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

Madagascar Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: December 18, 2014

With everything going to plan, our group met for dinner in the delightful Hotel Palissandre. After a good night of rest we kicked-off our birding with a visit to Lac Alarobia, a wetland on a private estate on the outskirts of the capital city, Antananarivo. Amongst the hundreds of Red-billed Teal and White-faced Whistling-Ducks we found a small number of Comb Ducks, Hottentot Teal and, best of all, five of the rare Meller’s Duck. Similarly, amongst the hundreds of nesting Little Egrets ...

VENTflash #182


Victor Emanuel: December 18, 2014

Dear friends, Two weeks ago I traveled to Patagonia, Arizona with my colleagues Barry Lyon and Brian Gibbons to attend the dedication ceremony of the Paton Center for Hummingbirds. This historic occasion marked the climax of a determined two-year effort to preserve one of the country's best known birding locations in perpetuity. Conservation heroes George Fenwick, Paul Green & Victor Emanuel — Photo: Barry Lyon I became involved in the Paton project over two years ago w...

Panama's Canal Zone: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: December 10, 2014

As I compile this Field List, my mind is wandering among the wonderful images and memories of our Panama´s Canal Zone Relaxed & Easy tour. It is difficult to pick only a handful as favorites, because there were so many, but here are a few highlights. Well before the day broke, the chachalacas were communicating in their unique parlance, and smaller gems, such as the Blue Dacnis and the Red-legged Honeycreeper, waited around the bird feeders for the daily fruits. Blue-cheste...

Polar Bears of Churchill


Bob Sundstrom: November 24, 2014

The mid-autumn gathering of Polar Bears along Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba, stands as one of the top wildlife spectacles in the world. The tundra frontier near Churchill has become the premier site in the world for watching and photographing the immense white bears from the warmth and safety of a Tundra Buggy. In just a few days here one can see dozens of Polar Bears, the largest of all land carnivores, and often at very close range. The experience is truly unforgettable. Pola...

Grand Australia Part II


Dion Hobcroft: November 21, 2014

The folks continuing on from Grand Australia Part I flew from Uluru to Brisbane via Sydney. Spending the night at the Novotel, we took off the next morning, heading south with seven new faces to try our luck at finding a Koala. Although the Koala won the first round, we spotted Tawny Frogmouth, Pacific Baza, and Brown Goshawk, and watched a Red-necked Wallaby that appeared in birthing mode. Marsupials were in good form today, and we spotted several species including Eastern Gray Kangaroo, Pre...

Grand Australia Part I


Dion Hobcroft: November 20, 2014

We started our tour in Sydney on a beautiful spring day with cool temperatures. We spent the first afternoon exploring Sydney’s Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park, taking in the views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The gardens looked magnificent at this time of year. Luck was with us as we scored a Powerful Owl that was roosting in a Black Bean tree. We had a great experience with a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos that were raucously screaming and perching right overhead, triggering a...

VENTflash #181


Victor Emanuel: November 19, 2014

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 fortun...

Panama: Fall at El Valle's Canopy Lodge


Barry Zimmer: November 19, 2014

The loud chatter had increased from a barely audible, distant sound to nearly in our laps, yet we still could not see our elusive target. We had come to the Monte Azul lookout in hopes of seeing the highly prized Black-crowned Antpitta, a shy, rarely seen, ravine-dwelling member of the gnateater family. Twice the bird passed within 20 feet of us, but remained hidden in the dense vegetation. Now it had gone silent, and our hopes began to dim. Suddenly, however, the bird appeared in full view i...

VENT Now Accepts American Express


Victor Emanuel: November 18, 2014

Dear friends, 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, ...

Panama's Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp


Barry Zimmer: November 10, 2014

After a very successful morning birding along the Agua Caliente Road and Las Lagunas region, we had settled in to a shady area along the creek to enjoy our picnic lunch. The morning had been very productive, highlighted by a half-dozen spectacular Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, a pair of Gray-cheeked Nunlets from fifteen feet, and three Pied Puffbirds, among many other wonderful sightings. Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Las Lagunas, Panama, Oct. 20, 2014— Photo: Barry Zimmer Gene...

Fall at Panama's Canopy Tower


Barry Zimmer: November 07, 2014

“Oh my god, there’s a Sunbittern in the road right next to us!” I “whispered” in a semi-suppressed voice. I had heard a rustling noise to my right and turned to see this localized and infrequently seen species (for this area) emerging from the dense vegetation on the side of Pipeline Road no more than fifteen feet away. I figured it would dart across the road and provide only fleeting views at best for the group. Instead, the bird trotted slowly down the road, mo...

