VENTflash #198 February 02, 2016

Posted by Victor Emanuel

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Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 68 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,

The Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Florida has become one of our favorite events. For many years, each January, VENT leaders Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis have attended the festival on behalf of VENT, staffing our exhibitor booth, leading field trips, and delivering classroom seminars. In most years, Barry Lyon and I have joined them as VENT representatives.

Space Coast Festival, '17 with Victor Emanuel, Louise Zemaitis, and Barry Lyon

Space Coast Festival, ’16 with Victor Emanuel, Louise Zemaitis, and Barry Lyon

Being at the festival gives us a chance to see old friends in the birding community including people who have traveled on our tours. This occasion also provides us with opportunities to meet people who might take a VENT tour for the first time, as well as suppliers we may work with to offer tours to new destinations. It was at this festival a couple of years ago that we met Balázs Szigeti and Attila Steiner of Ecotours Wildlife Holidays, who now organize our very successful tours to Ethiopia and Hungary & the Czech Republic. Additionally, the birding is great in Florida at this time of the year, with plentiful opportunities to see an array of waterfowl, wading birds, and wintering land birds. It is always a treat to see the Florida Scrub Jay, Limpkin, and other Florida specialty birds. Nearby, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge offers a wonderful assortment of ducks, egrets, herons, and shorebirds including good numbers of Roseate Spoonbills.

The story of the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival’s inception is a heartwarming one. Laurilee Thompson, a native of Titusville, was a commercial fisherwoman who had become disheartened and alarmed by the steady degradation of the rivers and streams that she had known since childhood. She saw that increasing urbanization and associated pollution in this part of Florida translated to fewer undisturbed natural areas and a decline in wildlife. Interestingly, her growing concern for the plight of the region’s ecology was accompanied by a growing awareness of the increasing number of birding festivals around the country. An idea came to her that if she and her friends started a birding festival, residents of her community who witnessed people coming to Titusville from other places would develop a greater appreciation for the richness of nature in their region and for its economic importance.

Laurilee Thompson

Laurilee Thompson

Everything that Laurilee hoped for has happened. Named for nearby Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival has become the largest birding festival in the country with over 1,000 people registered this year for the five-day event. An additional 2,000 people, most of them local residents, attended for a day or two, many of whom brought their children. As for the festival’s economic impact, in 2015 (the most recent year for which figures are available), the quantified economic value of the festival to the local community is estimated at $1.275 million in terms of sales or output.

VENT is a proud supporter of the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the festival’s founding. We salute Laurilee and her team of volunteers for what they have done for the birding community and for conservation in Florida, and look forward to being there again next year, January 25-30, 2017.

In this issue:

SPRING COMES TO THE U.S.
A NEW TOUR PROGRAM: BIRDS & ART WITH RICK WRIGHT
TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
CLOSING THOUGHTS

SPRING COMES TO THE U.S.

Limpkin, Florida

Limpkin, Florida — Photo: Greg Lasley

With the end of winter slowly coming into view for some of the country, it will be springtime before we know it. Looking ahead, the arrival of spring portends the height of the domestic travel season here at VENT. With thoughts of freshly plumaged songbirds, wildflowers, and warm days to come, most birders prefer staying in the U.S. in the spring to experience the joys and freshness of the season. From March through early June this year, VENT will operate almost 20 tours to a range of exciting domestic destinations. While many of our spring tours are sold out, I thought you might like to know that spaces are still available on tours to Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Texas. Each of these departures promises great birding at the loveliest time of the year:

Nebraska: Sandhill Cranes & Prairie Grouse, March 19-26, 2016 with Rick Wright and a second leader to be announced; $2,295 in double occupancy from Omaha. 3 spaces available.

Spring in South Texas, April 1-10, 2016 with Barry Zimmer and Erik Bruhnke; $3,295 in double occupancy from Corpus Christi (ends in Laredo). 4 spaces available.

Spring in South Texas: Hill Country Extension, April 10-14, 2016 with Barry Zimmer and Erik Bruhnke; $1,395 in double occupancy from Laredo (ends in San Antonio). 6 spaces available.

