Ornithologists flock to northwest Estonia to spot arctic migratory birds

Birdwatchers at Põõsaspea at the weekend.
Birdwatchers at Põõsaspea at the weekend. Source: ERR

International birdwatching days took place over the weekend, at Põõsaspea, Lääne County, mainland Estonia's northwesterly-most point, as reported on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera. Ornithologists have been monitoring the behavior of migratory arctic waterfowl every five years, since 2004, at Põõsaspea, with this year's migration survey starting in July and continuing to November.

The migratory waterfowl winter in Estonia, which is considerably milder than inland northern Russia, where they spend the summer months.

"The migration of waterfowl nesting in the vast tundra and taiga in ​​northern Russia is concentrated here, especially in autumn. The area where they migrate from, to here, is the size of the rest of Europe. It is more than a hundred times larger than Estonia and unique as to how many birds come here, how they have had breeding success and so on," said Margus Ellermaa, project manager for the Arctic waterfowl migration census.

Notable since 2004 is the decline in the population of long-tailed ducks, Ellermaa said.

"The long-tailed duck population has dried up, it is clear. The species is now also globally recognized as endangered, partly based on the information we have gathered here," he added, noting that the cause of the decline is not known for certain, but may be due to both climate change and reduced food stocks in the Baltic (the species feeds on molluscs, crustaceans and some small fish).

Põõsaspea also attracts plenty of international nature tourists.

"I'm here for the first time. It's a fantastic place with a lot of species that we don't usually see, a lot of migratory birds," said Stephen, from the U.K.

The original Aktuaalne kaamera report (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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