The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin is the summer home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Between 750,000 and 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live in the crevices under the bridge. Most of the colony headed to Mexico for the winter back in November and just returned to Austin a few weeks ago.
The Congress Avenue Bridge has a definite bat guano odor but we can’t smell anything from our apartment. You can hear Bat Squeaks (or whatever you call bat language) if you stand on the Hike-and-Bike Trail directly underneath the bridge. But the bats don’t emerge until after sundown, when they swarm downstream in search of food. These little critters ensure that downtown Austin doesn’t have much of a bug problem.
Our apartment is one block upstream from the Congress Avenue Bridge. Each evening Bill and I watch the crowds gather around sundown on the bridge sidewalks and river banks. I suspect most of the bat-watchers are tourists but I’m SURE the ones on the upstream side of the bridge aren’t locals…since the bats head the other way!
Bat-watching cruises are popular with the convention/conference crowd. I walked over to the bridge a few nights ago. Looking down from above, the bats were hard to see against the dark water. I think it’s easier looking up from a boat or the shore because the bats contrast against the lighter night sky.
Bill and I are looking forward to Bat Fest on Saturday August 27! Maybe Adam West will return?