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

Sri Lanka


Machiel Valkenburg: February 22, 2018

It has been over a decade since VENT’s last visit to Sri Lanka. We felt it was definitely time for a return, and the group and I were very happy we did. Sri Lanka is an amazing tropical destination located just south of India and offers some great birding in combination with some awesome wildlife opportunities. Our tour started in the busy city of Colombo, which we left on the first morning moving south towards Bundala and Yala national parks where we spent four days birding.  Both...

Japan in Winter


Steve Hilty: February 21, 2018

One of the top highlights mentioned by most members of the group was a Ural Owl sleeping in a large, picturesque tree hollow. It was, in fact, an image that could have been plucked straight from an illustrated book of fairy tales from the Middle Ages. A male Eurasian Bullfinch in beautiful morning light also garnered top honors and, surprisingly, so did the diminutive Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. For several of us, a large flock of Rooks eluding repeated prey-capture attempts by a Peregrine Fal...

Rick Wright lectures at New York City Audubon


Rick Wright: February 21, 2018

VENT tour leader Rick Wright, the designer of VENT’s Birds & Art tour program, will lecture on “Sparrows and People and Sparrow People” at New York City Audubon, Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.  Rick is the author of two books on the Latin and German animal literature of the late Middle Ages and several birding field guides. He is a prolific contributor to the birding literature and a sought-after lecturer.    

VENTflash #233


Victor Emanuel: February 14, 2018

Dear friends: I first considered going to Cuba in 1958, just after I graduated from high school. A birding friend and I planned to drive to Key West, Florida and put our car on the ferry to Havana. However, early in 1959 the finale of the Cuban Revolution put an end to that plan. In the late seventies, some birders started going to Cuba, including Dr. James Clements. In 1981, Ted Parker and John Rowlett co-led VENT's first Cuba tour as a pre-trip to the American Birding Association's national...

Israel: Birds, History & Culture in the Holy Land


Barry Lyon: February 12, 2018

Rife with natural history, human history, and cultural attractions, Israel possesses that rare ability to satisfy a diversity of interests at once. A significant spiritual center of the three Abrahamic religions, Israel is for so many people an irresistible source of fascination and interest, a place where ancient history is perpetually on display just as geo-political forces continue to shape the modern state. And at the center of an enormous migratory flyway, Israel hosts some of the planet...

Winter Southern Arizona


Barry Zimmer: February 06, 2018

Once again, our Winter Southern Arizona tour was a huge success. We scoured a variety of habitats from the oak-juniper woodlands of Madera Canyon to the riparian habitat along the Santa Cruz River, to the Sonoran desert around Green Valley, and to the agricultural fields and desert scrub of the Sulphur Springs Valley in search of southwestern residents, winter specialties, and Mexican rarities. On all counts our trip was wildly successful. Red-naped Sapsucker— Photo: Barry ...

Winter New Mexico


Barry Zimmer: February 03, 2018

As we pulled into the driveway of my house, we were greeted by an adult male Hooded Oriole on a front yard hummingbird feeder (before we could even get out of the van!). This species is quite rare here in winter, but I had four that had settled in for the season. We enjoyed great views of this orange and black beauty, and then headed to the upper deck patio to view the backyard. A rare female Broad-billed Hummingbird hovered practically in our faces before we could even get in place along the...

Ecuador: The Northwestern Andean Slopes


Paul Greenfield: February 03, 2018

Our Northwestern Andean Slopes tour explored the Pacific Andean slope from high temperate zone forest at Yanacocha Reserve, down through the lower temperate zone, subtropical forest, and through foothill cloudforest and humid lowland forest. Highlights were many, as we sampled so many distinct sites in this bird-rich land. Our first of many hummingbird experiences was at high-Andean Yanacocha Reserve, enjoying close looks at so many wonderful species—Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented an...

VENTflash #232


Victor Emanuel: January 30, 2018

Dear friends: Yesterday morning I had an excellent conversation with VENT tour leader Andrew Whittaker, who has recently returned home from leading our annual cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands. Andrew reported having a wonderful trip, and that his tour group went home extremely happy. Among the many highlights were mixed colonies of albatross, penguins, and shags in the Falkland Islands, tens of thousands of King Penguins on majestic South Georgia Island, and many...

Madagascar Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: January 29, 2018

Those arriving early for the tour enjoyed the extensive gardens of the Aubois Vert Hotel. They offer the perfect introduction to many of the more eco-tolerant and successful species of birds on this massive island. Flocks of Red Fody come in to bathe, Madagascar Brush-Warblers skulk about, while noisy chattering Madagascan Bulbuls dominate the birdsong. More careful examination will reveal Madagascar Coucal building a nest, Madagascar Hoopoes probing the lawns, Madagascar Magpie-Robin feeding...

