right when he said it wasn't easy. It has been screwed in to the ground so was well secured. We'd guessed that perhaps it had had a camera or such like on top of it at some stage but whatever it's purpose it was still unbelievable that this was in front of a photographic hide.
Anyway, it was now gone thankfully.
There was one other slight anomaly too. Our rep/guide/contact turned up at the hide on his Quad bike complete within a rather large woman on the back to whom he'd given a lift. It wasn't until the next morning when he came back to pick her up that we found out there were three people in the next hide that night and she needed transport to get there.
The instructions for walking to the hide are talk to each other at a normal level. Any bears hearing you should go away. Don't make too much noise as they might be too disturbed to come to the hides. I'm not sure what a Quad bike might do but on this second night the Bears, or should I say Bear as we only had one, didn't turn up for almost an hour later than the first night so our photo light was very limited indeed.
We did at least get a few shots though
Brown Bear    Estonia
not only the Bear but of a Racoon Dog too.
Racoon Dog
Ironically only the Racoon Dog visited the now clear viewed feeding station while it was still light enough to photograph.
Once again, as soon as it became too dark to carry on we headed for our bunks to catch up on some sleep. This time I had to good sense to use the sleeping bag and had the best sleep in 48 hours.


  1. Hi Dave

    As soon as I saw your pictures on Flickr I just knew the report would be worth reading. Estonia had never been on my radar but the mammal sightings alone could really tempt me but I doubt that Pat would be interested (we are heading back to Cavelossim in November - her favourite destination - mine too but I don't tell her that); it was certainly a sensible move to leave Clare at home although I'm sure you will soon reward her with a destination that suits you both!

    Ian Hargreaves

  2. Thanks Ian. Claire and I have an adventure together coming up soon but no plans for winter as yet. Cavelossim is certainly a possibility though and I'd hope to follow some of your footsteps on that one!