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

The Nature of Honduras: The Lodge at Pico Bonito

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Michael O'Brien: July 31, 2014

Our summer visit to Pico Bonito was a wonderful getaway to this remarkably rich country. On this tour, which has a more general natural history focus than our other Honduras offerings, we took the time to enjoy a host of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, and other interesting critters, in addition to a marvelous array of bird species. Our home base, The Lodge at Pico Bonito, ranks among the finest jungle lodges we’ve ever visited. Very comfortable cabins, a wonderful swimming po...


Alaska: Barrow Extension

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Barry Zimmer: July 23, 2014

Shortly after our arrival in Barrow we headed out onto the Gaswell Road. It was difficult to make much progress, as we made frequent stops for dapper Long-tailed Ducks, stunning Red Phalaropes, and displaying Pectoral Sandpipers, all of which were wonderfully numerous. A parade of other birds caught our attention as well, including the likes of Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, spiffy Dunlins, Pomarine and Parasitic jaegers, Lapland Longspurs, and brilliant Snow Buntings. Eventua...


Alaska Mainland

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Barry Zimmer: July 23, 2014

Easing out of the boat harbor in Seward, it was hard not to marvel at the spectacular scenery that surrounded Resurrection Bay: three hundred and sixty degrees of jaw-dropping beauty that would accompany us throughout the day. Of course we had birds on the mind, and almost immediately our attention was drawn from the scenery to passing Arctic Terns, a Northwestern Crow, a playful sea otter, and an adult Bald Eagle perched on a channel marker. Some of the stunning scenery around Sewar...


VENTflash #177

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Victor Emanuel: July 22, 2014

Dear friends, One of the many reasons I enjoy living in Austin, Texas is the opportunity to enjoy our city's unique urban wildlife spectacles. For instance, every evening in July we are treated to an incredible show where Purple Martins form a massive pre-migration roost in a stand of live oaks in the parking lot of a Central Austin shopping mall. First noticed about five years ago, this phenomenon has proven an annual event, garnering increasing attention year after year. Last year, the...


Birding Across America by Train

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Michael O'Brien: July 11, 2014

The heart and soul of this unique tour lies in the excitement and adventure of traveling cross-country. The fact that our journey takes us across three completely different physiographic regions, and an amazing diversity of species, is almost secondary. And the train itself has a special allure, mystique, and history that make for an exciting element of the tour. This year, some unfortunate train delays tarnished some of that excitement, but the silver lining was expanded sightseeing opportun...


Colombia: The Central & Western Andes

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Steve Hilty: July 09, 2014

A year ago I summarized this trip as follows: curvy roads, landslides, massive road construction projects, tractor-trailer trucks, out-sized meals for carnivores, beautiful cloud forests, spectacular mountain scenery, rare parrots, hummingbirds, antpittas, colorful tanagers, mixed species flocks, and friendly people. What else to add? This year even more species, and highlights that included Andean Condor, Tiny Hawk, a displaying Club-winged Manakin, a rare Yellow-headed Manakin, five species...


VENTflash #176

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Victor Emanuel: July 08, 2014

Dear friends, On the evening of Saturday, June 28th, I was in Morristown, New Jersey with colleagues Michael O'Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and Barry Lyon attending an honorary celebration of Pete Dunne who is retiring as Executive Director of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory. This event was wonderful in many ways, and was a proud homage to one of the true legends of North American birding. In attendance were a host of Pete's colleagues from New Jersey Audubon, birding luminaries, an...


Kazakhstan: Uzbekistan Extension

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Dion Hobcroft: June 29, 2014

After running the gauntlet of the rather lengthy and complicated immigration process for Uzbekistan, we were in the city of Tashkent and off to explore the city sights and a delicious lunch of plov with guide Ramil. A huge thunderstorm rolled through, causing some flooding and downing trees. The storm saw us sheltering in a mosque in the old city centre. We observed the oldest surviving copy of the Quran, handwritten on gazelle skin parchment in the seventh century. An interesting side note w...


Kazakhstan

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Dion Hobcroft: June 29, 2014

VENT’s fourth comprehensive tour of Central Asia was our most successful yet, sighting 265 species of birds, 16 mammals, and a variety of interesting reptiles. Many of the birds were in dazzling breeding plumage and full song. Native plants were flowering extensively. We birded in a huge variety of habitats including feather steppe, irano-sindian hills, turanga woodlands, sand deserts, rock deserts, huge wetlands, alpine fields to the snow line, juniper forests, and sino-himalayan decid...


Spring in the Washington Cascades: A Relaxed & Easy Tour

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Bob Sundstrom: June 26, 2014

The morning of Day 3 of VENT’s 2014 Spring in the Washington Cascades Relaxed & Easy 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 Rock Wren sang rhythmic, ringing phrases, and we soon ...


