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Catch up on the latest news from Victor Emanuel Nature Tours by reading the latest VENTflash.

Alaska: Barrow Extension

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Kevin Zimmer: August 17, 2017

As usual, our Barrow Extension delivered the expected mix of high Arctic breeding waterfowl, shorebirds, jaegers, and owls, with a few surprises thrown in, that have made this outpost at the “top of the world” (more accurately, at the top of Alaska) a must-visit destination for birders. King Eiders— Photo: Kevin J. Zimmer   All of Barrow’s ‘glamour’ birds were present and accounted for, starting with the eider ‘hat trick&rsqu...


Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali Highway & Kenai Peninsula

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Kevin Zimmer: August 17, 2017

Spring came early to Alaska this year, following a winter with relatively little snow in most parts of the state.  We felt the effects on the birds throughout the entire month of our Alaska tours, and although climate irregularities had negligible impact on the species tallied, there was no denying that the breeding cycles of birds and the flowering cycles of plants were ‘off.’  By the time our Grand Alaska Part II tour commenced (on June 19), fireweed was blooming all a...


Grand Alaska Part I

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Kevin Zimmer: August 15, 2017

Our 2017 Grand Alaska Part I tour began, as always, in Nome, my favorite place to bird in all of North America.  There is something indescribably special about the area surrounding this old gold rush town.  The mix of special breeding birds on the tundra and large numbers of migrants staging at Safety Lagoon and other points along the coast, coupled with the very real chance of finding some rare stray from eastern Asia, always makes for exhilarating birding.  When you throw in ...


VENTflash #225

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Victor Emanuel: August 09, 2017

Dear friends: August brings some of the hottest days of the year to central Texas, but it also brings southbound shorebirds in increasing numbers. My favorite local birding area in Austin is the wastewater treatment center at Hornsby Bend, an excellent place to observe shorebirds in late summer. Last week, on a particularly memorable visit there, I saw 14 species of shorebirds including several species that I had not seen since spring. Baird's Sandpiper — Photo: Greg Lasley ...


Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour

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David Ascanio: August 04, 2017

Our tour to magical Costa Rica started in the beautifully arranged gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea. In these gardens, we came across our first target species of the tour, the Lesson’s Motmot. It was foraging between native and exotic plants, small ponds, vines, bromeliads with brightly colored inflorescence, and flowering orchids. This brought the opportunity to give a brief explanation of old and modern taxonomy and the challenges raised with the development of molecular biology. A ...


VENTflash #224: Circumnavigation of Hokkaido: Japan's Wild Island - Free Webinar!

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Victor Emanuel: August 03, 2017

Dear friends: On Wednesday, August 16, my colleague Barry Lyon and I will host a free webinar, the next in our series of webinars in collaboration with Zegrahm Expeditions, in which we'll discuss VENT's upcoming cruise: Circumnavigation of Hokkaido: Japan's Wild Island, May 19-June 3, 2018. For this special trip, we'll travel aboard the beautiful Caledonian Sky, voyaging from Honshu ("mainland" Japan) north through the Sea of Japan to Hokkaido before performing a circumnavigation of Japan's n...


Circumnavigation of Iceland

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David Wolf: August 02, 2017

“The Land of Fire and Ice”!  There couldn’t be a more apt nickname for this island nation, for the two great forces of volcanism and glaciation have here combined to determine both the natural and cultural landscape of Iceland.  By making a complete circumnavigation of the island on this cruise, and taking numerous excursions on land, we were able to experience both aspects in-depth. Almost all visitors to Iceland arrive at and depart from Reykjavik, as we did, and...


Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome

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Kevin Zimmer: July 30, 2017

No two spring visits to Alaska’s Bering Sea outposts are ever the same, mainly because the migratory pulses of breeders and Asiatic vagrants alike are dictated by weather patterns that, in these high latitudes, can be simultaneously extreme and ephemeral. This year, a series of storms and prevailing winds out of the west deposited numbers of rarities to outposts across western Alaska, from the Pribilofs and the Aleutian chain to Gambell and Nome.  But, as always, timing is everythi...


VENTflash #223

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Victor Emanuel: July 26, 2017

Dear friends: Summer is a very important time of the year for me because that is when we operate our camps for young birders and naturalists: Camp Chiricahua in Southeast Arizona and Camp Cascades in Washington State. Rowan O'Shea — Photo: Brian O'Shea I have long regarded VENT's summer youth camp program as one of the best things our company has ever done. About 500 young birders and naturalists have attended these camps over the past 31 years. Some of these kids have led ...


Alaska Highlights

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Barry Zimmer: July 25, 2017

“Oh my God, there’s a Gyrfalcon right next to the road being chased by Long-tailed Jaegers!” I yelled, as I brought the van to a quick halt. There aren’t many places around where one can utter those words, but such are the possibilities in Nome, Alaska. Nome is one of my favorite birding places on the planet, and all of the reasons why were on display on this year’s Alaska Highlights tour. Bluethroat— Photo: Barry Zimmer   Three ro...


