Birdwatching paradise

If Estonia would have a birdwatching capital, then Haapsalu would be the most suitable for this title. Over 330 species are recorded in this area – more than in any other county of Estonia.

One can be amazed by its rich bird fauna even then walking along the seaside or small parks in Haapsalu. It is not unusual to see White-tailed Eagle soaring above your head or flocks or Cranes passing over the town while eating at the restaurant.

Just 20km south from Haapsalu is located Estonian most well known bird reserve – Matsalu National Park. Matsalu is stopover site for hundreds of thousands of wetland birds and breeding area for several globally endangered bird species.

The peak spring passage takes place from early April til end of May while June is good time to study local breeding birds. In early spring 2,000 Bewick´s Swans feed at Matsalu bay while later in the spring one can admire beautiful plumages of the lekking Ruffs, listen for the Corncrakes or search for the Barred Warblers. Autumn migration picks up at the end of August and is most spectacular from mid September to mid October. In the autumn, Matsalu is one of the most important stopover sites in Europe for Cranes

Also migration of terrestrial birds can be equally spectacular with days of 26, 000 migrating Jays, 51, 000 Coal Tits and 140 Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers to mention few remarkable days here. 

Beside Matsalu National Park consider also visiting Silma Nature Reserve which is located north from Haapsalu. The bay and coastal lagoons in this reserve hold good numbers of passing and breeding birds. In spring time it´s perfect place to see Smew, Red-necked Grebe Caspian Tern, Penduline Tit or Little Gull. Or hear the booming Bittern. The best place for the birding at Silma NR is two bird towers next to Lake Sutlepa but consider also visiting the bird tower at Saunja bay.

Another popular birding hotspot in Lääne county is Cape Põõsaspea (Spithami). Põõsaspea is titulated as a the best place to witness arctic wildfowl autum migration. And it must be as over 2 million arctic wildfowl pass the spit each autumn. This is brilliant spot to witness autumn migration of thousands of Common and Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and hundreds of Black-throated and Red-throated Divers. The most diverse and spectacular migration takes place here in late September and during the first week of October.

If you have some specific birds on your wish list, consider booking a local bird guide. Birding tours in Lääne county are offered by Birding Haapsalu, Estonian Nature Tours and Natourest.

Photos and video: Birding Haapsalu