Spring in Cape May: A Relaxed & Easy Tour

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Louise Zemaitis: June 25, 2014

“Magical” is perhaps the word which best describes VENT’s 2014 Cape May Relaxed & Easy tour. The group enjoyed great birding and nice weather interspersed with a series of very special moments. After a pleasant drive from Pennsylvania, and our first Wawa stop, we arrived at Heislerville Wildlife Management Area at just the right time: high tide. Spring high tides on the Delaware Bay press migrant shorebirds to higher ground where they rest and feed. We marveled at hundre...


Southern Britain: Birds & History

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Andrew Whittaker: June 24, 2014

Kent, the “Garden of England,” offered a daily mix of exciting birding and the enthralling history of the UK, from Roman times to the present. This combination resulted in a tremendously successful tour! Running this tour for the first time in spring ensured we found England at its best. Migration was in full swing; the birds in their smart breeding plumage were singing and displaying; hedgerows were ablaze in color; woodlands were carpeted with bluebells, while fiery poppies and ...


Minnesota & North Dakota

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Brian Gibbons: June 23, 2014

Birding the forests, bogs, meadows, prairies, ponds, and marshes of Minnesota and North Dakota produced an amazing array of birds and scenery during our eight days on the road. Obvious highlights included Great Gray Owl; a nest of Northern Hawk Owls that all fledged during our three days birding the Sax-Zim Bog; Connecticut Warbler; Black-backed Woodpecker; and a couple of singing Baird’s Sparrows. The swampy spruce-tamarack bogs held a beautiful variety of breeding warblers and other s...


Southern Portugal: Birds & History

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Rafael Galvez: June 23, 2014

VENT’s first ever Southern Portugal: Birds and History tour was a great success, granting participants countless encounters with the unique avifauna of the Iberian Peninsula in a variety of scenic habitats, complemented by visits to many historical sites, and fantastic traditional food and wine. Not only did we see 153 bird species – some of which can only be found in this region – but we also visited Roman temples, Palaeochristian ruins, Moorish castles, and strolled throug...


Scotland in Style

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Andrew Whittaker: June 19, 2014

Breathtaking Scottish highland scenery, superb birding, the constant flush of spring greens and vibrant flowers, a wealth of historical sites (castles, stately homes, and battlefields), and a visit to one of the world’s finest Scots whisky distilleries to sample a wee dram—what more can one ask for? Combine all this with a wonderful group of people based in a superb historic hotel where we were treated like kings, with superb meals (we all certainly gained a little weight) and mar...


Trinidad: Post-trip to the Lesser Antilles Cruise

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Victor Emanuel: June 18, 2014

A short extension to Trinidad was the perfect complement to our Lesser Antilles cruise aboard the Sea Cloud. Our base was the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Centre, situated at the head of a scenic valley in the island’s Northern Range. This venerable facility owns a storied place in birding lore as the first-ever lodge in the Neotropics to cater to birders. Because birds are so plentiful and easy to see at Asa Wright, many people have their first experiences with tropical birding here....


Bhutan

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David Wolf: June 17, 2014

Few places have as much to offer the adventurous eco-traveler as tiny Bhutan, “The Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon.” This small country has taken big steps to preserve both its forests and its cultural heritage, in the process protecting a wealth of Himalayan wildlife. In fact, Bhutan is the main hope for the continued existence of many of these unique birds and animals. It is a mountainous country, so much so that at times it seems hard to find a square foot of flat ground anywhere...


Cuba

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David Ascanio: June 17, 2014

Our Cuba tour was the most interesting, fascinating, and intriguing tour I have ever led in the Caribbean. A mix of unique history, endemic birds, and charming people made this tour memorable for years to come. Cuban Green Woodpecker— Photo: David Ascanio As soon as we arrived at the Santa Clara airport, we drove to Cayo Coco, the fourth largest island in Cuba. There, a small flock of West Indian Whistling-Ducks welcomed us near the hotel entrance. This key, along with Cayo...


VENTflash #175

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Victor Emanuel: June 10, 2014

Dear friends, After spending most of the month of May on the road, I am happy to be back in Austin for the final weeks of spring and the onset of summer. As I catch up on things at the office, I am delighted to report that VENT has enjoyed another outstanding spring travel season. I've received reports from tour leaders and tour participants alike on the success of VENT tours at home and abroad. On the domestic front, our tours to Colorado, Texas, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, and Washington ...


Rivers & Mountains of Oregon & Washington

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Bob Sundstrom: June 10, 2014

There are many terrific songbird specialties in the West and Pacific Northwest, but only one of them routinely splashes into an icy, rushing stream. That’s right; the American Dipper is one of a kind on the continent. On the first day of birding for the tour, there were high hopes of a dipper sighting. We had just turned up the drainage of the Little White Salmon River, stopping near a salmon hatchery. Pretty quickly, a first dipper was spotted from a viewpoint on a small bridge, but th...


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