June 8, 2021
VENT’s first Anniversary Celebration was held in McAllen, Texas in April 2006 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of VENT. Featuring a host of VENT tour leaders and office staff, artists, guest speakers, and more than 100 participants, the event was a great success. Our second event of this type was held in Beaumont, Texas in April 2016, when we celebrated our 40th year in business. Like our 30th Anniversary Celebration, our 40th was also a superb event.
After the 40th, many participants urged us to celebrate our 45th anniversary rather than waiting ten years to honor our 50th. For these reasons and others, I am thrilled to announce that VENT will host a 45th Anniversary Celebration this fall in McAllen, Texas, November 14–19, 2021.
McAllen is located deep in South Texas, in the heart of the Lower Rio Grande Valley—an area widely recognized as one of the greatest birding regions in North America. The “Valley” is home to twenty-five species of birds found nowhere else in our country, including spectacular birds such as Aplomado Falcon, Green Jay, Ringed Kingfisher, and Altamira Oriole. One of the key areas we will bird is the world-famous King Ranch, where we hope to see Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a tropical species whose range barely extends into the United States. The accommodation for this special occasion is the beautiful Casa de Palmas, perhaps the finest hotel in South Texas.
Mid-November is a superb time to go birding in South Texas. All of the resident specialty birds are present, along with southbound fall migrants and incoming winter residents.
Our 45th Anniversary Celebration will also be a social event with numerous opportunities to interact with VENT tour leaders and office staff, special guests, and fellow travelers. The event will be limited to 112 participants. At this time, only 25 spaces remain available. I hope you will reserve your space soon and join the fun in this historic, milestone year.
I will look forward to seeing you there!
IN THIS ISSUE:
Our 45th Anniversary Celebration is cause for joy for reasons that extend beyond VENT marking a milestone in its longevity. It is also an occasion to celebrate our resilience after what has probably been the roughest, most exhausting year VENT has ever faced. After fourteen unprecedented months of not operating a single tour, we are relieved and thankful to be running tours again. While we still have a way to go to get back to full capacity, we are moving in the right direction. Registrations for future tours are strong, and optimism about the future is increasing among our travelers and our employees. So, while we will gather to celebrate our company reaching the ripe age of 45, our 45th is also an occasion to celebrate the company getting through this most challenging era, our employees who performed their jobs unflaggingly through it all, and, of course, our travelers, without whom we might not be here now and to whom we are deeply grateful.
Our 45th Anniversary Celebration will feature an all-star team of tour leaders, bird and wildlife artists, nature writers, and guest speakers including Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, Barry Zimmer, Kevin Zimmer, Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, Steve Hilty, Jeri Langham, Brian Gibbons, David Ascanio, Rick Wright, Brennan Mulrooney, Erik Bruhnke, Rafael Galvez, Willy Hutcheson, Shawneen Finnegan, David Irons, David Wolf, Mimi Wolf, and other prominent personalities from the world of birding. We are still completing our panel of keynote presenters, but among the speakers at the event will be renowned tropical ornithologist and VENT tour leader Dr. Steve Hilty. I will speak on the final night.
For those who would like to spend more time in the Valley, we are offering post-event extensions to the Rockport area of the Central Coast and to the “Upper” part of the Rio Grande Valley. NOTE: Because our Rockport & Whooping Cranes Extension sold out so quickly, we have added a second departure that will be led by Barry Zimmer and Kevin Zimmer.
VENT’s 45th Anniversary Celebration, November 14–19, 2021; $3,095 in double occupancy from McAllen, Texas. Limit 112. 25 spaces available.
Upper Valley Extension, November 19–21, 2021 with Erik Bruhnke and Willy Hutcheson; $1,595 in double occupancy from McAllen. Limit 14. Sold out! Waitlist available.
Rockport & Whooping Cranes Extension, November 19–23, 2021 with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $2,395 in double occupancy from McAllen. Limit 14. Sold out! Waitlist available.
Newly added second departure!
Rockport & Whooping Cranes Extension, November 19–23, 2021 with Barry Zimmer and Kevin Zimmer; $2,395 in double occupancy from McAllen. Limit 14.
As optimism about the future increases, we are seeing a surge of interest in our domestic trips. Many of our upcoming United States departures are either sold out or almost sold out. In response, we have been adding tours to our fall domestic schedule in order to accommodate the increased demand.
