Offering field trips to birding hotspots and wildflower sanctuaries, and bringing some of the nation’s top nature experts to the area, Lake County is proud to host the 5th Annual Wings and Wildflowers Festival, to be held Oct. 14-16 in Leesburg, Florida.

In partnership with the city, Lake County is hosting the event at the 64-acre Venetian Gardens, located at 201 E. Dixie Ave., Leesburg. The idyllic location is an ideal bird watching destination on the western shore of Lake Harris.

The festival attracts nearly 5,000 visitors annually to enjoy dozens of trips throughout the county and free educational programs on site.

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The three-day festival will showcase Lake County as a premier birding destination; highlight acres of preserves, forests and passive parklands; and feature keynote speakers Eric Draper, executive Director of Audubon Florida, and Janisse Ray, author and naturalist.

This year’s event features a live butterfly experience, Swamp Girl Adventures, TV host Chad Crawford of “how to Do florida,” Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Gatorland and Hook Kids of Fishing, to name a few.

Fieldtrips include Birding at Emeralda Marsh, Bats and S’mores Hike, Tram Ride on the Wild Side, a Wildflower Hike at Clearwater Lake, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker Tour and more.

A new excursion the Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (PEAR) Park – Wildlife Conservation Area in Leesburg will take guests to the Wildlife Watch Post, a 320-square-foot steel bird-watching and wildlife viewing blind has quickly become a destination for birders, native plant enthusiasts and nature photographers.

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The festival will again offer its popular trip to the Green Mountain Scenic Overlook and Trailhead, located 132 feet above sea level in Montverde. With the completion of extension of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail this year, visitors can make the 18-mile trek from Green Mountain across a network of wetlands with the potential to view some of the 370 species recorded along the lake’s northern shore. In fact, birders travel from all over the world for the opportunities to see spectacular birds including swallow-tailed kites, herons, egrets, sparrows and warblers.

For more information about the 5th Annual Wings & Wildflowers Festival, call 352-742-3918 or visit www.wingsandwildflowers.com, www.facebook.com/WingsandWildflowers or www.twitter.com/wingswildflower.

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