I can’t help but thinking that there is something incongruous about being in Austin, beside the Colorado river around dusk any spring evening. Just across the Congress Bridge corporate America looms large and this being Texas I mean LARGE. But here I am with perhaps a thousand people quietly lining the bridge sitting in the park or gently kayaking around the pillars waiting for bats, thousands and thousands of them to emerge into the twilight.
Unlike just about everywhere else we have been on our Easter vacation in this extrordinary state of Texas there are no illuminated signs, no “lines” and really nothing much to buy. For the record there is a hawker half-heartedly trying to sell light sabres and one chap wanders around offering pecan cookies to the good natured and quiet crowd. There are also two small boats on the river as well with paying passengers anxiously scanning the voids under the bridge skyline. Perhaps it is because we are in Austin where the SoCo (South of Congress) area is recognised as being very relaxed and typical of the state capital. Austin has a very different feel to the other parts of Texas that I’ve visited, which it has to be said is not many, as Texas is bigger than the whole of the UK. But having spent time in San Antonio and Houston I don’t get a sense that think those cities would bother with celebrating bat watching “downtown.”
It gets dark quickly this far south and as it does the lights of the skyscrapers twinkle and the corporate logos flash their brassy statements to a disinterested audience of all ages, crowding the hand rails and sitting on the grassy embankment. My teenage sons are, of course, bored and delight in pointing out the fact that bats are black, as is the sky, so how can we see them?
But being gifted and wise as only teenage males can be, they suffer their parents and middle sister’s curiosity at the hoped for natural phenomena. Surely to goodness the magic of the natural world is not entirely lost on these two? Actually it isn’t and they are aware of the quietening and respectful crowd. The wait is punctured by their wry humour as the black bats don’t show up despite the red flood light from the boats playing across the concrete arches.
Perhaps it is because it is Easter and I’m reflecting on the promise of a new beginning but I’m reminded of a Thomas Hardy poem where the poet hopes that the oxen in a winter stable will kneel on Christmas eve. On reflection I suspect that waiting for these bats has made me really grateful for the simple but really important things. I’m using the gloaming to ruffle the hair of my boys and sneak a cuddle from my girls as I chuckle inwardly at the absolute joy of the certain knowledge that there are real riches on this side of the river as well as those promised by the corporate logos “down town.”
Even if there aren’t many bats tonight, they will be there tomorrow and the next and I am certain that there will also be quiet folk of Austin enjoying the prospect of a timeless phenomenon and appreciative of the importance of a harmony with nature in and world dominated by man.
My thanks for this article to my husband, Guy Cowper
Visitor Information for bat-spotting in Austin, Texas
The Mexican free-tail Bats fly out from their nesting sites under South Congress Bridge to feed at sunset (typically after 8pm) from April to October with the largest numbers being seen in July and August. Spectators line the bridge or sit on the grassy bank on the south-east side of the bridge and it is also popular to hire a kayak or take a river boat tour to view the bats from the water. There is free public parking near the grassy area on the south-east side of the bridge after 6pm.
Boat tours are offered by Capital Cruises Boat Tours ($10 adults, $5 children excl tax) and Lone Star Riverboat ($10 adults, $7 children excl tax) both of which are located on the south shore to the west of the bridge under the Hyatt-Regency Hotel. The T.G.I.Friday restaurant in the Radisson Hotel on the north-east shore has a bat viewing deck. Bat tours by Kayak are offered by Live Love Paddle ($45 per person incl tax) Check out the Live Love Paddle Video.
For more information about the bats on South Congress Bridge, Austin look at the Bat Conservation International Website
Other useful links for Austin, Texas
- We booked our holiday home in Austin in the Barton Springs neighbourhood through HomeAway Vacation Rentals who have a wide selection of holiday homes all over the USA and around the world. We stayed in the 3 bedroom Westrock vacation rental
- We booked our hire car that took us on our Texas Road Trip through Argus car Hire
- For more information about food trailers around the city visit the Food Trailers Austin website
- In Zilker Park we also swam in Barton Springs Pool and also visited the lovely Zilker Botanical Gardens
- In the downtown area we visited the Texas State Capitol Building and Capitol Visitor’s Centre
- We enjoyed live music at Flipnotics on Barton Springs Rd, Threadgills on West Riverside Drive and just missed out on The Broken Spoke on South Lamar Boulevard as it was closed on Mondays
More things to enjoy in Texas
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