Good advice! Eau Claire area is quite lovely, as well. Two rivers [Chippewa, Eau Claire], scenic area, great regional parks [parking fee], magnificent, stately homes. They don't quite match the mansions of New England, but they're photogenic all the same.
I bought the Tamrom 18-270 along with the Nikon D 90. It has been a workhorse of a lens! Highly recommend it.
For our money, the Sibley Guide is very useful. Learned with Peterson, expanded with Audubon; but, Sibley is a great overall guide with outstanding drawings.