Posted by: soniahs | November 2, 2011

Orlando Wetlands Park gets a major facelift

Last weekend, we took a short break from working and drove out to Orlando Wetlands Park. We only had about an hour and a half in the park before closing, but it was still good to get out of the house (and away from grading!)

The really obvious change at the park is the big expansion in flooded pond area. OWP is a water treatment facility that slowly filters treated wastewater through a series of ponds and marshes, before discharging it into the St. Johns River. Plants, algae, and natural microbes do the job of pulling excess nutrients out of the water. After treatment, the water is actually much lower in nutrient levels than the water in the St. Johns, but the nutrients have to go somewhere, and that ends up being the rotting remains of the plants and algae.

We're not talking about a shovelful or two of dirt, here... (Photo by OWP staff.)

Apparently, the time had come to remove some of the nutrient-containing (mainly phosphorus) muck from part of the wetland. After the muck removal, managers planted more native plants, and re-flooded the area. There’s a description of the process here. It certainly gives the place a different “feel.”

Since we didn’t have much time to explore the park before closing, it was quite disorienting to see the new expanse of pond with little cypress tree “islands” where before there had been marsh. I guess my surprise a testament to how long it’s been since I’ve visited, because I think this work was done a few months ago (where does the time go…?). It’s a bit sad that the mapsI helped make for them are now out of date! (Though I think the berms and paths are pretty similar…)

Newly-planted ponds. (Photo: OWP staff.)

Anyway, the park closes for the season on Nov. 15th, so I’m going to try to get out there again before that point- maybe bike around a bit to see what’s changed.

Here’s my bird list- not too bad for a breezy hour of walking around. The highlight was probably the whistling-duck families, which have the obvious cute appeal of being, well, ducks that whistle.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Wood Stork
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy/Hairy Woodpecker (moved too fast to tell)
Eastern Phoebe
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Common Yellowthroat
Palm Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Boat-tailed Grackle



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