VENTflash #213: Another Harpy Eagle Opportunity & Mongolia January 12, 2017

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 70 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,

Two months ago I informed you of the thrilling news of the discovery of a Harpy Eagle nest in close proximity to the Canopy Camp in the Darien lowlands of eastern Panama. In response to this remarkable event, we added a second Canopy Camp departure ahead of an already scheduled departure in January. Both trips filled immediately! Two days ago, I received the wonderful news from my good friend Raul Arias de Para, who built the Canopy family of lodges, that the first of these groups had just seen an adult Harpy Eagle at the nest site! Our next departure to the Canopy Camp occurs this weekend. Assuming this group also gets to see the birds, it would mean that, dating to last fall, three consecutive VENT tours enjoyed success in seeing one of the most special birds in the American Tropics!

Adult Harpy Eagle near the Canopy Camp

Adult Harpy Eagle near the Canopy Camp, January 2017 — Photo: Harmodio “Moyo” Rodriguez

Because I feel that this opportunity to see a Harpy Eagle is so extraordinary, we have just added a brand new departure to Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, April 8-16, 2017. This trip will be led by Tony Nunnery and is limited to 12 participants.

Harpy Eagles require about six months for a chick to fledge from the time an egg is laid. The female bird will incubate the egg for about 55 days. Once the chick hatches, she will be around the nest almost continuously for the ensuing four months, tending to the needs of her nestling. Once the chick fledges, the parents will continue to feed it, often in the vicinity of the nest, for an additional six to ten months. The chick in this nest is thought to be about five months old, and we believe that the eagles will continue to be in the immediate vicinity of the nest site into April, which means that our chances of seeing the birds are good!

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Harpy Eagle, and if you are able to travel on short notice, I strongly encourage you to reserve your space now. It is not an exaggeration to say that this situation could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Unlike Amazonia in distant South America, where most sightings of Harpy Eagle occur (and with great luck even then), Panama is an easy three-hour flight from the United States. Moreover, you’ll stay at the Canopy Camp, a luxurious Africa-style tented camp in the heart of the Darien lowlands, a wild region home to a collection of birds not found on any of our other Panama tours.

Panama’s Canopy Camp: Darien Lowlands, April 8-16, 2017 with Tony Nunnery; $3,695 per person in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12. New departure!

Your Harpy Eagle experience at the Canopy Camp can be enhanced with a trip to El Valle’s Canopy Lodge. Situated in the cool middle elevation foothills of west-central Panama, El Valle features a beautiful lodge set amid verdant gardens. A stay at El Valle is truly an enchanting experience where excellent accommodations and cuisine are complemented by non-stop parades of colorful tropical birds.

Panama: El Valle’s Canopy Lodge Extension, April 15-20, 2017 with Tony Nunnery; $2,095 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12. New departure! Combine this tour with Panama’s Canopy Camp: Darien Lowlands and receive a discount of $75 in double occupancy or $150 in single occupancy.


White-naped Crane

White-naped Cranes, Mongolia— Photo: Balazs Szigeti/Ecotours Wildlife Holidays

In addition to the news of the Harpy Eagle nest in Panama, I’m also letting you know that spaces are still available on our biannual tour to Mongolia, a destination we last visited in 2015. This tour, June 11-29, 2017, visits the key birding and wildlife areas of central Mongolia including the Altai Mountains, Gobi Desert, and famed grasslands of the Mongolian steppe. This tour will be led by veteran tour leader Brian Gibbons and good local guides, who together bring considerable experience to the tour.

I have been to Mongolia once before, a trip I made with my late friend and author, Peter Matthiessen, about four years ago. It is a destination that evokes images of vast rolling grasslands sparsely populated by nomadic horsemen. The range of habitats in Mongolia is surprisingly diverse and includes high mountains, sprawling taiga forests, freshwater wetlands, semi-desert steppe, and a myriad of grassland types. Above all, Mongolia is a wonderfully exciting mix of great traveling experiences, absorbing history and prehistory, and some magnificent wildlife.

Altai Iris, Mongolia

Altai Mountains & Altai Iris, Mongolia — Photo: Christopher Leahy





The name “Mongolia” has always projected images of the untamed and exotic—the warlord Genghis Khan, camels wandering in the Gobi Desert, and wild horses galloping across the steppes. Even today Mongolia seems like the end of the earth; outside Ulaanbaatar you begin to wonder if you haven’t stepped into another century, rather than another country. It remains one of the last great adventure destinations in Asia. Mongolia is a boundless upland country in northern Central Asia. Landlocked between two giant nations, Russia and China, it encompasses some 605,000 square miles—roughly the combined size of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. With its tiny population of only three million scattered across such a huge area, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth, a true wilderness where there is a very real sense that most of the land is still the domain of wild creatures rather than man.

Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons

Spring in Mongolia resounds with bird song; everything is vibrant, and birds are lovely in breeding plumage while migrants are still passing through on their way north to Siberia. If you desire exciting and spectacular birding in your travels, you’ll enjoy Mongolia’s avian offerings, a representation of which includes flocks of gorgeous Demoiselle Cranes, fabled Relict Gulls (rare), dapper Oriental Plovers, the strange Mongolian Ground-Jay, Altai Snowcock (rare), Mongolian Accentor, and possibly Snow Leopard, Ibex, and Argali. Much of the time you will camp in very comfortable gers (yurts), and thus you will be able to embrace this fabulous country and its wildlife from the moment you awake to the moment your head hits the pillow.

I hope you will join us on this rare opportunity to experience an unusual and fascinating tour combining marvelous birding and wildlife, exceptional photographic opportunities, and stunning landscapes.

Mongolia: Gobi Desert, Steppe Grasslands & the Land of the Khans, June 11-29, 2017 with Brian Gibbons and a local leader; $8,195 in double occupancy from Ulaanbaatar. Limit 10.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel