Saturday, 26 May 2018

Estonia May 2018 Part 4. Off in to space.

We woke up fairly early but well refreshed after a decent nights sleep in the bear hide and prepared to wait until 8.00am to depart the hide and head off westwards towards our next destination. Much to our surprise the Quad bike was back at not long after 7.00am to give the lady who'd arrived by this mode of transport a lift back to their car again. Considering how much gear we'd been carrying we did wonder why there hadn't been an offer to take some of ours with him too but perhaps he was a little annoyed that we'd made him remove the pole the night before. Anyway, we had the same walk as the previous days and by now we were pretty confident there was no danger from the bears even though we found paw prints and fresh glistening evidence that the bear had not long departed!
Arriving back at the car was when we discovered there had indeed been three people in the hide next to ours. They had stayed awake half the night and confirmed there were two bears there for much of the time making several visits right up to the time they called it a night at 3.00am. They had heard them right outside the cabin too so it makes you wonder what might tempt them to try and break in! Maybe a wise decision not to bring certain foodstuffs.
Anyway, we were now finished with the bears. The second night, although a thrill still, hadn't lived up to the expectations following the first night but that's wildlife for you.
Studying our map we worked out it was a fairly long journey ahead and with no experience of the roads difficult to judge how long it might take. We were only due to stop at Häädemeeste for one night but after two nights away would return for a further two nights. This was because our middle venue at Pikla was fully booked due to it's desirable birding location.
Anyway, a check of Dave Gosney's guide gave suggestions of several sites around Tartu, an almost midway stop, so we decided we'd try his recommended site for Citrine Wagtail, a species neither of us had seen before.The male member of the three people we'd been talking to at the bear hide confirmed that Tartu was indeed a good place to find them, they nest around the base of the birdwatching tower.
Following my road atlas  and Gosney's instructions for the fine detail we found ourselves not sure if we were in the right place but unable to progress further despite the guide suggesting we should be able to. We parked up and got out of the car and bingo! Within seconds a Citrine Wagtail flew towards us and beyond landing in a small bush as seen in the middle of this photo!
Problem was it was boggy on one side, water on the other so we had to settle for photos from a distance. Still, what a result. Who would have imagined such an instant success.
Citrine Wagtail
We hung around for ages in the hope of a better opportunity but eventually decided we'd have a look around to see if we were were we thought we should be!
A full tour of the locality, some of Gosney's guide we were able to pinpoint but being unable to find the birdwatching tower had us mystified. It was only later we discovered it had been demolished a couple of years ago. The guide book was written an age ago.
There wasn't too much else to see, "scan the field for geese and ducks" etc was all pretty obvious as indeed were the geese stood in it. Completing the full circle we attempted another go at finding the tower and in doing so finished where we'd started!
The good news was both male and female Citrine wagtails were actually walking on the road in front of us. When the both flew they landed in a nearby bush and we were able to get very close indeed. By now though it was so hot the heat haze once again made photography difficult. Most of my shots ended up in the recycle bin but the odd one was acceptable.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Once again we left the Citrines behind and continued on our journey west. Our designated accommodation was Kosmanautika, the one time holiday location for Soviet cosmonauts including a visit by the first ever female in space,Valentina Tereshkova.
We were surprised to find the place totally deserted and in fact "For Sale" signs were posted at the end of the driveway. From the outside the various cabins looked in need of some T.L.C.
A man on a bike dressed in overalls appeared and he passed us his phone so I could speak in English to the lady on the other end. We had been allocated rooms 2 and 3. I enquired about eating and was told we could have chicken as it was being served to a birdwatching group that were also staying there. Dinner was at 18.30pm. Non negotiable!
We hadn't eaten a proper meal in 4 days so we decided we'd forgo the evenings birding which we'd hoped to fit in before dinner. Instead we caught up with a few domestics re-sorting our packing, charging batteries etc, etc.
In fairness the rooms were not too bad. Right from the off we'd requested separate rooms, here we were given an adjoining apartment each but ended up just using one of them to sleep although the two shower rooms were handy!
Mike had the main bedroom.
I had the bed in the lounge.
It wasn't long before the birdwatching party arrived back from their trip out and I was able to make contact with their tour leader who also happens to own the hides we were due to use over the next few days. We were supposedly going to the Black Grouse lekking hide early the next morning. He kindly offered to take us to show us where to go so off we went before dinner. It was probably 20 minutes drive away. 
On the way back we spotted a bird lying in the road. It was obviously a recent kill as it hadn't been there on the way.
A Hazel Grouse
Hazel Grouse roadkill
It was one of the birds we'd wanted to see but not like this. The birdwatching group hadn't managed to locate one either because although they are not rare they are very shy. We took it back to show them.
The owner of the hides moved to sit next to us at dinner which was not well received from the look of the face of the woman sat next to Mike. We'd sat at the end of a long table with the bird group and she obviously thought we had no right to infiltrate their tour. Most of the others seemed friendly enough though and we exchanged a few pleasantries with them, easy enough, they were all British after all.
During dinner the hide man suggested we really should be better going to the hides that evening, we might find it difficult re-locating them in the dark. It wasn't what we wanted to hear, we had a comfortable bed waiting for us after two nights roughing it, but where needs must you have little option.We agreed on this course of action and after a quick stop at the local petrol station to buy a few beers we headed off to spend the night in the hides.
In truth we would never have found them in the dark, we missed the turn once even in daylight! There were two box hides in the middle of a huge field of several hundred acres.
Enjoying a nightcap before retiring in to our separate boxes we wondered what chance the Grouse would actually choose to land near us! 
Preparing for a night of hell!
It was something we needn't have bothered thinking about. As it happened we were about to endure one of the worst nights I have ever experienced ! Badly prepared despite bringing several layers of extra clothing the cloudless sky meant the temperature plummeted during the night. It was horrendous, just a thin mat to lie on and shivering with the cold. Mike heard me moving around as dawn broke around 3.30am, he'd been every bit as miserable as me. We set up our gear and waited.
But nothing happened.
At 5.30am we made a joint decision to abandon the hide and head back to Kosmonautica for some much needed warmth.
Not the best of days, not the best of nights either.
Things could only get better!

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