After returning from St. Augustine, the family and I did a quick turnaround and scooted down to Austin to meet up with an old friend and her kids visiting from Florida. It was their first trip to the area, so of course we had to give them the Congress Avenue experience with the ultimate disclaimer of “Bats! Maybe!?”
It turned out to be more of a spectacle of watching the bat watchers than anything else – there was even a topless kayaker with a rainbow colored lit up boat using his paddle to film and shoot selfies (and perhaps bats). And we could certainly hear the bats, at least from our under the bridge location. And above the bridge, you could certainly smell the bats. Wouldn’t want to miss out on that experience. That’s when you know you’re close!
But sundown came and went, and of course, as expected, not a bat to be seen. The kids have only so much patience when the minutes tick past their bedtime, and finding one’s way back to the hotel room via 6th and its crazy loud music crowd, after dark, with three littles is not the most pleasant option, especially the later it gets. So we turned in, and researched the reasons why you’re not likely to see those spectacular Mexican free-tailed bats.
Read more about the Mexican free-tailed bat here: https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/bats/mexican_free_tailed_bat.php (Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum)
But we were there! Right next to a very impressive bat colony. And my husband says “never again.” (He and I had one kid-less attempt at the bat watching several years ago where we glimpsed a handful under street lights.) Apparently seeing the bats in the numbers most dream of, at least being a whimsy-filled tourist, is a pretty rare site. Even our local Uber driver said he’d never seen one after several attempts. But in spite of all this I have a feeling I’ll be back with the kids, a bit more strategically the next time. My mountain scrambling spirit and curiosity still craves that bat cloud experience and if not for me, most definitely for my kids.
Plus, it gives me a reason to get back to Austin. #iheartaustin
Reasons you won’t see bats:
- October-March bats are more dormant and larger colonies have not returned from Mexico migration.
- Rainy season provides bountiful bugs and bats are more likely to hunt later at night.
- Nursing pups who cannot fly.
- Crowds (bats will wait to take flight until after dark and people disperse).
- You’re not at the south shoreline.
- It’s not hot, dry August (when the pups are done nursing and ready to emerge with their families)!
Read the full disclosure and stats on daily flights on Austin Bat Refuge’s very informative site:
TripSavvy.com does an excellent job of giving the ins and outs of ‘where, what, why’ for any Austin bat seeker.
- “Austin’s Bat Bridge: A Viewing Guide – All About the Austin Bats Schedule and Viewing Sites” by Robert Macias https://www.tripsavvy.com/austins-bat-bridge-a-viewing-guide-254880
And link here for Texas Parks & Wildlife’s list of all of our state’s bat watching sites.
“Texas happens to be the battiest state in the country. It is home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States. Not only does it hold the distinction of having the most kinds of bats, it also boasts the largest known bat colony in the world, Bracken Cave Preserve, near San Antonio, and the largest urban bat colony, Congress Avenue Bridge, in Austin.”-Bat Watching Sites of Texas, Texas Parks & Wildlife. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/bats/bat-watching-sites/