In Austin, there is a Congress Avenue, and across this avenue is a bridge, and under this bridge lives, apparently, the largest urban bat colony in the world. And during the summer at dusk, passers-by can see most of these bats take to the skies in a kind of reverse-fireworks display.
I was eager to see these bats as soon as Arthur told me about them, because hey, bats, right? But alas, last time it was not summer, and I was thwarted. But this time it was technically still summer, so Arthur and I jammed on down under the bridge, stood shoulder to shoulder with other bat-watchers clad in guano slickers, and waited.
Didn't take long. I had imagined it like in the movies, where you creep towards a cave opening and then get sanded down by a ten second bullet-proof blizzard of bats. It was a little less terrifying than that. Imagine that you had a garden hose that was connected to a public bat system instead of a public water system. Now imagine that you ran it up under a bridge and kinda turned it on halfway, and left it that way for a few hours.** Now you have a good picture of what the nightly bat egress looks like. They formed a steady bat-tube that followed the path of the river where they hunt. There was also a contingent that was a little short on self-confidence, and these ones would take off and circle right back into the hangar. So in addition to the bat-tube, there was also a little bat-cyclone at the edge of the bridge.
The only times I had seen bats before, it was always one or two, way out in the country, and they were silent. So when I saw bats go EEE EEE EEE in horror movies, I always used to jeer and throw popcorn. However, a quarter million bats do go EEE EEE EEE, and so I've been humbled.
Since it was late summer, Arthur explained, the bats were leaving later in the evening, which gave them a dark backdrop. I could see them fine, but I did take a lot of useless pictures of black bats against a black background, none of which you will see here.
Arthur mentioned that once he saw a bat land in the water and said that it was actually a pretty good swimmer. "Was it doing the bat-stroke?" I asked.
"Do you want a ride home or not?" he said.
*Get 'em all?
**Wonder what the bill would be for that?