Mexican Free Tail Bats
The Setting For An AdventureClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Trip To See The Bats
We have interesting entertainment in Austin, Texas, in the midst of the Texas Hill Country. Each evening, hundreds of people gather at the Congress Avenue Bridge downtown to watch thousands of bats emerge from under the bridge to search for their dinner. The Mexican Free Tail Bat is common to the area, living under bridges during the day and roaming the city at night in search of a small flying bugs to consume.
The Austin American Statesman graciously opens its parking lot to the tourists and locals for the event. Leaving the parking lot, we passed through an iron gate to an open green lawn where we began our vigil, waiting for the bats to emerge.
Lots of PeopleClick thumbnail to view full-size
Quite an Experience
Just inside the iron gate and fence is an information booth with details about the bats and the nightly ritual we were waiting to see. This is serious tourist business. There were lots of families, some with picnics and some with lawn chairs and blankets. Many gathered on the bridge for a view of the night's event. As a resident of the area, I can drive down to see the bats any evening. I had the feeling that the audience contained lots of tourists on this warm summer evening. While visiting with a young couple and their son, I discovered that they were from Hawaii and had landed in San Antonio just hours before. They hopped in the car and drove to Austin, unaware that there was a bat culture to investigate. Seeing a large gathering under the bridge, they stopped to join the crowd. They felt lucky to have stumbled on the event, something unusual to experience.
The Waiting GameClick thumbnail to view full-size
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Where Are The Bats?
We arrived at the American Statesman parking lot just before eight o'clock. It was still very warm, probably ninety degrees. As time passed, an occasional bat would emerge from the bridge and dive into the crowd after a mosquito or fly. The crowd would gasp. Bats fly sixty miles per hour.
I hear that there were some boats on the water with passengers waiting for the big departure at dusk. Dusk came and went. Someone in the crowd shared that the bats had just produced a crop of pups or babies and were not leaving as early at night. We had out-of-town guests with us that were really eager to see the bats. This was not good news. They were scheduled to fly home the next day. This was their only chance to experience the bat adventure. The couple from Hawaii left as darkness began to fall. I am sure that they were disappointed.
We waited and waited. About nine o'clock, we decided to go home. It was too dark to see anything, much less take pictures. I heard later that the turn of events was not unusual. When the pups are little, the bats don't fly until almost ten o'clock in the evening! There are certain times of the year where the bats are extremely punctual.
Having lived in the area for many years, I had never heard that the bats had various patterns depending on the time of year. I thought that they were consistent in their departure time. We will go back sometime soon for another bat adventure! See you there?