release the bats!

Over Labor Day weekend, we decided it was finally time to go see the Austin bats. Why would we want to go see bats? For some reason, the largest colony of Mexican Free-tail bats in North America have decided to live under the bridge in downtown Austin during the warmer months (March-October.) Late August is the best time to go because the baby bats that were born during the summer are old enough to accompany the mommy and daddy bats on their nightly hunt for food. (Usually the baby version of anything is really cute, but not in this case.) There are around 1.5 million living under the bridge. So it is a big attraction in Austin. The more bats the better!

We had no idea that this was an attraction until we got here and everyone told us we had to go see the bats. That didn’t sound so great to me, but I thought it’d be a good photo opportunity. Turns out, it’s hard to photograph those suckers when they fly so fast. Plus, they’re really small.

We got there early to get a spot on the bridge and as we walked under the bridge to get to the other side, you could hear the bats starting to squeak and flap as they woke up. And it smelled really bad. Tons of people had already started gathering around the bridge.

There was everything from birds…

Austin Bats

…to kayaks…

Austin Bats

…to hyrdobikes…

Austin Bats

…to larger bat-viewing cruise boats. They all gathered near the bridge to watch the bats fly out.

Austin Bats

We staked out a spot on the bridge and waited for the sun to set.

Austin Bats

Then we started hearing a faint flapping sound and suddenly the bats started pouring out below us!

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

Soon, they started making a corkscrew formation as they headed east along the lake.

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

Austin Bats

The whole colony took around 3 or 4 minutes to fly out. They eat hundreds of thousands of pounds of insects every night. That’s probably why they are so welcome in Austin. My pictures didn’t turn out as well as I’d hope, so maybe next time we go I’ll photograph from underneath the bridge.

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