VENTflash #181 November 19, 2014

Posted by Victor Emanuel

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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,

More than most people, birders are especially attuned to weather conditions and the changing seasons, as both affect birding productivity. Inclement weather can make birding a physically less enjoyable experience, yet it is often responsible for the appearance of a rare bird in your area. The changing seasons determine the mix of birds you see. In October and early November, for example, we say goodbye to the last of the southbound Neotropical migrants, unless we are fortunate to find a lingering individual.

The sight and sound of thousands of Ross's and Snow Geese flying into the air at once was something never to be forgotten.

Snow and Ross’s geese, Bosque del Apache NWR — Photo: Barry Zimmer

One of my cherished memories was of the time I was birding with my friend, the late George Plimpton, on the Freeport Christmas Bird Count, and we saw a Magnolia Warbler. George was startled by my exuberance over seeing such a seasonally rare bird. My reaction was even stronger when, a short time later, I spotted a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Those are great memories, but winter birding has its own joys even without finding a lingering migrant. To many parts of the country, winter brings a wonderful assortment of sparrows, hawks, and waterfowl. One place of which I am especially fond is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. In fact, a trip to Bosque is always a highlight of our annual Winter New Mexico tour. If, like me, you love the spectacles that nature has to offer, there is no better place to be than Bosque del Apache in December and January, when great numbers of Sandhill Cranes and Snow and Ross’s geese and other waterfowl fill the sky and the fields throughout the winter months.

A few spaces are still available on our Winter New Mexico tour, January 7-13, 2015. I can’t imagine a better way to start the New Year.

In this issue:

LAST CALL FOR JANUARY PANAMA TOURS: ONE ROOM AVAILABLE
ALASKA TOUR DISCOUNTS IN 2015
JAPAN IN WINTER: ONE SPACE AVAILABLE
VENT NOW ACCEPTS AMERICAN EXPRESS
WINTER TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
BIKING FOR BIRDS UPDATE
CLOSING THOUGHTS

LAST CALL FOR JANUARY PANAMA TOURS: ONE ROOM AVAILABLE

Snowcap, Altos del Maria, Panama, November 4, 2014

Snowcap hummingbrd near El Valle, Panama — Photo: Barry Zimmer

In keeping with tradition, VENT will operate several tours to Panama in the first two months of the new year. Our departures to the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge are annual favorites, while the Canopy Camp, in the eastern lowlands of the Darien region, will host a VENT group for only the third time since opening for business in January 2014. If you’re considering options for winter travel, I thought you should know that only one room is still available on each of these tours, and that all unsold space will be released on December 1.

I have been traveling to Panama for almost 35 years, and know that country well. The quality of birding is consistently some of the highest in the American Tropics. Our Tower, Lodge, and Camp tours visit three distinct regions of the country, each of which promises wonderful arrays of tropical birds including colorful tanagers, trogons, motmots, and hummingbirds, in addition to unique accommodations. Each of these trips can be taken independently or in sequence for a more comprehensive Panama birding experience. These tours will be led by longtime VENT leader Kevin Zimmer, who possesses a storehouse of information on tropical birds. I have led many trips with Kevin and know him as an extraordinary bird finder and a fun traveling companion.

Canopy 

Camp Tent #8

Tent #8 at the Canopy Camp — Photo: Alex Alba Photo

To gain a feeling for what a VENT tour to Panama is like, I urge you to visit our website and read the tour reports from our October 2014 Canopy  Tower, Canopy Camp, and Canopy Lodge departures, all led by Kevin’s brother, Barry Zimmer. Barry does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of birding Panama.

I hope you will call soon to take advantage of this “last-call” opportunity, and reserve the remaining room on one or all three of these terrific trips. I can assure you that you will have a delightful time.

Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, January 17-25, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer; $3,845 in double occupancy from Panama City; single supplement is $1,080.

Panama’s Canopy Tower, January 25-February 1, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City; single supplement is $760.

Panama: El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, February 1-6, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer; $2,095 in double occupancy from Panama City; single supplement is $495.

