VENTflash #140 April 05, 2012

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Ari...

Dear friends,

As part of the South by Southwest Film Festival held this March here in Austin, Texas, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of a remarkable film entitled The Central Park Effect, a movie about birds and birding in New York City's famed Central Park. It is the best film about birding that I have ever seen. It features marvelous bird photography and an excellent score, but the best parts of the film, in my opinion, are the comments about birding from a number of prominent Central Park birders including Jonathan Franzen, Starr Saphir, and 15-year-old phenom Anya Auerbach. Anya has attended two of our summer youth birding camps where she has been an outstanding camper. All of these folks talk about what birding means to them and how it affects their lives. For several years I had the opportunity to bird Central Park in mid-May and had some wonderful experiences. One spring, VENT offered The Big Apple In May tour for people interested in experiencing a mix of birding in Central Park with cultural activities in New York City. The trip was a success, and we hope to offer it again some year.

Fortunately, The Central Park Effect will appear on HBO and later will be available on DVD.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

In this issue:



VENT is returning to the great country of Argentina again this fall. This huge country, South America's second largest, does not, in my opinion, receive nearly as much attention from birders as it deserves. Containing a marvelous array of eco-regions including the famous pampas, Andes, spectacular Iguazú Falls, wild Valdez Peninsula, and Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina features terrific visual scenery and is home to a wonderful array of birds and other wildlife. Since Argentina is so large, we will again offer three tours which may be taken separately or combined into one grand tour.

Scarlet-headed Blackbird

Scarlet-headed Blackbird — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

VENT has been operating tours to Argentina for over two decades. Our trips are designed and led by Steve Hilty, one of the foremost authorities on the birds of South America. As the author of the monumental Birds of Colombia (1986) and Birds of Venezuela (2003), Steve brings the highest levels of knowledge and experience to the tours he leads. Working with Steve are some of the best local guides we've ever worked with anywhere. Traveling in Argentina is like traveling in Europe because the quality of accommodations, food, and infrastructure are very high.

I am confident that you will love traveling in Argentina. Whether your interest is in seeing the expansive pampas, rainforests, and Iguazú Falls of the Northeast; the desert-like Chaco and magnificent, bird-rich landscapes of the Northwest; or the vast rolling grasslands and snow-crowned mountains of Patagonia, we have the perfect Argentina trip for you.

I hope you'll consider joining us on one or more of these fine tours:

Northwest Argentina: Chaco, Andes and Altiplano, November 2-14, 2012 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $3,995 (plus internal airfare) in double occupancy from Buenos Aires.

This tour offers an intimate look at the special birds, habitats, and majestic landscapes of northwestern Argentina. Our adventure begins in the Chaco, a broad desert-like region home to a rich diversity of plants, trees, and seldom-seen birds. The rest of the trip is devoted to exploration of the canyons, mountains, and various Andean habitats that underpin the region's biological diversity and form its outstanding natural beauty. From Yungas forests in the foothills, to craggy canyons and the broad sweep of the altiplano, you'll experience a splendid palette of birds and other wildlife. This is a region well-stocked with spinetails, thornbirds, canasteros, earthcreepers, miners, cinclodes, and foliage-gleaners; perhaps the most dazzling hummingbird on earth (Red-tailed Comet); and a spectacular assortment of flamingos and waterfowl on high altiplano lagoons. Rare vicuñas and Puna Rheas still roam the wilder puna regions, while flocks of yellow-finches, shy Mountain Parakeets, and bold siskins add color to a landscape of golden puna grass and cyan-blue skies.

Northeast Argentina: Pampas, Ibera Wetlands, and Iguazú,  November 13-24, 2012 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $3,695 (plus internal airfare) in double occupancy from Buenos Aires.

Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea — Photo: Hernan Goni/Seriema Nature Tours

This trip focuses on several of Argentina's most bird-rich regions including the famed pampas southwest of Buenos Aires, the endemic-rich wetlands of northern Corrientes, and the tropical forests of the Iguazú region. Best of all, it ends at Iguazú Falls, widely acknowledged as among the planet's most spectacular falls. Showcasing a wonderful avifauna that ranges from three-inch-long hummingbirds to human-sized Greater Rheas, and from pipits and tiny flycatchers to swans and a rich display of waterfowl, waders, and ponderous Southern Screamers, the pampas offers one of the continent's greatest wildlife spectacles. The Iberá region of the far northeast contains a tremendous diversity of beautiful and localized bird species including the Strange-tailed Tyrant, Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, and Sharp-tailed Tyrant to name a few. The tropical Iguazú region contains the most diverse avifauna in the country, boasting an array of furnariids, antbirds, toucans, flycatchers, and tanagers.

Southern Argentina: Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, November 24-December 5, 2012 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $4,395 (plus internal airefare) in double occupancy from Buenos Aires.


Magellanic Woodpecker

Magellanic Woodpecker — Photo: Lars Petersen/Seriema Nature Tours

Our Southern Argentina trip encompasses two broad areas inPatagonia and the monumentally scenic region of Tierra del Fuego. In northern Patagonia we'll visit a scrub-desert ecosystem where we'll walk among a colony of half-a-million Magellanic Penguins and view Burrowing Parrots, guanacos, and lagoons filled with flamingos and waterfowl. We'll then journey far to the southwest to a land of vast rolling grassland pushed against snowy mountains—a region holding some of the grandest and most scenic terrain anywhere on the continent. Amid high plains, grasslands, and southern beech forests, the air is cool and the birds spectacular, where Andean Condors, Magellanic Woodpeckers, and lovely Upland Geese headline anyone's list of sought-after birds. Finally, we'll journey to Tierra del Fuego, a place hardly in need of an introduction.  This "Land of Fire" is a stark, cold region of beech forest and lofty peaks, but stocked with birds found nowhere else. The trip concludes with an exciting boat trip on the Beagle Channel that holds the promise of seeing albatrosses, petrels, cormorants, diving-petrels, steamer-ducks, and penguins.

Return to Top


Special Offers


I encourage you to regularly check the Special Offers page of our website for notice of discounts and early registration offers on a selection of VENT tours. This feature, accessed from our homepage, was introduced to our website last year and has proven a convenient means for our travelers to view all current special offers on VENT tours. We are presently running special offers on tours to Brazil, Antarctica, and Indonesia, as well as a permanent offer for New Client Referrals.

Return to Top


Yesterday morning I took some friends from Santa Fe to see their first Golden-cheeked Warbler. We visited a natural woodland park on the west side of Austin where we had superb looks at several male warblers including one that perched atop a tree on a bare branch. Its face shone a brilliant golden-yellow in the morning sun and the top of its head and back was black. What a fabulous bird! For Central Texas birders, seeing the first Golden-cheek of the year is a big event, a true rite of spring. Sharing my first Golden-cheek of the year with close friends made it even more special.

This weekend I will be heading to my beach house retreat on the Bolivar Peninsula on the Upper Texas Coast. The April/May period is the prime time to be at Bolivar and nearby High Island, where birders converge each spring to observe legions of migrating landbirds and shorebirds. In fact, for birders the Upper Coast is perhaps the top springtime destination in North America. If you have never enjoyed the pleasures of birding this region, I strongly recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed!