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To the bat cave': Group travels to view nightly flight

Mexican free-tail bats spill out of Bracken Cave
By CINDY BOLCH El Camino Real Master Naturalist

Thousands of Mexican free-tail bats take flight in search of their nightly meal. (Photo courtesy Cindy Bolch) Thousands of Mexican free-tail bats take flight in search of their nightly meal. (Photo courtesy Cindy Bolch) In September, the Bat Conservation International group gave the El Camino Real Milam County chapter of Texas Master Naturalists an invitation to visit Bracken Cave, an offer the local naturalists could not turn down.

Bracken Cave, located just north of San Antonio, contains the largest known colony of Mexican free-tail bats in the world. The cave is owned by the BCI group, headquartered in Austin, and they allow only BCI members and other special guests entry to the cave site.

On Sept. 21, several members of the chapter carpooled down to the cave to see the bats fly.

At about dusk the bats begin to emerge from the mouth of the cave. At first there are just a few. Then more and more flew out to form a great circle of bats as they spiral upward and outward right overhead into the evening sky. When it seemed there could not possibly be more bats in that cave, out they come.

A s soon as they climbed high enough to be above the trees, off they went looking much like a long and twisting river of black flowing out as far as you can see.

It can take three or more hours before the last of the bats has made its way from the cave to join the others.

The flapping sound of their leathery wings as they f ly and the clicking sounds they make as they navigate create such a soft, peaceful song that one is lulled into staying at the cave well into the dark of night.

This is truly one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights.


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2009-10-15 digital edition



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