The places we go back to

Photo by Nina

To some, the mention of West Virginia conjures images of moonshine, hillbillies and mountains leveled by coal companies. The string of small, almost threadbare towns one finds tucked into the hills in the southern part of the state only reinforces the reputation of the place as somewhat benighted.

Yet I keep wanting to go back.

There are no life birds for me there. As a birder, you can understand the equation necessary between limited travel funds and the possibility of life birds added to one’s list.

Birds are not really why I go.

There’s some other appeal in the homespun spirit of the New River Birding and Nature Festival that draws me back late each Spring. It’s run in such a way that it does end up feeling like summer camp for birders, as Bill Thompson says about it. It’s funny to me now to remember a similar feeling before I ever even went to this festival for the first time.

The field trip groups are kept wonderfully small; intimate, even, compared with most popular birding festivals. The trip leaders, besides being experts, are personable and enthusiastic and actually learn your name. Profits from the festival benefit local schools.

These are important things in my book.

This is the perfect festival for The Flock, too. They spread each of us out among the daily field trips – probably so that no one group will be subjected to the bunch of us together – and give us the chance to spend evenings together at dinner and the presentation. Then they secret us away for the night in a farmhouse in the middle of some marsh where no one can hear our silly antics.

; )

I’ve made lifelong friends there. I’ve seen gorgeous birds and beautiful sights shrouded in mist. There are hillsides drenched in wildflowers. There’s biscuits and strawberry jam at every breakfast. A porch swing and Susan.

Is there any wonder why I go back?

There’s still a couple openings for this year’s festival… join us! If not this year, do put it on your list for someday soon.

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