Upon arriving in Austin, TX for a tech conference, I had some time to kill before the opening reception. So I decided to go visit the Congress Ave Bridge bats. A couple folks had given me the tip that the bats fly at sunset. I had expected to see some bats, maybe a handful of fellow bat-peepers. I underestimated the spectacle, for sure.
Many people gathered on the bridge and underneath on what appeared to be a bat-viewing area, poised with their phones and tablets, waiting for the bats to take flight. Nearing sunset, a tour boat — sporting a black bat-shaped awning — sailed into the center of the Colorado River and parked, waiting with the rest of us. A rumor circulated that the bats flew at 5:40 the evening prior. 5:40 came and went. I wondered what the bats were waiting for.
Then, at 5:45, a stream of over a MILLION bats poured up into the sky! What!! The first bats appeared in the distance, heading away, towards Lady Bird Lake to eat. The bats nearer to my end of the bridge flew, but then circled back around, kicking up a strong, odd smell. “These bats STINK!” someone yelled. Poor bats, they don’t even know. I was too transfixed on the line of bats that just kept coming and coming out from under the bridge. They were still coming when I left 10 minutes later, rushing to get back to the hotel.
Back at the reception, I was still amped from seeing so many bats. I introduced myself: “Hi, I’m Kendra. Do you know about the Austin bats?” Pretty much no one knew what I was talking about.
I read that the bats stop migrating during the colder months, so I was lucky to catch one of their last flights before winter.