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Sand County Almanac ©​ Aldo Leopold


July 17, 2019

Dear friends:

Books can have a great influence on people. Delia Owens, the author of Where the Crawdads Sing (2018), wrote that Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949), the first book of nature writing she read changed her view of the world with words such as, “It is warm behind the driftwood now, for the wind has gone with the geese. So would I–if I were the wind.” A Sand County Almanac is one of my favorite nature books along with Spring in Washington (1947), by Louis J. Halle.

Edwin Way Teale—naturalist, photographer, and writer—and his wife, Nellie, made four automobile journeys across America in the 1940s and 50s. He wrote books describing each of these trips: North With the Spring (1951), Journey Into Summer (1960), Autumn Across America (1956), and Wandering Through Winter (1965).  In Journey Into Summer he writes, “Knowing how things work is interesting. But there is more to nature than the facts of nature. There are beauty and poetry and awe and wonder. It is well to view the world at times to see such things of beauty as the rainbow, the aurora, the cumulus cloud and the butterfly—as the child or the first man saw them.”

Poetry that is based on nature observation is another way of increasing your appreciation of nature. My favorite poem is “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  The final lines are:

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Spring in Washington © Louis J. Halle

Discovering a new book is like making a new friend, because our books are our windows to the world. Recently, at a friend’s house, I saw a copy of Art of Birds (1985) by the Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda. It contains 39 poems about Chilean birds. One entitled “Many-colored Rush-Tyrant” is as follows:

In the lagoon the cattails,
The wet reedbed,
some drops alive and aflame:
suddenly a movement,
a minuscule banner,
a scale of the rainbow:
the sun swiftly set it afire.
How were its seven colors combined?
How did it assume all the light?

There it was but was not:
The gust of wind is gone,
Perhaps does not exist,
But the cattail is still quivering.

I hope you will make time to enjoy some of these books and poems.

In this issue:



Abbey Church of St. Peter, Salzburg © Michey Kirilloff/Shutterstock

Prior to last year, we had never thought of operating a tour to Salzburg, Austria during the Christmas season, until my friend Birgit Bateman told me that she and her husband Bob had once spent Christmas there. She felt it was one of the best Christmases of their lives. Because VENT tour leader Rick Wright has for years led a wonderful array of tours in Europe that combine birds, art, and culture, it occurred to me that perhaps he would be interested in leading such a trip. I contacted him with the offer and was delighted when he readily accepted!

This new tour, Austria: Christmas in Salzburg, will spend the Christmas holiday in one of Europe’s most beautiful and storied cities. Led by Rick and his wife, Alison Beringer, our activities offer a captivating blend of high culture—dramatic medieval and Baroque architecture, a wonderful Christmas market, and musical performances—and high-quality birding amid stunning natural settings. This tour provides a relaxed experience based out of a single hotel.

If you share my love for history, classical music, and nature, this trip will be perfect for you. Imagine hearing Mozart’s music in the city where he was born! I hope you will register for one of the remaining spaces on this marvelous trip.

Austria: Christmas in Salzburg: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, December 19–27, 2019 with Rick Wright and Alison Beringer; $4,595 in double occupancy from Salzburg. Limit 14.


As I’ve discussed on many previous occasions, East Africa is probably the greatest destination in the world for wildlife viewing. In addition to big game watching, the birding is extraordinary. Among the many pleasures of birding in East Africa is that the birds are not only plentiful, but are easy to see. Combine the birding and mammal viewing with remarkable landscapes, and you have the ingredients for the perfect trip.

This winter VENT will return to East Africa with a January departure to Uganda and a February tour to Northern Tanzania. Both of these trips will be led by longtime VENT tour leader Kevin Zimmer, who has led tours to these wonderful places for a number of years.

Anyone who has traveled with Kevin knows him as a wonderful birder and naturalist and someone who is great fun to be with in the field. He is enthusiastic and a great sharer of information, not to mention an excellent raconteur. I have led a number of tours with Kevin and can assure you that any tour with him will be a rewarding travel experience. I hope you will consider joining Kevin Zimmer on one of these fine East Africa tours:

Lion, Uganda © Dion Hobcroft
Mountain Gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda © Dion Hobcroft

Uganda Highlights

By any measure, Uganda is an extraordinary destination. It has everything that the traveling birder or naturalist could ask for including wonderful mammal viewing, a marvelous avifauna that some birders maintain is the finest in Africa, and unforgettable geographic features. While other countries in East and Southern Africa host many of the same mammals, it is the opportunity to see Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees—attractions that are not available on any other VENT tour—that is a primary highlight of this tour. On top of that, Uganda is the best place in Africa to see the remarkable Shoebill, one of the “most wanted” birds in Africa. Here, in the interface where the savannahs of East Africa meet the jungles of West Africa, are hundreds of tropical birds, forest primates, and other creatures. Other standout activities of this tour are visits to Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls, and several national parks.

Uganda Highlights: Gorillas, Chimpanzees & Shoebills, January 11–30, 2020 with Kevin Zimmer and a local leader; $11,995 in double occupancy from Entebbe. Limit 8. 3 spaces available.

Note: If you are unable to travel in January, we will also operate a summer departure with veteran tour leader, Dion Hobcroft:

Uganda Highlights: Gorillas, Chimpanzees & Shoebills, June 15–July 4, 2020 with Dion Hobcroft and a local leader; $11,995 in double occupancy from Entebbe. Limit 8. 3 spaces available.

Honey Badger, Southern Tanzania © Kevin Zimmer

Northern Tanzania

Northern Tanzania offers what many consider the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth. Years ago I made my first trip to Tanzania with my late friend Peter Matthiessen. While I had already been to Kenya previously, I fell in love with Tanzania and its tremendous concentrations of wildlife. But that was decades ago, and after hearing for years from other VENT tour leaders about how much they loved Tanzania, I felt a strong need to return. In the fall of 2018, I co-led our Northern Tanzania tour with my longtime colleague, David Wolf. As with that first trip with Peter, I was mesmerized by the extraordinary collections of birds and mammals that we encountered.

VENT’s Northern Tanzania tour capitalizes on the sheer volume of birds and mammals present during the winter months including a million calving wildebeest and an abundance of other big game, such as Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah. On the birding front, Tanzania offers world-class birding possibilities, as evidenced by the fact that our tours regularly record over 400 species! Finally, it is also important to point out that this tour will take you to a number of the most famous locations and national parks in all of East Africa including Lake Victoria, Arusha, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, and Tarangire and will stay in superb lodges.

Northern Tanzania: Birding & Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Beyond, February 16–March 4, 2020 with Kevin Zimmer and a local leader; $12,795 in double occupancy from Arusha. 4 spaces available.

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Red-crowned Cranes, Japan © Kaz Shinoda


I have always had an affinity for places where wildlife can be seen in spectacular concentrations, and one such place is Japan in the wintertime, where large gatherings of cranes, sea-eagles, and waterfowl are nothing short of marvelous.

Our exciting Japan in Winter tour will visit Hokkaido as well as two other islands. Aside from the beautiful Red-crowned Crane, we’ll see the world’s largest eagle, the Steller’s Sea-Eagle, and the world’s largest owl, the Blakiston’s Fish-Owl. The tour also includes a visit to the Arasaki Crane Reserve on the island of Kyushu where over 10,000 Hooded and White-naped cranes winter. Common, Demoiselle, and Siberian cranes are also possible here. Additionally, we expect encounters with many other exciting year-round resident and winter birds including Whooper Swan, Smew, White-tailed Eagle, Azure-winged Magpie, Japanese Woodpecker, Japanese Grosbeak, and a wonderful collection of other waterbirds and woodland birds.

This trip will be led by Kaz Shinoda, a native of Japan. In addition to his strong birding and natural history skills, Kaz is a guide to Japanese culture, a not-to-be-overlooked aspect of this trip.

I encourage you to read Kaz’s tour report from our 2019 departure.

Japan in Winter: A Crane & Sea-Eagle Spectacle!, January 18–30, 2020 with Kaz Shinoda and a local leader; $7,795 in double occupancy from Tokyo. Limit 9.

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For all of the wonderful aspects of a life in the bird tour business, we are occasionally dealt a blow when we learn of the passing of one of our travelers. Such was the case several months ago when we received the news of the passing of VENT tour participant Larry Broeren.

Some of our longtime travelers have taken more than 20 VENT tours while others have taken many more than that. Since 1995, Larry participated on 56 VENT tours, a remarkable number that placed him in the top five frequent travelers in VENT’s history. For most of that time, Larry traveled with his wife, Carolyn, with whom he participated on 36 tours, until her passing in 2015.

Larry’s last tour was a trip to Bhutan this spring. His last life bird was a pair of Small Niltava, a fitting finale for Larry, as the small size and coloration of this species is reminiscent of that of the Western Bluebird, a bird that he loved. According to family and friends, Larry saw a total of 4,996 species of birds in his life. Including the most recent round of taxonomic changes, Larry’s life list almost certainly exceeded 5,000, fully half of the world’s birds. A tremendous accomplishment indeed.

To those of us who knew Larry and traveled with him, he will be remembered as a friend, a great person with whom to share birds and nature, and, simply, one of the good guys. He will be missed.


It’s hard to believe that we’ve already passed the half-way point of the year. It seems like only last week that I was on the Texas coast enjoying the first northbound migrants of the spring, yet the reality is that it’s already been three months. Of course, working in the travel industry only accentuates the feeling of the quick passage of time, as we’re always planning far into the future. For instance, we’ve already begun work on our 2021 tour schedule! But while we are always looking forward, it’s important to realize that there’s much to be enjoyed in the here and now. So, while many people are making travel plans for 2020 and beyond, I thought I would remind you that there is still plenty of time to enjoy birds and nature in the remaining months of 2019.

