Why, to go to the Bat Cave, of course.
The capital city, Austin, is located in central Texas and is its fourth largest city. Some really famous and lots of not so famous people are from Austin. I doubt you will run into them in a city of more than 740 thousand people, but you never know.
Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, O’Henry, Dakota Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Janis Joplin, Matthew, McConaughey, Willie Nelson, Dan Rather, Owen Wilson and Renee Zellweger to name a brief few. Some I would like to run into, some I would not, and some I could not (they are deceased).
Congress Avenue Bridge is the best place to see the bat flight in Austin, Texas. It is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. When you visit Austin, make it a point to travel there anytime from May thru September to experience the amazing bat flight.
The Bat Story
Ariel held on tightly to her new pup. She was hanging from the top of the cave by her toes. Well, really each foot just had one strong hook. Her wings were folded closely to her body with her new pup enfolded in them. She was glad that she, like most others in the cave, only had one pup at a time. She carried the pup for 12 weeks while it matured before it was born. It felt great to be light again without the extra weight.
The cave was quite warm as she hung there with her 20 million sisters. At a mere 200 Mexican free-tailed bats per square foot, there was still room for more. Her stomach rumbled telling her it was time to eat. She quickly nursed her pup and then deposited it on the adjacent ceiling with all of the other pups. She knew that even though there were 400 pups per square foot in the area, she would have no problem finding hers. Her special pup had a unique smell and sound and so she would be able to locate it, no matter where it was.
With a quick check to make sure it would not fall among the beetles and bugs and into the guano 4 feet deep on the floor, she took off. Along with all of her sisters, she flew erratically out of the cave. It would take 8 circles around the cave entrance in a counter clockwise direction until she and all of her sisters could fly high enough to actually take off into the coming darkness.
They might have to travel 50 miles each night to feed but Ariel did not want to go that far. Although only 9 months old, she had had her first pup. Considering she could live at least 20 years, this routine would continue. Her mate had to wait until he was 2 years old to mate! She zig zags around the sky looking for insects to eat. Her flight is not haphazard although to bystanders it appears that way.
She never runs into any obstacles or other bats as she navigates by echolocation. She sends out sound waves from her mouth or nose and can hear the echo when the sound waves hit an object. She is not blind but this is a much better method of navigation. She will consume her weight in insects that night. She knows she needs that much to sustain her since for the following 3 weeks, she will be nursing her young.
Usually, she only needs about half of what she must consume tonight. She does not know it, but she is a great asset to the area in which she hunts. The insects and bugs that are her diet, will no longer attack the crops in the area. However, Ariel only knows that she must complete her feeding before dusk and return to her pup. In 4 to 7 weeks the pup will be completely weaned and fully grown. Then the flight of the colony will swell till October when the exit to Mexico begins. Next April she and her sisters will return and the cycle starts over.
(For a very descriptive insight into the interior of a bat cave, check out the video from Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs.)
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