VENTflash #221 June 28, 2017

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 70 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:

One of the great pleasures of being a VENT tour leader is the opportunity to share birds and nature with the wonderful people who join our trips.

After our final lunch at Neal's, we took a group photo on the deck behind the cafe.

Good times on our Texas Hill Country tour, 2017 — Photo: Barry Zimmer

Over the years we have tried to correct some mistaken impressions about our tours. Some people have told me they are not “expert enough” to go on a VENT tour. In response, I explain that on a “typical” tour we have participants who have been birding for many years, as well as others who are new to birding. I tell them that one does not need to be an expert birder, but rather needs only to possess a passion for birds and nature. Because everyone on a tour shares this passion, regardless of skill level, our tours are infused with terrific group spirit. This shared enthusiasm is contagious. Our tour leaders and tour participants alike love all birds, including the common ones. Some of our travelers keep in touch with people they’ve met on our tours and make plans to travel together on a future trip. 

As we neared Pinnacles Pass, we paused for a photo op of the group touching one of the Pinnacle rocks.

Hiking for Colima Warblers on our tour to Big Bend National Park, 2016 — Photo: Barry Zimmer

 Other mistaken impressions are that our tours are either too intense, or the opposite, too relaxed. In actuality, our tours run the gamut in terms of “intensity.” Some of our tours are indeed more intense, with long days in the field and greater physical demands. Examples include our hiking tour to El Triunfo, Mexico, and our annual Gambell/Nome tour in Alaska which are some of the most intense and physically demanding trips offered by any company. At the other end of the scale, we also offer “easier” tours, such as those encompassed in our program of Relaxed & Easy tours as well as many of our birding and natural history cruises. These departures are for those who want to enjoy birds and nature at a low intensity pace, with fewer hours in the field and lighter physical demands. However, most of our tours are of moderate intensity, with full days in the field complemented by afternoon breaks. I have led all types of tours and love them all.

Regardless of the level of your birding skills or depth of passion for birding and nature, VENT’s diversity of tour offerings ensures that we have a trip type or specific departure that best suits you. Feel free to contact our tour operations managers or me about the nature of any tour that interests you. We can be reached by phone (800-328-8368 or 512-328-5221) or email (




In this issue: 



Whether you have already been to countries such as Ecuador, Colombia or Peru, or if you’ve not yet been to South America at all, I firmly believe that Brazil should have priority on your list of “must see” travel destinations.

Chestnut-eared Aracari

Chestnut-eared Aracari, Manaus, Brazil — Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Only two countries in South America have recorded a higher number of bird species than Brazil, and none has more endemics. The incredible tanager and hummingbird diversities are reason enough to visit Brazil, but there is so much more to see there including guans, toucans, antbirds, cotingas, and much more. VENT operated its first birding tour to Brazil in 1980. That initial trip was co-led by Ted Parker and Robert Ridgely and was a great success. We have been operating Brazil tours ever since. Nowadays, we are fortunate to have Kevin Zimmer and Andrew Whittaker leading our Brazil tours. Kevin and Andrew are among the top experts on Brazilian birds and, in fact, were chosen by Princeton University Press to write a field guide to the birds of Brazil. These veteran tour leaders are great at finding birds and showing them to tour participants. Moreover, they are great storytellers and lots of fun to be with on a tour.

This fall VENT will operate three tours to Brazil, all of which still have spaces available. If you want to experience the magic of this amazing country, I can’t recommend the following tours highly enough:

Manaus, Brazil: Amazon Rainforest & River Islands, September 4-17, 2017 with Andrew Whittaker; $4,995 in double occupancy from Manaus. 4 spaces available.

Brazil’s Southern Amazon: Rio Azul & Cristalino Jungle Lodges, September 23-October 8, 2017 with Kevin Zimmer; $8,995 in double occupancy from Cuiaba. 2 spaces available.

Southeastern Brazil: Best of the Atlantic Forest, October 8-22, 2017 with Andrew Whittaker and a local leader; $5,795 in double occupancy from Sao Paulo (ends in Rio de Janeiro). 5 spaces available.

One More Warbler

One More Warbler

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In tandem with the recent publication of Victor Emanuel’s memoir, One More Warbler: A Life with Birds, Victor will appear as a guest speaker at several events across the country this summer. Thus far Victor’s schedule includes appearances in Austin, Texas; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; and Sedona, Arizona. If you live near any of these locations, you might be interested in attending a speaking engagement and book signing as Victor recounts his lifelong fascination with nature and a love of birds and birding that has taken him to many corners of the world.

Victor will appear as follows:

Friday, June 30: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts: Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 15: Austin, Texas: BookPeople, 4:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 29: Sedona, Arizona: Sedona Hummingbird Festival, 1:30 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

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The Manu Biosphere Reserve of southern Peru is the most pristine and wildest remaining region of Amazonia. A centerpiece of the area, the famed Manu Road running from the crest of the Andes to the lowland rainforest, has a bird list of almost 1,000 species—nearly 10% of the world’s bird species! Here exists a profusion of birds representing most of the bird families of the American Tropics including raptors, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, hummingbirds, antbirds, barbets, tanagers, and so much more. This region is truly one of the great birding areas of the world.

