Orlando Wetlands Park

Orlando Wetlands Park is a nature preserve located in Christmas, Florida (between Orlando and Cocoa Beach). It's a fun place to hike and photograph all the typical Florida marsh species.

Photography Advice

Take the longest lens that you're willing to carry on a hike. You'll likely walk several miles. Also carry a wide-angle lens for sunrise.

Website

http://www.orlandowetlands.org/

Hours

Sunrise to sunset

Trail Map

Map

Orlando Wetlands Park Blog Archives

  • Birdy Morning at the Orlando Mudflats

    Birdy Morning at the Orlando Mudflats

    A morning of photography at Orlando Wetlands gone awry with the de-mucking project - revealing a Wilson's Snipe and upside-down American Goldfinch
  • Fall Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Fall Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

    A fall walk at Orlando Wetlands Park gave me a chance to photograph our returning winter birds
  • Musical Trees with the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

    Musical Trees with the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

    Black-bellied Whistling Duck nesting territory disputes are very animated when more than 2 birds lay claim to a dead palm tree!
  • Sunrise Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Sunrise Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

    A summer sunrise at Orlando Wetlands with the birds...Pileated Woodpecker, baby Purple Gallinules, some Least Bitterns, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks!
  • Winter Birds Returning to Orlando Wetlands Park

    Winter Birds Returning to Orlando Wetlands Park

    The winter birds are coming back to Orlando Wetlands Park. We had a Painted Bunting, American Bittern, and a camera-shy Merlin
  • Tiny Dancers and Other Birds at Orlando Wetlands

    Tiny Dancers and Other Birds at Orlando Wetlands

    An early September walk at Orlando Wetlands Park yielded photos of Snowy Egrets, Belted Kingfisher, and other wading birds
  • Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Finally!  A day off when it wasn’t raining!  So I dusted off my cameras and headed to photograph sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park.  I got there just as the gate was being opened – perfect timing!  The sky was already lightening as I headed to one of my favorite sunrise spots. It never fails.  We get beautiful wispy clouds every morning as the sun rises on the way to work.  But on the weekend when I’m in a pretty location, the sunrise never is as good!  On this morning, the clouds caught some of the sun’s fire, but the thick clouds on the horizon hid most of the actual sunrise. I wasn’t the only one watching the sunrise.  The park was full of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, whose cheerful calls echoed throughout the wetlands.  They flew around in small flocks as the light got stronger.  Many of them were perched in the trees backlit by the rising sun.  I put a 2x teleconverter on The Beast  and got some silhouette shots.  At one point these two birds started to fuss, and one started to bite the other bird’s foot!  It reminded me of my cats when Whiskey sneaks in to steal Squirt’s …
  • Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

    Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

    Mother Nature treated me to a beautiful sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park over my Labor Day vacation. The colors were magnificent!
  • A Breath of Fresh Air

    A Breath of Fresh Air

    A quiet nature walk at sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park. Barn Swallows posed for me and the Belted Kingfishers are back in Florida!
  • Last Orlando Wetlands Park Visit of the Year

    Last Orlando Wetlands Park Visit of the Year

    The birds were great at Orlando Wetlands Park. Eagles and whistling ducks and a Peregrine Falcon, oh my!
  • Cool Fall Day at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Cool Fall Day at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Michael and I spent the first cool fall day at Orlando Wetlands Park, where we enjoyed a sunrise, dancing Snowy Egrets, and a cute surprise!
  • Spring Morning at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Spring Morning at Orlando Wetlands Park

    On the morning that Deb and I saw Rich’s awesome turtle, we also saw a bunch of fun birds.  Springtime is the best time of year for Central Florida nature photography.  Some of our winter visitors are still hanging around, the migrants start to move through, and the local birds get all spiffy-looking for courtship and breeding.  So I was excited to get out and see what we could find on a nice spring morning at Orlando Wetlands Park. There are so many Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Orlando Wetlands Park right now!  Deb and I were greeted with their happy, cheerful whistling calls.  The whistling ducks are my favorite ducks.  The large flocks were on the wrong side of the light, but we found a small group of them in a shaded spot.  As we watched, one reached up to nibble on some flowers.  It was really cute. The wading birds are all ready for springtime in their bright pretty breeding colors.  We saw Great Egrets with green lores, a Tricolored Heron with a nice white plume, Snowy Egrets with lacy plumes and red lores, and this Glossy Ibis with his blue face.  I like how the vegetation at Orlando …
  • Snapping Turtle for Rich