I hope that you are starting to feel comfortable about traveling again in the near future. If so, I thought you might want to know about new tours to West Texas and Alaska that we’ve added to our schedule in just the last week.
West Texas Fall Migration: Cibolo Creek Ranch, September 10–16, 2021 with Barry Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; fee TBA in double occupancy from El Paso. Limit 14.
More than ten years ago, the manager of the Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas called me and suggested that I come see it because he thought it would be a great place for a VENT tour. I accepted his offer, and I scouted it with my colleague Barry Lyon. We were both impressed with the birding, scenery, and history. Since that initial trip, VENT has operated six trips to Cibolo Creek. Everyone who has participated on these trips has been thoroughly delighted.
The Cibolo Creek Ranch is located at the base of the Chinati Mountains next to Cibolo Creek itself. There are lots of birds around the lodge, including Scaled Quail, Zone-tailed Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Blue Grosbeak among many others. A number of other birds can be found along the gravel road next to the creek. One of the things I like best about the lodge is that it is situated five miles off the highway. As a result, you truly feel in your own world here. The lodge is one of the finest in the country, with beautiful rooms, excellent cuisine, a large swimming pool and a Jacuzzi, and beautifully styled grounds with native plants and open areas offering expansive views of an extraordinary night sky. Everything about this lodge is high quality, and therefore it is a pricier place to stay, but it is certainly well worth the cost.
Among the many birds you may see on this tour are year-round residents, lingering summer visitors, and southbound fall migrants. Harris’s Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Crissal Thrasher, Hepatic Tanager, and Townsend’s Warbler are but a few of the many species possible.
Alaskan Fall Magic: Ross’s Gull Migration & Northern Birds & Mammals, October 8–15, 2021 with Kevin Zimmer; price to be announced in double occupancy from Anchorage. Limit 7.
On this brand-new tour, veteran tour leader Kevin Zimmer will lead a small group of people to Barrow, Alaska to experience the migration of Ross’s Gulls. This special bird of the Arctic, almost mythical by the standards of most, seldom visits North America; however, in recent decades, birders and scientists have discovered that they migrate past the Barrow region in appreciable numbers in a narrow three-week window in October. Relatively few birders will ever see a Ross’s Gull, and now, for the first time, we offer what may be the best opportunity to do so.
Beyond Ross’s Gulls, autumn can be an excellent time to find a range of specialty birds and mammals in Alaska. Spectacled Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, and Ivory Gull are all possible in the Barrow area, while a couple of easy days in the Anchorage area may yield birds such as Great Gray Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, and Harlequin Duck, and megafauna like Brown and Black bears, Dall Sheep, and Moose. Even Canadian Lynx is possible.
As I stated in the last edition of VENTFLASH, while the prospects for domestic travel are strong for the rest of this year and next, the near- and mid-term outlook for international travel is less clear. Conditions surrounding the pandemic are stable and improving in many parts of the world, while remaining undeniably bad in other areas. Our feeling is that many of our remaining international tours in 2021 will operate, but some will not. Throughout the pandemic we have relied on a policy of waiting no later than six weeks prior to a tour’s departure date to determine if it will operate. Given the speed with which things change, our approach has been that we will cancel a scheduled departure only when we know with certainty that it cannot operate. So, if an international tour still appears on our 2021 schedule, it is because we are planning to operate that tour.
Looking ahead to the last five months of the year, VENT will operate domestic tours and a number of international departures. The following 2021 tours are not a comprehensive listing of our remaining tour offerings for the year, but rather represent tours that we feel have a higher probability of operating and that still have spaces available. Those of our travelers who feel confident about international travel and who are prepared to accommodate minor to moderate inconveniences related to coronavirus avoidance may be interested in joining one of these departures.
NOTE: VENT will operate tours only to destinations where we feel it is safe to do so, meaning that relative to other international destinations, VENT can provide reasonable assurance that its tour participants will enjoy a safe and healthy travel experience.
Brazil: Pantanal Safari (Birds & Jaguars), August 17–30, 2021 with Kevin Zimmer and a local leader; $8,095 in double occupancy from Cuiabá. Limit 12. 5 spaces available.
Southern Ecuador Hummingbird & Tanager Extravaganza, August 22–September 2, 2021 with Paul Greenfield; $3,845 in double occupancy from Guayaquil. Limit 8. 4 spaces available.
Malawi: Miombo Magic, September 1–18, 2021 with Machiel Valkenburg; $8,950 in double occupancy from Lilongwe (ends in Blantyre). Limit 8. 4 spaces available.