Galapagos Islands Cruise aboard the M/V Evolution

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Michael O'Brien: July 20, 2017

It’s hardly an overstatement to say that the Galápagos Islands are among the most unique places on earth. Lying some 600 miles off mainland Ecuador has given life here the chance to evolve in its own direction. The unusual animals of this special place showcase how evolution works in an isolated environment. As an added bonus, a ruggedly beautiful landscape coupled with delightful weather, interesting geologic history, and abundant and approachable wildlife makes the Galáp...


Tandayapa Pre-trip Galapagos Cruise

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Paul Greenfield: July 20, 2017

Our June Tandayapa Pre-trip offered up a hearty taste of Ecuador’s highly biodiverse Andes, while designed to complement and serve as a comparison with the famed and markedly different Galapagos Archipelago that our group was preparing to visit. This country’s continental northwest region certainly holds a treasure-trove of avian and other natural goodies, although it can also expose its challenges, and this trip was no exception. As we initiated our adventure, we were witness to ...


Cuba

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David Ascanio: July 20, 2017

Cuba, the largest of the Antilles, welcomed us with Greater Antillean Grackles, Cuban Martin, and Cuban Cowbirds flying around the picturesque city of Camaguey. Add to the scene Cubans greeting relatives coming from abroad and old American cars running in the streets. We began to realize just how different this country is from what we had expected.  Adding to these first impressions, during the first night we experienced one of the best shows of the whole tour with a Flamenco show and pa...


California Specialties

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Jeri Langham: July 20, 2017

When I retired from California State University in May 2008, I was ready to do whatever I desired on my first free spring since starting kindergarten. Then I received a phone call from Victor Emanuel.  Would I like to take over the late April California Specialties tour? Before I began leading tours for VENT 31 years ago, I chased vagrant birds to all corners of California. However, once I became a part-time VENT leader on top of full-time university teaching, there was no extra time. In...


Southern England: Birds & History

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Andrew Whittaker: July 18, 2017

During an English spring at its best in Kent, the “Garden of England,” every day we experienced a marvelous mix of spectacular birding and delving back into the enthralling English history from Roman times to World War II. This magical combination is always a winner, resulting in a tremendously successful tour. Running this tour in spring ensured we would hit England at the most beautiful time of the year, with migration in full swing, perfect fresh breeding plumage, and woods ful...


Dry Tortugas

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Rafael Galvez: July 17, 2017

The Dry Tortugas never disappoints! During this tour we found a great representation of migrants and Caribbean specialties, and experienced close encounters with the colonial birds that breed exclusively in the archipelago. Highlights were many, including marine turtles, dolphins, and the company of a fun group of tour participants. Antillean Nighthawk— Photo: Rafael Galvez   What makes our VENT tour to the Dry Tortugas special is that we get to spend an extend...


South Florida & The Keys

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Rafael Galvez: July 17, 2017

South Florida in the spring can be a magical experience, filled with untold avian possibilities: hundreds of migratory species stopping over the region during northbound flights, returning Caribbean breeders settling in their territories, and the prospect of vagrants from the Tropics. This spring season, the region experienced an extraordinary record of Caribbean vagrants, unmatched by no other season in recent history. With relatively little effort, we saw three vagrants during our tour &nda...


Japan in Spring

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Brad Schram: July 14, 2017

As the evening of May 7 approached, all had safely arrived at Excel Hotel Tokyu in Terminal 2, Haneda International Airport, Tokyo for our tour of Japan’s offshore island highlights.  Meeting in the lobby at 7 PM, we proceeded to the dining room for an excellent meal and became acquainted.  Tales of travel and brief local birding excursions were exchanged before Kaz briefed us on the next day’s flight to Shonai Airport and onward to Sakata to begin our tour. ...


Spring Grand Arizona

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Brian Gibbons: July 14, 2017

Our tour through Arizona was a study in contrasts: deserts and mountains, hot and cold, grasslands and woodlands. The variety of habitats allows for a great diversity in wildlife, which we sampled during ten days in the Catalinas, Santa Ritas, Huachucas, and Chiricahuas, to name the spectacular sky islands we visited. One of the world’s few venomous lizards, the Gila Monster, crossed our path in Aravaipa Canyon, and several nights of owling finally netted most of our target birds, but a...


Spring in the Washington Cascades: A Relaxed & Easy Tour

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Bob Sundstrom: July 12, 2017

The morning of the fourth day of our 2017 Spring in the Washington Cascades tour found us at the foot of a canyon in the Entiat Mountains, just where the canyon opens to the massive Columbia River. At the canyon’s mouth, basalt cliffs tower several hundred feet above steep slopes of grass and sagebrush. Boldly marked White-throated Swifts zipped across the high rim of the cliffs, alongside Violet-green Swallows. A Canyon Wren sang its whistled, descending phrases. Soon a Yellow-breasted...


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