JANUARY 9, 2019
Two weekends ago I closed out the year that was with a couple of days of birding in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Known as "the Valley" for short, or simply "the RGV," this region of Texas has long served as a popular draw for birders from all over the world.
Green Jay, Rio Grande Valley - Photo: Kevin Zimmer
I have spent a lot of time in the Valley over a lifetime of birding, and I never tire of returning there. On this latest trip, I was again impressed with the richness of this subtropical region that is home to an array of more southerly occurring species whose ranges barely extend into the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. With ease I saw a marvelous assortment of beautiful birds, including Green Jays, Vermilion Flycatchers, Great Kiskadees, and Altamira, Hooded, and Audubon's orioles, among many other species. The variety of hawks that occur in the Valley comprise the richest raptor diversity in the country. No matter where one goes, hawks are everywhere. Among the dozen species of raptors that I observed were Red-shouldered, Gray, and Zone-tailed hawks, the beautiful White-tailed Hawk and White-tailed Kite, and many Crested Caracaras. Other special sightings included views of perched Hook-billed Kites near Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and two immature Ferruginous Hawks in a nearby field that also contained a mix of two dozen White-tailed and Red-tailed hawks of all ages.
One of the birds I most enjoyed was a Common Pauraque at a trailside day-roost at Estero Llano Grande State Park. A master of camouflage, this large nightjar offers a study of intricate plumage patterns. While lacking the bright colors of many of our songbirds, the pauraque is a bird of subtle beauty, marked by a complex pattern of gray, buff, and black that I found extraordinary.
With this latest trip to the Valley, I again came away convinced that the lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the greatest birding areas in our country. This trip was the perfect way to end one year and begin another.
In this issue:
2019 TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
2019 TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
In 2019, VENT will again operate over 150 departures to over 100 destinations worldwide. While a number of our tours this year are full or almost full, we still have many wonderful departures on which spaces are still available. As we look forward to the late winter, spring, and summer seasons, I thought I might tempt you with one of our outstanding trips. Perhaps you've decided that an early year tour is what you need to shake the winter doldrums? Perhaps you've made a new year resolution to spend more time in nature? Or maybe you simply have a strong desire to experience more of the world's amazing natural history. Whether you desire to travel abroad or stick closer to home, whether your choice is to focus on birds or mix your birding with a bit of culture, or whether you can travel on short notice or need a longer time horizon to plan your travel, I'm confident that VENT has the tour for you! If you have not yet made your 2019 travel plans, I encourage you to check out these outstanding trips:
|Pink-headed Warbler; Antigua, Guatemala - Photo: Knut Eisermann
Short Costa Rica: Toucans to Quetzals, February 23–March 3, 2019 with David Wolf & Mimi Wolf; $3,995 in double occupancy from San José. 3 spaces available.
A wonderful opportunity to sample two outstanding locations—Cerro de la Muerte and La Selva— for birds of highland and lowland ecosystems. Marvelous variety is assured.
Guatemala: Birds & Art in the Highlands, March 1–8, 2019 with Rick Wright and Knut Eisermann; $3,395 in double occupancy from Guatemala City.
This new tour combines the beauty of Mayan and colonial-era art with birding amid the remarkably scenic Guatemalan highlands, featuring volcanoes, cloud forests, and deep-water lakes.
Cuba, March 5–16, 2019 with David Ascanio and a local guide; $6,480 in double occupancy from Miami. 1 space available.
Enjoy birding in Cuba with strong doses of history and culture. Most birds are endemic—either to the island or to the Caribbean region—while cultural highlights include time in Havana, a visit to the Hemingway House, and more!
Mexico: El Triunfo, March 7–17, 2019 with Brian Gibbons and Victor Emanuel; $3,895 in double occupancy from Tuxtla Gutierrez (ends in Tapachula).
This tour is Victor Emanuel's all-time favorite tour. It is unlike any other we offer. The thrust of the trip is a hiking and camping adventure that centers on the magical El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve of southern Mexico. Highlights include hiking up the Caribbean side of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas range, camping for four nights in the valley of "The Triumph," searching for Horned Guans and Resplendent Quetzals in a primeval cloud forest, and a grand finale three-day walk down to the Pacific lowlands.
|Horned Guan, El Triunfo - Photo: Brian Gibbons
Belize: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, March 14–21, 2019 with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $3,850 in double occupancy from Belize City. 2 spaces available.
Join Michael and Louise for a wonderful introduction to Belize, featuring beautiful lodges, ancient Maya ruins, and a wonderful assortment of lovely tropical birds.
Texas: Rio Grande Valley, March 11–17, 2019 with Erik Bruhnke; $2,295 in double occupancy from McAllen. 3 spaces available.
The Rio Grande Valley is one of the country's single-best birding areas. March is a superb time to be here as the resident birds are on territory, many of the winter birds are still around, and the season's first northbound migrants are appearing everywhere from the coast to the banks of the Rio Grande. VENT tour leader Erik Bruhnke has led many tours in this area. His skills are superb, and his humor and love of birds are infectious!
The Best of Costa Rica, March 19–31, 2019 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $5,295 in double occupancy from San José.
A complete Costa Rica experience focuses on four major regions: the cloud forest highlands, humid Caribbean lowlands, dry Pacific forest, and wet middle elevation forests. A spectacular trip in every way, The Best of Costa Rica promises hundreds of tropical birds and a broad look at a beautiful country.
Bhutan, March 26–April 14, 2019 with Machiel Valkenburg; $9,795 in double occupancy from New Delhi.
Bhutan offers a Himalayan experience nonpareil. By vehicle and on foot, we will travel a transect of the mountain kingdom, experiencing the birds and wildlife of different elevations of the Himalayan forests while laying eyes on snow-capped mountain peaks and mysterious Buddhist temples.
|Audubon's Oriole - Photo: Greg Lasley
Spring in South Texas, March 31–April 9, 2019 with Barry Zimmer and Jacob Drucker; $3,495 in double occupancy from Corpus Christi (ends in Laredo). 3 spaces available.
Join Barry and Jacob for an "ultimate" South Texas experience. From Corpus Christi to Laredo, this tour includes Whooping Cranes, a day on the legendary King Ranch, range-restricted specialty birds, and immersion in the ecology of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from the coast to Falcon Dam.
Colorado Grouse, April 5–15, 2019 with Brian Gibbons and Michael O'Brien; $3,545 in double occupancy from Denver. 3 spaces available.
VENT was the first company to pioneer a Colorado "chicken" tour. In no other place in North America can one see so many species of grouse and prairie-chickens as on our long-running Colorado Grouse tour. Our grouse-viewing is combined with birds and mammals of the shortgrass prairie.
High Island Migration, April 18–24, 2019 with Erik Bruhnke and Jacob Drucker; $2,245 in double occupancy from Houston.
Experience the joys of spring migration at one of North America's greatest migration hotspots: High Island, on the upper Texas coast. Landbirds, shorebirds, raptors, and waders occur in profusion.
Bolivar Beach House: Migration on the Upper Texas Coast, April 23–30, 2019 with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $2,695 in double occupancy from Houston.
Nothing says casual like birding at famous High Island on the upper Texas coast while spending your nights at a lovely coastal beach house!
Scotland in Style: Birds & History: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, April 23–May 2, 2019 with Andrew Whittaker and Phil Jones; $3,745 in double occupancy from Inverness. 1 space available.
This tour combines birding and scenic highlights with the rich history of Scotland—one of Europe's most beautiful countries.
|Guldenstadt's Redstart, Kazakhstan - Photo: Machiel Valkenburg
Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan, April 24–May 16, 2019 with Machiel Valkenburg; $7,995 in double occupancy from Tashkent (ends in Astana).
Unknown to many, Kazakhstan is one of the world's most beautiful countries. Featuring the snow-capped Altai Mountains, flower-festooned steppe, and an array of highly localized Asian birds, Kazakhstan is a traveler's dream. New for 2019, our tour includes Uzbekistan, home to the famous historical site of Samarkand and a suite of birds we'll not see elsewhere. VENT tour leader Machiel Valkenburg lived in Kazakhstan for years and is intimately familiar with the country, its people, and its birdlife.
Spring Birding in Spain, April 28–May 15, 2019 with Santiago Villa and Brian Gibbons; $6,395 in double occupancy from Sevilla (ends in Madrid). 4 spaces available.
In the opinion of many, Spain is the single-greatest country for birding in Europe. From the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees, diversity is a theme—diversity of scenery and landscapes matched by a diversity of birdlife. Shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds of all types are assured. Moreover, local guide Santi Villa is a wonderful ambassador to his country, where participants will receive broad exposure to Spanish culture, architecture, and cuisine. This is a remarkable tour.
