The recent news about Houston bats freezing to death in the recent Texas snow storm, reminded me when I too was spellbound by their daily twilight callisthenics under the city’s Waugh Bridge. According to Diana Foss, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Wildlife Biologist as told the Houston Chronicle that ‘nearly 2000 Mexican free-tailed bats are estimated to have died in the freezing weather following Valentine’s Day’.
“A lot of them probably died of dehydration or starvation,” Foss, who is also the coordinator of the Houston-area bat team, said. “A lot of the young ones probably didn’t have enough body fat stored to last the short hibernation period they needed.”
A Remembrance: July 2011
I am not a fan of the Twilight series but squatting on the slopes of the bayou beneath the Montrose Waugh Bridge Road, waiting for the phantasmagoric creepy flyers was going to turn out into a 90 minute (years) wait for a soul mate.
About 250,000 Mexican Free-tail bats living in the crevices throughout the Waugh Drive bridge emerge at sunset from beneath the bridge that spans Buffalo Bayou between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive. Their emergence, to stretch their limbs and have a feast of insects, is a major tourist watch as the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony is a permanent fixture. The Houston bats, unlike their peers across Texas, do not migrate to warmer climes, preferably Mexico, during winter months. The nearby Austin Bat colony of nearly 1.5 million inhabitants clears out in the Fall months.
7.45 p.m., the projected time of sunset progressed to 8.30. The minutes ticked and still no sign of the nocturnal creatures. Any small flying mammal was enthusiastically clicked, even as the strong bayou smell, more like wet fur, failed to dampen the collective Mephistopheles affectations.
The sunset gave way to darkness and we waited. A lone flyer, excitement around, probably checking the human force and mustering defence against camera lights, flapped out from behind a pillar. We waited and in keeping with human frailty, cameras clicked. Signs advice against use of flash, but then we had to capture the bat induced black out.
Finally… the bats decided to teach us a lesson and refused to step out. One by one the crowd slinked out, it was past dinner time, with few diehard fans still hoping.
Maybe next time we could take the Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Pontoon Boat Tour or checkout the ’emergence’ time. It is easy to locate the site less than a mile from downtown Houston and across the American General tower on Allen Parkway.