Looking ahead to the last four months of the year, VENT will operate a number of tours on which spaces are still available. The collection of travel opportunities I present here are grouped variously according to time horizon, personal interest, and one’s preference in traveling internationally or staying right here at home in the USA. I hope one of these fine tours will pique your interest.

If you are able to travel on relatively short notice, I thought you might like to know about a handful of September tour opportunities to international destinations near and far…

Snow Leopards of Mongolia: Birds & Rare Mammals of the Mongolian Wilderness, September 1–15, 2019 with Rafael Galvez and a local leader; $8,995 in double occupancy from Ulaanbaatar. Limit 10. 1 space available.

Autumn Grand Manan: Birds & Whales, September 2–8, 2019 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $3,595 in double occupancy from Bangor, Maine. Limit 12. 1 space available.

Brazil: Pantanal Safari (Birds & Jaguars), September 3–17, 2019 with Andrew Whittaker and a local leader; $7,695 in double occupancy from Cuiaba. Limit 12. 1 space available.

Red-and-green Macaws at clay lick on riverbank, Manu © Robert (Spike) Baker

Peru: Manu Biosphere Reserve, September 3–18, 2019 with David Ascanio; $7,295 in double occupancy from Lima. Limit 10. 6 spaces available.

Or perhaps a Birds & Art tour to Europe—one that combines birds, nature, and culture—captures your fancy…

Poland: Birds & Art in Royal Krakow–A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, September 3–11, 2019 with Rick Wright and Gerard Gorman; $2,995 in double occupancy from Krakow. Limit 12. 2 spaces available.

Germany: Birds & Art in Berlin & Brandenburg–A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, September 29–October 8, 2019 with Rick Wright.; $3,895 in double occupancy from Berlin. Limit 8. 2 spaces available.

Then again, the autumn is a wonderful time for domestic travel

Washington: Fall Migration in the Pacific Northwest, September 8–16, 2019 with Bob Sundstrom and George Gerdts; $3,495 in double occupancy from Seattle. Limit 12. 1 space available.

Cape May: The Magic of Fall Migration, September 15–21, 2019 with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O’Brien; $2,195 in double occupancy from Philadelphia. Limit 14. 5 spaces available.

Fall Hawaii, October 9–18, 2019 with Brennan Mulrooney and Erik Bruhnke; $5,450 from Honolulu (ends in Hilo). Limit 12. 1 space available.

Rockport, Texas: A Bonanza of Wintering Birds, November 11–15, 2019; $1,595 in double occupancy from Corpus Christi. Limit 14.

…and also a good time to see the world

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Panama © Kevin Zimmer
White-necked Rockfowl, Ghana © B. Cottele

Ghana, October 23–November 11, 2019 with Machiel Valkenburg and a local leader; $6,995 in double occupancy from Accra. Limit 8. 3 spaces available.

Panama: Fall at El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, October 26–November 2, 2019 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. Limit 14. 4 spaces available.

Wild Patagonia & Central Chile: Pumas, Penguins, Condors & More!, November 1–18, 2019 with Andrew Whittaker and Fernando Diaz; $12,995 in double occupancy from Santiago. Limit 12. 1 space available.

Ecuador: The Northwestern Andean Slopes, November 9–17, 2019 with Paul Greenfield; $3,295 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14. 6 spaces available.

New Zealand Highlights, November 30–December 18, 2019 with Dion Hobcroft and a local leader; $8,495 in double occupancy from Auckland (ends in Dunedin). Limit 12. 2 spaces available.

And last but not least, I present a special opportunity with David Ascanio, a new tour to Guyana, previously private but now available to VENT travelers…

Red Siskin © Jhonathan Miranda

Guyana: A Tropical Catharsis, October 19–27, 2019 with Mike Braun, David Ascanio, and Ron Allicock; $6,795 in double occupancy from Georgetown. Limit 14. 5 spaces available. Combine with Guyana: Iwokrama Rainforest Pre-trip, October 14–21, and pay $7,995 in double occupancy from Georgetown.

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In Journey Into Summer, Edwin Way Teale wrote, “Spring and autumn are constantly changing active seasons. Summer is more stable, more predictable. We consider it the high point of the year, with spring moving toward it and autumn retreating from it. In summer life is easier, the food and warmth more abundant…most persons have the highest level of good feeling, the greatest sense of well being, in summertime.”

Journey into Summer © Edwin Way Teale

Where most people live, summer is a great season. It is also a great season for travel in the regions where we offer tours. Thanks to good rains, this summer in central Texas started with a continuation of the great wildflower show we enjoyed all spring. Soon, southbound migrant shorebirds will start returning. I am looking forward to being at my beach house on the Bolivar Peninsula this weekend where I expect to see lots of herons, egrets, ibis, pelicans, plovers, sandpipers, gulls, and terns.

I hope you are enjoying a good summer.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight
                        --Percy Bysshe Shelley

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel

Copyright © 2019, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours
2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003
Austin, TX 78746
800-328-8368 / 512-328-5221