Twice a year, Saaremaa is the place for the migrant birds to stop during their long journey. Every spring and autumn a bird life in its full diversity can be seen on the coast and at sea. During the nesting period, the shallow-watered bays of the western and southern coasts are the richest in birds. Special watch towers have been built near Kuressaare and all over Saaremaa to watch the nesting birds. Saaremaa is a paradise for bird watching.
On the western coast of Saaremaa is located Vilsandi National Park, the oldest nature protection area in the Baltic. This area was taken under protection for the purpose of protecting birds. Sõrve peninsula is another place where birds like to have a rest during their journey. Sõrve peninsula is the only place in Estonia where regular migration observations take place. During autumn about 1.5 million migrating birds are counted here.
To watch the overwintering water-birds, the coasts of the north-western Saaremaa and the Sõrve peninsula are best. The Steller’s eider is just one of the rarities to watch in winter.
Saaremaa is a paradise for bird lovers
Jouni Valkeeniemi is a freelance-photographer and –journalist from Finland, who has been birdwatching for more than 40 years and made more than 50 birdwatching trips to Estonia, especially to the west coast and Saaremaa. Valkeeniemi has said: "Saaremaa is paradise for bird lovers in many ways. First, the bird kingdom is rich and varied. The island is located at the crossroads of good migration routes. Several southern and northern species, as well as western and eastern species meet up there. There is something to see in every season, including winter. Second, Saaremaa is a pleasant place for rambling. There is plenty of free space where you can watch birds without disturbing the local people. I have never experienced a negative attitude to birdwatchers in Saaremaa. It’s the other way round, people often walk up to you and ask which birds you have managed to see. It is great that the beaches of Saaremaa are not surrounded by fences or developed like in some regions of Finland. Saaremaa is a big area with plenty to explore – it takes time to get to know the island properly. It has great birdwatching spots for several days."
Read more about Valkeeniemi's birdwatching trips and recommendations from the travel magazine Visit Saaremaa on pages 66-69.
You can read more from BirdLife Estonia webpage.