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ALASKA TOUR DISCOUNTS IN 2015

We are pleased to announce a suite of early registration discounts on our 2015 Alaska tours. Discounts of $500/person are available on registrations we receive before February 1, 2015 for our Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome Pre-trip and Alaska Highlights tours, and $250/person for our Grand Alaska Part I, Grand Alaska Part II, and Barrow Extension tours.

Trail River Lake, Alaska

Trail River Lake, Alaska — Photo: Barry Zimmer

For anyone who loves birds, nature, and dramatic landscapes, a trip to Alaska is truly the trip of a lifetime. For over 30 years VENT has offered tours to Alaska, a destination unrivaled in North America for its combination of great birding, wildlife and scenery.  Our Alaska tour leaders Kevin Zimmer, Barry Zimmer, David Wolf, and Brennan Mulrooney are terrific guides who excel at showing participants Alaskan specialty birds in addition to many of the state’s other natural wonders. These leaders are among the best in the business at finding highly-sought birds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew, Northern Hawk Owl, Spruce Grouse, Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler, and many other great birds. Over the years, our Alaska tours have also recorded an extraordinary list of Asian rarities including Little Curlew, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Hawfinch, and others.

In June 2015, VENT will operate five Alaska tours. These trips cover the full gamut of Alaska’s best birding and wildlife areas.

Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome Pre-trip, June 2-10, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer and David Wolf; $5,195 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register before February 1 and pay $4,695. Combine this tour with Grand Alaska Part I for an additional discount of $500 in double occupancy or $750 in single occupancy.

Grand Alaska Part I: Nome & the Pribilofs, June 9-20, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer and David Wolf; $7,495 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register before February 1 and pay $7,245. Combine this tour with the Gambell/Nome Pre-trip for an additional discount of $500 in double occupancy or $750 in single occupancy. 

Snowy Owl, Barrow, Alaska, June 2013

Snowy Owl, Barrow, Alaska — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali Highway & Kenai Peninsula, June 19-27, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer and David Wolf; $3,945 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register before February 1 and pay $3,695. Combine this tour with Grand Alaska Part 1 for an additional discount of $250 in double occupancy or $350 in single occupancy.

Alaska Highlights, June 16-27, 2015 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $6,695 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register before February 1 and pay $6,195.

Barrow Extension, June 27-29, 2015 with Kevin Zimmer and Barry Zimmer; $2,395 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register before February 1 and pay $2,145. This tour may be combined with either our Grand Alaska Part II or Alaska Highlights tours.

Please visit our website and view the descriptions, tour reports, and field lists from our 2014 tours. We have received a lot of interest in our 2015 tours, and I urge you to call soon to take advantage of this special opportunity to save on your trip to the North Country!

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JAPAN IN WINTER: ONE SPACE AVAILABLE

For the third consecutive year, our Japan in Winter tour has proven one of our most popular wintertime departures. Although our upcoming 2015 tour is almost sold out, I thought you might like to know that one space is still available on this fine trip.

Red-crowned Cranes, Kushiro, Japan

Red-crowned Cranes, Kushiro, Japan — Photo: JNTO

I have always had an affinity for places where wildlife can be seen in spectacular concentrations, and one such place is Japan in the wintertime, where large gatherings of cranes, sea-eagles, and waterfowl are nothing short of exquisite.

This exciting tour will visit Hokkaido as well as two other islands. Aside from the beautiful Red-crowned Crane, we’ll see the world’s largest eagle, the Steller’s Sea-Eagle, and the world’s largest owl, the Blakiston’s Fish-Owl. The tour also includes a visit to the Arasaki Crane Reserve on the island of Kyushu where over 10,000 Hooded and White-naped cranes winter. Common, Demoiselle, and Siberian cranes are also possible here. Additionally, we expect encounters with many other exciting winter birds including Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, White-tailed Eagle, and a wonderful collection of woodland birds.

I encourage you to read leader Bob Sundstrom’s tour report from our 2014 departure.

