With more than 220 bird species and 63 butterfly species the Orlando Wetlands Park (now open year round) is a “must visit” for birders and wildlife viewers. This large wetlands treatment facility uses aquatic plants to polish already treated wastewater before discharging it into the St. Johns River. This process prevents algae blooms in the St. Johns and provides a fertile habitat for all kinds of wildlife! Look for Least and American Bittern (winter), Purple Gallinule, Limpkin and Osprey. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Crested Caracara, Snail Kite and Short-tailed Hawk are possible. Watch for Purple Martin nesting in trees each spring – this is one of the few places east of the Mississippi where they nest in natural cavities! A hammock trail that begins at the parking lot and winds east around Lake Searcy and north through a hammock can be good for migratory songbirds. There is a small butterfly garden near the entrance with an exhibit on butterflies; Palamedes Swallowtail, Pearl Crescent, Queen, Whirlabout and Carolina Satyr are common; ask at the education center about earning your Wings Over Florida butterfly certificate. Hiking is, for the most part, on raised, exposed dikes. Plan for full sun exposure and insects, and watch for summer thunderstorms. Large alligators also inhabit these wetlands, and may bask on the dikes. Visit the education center; call ahead for tour schedule. A wetlands festival is held here each February.