Wherever I travel, I look for birds. Big cities, the suburbs, the sands of Namibia, and a few years back, Disney World. Disney World is huge, spread over 43 square miles and employing 50,000 people. Hordes of people, tens of thousands of vehicles, and enormous structures are everywhere, although a lot of natural vegetation exists between the facilities.
Most of the birds I saw were those adjusted to this strange environment: Common and Boat-tailed Grackles , White Ibises, House Sparrows, Black Ducks, and Little Blue Herons. Surprisingly, Palm Warblers hung around outdoor eating places looking for crumbs. Flying overhead, Black Vultures and Sandhill Cranes were common. American Crows and the virtually identical Fish Crows abounded as well. But the environment was not generally conducive to birds. I especially felt sorry for all the captive birds – exotic parrots, ducks, cranes, pelicans etc. because their wings were clipped and they were subjected to constant noise, lights, fireworks, and the general commotion of the theme parks.
Disney does a reasonable job of educating people about the environment, especially at its Animal Kingdom park. But I hate to see animals captured in the wild and displayed to the public, even in a nice facility. But don’t get me wrong, I think Disney does a lot of stuff right. With many thousands of people swarming like wildebeests on migration among and between four major theme parks and dozens of resorts and other recreational facilities, it could easily be overwhelming and frustrating, but Disney does a spectacular job of handling everything. I, my wife, and granddaughter, were not once frustrated by long lines or screw-ups. Everything was extremely well-organized, perfectly maintained, clean, and safe. If you haven’t been, go. Pack one suitcase lightly with clothes and one with money, and you are all set. For me, though, one visit is plenty.
I saw a woman taking several close up photos of some domestic-mallard hybrid ducks. I thought it was sad that she is so detached from the natural world that mutt ducks next to a Tinker Bell statue were interesting to her. We need amusement parks, but we need natural habitats more. Entertainment is one thing; giving us life support in the form of water and oxygen is a bit more important. Preserving bird and other animal species for future generations is a task that becomes more significant and more difficult each day. People are enchanted by animatronic elephants, robotic alligators, and talking ostriches, but unless we focus more resources on saving environments across the world, animated plastic and rubber creatures will be all our great grand-children have.
I’ve seen the Gorillas in Uganda; the country is also a great place for birding. It’s expensive, but not only will it be a once-in-a lifetime adventure for me, my ecotourism money will support conservation efforts, paying the Ugandans for saving the habitat for these incredible creatures, so that my descendents will have the same opportunity.