Japan in Winter: A Crane & Sea-Eagle Spectacle, January 10-22, 2015 with Bob Sundstrom and Kaz Shinoda; $7,295 in double occupancy from Tokyo. Limit 9.

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VENT NOW ACCEPTS AMERICAN EXPRESS

I am pleased to inform you that VENT now accepts American Express as a payment option for tour deposits. Although we have accepted MasterCard and Visa for years, our decision to accept American Express is in response to customer feedback.

Please note that this move does not affect our credit card policy overall, in which credit cards are accepted for initial deposits only. All other tour payments including second deposits, interim payments, final balances, special arrangements, etc. must be made by check, money order, or bank transfer.

Thank you for your continued support of VENT.

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WINTER TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE

Although January is right around the corner, I thought you might like to know that spaces are still available on a selection of VENT tours departing in the first month of the year. From the United States to Panama and to Ecuador, we will operate a number of tours that will satisfy the birding and natural history needs of anyone who simply craves a winter getaway. 

Limpkin

Limpkin, Florida — Photo: Michael O’Brien

Winter New Mexico, January 7-13, 2015 with Barry Zimmer and Erik Bruhnke; $1,995 in double occupancy from El Paso (ends in Albuquerque).

Ecuador: Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center, January 8-17, 2015 with David Wolf; $3,695 in double occupancy from Quito. 3 spaces available. Combine with Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes and receive a $300 combined tour discount.

Montana Winter Raptor Workshop, January 9-13, 2015 with Denver Holt, Matt Larson, and Ron Rohrbaugh; $1,295 in double occupancy from Missoula.

Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes, January 15-25, 2015 with David Wolf; $2,995 in double occupancy from Quito. 4 spaces available. Combine with Ecuador: Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center and receive a $300 combined tour discount.

Winter Southern California, January 25-31, 2015 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $1,995 in double occupancy from San Diego. 4 spaces available.

Winter Florida Birding Workshop, January 26-31, 2015 with Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and Jessie Barry; $2,095 in double occupancy from Orlando.

India: Tigers, Taj, & Birds Galore, January 26-February 13, 2015 with Dion Hobcroft; $8,795 in double occupancy from Delhi. 4 spaces available.

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BIKING FOR BIRDS UPDATE

VENT is a proud sponsor of Dorian Anderson’s Biking for Birds project in which Dorian is spending 2014 on a cross-country bicycle trip attempting to see as many birds as possible in the calendar year. Making this effort unique are: 1) his “Big Year” is a “Green” Big Year in that all of his transportation is self-propelled, either on foot or bicycle, forsaking the assistance of fossil fuels; and 2) this is a fund-raising effort for conservation. All money raised by Dorian is donated to the American Birding Association and The Conservation Fund in support of conservation projects in Delaware, Florida, and Texas.

Update: Dorian spent the last week of September and most of October biking and birding down the length of California. In the first two weeks of November he worked his way east from San Diego all the way across Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas en route to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. As of today, he is in Uvalde, Texas, having seen an amazing 586 species thus far. When this project began in Boston on January 1, he considered 600 species a long shot, but with at least 20 species still possible, it appears that Dorian is on track to surpass that lofty mark. So far, Dorian has visited 28 states, biked almost 16,000 miles, and raised almost $30,000 for conservation. All of these numbers are remarkable, to be sure, but it is the physical and mental stamina that he has demonstrated over 321 days on the road and counting that I find nothing short of extraordinary.

We 

headed up into Madera Canyon, where we were promptly greeted by two displaying male Wild Turkeys.

Wild Turkey — Photo: Bill Denton

I hope you will familiarize yourself with Biking for Birds and consider a donation in support of this worthwhile effort, especially as the finish line of December 31 is now in sight.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This is the time of year when I like to express thanks for the things that give my life the most meaning—good friends, family, wonderful employees, the time I spend in nature, and you, the people who choose to travel with VENT. Your patronage means a great deal to me.

On behalf of all of us at Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving and a late autumn season filled with great sightings in nature.