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

Panama: El Valle's Canopy Lodge Extension


Kevin Zimmer: March 04, 2015

As always, the El Valle area treated us to some great birds, beautiful accommodations, and some unexpected surprises.  It started, as it always does, upon our arrival at the Canopy Lodge, with the daily lodge feeder show.  At peak times, it can be nearly impossible to tear a group away from the lodge feeders to go anywhere else!  The activity at the feeders is often frenetic, and the diversity of tanagers, honeycreepers, and euphonias attracted is truly remarkable.  To see...

Panama's Canopy Tower


Kevin Zimmer: March 04, 2015

No two birding trips to a tropical country are ever the same.  The combination of a highly diverse avifauna and the subtly intertwined complexities of ever-changing weather patterns (wet versus dry seasons and their duration and onset) and how that influences fruiting cycles, flowering cycles, and insect abundance all makes for a lot of intangibles and unpredictability.  However, regardless of the specifics, you know that you’ll be treated to a lot of great birds and natural h...

Colombia: Bogota, Eastern Andes & the Magdalena Valley


Steve Hilty: March 04, 2015

It was a rainy morning at the little Bellavista Reserve above La Victoria. We’d gotten an early start, driven more than an hour to reach the reserve, and now sat in our bus as the rain showed little sign of abating. We eventually tried a short walk, but soon aborted this effort and decided to leave. It was a disappointment. Within the reserve four endemics can be found, as well as several other enticing species. But, sometimes a bad situation can turn into something serendipitous, and t...

Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes


David Wolf: March 03, 2015

The great wall of mountains that form the Eastern Andes of Ecuador is a land of many moods, sometimes sunny and bright, sometimes dark and stormy. This year the mood was decidedly gray, damp, and chilly, as an unseasonal and persistent layer of clouds blanketed the entire range for days on end, bringing rain showers every night and frequent mist and some prolonged showers by day. We didn’t let this dampen our spirits, however, and neither did the birds, for these conditions brought many...

Panama's Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp


Kevin Zimmer: March 02, 2015

It was with great anticipation that I returned to Panama for my second Canopy Camp, Darién tour.  I had led VENT’s inaugural tour to the camp in 2014 (which also represented the first group of birders to “open” the camp), and it had been a most exciting and enjoyable launch for the newest in the renowned Canopy Family of eco-lodges.  The 2014 tour had been highlighted by our group’s discovery and documentation of a male Ruby Topaz Hummingbird (the firs...

Winter Southern California


Barry Zimmer: February 28, 2015

Our California Winter tour was so filled with highlights that it is hard to know where to start. We began in an area of chaparral where we enjoyed superb studies of Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Cassin’s Kingbird, Wrentit, California Thrasher, and California Towhee among others, but it was the brilliant male Allen’s Hummingbird that stole the show. This orange and green beauty posed for multiple, prolonged views from as close as 20 feet away. A short distance away in scenic La Jolla...

Galapagos Islands Cruise Aboard the M/V Evolution


Paul Greenfield: February 26, 2015

Cruising and birding the Galapagos Islands is far more than just visiting a place and seeing its birds and habitats. These islands, once thought to be mere shadows, uninhabitable and useless, “enchanted” in the negative sense of the word, later became a stopover and hideaway for feared pirates and buccaneers and a whaler’s hot-spot and supply stop for sailors who, among other negative deeds, sacrificed over a hundred thousand Giant Tortoises over the years, thanks to this ge...

Galapagos Cruise: Tandayapa Pre-trip


Paul Greenfield: February 26, 2015

Northwest Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity and endemism offers the perfect “recipe” for a wonderful introduction to the birds of the Neotropics, as well as presenting travelers who will visit the renowned Galapagos Islands an interesting opportunity to compare one of the world’s few megadiverse ecosystems with that of a relatively austere and isolated one. This October 2014 Tandayapa Pre-Tour was designed to achieve these goals and more. We visited three main sites: P...

New Year at Panama's Canopy Tower


Tony Nunnery: February 26, 2015

On the first morning of our tour we start the day from the top of the Canopy Tower. The excitement begins just before daybreak as we listen to the sounds of the dawn chorus. The Mottled Owl hoots its last call before going to roost as Great Tinamous usher in the day with their deep, powerful, whistled notes that are among the most stirring sounds of the tropical forest. The loud roaring, howling, and grunts made by the Black-mantled Howler-Monkeys begin, as if to threaten the sun not to rise....

Panama: Christmas at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Pre-trip


Tony Nunnery: February 26, 2015

VENT’s Holiday Season in Panama tours during Christmas and the New Year provide an exceptional alternative for anyone seeking a different and exciting experience from the normal routine during the holidays. The difference is obvious as one removes their winter jacket and gloves to replace them with the lighter, more comfortable clothes better suited for the tropical climate. The excitement is ongoing as one experiences a new environment where exotic birds, plants, and other wildlife are...

