July 29, 2021
A couple of weeks ago, I received the wonderful news that our upcoming 45th Anniversary Celebration, November 14–19, 2021, is sold out. This is the earliest date for a sell-out of an event like this that we have ever had. I am deeply appreciative for the enthusiasm and interest in this event, as it represents the confidence and affection our travelers feel for VENT. It is also an indication of how eager many people are to travel again and be out birding with our wonderful tour leaders. I am very excited about the Celebration and greatly looking forward to it. I am confident it will be among the best anniversary events VENT has held.
For everyone in the travel industry, this remains a challenging time. The good news is that interest in travel continues to build, and more countries are making progress in their efforts to turn the tide against the pandemic. However, a number of countries remain closed to non-essential travel due to increased infection rates, slow vaccine rollouts, and, in some cases, lack of access to any vaccine at all. Worldwide, the trend is gradually improving, and over time things will get much better. Fortunately, there are more places where we feel comfortable operating tours now.
More and more, I personally experience the value of time in nature. Now is the time when Purple Martins form a huge annual summer roost in Austin, Texas, where I live. The roost location is only 25 minutes from my house. Last week I went to see them on several nights.
The gathering of martins is an extraordinary spectacle that plays out over a four-week period in July and lasts for under an hour each night. I am usually on site by 8:10 p.m., when not a single martin is present, but by 8:20, like magic, over 2,000 are flying overhead. Hundreds continue to arrive by the minute, increasing the size of the gathering flock exponentially. By 8:50, the sky is filled with tens of thousands of martins, perhaps as many as 40,000! At its peak, I go almost every night and see friends there. I also meet people I did not know. Recently, I reread Konrad Lorenz’s marvelous book King Solomon’s Ring (1952). Lorenz was one of the pioneers of the study of animal behavior. In 1973, he and Nikolaas Tinbergen received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Recently, a friend who was at the martin roost introduced me to Carolyn Gremminger. Because she knew I am a birder, she assumed I knew about Konrad Lorenz. She stunned me when she said, “Konrad Lorenz was one of my ancestors!” What are the odds that after reading Lorenz’s book I would soon thereafter meet one of his relatives?
The wonderful thing about birding is that it puts you in contact with nature and with other people who share your interest in birds and nature. That combination occurs often when you are birding in your own area and also on VENT tours. I know at least three people who met their future spouse on a VENT tour. All of us who love birds and nature are so fortunate.
IN THIS ISSUE:
With continued uncertainty surrounding international travel in the near term, we have seen a sustained uptick in interest in domestic travel for trips departing from this fall through next spring. Many of our upcoming domestic tours are either sold out or on pace to sell out. To meet the increasing demand, over the last several weeks we have added a number of tours to our 2021/2022 domestic tour schedule, with more likely on the way. If you are ready to resume traveling in the near future, but perhaps not yet ready to travel abroad, I thought you might like to know about our upcoming NEW departures to Texas, Alaska, Hawaii, and Kansas.
West Texas Fall Migration: Cibolo Creek Ranch, September 10–16, 2021
This recently added tour explores the wide-open spaces and desert mountains of West Texas, with VENT tour leader and area resident Barry Zimmer. From El Paso, Texas, participants will receive immersion in the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem during the fall migration period. The centerpiece of this trip is a stay at the beautiful and historic Cibolo Creek Ranch, located at the base of the rugged Chinati Mountains. Participants will be treated to evocative desert scenery and many special birds while enjoying superior accommodations and cuisine. Around the lodge, we’ll seek lingering summer residents and southbound fall migrants alike, including Scaled Quail, Zone-tailed and Harris’s hawks, Common Black Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Crissal Thrasher, Hepatic and Western tanagers, Townsend’s Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, and many others.
West Texas Fall Migration: Cibolo Creek Ranch, September 10–16, 2021 with Barry Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $4,495 in double occupancy from El Paso. 4 spaces available. Please note that additional participants can be accommodated under the condition that we receive four more registrations.
Alaskan Fall Magic: Ross’s Gull Migration & Northern Birds and Mammals, October 8–15, 2021
Veteran tour leader Kevin Zimmer will lead a small group of people to Barrow, Alaska this fall to experience the migration of the rare Ross’s Gull. This special Arctic bird seldom visits North America; however, in recent decades birders and scientists have discovered that it migrates 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, VENT offers what may be the best opportunity to do so. Beyond Ross’s Gulls, fall 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.
Alaskan Fall Magic: Ross’s Gull Migration & Northern Birds and Mammals, October 8–15, 2021 with Kevin Zimmer; $5,545 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Limit 7; 2 spaces available.
