Bruce Wayne has nothing on Austin’s 1.5-million-strong population of Mexican free-tailed bats. Talk about overcoming obstacles! In the 1980s, shortly after setting up house in the cozy crevices of the Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin’s bat colony found itself the target of a vicious anti-bat petition.
Thanks to the efforts of Bat Conservation International, Austinites learned to appreciate their bridge-dwelling mammals, and today, every sunset from March through early November, hundreds of bat-watchers converge beneath the bridge to watch one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles—the swirling, smoke-like departure of the colony as the bats begin their nightly foraging. It’s free, it’s fun, and August and early September are the best times to see it. In November, the bats return to Mexico for the winter.
On September 3-4, at the Austin American-Statesman bat-viewing area (east side of the bridge, south of Town Lake), Bat Conservation International will host the first annual Bat Fest. Along with more than 150 arts, crafts, and food booths, the festival will feature live music, bat-education displays, and evening bat-watching.
For bat-flight information, call the Austin American-Statesman’s Bat Hotline, 512/416-5700, ext. 3636. To reach Bat Conservation International, call 512/327-9721; www.batcon.org; for festival information, call 512/441-9015; www.batfest.com.