Red-and-green Macaws at Clay Lick, Manu, Peru

Red-and-green Macaws at clay lick, Manu, Peru — Photo: Pam Higginbotham

VENT has operated tours to Peru for many decades, yet it is the Manu region that offers the greatest and most immersive experience in tropical biodiversity. In addition to the mesmerizing birdlife that you encounter in Manu is a legion of primates and other mammals like Giant Otter and Jaguar, fantastic botany, and innumerable butterflies. VENT leader Steve Hilty, who for many years has led our Manu trip, has referred to our tour to the Manu Biosphere Reserve as an “epic journey.”

This year’s Manu tour will be led by Steve Hilty and David Ascanio. Together, Steve and David possess a massive trove of information on the birdlife and ecology of Amazonia. Each of these veteran tour leaders owns years of experience leading tours throughout the American Tropics, and each is a delight to be with in the field.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience the very best of the Tropics, from the cloud forest to the rain forest, this is a trip you do not want to miss!

Peru: Manu Biosphere Reserve: Cloud Forest, Foothills & Lowland Rainforest, September 20-October 5, 2017 with Steve Hilty and David Ascanio; $6,495 in double occupancy from Lima. 4 spaces available.

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With the start of July less than a week away, I am very pleased to report that most of our remaining 2017 tours are full or nearly full. If you have not yet made your annual travel plans, I thought you would like to know that a few spaces are still available on a number of domestic and foreign tours departing in the final six months of the year. Each of these trips offers marvelous adventures in nature featuring superior birding in top-notch locations: 

The mighty White-tailed Eagle is one of the top predators on the Hortobagy plains. Our chances of seeing this magnificent bird are high.

White-tailed Eagle, Hungary — Photo: Ray Tipper

Avian Jewels of Arizona: Hummingbirds, Trogons, Warblers & More, July 17-25, 2017 with Barry Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $2,695 in double occupancy from Tucson. 2 spaces available.

South Africa: The Southwestern Cape & Kruger Park, August 18-September 2, 2017 with Patrick Cardwell and David Wolf; $9,495 in double occupancy from Cape Town (ends in Johannesburg). 4 spaces available.

Hungary & The Czech Republic: Birds & Music from Budapest to Prague, September 10-25, 2017 with Rafael Galvez and Balázs Szigeti; $6,395 in double occupancy from Budapest (ends in Prague). 4 spaces available.

Washington: September Migration in the Pacific Northwest, September 17-25, 2017 with Bob Sundstrom; $3,450 in double occupancy from Seattle. 3 spaces available.

Panama: Fall at El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, October 7-14, 2017 with Barry Zimmer and a local leader; $2,795 in double occupancy from Panama City. 6 spaces available.

Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower, October 14-21, 2017 with Barry Zimmer and a local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. 5 spaces available.

Galapagos Islands Cruise: Aboard M/V Evolution, October 27-November 5, 2017 with Paul Greenfield; $8,495 in double occupancy from Quito. 1 male share space available. 

Puma hunting at dusk in Torres del Paine National Park on our 2016 tour

Puma hunting at dusk in Patagonia, Chile, 2016 — Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Wild Patagonia & Central Chile: Pumas, Penguins, Condors & More!, November 2-17, 2017 with Andrew Whittaker and Fernando Diaz; $8,995 in double occupancy from Santiago. 4 spaces available.

Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, November 4-12, 2017 with David Acanio; $3,795 in double occupancy from San José. 1 space available.

Madagascar Highlights, November 6-21, 2017 with Dion Hobcroft; $8,795 in double occupancy from Antananarivo. 3 spaces available.

Ecuador: The Northwestern Andean Slopes, November 11-19, 2017 with Paul Greenfield and David Wolf; $3,095 in double occupancy from Quito. 3 spaces available.

Panama’s Canal Zone: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, November 12-28, 2017 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. 4 spaces available.

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One of the many wonderful things about being a birder is that you are closely connected to all aspects of nature and more closely attuned than most to the change of the seasons. You become aware that no season is static. Summer is upon us, but with the passing of the solstice the days are already starting to shorten. In a month or so they will be considerably shorter. Many of our breeding birds, such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler that nests only in Central Texas, already have young that have fledged. In a few weeks, the Golden-cheekeds, after spending only about four months with us, will already be making their way south to their wintering grounds in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. I was at my beach house on the Bolivar Peninsula last weekend and was surprised to see 15 species of shorebirds. Many were probably non-breeders or failed breeders, but others could have been birds that were already migrating south.

All the seasons are special, but they all pass swiftly, which is all the more reason to savor them.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel