ANY CARLOAD of vacationers wandering the backroads of America has at least one wildlife spotter in its midst. "Hey," someone shouts, "what's that?" And all heads swivel in unison to glimpse a furry creature disappearing into the trees.
Unfortunately, this is about as much of wildlife in its natural habitat as most of us ever see. One solution, for vacationers who want a closer look, is to take a nature tour under the leadership of an experienced guide. The tours come in many forms: Jeep safaris in the African game parks and whale-watching cruises off Baja California are two of the most popular examples.
Perhaps less familiar is the schedule of worldwide bird-watching expeditions offered each year by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours Inc. (VENT) of Austin, Tex., which attract not only experienced bird-spotters but also novices intrigued by the spectacle of migrating flocks.
"Birding," as practitioners refer to bird-watching, is both an esthetic enjoyment and a learning experience, says VENT, which organizes about 50 guided trips a year limited to groups of 14 to 16. Unlike many outdoor adventures, the emphasis is on comfort: first-class hotels and fine restaurants, wherever available, at some of the world's noteworthy birding grounds.
Several of the annual tours are in the firm's own backyard, along the Texas coast. For a birder, says VENT, few places provide such drama as the annual spring migration. "The sense of movement is everywhere. Fields are dotted with shorebirds. Woodlands ring with the voices of newly returned summer residents." VENT director Victor Emanuel, a birder for 26 years, is a past president of the Texas Ornithological Society.
But trips elsewhere are scheduled throughout the year. At summer's end, the destination is Washington State for a two-week trip (Sept. 1 to 16) that will range from the scenic coastline to alpine tundra, with visits to both Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks. The expectations are that participants will identify more than 200 species of birds. Several boating trips are planned to watch the birds of the ocean. The cost is $1,540 from Seattle, wncludes food, lodging, tour transportation and guide service.
"September is an excellent time of year to vi advises the descriptive catalogue. "It is a relatively dry month . . . Fall migration is in full swing and siywhere: roving flocks of warblers in the mountain forest, sparrows stranded at a desert oasis, shorebirds, watoving along the coast."
Other trips are scheduled in the fall to Australia, Bolivia, Brazil and Mexico, incon Bay area of Canada where the focus is more on polar bears than on birds. For several weeks each year, says along the Churchill River--northern forest giving way to tundra--is home for more polar bears than any other plaour dates are Oct. 27 to Nov. 3 and Nov. 3 to 12 at a cost of $1,135 from Winnipeg.
The guides on all the tpoint of seeing that everyone in the group has a chance to see each species. It is a skill, says VENT manager Many people can spot wildlife, but not everyone is adept at pinpointing its location for others.
For more i Emanuel Nature Tours, Inc., P.O. Box 33008, Austin, Tex. 78764 or (512) 477-5091. For other nature tours, contact a travel agent and wildlife organizations or consult an adventure travel guide. LUGGAGE LAMENT: It seems so obvious, but not everyone, apparently, heeds the warning not to pals in luggage that is going to be checked on a flight. The result can be a scene witnessed at an airline bagge recent evening:
The woman had just arrived back home after a trip, but somehow her suitcase had not made her. She reported the missing bag, and, to her relief, was told that it would be sent along on the next flight. Unfortunately, the next flight wouldn't arrive until the fol The woman nodded, but then realization struck. "But I packed my house keys," she said. "And my car keys." "At am I going to do?" She was still shaking her head in bewilderment as she left the airline office.