New Zealand Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: January 24, 2018

What a fantastic country is New Zealand. The friendly and stout-hearted folks of this South Pacific nation do so much so well. It is always a pleasure to visit. Teaming up with my good friend Mark Ayre, this is the way we saw the tour. Quickly amongst the birds, our group convened efficiently and had the scopes out on the wetlands of Mangere. Our first surprise of the tour was a pen Mute Swan, rare in New Zealand and starkly contrasting with the abundant Black Swans. This is a great spot to s...

Santiago-Humboldt Extension


Andrew Whittaker: January 19, 2018

Upon our arrival in the bustling capital of Santiago, we rested up after a fine meal. This year all of the participants on our “Wild Patagonia & Central Chile” tour joined us for this exciting extension. Rested up and raring to go, early the next morning we headed east towards the rich coastline with the famously rich Humboldt Current, our destination the Miapo Estuary. The place was simply brimming with migrant shorebirds, waterfowl, terns, gulls, skimmers and, of course, a h...

Wild Patagonia & Central Chile


Andrew Whittaker: January 19, 2018

Wondrous Chile came up trumps again! We enjoyed a sensational second spring with a non stop array of exciting, easy birding (200 species) with a backdrop of stupendous world-class scenery, great mammals (16 species), and an amazing abundance of gorgeous wildflowers combined with super weather and scrumptious Chilean food! Life cannot get much better! We cleaned up on all the fantastic endemics and specialties and enjoyed yet another fabulous year of Pumas galore (last year 7 cats, this year 8...

Ecuador: Tinalandia Pre-trip


Paul Greenfield: January 17, 2018

Our Tinalandia Pre-trip began with a twist; Ecuador’s classic pioneer birding hot-spot was unable to accommodate our group, or any group for that matter. Sadly, it will be closing its doors to avitourism, after well over 50 years, due mainly to collateral damage it endured during a recent earthquake that shook Ecuador’s northern coast…indeed, this is a sad day for this country’s rich birding history. Accordingly, we made Plan-B arrangements to stay at nearby Hoster&ia...

VENTflash #231


Victor Emanuel: January 09, 2018

Dear friends: It has been a while since you last heard from me. December was something of a whirlwind at VENT, as the month was dominated by the planning and execution of our bi-annual Company Meeting. Every two years, we gather our staff at our home base here in Austin, Texas to renew acquaintances, touch base with colleagues who don't see one another very often, and discuss important issues that affect our business. These events are always a lot of work, but they benefit VENT in some very i...

Fall Hawaii


Brennan Mulrooney: January 08, 2018

Our Fall Hawaii tour visited three of the four main Hawaiian islands. We spent time exploring Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island of Hawaii, in that order. Each island had its own distinct character, and each island offered unique birds for us to pursue. In addition to the wonderful birds of the islands, we were treated to an unending succession of amazing views and scenes: stark lava cliffs meeting tumultuous seas, forest-clad mountains rising up into the clouds, waterfalls cascading into incred...

Galapagos Islands Cruise Aboard the M/V Evolution


Paul Greenfield: January 02, 2018

The Galapagos Islands experience is indeed pretty hard to beat…if beatable at all! But who could have ever imagined that a scattered grouping of rather inhospitable (“enchanted”) islands and islets, lost out in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, a once feared hideaway for pirates and buccaneers, a historic whaling hotspot—would become a worldwide bucket-list favorite. I don’t even think Charles Darwin had any high hopes when he heard that he would visiting this port-...

Tandayapa Pre-trip Galapagos Cruise


Paul Greenfield: January 02, 2018

Northwestern Ecuador offers an exceptional experience for wildlife enthusiasts, and its birdlife is hard to beat! This Tandayapa pre-trip experience is meant to provide an introduction to Ecuador’s rich biodiversity while offering a backdrop, contrast, and comparison to the main Galapagos Cruise and the archipelago’s unique and relatively stark ecosystems. The Tandayapa-Mindo-Milpe region we visited is one of color and variety, and although a short three-day visit might seem too b...

Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: December 28, 2017

The first night in San José welcomed us with a heavy downpour that lasted well after midnight. I am sure everyone was wondering if the rain would continue until the next morning, but actually the opposite happened: the day opened with a blue sky and wonderful birds in the gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea. During our morning in these gardens we were accompanied by the scratchy voice of the Rufous-naped Wren and the explosive song of the Melodious Blackbird. Is there a better way to be...

Panama's Canal Zone: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: December 28, 2017

A silent night in the peaceful town of Gamboa was followed by a wild blast of birds at dawn near the lodge. What a way to start our Panama Canal tour! The bird feeder was our first step to identify some of the common and colorful species that included Plain-colored, Blue-gray, Palm, Crimson-backed, and Golden-hooded tanagers. In addition to this kaleidoscope of colors, we also saw Red-legged and Shining honeycreepers, Orange-chinned Parakeet, and Buff-throated Saltator. As the morning warmed ...

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