    Snapping Turtle for Rich

    A fun surprise at the Orlando Wetlands Park, a snapping turtle crawled out on the road and let me take pictures of him.
  • Sunrise and a Vermilion Flycatcher

    Sunrise and a Vermilion Flycatcher

    When Michael Libbe and I headed out to Orlando Wetlands Park in late October, we had two goals: to photograph a great sunrise and a Vermilion Flycatcher.  Michael ordered some nice wispy clouds for sunrise, and he sorta got his wish.  I love being at the wetlands for sunrise, but I’m always annoyed at my pictures because there is so much clutter in the water and in the foreground.  I tried framing the sunrise vertically and horizontally, and we both walked back and forth across the path, trying to find the best angle.  This was my favorite shot. After the sunrise, we walked to the back of the park where the Vermilion Flycatcher has returned for the third year in a row.  The Vermilion is a rare bird in Florida.  If you ask the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, their records show that he lives out west, from California to Texas.  So it’s noteworthy that this bird seems to return to Orlando Wetlands each year.  He likes to hang out far away in the cypress trees, so Michael and I set up our tripods to wait him out.  He mocked us, darting from his branch to the water and back again, …
  • Hot Summer Days at Orlando Wetlands Park

    Hot Summer Days at Orlando Wetlands Park

    It’s been quite a while since I last visited Orlando Wetlands Park, so when my friend Michael Libbe suggested that we go there for sunrise, I was excited to go back.  Summer days at Orlando Wetlands Park are very hot, but there was a nice breeze to keep us comfortable.  We arrived a good half hour before sunrise, and we found fog and clouds to obscure the horizon.  So we had some time to catch up on our recent trips to Oregon and Maine as we waited for the light to illuminate the swamps. When the sun finally came up, it was a bright yellow orb behind the fog.  I thought it was pretty with the silhouettes of the distant trees underneath.  There were also a lot of grasses in the foreground which blurred and obscured the horizon.  I played with this image some in Nik Color Efex to add a vignette and a slight film grain.  I liked the mood of the resulting picture. Michael told me that a Snail Kite had been seen recently at Orlando Wetlands, so we headed off to find her.  We found her pretty easily, perched in some trees at the back of the …
  • Watching and Waiting

    Watching and Waiting

    This Black-Crowned Night Heron was just sitting in a treetop of Orlando Wetlands. He was watching and waiting, probably planning out his next meal. I like how his bright red eye stands out against the clear blue sky.
  • Blue Skies Ahead!

    Blue Skies Ahead!

    I’m tired of all this cloudy, foggy weather we’ve been having lately! I hope the skies clear up for my upcoming time off from work. This was taken back in November at the Orlando Wetlands Park. I liked the cloud formations of the original image, and then I really liked the effect of the golden colors framing the clouds in the polar coordinates version.
  • Half an Hour

    Half an Hour

    When you want to photograph sunrise, it always pays to be in position at least half an hour before sunrise.  That sounds like a long time, especially if you have to get up early and drive to your location.  But look at the difference it makes.  This image was taken at 6:37, about 10 minutes before sunrise: This one was taken at 7:11, about twenty minutes after sunrise. What a difference half an hour makes!
  • Head Shot

    Head Shot

    I photographed this Sandhill Crane at Orlando Wetlands last weekend.  He just wouldn’t get off the trail, which made it really easy to photograph him.  The grasses behind him were nicely out-of-focus (well, mostly), and they contrasted beautifully with his bright red head.  I like how the grasses give the background a feeling of motion, reminding me of the nice breezes that day.  I’ll have to check backnext spring to see if this pair is equally cooperative when they have babies!
  • Similar but Different

