Estonia (September 2023)

In September 2023, my partner had a conference in Tartu, Estonia, so we decided that I would tag along and we would spend a few extra days there. I made it a focus to spend plenty of time in nature and hopefully see some mammals and birds.

My first mammal sighting came on Day 2 of the trip (Sep. 13, 2023). I was exploring Tartu and was on the Toomemägi hill, just having visited the ruins of the Tartu Cathedral. I saw a Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) run up a tree. As common as this species is, it was a new addition to my life list, as I had never been to Europe before. Surprisingly, despite lots of time spent outside on the trip, this was the only time I saw a squirrel.

One night, after one of her conference events, my partner spotted a hedgehog around the same area I saw the squirrel. We came back the following evening to see if we could find it again, but I never managed to see it.

My partner knew that I wanted to see wildlife, especially mammals, so she helped keep an eye out when we were together. On a day trip to the southeastern part of Estonia, she managed to spot some roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in an agricultural field to the right side of the road. This was in the evening when we were coming from the Ruins of Vastseliina Episcopal Castle back to Tartu; I estimate we were around the town of Kanepi. I pulled over and turned around, and when we got back to that area, I went down a side road to get a better look. We first saw a few females together. A little further down the road was a male, who got startled by our car and ran away. As with the squirrel, this was my first time seeing this species even though it is very common.

At some point, we were driving and saw a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) dart across the road in front of us. It was too quick to snap a photo, so hence I can’t remember exactly when or where this was in the trip.

Throughout the trip, we had been hoping to see a moose, as we knew Estonia is a good area for them. I had seen them before, but not since I was a little kid, and even though my partner is not as excited about mammal watching as I am, she had never seen one but really wanted to. There were plenty of moose crossing signs along the Estonian countryside, so we always kept our eyes peeled. We finally got lucky on the last day of our trip. We were driving from Tallinn to the Pärnu area to go on a mushroom foraging trip, so we were on the road in rural areas early in the morning. I spotted a large animal moving in a field off to my left, and I immediately pulled over to get a better look. Sure enough, it was a bull moose (European elk, Alces alces alces) with a full set of antlers! It walked along through the field and disappeared into the trees. I estimate we were in the vicinity of Loomse.

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1 Comment

  • Jonatan den Haan

    Hi Kyle! Even though they are quite common species I’m glad you had your first taste of mammal watching in Europe! Good reason to come back again! 😉

    Happy mammal watching!

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