Spring Hawaii, March 6–15, 2022
Due to the popularity of our annual Spring Hawaii tour, we are adding a second departure in 2022. While we have not yet named a tour leader, we will follow the same itinerary as that of the original departure (February 23–March 4, 2022). Our Spring Hawaii tour includes three islands: Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island. We’ll seek specialty forest birds, nesting seabirds, and more, many of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dramatic coastal scenery are also key features of this tour. This departure is not currently on our website but will be added soon. Please contact Patrick Swaggerty (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
Spring Hawaii, March 6–15, 2022 with tour leaders to be announced; $6,995 in double occupancy from Honolulu (ends in Hilo). Limit 12; 11 spaces available.
Kansas: Shorebirds on the Prairie, April 18–24, 2022
The grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands of south-central Kansas are the setting for this brand-new springtime tour. Join Rick Wright on this inaugural trip to the southern Great Plains region for a week of birding at one of the continent’s most important and spectacular regions for shorebird migration. In visiting famous sites as Cheyenne Bottoms, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, and the Arkansas River, we should be treated to an impressive assortment of migrating and breeding shorebirds. Among the two dozen species we’ll seek are American Avocet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s and Pectoral sandpipers, and Upland Sandpiper. Central to our explorations will be observing Hudsonian Godwit, an elegant and declining species that passes through central Kansas every spring. Beyond shorebirds, our travels will bring exposure to a range of waterfowl, raptors, sparrows, and other birds of the native prairie ecosystem.
Kansas: Shorebirds on the Prairie, April 18-24, 2022 with Rick Wright; $2,950 in double occupancy from Wichita. Limit 7.
Our annual cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands is always among our most popular departures. Underscoring this point, our scheduled departures in each of the next two years (December 30, 2021–January 20, 2022 and December 27, 2022–January 17, 2023) have been sold out for months! Clearly, interest in Antarctica is running high. To meet the demand, we have recently added a NEW departure for next year: Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, November 26–December 18, 2022.
While we have not yet named a tour leader, we will follow the same itinerary as that of our other Antarctica cruise departures. We are highly discerning with our Antarctica programs. We select only those trips that include the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, in addition to the Antarctic Peninsula. While a visit to the Peninsula offers extraordinary scenery and a chance to set foot on the seventh continent, it is the South Atlantic outposts of the Falklands and South Georgia where most of the wildlife is found. In short, our programs are complete natural history experiences on which participants are immersed in a world of penguins, albatrosses, whales, icebergs, glaciers, and much more.
If you haven’t yet been to Antarctica, or feel like you’ve missed out on the chance to travel there with VENT in the next two years, this new departure may present the opportunity you’ve been looking for. I hope you will consider joining this remarkable trip. Please visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Voyage of a Lifetime: Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland islands, presented by Andrew Whittaker in February 2021. The webinar may be viewed on our GoToStage site as well.
Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, November 26–December 18, 2022 with a tour leader to be announced; cabins start at $28,495 per person in double occupancy from Ushuaia, Argentina. Limit: 16. A 20% early booking discount is available on select cabins, while supply lasts.
Of all the countries I have visited over the last 45 years, Panama stands out as my favorite. With a cumulative bird list of over 1,000 species, Panama, relative to its geographical size, has recorded more birds than any other country! Millions of years ago, when the Isthmus of Panama formed, birds and other creatures that were found only in South America moved north, while birds and creatures that occurred farther north moved south. Thus, Panama became the meeting ground for birds and other animals that occurred on what had previously been two separate continents. Panama is a naturalist’s paradise, where birds and other wildlife are easy to see. Thanks to our friends Raúl and Denise Arias, Panama is home to three of the best nature lodges in the world: the Canopy Tower, Canopy Lodge, and Canopy Camp. VENT brought the first tour groups to each of these lodges when they opened, and has operated well over a hundred tours in Panama over the last 20 years.
If you are ready to consider international travel again, I strongly encourage you to take a close look at Panama. Although CDC and State Department warnings about Panama are high, we feel that Panama is actually a safe place to visit for vaccinated travelers. A few nights ago I had dinner with Daniel Arias and Carlos Bethancourt of the Canopy Family of lodges in Panama. They were in Austin, Texas attending the Panama-Texas Business Summit, and we met up in the evening to discuss the pandemic situation in Panama. Daniel is Raúl’s son and the Vice President of the Canopy Family business, while Carlos is the top guide and Daniel’s right-hand man. They informed me that visitors to any of these lodges should feel perfectly safe. At this time, all of the Canopy Family’s guides are fully vaccinated, and the rest of the staff will be vaccinated by the end of September. Panama has been receiving shipments of the Pfizer vaccine and is making good headway now in vaccinating its citizenry. The country is open for business, and tourists are again being welcomed. Moreover, Panama is close to the U.S. and can be reached in several hours from a number of major airports.
