Sunday, September 2, 2007

Bat fest 2007

Full Discloure: this is not my photograph. It belongs to It is difficult to photograph Austin's bat colony effectively. They emerge at dusk, and you must be far away to see this angle of it.

It is Bat Fest Weekend in Austin, which is just a themed excuse for even more live music and people watching, the city's 2 favorite pasttimes. I was not in town specifically for the Bat Fest, and honestly, the bats are probably annoyed by the whole thing. More disclosure: I didn't last long either. After a pleasant riverside walk to the bridge (now known as the Ann Richards bridge), a limeade, and a stroll of the vendors, 2 Zydeco songs and a couple of photos... I declared it too... hot.. to and asked that we leave.

I have lost my southern chops. How did I ever live here? Oh, yes, I recall -- it was winter.

I was there to visit the goddaughter, whose photo I am not allowed to post, but I promise you she is a flawless beauty like her mother. We have not yet had our long heart-to-heart, but we have covered "where's your foot," and Goodnight Moon. I am sure once she has a vocabulary, we will chat into the night.

So, from the archive - November 1997 - my first bat sighting: (the diarist reserves the right to change tenses as often as it suited her)

I do not know the size of the bat colony that lives under the Congress Ave bridge [I do now - 1.5M]. It may be much larger than it appears, or much smaller. The individual bats are quite small -- sparrow-sized -- and though they move quickly, it takes 15 or 20 minutes for the full colony to emerge. Here's how it works: Just before sundown, find a spot by the river, beneath the bridge. It's very windy on the bridge, and the view of the colony over your head is more spectacular than looking at them below.

If you arrive about 10 minutes before sundown you may get impatient waiting, but you'll witness the changing of the guard that occurs between the birds and the bats, and you might miss it if you're too late. Those flycatching Texas birds with the whoopy call made quite a ruckus as they filled a tree next to the stone bank wall. Then suddenly, they disappeared in one flight -- silently.

Next the pigeons began to stir. They dwell under the bridge as well; or more accurately, on the edges of the overhangs. As the sun draws closer to the water, they emerged, and flew in low swooping circles over the river, like Olympic doves. After several passes, they returned to the bridge, preened and coo'd a bit, then took off.

The sunset seems to take forever. But as it disappears behind the skyline, they appear, from all ends of the bridge, beneath the high arches. They come together in the center of the bridge, about ten yards out, and flock together downriver, undulating and schooling like fish.

I don't know where they go. I don't know how they look coming back. Just as spectatular, I would imagine.

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