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

India: Royal Rajasthan Train Journey


Dion Hobcroft: March 24, 2015

Our birding was off to a solid start in Sultanpur National Park. Sultanpur is a fabulous, quite small wetland park fringed by Acacia woodlands. It practically heaves with birdlife, and in our 300-meter foray we recorded over 70 species. The two standout birds were a pair of Sind Sparrows and a Brook’s Leaf-Warbler. The sparrow has only recently colonized this part of India from Pakistan and is a scarce South Asian endemic. Likewise, the leaf-warbler is another scarce endemic. Other grea...

Kaziranga National Park


Dion Hobcroft: March 23, 2015

Our flight from Delhi to Guwahati went smoothly, and after lunch at a nearby airport restaurant we commenced the four-hour drive to Wild Grass Lodge, our base for exploring Kaziranga National Park. On the outskirts of the city we made a stop at the rubbish tip to see the rather grim spectacle of the gathering of the critically endangered Greater Adjutant Storks picking for scraps amongst the Black Kites, House Crows, and people.   Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros— Ph...

Spring Hawaii


Bob Sundstrom: March 20, 2015

Our 2015 Spring Hawaii tour was crowded with highlights, but the morning we birded Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge took top honors. Located at about 6,000 ft. elevation on the rain forest face of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, Hakalau offers the best forest birding anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands. Here, among the native Ohia and Koa trees and shrub understory of native raspberry and many other plants, we were on a quest to find seven native Hawaiian birds that would be new to our...

India: Tigers, Taj & Birds Galore


Dion Hobcroft: March 19, 2015

Our group met up for breakfast in our delightful Delhi hotel, and before we headed out on our city tour we spent an hour birding in the gardens. Here we found our first widespread Indian bird species like Purple Sunbird, Hume’s Warbler, Indian Peafowl, Rose-ringed Parakeet, both Red-whiskered and Red-vented bulbuls, and a Common Tailorbird that showed well. At the eleventh century ruins of Qutub Minar dominated by a superb tower and iron pillar, we picked up more birds including numerou...

VENTflash #185


Victor Emanuel: March 18, 2015

Dear friends, Two weeks ago, Barry Lyon and I represented VENT at the San Diego Birding Festival, presented by San Diego Audubon Society. Situated on Mission Bay just north of downtown San Diego, this was a wonderful event with great weather, terrific birding, and an opportunity to touch base with old friends and acquaintances, including many VENT travelers. Tricolored Blackbird — Photo: Barry Zimmer We had the privilege of co-leading two field trips. The first wa...

Ecuador: A Hummingbird Extravaganza


Paul Greenfield: March 17, 2015

Is it at all possible to have too many hummingbirds? This is a question that precious few humans will ever have to ask themselves, but which rolled around in our heads at least a few times during this February’s weeklong Hummingbird Extravaganza tour. Our 64 hummer species list may have had something to do with this, but it really was more about the constant whirl of blurred wings at a few birding sites that made us stop to wonder. Two of the east slope sites we visited proved to be rel...

Rockport, Texas: A Birding Workshop


Michael O'Brien: March 13, 2015

When selecting regions to hold our VENT birding workshops, key elements we consider are a high abundance and diversity of birds, as well as a good number of locations that offer opportunities for close and prolonged study. The Central Texas Coast fits the bill in every way, and this year’s program, based in Rockport, was both delightfully pleasant birding and a great learning experience for everyone. Western Meadowlark— Photo: Michael O'Brien On our first morning, we ...

Venezuela: Casa Maria and Hato Pinero: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: March 12, 2015

Our Casa Maria and Hato Piñero tour provided an incomparable mix of birds, mammals, and habitats unique to the Neotropics. This year we started in a different way: with views of Blue-and-yellow and Chestnut-fronted macaws flying over the valley of Caracas. We also enjoyed Orange-winged and Yellow-crowned parrots in flight, as well as the Rose-ringed Parakeet (introduced from Asia) commuting to the roosting site. Yellow-knobbed Curassow— Photo: David Ascanio After a m...

Venezuela: New Year in the Llanos


David Ascanio: March 06, 2015

Our New Year tour to the Venezuelan Llanos was what I would consider a typical Latin American journey: great birds, flight schedule changes, flat tires, beautiful sunsets, missing a domestic flight, wonderful people, lots of vehicles near the cities, and most important: amazing and unique wildlife. Scarlet Macaw— Photo: David Ascanio Hato Piñero welcomed us with Scarlet Macaws in flight, and from the ground a Sunbittern gave its soft melody from the edge of a pond co...

Winter Rio Grande Valley


David Wolf: March 05, 2015

Within the United States the Lower Rio Grande Valley is absolutely unique for birders, a wonderland of subtropical birds and plants on our side of the border.  Unfortunately, most of this special region has been altered by development, making every remaining fragment of habitat important.  We spent five days checking these special spots, from the largest remaining tract of native forest at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to tiny—but productive—Estero Llano Grande Stat...

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...