Snow Leopards of Mongolia: Birds & Rare Mammals of the Mongolian Wilderness, September 1–15, 2021 with Attila Steiner and Rafael Galvez; $9,950 in double occupancy from Ulaanbaatar. Limit 10. 5 spaces available.
Washington: September Migration in the Pacific Northwest, September 5–13, 2021 with Willy Hutcheson and a second leader to be announced; $3,645 in double occupancy from Seattle. Limit 12. 5 spaces available.
Caucasus Georgia: Birds, Ancient Chants & Wines, September 23–October 9, 2021 with Rafael Galvez and Attila Steiner; $7,995 in double occupancy from Tbilisi. Limit 14. 2 spaces available.
Southern Portugal in Autumn: Birds & History, September 26–October 8, 2021 with João Jara and a local leader; $6,895 in double occupancy from Lisbon. Limit 14. 6 spaces available.
Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, October 2–10, 2021 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $3,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12. 4 spaces available.
Panama: Fall at El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, October 9–16, 2021 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 14. 5 spaces available.
Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower, October 16 –23, 2021 with Willy Hutcheson and a local leader; $3,295 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12. 5 spaces available.
Cuba, November 1–13, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $7,995 in double occupancy from Havana. Limit 12. 6 spaces available.
Ecuador: Avian Jewels of the Northwest Andes: Hummingbirds, Tanagers & Antpittas Galore!, November 9–18, 2021 with Paul Greenfield and a second leader to be announced; $3,695 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14.
Madagascar Highlights, November 6–21, 2021 with Machiel Valkenburg; $9,995 in double occupancy from Antananarivo. Limit 8. 3 spaces available.
Colombia: Hummingbirds & Tanagers of the Western Andes: A Relaxed and Easy Tour, November 27–December 4, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Cali. Limit 10. 3 spaces available.
Colombia: The Central & Western Andes: Hummingbirds, Antpittas, Tanagers & Andean Endemics, December 2–17, 2021 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $6,995 in double occupancy from Medellin (ends in Bogotá). Limit 8. 3 spaces available.
Colombia: Hummingbirds & Tanagers of the Western Andes: A Relaxed and Easy Tour, December 5–12, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Cali. Limit 10. 6 spaces available.
After twenty-six years, Dr. John Fitzpatrick ("Fitz") is retiring from his position as Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Few people have done as much to transform an institution as Fitz has done at the Lab. Under Fitz's leadership, the Lab has become the world’s foremost institution for the study of ornithology and bird conservation. Through its Macaulay Library, it has assembled the largest collection of bird photos and videos in the world, and an immense collection of data gathered through its various citizen science projects. The Lab’s most prominent citizen science endeavor, eBird, collects more data on bird sightings than has ever previously been collected. That data enables the tracking of bird movements and numbers at a level previously unimaginable. Through eBird and the Lab’s other standout citizen science programs, including Project FeederWatch, Celebrate Urban Birds, NestWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count, thousands, maybe millions, of people all over the world have become involved in birding. We are especially proud that a number of people who attended our summer youth birding camps now occupy some of the top positions at eBird. I am honored to have served on the Lab's board of directors for about ten years and to have received the prestigious Arthur Allen Award.
For more than twenty years, VENT has had the honor of operating special trips for the Lab’s Chairman's Council and Golden-Wing Society. Fitz was a leader on at least twenty Chairman’s Council trips. Because I was also a leader on those wonderful trips, I had the opportunity to watch the Lab grow, and to become friends with Fitz and his wife, Molly. They are wonderful people. I have especially fond memories of trips with Fitz to the Lesser Antilles, where he saw many life birds including Guadeloupe Woodpecker.
Five years ago, Fitz came to Texas to speak at VENT"S 40th Anniversary Celebration in Beaumont. In the years ahead, I hope Fitz will be a leader on other VENT trips.
John Fitzpatrick leaves the Lab in great shape. It will continue to grow and to play a major role in ornithology and bird conservation for decades to come.
I thought you would like to know that Fitz is the subject of a feature-length article by Scott Weidensaul in the most recent edition of Living Bird magazine. Titled The “Remarkable and Persistently Stimulating” John Fitzpatrick, the article profiles the life and career of Fitz, one of the most important bird scientists of our time.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours | 2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003 | Austin, TX 78746
Follow us on
© 2021 Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. All rights reserved.