VENT’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, April 17-22, 2016 with Victor Emanuel, 16 other VENT leaders, and other special guests; $2,895 in double occupancy from Beaumont, Texas. 6 spaces available.

High Island Migration, April 22-28, 2016 with Erik Bruhnke and David Wolf; $2,095 in double occupancy from Houston. 2 spaces available.

Montana Owl Workshop, April 26-May 1, 2016 with Denver Holt and Matt Larson; $1,895 in double occupancy from Missoula. 2 spaces available.

Colima Warbler, Big Bend National Park, Texas, April 30, 2014

Colima Warbler, Big Bend National Park, Texas — Photo: Barry Zimmer

Big Bend National Park & The Texas Hill Country, April 28-May 7, 2016 with Barry Zimmer and Kevin Zimmer. 5 spaces available.

South Florida & The Keys, April 30-May 6, 2016 with Rafael Galvez and a second leader to be announced; $2,495 in double occupancy from Key West. 6 spaces available.

Spring in Cape May: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, May 15-20, 2016 with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O’Brien; $1,795 in double occupancy from Philadelphia. 7 spaces available.

Minnesota & North Dakota, June 3-12, 2016 with Erik Brunhke and a second leader to be announced: $3,195 in double occupancy from Duluth.

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A NEW TOUR PROGRAM: BIRDS & ART WITH RICK WRIGHT

As many of you know, VENT’s tour-leading corps expanded over the last two years with the addition of several new leaders, among whom is Rick Wright. A familiar face to many in the North American birding community, Rick Wright possesses years of tour-leading experience, but is perhaps best known for his work with the American Birding Association where he has served in varying capacities as an editor, book reviewer, and author. We are very pleased to have Rick as a member of our team. Among his fine qualities, he brings to VENT a strong academic and travel background that makes him well-equipped for overseeing a program of specialized European Birds & Art tours. As 2016 marks Rick’s first year of tour-leading for VENT, I want to bring focus to our company’s entry into this new arena and the unique set of tours that embody this program.

Rick Wright

Rick Wright

Rick took some time to share his thoughts with us on the nature of a Birds & Art tour. I hope you find his vision as appealing as I do:

“Birders—it goes without saying—are interesting people. But we are also interested people, and our passions run fascinatingly far, even beyond the feathered. Life holds a vast range of other pleasures, and just because we are birders doesn’t mean that we have to give them up. We don’t even have to choose among them. To the contrary: the best birding, and often the best birders, succeed in combining a serious interest in the avian with a genuine delight in great food, great art, and great conversation.

Our Birds & Art tours are designed for travelers who have learned that nothing tops off a fine morning in the field like a visit to a Gothic church or a piano recital, and who know that there is no bird sighting in the world that doesn’t go perfectly with a fine dinner and a bottle from the banks of the Rhône. These are true "whole landscape” tours, relaxed opportunities for curious adults to get to know the nature and the culture of some of the most scenic and historically rich regions on earth. Some of our days may focus more closely on birds, others on art and culture, but most of our outings let us take in both at once, as we watch Black Redstarts on the façade of a Romanesque cathedral, trace the path of a Peregrine Falcon above the skyline of Florence, or follow Blue Rock-Thrushes through the ruins of a Greek city.

Grand Canal, Venice

Grand Canal, Venice — Photo: canadastock/shutterstock

Thanks to our easygoing pace and often leisurely mornings, it is possible to take a morning, an afternoon, or a whole day off just to soak up the atmosphere, joining the rest of the group for the next meal or excursion. Based in some of the world’s most appealing cities, our Birds & Art tours are an ideal choice for the birder with a partner partner, spouse, or traveling companion whose interest in birds is less intense."

VENT will offer five Birds & Art tours in 2016. I hope you will consider joining one or more of these fine departures.

Spain: Birds & Art in Catalonia, April 14-22, 2016 with Rick Wright; $3,895 in double occupancy from Barcelona.

