Bats of Texas

My tight schedule meant I had very little time in the USA for bats, though it also has relatively few species compared to most countries on other continents. After booking my flights, it turned out I had even less time than expected because flying directly from Japan to the USA was unreasonably expensive. So I had a quick stop in Belgium. Why was that cheaper? No idea… Go figure! 

All this meant I could only choose one state, and preferably one city from which I could do some day/night trips. What better city for this than the Bat City: Austin, Texas? 

When I realised I’d have very little time, not even enough to go to Big Bend NP for example, I decided temporarily to drop the listing aspect of my Big Year and not chase as many species as possible during my four days in Texas. Instead, I decided to use this opportunity to meet like-minded people, who are also into bat conservation. And Austin has a number of them! The first name that would come to many of us is Merlin Tuttle. Despite my tight schedule, we managed to meet twice! Once over lunch which was lovely. It was truly incredible to get to meet and converse with a pioneer in bat conservation, and a leading figure in this area! This was also a great opportunity for me to get to meet the Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation’s staff and their amazing work of outreach and fighting misinformation. I strongly recommend you have a look at their website, their resources are very good and definitely well worth a read. There are a lot of “journalists” out there who should definitely read them… 

We then planned a very last minute trip to Bracken Cave, a show I could not miss. It may not make sense in a Big Year, because Tadarida brasiliensis would be the only species I’d get that night, even if I got to see millions of them. But seeing the largest bat colony in the World is something I simply could not miss! 

It’s a short drive from Austin and we got there early so as not to miss the emergence. It can be fairly unpredictable, it was around 20:30 the day we arranged our visit on the phone, almost an hour earlier the day after that and 15 minutes after our arrival the day after that! Lucky! 

Strangely enough, all the mosquitoes had disappeared once the sky darkened with bats. Vastly more effective than DEET as a mosquito repellent (see this video on pest control by bats)! I wish I could fit a thousand or so of them in my bag for the rest of my trip (I would certainly have needed them in some places in Mexico!). 

Lee and Dianne from the Austin Bat Refuge
A lump of baby Eastern Red Bats (Lasiurus borealis)
The "Bat Bridge" in Austin, TX

Another visit that immediately made it to the top 10 experiences this year is the visit of the Austin Bat Refuge. The dedication of this couple, Lee and Diane, is simply incredible, and humbling! At this time of the year, they are overwhelmed with baby Eastern Red Bats, Lasiurus borealis, and yet, they are giving each and everyone of them the care and attention they need to be released in the wild. 

Check out their Facebook page to follow their amazing work! 

On the boardwalk along the Colorado River, not too far from the Congress Avenue Bridge, I recorded Lasiurus intermedius, the second and last species of my stay in Texas.

The Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge hosts the world’s largest urban bat colony! Merlin is responsible for saving them from extermination in the 1980’s and Austin continues to benefit from them today. 

If you’d like to visit these bats be sure to check out AustinBats.org before planning your trip to get the inside scoop!

Two species in four days is pretty bad by my standards and yet, this trip was one of the best I’ve had so far. Getting to know people who are doing incredibly valuable work for bat conservation is worth sacrificing a few bats for my record! 

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