So, we meet again, this time with me being a completely different person, so it’s actually as if we’re meeting for the very first time. A different person because I’m now a Western person, a cowboy, if you will. Last March, I packed my bags and binoculars and bird guides and moved to Boulder, Utah, to try to make it big on the Western Birding Circuit. I came out here as sort of a modern day pioneer, if you will, ready to “strike gold” and ensure my legacy in the Top 100 eBirders of Garfield County. This move was quite a controversial one, as I had previously been poised to easily overtake the number one spot in Allegheny County, my former home back in the ‘Burgh area. The other ‘Burgher birders begged me to stay, for without me they had much less of a chance to find any birds themselves. You probably read some of their pleas for my reconsideration in the classifieds section of that month’s issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest. (LOL, I’m only joking, I know nobody reads that magazine!) But nay, I had to give that all away in hopes of even greater glory: my very own Manifest Destiny, if you will: to become the greatest eBirder OF ALL TIME in Garfield County, Utah!!!
And lo, I did it! Oh, you knew I’d do it!!! Yes, you may recall my earlier travails Out West, when I sought the throne of Number One Garfield County eBirder for all of 2014, only to fall just short behind my very own girlfriend. Sure, that was still a stunning feat which would likely be enough to suit your average birdwatcher like Richard Crossley, but I’m no birdwatcher, I’m a birder. So this only left me with a yearning for an EVEN BIGGER achievement, as I noticed the title of Best All Time was within reach! So I gave up my cushy ‘Burgh life and set my goals for that prestigious title. Over the course of the year, I honed my crafts of bird-finding and bird-photographing and bird-appreciating. I didn’t let the fiery glare of the relentless desert sun get in my eyes and distract me from seeing a single bird! Within mere days of living Out West, I illustriously ascended to the absolute top of the ranks for the year, never to relinquish that grasp. (It’ll take more than just a weekend trip to Bryce Canyon to best me, Gerard de Jong!) Soon enough, sure enough, there I was: right at the very top of the Top 100 eBirders in Garfield County, not only for that year, but for every year, OF ALL TIME!!!!! Don’t believe me? Well then what do you have to say about this indisputable evidence, sucker: http://ebird.org/ebird/top100?locInfo.regionCode=US-UT-017&year=AAAA
Yes, I realize what you’re thinking: “But Ryan, you accomplished this all in little under one calendar year?! But how is that even possible for one man???!” Well, pull up a seat, and let me show and tell you all about My “Big Year” of Birding in the Utah Desert!
Just a boy, his binoculars, and the desert!
Here’s a photograph of me next to some type of desert shrubs, or “scrubs” as they’re known Out West.
Look how hot it is out here in the desert! Good thing selfies like this are the perfect opportunity to provide my body with some much needed shade!
Yep, that’s me, just a good old Western boy out in his natural habitat: a canyon.
Here I am underneath a real life Desert Arch! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see? I just love the artistry of this selfie: the way the Sun is shining right into the lens, demonstrating how it endlessly bakes the land below. FYI: the Sun is the definitive source of heat in the desert!!!
Contrary to popular belief, there actually sometimes is water in the desert, so you usually don’t even need to bring any yourself if you don’t want to. Just look how excited I am to safely quench my thirst in this stream I found! (If you look carefully at the bottom of the frame, you’ll notice my empty water bottle, which I’ve brought with me to fill up on just such an occasion! That’s the motto of the desert: “Be prepared, like the Boy Scouts always say.”)
Here’s a selfie of me in some sort of field or something, I don’t really remember this one. (Forgive me, it’s been such a long incredible journey of a year, chock full of all kinds of amazing birding adventures like this!)
The little cuuuuutie in this nonselfie is my “main squeeze” Heather. She really likes this blog a whole lot and thinks it’s cool and interesting that I do this and she is always eager to be a part of it in any way possible, sometimes even helping me line up my selfie shots. Ah yes, and one last little tidbit about her: she also just so happens to be the NUMBER TWO ALL-TIME BIRDER IN GARFIELD COUNTY, behind yours truly!!! Sorry fellas, she’s taken, by me!
You best be believin’ I brought my “main man” Huck out here too! With that rugged bandanna, doesn’t he look like he truly belongs here in The Wild Wild West, like a real cowboy? Yeah, he’s a regular Kenny Chesney all right!
Speaking of cowboys, here’s a shot I took while I was just out wrangling up some cattle in my Dodge Neon. Could The Wild Wild West possibly be any wilder wilder???!
Here I am in my cool authentic Western Hat, doing the ultimate impression of the ultimate cowboy: Clint Eastwood. “Well, ya feelin’ kinda lucky, ya punk?” LOL!
There’s even a mountain here in the desert, covered in pine trees. As you can see, I think pine trees are pretty neat, since we don’t have them back in the East. This one was wider than my head!
A selfie of me in front of some white trees. You’re probably thinking: “Trees? In the desert?!” If so, please go back and read the caption for the previous photograph, proving that there are in fact trees out here.
This is just one of the many examples of the fabulous types of ethnic Western meals I’ve been eating out here.
Here’s me just straight cruisin’.
Cruisin’ again. Just how I roll.
This is a selfie of me in my Western shower. Who knew I’d still be able to get this wet out here in the dry desert?
Look at this serene image from over the summer: you can see how I’m just savoring the lovely scent of this gorgeous desert flower. Sometimes when I’m out on a hardcore birding mission, I need to just stop and relax for a moment, to try to take in the beauty of nature in the midst of all the crazy work involved in checking more birds off my list.
And to think: this is what I sacrificed in order to pursue my dreams Out West! This selfie was from way back when I was merely the ‘Burgher Birder Blogger in the ‘Burgh, living the sweet life of a parking lot attendant. How far I’ve come, especially in my skills as a selfie photographer!
And here I am today! Undisputed Champ of Garfield County… in the SNOW… what the… ?!?! Yes, you aren’t mistaken: it actually sometimes even snows out here in the desert!!! Unbelievable, right? My dog actually needs to wear a sweater… in the DESERT???!!! Now I’ve seen everything!
And last but not least, but really the very best part about Boulder, Utah: it’s only five and a half hours away from Vegas, baby! #RoadTrip! Worth the drive if only to go to this fancy Guy Fieri restaurant, which served me the finest meal I’ve eaten in my entire life!!! (Or as Guy would say: “That was awesome!”)
Okay, what better way to wrap up my birding adventures of 2015 than with a Guy Fieri quote?! Wasn’t that whole thing interesting?! If that’s not a “Big Year,” then I don’t know what is! Now bring on 2016, where after the desert heats back up and all this snow melts and the birds come back, I’m sure to maintain my stronghold as The Best (e)Birder in Garfield County… EVER!!!!!