Goin’ Batty

bats21_edited-1Okay, high time for some more bottoms of bridges. This time the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bottom of this bridge is actually not much to see at all. It’s what lives there. The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin is home to one and a half million Mexican free-tailed bats during spring, summer and fall. It’s the largest urban bat community in North America.

Hanging out on, next to or under the bridge around sunset on a summer’s eve, waiting for the bats to go out and get their night’s worth of mosquitoes is one of those quirky, fun things to do in Austin.

Usually we go once a year and sit on the bank of Town Lake, on the south-east side of the bridge. Lots of people gather there with blankets and chairs and picnics. You get a pretty good view of the bats leaving the bridge from this vantage point.

The first time we hung over the bridge, looking down at the bats, but this is actually not a very good way to see them, because you have to spot them looking down, against a backdrop of darkening water.

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This time, a few weekends ago, we watched them from a boat with my Dutch friends who were visiting. There are special bat-watching tour boats that go a little ways up Town Lake first, while the tour guide points out several buildings, until the bats start moving. Then the boat turns back and the sightseers are positioned perfectly to see the bats come out of the spaces under the bridge,  follow the side of the bridge to the south end, and then take off east over the trees.

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The one thing we haven’t done yet is hire kayaks or a canoe and watch them without the tour guide. Maybe next year. And hopefully I’ll remember my camera then, too; these pictures are all taken with my and T’s phones on several occasions.

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