San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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September 12th, 2011
Bat colony flocks to Kyle bridge

Bats fly away from a a bridge beneath Interstate 35 between Lowe’s and HEB in Kyle. PHOTO by WES FERGUSON


The bats in Central Texas fly in flocks so great, they appear as weather patterns on Doppler radar.

The other evening, Rob White, an avocational meteorologist and local insurance agent, decided to use radar to track the famed bats of Austin. He watched his screen as the bats left their haunt beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, but then he began to see other cloudlike patterns a little farther south.

To White’s surprise, these bats were in Kyle. They were flying out from under a bridge a mere half mile from his house.

“There’s got to be some insect population they’re feeding off of,” White later speculated. “Bats are having a hard time. Because of the drought, the insect population is lower, so I guess they’re doing whatever they have to to find food.”

A few days after White saw the bats on radar, Kyle resident Lynette Hill had a much closer encounter with them. She was driving south on the Interstate 35 frontage road when she saw thousands upon thousands of the tiny mammals fluttering into the evening sky.

Though the bridge is easy to miss when driving over it, a dry creek bed called Bunton Branch runs beneath the frontage roads and Interstate 35 about a third of a mile north of the intersection with FM 1626.

The heavy stench of urine below the bridges tells the story of the bats who have colonized it. There, the creek bed and concrete abutments are practically marshy with guano. (Bats carry rabies, so give them a wide berth and don’t touch them.)

At 7:40 p.m. last Thursday, masses of the bats began to file out from under the interstate. As cars and trucks whirred by, the bats seemed to swarm all around and above the vehicles, trailing off to the east.

They practically filled the sky. A few minutes later, though, the bats were all gone.

To see the spectacle of the Kyle bats for yourself, try a vantage point near the Lowe’s store in Kyle. Last Thursday the bats seemed to be flying directly over the big box parking lot.

They left at 7:40 p.m. that night. But more recent reports suggest they’re flying closer to dark and heading in the opposite direction – west past H-E-B – so you might be able to see them if you wait near the historic Bunton Branch Bridge on Kyle Crossing, just west of I-35.

WES FERGUSON is editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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