USA

Bat watching in Austin, TX

28 August 2014

Austin is known as the The Live Music Capital of the World and apart from having the most music venues, there is one more thing Austin has the most of…

BATS.

Before I arrived, I was looking at the hotel’s local attractions guide and they listed bat viewing as one of the items. At that point I was quite incredulous. Seriously? Bat-viewing??? Haha! I was definitely intrigued by Austin!

This is what wikipedia says about Austin’s bats:

The South Congress Bridge (aka Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge) houses the world’s largest urban population of Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Starting in March, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge’s expansion and contraction zones, an environment ideally suited for raising their young. Every evening around sunset, the bats emerge in search of insects. Watching the bat emergence is an event that is popular with locals and tourists, with more than 100,000 viewers per year. The bats migrate to Mexico each winter.

DUDE. 1.5 million bats?! This I must see!

Incidentally, I saw that the annual Bat Fest is held every summer in August, so we decided to wait till then to go, because the “fest” part makes it sound like a fun festival!

The Bat Fest was held last weekend, and we trooped off with curiosity.

Eh, it wasn’t actually 9pm. That’s Japan time. I’m too lazy to change the time heh.

Normally, you don’t have to pay to watch the bats. But as the Bat Fest was a festival of sorts, with live performances and stalls, there was an entrance fee of $10.

We also had to pay $10 for parking. One parking garage we turned into actually wanted to charge $20! We turned out immediately. These places are totally talking the opportunity to extort as much money as they can from the event! :G

The entire bridge was closed off and in its place were lots of food booths, as well as individual booths set up selling an array of items from clothes to jewelry to fresh dog food.

And yes, the bats are sleeping right below this very bridge! All 1.5 million of them!

The bats emerged around 7.30pm the day before, so at about 7.20pm, we made our way to the edge of the bridge.

There were lots of people and the front row was fully occupied! We managed to get second row space though, so it wasn’t all that bad.

7.30pm came and went but they didn’t appear.

We continued waiting.
And waiting.

Fu and I came up with possible scenarios as to why they weren’t appearing:

Stage fright – “I don’t think I can do this! Listen to the noise, there are so many people out there! What if I don’t fly well? What if I accidentally poop mid-flight?!!”

Laziness – “*yawns* Know what? I think I’m gonna sleep in. It’s sleep over food for me today. Maybe someone can take-out for me?”

Confused – “Who’s supposed to lead the flight today again? Anybody knows who’s the leader for the day? Hellooo??? We’re running late here!”

 Yes, we are never bored because our imagination keeps us entertained :D

At about 7.50pm, they finally got their act together and appeared!

What the guy at the end of the video said basically summed up the bat watching experience.

They stink.

HAHAHA.

But seriously, the first thing that surprised me (after being assaulted by the smell) was at how small they were! They were also a lot more flighty than I expected. Their wings flutter seemingly continuously and they don’t glide. While they have a general direction they are headed towards, the movements of individual bats appear to be haphazard and jerky. After effects of waking up, perhaps?

The entire experience was definitely interesting. Seeing such large numbers of bats emerge all the same time and form dark swarms in the sky as they flew off into the distance like a foreboding omen of doom is unique to say the least!

However, it’s something that seeing just once is more than sufficient lol.

We didn’t find the Bat Fest to be worth the money though. We didn’t really like the music, and all we bought from the booths was a jumbo Strawberry & Limonade drink. It was excellent though! It had fresh strawberries and was a perfect thirst quencher ;D

There was a bonus though! We caught a beautiful sunset on the opposite side of the bat-viewing side:

If you’re looking to do some bat watching in Austin, you can do so every summer night between 6-9pm! Time varies from day to day, depending on the bats’ mood :D

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