Winter Florida Birding Workshop


Michael O'Brien: February 25, 2015

Our VENT birding workshops offer a slightly different style of tour, one where most of the emphasis is on learning about bird identification, behavior, and ecology, rather than building a large species list. On our first Winter Florida Birding Workshop, we visited several bird-rich sites in Central Florida where we had exposure to large numbers of waterfowl, herons, shorebirds, and gulls, as well as a good variety of songbirds. With pleasant weather and a cheery group, we had a delightful win...

Winter Southern Arizona


Barry Zimmer: February 24, 2015

This year’s Winter Arizona tour had it all—Mexican rarities, Arizona resident specialties, abundant raptors and sparrows, high quality winter residents, and a few surprises. Combine the fantastic birding with the excellent weather (while much of the country was experiencing cold and snow), and you have a recipe for success. Bendire's Thrasher — Photo: Barry Zimmer Winter has proven to be a superb time for finding Mexican rarities, and this was certainly true thi...

Ecuador: Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center


David Wolf: February 19, 2015

To visit the Napo Wildlife Center is to enter another realm, one so totally different from our own that it is easy to feel “lost.” Here we left the familiar behind and entered the world of the Amazonian rainforest.  For our local guide Jorge Rivanideira, however, this forest is home and he knows it intimately. As soon as we arrived he began to put his knowledge and formidable skills to work for us, and for the next week we went from one exciting bird or animal to the next. Ea...

Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Post-trip to the Amazon River Cruise


Steve Hilty: February 16, 2015

This was my fifth visit to this beautiful area and it was the rainiest—and most consistently cold and damp—by far. However, despite the persistently inclement weather, we saw many beautiful birds including an impressive lineup of tanagers and hummingbirds. Everyone will have a personal favorite, maybe the Marvelous Spatuletails, or Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant, or the rare Chestnut-crested Cotinga, or the flash of a male Andean Cock-of-the-rock shooting across the road or just perc...

Amazon River Cruise


Steve Hilty: February 16, 2015

Our January 2015 Amazon River Cruise on the Río Amazon, Rio Ucayali, and various tributaries of these rivers was another very enjoyable and successful journey through northeastern Peru. During our weeklong trip we did experience some rain almost every day except the last two days of the trip. The rain did not interfere with our planned activities, except on one morning when we were delayed until about 9 a.m. and on another morning when we were forced to return to the mother ship for ab...

Panama's Canopy Tower & El Valle


Jeri Langham: February 16, 2015

Myriads of magazine articles have touted Panama’s incredible Canopy Tower, a former U.S. military radar tower transformed by Raúl Arias de Para when the U.S. relinquished control of the Panama Canal Zone. It sits atop 900-foot Semaphore Hill overlooking Soberania National Park. While its rooms are rather spartan, the food is excellent and the opportunity to view birds at dawn from the 360º rooftop Observation Deck above the treetops is outstanding. Twenty minutes away is the...

Denver Holt Speaks about Snowy Owls

February 10, 2015

  VENT leader and owl expert Denver Holt will be the guest speaker at Travis Audubon Society’s Monthly Membership Meeting, Thursday, February 19, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Denver will speak about “Snowy Owls: Spectacular Nomads of the Far North.” The meeting will be held at the Hyde Park Christian Church, 610 E. 45th Street, at 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30). Denver is an internationally recognized owl researcher and expert. He is the founder and president of...

Southern Argentina: Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego


H├ęctor Slongo: February 04, 2015

This is how Pablo Neruda, the fantastic Chilean poet, described what is perhaps one of the most iconic birds of Patagonia: the Magellanic Penguin. “Neither clown nor child nor blacknor white but verticleand a questioning innocencedressed in night and snow” Neruda and other men from early times were attracted and deeply touched by this land of mystery and emptiness—yet not emptiness of life, but of the known World of Man. One is always a visitor here, as the land belongs to t...

VENTflash #184


Victor Emanuel: February 03, 2015

Dear friends, Common birds are wonderful, but there is something special about a bird that turns up far outside its known range. Such an occurrence prompts all kinds of questions: Why did it travel so far from its normal range? What route did it take? How long will it stay? I spend a great deal of time on airplanes and on the road, so I don't normally chase rare birds. But when a rare bird shows up in my home birding area, that is quite an event. Striped Sparrow, from A Field Gu...

Japan in Winter


Bob Sundstrom: February 02, 2015

The Japan in Winter tour is described as a “crane and sea eagle spectacle,” a billing it more than lives up to. The tour has been designed by Japanese birding tour leader, Kaz Shinoda, and traverses the three main—and distinctively different—islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Hokkaido, with about a third of the tour devoted to each island. From south to north that’s a span of over 1,600 miles, from the mild weather and green tea plantations of Kyushu to the snowy rim...