Bayou Bound and traipsing through Texas Hill Country, 2008 travel blog

This river is subject to flash floods

Inconspicious sign announcing the site of a bat cave

The cave on top of a hill

Swallows circuling before entering the cave

Bat emergence starting at dusk. Note the 2 hawks waiting

Bats forming funnels as they stream out of the cave

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Rio Frio bat emergence

This evening is to be the highlight of my trip - a spectacle that takes place at dozens of Texas caves. My destination is the Rio Frio Cave in Concan. From the rural road I crossed the Rio Frio, which fortunately, I didn't have to ford, then to the gate of the private property where a small, inconspicious sign informs that it’s the bat cave location. Viewing is by guided tour only. Here we met the tour guide and I followed the van for 4 more miles on a dirt track, with me periodically making my own road as the tree clearances were too low for my motorhome. Once parked at the foot of a hill, it was a hike up to our destination, the amphitheatre at the top of the hill.

During the wait for the bats to emerge, the naturalist gave an informative lecture on bats, with pictures to support her narrative. An interesting fact is that the bats from all the caves in Texas meet up over central Texas. There are so many of them that they show up on radar. Until recently rain was forecasted daily though locals saw only clear skies. Eventually a system was developed that does not register the clouds of bats.

Before the bats emerge, hundreds of cliff swallows circled the cave, then got ’sucked’ into the ground. In actuality, they were returning to their roost in another opening above the bat cave. In the meanwhile hawks, falcons and merlin cruised overhead awaiting the bat emergence.

This site is the state’s second largest colony of maternity bats made up of 10 to 12 million Brazilian free-tailed bats and up to 10,000 Cave myotis.

As the sun slowly dipped in the westering sky the bats emerged on the whisper of wingbeats - not one or 2 but a stream of thousands of them. It was a phenomenal sight! They emerged like black smoke and formed funnels in the sky. Their wingbeats created a breeze that carried the strong smell of guano. It was wise not to stand directly under their flight path as it rained droppings and urine. Overhead the predator birds started swooping, catching bats and feeding on the wing. Occasionally they would take a catch back to their nestlings. It takes well over 4 hours for all 10-12 million bats to exit the cave. We spent a couple of hours here till it got too dark to see.

This awesome spectacle alone was worth the whole trip.

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