Last week, I headed off to the American Federation of Aviculture conference in St. Louis. I was quite happy to find respite from California after the earthquake, and I swear I felt an aftershock as I waited to board my plane at Orange County Airport! St. Louis was hot and rainy; it was like being swallowed up by a humidifier. Ironically, I froze most of the time. It was held indoors at the Marriot by the airport, so, of course, we were blasted by the air conditioner. The great part about going to a conference is that I can catch up with bird people I’ve known for years, and I also get to meet new bird people. The hardest part of attending an out-of-state conference is that it reminds me how much I miss my flock at home. Imagine sitting through a presentation about how much your bird gets out of interacting with you, and here you are, a thousand miles away. It makes me want to call home and say “I miss you Ollie, I miss you Gracie. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of face time when I get home.” Actually, I usually do this whenever I’m on the road; I call home to talk to my flock. Sometimes, you hear a great talk about trying a new way of feeding your birds and you’re itching to try it right away. That’s how I felt about a talk about growing dandelions and other “weeds” for birds. But I was arriving home on a late-night Sunday flight and then it was back in the office on Monday. So growing my own garden will have to wait until the next free weekend. I also find myself thankful. Thankful that my bird doesn’t have PDD, which Dr. Ian Tizard spoke about, or thankful to the researchers and conservationists who showed us how they are trying to save our parrots’ natural habitats. Next week, I’m off to Savannah, Ga., for the Association of Avian Veterinarians conference. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot, but I’m also sure a lot of the information will be way over my head; after all, these talks are “vets teaching vets,” and my aptitude for science is comparably much more limited. Still, I’ll be scouting topics BIRD TALK readers will find interesting and helpful. I’m already preparing the flock for my absence, and I will reassure them that I will be only a phone call away.