Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Waiting for the Bats

Austin, Texas is known for many things.  But there's one that really helps Austin maintain its reputation for all things "weird" - the Congress Avenue Bridge Bats.  Every evening in the summer, locals and tourists alike gather on or near the Congress Avenue Bridge over Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) to experience their nightly flight.  Many even watch from directly under the bridge on a kayak or in one of the bat-watching excursion boats chartered by Capital Cruises or Lonestar Riverboat

The colony of Mexican free-tailed bats living under the bridge is the largest urban colony in North America, according to Bat Conservation International.  About 1.5 million of them pour out from under the bridge to the "oohs" and "ahhs" of admiring watchers. 

It's truly an amazing sight to see.  And the bats aren't just fascinating to watch, they're helpful too.  They eat an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects each night! 

For a little taste of what the Austin bat-watching experience is all about, take a look at this short amateur video shot by allisonserkes in July 2008:

Photo courtesy of anneh632.

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