Fun at the Orlando Wetlands Park Festival

The 8th annual Orlando Wetlands Festival, which is scheduled to take place on 23 February 2008 at the Orlando Wetlands Park, is organized by the City of Orlando and the Orange Audubon Society as a joint venture. This popular event is a celebration of flora and fauna, with the emphasis on the prolific birdlife that is present in the wetlands, including migratory birds using the area as a stop-over point.

The Orlando Wetlands Park is a world renowned example of successful Wetlands Engineering. The 1,650 acres of land is a series of man-made lakes and ponds which have been planted with numerous species of aquatic plants. These form treatment marshes that serve the purpose of removing excess nutrients from reclaimed wastewater before it is released into the nearby St. Johns River. Tests have revealed that the water discharged into the St. Johns River is cleaner than the water within the river, showing how effective this system is in benefiting the environment.

The Orlando Wetlands Festival is a family-oriented event with many activities taking place throughout the day. The Orange Audubon Society is arranging guided bird watching excursions as well as guided nature photo shoots under the leadership of experts in the field. Hikers will have ample opportunity to view and take photos of the many bird species in the park. Birds that bird watchers are likely to encounter include the Snail Kite, Roseate Spoonbill and Anhinga. The Anhinga, which is sometimes called Snakebird, is a fish-eating cormorant-like bird with dark plumage and a long neck. It very often swims with only its neck above the water, looking very much like a snake which is ready to strike, hence the name of Snakebird.

The Florida Native Plant Society will be leading hikes, during which indigenous plants will be identified and discussed. Energetic visitors can plan to join the Florida Trail Association for guided wilderness hikes and for the not so energetic, guided bus tours will give visitors the opportunity to experience Florida’s wild wetlands in comfort.

In addition to the many guided tours, visitors can look forward to demonstrations of bird banding and mist-netting – the use of soft, fine nets to safely capture birds for banding and research purposes. When used correctly, this method of bird catching seldom causes injury and is an invaluable tool for bird conservationists.

Police canine demonstrations form part of the day’s program. These intelligent, highly trained dogs put on an amazing show that is always a crowd-pleaser. Adding to the festival atmosphere, live folk music will entertain visitors throughout the day.

Various wildlife shows will feature live animals such as Florida panthers, alligators, birds, snakes and much more. Each family will receive a free backyard tree from the City of Orlando’s Families, Parks and Recreation Division. Families are encouraged to plant this tree, thereby making a positive contribution to the environment.

Other activities to be featured at the Orlando Wetlands Park Festival include tree climbing, hayrides, rock climbing and games. Visitors are encouraged to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and to bring their cameras and off-road bicycles. However, pets must remain at home. Without a doubt, the 8th annual Orlando Wetlands Park Festival promises to be a fun-filled day for the entire family.