France: Birds & Art in Provence, April 24-May 2, 2016 with Rick Wright and Marco Valtriani; $3,195 in double occupancy from Arles.

France: Birds & Art in Burgundy, May 29-June 4, 2016 with Rick Wright; $2,495 in double occupancy from Lyon.

Germany: Birds & Art in Berlin & Brandenburg, September 30-October 8, 2016 with Rick Wright; $3,495 in double occupancy from Berlin. Sold out.

Italy: Birds & Art in Venice & the Po Delta, October 24-November 1, 2016 with Rick Wright and Marco Valtriani; $2,995 in double occupancy from Venice (ends in Bologna).

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TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees, Spain — Photo: Brian Gibbons

In addition to our exciting line-ups of spring domestic tours and Birds & Art tours, VENT will operate a selection of other domestic and international tours in the March–June period on which spaces are still available. If you’ve not yet made your spring–early summer travel plans, perhaps one of these fine departures will pique your interest:

El Triunfo, March 1-11, 2016 with Brian Gibbons and Jorge Montejo; $2,995 in double occupancy from Tuxtla Gutierrez (ends in Tapachula). 3 spaces available.

Best of Costa Rica, March 12-24, 2016 with David Wolf and Mimi Wolf; $4,995 in double occupancy from San Jose. 2 spaces available.

Brazil: Amazonia on the Rio Roosevelt, March 24-April 3, 2016 with Andrew Whittaker; $8,195 in double occupancy from Porto Velho. 1 space available.

Bhutan, April 9-May 1, 2016 with Dion Hobcroft and Ansar Khan; $10,595 in double occupancy from New Delhi. 3 spaces available.

Spring Birding in Spain, April 28-May 15, 2016 with Santiago Villa and Brian Gibbons; $6,095 in double occupancy from Sevilla (ends in Madrid). 4 spaces available.

Colombia: The Central & Western Andes, June 5-21, 2016 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $6,895 in double occupancy from Cali (ends in Medellin). 4 spaces available.

Barrow's Goldeneye, Denali region, Alaska, June 2013

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Denali region, Alaska — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome, June 2-10, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $5,295 in double occupancy from Anchorage. 6 spaces available. Discount of $750 in single occupancy or $500 in double occupancy if combined with Grand Alaska Part I.

Grand Alaska Part I: Nome & the Pribilofs, June 9-18, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $6,995 in double occupancy from Anchorage. 7 spaces available. Discount of $750 in single occupancy and $500 in double occupancy if combined with Gambell/Nome.

Alaska Highlights, June 15-26, 2016 with Barry Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $6,895 in double occupancy from Anchorage. 5 spaces available.

Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali Highway & Kenai Peninsula, June 18-26, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $4,095 in double occupancy from Anchorage. 5 spaces available.

Alaska: Barrow Extension, June 26-28, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Barry Zimmer; $2,395 in double occupancy from Anchorage. 3 spaces available.

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

Rufous-backed Robin, Winter Southern Arizona, '16

Rufous-backed Robin, Winter Southern Arizona, ’16— Photo: Barry Zimmer

Already a month into the new year, we have received great reports from our tour leaders and participants from our January tours. For example, Barry Zimmer reported that our Winter Southern Arizona tour may have been the best one ever with success in finding all the hoped-for birds, plus rare birds from Mexico such as Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Rufous-backed Robin, and Rufous-capped Warbler. We also are operating three cruises in the January–February period: two on the Amazon River and one to the Lesser Antilles. All are sold out.

We continue to be very excited about our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration in Beaumont, Texas, April 17-22, 2016. Lars Jonsson recently told us that he and his wife Ragnhild will be coming from Sweden to be with us at the event. Lars is one of the greatest bird artists in the world. He and Ragnhild were with us for our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2006. We are delighted they will be with us again for this historic occasion.

Already 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for VENT. It will be a treat to hear about the special sightings from each of the 150 tours we will operate this year. I hope your travel plans include one or more VENT tours.