Landfills are wonderful, exciting places. I personally try to visit them often, and it’s a different experience every time. I’ve had the fortune to bird garbage dumps from 60 degrees N to 55 degrees S. The only place potentially more exciting is a sewage lagoon, but short of finding one of those the lure of a new bird at the landfill of the southernmost city in the world was too much to bear. With a few hours to spare during our last day in Ushuaia back in 2009, I decided to take the question of “Who doesnt like the garbage dump?” to the streets. My first survey came up negative. Angie [my partner] does not like landfills. So, she stayed behind. From there though, responses only got more positive. Taxi drivers like landfills; perhaps more to the point, they like dumb tourists who are willing to pay to get a ride to the landfill. This particular driver didn’t seem as shocked by the prospect of going to the dump as the lady in the tourist office was when I asked how to get there. At any rate, he seemed to be familiar with the place (which would be expected since they are so wonderful) and took me directly to the birdiest vantage point. My next respondents all checked the “extremely like” box of the questionaire. Turkey Vultures find waste wonderful. Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles like the landfill. Even the humble Bar-winged Cinclodes basks in the basurero.
Perhaps most enthusiastic, 3 species of caracara (including my lifer White-throated Caracara) delight in the dump. After a while I realized my survey was biased to those respondentswho were already inclined to respond favourably. So I took my extremely scientific and unflawed survey to the forest. However, I could find nothing there. Probably because they were all enjoying their afternoons in some sunny corner of the landfill I could not reach. I thereby conclude, beyond the smallest percentile of a doubt, that not only are dumps marvelous places to spend a few hours, but they are also signifcantly more important in conserving biodiversity than, say, a nice riparian stretch of river, or an old-growth forest.