Fall is a prime time to visit Panama. VENT will offer three tours there in October, one to each of the three Canopy Family lodges. Space remains available on all three trips:
Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp
Featuring an Africa-style tented camp experience in the eastern lowlands (Darien) of Panama, this tour offers a decidedly South American theme to the birding and a very real chance of seeing Harpy Eagle among many other birds. Please don’t be deceived by the word “camp,” as the facility offers superior accommodations and food.
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
A beautiful lodge situated in the cool middle-elevations of west-central Panama, the Canopy Lodge offers enchanting surroundings including lovely gardens and feeding stations that host a non-stop parade of colorful tropical birds.
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; 4 spaces available.
Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower
Completed in the late 1990s, the Canopy Tower is the original of the three lodges and offers perhaps the most unique experience. A former U.S. military radar tower, the Canopy Tower is today a remarkable eco-lodge famous for its circular structure, roof-top viewing deck offering eye level views of the forest canopy, high quality accommodations and cuisine, and access to exceptional birding locations, including world-famous Pipeline Road. Hot off the press: A couple of weeks ago, a Harpy Eagle was seen atop a tree next to the Tower!
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; 7 spaces available.
If you are unable to travel this fall, we will also start the new year with a number of Panama tours. On our January slate, space is still available on our tour to the Canopy Camp in the Darien Lowlands.
Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp, January 8–16, 2022 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $4,395 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 12; 4 spaces available.
I hope you will join us for one or more of these outstanding tours.
Finally, to get an idea of the joy that awaits visitors to Panama, please check out the Panama Fruit Feeder Cam at Canopy Lodge. Also, I strongly encourage you to visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Panama’s Canopy Camp: The Darien Adventure, presented by Erik Bruhnke in November 2020. The webinar may be viewed on our GoToStage site as well.
While the outlook for international travel will remain uncertain for many parts of the world for the foreseeable future, we feel encouraged about the prospects for travel to certain other areas. The following VENT tours, scheduled to operate in the September–January period, visit destinations that we feel “good” about with regard to the health and safety of our employees and customers:
Brazil: Pantanal Safari: Birds & Jaguars, September 4–17, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $8,095 in double occupancy from Cuiaba. Limit 12.
Caucasus Georgia: Birds, Ancient Chants & Wine, September 23–October 9, 2021 with Rafael Galvez and Attila Steiner; $7,995 in double occupancy from Tbilisi. Limit 14; 3 spaces available.
Please visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Caucasus Georgia: Birds, Ancient Chants & Wine, presented by Rafael Galvez in June 2020. The webinar may be viewed on our GoToStage site as well.
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. Please visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Southern Portugal in Autumn: Birds & History, presented by João Jara in January 2021. The webinar may be viewed on our GoToStage site as well.
Ecuador: Avian Jewels of the Northwest Andes, November 9–18, 2021 with Paul Greenfield and a second leader to be announced; $3,695 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14. Please visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Ecuador's Birds, Birding & National Birding Trail Network, presented by Paul Greenfield in February 2021. The webinar may be viewed on our GoToStage site as well.
Colombia: Hummingbirds & Tanagers of the Western Andes: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, November 27–December 4, 2021 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Cali. Limit 10; 5 spaces available.
Colombia: The Central and Western Andes: Hummingbirds, Tanagers, Antpittas & 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 & 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.
A Birding Adventure in the Llanos of Colombia: Hato La Aurora, January 2–9, 2022 with David Ascanio; $3,595 in double occupancy from Bogotá. Limit 8; 3 spaces available.
Belize’s Hidden Treasures: Pook’s Hill & Black Rock Lodge, January 16–23, 2022 with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $3,395 in double occupancy from Belize City. Limit 14.
Winter Southern Arizona, January 17–23, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $2,995 in double occupancy from Tucson. Limit 12.
Ecuador: The Best of Amazonia: Featuring Napo Wildlife Center, January 18–27, 2022 with Paul Greenfield and Brian Gibbons; $4,995 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14. Please join us on August 5, 2021 for our next webinar, Ecuador: The Best of Amazonia: Featuring Napo Wildlife Center, with Paul Greenfield and Brian Gibbons.
Winter Southern California, January 23–29, 2022 with Brennan Mulrooney and a second leader to be announced; $2,895 in double occupancy from San Diego. Limit 12.
Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes, January 25–February 4, 2022 with Paul Greenfield and Brian Gibbons; $3,795 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14.
Even though it is only midsummer, “fall” migration has already begun, with many species of shorebirds appearing throughout Central Texas and on the coast. By August, the first southbound flycatchers, warblers, and orioles will appear. One of the many joys of birds and nature is the constant change we observe almost every day. There is always much to enjoy and much to look forward to. These changes will be apparent on any of VENT’s late summer and fall tours.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours | 2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003 | Austin, TX 78746
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