Fall Hawaii


Bob Sundstrom: November 06, 2014

The morning was mostly clear as we drove out of Waimea in northwest Hawaii (the Big Island). The summit of massive Mauna Kea was in view, its astronomical observatories reflecting the early rays of the sun above the cloud layer. In the distance the slopes of other volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Hualalai, were crisply outlined. We headed east on the road that crosses the saddle between lofty Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both over 13,000 feet, past the grassy slopes of extinct Mauna Kea and along the bla...

VENTflash #180


Victor Emanuel: November 03, 2014

Dear friends, I've always enjoyed October because it is one of the best months of the year for birding, the weather is beautiful just about everywhere, and the autumn foliage—particularly in the East—is at its peak. This October was especially memorable. Main lodge, Little St. Simons Island — Photo: LSSI I began the month by co-leading a Birding Workshop with David Wolf and Barry Lyon at Little St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast. This ten-thousand acre barri...

Cape May: A Birding Workshop


Louise Zemaitis: October 31, 2014

When conducting a birding workshop centered on migration and migratory birds, one is at the whim of the wind. At the southern tip of New Jersey, the Cape May peninsula serves as an avian funnel for birds heading south on their autumn migration. But these birds are much more concentrated when winds blow out of the northwest. Well, it just so happened that our 2014 workshop arrived in Cape May with a stiff wind blowing out of the northwest— it was on! American Kestrel— Phot...

Little St. Simons Island


David Wolf: October 27, 2014

The concept of a “birding workshop” is a simple one: by employing careful observation techniques and in-the-field discussion we build better birding skills. We learn, and we become better at our endlessly fascinating quest to enjoy these living jewels and the natural world around them. There couldn’t be a nicer place to do this than Little St. Simons Island in early October, and this was our stage for a very productive long weekend. There are many sides to Little St. Simons ...

Peru Manu: Machu Picchu Extension


Steve Hilty: October 20, 2014

The combination of birds, scenery, and history is incomparable on this trip. The Machu Picchu ruins, as always, remain impressionable, mysterious, and evocative—the more so, perhaps, because so little is known of their origins, and because of the breathtaking location. The ruins of Machu Picchu are indeed one of the world’s great travel destinations, but they are, in themselves, just one chapter in a long and fascinating history of human occupation of the Urubamba River Valley. Th...

Peru: Manu Biosphere Reserve


Steve Hilty: October 20, 2014

After thirty-one tours to the Manu Park and Biosphere Reserve area, you would think it would be routine. But you would be wrong. For the first time in several years we added a new site—the Wayquecha Lodge—to the itinerary, and it was a roaring success. Second, I added a couple of life birds on this trip and that hasn’t happened in awhile. Life birds aren’t my goal, but getting them for our clients is a top priority, and this trip succeeded in spades. On our first morni...

The Pacific Northwest: A September Migration Birding Workshop


Bob Sundstrom: October 17, 2014

The rush of migration in September concentrates birds along Washington and southern British Columbia’s mountain ridges, coastal shorelines, and over the ocean itself. The September Migration Birding Workshop in the Pacific Northwest takes full advantage of nature’s timing to showcase shorebirds, seabirds, and songbirds in the midst of southward migration. The workshop participants learned in the field about a remarkable variety of migration strategies among birds found in the Paci...

Manaus, Brazil: Amazon Rainforest & River Islands


Andrew Whittaker: October 16, 2014

Manaus is nestled deep in the heart of the greatest avian-rich ecosystem on our planet, the immense Amazon rainforest, covering a vast 2.124 million square miles (5.5 million km²). We immersed ourselves in this exciting natural history bonanza, experiencing the wonders of two of the world’s mightiest rivers (the Amazon and Negro), the river island specialties, and walking trails through towering rainforest brimming with life, incredible colorful birds, and fascinating animals. ...

Papua New Guinea Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: October 14, 2014

Our first full day of birding on this great tour was an example of why Papua New Guinea offers the most exciting birding on the planet. Leaving Port Moresby at 5 AM, we found ourselves at first light in the hill forests of Varirata National Park. It was a gray, cloudy start to the day: misty and cool, perfect birding conditions. A fruiting fig tree attracted Boyer’s Cuckooshrike, Orange-bellied and Pink-spotted fruit-doves, the dapper chestnut and black “poison-plumaged” Hoo...