New Jersey, here I come!
I am getting so excited for this trip. For one thing, I really, REALLY need some time away from work and my hum-drum, every day life. I love my job and am generally happy, but just now, I need a change of pace.
For another, birding festivals are really fun times. If you are a birder and haven't done a birding event of some sort, I strongly advise it. It can be a three day weekend, like the upcoming Autumn Weekend at Cape May, Oct. 24-26, or a full week, like the New River Gorge Birding and Nature Festival, where birder-blogger chicks will Flock next spring, or even a one day field trip or symposium, like those offered by the Ohio Ornithological Society.
I get so much out of these events - a chance to hang with like-minded people, to learn something new about birds and nature, and to get out in the field with experienced birders. There, I see new birds and get better at seeing the birds I already know. A lot of what I know about birding by ear I picked up by going out with good birders and learning how to listen. Tapes and CDs can only take you so far - you need to practice in the field with someone who can lend you a hand (ear?) I have come a long way from my early days: "What's that? Cardinal. What's that? Another cardinal. OK, what's THAT? Yet another variation of cardinal." Birders are always happy to teach and to share.
Besides birding, I get to meet (finally!) a woman I have known for 8 years, but whom I have never met in person. Holly (a person, not my dog), an occasional commenter here, and I have been friends since 2000, when we met through an Internet community bulletin board. We have helped each other through many experiences, yet have never seen each other. She lives close to Cape May, and we are planning a get-together. I can't wait to see her IRL.
And finally, I'm getting a chance to meet Lynne and Laura, to talk with them, to bird with them, and most especially, to party with them.
Look out, New Jersey - the midwest girls are migrating east!