Hi friends! Today’s post takes us a few miles east of Orlando to the town of Christmas (as evidenced by the red and green in the pic above) and Orlando Wetlands Park. If you want to see Florida wildlife, this is the place to do it.
From the park’s website:
“The Orlando Wetlands Park is a man-made wetland designed to provide advanced treatment for reclaimed water from the City of Orlando and other local cities. The Park is 1650 acres in size and located in Christmas, Florida.”
There are several miles of high-and-dry trails winding their way through the wetland “cells.” There isn’t much in the way of shade, but there are facilities and a few strategically placed benches along the way.
One of my favorite sounds in the world (besides someone cracking open a jar of cookie butter) can be heard here quite regularly:
The black-bellied whistling duck. Their whistling calls are just as cute as you would expect. (You can listen here.) Beautiful birds!
And speaking of beautiful…
One of my kin hiding in the grass. You will see alligators at Orlando Wetlands. They’re in the water, on the trails,
hiding in the toilets… Even the valet parking is staffed by gators. (Tip them well; it’s hard to drive and text with only one hand).
Seriously, though, gators want nothing to do with you. Just leave them be and they’ll do the same. Kind of like those creepy neighbors with the trash bags taped over their windows.
Another bird you’re guaranteed to see here is the red-shouldered hawk:
You’ll often find them on a lofty perch, scanning the area for their next snack. They’re not to be confused with their cousins the red-tailed hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, and the Ethan Hawk. Theirs is another distinctive cry which greets me on many trails like an old friend.
Don’t forget to look for the smaller things. This delicate dragonfly is one of approximately 18,064,377 insects that make the wetlands their home. But don’t let that scare you off. Out on these sunny trails, I’m hardly ever bothered by them. And a can of Off is a constant companion for those times I do decide to delve into the shade canopy.
This is a trail that runs along the western and northern perimeters of the park. It offers quite a bit of shade, but as I said, more bugs too. And it’s sometimes a bit overgrown, so spray yourself and watch for ticks. If there’s one thing Professor Gator hates, it’s ticks.
And canteloupe. Yuck.
To end this post on a happy note:
A female anhinga enjoying a day at the Wetlands. These birds just have tons of personality, and are always a joy to see and film. They are quite at home in the water, spearfishing using their pointed bills. An anhinga sunning itself after a dive is a very common Florida sight–as are Walgreens, silver Lincoln Town Cars, and those really silly “Flo-Grown” stickers.
Thanks for reading! Orlando Wetlands is always a great time, and I feel privileged to have the chance to explore there. It’s a great place for all levels of hikers.