    Similar but Different

    Yesterday I posted a picture of sunrise at Orlando Wetlands.  The sun was peeking through the clouds thick on the horizon, and several minutes after sunrise, the light peeked through the clouds and created “God rays” of light.  The primary tones were oranges, which contrasted with the blacks of the trees in silhouette.  Today’s image is also from Orlando Wetlands, not too far from where I took yesterday’s image.  The images are very different, despite their similar locale.  Today’s image was taken on a crisp cold morning, with no clouds in the sky.  The sun came up as a bright red orb behind the trees, and the upper sky remained clear and blue. I must confess to using Flaming Pear’s Flood filter on the water here.  The water was still and the reflections of the cabbage palms were beautiful that morning, but the water was very murky and there was a lot of “stuff” floating on top.  So I replaced the ugly water with pretty water.  The result is closer to the image that I saw in my mind’s eye as I composed this shot.
  • Sunrise from Orlando Wetlands

    Sunrise from Orlando Wetlands

    This sunrise image was taken on Saturday at Robert’s photography workshop.  He had us photographing the front-lit cabbage palms at first, probably because there were clouds on the horizon and the backlit sunrise against the trees wouldn’t be so impressive.  Then we noticed the sun peeking through the clouds, creating beautiful rays of light.  I learned something useful from Robert and this image: do not use auto white balance at sunrise.  It skews the colors in your image.  I applied the “cloudy” white balance setting in my post-processing and liked the sky hues a lot better.
  • Exploring Orlando Wetlands Park

    Exploring Orlando Wetlands Park

    Yesterday I went to a photography workshop led by Robert Amoruso at Orlando Wetlands Park.  It was only my second time to visit the park, and I figured the Audubon fundraiser would be a fun opportunity to meet a good photographer and learn some of the good spots in the park.  Robert was awesome.  He did a great job of balancing the various skill levels of the workshop participants.  He knew how to put us in the right places for good photographs, even though it was a relatively slow bird day.  Then he finished with a nice slide program.  I met some nice people and had a chance to make some good images.  It’s too bad that the park closes for hunting in a few days.  I’m looking forward to February when I can go back. We started out the morning with a landscape photography session.  It was a still morning, and the cabbage palms made beautiful reflections in the calm water.  The sky was pink, and Robert explained that the blue band was Earth shadow, caused by the shadow of the Earth on the atmosphere.  It was very pretty.  The Double-Crested Cormorants posed in the treetops, and a Roseate …
  • Tiny Dancer

    Tiny Dancer

    A few weeks ago I had fun visiting the Orlando Wetlands Park for the first time with friends.  We were searching for the Vermillion Flycatcher.  But when we came across this stretch of water with lots of fishing Snowy Egrets, it was impossible to pass them by.  They’d fly in front of us and dive for fish.  It made me realize I’m a little out of practice for flight shot focusing!  But the winter migrants have promised to help me practice. :)
  • Black and White Warbler

    Black and White Warbler

    While I waited patiently (or impatiently!) for the Vermillion Flycatcher to come closer at Orlando Wetlands, one bird decided to cooperate with me.  This Black-and-White Warbler hopped into a pine tree right in front of me.  She perched for just a second and then flew away.  These little guys are very good at helping me practice quick focus!
  • My First (Blurry) Vermilion Flycatcher

    My First (Blurry) Vermilion Flycatcher

    Yesterday I posted a picture of a clump of Cypress trees with two birds.  If you missed the red dot, don’t feel badly…that’s how I felt when I got my first glimpse of a Vermilion Flycatcher at Orlando Wetlands this weekend.  The other bird in the shot was a Belted Kingfisher.  There are lots of those at the wetlands right now, and it’s really hard to miss them.  I met some friends at OWP this weekend so that we could search for the flycatcher.  He stayed out in the far trees for most of our time there.  But at one point he moved to a slightly less distant branch, and with both teleconverters on the Beast, I was able to make out his eye.  I need to go back and beg him to cooperate! :)