Spring in Cape May: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, May 19–25, 2019 with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O'Brien; $2,195 in double occupancy from Philadelphia. 2 spaces available.
Join Michael and Louise at one of the continent's greatest places for observing bird migration—Cape May, New Jersey—at one of the peak times of the year.
France: Birds & Art in Provence: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, May 20–28, 2019 with Rick Wright and Alison Beringer; $3,695 in double occupancy from Arles. 3 spaces available.
|Les Baux-de-Provence, France - Photo: Rick Wright
The captivating Provence region of France is the setting for a week-long tour that combines the joys of birding, art, and cuisine. This tour is consistently among our most popular of our multi-themed tours.
Birding Across America by Train, May 27–June 9, 2019 with Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $7,695 in double occupancy from Albany (ends in Seattle). 2 spaces available.
This tour is unlike any other we know of. Experience three distinct regions of North America—the Adirondacks of New York, the prairies of North Dakota, and Puget Sound of Washington state—while riding a train across the country from upstate New York to the Pacific coast. Participants on this trip will see well over 200 species of birds.
Spring in the Washington Cascades: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, June 2–8, 2019 with Bob Sundstrom and a second leader to be announced; $2,595 in double occupancy from Seattle.
Perhaps no place in the country is lovelier in early June than Washington state, and perhaps no place offers more appealing birding and scenery than the majestic Cascades. Join veteran tour leader Bob Sundstrom in pursuit of western specialty birds and other flora and fauna.
Brazil: Amazonia on the Rio Roosevelt, June 14–24, 2019 with Andrew Whittaker; $9,095 in double occupancy from Porto Velho.
The legendary Rio Roosevelt is the venue for a trip that seeks widespread species and specialty birds in the heart of Brazil. Good accommodations and meals complement superb birding. This is a specialty trip led by longtime VENT leader and Brazil resident, Andrew Whittaker.
Slovenia & Austria: Birds & Music from Ljubljana to Vienna: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, June 16–July 1, 2019 with Rafael Galvez and a local leader; $7,995 in double occupancy from Ljubljana (ends in Vienna).
Birds and music are combined on this multi-themed tour to two of Europe's most beautiful countries. Austria speaks for itself: historic, architecturally rich, and stunningly scenic; but Slovenia, though less known to many tourists, is a traveler's dream. Featuring the lofty peaks of the Julian Alps, marvelous lakes and forests, and rich montane birdlife, many people regard Slovenia as Europe's best kept secret.
|Black-crowned Pitta, Borneo - Photo: Machiel Valkenburg
Borneo, July 11–29, 2019 with Machiel Valkenburg and a local leader; $8,995 in double occupancy from Kota Kinabalu. 4 spaces available.
Home to a broad suite of special birds, mammals, and reptiles, Borneo is unquestionably one of the world's great wildlife viewing destinations. Orangutans, primates, Bornean Pygmy Elephants, pheasants, hornbills, and the Bornean Bristlehead are all standout species we'll seek. Additionally, a stay at the Danum Valley Lodge is not to be missed.
Northern Peru's Cloud Forest Endemics: Mythical Owlet & Stupendous Spatuletail, August 12–23, 2019 with Andrew Whittaker; $5,145 in double occupancy from Lima.
Join Andrew Whittaker for a trip to the cloud forests of northern Peru, a wonderland of tanagers, hummingbirds, and other extraordinary tropical birds. Seeing the Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird is one highlight among many. This trip is one of our most popular South American tours.
Namibia, Botswana & Zambia, August 24–September 10, 2019 with Geoff Lockwood; $16,495 in double occupancy from Walvis Bay (ends in Livingstone). Limit 6.
One of our most popular tours for many years, this departure showcases the wildlife of magnificent Etosha National Park of Namibia, the famed Okavango River Delta of Botswana, and Victoria Falls of Zambia. Like stepping back into nineteenth century Africa, we'll see plenty of big game, herds of hoofed mammals, cats, and a profusion of easy-to-see birds. Few tours in our entire repertoire offer the diversity and grandeur of this one. This is a specialty tour limited to only six people.
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As VENT embarks on another year of international birding and nature travel, I'll take this opportunity to convey my appreciation to all of you who have taken VENT tours in past years and for the trust you've placed in our company to deliver travel experiences of the highest quality. By participating on our tours, the support you have shown VENT means a great deal to me, and on behalf of all of our hard-working tour leaders and office staff, I extend a warm "Thank you" for choosing to travel with VENT.
I hope you will join a VENT tour in 2019!