Bat Watching

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Bat watching is one of Austin’s most unusual and most popular attractions. An estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats—the world’s largest urban bat colony—live in the crevices underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Around sunset, the bats fly out en masse in search of food and return to the bridge before sunrise. The colony stays here from March through November and migrates to Mexico for the winter.

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Crowds of bat-watchers gather on the bridge and the nearby shores along Lady Bird Lake. A flotilla of bat watching cruises, kayaks, canoes, and water bikes hover in the lake. Out-of-town visitors are easy to identify because they stand on the west side of the bridge. Locals know that the bats always fly downstream, never upstream.

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This is prime bat watching season. The colony is leaving earlier in the evening, right at sunset when the sky is just starting to get darker, so it’s easier to see the bats in flight. More bats are in the air now that the pups are older and able to fend for themselves.  A long trail of bats can be seen spreading over East Austin as they head out for their nightly feeding.

I’ve added two clips to the many videos that are already uploaded to YouTube. But this really should be a first-hand, in-person experience. As the woman next to me exclaimed, “I don’t know what I thought, but it wasn’t this!”

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