Thursday, 24 May 2018

Estonia May 2018 Part 1 Introduction.

Why Estonia? Several people asked me the same question and the answer was Why not!
My birding/photography pal Mike and I have been taking an annual trip for the past few years and we have travelled to Hungary,Bulgaria twice,Iceland, Spain and Scotland so we were looking for somewhere different again this year. Leaving our wives at home (as they have no wish to subject themselves to the sometimes punishing schedules we set ourselves) we also try to avoid places that they might regret not travelling to, in other words a spring tour that isn't going to suit their needs of a sunbed and a swimming pool.We can't have them being envious of our trip after all!
After some consideration we thought we'd give Estonia a try as we'd thoroughly enjoyed Iceland and thought Estonia might surpass there , certainly in terms of numbers of species and also the added bonus of mammal opportunities.
We found a company offering self guided trips and decided it was perfect for our needs. We wanted a mix of hide opportunities and self found birds and we don't want to be part of a big group.
This is what they came up with.
Day 1 (6/05/18) Meet at the airport to pick up the hire car and an electronic tablet plus maps from company rep. Travel to our hotel in NE Estonia for an overnight stay.
Day 2 Free to explore..overnight in bear hide
Day 3 Free to explore.. overnight in bear hide
Day 4 Free but drive to West Coast overnight in Kosmonautica ( one time R&R centre for Soviet space crews)
Day 5 Black Grouse hide early am then travel to Pikla for overnight
Day 6 Ruff lek hide early am, overnight in Pikla
Day 7 Ruff lek hide early am, back to Kosmonautika.
Day 8 free to explore overnight Kosmonautika
Day 9 free to explore, drive to Tuulinga for overnight.
Day 10 Floating hide early am, Beever boat trip evening. Overnight Tuulinga
Day 11 Floating hide early am, drive to airport and fly home.

The package was a reasonable 1380 euros per person and included car hire of a VW Touran, overnight accommodation with breakfast for 8 nights plus 7 hide hires and a boat trip.
It was all sounding very exciting particularly as we hoped to see several new and desirable bird species like Cappercaillie, Ural Owl,Hazel Grouse as well as witness the Ruff lek, a personal target for my list, and then of course there were the mammals, particularly Brown Bear. That would be a bit special.
As always from booking (June 2017) to departure in May 2018 seems to take forever but at the crack of dawn we set off from home at 4.45am to fly from Manchester airport to Tallin via Frankfurt.
We'd spent ages deciding what clothing we needed... we were heading to the Baltic region after all and were scheduled for some early starts which might be cold... and then there was the photo equipment too. Normally one big lens will cover all your birding needs but here we had mammals too, and big ones at that. There might be low light so an f2.8 lens might be advantageous. Problem was we only had 8 kilos of hand luggage so it would take some tough decisions on what we could or couldn't take.
As it happens Mike and I both have similar equipment and we both decided to take:-
Canon 1DX2
500mm f4
100-400 f4.5-5.6
70-200 f2.8
1.4 TC
Wimberley head
Batteries, cards,chargers
My new Canon 5D4, Mike has a 5DSR
I also took a laptop, external hard drive, charger and my 24-105mm zoom ...oh and an Olympus Tough pocket camera. I even took my most recent acquisition, a Rode microphone. 
Now there is no way all that can go in your hand luggage so for once we took the radical decision to put our zoom lenses in hold baggage, along with chargers, tripods etc. Some might think it a bit rash risking lenses but they were transported from their place of sale to our homes by courier so they have to be built to travel after all. Anyway we took a chance.
There were sacrifices too of course but they were in the form of clothing. We didn't intend getting dressed up for dinner which is just as well as it turned out but more of that later.
Lets get on with the report!

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