VENT and Cornell Chairman’s Council Enjoy Another Successful Trip July 16, 2008

Posted by Barry Lyon


Barry Lyon

Barry Lyon's passion for the outdoors and birding has its roots in his childhood in southern California. During his teenage years, he attended several VENT/ABA youth birdin...

Continuing a long tradition, VENT and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology teamed up once again, April 10-13, 2008, for the Lab's annual Chairman's Council retreat. The destination selected was one not visited for many years, the private Prade Ranch, situated in the heart of the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

The Chairman's Council trip is designed as a special travel opportunity for the most generous benefactors of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. More than a simple getaway, these retreats offer members the opportunity to share the camaraderie of fellow Lab supporters and to hear about the Lab's various projects and goals.

The Prade Ranch is a gem of a destination approximately three hours west of San Antonio. Characterized by juniper-clad plateaus, rugged brush country, and shaded canyons, the ranch holds a remarkable diversity of habitats. For two full days, Lab members, under the leadership of VENT leader Andrew Farnsworth and former Texas Nature Conservancy staff member, Beyrl Armstrong, toured the ranch and its mosaic of ecosystems. As Mr. Armstrong is also a former manager of the ranch, his knowledge of the property is without peer. Representing the lab was Executive Director, John Fitzpatrick, and Development Director, Scott Sutcliffe.

The group enjoyed outstanding birding, highlighted by sightings of Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos, the two signature species of the Texas Hill Country. A final evening at the famed Frio Bat Cave provided an outstanding conclusion to the trip as participants watched the amazing spectacle of nine million Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from an underground cavern. This nightly event presents one of the greatest wildlife shows in North America, with the bats appearing in long twisting spirals, like smoke roiling up from a forest fire.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is among our country's greatest institutions for the study and research of birds. The Lab is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Its programs work with citizen scientists, government and non-government agencies across North America and beyond. Among its many research-based endeavors are bird population studies and programs for bioacoustic research and evolutionary biology. The Lab is also home to the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds which is the principal source of sound recordings for basic research, education, conservation, habitat assessment, media, and commercial projects. The Library also archives and preserves an exhaustive sampling of the behaviors of animal species using digital video and audio recordings. Among the Lab's citizen science endeavors are its coordination of the annual Christmas Bird Counts, its popular Project Feederwatch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and eBird.

VENT is proud to have been chosen to operate donor trips for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and urges all who care about birds to become members. Please visit the website of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology,, for more information.